Dark Moon - Mystery's, Horror, Pulp, Short Stories and The Others

 

The Princess and The Hedge Pig

by E. Nesbit

 

 

'BUT I don't see what we're to do,' said the Queen for the twentieth time.

'Whatever we do will end in misfortune,' said the King gloomily; you'll see it will.'

They were sitting in the honeysuckle arbour talking things over, while the nurse walked up and down the terrace with the new baby in her arms.

'Yes, dear,' said the poor Queen; 'I've not the slightest doubt I shall.'

Misfortune comes in many ways, and you can't always know beforehand that a certain way is the way misfortune will come by: but there are things misfortune comes after as surely as night comes after day. For instance, if you let all the water boil away, the kettle will have a hole burnt in it. If you leave the bath taps running and the waste-pipe closed, the stairs of your house will, sooner or later, resemble Niagara. If you leave your purse at home, you won't have it with you when you want to pay your tram-fare. And if you throw lighted wax matches at your muslin curtains, your parent will most likely have to pay five pounds to the fire engines for coming round and blowing the fire out with a wet hose. Also if you are a king and do not invite the wicked fairy to your christening parties, she will come all the same. And if you do ask the wicked fairy, she will come, and in either case it will be the worse for the new princess. So what is a poor monarch to do? Of course there is one way out of the difficulty, and that is not to have a christening party at all. But this offends all the good fairies, and then where are you?

All these reflections had presented themselves to the minds of King Ozymandias and his Queen, and neither of them could deny that they were in a most awkward situation. They were 'talking it over' for the hundredth time on the palace terrace where the pomegranates and oleanders grew in green tubs and the marble balustrade is overgrown with roses, red and white and pink and yellow. On the lower terrace the royal nurse was walking up and down with the baby princess that all the fuss was about. The Queen's eyes followed the baby admiringly.

'The darling!' she said. 'Oh, Ozymandias, don't you sometimes wish we'd been poor people?'

'Never!' said the King decidedly.

'Well, I do,' said the Queen; 'then we could have had just you and me and your sister at the christening, and no fear of—oh! I've thought of something.'

The King's patient expression showed that he did not think it likely that she would have thought of anything useful; but at the first five words his expression changed. You would have said that he pricked up his ears, if kings had ears that could be pricked up. What she said was--

'Let's have a secret christening.'

'How?' asked the King.

The Queen was gazing in the direction of the baby with what is called a 'far away look' in her eyes.

'Wait a minute,' she said slowly. 'I see it all—yes—we'll have the party in the cellars—you know they're splendid.'

'My great-grandfather had them built by Lancashire men, yes,' interrupted the King.

'We'll send out the invitations to look like bills. The baker's boy can take them. He's a very nice boy. He made baby laugh yesterday when I was explaining to him about the Standard Bread. We'll just put "1 loaf 3. A remittance at your earliest convenience will oblige." That'll mean that 1 person is invited for 3 o'clock, and on the back we'll write where and why in invisible ink. Lemon juice, you know. And the baker's boy shall be told to ask to see the people just as they do when they really mean earliest convenience—and then he shall just whisper: deadly secret. Lemon juice. Hold it to the fire," and come away. Oh, dearest, do say you approve!'

The King laid down his pipe, set his crown straight, and kissed the Queen with great and serious earnestness.

'You are a wonder,' he said. 'It is the very thing. But the baker's boy is very small. Can we trust him?'

'He is nine,' said the Queen, 'and I have sometimes thought that he must be a prince in disguise. He is so very intelligent.'

The Queen's plan was carried out. The cellars, which were really extraordinarily fine, were secretly decorated by the King's confidential man and the Queen's confidential maid and a few of their confidential friends whom they knew they could really trust. You would never have thought they were cellars when the decorations were finished. The walls were hung with white satin and white velvet, with wreaths of white roses, and the stone floors were covered with freshly cut turf with white daisies, brisk and neat, growing in it.

The invitations were duly delivered by the baker's boy. On them was written in plain blue ink.

'THE R OYAL BAKERIES
'1 loaf 3d.
'An early remittance will oblige.'

And when the people held the letter to the fire, as they were whisperingly instructed to do by the baker's boy, they read in a faint brown writing:-

'King Ozymandias and Queen Eliza invite you to the christening of their daughter Princess Ozyliza at three on Wednesday in the Palace cellars.

'P.S.- We are obliged to be very secret and careful because of wicked fairies, so please come disguised as a tradesman with a bill, calling for the last time before it leaves your hands.'

You will understand by this that the King and Queen were not as well off as they could wish; so that tradesmen calling at the palace with that sort of message was the last thing likely to excite remark. But as most of the King's subjects were not very well off either, this was merely a bond between the King and his people. They could sympathise with each other, and understand each other's troubles in a way impossible to most kings and most nations.

You can imagine the excitement in the families of the people who were invited to the christening party, and the interest they felt in their costumes. The Lord Chief justice disguised himself as a shoemaker; he still had his old blue brief-bag by him, and a brief-bag and a boot-bag are very much alike. The Commander-in-Chief dressed as a dog's meat man and wheeled a barrow. The Prime Minister appeared as a tailor; this required no change of dress and only a slight change of expression. And the other courtiers all disguised themselves perfectly. So did the good fairies, who had; of course, been invited first of all. Benevola, Queen of the Good Fairies, disguised herself as a moonbeam, which can go into any palace and no questions asked. Serena, the next in command, dressed as a butterfly, and all the other fairies had disguises equally pretty and tasteful.

The Queen looked most kind and beautiful, the King very handsome and manly, and all the guests agreed that the new princess was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen in all their born days.

Everybody brought the most charming christening presents concealed beneath their disguises. The fairies gave the usual gifts, beauty, grace, intelligence, charm, and so on.

Everything seemed to be going better than well. But of course you know it wasn't. The Lord High Admiral had not been able to get a cook's dress large enough completely to cover his uniform; a bit of an epaulette had peeped out, and the wicked fairy, Malevola, had spotted it as he went past her to the palace back door, near which she had been sitting disguised as a dog without a collar hiding from the police, and enjoying what she took to be the trouble the royal household were having with their tradesmen.

Malevola almost jumped out of her dog-skin when she saw the glitter of that epaulette.

'Hullo?' she said, and sniffed quite like a dog. 'I must look into this,' said she, and disguising herself as a toad, she crept unseen into the pipe by which the copper emptied itself into the palace moat— for of course there was a copper in one of the palace cellars as there always is in cellars in the North Country.

Now this copper had been a great trial to the decorators. If there is anything you don't like about your house, you can either try to conceal it or 'make a feature of it.' And as concealment of the copper was impossible, it was decided to 'make it a feature' by covering it with green moss and planting a tree in it, a little apple tree all in bloom. It had been very much admired.

Malevola, hastily altering her disguise to that of a mole, dug her way through the earth that the copper was full of, got to the top and put out a sharp nose just as Benevola was saying in that soft voice which Malevola always thought so affected,-

'The Princess shall love and be loved all her life long.'

'So she shall,' said the wicked fairy, assuming her own shape amid the screams of the audience. 'Be quiet, you silly cuckoo,' she said to the Lord Chamberlain, whose screams were specially piercing, 'or I'll give you a christening present too.'

Instantly there was a dreadful silence. Only Queen Eliza, who had caught up the baby at Malevola's first word, said feebly,-

'Oh, don't, dear Malevola.'

And the King said, 'It isn't exactly a party, don't you know. Quite informal. Just a few friends dropped in, eh, what?'

'So I perceive,' said Malevola, laughing that dreadful laugh of hers which makes other people feel as though they would never be able to laugh any more. 'Well, I've dropped in too. Let's have a look at the child.'

The poor Queen dared not refuse. She tottered forward with the baby in her arms.

'Humph!' said Malevola, 'your precious daughter will have beauty and grace and all the rest of the tuppenny halfpenny rubbish those niminy-piminy minxes have given her. But she will be turned out of her kingdom. She will have to face her enemies without a single human being to stand by her, and she shall never come to her own again until she finds--' Malevola hesitated. She could not think of anything sufficiently unlikely -' until she finds,' she repeated--

'A thousand spears to follow her to battle,' said a new voice, 'a thousand spears devoted to her and to her alone.'

A very young fairy fluttered down from the little apple tree where she had been hiding among the pink and white blossom.

'I am very young, I know,' she said apologetically, 'and I've only just finished my last course of Fairy History. So I know that if a fairy stops more than half a second in a curse she can't go on, and some one else may finish it for her. That is so, Your Majesty, isn't it?' she said, appealing to Benevola. And the Queen of the Fairies said Yes, that was the law, only it was such an old one most people had forgotten it.

'You think yourself very clever,' said Malevola, 'but as a matter of fact you're simply silly. That's the very thing I've provided against. She can't have any one to stand by her in battle, so she'll lose her kingdom and every one will be killed, and I shall come to the funeral. It will be enormous,' she added rubbing her hands at the joyous thought.

'If you've quite finished,' said the King politely, 'and if you're sure you won't take any refreshment, may I wish you a very good afternoon?' He held the door open himself, and Malevola went out chuckling. The whole of the party then burst into tears.

'Never mind,' said the King at last, wiping his eyes with the tails of his ermine. 'It's a long way off and perhaps it won't happen after all.'

But of course it did.

The King did what he could to prepare his daughter for the fight in which she was to stand alone against her enemies. He had her taught fencing and riding and shooting, both with the cross bow and the long bow, as well as with pistols, rifles, and artillery. She learned to dive and to swim, to run and to jump, to box and to wrestle, so that she grew up as strong and healthy as any young man, and could, indeed, have got the best of a fight with any prince of her own age. But the few princes who called at the palace did not come to fight the Princess, and when they heard that the Princess had no dowry except the gifts of the fairies, and also what Malevola's gift had been, they all said they had just looked in as they were passing and that they must be going now, thank you. And went.

And then the dreadful thing happened. The tradesmen, who had for years been calling for the last time before, etc., really decided to place the matter in other hands. They called in a neighbouring king who marched his army into Ozymandias's country, conquered the army—the soldiers' wages hadn't been paid for years—turned out the King and Queen, paid the tradesmen's bills, had most of the palace walls papered with the receipts, and set up housekeeping there himself.

Now when this happened the Princess was away on a visit to her aunt, the Empress of Oricalchia, half the world away, and there is no regular post between the two countries, so that when she came home, travelling with a train of fifty-four camels, which is rather slow work, and arrived at her own kingdom, she expected to find all the flags flying and the bells ringing and the streets decked in roses to welcome her home.

Instead of which nothing of the kind. The streets were all as dull as dull, the shops were closed because it was early-closing day, and she did not see a single person she knew.

She left the fifty-four camels laden with the presents her aunt had given her outside the gates, and rode alone on her own pet camel to the palace, wondering whether perhaps her father had not received the letter she had sent on ahead by carrier pigeon the day before.

And when she got to the palace and got off her camel and went in, there was a strange king on her father's throne and a strange queen sat in her mother's place at his side.

' Where's my father?' said the Princess, bold as brass, standing on the steps of the throne. 'And what are you doing there?'

'I might ask you that,' said the King. 'Who are you, anyway?'

'I am the Princess Ozyliza,' said she.

'Oh, I've heard of you,' said the King. 'You've been expected for some time. Your father's been evicted, so now you know. No, I can't give you his address.'

Just then some one came and whispered to the Queen that fifty-four camels laden with silks and velvets and monkeys and parakeets and the richest treasures of Oricalchia were outside the city gate. She put two and two together, and whispered to the King, who nodded and said:

'I wish to make a new law.'

Every one fell flat on his face. The law is so much respected in that country.

'No one called Ozyliza is allowed to own property in this kingdom,' said the King. 'Turn out that stranger.'

So the Princess was turned out of her father's palace, and went out and cried in the palace gardens where she had been so happy when she was little.

And the baker's boy, who was now the baker's young man, came by with the standard bread and saw some one crying among the oleanders, and went to say, 'Cheer up!' to whoever it was. And it was the Princess. He knew her at once.

'Oh, Princess,' he said, 'cheer up! Nothing is ever so bad as it seems.'

'Oh, Baker's Boy,' said she, for she knew him too, 'how can I cheer up? I am turned out of my kingdom. I haven't got my father's address, and I have to face my enemies without a single human being to stand by me.'

'That's not true, at any rate,' said the baker's boy, whose name was Erinaceus, 'you've got me. If you'll let me be your squire, I'll follow you round the world and help you to fight your enemies.'

'You won't be let,' said the Princess sadly, 'but I thank you very much all the same.'

She dried her eyes and stood up.

'I must go,' she said, 'and I've nowhere to go to.'

Now as soon as the Princess had been turned out of the palace, the Queen said, 'You'd much better have beheaded her for treason.' And the King said, 'I'll tell the archers to pick her off as she leaves the grounds.'

So when she stood up, out there among the oleanders, some one on the terrace cried, 'There she is!' and instantly a flight of winged arrows crossed the garden. At the cry Erinaceus flung himself in front of her, clasping her in his arms and turning his back to the arrows. The Royal Archers were a thousand strong and all excellent shots. Erinaceus felt a thousand arrows sticking into his back.

'And now my last friend is dead,' cried the Princess. But being a very strong princess, she dragged him into the shrubbery out of sight of the palace, and then dragged him into the wood and called aloud on Benevola, Queen of the Fairies, and Benevola came.

'They've killed my only friend,' said the Princess, 'at least . . . . Shall I pull out the arrows?'

'If you do,' said the Fairy, 'he'll certainly bleed to death.'

'And he'll die if they stay in,' said the Princess.

'Not necessarily,' said the Fairy; 'let me cut them a little shorter.' She did, with her fairy pocket-knife. 'Now,' she said, 'I'll do what I can, but I'm afraid it'll be a disappointment to you both. Erinaceus,' she went on, addressing the unconscious baker's boy with the stumps of the arrows still sticking in him, 'I command you, as soon as I have vanished, to assume the form of a hedge-pig. The hedgepig,' she exclaimed to the Princess, 'is the only nice person who can live comfortably with a thousand spikes sticking out of him. Yes, I know there are porcupines, but porcupines are vicious and ill-mannered. Good-bye!'

And with that she vanished. So did Erinaceus, and the Princess found herself alone among the oleanders; and on the green turf was a small and very prickly brown hedge-pig.

'Oh, dear!' she said, 'now I'm all alone again, and the baker's boy has given his life for mine, and mine isn't worth having.'

'It's worth more than all the world,' said a sharp little voice at her feet.

'Oh, can you talk?' she said, quite cheered.

'Why not?' said the hedge-pig sturdily; 'it's only the form of the hedge -pig I've assumed. I'm Erinaceus inside, all right enough. Pick me up in a corner of your mantle so as not to prick your darling hands.'

'You mustn't call names, you know,' said the Princess, 'even your hedge-pigginess can't excuse such liberties.'

'I'm sorry, Princess,' said the hedge-pig, 'but I can't help it. Only human beings speak lies; all other creatures tell the truth. Now I've got a hedge-pig's tongue it won't speak anything but the truth. And the truth is that I love you more than all the world.'

'Well,' said the Princess thoughtfully, 'since you're a hedge-pig I suppose you may love me, and I may love you. Like pet dogs or goldfish. Dear little hedge-pig, then!'

'Don't! ' said the hedge-pig, 'remember I'm the baker's boy in my mind and soul. My hedge-pigginess is only skin-deep. Pick me up, dearest of Princesses, and let us go to seek our fortunes.'

'I think it's my parents I ought to seek,' said the Princess. 'However . . '

She picked up the hedge-pig in the corner of her mantle and they went away through the wood.

They slept that night at a wood-cutter's cottage. The wood-cutter was very kind, and made a nice little box of beech-wood for the hedge-pig to be carried in, and he told the Princess that most of her father's subjects were still loyal, but that no one could fight for him because they would be fighting for the Princess too, and however much they might wish to do this, Malevola's curse assured them that it was impossible.

So the Princess put her hedge-pig in its little box and went on, looking everywhere for her father and mother, and, after more adventures than I have time to tell you, she found them at last, living in quite a poor way in a semi-detached villa at Tooting. They were very glad to see her, but when they heard that she meant to try to get back the kingdom, the King said:

'I shouldn't bother, my child, I really shouldn't. We are quite happy here. I have the pension always given to Deposed Monarchs, and your mother is becoming a really economical manager.'

The Queen blushed with pleasure, and said, 'Thank you, dear. But if you should succeed in turning that wicked usurper out, Ozyliza, I hope I shall be a better queen than I used to be. I am learning housekeeping at an evening class at the Crown-maker's Institute.'

The Princess kissed her parents and went out into the garden to think it over. But the garden was small and quite full of wet washing hung on lines. So she went into the road, but that was full of dust and perambulators. Even the wet washing was better than that, so she went back and sat down on the grass in a white alley of tablecloths and sheets, all marked with a crown in indelible ink. And she took the hedge-pig out of the box. It was rolled up in a ball, but she stroked the little bit of soft forehead that you can always find if you look carefully at a rolled-up hedge-pig, and the hedge-pig uncurled and said:

'I am afraid I was asleep, Princess dear. Did you want me?'

'You're the only person who knows all about everything,' said she. 'I haven't told father and mother about the arrows. Now what do you advise?'

Erinaceus was flattered at having his advice asked, but unfortunately he hadn't any to give.

'It's your work, Princess,' he said. ' I can only promise to do anything a hedge-pig can do. It's not much. Of course I could die for you, but that's so useless.'

'Quite,' said she.

'I wish I were invisible,' he said dreamily.

'Oh, where are you?' cried Ozyliza, for the hedge-pig had vanished.

'Here,' said a sharp little voice. 'You can't see me, but I can see everything I want to see. And I can see what to do. I'll crawl into my box, and you must disguise yourself as an old French governess with the best references and answer the advertisement that the wicked king put yesterday in the "Usurpers Journal."'

The Queen helped the Princess to disguise herself, which, of course, the Queen would never have done if she had known about the arrows; and the King gave her some of his pension to buy a ticket with, so she went back quite quickly, by train, to her own kingdom.

The usurping King at once engaged the French governess to teach his cook to read French cookery books, because the best recipes are in French. Of course he had no idea that there was a princess, the Princess, beneath the governessial disguise. The French lessons were from 6 to 8 in the morning and from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, and all the rest of the time the governess could spend as she liked. She spent it walking about the palace gardens and talking to her invisible hedge-pig. They talked about everything under the sun, and the hedgepig was the best of company.

'How did you become invisible?' she asked one day, and it said, 'I suppose it was Benevola's doing. Only I think every one gets one wish granted if they only wish hard enough.'

On the fifty-fifth day the hedge-pig said, 'Now, Princess dear, I'm going to begin to get you back your kingdom.'

And next morning the King came down to breakfast in a dreadful rage with his face covered up in bandages.

'This palace is haunted,' he said. 'In the middle of the night a dreadful spiked ball was thrown in my face. I lighted a match. There was nothing.'

The Queen said, 'Nonsense! You must have been dreaming.'

But next morning it was her turn to come down with a bandaged face. And the night after, the King had the spiky ball thrown at him again. And then the Queen had it. And then they both had it, so that they couldn't sleep at all, and had to lie awake with nothing to think of but their wickedness. And every five minutes a very little voice whispered:

'Who stole the kingdom? Who killed the Princess?' till the King and Queen could have screamed with misery.

And at last the Queen said, 'We needn't have killed the Princess.'

And the King said, 'I've been thinking that, too.'

And next day the King said, 'I don't know that we ought to have taken this kingdom. We had a really high-class kingdom of our own.'

'I've been thinking that too,' said the Queen.

By this time their hands and arms and necks and faces and ears were very sore indeed, and they were sick with want of sleep.

'Look here,' said the King, 'let's chuck it. Let's write to Ozymandias and tell him he can take over his kingdom again. I've had jolly well enough of this.'

'Let's,' said the Queen, 'but we can't bring the Princess to life again. I do wish we could,' and she cried a little through her bandages into her egg, for it was breakfast time.

'Do you mean that,' said a little sharp voice, though there was no one to be seen in the room. The King and Queen clung to each other in terror, upsetting the urn over the toast-rack.

'Do you mean it?' said the voice again; 'answer, yes or no.'

'Yes,' said the Queen,' I don't know who you are, but, yes, yes, yes. I can't think how we could have been so wicked.'

'Nor I,' said the King.

'Then send for the French governess,' said the voice.

'Ring the bell, dear,' said the Queen. 'I'm sure what it says is right. It is the voice of conscience. I've often heard of it, but I never heard it before.'

The King pulled the richly jewelled bellrope and ten magnificent green and gold footmen appeared.

'Please ask Mademoiselle to step this way,' said the Queen.

The ten magnificent green and gold footmen found the governess beside the marble basin feeding the gold-fish, and, bowing their ten green backs, they gave the Queen's message. The governess who, every one agreed, was always most obliging, went at once to the pink satin breakfast-room where the King and Queen were sitting, almost unrecognisable in their bandages.

'Yes, Your Majesties?' said she curtseying.

'The voice of conscience,' said the Queen, 'told us to send for you. Is there any recipe in the French books for bringing shot princesses to life? If so, will you kindly translate it for us?'

'There is one,' said the Princess thoughtfully, 'and it is quite simple. Take a king and a queen and the voice of conscience. Place them in a clean pink breakfast-room with eggs, coffee, and toast. Add a full-sized French governess. The king and queen must be thoroughly pricked and bandaged, and the voice of conscience must be very distinct.'

'Is that all?' asked the Queen.

'That's all,' said the governess, 'except that the king and queen must have two more bandages over their eyes, and keep them on till the voice of conscience has counted fifty-five very slowly.'

'If you would be so kind,' said the Queen, 'as to bandage us with our table napkins? Only be careful how you fold them, because our faces are very sore, and the royal monogram is very stiff and hard owing to its being embroidered in seed pearls by special command.'

'I will be very careful,' said the governess kindly.

The moment the King and Queen were blindfolded, the 'voice of conscience' began, 'one, two, three,' and Ozyliza tore off her disguise, and under the fussy black-and-violet-spotted alpaca of the French governess was the simple slim cloth-of-silver dress of the Princess. She stuffed the alpaca up the chimney and the grey wig into the tea-cosy, and had disposed of the mittens in the coffee-pot and the elastic-side boots in the coal-scuttle, just as the voice of conscience said-

'Fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five!' and stopped.

The King and Queen pulled off the bandages, and there, alive and well, with bright clear eyes and pinky cheeks and a mouth that smiled, was the Princess whom they supposed to have been killed by the thousand arrows of their thousand archers.

Before they had time to say a word the Princess said:

'Good morning, Your Majesties. I am afraid you have had bad dreams. So have I. Let us all try to forget them. I hope you will stay a little longer in my palace. You are very welcome. I am so sorry you have been hurt.'

'We deserved it,' said the Queen, 'and we want to say we have heard the voice of conscience, and do please forgive us.'

'Not another word,' said the Princess, 'do let me have some fresh tea made. And some more eggs. These are quite cold. And the urn's been upset. We'll have a new breakfast. And I arms so sorry your faces are so sore.'

'If you kissed them,' said the voice which the King and Queen called the voice of conscience, 'their faces would not be sore any more.'

'May I?' said Ozyliza, and kissed the King's ear and the Queen's nose, all she could get at through the bandages.

And instantly they were quite well.

They had a delightful breakfast. Then the King caused the royal household to assemble in the throne-room, and there announced that, as the Princess had come to claim the kingdom, they were returning to their own kingdom by the three-seventeen train on Thursday.

Every one cheered like mad, and the whole town was decorated and illuminated that evening. Flags flew from every house, and the bells all rang, just as the Princess had expected them to do that day when she came home with the fifty-five camels. All the treasure these had carried was given back to the Princess, and the camels themselves were restored to her, hardly at all the worse for wear.

The usurping King and Queen were seen off at the station by the Princess, and parted from her with real affection. You see they weren't completely wicked in their hearts, but they had never had time to think before. And being kept awake at night forced them to think.

And the 'voice of conscience' gave them something to think about.

They gave the Princess the receipted bills, with which most of the palace was papered, in return for board and lodging.

When they were gone a telegram was sent off.

Ozymandias Rex, Esq.,
Chatsworth,
Delamere Road,
Tooting,
England.

Please come home at once. Palace vacant. Tenants have left.-- O ZYLIZA P.

And they came immediately.

When they arrived the Princess told them the whole story, and they kissed and praised her, and called her their deliverer and the saviour of her country.

'I haven't done anything,' she said. ' It was Erinaceus who did everything, and . . . .'

'But the fairies said,' interrupted the King, who was never clever at the best of times, 'that you couldn't get the kingdom back till you had a thousand spears devoted to you, to you alone.'

'There are a thousand spears in my back,' said a little sharp voice, 'and they are all devoted to the Princess and to her alone.'

'Don't!' said the King irritably. 'That voice coming out of nothing makes me jump.'

'I can't get used to it either,' said the Queen. 'We must have a gold cage built for the little animal. But I must say I wish it was visible.'

'So do I,' said the Princess earnestly. And instantly it was. I suppose the Princess wished it very hard, for there was the hedge-pig with its long spiky body and its little pointed face, its bright eyes, its small round ears, and its sharp, turned-up nose.

It looked at the Princess but it did not speak.

'Say something now,' said Queen Eliza. 'I should like to see a hedge-pig speak.'

'The truth is, if speak I must, I must speak the truth,' said Erinaceus. 'The Princess has thrown away her life-wish to make me visible. I wish she had wished instead for something nice for herself.'

'Oh, was that my life-wish?' cried the Princess. 'I didn't know, dear Hedge-pig, I didn't know. If I'd only known, I would have wished you back into your proper shape.'

'If you had,' said the hedge-pig, 'it would have been the shape of a dead man. Remember that I have a thousand spears in my back, and no man can carry those and live.'

The Princess burst into tears.

'Oh, you can't go on being a hedge-pig for ever,' she said, 'it's not fair. I can't bear it. Oh Mamma! Oh Papa! Oh Benevola!'

And there stood Benevola before them, a little dazzling figure with blue butterfly's wings and a wreath of moonshine.

'Well?' she said, 'well?'

'Oh, you know,' said the Princess, still crying. 'I've thrown away my life-wish, and he's still a hedge-pig. Can't you do anything? '

'I can't,' said the Fairy, 'but you can. Your kisses are magic kisses. Don't you remember how you cured the King and Queen of all the wounds the hedge-pig made by rolling itself on to their faces in the night?'

'But she can't go kissing hedge-pigs,' said the Queen, 'it would be most unsuitable. Besides it would hurt her.'

But the hedge-pig raised its little pointed face, and the Princess took it up in her hands. She had long since learned how to do this without hurting either herself or it. She looked in its little bright eyes.

'I would kiss you on every one of your thousand spears,' she said, ' to give you what you wish.'

'Kiss me once,' it said, 'where my fur is soft. That is all I wish, and enough to live and die for.'

She stooped her head and kissed it on its forehead where the fur is soft, just where the prickles begin.

And instantly she was standing with her hands on a young man's shoulders and her lips on a young man's face just where the hair begins and the forehead leaves off. And all round his feet lay a pile of fallen arrows.

She drew back and looked at him.

'Erinaceus,' she said, 'you're different—from the baker's boy I mean.'

'When I was an invisible hedge-pig,' he said, 'I knew everything. Now I have forgotten all that wisdom save only two things. One is that I am a king's son. I was stolen away in infancy by an unprincipled baker, and I am really the son of that usurping King whose face I rolled on in the night. It is a painful thing to roll on your father's face when you are all spiky, but I did it, Princess, for your sake, and for my father's too. And now I will go to him and tell him all, and ask his forgiveness.'

'You won't go away?' said the Princess. 'Ah! don't go away. What shall I do without my hedge-pig?'

Erinaceus stood still, looking very handsome and like a prince.

'What is the other thing that you remember of your hedge-pig wisdom?' asked the Queen curiously. And Erinaceus answered, not to her but to the Princess:

'The other thing, Princess, is that I love you.'

'Isn't there a third thing, Erinaceus?' said the Princess, looking down.

'There is, but you must speak that, not I.'

'Oh,' said the Princess, a little disappointed, 'then you knew that I loved you?'

'Hedge-pigs are very wise little beasts,' said Erinaceus, 'but I only knew that when you told it me.'

'I-- told you?'

'When you kissed my little pointed face, Princess,' said Erinaceus, 'I knew then.'

'My goodness gracious me,' said the King.

'Quite so,' said Benevola, 'and I wouldn't ask any one to the wedding.'

'Except you, dear,' said the Queen.

'Well, as I happened to be passing . . . there's no time like the present,' said Benevola briskly. 'Suppose you give orders for the wedding bells to be rung now, at once!'