The Princess and The Hedge Pig
by E. Nesbit
'BUT I don't see what we're to
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
'Yes, dear,' said the poor Queen; 'I've not the slightest doubt I
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
'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.
'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
'King Ozymandias and Queen Eliza invite you to the christening of
their daughter Princess Ozyliza at three on Wednesday in the Palace
'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
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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
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
'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
'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
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.
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
'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
'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
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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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.,
- Delamere Road,
Please come home at once. Palace vacant. Tenants have left.-- O
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
'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
'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
'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
She drew back and looked at him.
'Erinaceus,' she said, 'you're different—from the baker's boy I
'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
'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
'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!'