The Grey Fairy Book
There was once upon a time a king who was so much beloved by his subjects that he
thought himself the happiest monarch in the whole world, and he had everything his heart
could desire. His palace was filled with the rarest of curiosities, and his gardens with the
sweetest flowers, while in the marble stalls of his stables stood a row of milk-white
Arabs, with big brown eyes.
Strangers who had heard of the marvels which the king had collected, and made long
journeys to see them, were, however, surprised to find the most splendid stall of all
occupied by a donkey, with particularly large and drooping ears. It was a very fine
donkey; but still, as far as they could tell, nothing so very remarkable as to account for
the care with which it was lodged; and they went away wondering, for they could not
know that every night, when it was asleep, bushels of gold pieces tumbled out of its ears,
which were picked up each morning by the attendants.
After many years of prosperity a sudden blow fell upon the king in the death of his wife,
whom he loved dearly. But before she died, the queen, who had always thought first of
his happiness, gathered all her strength, and said to him:
‘Promise me one thing: you must marry again, I know, for the good of your people, as
well as of yourself. But do not set about it in a hurry. Wait until you have found a woman
more beautiful and better formed than myself.'
‘Oh, do not speak to me of marrying,' sobbed the king; ‘rather let me die with you!' But
the queen only smiled faintly, and turned over on her pillow and died.
For some months the king's grief was great; then gradually he began to forget a little, and,
besides, his counsellors were always urging him to seek another wife. At first he refused
to listen to them, but by-and-by he allowed himself to be persuaded to think of it, only
stipulating that the bride should be more beautiful and attractive than the late queen,
according to the promise he had made her.
Overjoyed at having obtained what they wanted, the counsellors sent envoys far and wide
to get portraits of all the most famous beauties of every country. The artists were very
busy and did their best, but, alas! nobody could even pretend that any of the ladies could
compare for a moment with the late queen.
At length, one day, when he had turned away discouraged from a fresh collection of
pictures, the king's eyes fell on his adopted daughter, who had lived in the palace since
she was a baby, and he saw that, if a woman existed on the whole earth more lovely than
the queen, this was she! He at once made known what his wishes were, but the young
girl, who was not at all ambitious, and had not the faintest desire to marry him, was filled
with dismay, and begged for time to think about it. That night, when everyone was
asleep, she started in a little car drawn by a big sheep, and went to consult her fairy