The Grey Fairy Book
The Story of the Queen of the Flowery Isles
There once lived a queen who ruled over the Flowery Isles, whose husband, to her
extreme grief, died a few years after their marriage. On being left a widow she devoted
herself almost entirely to the education of the two charming princesses, her only children.
The elder of them was so lovely that as she grew up her mother greatly feared she would
excite the jealousy of the Queen of all the Isles, who prided herself on being the most
beautiful woman in the world, and insisted on all rivals bowing before her charms.
In order the better to gratify her vanity she had urged the king, her husband, to make war
on all the surrounding islands, and as his greatest wish was to please her, the only
conditions he imposed on any newly-conquered country was that each princess of every
royal house should attend his court as soon as she was fifteen years old, and do homage
to the transcendent beauty of his queen.
The queen of the Flowery Isles, well aware of this law, was fully determined to present
her daughter to the proud queen as soon as her fifteenth birthday was past.
The queen herself had heard a rumour of the young princess's great beauty, and awaited
her visit with some anxiety, which soon developed into jealousy, for when the interview
took place it was impossible not to be dazzled by such radiant charms, and she was
obliged to admit that she had never beheld anyone so exquisitely lovely.
Of course she thought in her own mind ‘excepting myself!' for nothing could have made
her believe it possible that anyone could eclipse her.
But the outspoken admiration of the entire court soon undeceived her, and made her so
angry that she pretended illness and retired to her own rooms, so as to avoid witnessing
the princess's triumph. She also sent word to the Queen of the Flowery Isles that she was
sorry not to be well enough to see her again, and advised her to return to her own states
with the princess, her daughter.
This message was entrusted to one of the great ladies of the court, who was an old friend
of the Queen of the Flowery Isles, and who advised her not to wait to take a formal leave
but to go home as fast as she could.
The queen was not slow to take the hint, and lost no time in obeying it. Being well aware
of the magic powers of the incensed queen, she warned her daughter that she was
threatened by some great danger if she left the palace for any reason whatever during the
next six months.
The princess promised obedience, and no pains were spared to make the time pass
pleasantly for her.