The Lilac Fairy Book
A Lost Paradise
In the middle of a great forest there lived a long time ago a charcoal-burner and his wife.
They were both young and handsome and strong, and when they got married, they
thought work would never fail them. But bad times came, and they grew poorer and
poorer, and the nights in which they went hungry to bed became more and more frequent.
Now one evening the king of that country was hunting near the charcoal-burner's hut. As
he passed the door, he heard a sound of sobbing, and being a good-natured man he
stopped to listen, thinking that perhaps he might be able to give some help.
'Were there ever two people so unhappy!' said a woman's voice. 'Here we are, ready to
work like slaves the whole day long, and no work can we get. And it is all because of the
curiosity of old mother Eve! If she had only been like me, who never want to know
anything, we should all have been as happy as kings to-day, with plenty to eat, and warm
clothes to wear. Why--' but at this point a loud knock interrupted her lamentations.
'Who is there?' asked she.
'I!' replied somebody.
'And who is "I"?'
'The king. Let me in.'
Full of surprise the woman jumped up and pulled the bar away from the door. As the king
entered, he noticed that there was no furniture in the room at all, not even a chair, so he
pretended to be in too great a hurry to see anything around him, and only said 'You must
not let me disturb you. I have no time to stay, but you seemed to be in trouble. Tell me;
are you very unhappy?'
'Oh, my lord, we can find no work and have eaten nothing for two days!' answered she.
'Nothing remains for us but to die of hunger.'
'No, no, you shan't do that,' cried the king, 'or if you do, it will be your own fault. You
shall come with me into my palace, and you will feel as if you were in Paradise, I
promise you. In return, I only ask one thing of you, that you shall obey my orders
The charcoal-burner and his wife both stared at him for a moment, as if they could hardly
believe their ears; and, indeed, it was not to be wondered at! Then they found their
tongues, and exclaimed together:
'Oh, yes, yes, my lord! we will do everything you tell us. How could we be so ungrateful
as to disobey you, when you are so kind?'
The king smiled, and his eyes twinkled.