The Red Fairy Book
The Princess Mayblossom
ONCE upon a time there lived a King and Queen whose children had all died, first one
and then another, until at last only one little daughter remained, and the Queen was at her
wits' end to know where to find a really good nurse who would take care of her, and bring
her up. A herald was sent who blew a trumpet at every street corner, and commanded all
the best nurses to appear before the Queen, that she might choose one for the little
Princess. So on the appointed day the whole palace was crowded with nurses, who came
from the four corners of the world to offer themselves, until the Queen declared that if
she was ever to see the half of them, they must be brought out to her, one by one, as she
sat in a shady wood near the palace.
This was accordingly done, and the nurses, after they had made their curtsey to the King
and Queen, ranged themselves in a line before her that she might choose. Most of them
were fair and fat and charming, but there was one who was dark-skinned and ugly, and
spoke a strange language which nobody could understand. The Queen wondered how she
dared offer herself, and she was told to go away, as she certainly would not do. Upon
which she muttered something and passed on, but hid herself in a hollow tree, from
which she could see all that happened. The Queen, without giving her another thought,
chose a pretty rosy-faced nurse, but no sooner was her choice made than a snake, which
was hidden in the grass, bit that very nurse on her foot, so that she fell down as if dead.
The Queen was very much vexed by this accident, but she soon selected another, who
was just stepping forward when an eagle flew by and dropped a large tortoise upon her
head, which was cracked in pieces like an egg-shell. At this the Queen was much
horrified; nevertheless, she chose a third time, but with no better fortune, for the nurse,
moving quickly, ran into the branch of a tree and blinded herself with a thorn. Then the
Queen in dismay cried that there must be some malignant influence at work, and that she
would choose no more that day; and she had just risen to return to the palace when she
heard peals of malicious laughter behind her, and turning round saw the ugly stranger
whom she had dismissed, who was making very merry over the disasters and mocking
everyone, but especially the Queen. This annoyed Her Majesty very much, and she was
about to order that she should be arrested, when the witch--for she was a witch--with two
blows from a wand summoned a chariot of fire drawn by winged dragons, and was
whirled off through the air uttering threats and cries. When the King saw this he cried:
`Alas! now we are ruined indeed, for that was no other than the Fairy Carabosse, who has
had a grudge against me ever since I was a boy and put sulphur into her porridge one day
Then the Queen began to cry.
`If I had only known who it was,' she said, `I would have done my best to make friends
with her; now I suppose all is lost.'
The King was sorry to have frightened her so much, and proposed that they should go
and hold a council as to what was best to be done to avert the misfortunes which
Carabosse certainly meant to bring upon the little Princess.