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The Violet Fairy Book

The Lute Player
Once upon a time there was a king and queen who lived happily and comfortably
together. They were very fond of each other and had nothing to worry them, but at last
the king grew restless. He longed to go out into the world, to try his strength in battle
against some enemy and to win all kinds of honour and glory.
So he called his army together and gave orders to start for a distant country where a
heathen king ruled who ill-treated or tormented everyone he could lay his hands on. The
king then gave his parting orders and wise advice to his ministers, took a tender leave of
his wife, and set off with his army across the seas.
I cannot say whether the voyage was short or long; but at last he reached the country of
the heathen king and marched on, defeating all who came in his way. But this did not last
long, for in time he came to a mountain pass, where a large army was waiting for him,
who put his soldiers to flight, and took the king himself prisoner.
He was carried off to the prison where the heathen king kept his captives, and now our
poor friend had a very bad time indeed. All night long the prisoners were chained up, and
in the morning they were yoked together like oxen and had to plough the land till it grew
dark.
This state of things went on for three years before the king found any means of sending
news of himself to his dear queen, but at last he contrived to send this letter: 'Sell all our
castles and palaces, and put all our treasures in pawn and come and deliver me out of this
horrible prison.'
The queen received the letter, read it, and wept bitterly as she said to herself, 'How can I
deliver my dearest husband? If I go myself and the heathen king sees me he will just take
me to be one of his wives. If I were to send one of the ministers!--but I hardly know if I
can depend on them.'
She thought, and thought, and at last an idea came into her head.
She cut off all her beautiful long brown hair and dressed herself in boy's clothes. Then
she took her lute and, without saying anything to anyone, she went forth into the wide
world.
She travelled through many lands and saw many cities, and went through many hardships
before she got to the town where the heathen king lived. When she got there she walked
all round the palace and at the back she saw the prison. Then she went into the great court
in front of the palace, and taking her lute in her hand, she began to play so beautifully that
one felt as though one could never hear enough.
After she had played for some time she began to sing, and her voice was sweeter than the
lark's:
'I come from my own country far
Into this foreign land,
Of all I own I take alone
My sweet lute in my hand.
 
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