Cousin Kate crossed the room, and sat down by the window, where she could look out and see the top of it.
“Let me think for a few minutes,” she said. “I have been very much interested in that old gate myself.”
She thought so long that the candy was done before she was ready to tell the story; but while it cooled in plates outside on the window-sill, she drew Joyce to a seat beside her in the chimney-corner. With her feet on the fender, and the child’s head on her shoulder, she began this story, and the firelight dancing on the walls, showed a smile on Joyce’s contented little face.
A new fairy tale.
Once upon a time, on a far island of the sea, there lived a King with seven sons. The three eldest were tall and dark, with eyes like eagles, and hair like a crow’s wing for blackness, and no princes in all the land were so strong and fearless as they. The three youngest sons were tall and fair, with eyes as blue as cornflowers, and locks like the summer sun for brightness, and no princes in all the land were so brave and beautiful as they.
But the middle son was little and lorn; he was neither dark nor fair; he was neither handsome nor strong. So when the King saw that he never won in the tournaments nor led in the boar hunts, nor sang to his lute among the ladies of the court, he drew his royal robes around him, and henceforth frowned on Ethelried.
To each of his other sons he gave a portion of his kingdom, armor and plumes, a prancing charger, and a trusty sword; but to Ethelried he gave nothing. When the poor Prince saw his brothers riding out into the world to win their fortunes, he fain would have followed. Throwing himself on his knees before the King, he cried, “Oh, royal Sire, bestow upon me also a sword and a steed, that I may up and away to follow my brethren.”
But the King laughed him to scorn. “Thou a sword!” he quoth. “Thou who hast never done a deed of valor in all thy life! In sooth thou shalt have one, but it shall be one befitting thy maiden size and courage, if so small a weapon can be found in all my kingdom!”
Now just at that moment it happened that the Court Tailor came into the room to measure the King for a new mantle of ermine. Forthwith the grinning Jester began shrieking with laughter, so that the bells upon his motley cap were all set a-jangling.
“What now, Fool?” demanded the King.
“I did but laugh to think the sword of Ethelried had been so quickly found,” responded the Jester, and he pointed to the scissors hanging from the Tailor’s girdle.
“By my troth,” exclaimed the King, “it shall be even as thou sayest!” and he commanded that the scissors be taken from the Tailor, and buckled to the belt of Ethelried.
“Not until thou hast proved thyself a prince with these, shalt thou come into thy kingdom,” he swore with a mighty oath. “Until that far day, now get thee gone!”