“There!” said the queen, “I never made a jest, but I broke it in the making. I am the most unfortunate woman in the world!”
She looked so rueful that the king took her in his arms; and they sat down to consult.
“Can you bear this?” said the king.
“No, I can’t,” said the queen.
“Well, what’s to be done?” said the king.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” said the queen. “But might you not try an apology?”
“To my old sister, I suppose you mean?” said the king.
“Yes,” said the queen.
“Well, I don’t mind,” said the king.
So he went the next morning to the house of the princess, and, making a very humble apology, begged her to undo the spell. But the princess declared, with a grave face, that she knew nothing at all about it. Her eyes, however, shone pink, which was a sign that she was happy. She advised the king and queen to have patience, and to mend their ways. The king returned disconsolate. The queen tried to comfort him.
“We will wait till she is older. She may then be able to suggest something herself. She will know at least how she feels, and explain things to us.”
“But what if she should marry?” exclaimed the king, in sudden consternation at the idea.
“Well, what of that?” rejoined the queen.
“Just think! If she were to have children! In the course of a hundred years the air might be as full of floating children as of gossamers in autumn.”
“That is no business of ours,” replied the queen. “Besides, by that time they will have learned to take care of themselves.”
A sigh was the king’s only answer.
He would have consulted the court physicians; but he was afraid they would try experiments upon her.
She Laughs Too Much
Meantime, notwithstanding awkward occurrences, and griefs that she brought upon her parents, the little princess laughed and grew—not fat, but plump and tall. She reached the age of seventeen, without having fallen into any worse scrape than a chimney; by rescuing her from which, a little bird-nesting urchin got fame and a black face. Nor, thoughtless as she was, had she committed anything worse than laughter at everybody and everything that came in her way. When she was told, for the sake of experiment, that General Clanrunfort was cut to pieces with all his troops, she laughed; when she heard that the enemy was on his way to besiege her father’s capital, she laughed hugely; but when she was told that the city would certainly be abandoned to the mercy of the enemy’s soldiery—why, then she laughed immoderately. She never could be brought to see the serious side of anything. When her mother cried, she said:
“What queer faces mamma makes! And she squeezes water out of her cheeks! Funny mamma!”
And when her papa stormed at her, she laughed, and danced round and round him, clapping her hands, and crying: