She went straight to the bed, and taking Rosamond in her arms, sat down with her by the fire.
“My poor child!” she said. “Two terrible failures! And the more the harder! They get stronger and stronger. What is to be done?”
“Couldn’t you help me?” said Rosamond piteously.
“Perhaps I could, now you ask me,” answered the wise woman. “When you are ready to try again, we shall see.”
“I am very tired of myself,” said the princess. “But I can’t rest till I try again.”
“That is the only way to get rid of your weary, shadowy self, and find your strong, true self. Come, my child; I will help you all I can, for now I can help you.”
Yet again she led her to the same door, and seemed to the princess to send her yet again alone into the room. She was in a forest, a place half wild, half tended. The trees were grand, and full of the loveliest birds, of all glowing gleaming and radiant colors, which, unlike the brilliant birds we know in our world, sang deliciously, every one according to his color. The trees were not at all crowded, but their leaves were so thick, and their boughs spread so far, that it was only here and there a sunbeam could get straight through. All the gentle creatures of a forest were there, but no creatures that killed, not even a weasel to kill the rabbits, or a beetle to eat the snails out of their striped shells. As to the butterflies, words would but wrong them if they tried to tell how gorgeous they were. The princess’s delight was so great that she neither laughed nor ran, but walked about with a solemn countenance and stately step.
“But where are the flowers?” she said to herself at length.
They were nowhere. Neither on the high trees, nor on the few shrubs that grew here and there amongst them, were there any blossoms; and in the grass that grew everywhere there was not a single flower to be seen.
“Ah, well!” said Rosamond again to herself, “where all the birds and butterflies are living flowers, we can do without the other sort.”
Still she could not help feeling that flowers were wanted to make the beauty of the forest complete.
Suddenly she came out on a little open glade; and there, on the root of a great oak, sat the loveliest little girl, with her lap full of flowers of all colors, but of such kinds as Rosamond had never before seen. She was playing with them—burying her hands in them, tumbling them about, and every now and then picking one from the rest, and throwing it away. All the time she never smiled, except with her eyes, which were as full as they could hold of the laughter of the spirit—a laughter which in this world is never heard, only sets the eyes alight with a liquid shining. Rosamond drew nearer, for the wonderful creature would have drawn a tiger to her side, and tamed him on the way, A few yards from her, she came