The Little Lame Prince
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The Little Lame Prince
By MISS MULOCK
[Pseudonym of Maria Dinah Craik]
THE LITTLE LAME PRINCE
THE INVISIBLE PRINCE
THE PRINCE WITH THE NOSE
LITTLE LAME PRINCE
Yes, he was the most beautiful Prince
that ever was born.
Of course, being a prince, people
said this; but it was true besides.
When he looked at the candle, his eyes had an
expression of earnest inquiry quite startling in
a new born baby. His nose--there was not much
of it certainly, but what there was seemed an
aquiline shape; his complexion was a charming,
healthy purple; he was round and fat, straight-
limbed and long--in fact, a splendid baby, and
everybody was exceedingly proud of him,
especially his father and mother, the King and Queen
of Nomansland, who had waited for him during
their happy reign of ten years--now made happier
than ever, to themselves and their subjects,
by the appearance of a son and heir.
The only person who was not quite happy was
the King's brother, the heir presumptive, who
would have been king one day had the baby not
been born. But as his majesty was very kind to
him, and even rather sorry for him--insomuch
that at the Queen's request he gave him a dukedom
almost as big as a county--the Crown-
Prince, as he was called, tried to seem pleased
also; and let us hope he succeeded.
The Prince's christening was to be a grand
affair. According to the custom of the country,
there were chosen for him four-and-twenty god-
fathers and godmothers, who each had to give
him a name, and promise to do their utmost for
him. When he came of age, he himself had to
choose the name--and the godfather or god-
mother--that he liked the best, for the rest of his
Meantime all was rejoicing. Subscriptions
were made among the rich to give pleasure to the
poor; dinners in town-halls for the workingmen;
tea-parties in the streets for their wives; and
milk-and-bun feasts for the children in the
schoolrooms. For Nomansland, though I cannot
point it out in any map, or read of it in any
history, was, I believe, much like our own or many
As for the palace--which was no different
from other palaces--it was clean "turned out of
the windows," as people say, with the preparations
going on. The only quiet place in it was the
room which, though the Prince was six weeks
old, his mother the Queen had never quitted.
Nobody said she was ill, however--it would have
been so inconvenient; and as she said nothing
about it herself, but lay pale and placid, giving
no trouble to anybody, nobody thought much
about her. All the world was absorbed in
admiring the baby.
The christening-day came at last, and it was
as lovely as the Prince himself. All the people
in the palace were lovely too--or thought themselves
so--in the elegant new clothes which the
Queen, who thought of everybody, had taken
care to give them, from the ladies-in-waiting
down to the poor little kitchen-maid, who looked
at herself in her pink cotton gown, and thought,
doubtless, that there never was such a pretty
girl as she.
By six in the morning all the royal household
had dressed itself in its very best; and then the
little Prince was dressed in his best--his
magnificent christening robe; which proceeding his
Royal Highness did not like at all, but kicked
and screamed like any common baby. When he
had a little calmed down, they carried him to be
looked at by the Queen his mother, who, though
her royal robes had been brought and laid upon
the bed, was, as everybody well knew, quite
unable to rise and put them on.
She admired her baby very much; kissed and
blessed him, and lay looking at him, as she did for
hours sometimes, when he was placed beside her
fast asleep; then she gave him up with a gentle
smile, and, saying she hoped he would be very
good, that it would be a very nice christening,
and all the guests would enjoy themselves,
turned peacefully over on her bed, saying nothing
more to anybody. She was a very uncomplaining
person, the Queen--and her name was
Everything went on exactly as if she had been
present. All, even the king himself, had grown
used to her absence; for she was not strong, and
for years had not joined in any gayeties. She
always did her royal duties, but as to pleasures,
they could go on quite well without her, or it
seemed so. The company arrived: great and
notable persons in this and neighboring countries;
also the four-and-twenty godfathers and
godmothers, who had been chosen with care, as
the people who would be most useful to his royal
highness should he ever want friends, which did
not seem likely. What such want could possibly
happen to the heir of the powerful monarch of
They came, walking two and two, with their
coronets on their heads--being dukes and duchesses,
princes and princesses, or the like; they
all kissed the child and pronounced the name
each had given him. Then the four-and-twenty
names were shouted out with great energy by six
heralds, one after the other, and afterward written
down, to be preserved in the state records,
in readiness for the next time they were wanted,
which would be either on his Royal Highness'
coronation or his funeral.
Soon the ceremony was over, and everybody
satisfied; except, perhaps, the little Prince
himself, who moaned faintly under his christening
robes, which nearly smothered him.
In truth, though very few knew, the Prince in
coming to the chapel had met with a slight
disaster. His nurse,--not his ordinary one, but the
state nurse-maid,--an elegant and fashionable
young lady of rank, whose duty it was to carry
him to and from the chapel, had been so occupied
in arranging her train with one hand, while she
held the baby with the other, that she stumbled
and let him fall, just at the foot of the marble
To be sure, she contrived to pick him up again
the next minute; and the accident was so slight
it seemed hardly worth speaking of. Consequently
nobody did speak of it. The baby had
turned deadly pale, but did not cry, so no person
a step or two behind could discover anything
wrong; afterward, even if he had moaned, the
silver trumpets were loud enough to drown his
voice. It would have been a pity to let anything
trouble such a day of felicity.
So, after a minute's pause, the procession had
moved on. Such a procession t Heralds in blue
and silver; pages in crimson and gold; and a
troop of little girls in dazzling white, carrying
baskets of flowers, which they strewed all the
way before the nurse and child--finally the four-
and-twenty godfathers and godmothers, as
proud as possible, and so splendid to look at
that they would have quite extinguished their
small godson--merely a heap of lace and muslin
with a baby face inside--had it not been for a
canopy of white satin and ostrich feathers which
was held over him wherever he was carried.
Thus, with the sun shining on them through
the painted windows, they stood; the king and
his train on one side, the Prince and his attendants
on the other, as pretty a sight as ever was
seen out of fairyland.
"It's just like fairyland," whispered the
eldest little girl to the next eldest, as she shook
the last rose out of her basket; "and I think the
only thing the Prince wants now is a fairy god-
"Does he?" said a shrill but soft and not
unpleasant voice behind; and there was seen among
the group of children somebody,--not a child,
yet no bigger than a child,--somebody whom nobody
had seen before, and who certainly had not
been invited, for she had no christening clothes
She was a little old woman dressed all in gray:
gray gown; gray hooded cloak, of a material
excessively fine, and a tint that seemed perpetually
changing, like the gray of an evening sky. Her
hair was gray, and her eyes also--even her
complexion had a soft gray shadow over it. But
there was nothing unpleasantly old about her,
and her smile was as sweet and childlike as the
Prince's own, which stole over his pale little
face the instant she came near enough to touch
"Take care! Don't let the baby fall again."
The grand young lady nurse started, flushing
"Who spoke to me? How did anybody know?
--I mean, what business has anybody----"
Then frightened, but still speaking in a much
sharper tone than I hope young ladies of rank
are in the habit of speaking--"Old woman, you
will be kind enough not to say `the baby,' but
`the Prince.' Keep away; his Royal Highness
is just going to sleep."
"Nevertheless I must kiss him. I am his god-
"You!" cried the elegant lady nurse.
"You!" repeated all the gentlemen and
"You!" echoed the heralds and pages--and
they began to blow the silver trumpets in order
to stop all further conversation.
The Prince's procession formed itself for
returning,--the King and his train having already
moved off toward the palace,--but on the top-
most step of the marble stairs stood, right in
front of all, the little old woman clothed in gray.
She stretched herself on tiptoe by the help of
her stick, and gave the little Prince three kisses.
"This is intolerable!" cried the young lady
nurse, wiping the kisses off rapidly with her
lace handkerchief. "Such an insult to his Royal
Highness! Take yourself out of the way, old
woman, or the King shall be informed immediately."
"The King knows nothing of me, more's the
pity," replied the old woman, with an indifferent
air, as if she thought the loss was more on his
Majesty's side than hers. "My friend in the
palace is the King's wife."
"King's have not wives, but queens," said the
lady nurse, with a contemptuous air.
"You are right," replied the old woman.
"Nevertheless I know her Majesty well, and I
love her and her child. And--since you dropped
him on the marble stairs (this she said in a
mysterious whisper, which made the young lady
tremble in spite of her anger)--I choose to take
him for my own, and be his godmother, ready to
help him whenever he wants me."
"You help him!" cried all the group breaking
into shouts of laughter, to which the little old
woman paid not the slightest attention. Her soft
gray eyes were fixed on the Prince, who seemed
to answer to the look, smiling again and again
in the causeless, aimless fashion that babies do
"His Majesty must hear of this," said a
"His Majesty will hear quite enough news in
a minute or two," said the old woman sadly.
And again stretching up to the little Prince, she
kissed him on the forehead solemnly.
"Be called by a new name which nobody has
ever thought of. Be Prince Dolor, in memory
of your mother Dolorez."
"In memory of!" Everybody started at the
ominous phrase, and also at a most terrible
breach of etiquette which the old woman had
committed. In Nomansland, neither the king
nor the queen was supposed to have any Christian
name at all. They dropped it on their coronation
day, and it never was mentioned again till
it was engraved on their coffins when they died.
"Old woman, you are exceedingly ill-bred,"
cried the eldest lady-in-waiting, much horrified.
"How you could know the fact passes my
comprehension. But even if you did know it, how
dared you presume to hint that her most gracious
Majesty is called Dolorez?"
"WAS called Dolorez," said the old woman,
with a tender solemnity.
The first gentleman, called the Gold-stick-in-
waiting, raised it to strike her, and all the rest
stretched out their hands to seize her; but the
gray mantle melted from between their fingers
like air; and, before anybody had time to do
anything more, there came a heavy, muffled,
The great bell of the palace the bell which
was only heard on the death of some one of the
royal family, and for as many times as he or she
was years old--began to toll. They listened,
mute and horror-stricken. Some one counted:
one--two--three--four--up to nine-and-twenty
--just the Queen's age.
It was, indeed, the Queen. Her Majesty was
dead! In the midst of the festivities she had
slipped away out of her new happiness and her
old sufferings, not few nor small. Sending away
all her women to see the grand sight,--at least
they said afterward, in excuse, that she had done
so, and it was very like her to do it,--she had
turned with her face to the window, whence one
could just see the tops of the distant mountains
--the Beautiful Mountains, as they were called
--where she was born. So gazing, she had
When the little Prince was carried back to
his mother's room, there was no mother to kiss
him. And, though he did not know it, there
would be for him no mother's kiss any more.
As for his godmother,--the little old woman
in gray who called herself so,--whether she
melted into air, like her gown when they touched
it, or whether she flew out of the chapel window,
or slipped through the doorway among the
bewildered crowd, nobody knew--nobody ever
thought about her.
Only the nurse, the ordinary homely one,
coming out of the Prince's nursery in the middle
of the night in search of a cordial to quiet his
continual moans, saw, sitting in the doorway,
something which she would have thought a mere
shadow, had she not seen shining out of it two
eyes, gray and soft and sweet. She put her
hand before her own, screaming loudly. When
she took them away the old woman was gone.
Everybody was very kind to the poor
little prince. I think people generally
are kind to motherless children,
whether princes or peasants. He had a
magnificent nursery and a regular suite of
attendants, and was treated with the greatest
respect and state. Nobody was allowed to talk to
him in silly baby language, or dandle him, or,
above all to kiss him, though perhaps some
people did it surreptitiously, for he was such a
sweet baby that it was difficult to help it.
It could not be said that the Prince missed
his mother--children of his age cannot do that;
but somehow after she died everything seemed to
go wrong with him. From a beautiful baby he
became sickly and pale, seeming to have almost
ceased growing, especially in his legs, which had
been so fat and strong.
But after the day of his christening they
withered and shrank; he no longer kicked them out
either in passion or play, and when, as he got to
be nearly a year old, his nurse tried to make him
stand upon them, he only tumbled down.
This happened so many times that at last
people began to talk about it. A prince, and not
able to stand on his own legs! What a dreadful
thing! What a misfortune for the country!
Rather a misfortune to him also, poor little
boy! but nobody seemed to think of that. And
when, after a while, his health revived, and the
old bright look came back to his sweet little face,
and his body grew larger and stronger, though
still his legs remained the same, people continued
to speak of him in whispers, and with grave
shakes of the head. Everybody knew, though
nobody said it, that something, it was impossible
to guess what, was not quite right with the poor
Of course, nobody hinted this to the King his
father: it does not do to tell great people
anything unpleasant. And besides, his Majesty
took very little notice of his son, or of his other
affairs, beyond the necessary duties of his kingdom.
People had said he would not miss the Queen
at all, she having been so long an invalid, but he
did. After her death he never was quite the
same. He established himself in her empty
rooms, the only rooms in the palace whence one
could see the Beautiful Mountains, and was
often observed looking at them as if he thought
she had flown away thither, and that his longing
could bring her back again. And by a curious
coincidence, which nobody dared inquire into,
he desired that the Prince might be called, not
by any of the four-and-twenty grand names
given him by his godfathers and godmothers, but
by the identical name mentioned by the little old
woman in gray--Dolor, after his mother Dolorez.
Once a week, according to established state
custom, the Prince, dressed in his very best, was
brought to the King his father for half an hour,
but his Majesty was generally too ill and too
melancholy to pay much heed to the child.
Only once, when he and the Crown-Prince,
who was exceedingly attentive to his royal
brother, were sitting together, with Prince
Dolor playing in a corner of the room, dragging
himself about with his arms rather than his legs,
and sometimes trying feebly to crawl from one
chair to another, it seemed to strike the father
that all was not right with his son.
"How old is his Royal Highness?" said he
suddenly to the nurse.
"Two years, three months, and five days,
please your Majesty."
"It does not please me," said the King, with
a sigh. "He ought to be far more forward than
he is now ought he not, brother? You, who
have so many children, must know. Is there not
something wrong about him?"
"Oh, no," said the Crown-Prince, exchanging
meaning looks with the nurse, who did not
understand at all, but stood frightened and
trembling with the tears in her eyes. "Nothing to
make your Majesty at all uneasy. No doubt his
Royal Highness will outgrow it in time."
"A slight delicacy--ahem!--in the spine;
something inherited, perhaps, from his dear
"Ah, she was always delicate; but she was the
sweetest woman that ever lived. Come here, my
And as the Prince turned round upon his
father a small, sweet, grave face,--so like his
mother's,--his Majesty the King smiled and
held out his arms. But when the boy came to
him, not running like a boy, but wriggling
awkwardly along the floor, the royal countenance
"I ought to have been told of this. It is
terrible--terrible! And for a prince too. Send for
all the doctors in my kingdom immediately."
They came, and each gave a different opinion
and ordered a different mode of treatment. The
only thing they agreed in was what had been
pretty well known before, that the Prince must
have been hurt when he was an infant--let fall,
perhaps, so as to injure his spine and lower
limbs. Did nobody remember?
No, nobody. Indignantly, all the nurses
denied that any such accident had happened, was
possible to have happened, until the faithful
country nurse recollected that it really had
happened on the day of the christening. For which
unluckily good memory all the others scolded her
so severely that she had no peace of her life, and
soon after, by the influence of the young lady
nurse who had carried the baby that fatal day,
and who was a sort of connection of the Crown-
Prince--being his wife's second cousin once
removed--the poor woman was pensioned off
and sent to the Beautiful Mountains from
whence she came, with orders to remain there
for the rest of her days.
But of all this the King knew nothing, for,
indeed, after the first shock of finding out that
his son could not walk, and seemed never likely
to he interfered very little concerning him.
The whole thing was too painful, and his Majesty
never liked painful things. Sometimes he
inquired after Prince Dolor, and they told him his
Royal Highness was going on as well as could be
expected, which really was the case. For, after
worrying the poor child and perplexing themselves
with one remedy after another, the Crown-
Prince, not wishing to offend any of the
differing doctors, had proposed leaving him to
Nature; and Nature, the safest doctor of all, had
come to his help and done her best.
He could not walk, it is true; his limbs were
mere useless appendages to his body; but the
body itself was strong and sound. And his face
was the same as ever--just his mother's face,
one of the sweetest in the world.
Even the King, indifferent as he was,
sometimes looked at the little fellow with sad
tenderness, noticing how cleverly he learned to crawl
and swing himself about by his arms, so that in
his own awkward way he was as active in motion
as most children of his age.
"Poor little man! he does his best, and he is
not unhappy--not half so unhappy as I,
brother," addressing the Crown-Prince, who
was more constant than ever in his attendance
upon the sick monarch. "If anything should
befall me, I have appointed you Regent. In case
of my death, you will take care of my poor little
"Certainly, certainly; but do not let us
imagine any such misfortune. I assure your Majesty
--everybody will assure you--that it is not in the
He knew, however, and everybody knew, that
it was likely, and soon after it actually did
happen. The King died as suddenly and quietly as
the Queen had done--indeed, in her very room
and bed; and Prince Dolor was left without
either father or mother--as sad a thing as could
happen, even to a prince.
He was more than that now, though. He was
a king. In Nomansland, as in other countries,
the people were struck with grief one day and
revived the next. "The king is dead--long live
the king!" was the cry that rang through the
nation, and almost before his late Majesty had
been laid beside the Queen in their splendid
mausoleum, crowds came thronging from all parts
to the royal palace, eager to see the new monarch.
They did see him,--the Prince Regent took
care they should,--sitting on the floor of the
council chamber, sucking his thumb! And when
one of the gentlemen-in-waiting lifted him up
and carried him--fancy carrying a king!--to the
chair of state, and put the crown on his head, he
shook it off again, it was so heavy and
uncomfortable. Sliding down to the foot of the throne
he began playing with the golden lions that
supported it, stroking their paws and putting his
tiny fingers into their eyes, and laughing--
laughing as if he had at last found something to amuse
"There's a fine king for you!" said the first
lord-in-waiting, a friend of the Prince Regent's
(the Crown-Prince that used to be, who, in the
deepest mourning, stood silently beside the
throne of his young nephew. He was a handsome
man, very grand and clever-looking).
"What a king! who can never stand to receive
his subjects, never walk in processions, who to
the last day of his life will have to be carried
about like a baby. Very unfortunate!"
"Exceedingly unfortunate," repeated the
second lord. "It is always bad for a nation when
its king is a child; but such a child--a permanent
cripple, if not worse."
"Let us hope not worse," said the first lord
in a very hopeless tone, and looking toward the
Regent, who stood erect and pretended to hear
nothing. "I have heard that these sort of children
with very large heads, and great broad fore-
heads and staring eyes, are--well, well, let us
hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
In the meantime----"
"I swear," said the Crown-Prince, coming
forward and kissing the hilt of his sword--"I
swear to perform my duties as Regent, to take
all care of his Royal Highness--his Majesty, I
mean," with a grand bow to the little child, who
laughed innocently back again. "And I will do
my humble best to govern the country. Still, if
the country has the slightest objection----"
But the Crown-Prince being generalissimo,
having the whole army at his beck and call, so
that he could have begun a civil war in no time,
the country had, of course, not the slightest objection.
So the King and Queen slept together in peace,
and Prince Dolor reigned over the land--that is,
his uncle did; and everybody said what a
fortunate thing it was for the poor little Prince to
have such a clever uncle to take care of him.
All things went on as usual; indeed, after the
Regent had brought his wife and her seven sons,
and established them in the palace, rather better
than usual. For they gave such splendid
entertainments and made the capital so lively that
trade revived, and the country was said to be
more flourishing than it had been for a century.
Whenever the Regent and his sons appeared,
they were received with shouts: "Long live the
Crown-Prince!" "Long live the royal family!"
And, in truth, they were very fine children, the
whole seven of them, and made a great show
when they rode out together on seven beautiful
horses, one height above another, down to the
youngest, on his tiny black pony, no bigger than
a large dog.
As for the other child, his Royal Highness
Prince Dolor,--for somehow people soon ceased
to call him his Majesty, which seemed such a
ridiculous title for a poor little fellow, a helpless
cripple,--with only head and trunk, and no
legs to speak of,--he was seen very seldom by
Sometimes people daring enough to peer over
the high wall of the palace garden noticed there,
carried in a footman's arms, or drawn in a chair,
or left to play on the grass, often with nobody to
mind him, a pretty little boy, with a bright,
intelligent face and large, melancholy eyes--no,
not exactly melancholy, for they were his
mother's, and she was by no means sad-minded,
but thoughtful and dreamy. They rather
perplexed people, those childish eyes; they were so
exceedingly innocent and yet so penetrating.
If anybody did a wrong thing--told a lie, for
instance they would turn round with such a
grave, silent surprise the child never talked
much--that every naughty person in the palace
was rather afraid of Prince Dolor.
He could not help it, and perhaps he did not
even know it, being no better a child than many
other children, but there was something about
him which made bad people sorry, and grumbling
people ashamed of themselves, and ill-
natured people gentle and kind.
I suppose because they were touched to see a
poor little fellow who did not in the least know
what had befallen him or what lay before him,
living his baby life as happy as the day is long.
Thus, whether or not he was good himself, the
sight of him and his affliction made other people
good, and, above all, made everybody love him
--so much so, that his uncle the Regent began
to feel a little uncomfortable.
Now, I have nothing to say against uncles in
general. They are usually very excellent
people, and very convenient to little boys and
girls. Even the "cruel uncle" of the "Babes in
the Wood" I believe to be quite an exceptional
character. And this "cruel uncle" of whom I
am telling was, I hope, an exception, too.
He did not mean to be cruel. If anybody had
called him so, he would have resented it
extremely: he would have said that what he did
was done entirely for the good of the country.
But he was a man who had always been
accustomed to consider himself first and foremost,
believing that whatever he wanted was sure to
be right, and therefore he ought to have it. So
he tried to get it, and got it too, as people like
him very often do. Whether they enjoy it when
they have it is another question.
Therefore he went one day to the council
chamber, determined on making a speech, and
informing the ministers and the country at
large that the young King was in failing health,
and that it would be advisable to send him for a
time to the Beautiful Mountains. Whether he
really meant to do this, or whether it occurred
to him afterward that there would be an easier
way of attaining his great desire, the crown of
Nomansland, is a point which I cannot decide.
But soon after, when he had obtained an
order in council to send the King away, which
was done in great state, with a guard of honor
composed of two whole regiments of soldiers,--
the nation learned, without much surprise, that
the poor little Prince--nobody ever called him
king now--had gone a much longer journey
than to the Beautiful Mountains.
He had fallen ill on the road and died within
a few hours; at least so declared the physician
in attendance and the nurse who had been sent
to take care of him. They brought his coffin
back in great state, and buried it in the
mausoleum with his parents.
So Prince Dolor was seen no more. The
country went into deep mourning for him, and
then forgot him, and his uncle reigned in his
stead. That illustrious personage accepted his
crown with great decorum, and wore it with
great dignity to the last. But whether he
enjoyed it or not there is no evidence to show.
And what of the little lame Prince,
whom everybody seemed so easily to
Not everybody. There were a few
kind souls, mothers of families, who had heard
his sad story, and some servants about the palace,
who had been familiar with his sweet ways--
these many a time sighed and said, "Poor
Prince Dolor!" Or, looking at the Beautiful
Mountains, which were visible all over Nomansland,
though few people ever visited them,
"Well, perhaps his Royal Highness is better
where he is than even there."
They did not know--indeed, hardly anybody
did know--that beyond the mountains, between
them and the sea, lay a tract of country, barren,
level, bare, except for short, stunted grass, and
here and there a patch of tiny flowers. Not a
bush--not a tree not a resting place for bird
or beast was in that dreary plain. In summer
the sunshine fell upon it hour after hour with a
blinding glare; in winter the winds and rains
swept over it unhindered, and the snow came
down steadily, noiselessly, covering it from end
to end in one great white sheet, which lay for
days and weeks unmarked by a single footprint.
Not a pleasant place to live in--and nobody
did live there, apparently. The only sign that
human creatures had ever been near the spot
was one large round tower which rose up in the
center of the plain, and might be seen all over
it--if there had been anybody to see, which there
never was. Rose right up out of the ground, as
if it had grown of itself, like a mushroom. But
it was not at all mushroom-like; on the contrary,
it was very solidly built. In form it resembled
the Irish round towers, which have puzzled
people for so long, nobody being able to find out
when, or by whom, or for what purpose they
were made; seemingly for no use at all, like this
tower. It was circular, of very firm brickwork,
with neither doors nor windows, until near the
top, when you could perceive some slits in the
wall through which one might possibly creep in
or look out. Its height was nearly a hundred
feet, and it had a battlemented parapet showing
sharp against the sky.
As the plain was quite desolate--almost like
a desert, only without sand, and led to nowhere
except the still more desolate seacoast--nobody
ever crossed it. Whatever mystery there was
about the tower, it and the sky and the plain
kept their secret to themselves.
It was a very great secret indeed,--a state
secret,--which none but so clever a man as the
present King of Nomansland would ever have
thought of. How he carried it out, undiscovered,
I cannot tell. People said, long afterward,
that it was by means of a gang of
condemned criminals, who were set to work, and
executed immediately after they had done, so
that nobody knew anything, or in the least
suspected the real fact.
And what was the fact? Why, that this
tower, which seemed a mere mass of masonry,
utterly forsaken and uninhabited, was not so at
all. Within twenty feet of the top some
ingenious architect had planned a perfect little
house, divided into four rooms--as by drawing
a cross within a circle you will see might easily
be done. By making skylights, and a few slits
in the walls for windows, and raising a peaked
roof which was hidden by the parapet, here was
a dwelling complete, eighty feet from the
ground, and as inaccessible as a rook's nest on
the top of a tree.
A charming place to live in! if you once got
up there,--and never wanted to come down
Inside--though nobody could have looked
inside except a bird, and hardly even a bird flew
past that lonely tower--inside it was furnished
with all the comfort and elegance imaginable;
with lots of books and toys, and everything that
the heart of a child could desire. For its only
inhabitant, except a nurse of course, was a poor
One winter night, when all the plain was
white with moonlight, there was seen crossing
it a great tall black horse, ridden by a man also
big and equally black, carrying before him on
the saddle a woman and a child. The woman--
she had a sad, fierce look, and no wonder, for
she was a criminal under sentence of death, but
her sentence had been changed to almost as
severe a punishment. She was to inhabit the
lonely tower with the child, and was allowed to
live as long as the child lived--no longer. This
in order that she might take the utmost care of
him; for those who put him there were equally
afraid of his dying and of his living.
Yet he was only a little gentle boy, with a
sweet, sleepy smile--he had been very tired with
his long journey--and clinging arms, which
held tight to the man's neck, for he was rather
frightened, and the face, black as it was, looked
kindly at him. And he was very helpless, with
his poor, small shriveled legs, which could
neither stand nor run away--for the little
forlorn boy was Prince Dolor.
He had not been dead at all--or buried either.
His grand funeral had been a mere pretense: a
wax figure having been put in his place, while
he himself was spirited away under charge of
these two, the condemned woman and the black
man. The latter was deaf and dumb, so could
neither tell nor repeat anything.
When they reached the foot of the tower,
there was light enough to see a huge chain
dangling from the parapet, but dangling only
halfway. The deaf-mute took from his saddle-
wallet a sort of ladder, arranged in pieces like
a puzzle, fitted it together, and lifted it up to
meet the chain. Then he mounted to the top of
the tower, and slung from it a sort of chair, in
which the woman and the child placed themselves
and were drawn up, never to come down
again as long as they lived. Leaving them there,
the man descended the ladder, took it to pieces
again and packed it in his pack, mounted the
horse and disappeared across the plain.
Every month they used to watch for him,
appearing like a speck in the distance. He
fastened his horse to the foot of the tower, and
climbed it, as before, laden with provisions and
many other things. He always saw the Prince,
so as to make sure that the child was alive and
well, and then went away until the following
While his first childhood lasted Prince Dolor
was happy enough. He had every luxury that
even a prince could need, and the one thing
wanting,--love,--never having known, he did
not miss. His nurse was very kind to him
though she was a wicked woman. But either
she had not been quite so wicked as people said,
or she grew better through being shut up
continually with a little innocent child who was
dependent upon her for every comfort and
pleasure of his life.
It was not an unhappy life. There was nobody
to tease or ill-use him, and he was never ill.
He played about from room to room--there
were four rooms, parlor, kitchen, his nurse's
bedroom, and his own; learned to crawl like a
fly, and to jump like a frog, and to run about on
all-fours almost as fast as a puppy. In fact, he
was very much like a puppy or a kitten, as
thoughtless and as merry--scarcely ever cross,
though sometimes a little weary.
As he grew older, he occasionally liked to be
quiet for a while, and then he would sit at the
slits of windows--which were, however, much
bigger than they looked from the bottom of the
tower--and watch the sky above and the ground
below, with the storms sweeping over and the
sunshine coming and going, and the shadows of
the clouds running races across the blank plain.
By and by he began to learn lessons--not that
his nurse had been ordered to teach him, but she
did it partly to amuse herself. She was not a
stupid woman, and Prince Dolor was by no
means a stupid boy; so they got on very well,
and his continual entreaty, "What can I do?
what can you find me to do?" was stopped, at
least for an hour or two in the day.
It was a dull life, but he had never known any
other; anyhow, he remembered no other, and he
did not pity himself at all. Not for a long time,
till he grew quite a big little boy, and could read
quite easily. Then he suddenly took to books,
which the deaf-mute brought him from time to
time--books which, not being acquainted with
the literature of Nomansland, I cannot describe,
but no doubt they were very interesting; and
they informed him of everything in the outside
world, and filled him with an intense longing to
From this time a change came over the boy.
He began to look sad and thin, and to shut himself
up for hours without speaking. For his
nurse hardly spoke, and whatever questions he
asked beyond their ordinary daily life she never
answered. She had, indeed, been forbidden, on
pain of death, to tell him anything about himself,
who he was, or what he might have been.
He knew he was Prince Dolor, because she
always addressed him as "My Prince" and
"Your Royal Highness," but what a prince was
he had not the least idea. He had no idea of
anything in the world, except what he found in
He sat one day surrounded by them, having
built them up round him like a little castle wall.
He had been reading them half the day, but
feeling all the while that to read about things
which you never can see is like hearing about a
beautiful dinner while you are starving. For
almost the first time in his life he grew
melancholy; his hands fell on his lap; he sat gazing
out of the window-slit upon the view outside--
the view he had looked at every day of his life,
and might look at for endless days more.
Not a very cheerful view,--just the plain and
the sky,--but he liked it. He used to think, if
he could only fly out of that window, up to the
sky or down to the plain, how nice it would be!
Perhaps when he died--his nurse had told him
once in anger that he would never leave the
tower till he died--he might be able to do this.
Not that he understood much what dying meant,
but it must be a change, and any change seemed
to him a blessing.
"And I wish I had somebody to tell me all
about it--about that and many other things;
somebody that would be fond of me, like my
poor white kitten."
Here the tears came into his eyes, for the
boy's one friend, the one interest of his life, had
been a little white kitten, which the deaf-mute,
kindly smiling, once took out of his pocket and
gave him--the only living creature Prince
Dolor had ever seen.
For four weeks it was his constant plaything
and companion, till one moonlight night it took
a fancy for wandering, climbed on to the parapet
of the tower, dropped over and disap-
peared. It was not killed, he hoped, for cats
have nine lives; indeed, he almost fancied he
saw it pick itself up and scamper away; but he
never caught sight of it more.
"Yes, I wish I had something better than a
kitten--a person, a real live person, who would
be fond of me and kind to me. Oh, I want somebody--
As he spoke, there sounded behind him a
slight tap-tap-tap, as of a stick or a cane, and
twisting himself round, he saw--what do you
think he saw?
Nothing either frightening or ugly, but still
exceedingly curious. A little woman, no bigger
than he might himself have been had his legs
grown like those of other children; but she was
not a child--she was an old woman. Her hair
was gray, and her dress was gray, and there
was a gray shadow over her wherever she
moved. But she had the sweetest smile, the
prettiest hands, and when she spoke it was in
the softest voice imaginable.
"My dear little boy,"--and dropping her
cane, the only bright and rich thing about her,
she laid those two tiny hands on his shoulders,
--"my own little boy, I could not come to you
until you had said you wanted me; but now you
do want me, here I am."
"And you are very welcome, madam," replied
the Prince, trying to speak politely, as princes
always did in books; "and I am exceedingly
obliged to you. May I ask who you are? Perhaps
my mother?" For he knew that little boys
usually had a mother, and had occasionally wondered
what had become of his own.
"No," said the visitor, with a tender, half-
sad smile, putting back the hair from his forehead,
and looking right into his eyes--"no, I am
not your mother, though she was a dear friend
of mine; and you are as like her as ever you can
"Will you tell her to come and see me, then?"
"She cannot; but I dare say she knows all
about you. And she loves you very much--and
so do I; and I want to help you all I can,
my poor little boy."
"Why do you call me poor?" asked Prince
Dolor, in surprise.
The little old woman glanced down on his legs
and feet, which he did not know were different
from those of other children, and then at his
sweet, bright face, which, though he knew not
that either, was exceedingly different from
many children's faces, which are often so fretful,
cross, sullen. Looking at him, instead of
sighing, she smiled. "I beg your pardon, my
Prince," said she.
"Yes, I am a prince, and my name is Dolor;
will you tell me yours, madam?"
The little old woman laughed like a chime of
"I have not got a name--or, rather, I have so
many names that I don't know which to choose.
However, it was I who gave you yours, and you
will belong to me all your days. I am your godmother."
"Hurrah!" cried the little Prince; "I am
glad I belong to you, for I like you very much.
Will you come and play with me?"
So they sat down together and played. By
and by they began to talk.
"Are you very dull here?" asked the little old
"Not particularly, thank you, godmother. I
have plenty to eat and drink, and my lessons to
do, and my books to read--lots of books."
"And you want nothing?"
"Nothing. Yes--perhaps---- If you please,
godmother, could you bring me just one more
"What sort of thing!"
"A little boy to play with."
The old woman looked very sad. "Just the
thing, alas I which I cannot give you. My child,
I cannot alter your lot in any way, but I can help
you to bear it."
"Thank you. But why do you talk of bearing
it? I have nothing to bear."
"My poor little man!" said the old woman in
the very tenderest tone of her tender voice.
"What is kissing?" asked the wondering
His godmother took him in her arms and
embraced him many times. By and by he kissed
her back again--at first awkwardly and shyly,
then with all the strength of his warm little
"You are better to cuddle than even my white
kitten, I think. Promise me that you will never
"I must; but I will leave a present behind
me,--something as good as myself to amuse you,
--something that will take you wherever you
want to go, and show you all that you wish to
"What is it?"
The Prince's countenance fell. "I don't want
a cloak, for I never go out. Sometimes nurse
hoists me on to the roof, and carries me round
by the parapet; but that is all. I can't walk,
you know, as she does."
"The more reason why you should ride; and
besides, this traveling-cloak----"
There sounded outside the room door a heavy
step and a grumpy voice, and a rattle of plates
"It's my nurse, and she is bringing my
dinner; but I don't want dinner at all--I only want
you. Will her coming drive you away, godmother?"
"Perhaps; but only for a little while. Never
mind; all the bolts and bars in the world couldn't
keep me out. I'd fly in at the window, or down
through the chimney. Only wish for me, and I
"Thank you," said Prince Dolor, but almost
in a whisper, for he was very uneasy at what
might happen next. His nurse and his godmother--
what would they say to one another?
how would they look at one another?--two such
different faces: one harsh-lined, sullen, cross,
and sad; the other sweet and bright and calm
as a summer evening before the dark begins.
When the door was flung open, Prince Dolor
shut his eyes, trembling all over; opening them
again, he saw he need fear nothing--his lovely
old godmother had melted away just like the
rainbow out of the sky, as he had watched it
many a time. Nobody but his nurse was in the
"What a muddle your Royal Highness is sitting
in," said she sharply. "Such a heap of untidy
books; and what's this rubbish?" knocking
a little bundle that lay beside them.
"Oh, nothing, nothing--give it me!" cried
the Prince, and, darting after it, he hid it under
his pinafore, and then pushed it quickly into his
pocket. Rubbish as it was, it was left in the
place where she sat, and might be something
belonging to her--his dear, kind godmother,
whom already he loved with all his lonely,
tender, passionate heart.
It was, though he did not know this, his
And what of the traveling-cloak?
What sort of cloak was it, and what
A good did it do the Prince?
Stay, and I'll tell you all about it.
Outside it was the commonest-looking bundle
imaginable--shabby and small; and the instant
Prince Dolor touched it, it grew smaller still,
dwindling down till he could put it in his trousers
pocket, like a handkerchief rolled up into
a ball. He did this at once, for fear his nurse
should see it, and kept it there all day--all
night, too. Till after his next morning's lessons
he had no opportunity of examining his treasure.
When he did, it seemed no treasure at all; but
a mere piece of cloth--circular in form, dark
green in color--that is, if it had any color at all,
being so worn and shabby, though not dirty. It
had a split cut to the center, forming a round
hole for the neck--and that was all its shape; the
shape, in fact, of those cloaks which in South
America are called ponchos--very simple, but
most graceful and convenient.
Prince Dolor had never seen anything like it.
In spite of his disappointment, he examined it
curiously; spread it out on the door, then
arranged it on his shoulders. It felt very warm
and comfortable; but it was so exceedingly
shabby--the only shabby thing that the Prince
had ever seen in his life.
"And what use will it be to me?" said he
sadly. "I have no need of outdoor clothes, as I
never go out. Why was this given me, I wonder?
and what in the world am I to do with it? She
must be a rather funny person, this dear godmother
Nevertheless, because she was his godmother,
and had given him the cloak, he folded it carefully
and put it away, poor and shabby as it was,
hiding it in a safe corner of his top cupboard,
which his nurse never meddled with. He did
not want her to find it, or to laugh at it or at his
godmother--as he felt sure she would, if she
There it lay, and by and by he forgot all about
it; nay, I am sorry to say that, being but a child,
and not seeing her again, he almost forgot his
sweet old godmother, or thought of her only as
he did of the angels or fairies that he read of in
his books, and of her visit as if it had been a
mere dream of the night.
There were times, certainly, when he recalled
her: of early mornings, like that morning when
she appeared beside him, and late evenings,
when the gray twilight reminded him of the
color of her hair and her pretty soft garments;
above all, when, waking in the middle of the
night, with the stars peering in at his window,
or the moonlight shining across his little bed,
he would not have been surprised to see her
standing beside it, looking at him with those
beautiful tender eyes, which seemed to have a
pleasantness and comfort in them different
from anything he had ever known.
But she never came, and gradually she slipped
out of his memory--only a boy's memory, after
all; until something happened which made him
remember her, and want her as he had never
wanted anything before.
Prince Dolor fell ill. He caught--his nurse
could not tell how--a complaint common to the
people of Nomansland, called the doldrums, as
unpleasant as measles or any other of our
complaints; and it made him restless, cross, and
disagreeable. Even when a little better, he was
too weak to enjoy anything, but lay all day long
on his sofa, fidgeting his nurse extremely--
while, in her intense terror lest he might die, she
fidgeted him still more. At last, seeing he really
was getting well, she left him to himself--which
he was most glad of, in spite of his dullness and
dreariness. There he lay, alone, quite alone.
Now and then an irritable fit came over him,
in which he longed to get up and do something,
or to go somewhere--would have liked to imitate
his white kitten--jump down from the tower
and run away, taking the chance of whatever
Only one thing, alas! was likely to happen;
for the kitten, he remembered, had four active
legs, while he----
"I wonder what my godmother meant when
she looked at my legs and sighed so bitterly? I
wonder why I can't walk straight and steady
like my nurse only I wouldn't like to have her
great, noisy, clumping shoes. Still it would be
very nice to move about quickly--perhaps to
fly, like a bird, like that string of birds I saw
the other day skimming across the sky, one after
These were the passage-birds--the only living
creatures that ever crossed the lonely plain; and
he had been much interested in them, wonder-
ing whence they came and whither they were
"How nice it must be to be a bird! If legs are
no good, why cannot one have wings? People
have wings when they die--perhaps; I wish I
were dead, that I do. I am so tired, so tired;
and nobody cares for me. Nobody ever did care
for me, except perhaps my godmother. Godmother,
dear, have you quite forsaken me?"
He stretched himself wearily, gathered
himself up, and dropped his head upon his hands;
as he did so, he felt somebody kiss him at the
back of his neck, and, turning, found that he
was resting, not on the sofa pillows, but on a
warm shoulder--that of the little old woman
clothed in gray.
How glad he was to see her! How he looked
into her kind eyes and felt her hands, to see if
she were all real and alive! then put both his
arms round her neck, and kissed her as if he
would never have done kissing.
"Stop, stop!" cried she, pretending to be
smothered. "I see you have not forgotten my
teachings. Kissing is a good thing--in moderation.
Only just let me have breath to speak one
"A dozen!" he said.
"Well, then, tell me all that has happened to
you since I saw you--or, rather, since you saw
me, which is quite a different thing."
"Nothing has happened--nothing ever does
happen to me," answered the Prince dolefully.
"And are you very dull, my boy?"
"So dull that I was just thinking whether I
could not jump down to the bottom of the tower,
like my white kitten."
"Don't do that, not being a white kitten."
"I wish I were--I wish I were anything but
what I am."
"And you can't make yourself any different,
nor can I do it either. You must be content to
stay just what you are."
The little old woman said this--very firmly,
but gently, too--with her arms round his neck
and her lips on his forehead. It was the first
time the boy had ever heard any one talk like
this, and he looked up in surprise--but not in
pain, for her sweet manner softened the hardness
of her words.
"Now, my Prince,--for you are a prince,
and must behave as such,--let us see what we
can do; how much I can do for you, or show you
how to do for yourself. Where is your
Prince Dolor blushed extremely. "I--I put
it away in the cupboard; I suppose it is there
"You have never used it; you dislike it?"
He hesitated, no; wishing to be impolite.
"Don't you think it's--just a little old and
shabby for a prince?"
The old woman laughed--long and loud,
though very sweetly.
"Prince, indeed! Why, if all the princes in
the world craved for it, they couldn't get it,
unless I gave it them. Old and shabby! It's the
most valuable thing imaginable! Very few ever
have it; but I thought I would give it to you,
because--because you are different from other
"Am I?" said the Prince, and looked first
with curiosity, then with a sort of anxiety, into
his godmother's face, which was sad and grave,
with slow tears beginning to steal down.
She touched his poor little legs. "These are
not like those of other little boys."
"Indeed!--my nurse never told me that."
"Very likely not. But it is time you were
told; and I tell you, because I love you."
"Tell me what, dear godmother?"
"That you will never be able to walk or run
or jump or play--that your life will be quite
different from most people's lives; but it may
be a very happy life for all that. Do not be
"I am not afraid," said the boy; but he
turned very pale, and his lips began to quiver,
though he did not actually cry--he was too old
for that, and, perhaps, too proud.
Though not wholly comprehending, he began
dimly to guess what his godmother meant. He
had never seen any real live boys, but he had
seen pictures of them running and jumping;
which he had admired and tried hard to imitate
but always failed. Now he began to understand
why he failed, and that he always should fail--
that, in fact, he was not like other little boys;
and it was of no use his wishing to do as they
did, and play as they played, even if he had had
them to play with. His was a separate life, in
which he must find out new work and new pleasures
The sense of THE INEVITABLE, as grown-up
people call it--that we cannot have things as we
want them to be, but as they are, and that we
must learn to bear them and make the best of
them--this lesson, which everybody has to learn
soon or late--came, alas! sadly soon, to the poor
boy. He fought against it for a while, and then,
quite overcome, turned and sobbed bitterly in
his godmother's arms.
She comforted him--I do not know how,
except that love always comforts; and then she
whispered to him, in her sweet, strong, cheerful
voice: "Never mind!"
"No, I don't think I do mind--that is, I WON'T
mind," replied he, catching the courage of her
tone and speaking like a man, though he was
still such a mere boy.
"That is right, my Prince!--that is being like
a prince. Now we know exactly where we are;
let us put our shoulders to the wheel and----"
"We are in Hopeless Tower" (this was its
name, if it had a name), "and there is no wheel
to put our shoulders to," said the child sadly.
"You little matter-of-fact goose! Well for
you that you have a godmother called----"
"What?" he eagerly asked.
"Stuff-and-nonsense! What a funny name!"
"Some people give it me, but they are not my
most intimate friends. These call me--never
mind what," added the old woman, with a soft
twinkle in her eyes. "So as you know me, and
know me well, you may give me any name you
please; it doesn't matter. But I am your
godmother, child. I have few godchildren; those I
have love me dearly, and find me the greatest
blessing in all the world."
"I can well believe it," cried the little lame
Prince, and forgot his troubles in looking at
her--as her figure dilated, her eyes grew lustrous
as stars, her very raiment brightened, and
the whole room seemed filled with her beautiful
and beneficent presence like light.
He could have looked at her forever--half in
love, half in awe; but she suddenly dwindled
down into the little old woman all in gray, and,
with a malicious twinkle in her eyes, asked for
"Bring it out of the rubbish cupboard, and
shake the dust off it, quick!" said she to Prince
Dolor, who hung his head, rather ashamed.
"Spread it out on the floor, and wait till the
split closes and the edges turn up like a rim all
round. Then go and open the skylight,--mind,
I say OPEN THE SKYLIGHT,--set yourself down in
the middle of it, like a frog on a water-lily leaf;
say `Abracadabra, dum dum dum,' and--see
what will happen!"
The Prince burst into a fit of laughing. It
all seemed so exceedingly silly; he wondered
that a wise old woman like his godmother should
talk such nonsense.
"Stuff-and-nonsense, you mean," said she,
answering, to his great alarm, his unspoken
thoughts. "Did I not tell you some people
called me by that name? Never mind; it
doesn't harm me."
And she laughed--her merry laugh--as child-
like as if she were the Prince's age instead of
her own, whatever that might be. She
certainly was a most extraordinary old woman.
"Believe me or not, it doesn't matter," said
she. "Here is the cloak: when you want to go
traveling on it, say `Abracadabra, dum, dum,
dum'; when you want to come back again, say
`Abracadabra, tum tum ti.' That's all; good-by."
A puff of most pleasant air passing by him.
and making him feel for the moment quite
strong and well, was all the Prince was conscious
of. His most extraordinary godmother
"Really now, how rosy your Royal Highness'
cheeks have grown! You seem to have got well
already," said the nurse, entering the room.
"I think I have," replied the Prince very
gently--he felt gently and kindly even to his
grim nurse. "And now let me have my dinner,
and go you to your sewing as usual."
The instant she was gone, however, taking
with her the plates and dishes, which for the first
time since his illness he had satisfactorily
cleared, Prince Dolor sprang down from his
sofa, and with one or two of his frog-like jumps
reached the cupboard where he kept his toys,
and looked everywhere for his traveling-cloak.
Alas! it was not there.
While he was ill of the doldrums, his nurse,
thinking it a good opportunity for putting
things to rights, had made a grand clearance of
all his "rubbish"--as she considered it: his
beloved headless horses, broken carts, sheep
without feet, and birds without wings--all the
treasures of his baby days, which he could not
bear to part with. Though he seldom played
with them now, he liked just to feel they were
They were all gone and with them the
traveling-cloak. He sat down on the floor, looking
at the empty shelves, so beautifully clean
and tidy, then burst out sobbing as if his heart
But quietly--always quietly. He never let
his nurse hear him cry. She only laughed at
him, as he felt she would laugh now.
"And it is all my own fault!" he cried. "I
ought to have taken better care of my godmother's
gift. Oh, godmother, forgive me! I'll
never be so careless again. I don't know what
the cloak is exactly, but I am sure it is something
precious. Help me to find it again. Oh,
don't let it be stolen from me--don't, please!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed a silvery voice. "Why,
that traveling-cloak is the one thing in the world
which nobody can steal. It is of no use to
anybody except the owner. Open your eyes, my
Prince, and see what you shall see."
His dear old godmother, he thought, and
turned eagerly round. But no; he only beheld,
lying in a corner of the room, all dust and
cobwebs, his precious traveling-cloak.
Prince Dolor darted toward it, tumbling
several times on the way, as he often did tumble,
poor boy! and pick himself up again, never
complaining. Snatching it to his breast, he
hugged and kissed it, cobwebs and all, as if it
had been something alive. Then he began
unrolling it, wondering each minute what would
happen. What did happen was so curious that
I must leave it for another chapter.
If any reader, big or little, should wonder
whether there is a meaning in this story
deeper than that of an ordinary fairy tale,
I will own that there is. But I have hidden
it so carefully that the smaller people, and
many larger folk, will never find it out, and
meantime the book may be read straight on, like
"Cinderella," or "Blue-Beard," or "Hop-o'-
my-Thumb," for what interest it has, or what
amusement it may bring.
Having said this, I return to Prince Dolor,
that little lame boy whom many may think so
exceedingly to be pitied. But if you had seen
him as he sat patiently untying his wonderful
cloak, which was done up in a very tight and
perplexing parcel, using skillfully his deft little
hands, and knitting his brows with firm
determination, while his eyes glistened with pleasure
and energy and eager anticipation--if you had
beheld him thus, you might have changed your
When we see people suffering or unfortunate,
we feel very sorry for them; but when we see
them bravely bearing their sufferings and making
the best of their misfortunes, it is quite a
different feeling. We respect, we admire them.
One can respect and admire even a little child.
When Prince Dolor had patiently untied all
the knots, a remarkable thing happened. The
cloak began to undo itself. Slowly unfolding,
it laid itself down on the carpet, as flat as if it
had been ironed; the split joined with a little
sharp crick-crack, and the rim turned up all
round till it was breast-high; for meantime the
cloak had grown and grown, and become quite
large enough for one person to sit in it as
comfortable as if in a boat.
The Prince watched it rather anxiously; it
was such an extraordinary, not to say a frightening,
thing. However, he was no coward, but
a thorough boy, who, if he had been like other
boys, would doubtless have grown up daring and
adventurous--a soldier, a sailor, or the like. As
it was, he could only show his courage morally,
not physically, by being afraid of nothing, and
by doing boldly all that it was in his narrow
powers to do. And I am not sure but that in
this way he showed more real valor than if he
had had six pairs of proper legs.
He said to himself: "What a goose I am ! As
if my dear godmother would ever have given me
anything to hurt me. Here goes!"
So, with one of his active leaps, he sprang
right into the middle of the cloak, where he
squatted down, wrapping his arms tight round
his knees, for they shook a little and his heart
beat fast. But there he sat, steady and silent,
waiting for what might happen next.
Nothing did happen, and he began to think
nothing would, and to feel rather disappointed,
when he recollected the words he had been told
to repeat--"Abracadabra, dum dum dum!"
He repeated them, laughing all the while, they
seemed such nonsense. And then--and
Now I don't expect anybody to believe what
I am going to relate, though a good many wise
people have believed a good many sillier things.
And as seeing's believing, and I never saw it, I
cannot be expected implicitly to believe it
myself, except in a sort of a way; and yet there is
truth in it--for some people.
The cloak rose, slowly and steadily, at first
only a few inches, then gradually higher and
higher, till it nearly touched the skylight.
Prince Dolor's head actually bumped against
the glass, or would have done so had he not
crouched down, crying "Oh, please don't hurt
me!" in a most melancholy voice.
Then he suddenly remembered his godmother's
express command--"Open the skylight!"
Regaining his courage at once, without a
moment's delay he lifted up his head and began
searching for the bolt--the cloak meanwhile
remaining perfectly still, balanced in the air.
But the minute the window was opened, out it
sailed--right out into the clear, fresh air, with
nothing between it and the cloudless blue.
Prince Dolor had never felt any such
delicious sensation before. I can understand it.
Cannot you? Did you never think, in watching
the rooks going home singly or in pairs, soaring
their way across the calm evening sky till they
vanish like black dots in the misty gray, how
pleasant it must feel to be up there, quite out of
the noise and din of the world, able to hear and
see everything down below, yet troubled by
nothing and teased by no one--all alone, but
Something like this was the happiness of the
little lame Prince when he got out of Hopeless
Tower, and found himself for the first time in
the pure open air, with the sky above him and
the earth below.
True, there was nothing but earth and sky; no
houses, no trees, no rivers, mountains, seas--
not a beast on the ground, or a bird in the air.
But to him even the level plain looked beautiful;
and then there was the glorious arch of the sky,
with a little young moon sitting in the west like
a baby queen. And the evening breeze was so
sweet and fresh--it kissed him like his
godmother's kisses; and by and by a few stars came
out--first two or three, and then quantities--
quantities! so that when he began to count them
he was utterly bewildered.
By this time, however, the cool breeze had
become cold; the mist gathered; and as he had, as
he said, no outdoor clothes, poor Prince Dolor
was not very comfortable. The dews fell damp
on his curls--he began to shiver.
"Perhaps I had better go home," thought he.
But how? For in his excitement the other
words which his godmother had told him to use
had slipped his memory. They were only a little
different from the first, but in that slight
difference all the importance lay. As he repeated
his "Abracadabra," trying ever so many other
syllables after it, the cloak only went faster
and faster, skimming on through the dusky,
The poor little Prince began to feel
frightened. What if his wonderful traveling-cloak
should keep on thus traveling, perhaps to the
world's end, carrying with it a poor, tired,
hungry boy, who, after all, was beginning to
think there was something very pleasant in
supper and bed!
"Dear godmother," he cried pitifully, "do
help me! Tell me just this once and I'll never
Instantly the words came rushing into his
head--"Abracadabra, tum tum ti!" Was that
it? Ah! yes--for the cloak began to turn slowly.
He repeated the charm again, more distinctly
and firmly, when it gave a gentle dip, like a nod
of satisfaction, and immediately started back,
as fast as ever, in the direction of the tower.
He reached the skylight, which he found
exactly as he had left it, and slipped in, cloak and
all, as easily as he had got out. He had scarcely
reached the floor, and was still sitting in the
middle of his traveling-cloak,--like a frog on a
water-lily leaf, as his godmother had expressed
it,--when he heard his nurse's voice outside.
"Bless us! what has become of your Royal
Highness all this time? To sit stupidly here at
the window till it is quite dark, and leave the
skylight open, too. Prince! what can you be
thinking of? You are the silliest boy I ever
"Am I?" said he absently, and never heeding
her crossness; for his only anxiety was lest she
might find out anything.
She would have been a very clever person to
have done so. The instant Prince Dolor got off
it, the cloak folded itself up into the tiniest
possible parcel, tied all its own knots, and rolled
itself of its own accord into the farthest and
darkest corner of the room. If the nurse had
seen it, which she didn't, she would have taken
it for a mere bundle of rubbish not worth noticing.
Shutting the skylight with an angry bang, she
brought in the supper and lit the candles with
her usual unhappy expression of countenance.
But Prince Dolor hardly saw it; he only saw,
hid in the corner where nobody else would see it,
his wonderful traveling-cloak. And though his
supper was not particularly nice, he ate it
heartily, scarcely hearing a word of his nurse's
grumbling, which to-night seemed to have taken
the place of her sullen silence.
"Poor woman!" he thought, when he paused
a minute to listen and look at her with those
quiet, happy eyes, so like his mother's. "Poor
woman! she hasn't got a traveling-cloak!"
And when he was left alone at last, and crept
into his little bed, where he lay awake a good
while, watching what he called his "sky-
garden," all planted with stars, like flowers, his
chief thought was--"I must be up very early
to-morrow morning, and get my lessons done,
and then I'll go traveling all over the world on
my beautiful cloak."
So next day he opened his eyes with the sun,
and went with a good heart to his lessons. They
had hitherto been the chief amusement of his
dull life; now, I am afraid, he found them also
a little dull. But he tried to be good,--I don't
say Prince Dolor always was good, but he
generally tried to be,--and when his mind went
wandering after the dark, dusty corner where
lay his precious treasure, he resolutely called it
"For," he said, "how ashamed my godmother
would be of me if I grew up a stupid
But the instant lessons were done, and he was
alone in the empty room, he crept across the
floor, undid the shabby little bundle, his fingers
trembling with eagerness, climbed on the chair,
and thence to the table, so as to unbar the
skylight,--he forgot nothing now,--said his magic
charm, and was away out of the window, as children
say, "in a few minutes less than no time."
Nobody missed him. He was accustomed to
sit so quietly always that his nurse, though only
in the next room, perceived no difference. And
besides, she might have gone in and out a dozen
times, and it would have been just the same;
she never could have found out his absence.
For what do you think the clever godmother
did? She took a quantity of moonshine, or some
equally convenient material, and made an image,
which she set on the window-sill reading, or
by the table drawing, where it looked so like
Prince Dolor that any common observer would
never have guessed the deception; and even the
boy would have been puzzled to know which was
the image and which was himself.
And all this while the happy little fellow was
away, floating in the air on his magic cloak, and
seeing all sorts of wonderful things--or they
seemed wonderful to him, who had hitherto seen
nothing at all.
First, there were the flowers that grew on the
plain, which, whenever the cloak came near
enough, he strained his eyes to look at; they
were very tiny, but very beautiful--white
saxifrage, and yellow lotus, and ground-thistles,
purple and bright, with many others the names
of which I do not know. No more did Prince
Dolor, though he tried to find them out by
recalling any pictures he had seen of them. But
he was too far off; and though it was pleasant
enough to admire them as brilliant patches of
color, still he would have liked to examine them
all. He was, as a little girl I know once said of
a playfellow, "a very examining boy."
"I wonder," he thought, "whether I could see
better through a pair of glasses like those my
nurse reads with, and takes such care of. How
I would take care of them, too, if I only had
Immediately he felt something queer and
hard fixing itself to the bridge of his nose. It
was a pair of the prettiest gold spectacles ever
seen; and looking downward, he found that,
though ever so high above the ground, he could
see every minute blade of grass, every tiny bud
and flower--nay, even the insects that walked
"Thank you, thank you!" he cried, in a gush
of gratitude--to anybody or everybody, but
especially to his dear godmother, who he felt
sure had given him this new present. He
amused himself with it for ever so long, with
his chin pressed on the rim of the cloak, gazing
down upon the grass, every square foot of which
was a mine of wonders.
Then, just to rest his eyes, he turned them up
to the sky--the blue, bright, empty sky, which
he had looked at so often and seen nothing.
Now surely there was something. A long,
black, wavy line, moving on in the distance, not
by chance, as the clouds move apparently, but
deliberately, as if it were alive. He might have
seen it before--he almost thought he had; but
then he could not tell what it was. Looking at
it through his spectacles, he discovered that
it really was alive; being a long string of birds,
flying one after the other, their wings moving
steadily and their heads pointed in one direction,
as steadily as if each were a little ship,
guided invisibly by an unerring helm.
"They must be the passage-birds flying
seaward!" cried the boy, who had read a little
about them, and had a great talent for putting
two and two together and finding out all he
could. "Oh, how I should like to see them quite
close, and to know where they come from and
whither they are going! How I wish I knew
everything in all the world!"
A silly speech for even an "examining" little
boy to make; because, as we grow older, the
more we know the more we find out there is to
know. And Prince Dolor blushed when he had
said it, and hoped nobody had heard him.
Apparently somebody had, however; for the
cloak gave a sudden bound forward, and presently
he found himself high in the air, in the
very middle of that band of aerial travelers, who
had mo magic cloak to travel on--nothing except
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