24 AN IMPOSSIBLE ENCHANTMENT
self most disagreeable to all her court, her spite and bad temper knew no bounds, and before the end of a month she was known far and wide as a regular vixen.
One day, when riding out, she met a poor old woman walking along the road, who made a curtsy and was going on, when the queen had her stopped, and cried: ' You are a very impertinent person; don't you know that I am the queen? And how dare you not make me a deeper curtsy? '
' Madam,' said the old woman, ' I have never learnt how to measure curtsies; but I had no wish to fail in proper respect.'
' What!' screamed the queen ; ' she dares to answer ! Tie her to my horse's tail and I '11 just carry her at once to the best dancing-master in the town to learn how to curtsy.'
The old woman shrieked for mercy, but the queen would not listen, and only mocked when she said she was protected by the fairies. At last the poor old thing submitted to be tied up, but when the queen urged her horse on he never stirred. In vain she spurred him, he seemed turned to bronze. At the same moment the cord with which the old woman was tied changed into wreaths of flowers, and she herself into a tall and stately lady.
Looking disdainfully at the queen, she said, ' Bad woman, unworthy of your crown ; I wished to judge for myself whether all I heard of you was true. I have now no doubt of it, and you shall see whether the fairies are to be laughed at.'
So saying the fairy Placida (that was her name) blew a little gold whistle, and a chariot appeared drawn by six splendid ostriches. In it was seated the fairy queen, escorted by a dozen other fairies mounted on dragons.
All having dismounted, Placida told her adventures, and the fairy queen approved all she had done, and proposed turning Mutinosa into bronze like her horse.