THE SNOW-QUEEN 87
' Yes, listen,' said the crow.
Then he told all he knew.
' In the kingdom in which we are now sitting lives a princess who is dreadfully clever. She has read all the newspapers in the world and has forgotten them again. She is as clever as that. The other day she came to the throne, and that is not so pleasant as people think. Then she began to say, " Why should I not marry? " But she wanted a husband who could answer when he was spoken to, not one who would stand up stiffly and look re-spectable — that would be too dull.
' When she told all the Court ladies, they were delighted. You can believe every word I say,' said the crow. 'I have a tame sweetheart in the palace, and she tells me everything.'
Of course his sweetheart was a crow.
' The newspapers came out next morning with a border of hearts round it, and the princess's monogram on it, and inside you could read that every good-looking young man might come into the palace and speak to the princess, and whoever should speak loud enough to be heard would be well fed and looked after, and the one who spoke best should become the princess's husband. Indeed,' said the crow, l you can quite believe me. It is as true as that I am sitting here.
' Young men came in streams, and there was such a crowding and a mixing together! But nothing came of it on the first nor on the second day. They could all speak quite well when they were in the street, but as soon as they came inside the palace door, and saw the guards in silver, and upstairs the footmen in gold, and the great hall all lighted up, then their wits left them! And when they stood in front of the throne where the princess was sitting, then they could not think of anything to say except to repeat the last word she had spoken, and she did not much care to hear that again. It seemed as if they were walking in their sleep until they came out