148 THE LITTLE GOOD MOUSE
' Make an end of these fine speeches, madam. I brought you here to tell me if the child will grow up pretty and fortunate.'
Then the Fairy answered that the Princess would be as pretty, and clever, and well brought up as it was possible to be, and the old King growled to the Queen that it was lucky for her that it was so, as they would certainly have been hanged if it were otherwise. Then he stamped off, taking the Fairy with him, and leaving the poor Queen in tears.
' How can I wish my little daughter to grow up pretty if she is to be married to that horrid little dwarf, the King's son,' she said to herself, 'and yet, if she is ugly we shall both be killed. If I could only hide her away somewhere, so that the cruel King could never find her.'
As the days went on, the Queen and the little Princess grew thinner and thinner, for their hard-hearted gaoler gave them every day only three boiled peas and a tiny morsel of black bread, so they were always terribly hungry. At last, one evening, as the Queen sat at her spinning-wheel—for the King was so avaricious that she was made to work day and night—she saw a tiny, pretty little mouse creep out of a hole, and said to it:
' Alas, little creature! what are you coming to look for here ? I only have three peas for my day's provision, so unless you wish to fast you must go elsewhere.'
But the mouse ran hither and thither, and danced and capered so prettily, that at last the Queen gave it her last pea, which she was keeping for her supper, saymg : ' Here, little one, eat it up; I have nothing better to offer you, but I give this willingly in return for the amusement I have had from you.'
She had hardly spoken when she saw upon the table a delicious little roast partridge, and two dishes of preserved fruit. ' Truly,' said she, ' a kind action never goes unrewarded; ' and she and the little Princess ate their supper with great satisfaction, and then the Queen gave what was left to the little mouse, who danced better than ever afterwards. The next morning came the gaoler with the Queen's allowance of three peas, which he brought in upon a large dish to make them look smaller; but as soon as he set it down the little mouse came and ate up all three, so that when the Queen wanted her dinner there was nothing left for her. Then she was quite provoked, and said:
' What a bad little beast that mouse must be ! If it goes on like this I shall be starved.' But when she glanced at the dish again