The BROWN FAIRY BOOK - online childrens book

A Collection of Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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seemed too weak to raise his head from his velvet cushion.
The horrified princess fled to the door to escape from the sight of this mournful company, and called loudly for the gnome, who appeared at once, humbly anxious to do her bidding.
' Malicious Sprite,' she cried,' why do you begrudge me my playmates—the greatest delight of my lonely hours ? Isn't this solitary life in such a desert bad enough with­out your turning the castle into a hospital for the aged ? Give my maidens back their youth and health this very minute, or I will never love you ! '
' Sweetest and fairest of damsels,' cried the gnome, ' do not be angry; everything that is in my power I will do—but do not ask the impossible. So long as the sap was fresh in the roots the magic staff could keep them in the forms you desired, but as the sap dried up they withered away. But never trouble yourself about that, dearest one, a basket of fresh turnips will soon set matters right, and you can speedily call up again every form you wish to see. The great green patch in the garden will provide you with a more lively company.'
So saying the gnome took himself off. And the princess with her magic wand touched the wrinkled old women, and left them the withered roots they really were, to be thrown upon the rubbish heap ; and with light feet skipped on0 across to the meadow to take possession of the freshly filled basket. But to her surprise she could not find it anywhere. Up and down the garden she searched, spying into every corner, but not a sign of it was to be found. By the trellis of grape vines she met the gnome, who was so much embarrassed at the sight of her that she became aware of his confusion while he was still quite a long way off.
' You are trying to tease me,' she cried, as soon as she saw him. ' Where have you hidden the basket? I have been looking for it at least an hour.'
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