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ROMANCE. FROM THE PEN OF MISS ALICE RAINBIRD (Aged seven.)
THERE was once a king, and he had a queen; and he was the manliest
of his sex, and she was the loveliest of hers. The king was, in
his private profession, under government. The queen's father had
been a medical man out of town.
They had nineteen children, and were always having more. Seventeen
of these children took care of the baby; and Alicia, the eldest,
took care of them all. Their ages varied from seven years to seven
Let us now resume our story.
One day the king was going to the office, when he stopped at the
fishmonger's to buy a pound and a half of salmon not too near the
tail, which the queen (who was a careful housekeeper) had requested
him to send home. Mr. Pickles, the fishmonger, said, 'Certainly,
sir; is there any other article? Good-morning.'
The king went on towards the office in a melancholy mood; for
quarter-day was such a long way off, and several of the dear
children were growing out of their clothes. He had not proceeded
far, when Mr. Pickles's errand-boy came running after him, and
said, 'Sir, you didn't notice the old lady in our shop.'
'What old lady?' inquired the king. 'I saw none.'
Now the king had not seen any old lady, because this old lady had
been invisible to him, though visible to Mr. Pickles's boy.
Probably because he messed and splashed the water about to that
degree, and flopped the pairs of soles down in that violent manner,
that, if she had not been visible to him, he would have spoilt her
Just then the old lady came trotting up. She was dressed in shot-
silk of the richest quality, smelling of dried lavender.
'King Watkins the First, I believe?' said the old lady.
'Watkins,' replied the king, 'is my name.'
'Papa, if I am not mistaken, of the beautiful Princess Alicia?'
said the old lady.
'And of eighteen other darlings,' replied the king.
'Listen. You are going to the office,' said the old lady.
It instantly flashed upon the king that she must be a fairy, or how
could she know that?
'You are right,' said the old lady, answering his thoughts. 'I am
the good Fairy Grandmarina. Attend! When you return home to
dinner, politely invite the Princess Alicia to have some of the
salmon you bought just now.'
'It may disagree with her,' said the king.
The old lady became so very angry at this absurd idea, that the
king was quite alarmed, and humbly begged her pardon.
'We hear a great deal too much about this thing disagreeing, and
that thing disagreeing,' said the old lady, with the greatest
contempt it was possible to express. 'Don't be greedy. I think
you want it all yourself.'
The king hung his head under this reproof, and said he wouldn't
talk about things disagreeing any more.
'Be good, then,' said the Fairy Grandmarina, 'and don't. When the
beautiful Princess Alicia consents to partake of the salmon, - as I
think she will, - you will find she will leave a fish-bone on her
plate. Tell her to dry it, and to rub it, and to polish it till it
shines like mother-of-pearl, and to take care of it as a present
'Is that all?' asked the king.
'Don't be impatient, sir,' returned the Fairy Grandmarina, scolding
him severely. 'Don't catch people short, before they have done
speaking. Just the way with you grown-up persons. You are always
The king again hung his head, and said he wouldn't do so any more.
'Be good, then,' said the Fairy Grandmarina, 'and don't! Tell the
Princess Alicia, with my love, that the fish-bone is a magic
present which can only be used once; but that it will bring her,
that once, whatever she wishes for, PROVIDED SHE WISHES FOR IT AT
THE RIGHT TIME. That is the message. Take care of it.'
The king was beginning, 'Might I ask the reason?' when the fairy
became absolutely furious.
'WILL you be good, sir?' she exclaimed, stamping her foot on the
ground. 'The reason for this, and the reason for that, indeed!
You are always wanting the reason. No reason. There! Hoity toity
me! I am sick of your grown-up reasons.'
The king was extremely frightened by the old lady's flying into
such a passion, and said he was very sorry to have offended her,
and he wouldn't ask for reasons any more.
'Be good, then,' said the old lady, 'and don't!'
With those words, Grandmarina vanished, and the king went on and on
and on, till he came to the office. There he wrote and wrote and
wrote, till it was time to go home again. Then he politely invited
the Princess Alicia, as the fairy had directed him, to partake of
the salmon. And when she had enjoyed it very much, he saw the
fish-bone on her plate, as the fairy had told him he would, and he
delivered the fairy's message, and the Princess Alicia took care to
dry the bone, and to rub it, and to polish it, till it shone like
And so, when the queen was going to get up in the morning, she
said, 'O, dear me, dear me; my head, my head!' and then she fainted
The Princess Alicia, who happened to be looking in at the chamber-
door, asking about breakfast, was very much alarmed when she saw
her royal mamma in this state, and she rang the bell for Peggy,
which was the name of the lord chamberlain. But remembering where
the smelling-bottle was, she climbed on a chair and got it; and
after that she climbed on another chair by the bedside, and held
the smelling-bottle to the queen's nose; and after that she jumped
down and got some water; and after that she jumped up again and
wetted the queen's forehead; and, in short, when the lord
chamberlain came in, that dear old woman said to the little
princess, 'What a trot you are! I couldn't have done it better
But that was not the worst of the good queen's illness. O, no!
She was very ill indeed, for a long time. The Princess Alicia kept
the seventeen young princes and princesses quiet, and dressed and
undressed and danced the baby, and made the kettle boil, and heated
the soup, and swept the hearth, and poured out the medicine, and
nursed the queen, and did all that ever she could, and was as busy,
busy, busy as busy could be; for there were not many servants at
that palace for three reasons: because the king was short of money,
because a rise in his office never seemed to come, and because
quarter-day was so far off that it looked almost as far off and as
little as one of the stars.
But on the morning when the queen fainted away, where was the magic
fish-bone? Why, there it was in the Princess Alicia's pocket! She
had almost taken it out to bring the queen to life again, when she
put it back, and looked for the smelling-bottle.
After the queen had come out of her swoon that morning, and was
dozing, the Princess Alicia hurried up-stairs to tell a most
particular secret to a most particularly confidential friend of
hers, who was a duchess. People did suppose her to be a doll; but
she was really a duchess, though nobody knew it except the
This most particular secret was the secret about the magic fish-
bone, the history of which was well known to the duchess, because
the princess told her everything. The princess kneeled down by the
bed on which the duchess was lying, full-dressed and wide awake,
and whispered the secret to her. The duchess smiled and nodded.
People might have supposed that she never smiled and nodded; but
she often did, though nobody knew it except the princess.
Then the Princess Alicia hurried down-stairs again, to keep watch
in the queen's room. She often kept watch by herself in the
queen's room; but every evening, while the illness lasted, she sat
there watching with the king. And every evening the king sat
looking at her with a cross look, wondering why she never brought
out the magic fish-bone. As often as she noticed this, she ran up-
stairs, whispered the secret to the duchess over again, and said to
the duchess besides, 'They think we children never have a reason or
a meaning!' And the duchess, though the most fashionable duchess
that ever was heard of, winked her eye.
'Alicia,' said the king, one evening, when she wished him good-
'What is become of the magic fish-bone?'
'In my pocket, papa!'
'I thought you had lost it?'
'O, no, papa!'
'Or forgotten it?'
'No, indeed, papa.'
And so another time the dreadful little snapping pug-dog, next
door, made a rush at one of the young princes as he stood on the
steps coming home from school, and terrified him out of his wits;
and he put his hand through a pane of glass, and bled, bled, bled.
When the seventeen other young princes and princesses saw him
bleed, bleed, bleed, they were terrified out of their wits too, and
screamed themselves black in their seventeen faces all at once.
But the Princess Alicia put her hands over all their seventeen
mouths, one after another, and persuaded them to be quiet because
of the sick queen. And then she put the wounded prince's hand in a
basin of fresh cold water, while they stared with their twice
seventeen are thirty-four, put down four and carry three, eyes, and
then she looked in the hand for bits of glass, and there were
fortunately no bits of glass there. And then she said to two
chubby-legged princes, who were sturdy though small, 'Bring me in
the royal rag-bag: I must snip and stitch and cut and contrive.'
So these two young princes tugged at the royal rag-bag, and lugged
it in; and the Princess Alicia sat down on the floor, with a large
pair of scissors and a needle and thread, and snipped and stitched
and cut and contrived, and made a bandage, and put it on, and it
fitted beautifully; and so when it was all done, she saw the king
her papa looking on by the door.
'What have you been doing?'
'Snipping, stitching, cutting, and contriving, papa.'
'Where is the magic fish-bone?'
'In my pocket, papa.'
'I thought you had lost it?'
'O, no, papa.'
'Or forgotten it?'
'No, indeed, papa.'
After that, she ran up-stairs to the duchess, and told her what had
passed, and told her the secret over again; and the duchess shook
her flaxen curls, and laughed with her rosy lips.
Well! and so another time the baby fell under the grate. The
seventeen young princes and princesses were used to it; for they
were almost always falling under the grate or down the stairs; but
the baby was not used to it yet, and it gave him a swelled face and
a black eye. The way the poor little darling came to tumble was,
that he was out of the Princess Alicia's lap just as she was
sitting, in a great coarse apron that quite smothered her, in front
of the kitchen-fire, beginning to peel the turnips for the broth
for dinner; and the way she came to be doing that was, that the
king's cook had run away that morning with her own true love, who
was a very tall but very tipsy soldier. Then the seventeen young
princes and princesses, who cried at everything that happened,
cried and roared. But the Princess Alicia (who couldn't help
crying a little herself) quietly called to them to be still, on
account of not throwing back the queen up-stairs, who was fast
getting well, and said, 'Hold your tongues, you wicked little
monkeys, every one of you, while I examine baby!' Then she
examined baby, and found that he hadn't broken anything; and she
held cold iron to his poor dear eye, and smoothed his poor dear
face, and he presently fell asleep in her arms. Then she said to
the seventeen princes and princesses, 'I am afraid to let him down
yet, lest he should wake and feel pain; be good, and you shall all
be cooks.' They jumped for joy when they heard that, and began
making themselves cooks' caps out of old newspapers. So to one she
gave the salt-box, and to one she gave the barley, and to one she
gave the herbs, and to one she gave the turnips, and to one she
gave the carrots, and to one she gave the onions, and to one she
gave the spice-box, till they were all cooks, and all running about
at work, she sitting in the middle, smothered in the great coarse
apron, nursing baby. By and by the broth was done; and the baby
woke up, smiling, like an angel, and was trusted to the sedatest
princess to hold, while the other princes and princesses were
squeezed into a far-off corner to look at the Princess Alicia
turning out the saucepanful of broth, for fear (as they were always
getting into trouble) they should get splashed and scalded. When
the broth came tumbling out, steaming beautifully, and smelling
like a nosegay good to eat, they clapped their hands. That made
the baby clap his hands; and that, and his looking as if he had a
comic toothache, made all the princes and princesses laugh. So the
Princess Alicia said, 'Laugh and be good; and after dinner we will
make him a nest on the floor in a corner, and he shall sit in his
nest and see a dance of eighteen cooks.' That delighted the young
princes and princesses, and they ate up all the broth, and washed
up all the plates and dishes, and cleared away, and pushed the
table into a corner; and then they in their cooks' caps, and the
Princess Alicia in the smothering coarse apron that belonged to the
cook that had run away with her own true love that was the very
tall but very tipsy soldier, danced a dance of eighteen cooks
before the angelic baby, who forgot his swelled face and his black
eye, and crowed with joy.
And so then, once more the Princess Alicia saw King Watkins the
First, her father, standing in the doorway looking on, and he said,
'What have you been doing, Alicia?'
'Cooking and contriving, papa.'
'What else have you been doing, Alicia?'
'Keeping the children light-hearted, papa.'
'Where is the magic fish-bone, Alicia?
'In my pocket, papa.'
'I thought you had lost it?'
'O, no, papa!'
'Or forgotten it?'
'No, indeed, papa.'
The king then sighed so heavily, and seemed so low-spirited, and
sat down so miserably, leaning his head upon his hand, and his
elbow upon the kitchen-table pushed away in the corner, that the
seventeen princes and princesses crept softly out of the kitchen,
and left him alone with the Princess Alicia and the angelic baby.
'What is the matter, papa?'
'I am dreadfully poor, my child.'
'Have you no money at all, papa?'
'None, my child.'
'Is there no way of getting any, papa?'
'No way,' said the king. 'I have tried very hard, and I have tried
When she heard those last words, the Princess Alicia began to put
her hand into the pocket where she kept the magic fish-bone.
'Papa,' said she, 'when we have tried very hard, and tried all
ways, we must have done our very, very best?'
'No doubt, Alicia.'
'When we have done our very, very best, papa, and that is not
enough, then I think the right time must have come for asking help
of others.' This was the very secret connected with the magic
fish-bone, which she had found out for herself from the good Fairy
Grandmarina's words, and which she had so often whispered to her
beautiful and fashionable friend, the duchess.
So she took out of her pocket the magic fish-bone, that had been
dried and rubbed and polished till it shone like mother-of-pearl;
and she gave it one little kiss, and wished it was quarter-day.
And immediately it WAS quarter-day; and the king's quarter's salary
came rattling down the chimney, and bounced into the middle of the
But this was not half of what happened, - no, not a quarter; for
immediately afterwards the good Fairy Grandmarina came riding in,
in a carriage and four (peacocks), with Mr. Pickles's boy up
behind, dressed in silver and gold, with a cocked-hat, powdered-
hair, pink silk stockings, a jewelled cane, and a nosegay. Down
jumped Mr. Pickles's boy, with his cocked-hat in his hand, and
wonderfully polite (being entirely changed by enchantment), and
handed Grandmarina out; and there she stood, in her rich shot-silk
smelling of dried lavender, fanning herself with a sparkling fan.
'Alicia, my dear,' said this charming old fairy, 'how do you do? I
hope I see you pretty well? Give me a kiss.'
The Princess Alicia embraced her; and then Grandmarina turned to
the king, and said rather sharply, 'Are you good?' The king said
he hoped so.
'I suppose you know the reason NOW, why my god-daughter here,'
kissing the princess again, 'did not apply to the fish-bone
sooner?' said the fairy.
The king made a shy bow.
'Ah! but you didn't THEN?' said the fairy.
The king made a shyer bow.
'Any more reasons to ask for?' said the fairy.
The king said, No, and he was very sorry.
'Be good, then,' said the fairy, 'and live happy ever afterwards.'
Then Grandmarina waved her fan, and the queen came in most
splendidly dressed; and the seventeen young princes and princesses,
no longer grown out of their clothes, came in, newly fitted out
from top to toe, with tucks in everything to admit of its being let
out. After that, the fairy tapped the Princess Alicia with her
fan; and the smothering coarse apron flew away, and she appeared
exquisitely dressed, like a little bride, with a wreath of orange-
flowers and a silver veil. After that, the kitchen dresser changed
of itself into a wardrobe, made of beautiful woods and gold and
looking glass, which was full of dresses of all sorts, all for her
and all exactly fitting her. After that, the angelic baby came in,
running alone, with his face and eye not a bit the worse, but much
the better. Then Grandmarina begged to be introduced to the
duchess; and, when the duchess was brought down, many compliments
passed between them.
A little whispering took place between the fairy and the duchess;
and then the fairy said out loud, 'Yes, I thought she would have
told you.' Grandmarina then turned to the king and queen, and
said, 'We are going in search of Prince Certainpersonio. The
pleasure of your company is requested at church in half an hour
precisely.' So she and the Princess Alicia got into the carriage;
and Mr. Pickles's boy handed in the duchess, who sat by herself on
the opposite seat; and then Mr. Pickles's boy put up the steps and
got up behind, and the peacocks flew away with their tails behind.
Prince Certainpersonio was sitting by himself, eating barley-sugar,
and waiting to be ninety. When he saw the peacocks, followed by
the carriage, coming in at the window it immediately occurred to
him that something uncommon was going to happen.
'Prince,' said Grandmarina, 'I bring you your bride.' The moment
the fairy said those words, Prince Certainpersonio's face left off
being sticky, and his jacket and corduroys changed to peach-bloom
velvet, and his hair curled, and a cap and feather flew in like a
bird and settled on his head. He got into the carriage by the
fairy's invitation; and there he renewed his acquaintance with the
duchess, whom he had seen before.
In the church were the prince's relations and friends, and the
Princess Alicia's relations and friends, and the seventeen princes
and princesses, and the baby, and a crowd of the neighbours. The
marriage was beautiful beyond expression. The duchess was
bridesmaid, and beheld the ceremony from the pulpit, where she was
supported by the cushion of the desk.
Grandmarina gave a magnificent wedding-feast afterwards, in which
there was everything and more to eat, and everything and more to
drink. The wedding-cake was delicately ornamented with white satin
ribbons, frosted silver, and white lilies, and was forty-two yards
When Grandmarina had drunk her love to the young couple, and Prince
Certainpersonio had made a speech, and everybody had cried, Hip,
hip, hip, hurrah! Grandmarina announced to the king and queen that
in future there would be eight quarter-days in every year, except
in leap-year, when there would be ten. She then turned to
Certainpersonio and Alicia, and said, 'My dears, you will have
thirty-five children, and they will all be good and beautiful.
Seventeen of your children will be boys, and eighteen will be
girls. The hair of the whole of your children will curl naturally.
They will never have the measles, and will have recovered from the
whooping-cough before being born.'
On hearing such good news, everybody cried out 'Hip, hip, hip,
'It only remains,' said Grandmarina in conclusion, 'to make an end
of the fish-bone.'
So she took it from the hand of the Princess Alicia, and it
instantly flew down the throat of the dreadful little snapping pug-
dog, next door, and choked him, and he expired in convulsions.
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