The Brownie and
the Princess by
Louisa M. Alcott
She was not a real Brownie, but a little girl named Betty, who lived
with her father in a cottage near a great forest. They were poor; so
Betty always wore a brown frock, a big brown hat, and, being out in the
sun a great deal, her face was as brown as a berry, though very pretty
with its rosy cheeks, dark eyes, and curly hair blowing in the wind. She
was a lively little creature, and having no neighbors she made friends
with the birds and flowers, rabbits and squirrels, and had fine frolics
with them, for they knew and loved her dearly. Many people drove through
the beautiful wood, which was not far from the King's palace; and when
they saw the little girl dancing with the daisies in the meadow, chasing
squirrels up the trees, splashing in the brook, or sitting under her big
hat like an elf under a mushroom, they would say, "There is the
Betty was wild and shy, and always tried to hide if any one called to
her; and it was funny to see her vanish in a hollow tree, drop down in
the tall grass, or skip away into the ferns like a timid rabbit. She was
afraid of the fine lords and ladies, who laughed at her and called her
names, but never thought to bring a book or a toy or say a kind word to
the lonely little girl.
Her father took care of the deer in the King's park and was away all
day, leaving Betty to sweep the little house, bake the brown bread, and
milk Daisy the white cow, who lived in the shed behind the cottage and
was Betty's dearest friend. They had no pasture for her to feed in; so,
when the work was done, Betty would take her knitting and drive Daisy
along the road where she could eat the grass on either side till she had
had enough and lay down to rest under some shady tree. While the cow
chewed her cud and took naps, the little girl would have fine games
among her playmates, the wood creatures, or lie watching the clouds, or
swing on the branches of the trees, or sail leaf boats in the brook. She
was happy; but she longed for some one to talk to, and tried vainly to
learn what the birds sang all day long. There were a great many about
the cottage, for no one troubled them, and they were so tame they would
eat out of her hand and sit on her head. A stork family lived on the
roof, swallows built their clay nests under the eaves, and wrens chirped
in their little homes among the red and white roses that climbed up to
peep in at Betty's window. Wood-pigeons came to pick up the grain she
scattered for them, larks went singing up from the grass close by, and
nightingales sang her to sleep.
"If I only knew what they said, we could have such happy times together.
How can I ever learn?" sighed Betty, as she was driving Daisy home one
day at sunset.
She was in the wood, and as she spoke she saw a great gray owl
fluttering on the ground as if he was hurt. She ran at once to see what
ailed the bird, and was not afraid, though his round eyes stared at her,
and he snapped his hooked beak as if very angry.
"Poor thing! its leg is broken," she said, wondering how she could help
"No, it isn't; it's my wing. I leaned out of my nest up there to watch a
field mouse, and a ray of sunshine dazzled me so I tumbled down. Pick me
up, child, and put me back, and I shall be all right."
Betty was so surprised to hear the owl speak that she did not stir; and
thinking she was frightened at his cross tone, the gray bird said more
gently, with a blink of its yellow eyes and a wise nod,—
"I shouldn't speak to every one, nor trust any other child; but I know
you never hurt anything. I've watched you a long time, and I like you;
so I'm going to reward you by giving you the last wish you made,
whatever it is. I can: I'm a wizard, and I know all sorts of magic
charms. Put me in my nest, tell me your wish, and you shall have it."
"Oh, thank you!" cried Betty, joyfully. "I wished to understand what
"Dear me, that's a wish that may make trouble; but I'll grant it if you
won't tell any one how you learned the secret. I can't have people
coming to me, and my neighbors won't want their gossip heard by many
ears. They won't mind you, and it will amuse you, poor thing!" said the
owl, after a pause.
Betty promised, and, holding the fat bird carefully in her arm, she
climbed up the old oak and put him safely in his hole, where he settled
himself with a great ruffling of feathers and a hoot of pleasure at
being home again.
"Now, pull the tallest bit of down off my right ear and put it in your
own; then you will hear what the birds say. Good-night; I'm used up and
want to rest," said the owl, with a gape.
"Thank you," said Betty, and ran after Daisy, who was slowly eating her
The bit of down lay snugly in Betty's ear, and in a moment she heard
many sweet voices called to one another,—"Good-night!" "Happy dreams!"
"A bright to-morrow;" "Lie still, my darlings;" "Hush, my birdie, sleep
till day,"—and all sorts of pretty things, as the wood-birds were going
to bed with the sun. When she came to the cottage the papa stork was
standing on one leg, while the mamma tucked the little ones under her
wings, scolding now and then as a red bill or a long leg popped out. The
doves were cooing tenderly in the pine that rustled near by, the
swallows skimming over the ground to catch and bring their babies a few
more gnats for supper, and the wrens were twittering among the roses
like the little gossips they were.
"Now I shall know what they all are saying," cried Betty, trying to hear
the different voices; for there were so many going at once it was
difficult to understand the sweet new language.
So she milked Daisy, set the table, and made ready for her father, who
was often late, then took her bowl of bread and milk and sat on the
door-step listening with all her might. She always strewed crumbs for
the wrens, and they flew down to eat without fear. To-night they came,
and as they pecked they talked, and Betty understood every word.
"Here's a fine soft bit, my love," said the papa, as he hopped briskly
about, with his bright eye on the little girl. "Have a good supper while
I feed the children. The child never forgets us, and saves me many a
long journey by giving us these nice crumbs. I wish we could do
something for her."
"So do I, and quite tire my wits trying to make some plan to give her
pleasure. I often wonder why the little Princess up at the palace has so
much and our dear Betty so little. A few of the books and toys that lie
about up there would make this child so happy. It is a pity no one
thinks of it;" and the kind Mamma Wren sighed as she ate a nice bit
close to Betty's bare foot.
"If she was not so shy and would let people speak to her, I think she
would soon make friends, she is so pretty and gay," answered the papa,
coming back for another load for the hungry babies in the nest.
"The Princess has heard of her and wants to see her. I heard the maids
talking about it to-day when I went to call on Cousin Tomtit in the
palace garden. They said her Highness was to drive through the pine wood
early to-morrow morning to breathe the fresh air, and hoped to see the
Brownie and the pretty white cow. Now, if Betty only knew it, she might
gather a posy of cowslips, and when the little lady comes give them to
her. That would please her very much and bring Betty some pretty gift;
for her Highness is generous, though sadly spoilt, I'm afraid."
This fine plan of Mamma Wren's pleased Betty so much that she clapped
her hands and startled the birds away.
"I'll do it! I'll do it!" she cried. "I always wanted to see the little
Princess father has told me about. She is ill, and cannot run and play
as I do, so I should love to please her, and the cowslips are all out.
I'll go early and get a hat full, and not run away if she comes."
Betty was so full of this delightful plan that she went early to bed,
but did not forget to lean out of her window and peep through the roses
into the nest where Mamma Wren brooded over her babies while the papa
roosted near by with his head under his wing.
"Good-night, dear birds; thank you very much," whispered Betty; but they
did not mind her, and only twittered sleepily as if a dream disturbed
"Up, up, little maid;
Day has begun.
Welcome with us
Our father, the sun!"
sang the larks, as they rose from the grass and waked Betty with their
"Tweet, tweet, it is morning;
Please get up, mamma.
Do bring us some breakfast,
Our dearest papa,"
twittered the young wrens, with their mouths wide open.
"Click, clack, here's another day;
Stretch our wings and fly away
Over the wood and over the hills,
Seeking food for our babies' bills;"
and away went the storks with their long legs trailing out behind, while
the little ones popped up their heads and stared at the sun.
Here's good luck:
Has laid two eggs,
All fresh and sweet,
For our girl to eat,"
cackled the gray hens, picking about the shed where the cock stood
"Coo! coo! coo!
Come, bathe in the dew;
For the rosy dawn shines
Through our beautiful pines.
So kiss, every one,
For a new day's begun,"
called the doves softly to one another as they billed and cooed and
tripped about on their little pink feet.
Betty looked and listened at her window, and was so happy she kissed the
roses nodding at her, then ran down to make the porridge, singing like a
bird herself. When her father had gone away to work she made haste to
milk Daisy, sweep the floor, and make all tidy for the day before she
went to wait for the Princess.
"Now, you eat your breakfast here while I get the cowslips; for this is
a pretty place to be in, and I want you to look very nice when the fine
people come," said Betty, as she left the cow to feed in a little shady
nook by the road where the grass was green and an old oak made pleasant
The cowslips were all open and as yellow as gold, so Betty made a great
nosegay of some and a splendid cowslip-ball of the rest; then she put
them in her hat, well sprinkled with water, and sat on a fallen log
knitting busily, while Daisy lay down to chew her cud, with a green
wreath of oak leaves round her neck for full dress.
They did not have to wait long. Soon the tramp of horses was heard, and
along the wood-road came the white ponies tossing their heads, the
pretty carriage with coachman and footman in blue and silver coats, and
inside the little Princess, with white plumes waving from her hat as she
sat by her nurse, wrapt in a soft silken cloak, for the summer air
seemed cold to her.
"Oh, there's the Brownie and her pretty white cow! Tell her not to run
away, I want to see her and hear her sing," cried the little Princess,
eagerly, as they came nearer.
Betty was rather scared, but did not run away; for the nurse was a
kind-looking old woman in a high peasant cap, who smiled and nodded at
her with a motherly look, and seemed much pleased when she held up the
"Will the little lady have them?"
"Oh yes, I wanted some; I never had a cowslip ball before. How pretty it
is! Thank you, Brownie," cried the Princess, with both hands full of
flowers as she laughed with pleasure.
"I picked them all for you. I have so many, and I heard you cried for
some," said Betty, very glad that she had not run away and spoiled the
little lady's drive.
"How did you know?" asked the Princess, staring at her.
"The birds told me," said Betty.
"Oh yes! brownies are fairies, and understand bird-talk; I forgot that.
I know what parrots say, but not my other birds. Could you tell me?"
asked the Princess, leaning down very earnestly, for any new thing
"I think so, if tame ones sing like the wild ones," answered Betty,
proud to know more than the fine child did.
"Come to the palace and tell me; come now, I can't wait! My canary sings
all day, but I never understand a word, and I must. Tell her to come,
Nurse," commanded the Princess, who always had her own way.
"Can you?" asked the old woman. "We will bring you back at night. Her
Highness has a fancy to see you, and she will pay you for coming."
"I can't leave Daisy; we have no field to put her in, and if I shut her
up in the shed all day she will be hungry and call for me," answered
Betty, longing to go, but not liking to leave her dear cow to suffer.
"Put her in that field till you come back; I give you leave. All this
land is mine, so no one will blame you. Do it!" said the Princess,
waving her hand to the footman, who jumped down and had Daisy in the
great clover-field before Betty could say a word.
"She will like that; and now I can go if you don't mind my old gown and
hat,—I have no other clothes," she said, as the cow began to eat, and
the footman opened the carriage door for her.
"I like it. Come in.—Now, go home at once," said the Princess; and
there was poor little Betty rolling away in the grand carriage, feeling
as if it was all a fairy tale.
The Princess asked a great many questions, and liked her new friend more
and more; for she had never spoken to a poor child before, or known how
they live. Betty was excited by this fine adventure, and was so gay and
charming in her little ways that the old nurse soon forgot to watch lest
she should do or say something amiss.
When they drove up to the great marble palace shining in the sun, with
green lawns and terraces and blooming gardens all about it, Betty could
only hold her breath and look with all her eyes as she was led through
splendid halls and up wide stairs into a room full of pretty things,
where six gayly dressed maids sewed and chattered together.
The Princess went away to rest, but Betty was told to stay there and be
dressed before she went to play with her Highness. The room was full of
closets and chests and boxes and baskets, and as the doors opened and
the covers flew off, Betty saw piles of pretty frocks, hats, cloaks, and
all manner of dainty things for little girls to wear. Never had she
dreamed of such splendid clothes, all lace and ribbons, silk and velvet.
Hats with flowers and feathers, pretty pink and blue shoes with gold and
silver buckles, silk stockings like cobwebs, and muslin and linen
petticoats and nightgowns and little caps all embroidered as if by fairy
She could only stand and look like one in a dream while the maids very
kindly took away her poor brown dress and hat, and after much gossip
over what looked best, at last put on a rosy muslin frock, a straw hat
with roses in it, and some neat shoes and stockings. Then when her hair
was smoothed in thick brown curls, they told her to look in the tall
mirror and tell what she saw there.
"Oh, what a pretty little girl!" cried Betty, smiling and nodding at the
other child, who smiled and nodded back at her. She did not know
herself, never having had any glass but a quiet pool in the wood or the
brook in the meadow.
The maids laughed, and then she saw who it was, and laughed with them,
and danced and courtesied and was very merry till a bell rang and she
was ordered to go to her Highness.
It was a lovely room, all hung with blue silk and lace, with a silver
bed, and chairs and couches of blue damask, pictures on the walls,
flowers in all the windows, and golden cages full of birds. A white cat
slept on its cushion, a tiny dog ran about with a golden collar hung
with bells, and books and toys were heaped on the tables. The Princess
was scolding her nurse because she wanted her to rest longer after the
drive; but when Betty came in looking so pretty and gay, the frown
changed to a smile, and she cried,—
"How nice you look! Not like a Brownie now; but I hope you have not
forgotten about the birds."
"No," said Betty; "let me listen a minute and I'll tell you what they
So both were silent, and the maid and nurse kept as still as mice while
the canary sang his shrill, sweet song, and Betty's face grew sad as she
"He says he is tired of his cage and longs to be free among the other
birds; for a tree is a better home than a golden palace, and a crumb in
the wood sweeter than all the sugar in his silver cup. 'Let me go! let
me go! or my heart will break!' That is what he says, and the bulfinch
sings the same song; so do the love birds and the beautiful gay one whom
I don't know."
"What does Polly say? I understand him when he talks, but not when he
scolds and chatters to himself as he is doing now," said the Princess,
looking much surprised at what she heard; for she thought her birds must
be happy in such fine cages.
Betty listened to the great red and green and blue parrot, who sat on a
perch wagging his head and chuckling to himself as if he were enjoying
some good joke. Presently Betty blushed and laughed, and looked both
troubled and amused at what she heard; for the bird was gabbling away
and nodding his head at her in a very funny manner.
"What does he say?" asked the Princess, impatiently.
"Please don't ask. You will not like it. I couldn't tell," said Betty,
still laughing and blushing.
"You must tell, or I'll have Polly's neck wrung. I will know every
word, and I won't be angry with you, no matter what that saucy bird
says," commanded the Princess.
"He says this," began Betty, not liking to obey, but afraid poor Polly
would be hurt if she did not: "'Now here's a new pet for her Highness to
torment. Nice, pretty little girl! Pity she came, to be made much of for
a day or two and then thrown away or knocked about like an old doll. She
thinks it all very fine here, poor thing! But if she knew all I know she
would run away and never come back; for a crosser, more spoilt child
than her Highness never lived.'"
Betty dared not go on, for the Princess looked angry; and the maid went
to slap the parrot, who gave a queer laugh and snapped at her fingers,
"She is! she is! and you all say it behind her back. I know your sly
ways. You praise and pet her, and pretend that she is the sweetest
darling in the world, when you know that this nice, rosy, good little
girl out of the wood is worth a dozen silly, tyrannical princesses. Ha!
ha! I'm not afraid to speak the truth, am I, Betty?"
Betty was frightened, but could not help laughing when the naughty bird
winked at her as he hung upside down, with his hooked beak wide open and
his splendid wings flapping.
"Tell me! tell me!" cried the Princess, forgetting her anger in
Betty had to tell, and was very glad when Bonnibelle laughed also, and
seemed to enjoy the truth told in this funny way.
"Tell him you know what he says, and ask him, since he is so wise, what
I shall do to be as good as you are," said the Princess, who really had
a kind little heart and knew that she was petted far too much.
Betty told the parrot she understood his language, and he was so
surprised that he got on his perch at once and stared at her, as he said
"Don't let me be punished for telling truth, there's a dear child. I
can't take it back, and since you ask my advice, I think the best thing
you can do for her Highness is to let her change places with you and
learn to be contented and useful and happy. Tell her so, with my
Betty found this a hard message to give; but it pleased Bonnibelle, for
she clapped her hands and cried,—
"I'll ask mamma. Would you like to do it, Brownie, and be a princess?"
"No, thank you," said Betty; "I couldn't leave my father and Daisy, and
I'm not fit to live in a palace. It's very splendid, but I think I love
the little house and the wood and my birds better."
The nurse and the maid held up their hands, amazed at such a fancy; but
Bonnibelle seemed to understand, and said kindly,—
"Yes; I think it is very dull here, and much pleasanter in the fields to
do as one likes. May I come and play with you, and learn to be like you,
She looked a little sad as she spoke, and Betty pitied her; so she
smiled and answered gladly,—
"Yes, that will be lovely. Come and stay with me, and I will show you
all my playmates, and you shall milk Daisy, and feed the hens, and see
the rabbits and the tame fawn, and run in the daisy field, and pull
cowslips, and eat bread and milk out of my best blue bowl."
"Yes, and have a little brown gown and a big hat like yours, and wooden
shoes that clatter, and learn how to knit, and climb trees, and what the
birds say!" added Bonnibelle, so charmed at the plan that she jumped off
the couch and began to skip about as she had not done for days before.
"Now come and see my toys, and choose any you like; for I'm fond of you,
dear, because you tell me new things and are not like the silly little
lords and ladies who come to see me, and only quarrel and strut about
like peacocks till I'm tired of them."
Bonnibelle put her arm round Betty, and led her away to a long hall so
full of playthings that it looked like a splendid toy-shop. Dolls by the
dozen were there,—dolls that talked and sang and walked and went to
sleep, fine dolls, funny dolls, big and little doll queens and babies,
dolls of all nations. Never was there such a glorious party of these
dear creatures seen before; and Betty had no eyes for anything else,
being a real little girl, full of love for dollies, and never yet had
she owned one.
"Take as many as you like," said Bonnibelle. "I'm tired of them."
It nearly took Betty's breath away to think that she might have a dozen
dolls if she chose. But she wisely decided that one was enough, and
picked out a darling baby-doll in its pretty cradle, with blue eyes
shut, and flaxen curls under the dainty cap. It would fill her motherly
little soul with joy to have this lovely thing to lie in her arms by
day, sleep by her side at night, and live with her in the lonely
cottage; for baby could say "Mamma" quite naturally, and Betty felt that
she would never be tired of hearing the voice call her by that sweet
It was hard to tear herself from the cradle to see the other treasures;
but she went to and fro with Bonnibelle, admiring all she saw, till
Nurse came to tell them that lunch was ready and her Highness must play
Betty hardly knew how to behave when she found herself sitting at a fine
table with a footman behind her chair and all sorts of curious glass and
china and silver things before her. But she watched what Bonnibelle did,
and so got on pretty well, and ate peaches and cream and cake and dainty
white rolls and bonbons with a good appetite. She would not touch the
little birds in the silver dish, though they smelt very nice, but said
"No, thank you, sir; I couldn't eat my friends."
The footman tried not to laugh; but the Princess pushed away her own
plate with a frown, saying,—
"Neither will I. Give me some apricot jelly and a bit of angel cake. Now
that I know more about birds and what they think of me, I shall be
careful how I treat them. Don't bring any more to my table."
After lunch the children went to the library, where all the best
picture-books ever printed were ranged on the shelves, and cosey little
chairs stood about where one could sit and read delicious fairy tales
all day long. Betty skipped for joy when her new friend picked out a
pile of the gayest and best for her to take home; and then they went to
the music-room, where a band played beautifully and the Princess danced
with her master in a stately way that Betty thought very stupid.
"Now you must dance. I've heard how finely you do it; for some lords and
ladies saw you dancing with the daisies, and said it was the prettiest
ballet they ever looked at. You must! No, please do, dear Betty," said
Bonnibelle, commanding at first; then, remembering what the parrot said,
she spoke more gently.
"I cannot here before these people. I don't know any steps, and need
flowers to dance with me," said Betty.
"Then come on the terrace; there are plenty of flowers in the garden,
and I am tired of this," answered Bonnibelle, going through one of the
long windows to the wide marble walk where Betty had been longing to go.
Several peacocks were sitting on the steps, and they at once spread
their splendid tails and began to strut before the children, making a
harsh noise as they tossed the crowns of shining feathers on their
"What do they say?" asked the Princess.
"'Here comes the vain little creature who thinks her fine clothes
handsomer than ours, and likes to show them off to poorer people and put
on proud airs. We don't admire her; for we know how silly she is, for
all her fine feathers.'"
"I won't listen to any more rude words from these bad birds, and I won't
praise their splendid tails as I meant to. Go along, you vain things! no
one wants you here," cried Betty, chasing the peacocks off the terrace,
while the Princess laughed to see them drop their gorgeous trains and go
scurrying away with loud squawks of fear.
"It was true. I am vain and silly; but no one ever dared to tell me
so, and I shall try to do better now I see how foolish those birds look
and how sweet you are," she said, when Betty came skipping back to her.
"I'll make a peacock dance for you. See how well I do it!" and Betty
began to prance, with her full pink skirt held up, and her head tossed,
and her toes turned out, so like the birds that old Nurse and the maid,
who had followed, began to laugh as well as Bonnibelle.
It was very funny; and when she had imitated the vain strutting and
fluttering of the peacocks, Betty suddenly dropped her skirt, and went
hurrying away, flapping her arms like wings and squawking dismally.
She wanted to please the Princess and make her forget the rude things
she had been forced to tell; so when she came running back she was glad
to find her very merry, and anxious for more fun.
"Now I'll do the tulip dance," said Betty, and began to bow and courtesy
to a bed full of splendid flowers, all gold and scarlet, white and
purple; and the tulips seemed to bow and courtesy back again like
stately lords and ladies at a ball. Such dainty steps, such graceful
sweeps and elegant wavings of the arms one never saw before; for Betty
imitated the tall blossoms waving in the wind, and danced a prettier
minuet with them than any ever seen at court.
"It is wonderful!" said the maid.
"Bless the dear! she must be a real fairy to do all that," said the old
"Dance again! oh, please dance again, it is so pretty!" cried the
Princess, clapping her hands as Betty rose from her farewell courtesy
and came smiling toward her.
"I'll give you the wind dance; that is very gay, and this fine floor is
so smooth I feel as if my feet had wings."
With that Betty began to flutter to and fro like a leaf blown by the
wind; now she went down the terrace as if swept by a strong gust, now
she stood still, swaying a little in the soft breath of air, then off
she spun as if caught in a storm, eddying round and round till she
looked like a stray rose-leaf whisked over the ground. Sometimes she
whirled close to the Princess, then blew up against the stout old nurse,
but was gone before she could be caught. Once she went down the marble
steps at a bound and came flying over the railing as if in truth she did
have wings on her nimble feet. Then the gale seemed to die away, and
slowly the leaf floated to the ground at Bonnibelle's feet, to lie there
rosy, breathless, and tired.
Bonnibelle clapped her hands again; but before she could tell half her
delight, a beautiful lady came from the window, where she had seen the
pretty ballet. Two little pages carried her long train of silvery silk;
two ladies walked beside her, one holding a rose-colored parasol over
her head, the other with a fan and cushion; jewels shone on her white
hands and neck and in her hair, and she was very splendid, for this was
the Queen. But her face was sweet and lovely, her voice very soft, and
her smile so kind that Betty was not afraid, and made her best courtesy
When the red damask cushion was laid on one of the carved stone seats,
and the pages had dropped the train, and the maids had shut the parasol
and handed the golden fan, they stepped back, and only the Queen and
nurse and little girls were left together.
"Does the new toy please you, darling?" asked the shining lady, as
Bonnibelle ran to climb into her lap and pour out a long story of the
pleasant time she had been having with the Brownie. "Indeed I think she
is a fairy, to make you so rosy, gay, and satisfied."
"Who taught you to dance so wonderfully, child?" asked the Queen, when
she had kissed her little daughter, glad to see her look so unlike the
sad, cross, or listless creature she usually found.
"The wind, Lady Queen," answered Betty, smiling.
"And where did you get the fine tales you tell?"
"From the birds, Lady Queen."
"And what do you do to have such rosy cheeks?"
"Eat brown bread and milk, Lady Queen."
"And how is it that a lonely child like you is so happy and good?"
"My father takes care of me, and my mother in heaven keeps me good, Lady
When Betty said that, the Queen put out her hand and drew the little
girl closer, as if her tender heart pitied the motherless child and
longed to help if she only knew how.
Just then the sound of horses' feet was heard in the great courtyard
below, trumpets sounded, and every one knew that the king had come home
from hunting. Presently, with a jingling of spurs and trampling of
boots, he came along the terrace with some of his lords behind him.
Every one began to bow except the Queen, who sat still with the Princess
on her knee, for Bonnibelle did not run to meet her father as Betty
always did when he came home. Betty thought she would be afraid of the
King, and so she would perhaps, if he had worn his crown and ermine
cloak and jewels everywhere; but now he was dressed very like her
father, in hunter's green, with a silver horn over his shoulder, and no
sign of splendor about him but the feather in his hat and the great ring
that glittered when he pulled off his glove to kiss the Queen's hand; so
Betty smiled and bobbed her little courtesy, looking boldly up in his
He liked that, and knew her, for he had often seen her when he rode
through the wood.
"Come hither, Brownie, I have a story you will like to hear," he said,
sitting down beside the Queen and beckoning to Betty with a friendly
She went and stood at his knee, eager to hear, while all the lords and
ladies bent forward to listen, for it was plain that something had
happened beside the killing of a stag that day.
"I was hunting in the great oak wood two hours ago, and had knelt down
to aim at a splendid stag," began the King, stroking Betty's brown head,
"when a wild boar, very fierce and large, burst out of the ferns behind
me just as I fired at the deer. I had only my dagger left to use, but I
sprang up to face him, when a root tripped my foot, and there I lay
quite helpless, as the furious old fellow rushed at me. I think this
little maid here would have been Queen Bonnibelle to-morrow if a brave
woodman had not darted from behind a tree and with one blow of his axe
killed the beast as he bent his head to gore me. It was your father,
Brownie, and I owe my life to him."
As the King ended, a murmur rose, and all the lords and ladies looked as
if they would like to give a cheer; but the Queen turned pale and old
Nurse ran to fan her, while Bonnibelle put out her arms to her father,
"No, I will never be a queen if you die, dear papa!"
The King took her on one knee and set Betty on the other, saying
"Now what shall we do for this brave man who saved me?"
"Give him a palace to live in, and millions of money," said the
Princess, who could think of nothing better.
"I offered him a house and money, but he wanted neither, for he loved
his little cottage and had no need of gold, he said. Think again, little
maids, and find something he will like," said the King, looking at
"A nice field for Daisy is all he wants, Lord King," she answered
boldly; for the handsome brown face with the kind eyes was very like her
father's, she thought.
"He shall have it. Now wish three wishes for yourself, my child, and I
will grant them if I can."
Betty showed all her little white teeth as she laughed for joy at this
splendid offer. Then she said slowly,—
"I have but one wish now, for the Princess has given me a dear doll and
many books; so I am the happiest creature in all the kingdom, and have
"Contented little lass! Who of us can say the same?" said the King,
looking at the people round him, who dropped their eyes and looked
foolish, for they were always asking favors of the good King. "Well, now
let us know the one thing I can do to please brave woodman John's little
"Please let the Princess come and play with me," said Betty, eagerly.
The lords looked horrified, and the ladies as if they would faint away
at the mere idea of such a dreadful thing. But the Queen nodded,
Bonnibelle cried, "Oh, do!" and the King laughed as he asked in a
"But why not come and play with her here? What is there at the cottage
that we have not at the palace?"
"Many things, Lord King," answered Betty. "She is tired of the palace
and everything in it, she says, and longs to run about in the wood, and
be well and gay and busy all day long, as I am. She wants to bake and
milk and sweep and knit, and hear the wind blow, and dance with the
daisies, and talk with my birds, and dream happy dreams, and love to be
alive, as I do."
"Upon my word, here's a bold Brownie! But she is right, I think; and if
my Princess can get a pair of cheeks like these down at the cottage, she
shall go as often as she likes," said the King, amused at Betty's free
words, and struck by the contrast between the two faces before him, one
like a pale garden lily and the other like a fresh wild rose.
Then Bonnibelle burst out and told all the story of the day, talking as
she had never talked before; and every one listened, amazed to see how
lively and sweet her Highness could be, and wondered what had made such
a sudden change. But the old nurse went about, saying in a whisper,—
"She is a real Brownie, I know it; for no mortal child would be so bold
and bright, and do what she has done,—bewitched both King and Queen,
and made her Highness a new child."
So all looked at Betty with great respect; and when at last the talk was
over and the King rose to go, with a kiss for each little girl, every
one bowed and made way for the Brownie, as if she too were a Princess.
But Betty was not proud; for she remembered the peacocks as she walked
hand in hand with Bonnibelle after the royal papa and mamma over the
terrace to the great hall, where the feast was spread and music sounding
"You shall sit by me and have my golden cup," said Bonnibelle, when the
silver horns were still, and all waited for the King to hand the Queen
to her place.
"No, I must go home. It is sunset; Daisy must be milked, and father's
supper ready when he comes. Let me run away and get my old clothes;
these are too fine to wear in the cottage," answered Betty, longing to
stay, but so faithful to her duty that even the King's command could not
"Tell her to stay, papa; I want her," cried Bonnibelle, going to the
great gilded chair where her father sat.
"Stay, child," said the King, with a wave of the hand where the great
jewel shone like a star.
But Betty shook her head and answered sweetly,—
"Please do not make me, dear Lord King. Daisy needs me, and father will
miss me sadly if I do not run to meet him when he comes home."
Then the King smiled, and said heartily,—
"Good child! we will not keep you. Woodman John gave me my life, and I
will not take away the comfort of his. Run home, little Brownie, and God
Betty tripped upstairs, and put on her old frock and hat, took one of
the finest books and the dear doll, leaving the rest to be sent next
day, and then tried to slip away by some back door; but there were so
many halls and steps she got lost, and came at last into the great hall
again. All were eating now; and the meat and wine and spicy pies and
piles of fruit smelt very nice, and Betty would have only brown bread
and milk for supper; but she did not stay, and no one but the pages saw
her as she ran down the steps to the courtyard, like Cinderella hurrying
from the hall when the clock struck twelve and all her fine clothes
She had a very happy walk through the cool green wood, however, and a
happy hour telling her father all about this wonderful day; but the
happiest time of all was when she went to bed in her little room, with
the darling baby fast asleep on her arm, and the wrens talking together
among the roses of how much good their wise Brownie would do the
Princess in the days to come.
Then Betty fell asleep and dreamed such lovely dreams of the moon with a
sweet face like the Queen's smiling at her, of her father looking as
proud and handsome as the King, with his axe on his shoulder and the
great boar dead at his feet; and Bonnibelle, rosy, gay, and strong,
working and playing with her like a little sister in the cottage, while
all the birds sang gayly:—
Listen, listen, while we tell
A sweet secret all may know,
How a little child may grow
Like a happy wayside flower,
Warmed by sun, fed by shower,
Rocked by wind, loved by elf,
Quite forgetful of itself;
Full of honey for the bee,
Beautiful for all to see,
Nodding to the passers-by,
Smiling at the summer sky,
Sweetening all the balmy air,
Happy, innocent, and fair.
Flowers like these blossom may
In a palace garden gay;
Lilies tall or roses red,
For a royal hand or head.
But be they low, or be they high,
Under the soft leaves must lie
A true little heart of gold,
Never proud or hard or cold,
But brave and tender, just and free,
Whether it queen or beggar be;
Else its beauty is in vain,
And never will it bloom again.
This the secret we would tell,