The Silent Castle
by Rosemary Lake
Once there was a little girl who, after the death of her parents, went to live near a great woods with her old uncle and his two grandsons. They were rather stupid, but they treated her very well, aside from thinking girls were no good for anything useful.
One day the boys set out together in search of adventure, and were not heard from for a long time; and her uncle became very sad. So the girl, whose name was Belinda, said, "I will go and look for them."
"No, no," said the old man, "you are just a girl. Where they have met danger, what could you do?"
Belinda didn’t want to argue with him, so she just said, "Well, maybe I could find some help, or let you know where they are." So the old man agreed, and gave her a good horse and a purse of gold for the journey.
Belinda rode along the edge of the forest, asking everyone she met about the boys. Soon she found them washing dishes in an inn, for they had foolishly gambled away all their money. From her uncle’s money-bag she paid their debts, and they thanked her kindly. "You’re welcome," Belinda said. "Now, shall we three go in search of adventure?"
|Nell Brinkley 1919|
Reluctantly the boys agreed. So Belinda wrote her uncle a letter saying all was well, and the three rode on together.
As they rode along, after a while they came to an anthill. The two boys wanted to poke it with sticks to disturb the ants; but Belinda said, "Leave them alone, they have not hurt us." So, to please her, the boys went on.
Soon they came to a lake with many small ducklings swimming in it. The boys wanted to catch the little ducks and cook them for supper; but Belinda said, "Leave them alone, they have not hurt us." So the boys went on, and they found plenty of fruit and mushrooms for supper.
Then they came to a hollow tree with a bees’ nest in it, with honey running out of holes in the trunk. The boys wanted to make a fire and smother the bees with smoke and take all the honey. But Belinda said, "Leave them alone, they have not hurt us." So the boys took only the honey that was running out, and they rode on.
That evening they came to a strange gray stone castle hidden in the deep woods, beyond a still shining lake. No moving thing could be seen. The stables were full of gray stone horses. The door was unlocked, the halls were richly furnished, but no people could be found.
"Well, this is certainly an adventure," said Belinda.
The elder boy laughed. "Fit for a girl, anyway. Nothing is happening!"
Then they came to a little door hidden deep inside the castle, which had three locks on it, and one small window in the middle.
|Enchanted Castle by Samantha Storey|
Taking turns, the children looked through the little hole. Inside the room they saw a little grey-haired man sitting at a table. They knocked, once, twice and he did not move; but at the third knock, he came to the door, slowly unlocked all the locks, and came out and bowed to them; never speaking a word.
Silently the little man led them through a carpeted hall to a table loaded with all sorts of good things to eat, and when they had eaten and drunk their fill, he led them each to a comfortable bed-chamber. And by this time they were so tired and sleepy that they all fell asleep without further ado.
Next morning the little man awakened the eldest cousin and took him downstairs, leaving the other two children still sleeping soundly.
Still without speaking, he led him to a glass casket, within which was scroll, only partly unrolled, which said:
There are three tasks, which if done will deliver this castle from its enchantment; and a great reward will be given to the hero who succeeds.
Task the First. Under the moss and leaves of the forest, are scattered a thousand pearls belonging to the Queen. All must be found by sunset of a single day, or the seeker shall be turned to stone.
Upon reading this, the elder cousin rushed out to the woods and began looking for the pearls. He searched all day, but the pearls were so scattered and so deeply hidden under the moss and leaves, that by sunset he had found scarcely one hundred. So as soon as the last beam of sun left his hair, he was turned to stone. All day the middle cousin and Belinda rested in the castle, wondering where he had gone.
Next morning the little man woke the middle cousin and took him downstairs, leaving Belinda still sleeping soundly, and showed him the scroll. The middle cousin too ran out to look for the pearls, but found only two hundred before sunset, and was also turned to stone. When she woke and found herself alone, Belinda supposed that the cousins had decided to go on without her. She spent the day exploring the castle and reading old books in its library, then had another fine dinner and went to sleep.
Next morning the little man woke her at dawn. Without speaking, her led her to the glass casket and showed her the scroll.
"I wonder what are the other tasks," she said. "It would be silly to risk getting turned to stone for the pearls, then find the other tasks were quite impossible."
The little man smiled, bowed, and nodded reassuringly.
"You mean," Belinda said, "that the other tasks are no worse?"
Belinda went outside, saw her cousins’ tracks, followed their trail, and found them both turned to stone. She ran back and asked the little man, "Is there any way I can help them?"
The little man nodded, and pointed at the scroll.
"You mean – if I deliver the castle from its enchantment, my cousins will come back to normal too?"
The little grey man nodded again, and pointed toward the stable with its stone horses, and smiled beseechingly.
"Very well," said Belinda, "I will try."
So Belinda took a sack, put in it the three hundred pearls the brothers had already found, and went out to search in the moss for the rest. The moss and fallen leaves smelled wonderful, but by noon-time she had found only one dozen more pearls, and her back ached, and her fingers were sore with the digging and sifting dirt. "I cannot do this!" she said, and sat down and wept.
As she sat weeping, along came the King of the Ants, whose anthill Belinda had saved from her thoughtless cousins. "What is your trouble?" he asked.
When Belinda told him, the King of the Ants sent word, and soon five thousand ants came and searched under the moss, and it was not very long before the little insects had collected all the pearls and put them in a heap (including the three hundred pearls that her cousins had already found). Belinda thanked them kindly, and they gave her their blessing and departed.
So Belinda put the pearls in the sack and took them back to the little man, who beamed with happiness at the sight. He placed the sack on the glass casket, and at once the scroll unwound to show the following words:
Task the Second: Somewhere in the mud of the lake, is hidden the key to the Queen’s bedchamber. It must be found by sunset of a single day, or the seeker shall be turned to stone.
"How ever am I to do that?" thought Belinda. But she went along to the lake, and there came swimming the little ducks whom she had saved. They dived below and quickly found the key.
Belinda gave the key to the little man, who laid it on the glass casket. The scroll unwound to show:
Task the Third: In the Queen’s bedchamber, she lies sleeping with two of her Ladies in Waiting. You must choose which is the true Queen.
"How ever am I to do that?" thought Belinda. But she went along to the lake, and there came swimming the little ducks whom she had saved. They dived below and quickly found the key. Belinda gave the key to the little man, who laid it on the glass casket. The scroll unwound to show: "Well, that might not be so hard," thought Belinda. But when she came to the bed-chamber and opened it with the key, she found three ladies asleep, all so beautiful and wearing such soft white bed-clothes that there seemed no way to distinguish among them.
So Belinda looked round the chamber. On a little marble table were three cups: two of silver, containing the dregs of hot chocolate, and one of gold, containing the dregs of ambrosia and rosewater. "Well, probably the Queen drank the rosewater," Belinda sighed, "but how does that help me find her?"
Just then, through the window flew one of the bees whom Belinda had saved. When Belinda told her the story, the bee at once went and sniffed the lips of each lady, and settled upon the one who had drunk the rosewater.
So Belinda went to that lady's bed, stood straight, and said loudly: "This lady is the Queen!’
At this the three ladies all sat up and smiled at Belinda, and the Queen said, "Welcome to our castle, my dear." Outside, all the stone horses came back to life and began neighing and prancing. The other people of the castle, who had been simply vanished, reappeared also; and all was life and celebration again.
Belinda’s cousins also were restored, and when they ran back to the castle, found a great crowd on the lawn cheering Belinda as their rescuerer. The Queen invited them all to live with her, and even sent for the old uncle as well. She gave him and his sons a nice game-keeper’s cottage; but Belinda she took to live in the castle and gave the title of Princess.
So they all lived happily in great splendor and merriment from then on, and many years later after the Queen’s death, Belinda became Queen in her stead.
|Queen of Hearts by Hajra Meeks|