Once upon a time, in the days of the Fairies, there lived, on the borders of a great wood, a widow who had two daughters. She was a silly, ill-tempered woman, very proud and disagreeable. Her elder daughter, who was like her in temper, was her favourite child; and she spoiled her by constant praise and pettins, till the girl grew so proud and rude, that no one loved her except her mother. The younger was sweet-tempered, gentle and kind; but her foolish mother did not love her, and treated her very unkindly. She made her live in the kitchen, and work all day with the servants. One of the girl's tasks was to draw water twice a day from a fountain, more than a mile and a half distant from the house, in the midst of the wood. One day, just as she had filled her pitcher, an old woman came up to her, and asked her to give her a draught of water.
«Willingly, Goody,» replied the girl. «Let me hold the jug for you, for it is very heavy.»
As soon as the old dame had finished drinking, she said to Rose, «Thank you, my dear; you are so kind, and you speak so sweetly, that I mean to bestow a gift on you. Every time you speak there shall drop from your lips a rose, a diamond and a pearl.»
Then the old woman disappeared. She was really a Fairy in disguise, who has wished to try whether the young girl was civil and kind.
When Rose reached her home, her mother met her at the door, and began to scold her for staying so long at the fountain.
« I am very sorry: I beg your pardon, mother, she said meekly, for not coming home sooner.»
And as she spoke there fell from her lips two pearls, three diamonds and two roses.
« What do I see? What is this? cried the mother; she drops diamonds and pearls from her lips! My child – (this was the first time that she had ever called her «my child») – how did this happen? »
Then the poor girl told her mother all that had befallen her at the fountain, dropping pearls and diamonds from her mouth all the time she was speaking.
« How very fortunate! said the old lady : I must send my darling thither directly. Fanny! Do you see what falls from your sister's lips when she speaks? Should you not like such a gift? Well, you must go to the fountain, and when a poor woman asks you for water, you must grant her request in the most civil manner.»
«Indeed, answered the proud girl, I shall do no such thing. I do not choose to be servant to any one. »
« But you shall go, » said her mother; and for once, she made her disobedient child obey her. But Fanny took the best silver tankard, instead of the brown pitcher.
She had no sooner reached the fountain, than a lady most magnificently dressed came out of the woodland path, and asked Fanny to giver her some water. This was the same Fairy who had before appeared as a poor old woman; and she came for the same purpose, that was, to try whether the young girl was kind and obliging: but lest she should only pretend goodness in ordre to gain the precious gift, the Fairy appeared in a different form.
«I did not come here to draw water for strangers, said Fanny, scornfully; I suppose you think the best silver tankard was brought on purpose for your ladyship! However, you may drink out of it if you have the fancy.»
«You are not very obliging, said the Fairy; and since you have behaved with so little civility, I will bestow a gift on you which shall be your punishment. Every time you speak, there shall drop from your lips a viper or a toad.»
Having said these words she disappeared; and Fanny went home very sullen and angry. As soon as her mother saw her coming, she ran to meet her, and exclaimed eagerley,
« Well, daughter? »
« Well, mother, » answered the girl, and two toads and two vipers dropped from her mouth as she spoke!
« Ah-h-h! what is this? cried the mother; it is all your sister's doing, no doubt. I'll make her suffer for her wickedness! »
And she instantly went in search of the poor innocent girl, that she might beat her severely.
But Rose, in great fear, ran out of the house into the forest, where she wandered about, weeping very bitterly.
Towards evening, the King's son, who was returning from hunting, came that way, and seeing a poor girl apparently in great trouble, he alighted from his horse, and asked her why she wept; for he was very kind and good-hearted.
« Alas! said Rose, sobbing, my mother is so cruel to me that I have been obliged to leave my home. »
The Kin's son was astonished to see roses, pearls, and diamonds fall from her lips as she spoke, and asked her the reason of such a wonder. The girl then related all that had befallen her at the fountain.
The Prince was charmed with her innocence and gentleness, and fell in love with her. He saw that, although she was only a poor girl, she possessed a valuable gift which would make him and his people very rich; so he took her back to the palace of the King his father, who, anxious to have such a daughter-in-law, immediately gave his consent to their marriage, and the gentle Rose became a great Queen.
As for her sister, the toads and vipers she dropped were so dreadful, that her selfish and cruel mother soon grew tired of having her in the house, and turned her out of doors. As she had not improved, but was worse tempered than ever, no one would take her in, and be troubled with toads and vipers. So she was obliged to wander about in the woods, all alone ; and there she soon died of grief and hunger.
Kind words are as precious as pearls and diamonds, and as sweet as roses. Cross, unkind words are as bad as toads and vipers.