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After the lapse of two years the calm
happiness of the court was interrupted by
the death of the queen, who in her last
moments sent for Yolka's nurse, and placed
in her hands the tiny basket, in which the
fragments of the wonderful egg were still

"Observe this," she said; ''it contains
the future welfare of your young charge.
When she is ten years old you will transfer
it to her keeping, fully making her understand
its importance. And, above all, never
say a word on the subject to any one

"But with respect to the young prince?"
said the nurse, with a fragmentary

"Boys," replied the expiring queen,
"are able to look after themselves."

"That's very true, your Majesty,"
observed the nurse, forgetting for a moment
the solemnity of the occasion, and indulging
in a chuckle, which was cut short by
the entrance of the king.

"My beloved lord," said the queen.
"Before I leave this world" (the king
blew his nose), "I have a solemn request
to make, which I trust you will not

"What is it?" asked the king, looking

"In the name of all you love and revere,
I implore you to allow little Yolka—"

"Our little Yolka," interposed the king.

"Little Yolka," repeated the queen,
dexterously avoiding the pronoun. "You
will allow her, when she is too old for a
nurse, still to retain in her service the
excellent person who now acts in that

"Most certainly," ejaculated the king,
feeling his mind infinitely relieved. "My
only wonder is that you should be so
emphatic in soliciting such a mere trifle. But
every one knows his own business best."

Years passed away. The good queen
was dead, and the king had taken unto
himself another wife, who, on principle,
hated the two children, and made herself
so exceedingly unpleasant that the king,
hoping, at his advanced age, to enjoy
occasionally a quiet home, removed them to a
distance from the palace, under the charge
of their ever-faithful nurse. Sometimes
they would accidentally come across the
new queen, but so great a storm was
invariably the result of such encounters, and
the royal lady had so confirmed a habit of
repelling unwelcome objects with her foot,
that they instinctively avoided all chance
of collision.

When Yolka had reached the tenth
anniversary of her nominal birthday, the nurse
placed in her hands the wonderful basket,
exhorting her to take care of it, with a
solemnity that by no means produced the
desired result. A tiny basket could scarcely
appear precious in the eyes of a heedless
child; so she tossed the treasure into a
box where she usually kept her toys.

About two years afterwards, when the
king was out of the way, the perverse
queen, strolling in the garden, found Yolka
sitting under a linden tree, and the
consequence of the discovery was a box on the
ears, administered so smartly that, to the
dazzled eyes of the poor girl, the world
became one vast kaleidoscope. When she
had reached her own room, she began to
bethink herself of the neglected basket, and
to wonder whether it would prevent the
recurrence of a similar infliction. So she
looked it up, but, finding that it contained
nothing but a broken egg-shell, and what
her supposed parent had called a "fluff,"
she pitched the rubbish out of window.

Fortunately the wind caught the fluff,
which had lost none of its inviting properties,
and a wonderfully beautiful and sparkling
lady stood before the astonished Yolka.
Had she ever seen a pantomime, she would
have expected to be changed into columbine;
but pantomimes, in her days, were not

"Do not, my beloved child," said the
lady, in very stately style—"do not feel in
the slightest degree intimidated by the
sudden manner, certainly unusual, in which I
make my appearance. I am your god-
mother, and the best friend you have in
the world. From the swollen condition of
your eyelids, I could easily infer that your
existence is far from happy; but I stand in
need of no such indications, since, by a
process unnecessary to explain, I know the
condition of everybody in general, and of
you in particular. That, indeed, is my
idiosyncrasy. At present, let me exhort
you to endure your troubles bravely, since,
take my word for it, they will soon
come to a close, and vanish like the mirage.
When you have reached the years of
maturity, your stepmother, as you, perchance
not quite accurately, call her, will have lost
all power of controlling you, and no one else
will be able to injure you: provided, that is,
you take care of the minute basket, and
do not lose sight of the shells. For, lo! a
day will come when the fragments will