This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series

 

The Baby from the Eagle's Nest

Once there was a girl named Gretchen who lived in a big stone house in the woods with a kindly old wizard; but unfortunately he was so old and absent-minded that he paid little attention to her or to his household from one day to the next. Still he treated her well, asked little work of her, and let her read to her heart's content in old books and scrolls in his library, and even let her practice a few of the simpler spells; though nothing as dangerous as buckets and brooms, of course.

Now one day while the wizard was gathering herbs in the woods, from a tall tree he heard a child crying. Using one of his spells, he flew to the top of the tree and found there a large bird's nest, which was empty except for a beautiful little boy. "Whatever are you doing here?" the wizard said.

"An eagle stole me from my mother," said the boy. But he was too young to remember the name of his family or village, and the wizard could get no sense from him.

So the wizard carried the boy home; there he called Gretchen to him and said, "I have brought you a playmate. I found him in an eagle's nest, so we will call him Nestor." At once the little boy held out his arms to Gretchen, and they became the dearest of friends. So for a long time Gretchen and Nestor lived happily, studying the easiest of the wizard's spells and running and playing about the house and garden.

As he grew older, Nestor showed a great talent for growing fruits and vegetables and cooking wonderful savory stews and pies. "Perhaps", the wizard said one night after dinner, "soon we can retire the cook" - who was a very cross and disagreeable old man named Crumppet - "and let Nestor take over the kitchen."

"That would be wonderful," said Gretchen, for the cook was always boxing people's ears with the serving spoon, which she thought rather unsanitary.

And Nestor said, "I would like that very much."

But old Crumppet, the cook, overhearing this, became angry and jealous, and determined to get rid of Nestor . He thought about it for a long time. He knew he would have to do something extraordinay, or the wizard's spells would quickly find out what had become of the boy.

The cook also began reading in the wizard's library, and finally determined on a plan: he would kill the boy and cook his body in a stew.

So, when next the wizard set out on a journey, Crumppet got out a very big iron kettle and filled it with water; then he fell asleep and Gretchen heard him muttering: "Tomorrow I'll kill the boy and cook him, tomorrow that Nestor will be stew."

Gretchen could scarcely believe her ears! What could she do? The wizard was away for several days. The other servants would never believe such a crazy story. There was nothing to do but run away; she hoped she could persuade Nestor to believe her.

Gretchen packed all the food she could carry, and put on rough outdoor clothing, then went to the library. She didn't dare light a candle, but chose the three shortest scrolls she could find, hoping they would turn out to have useful spells.

At first light of day she went to Nestor's room and woke him. "Do you trust me?" she said. "Will you go with me wherever I take you?"

Nestor hugged her. "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."

"I will never leave you," said Gretchen. Then she told him about Crumppet's plan, and together they snuck out of the house and took a path toward the woods.

Now as soon as old Crumppet awoke, he built a fire under his kettle, and while it was heating he went to Nestor's room to get the boy. But he found the bed empty. Crumppet ran to Gretchen's room and found her gone also.

Now Crumppet flew into a fit of rage and determined to find and boil both children! So he began shouting "Thief, thief!" and roused the servants. "Those children have stolen the wizard's scrolls and run away!" he told them. "Search for them in all directions!"

So the servants set out in all directions, with three footmen running toward the woods along the same path that Gretchen and Nestor were walking.

Gretchen heard the servants coming, but there was no place to hide; they were still a long way from the woods. So she took out the first scroll. For Transformation To A Rose-Tree, it said. "I hope it can do us both," said Gretchen. "Hold my hand."

Nestor held her hand tight and said, "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."

"I will never leave you," said Gretchen, then recited the words on the scroll.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she became a beautiful rose-tree, and Nestor became a red rose growing upon it.

The three footmen ran straight by with scarcely a second glance. They searched for a while, then gave up and went home, scarcely stopping to smell the rose as they passed the rosebush. "We could not find the children," they told the cook. All the other servants who had been looking reported the same thing.

"Idiots!" said the cook. "They must have been hiding. Didn't you see anything unusual?"

"Well, there was a rose-tree with one rose...."

"Dolts! That was them! I told you they had stolen the wizard's scrolls! You should have plucked the rose and cut down the tree. Now go back and do it!"

But of course, as soon as the servants had passed, Gretchen and Nestor had become themselves again, and run further along. Then they heard the three footmen coming again. Gretchen took out the next scroll. For Transformation to a Marble Shrine, it said. "Hold my hand," she said.

Nestor held her hand tight and said, "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."

"I will never leave you," said Gretchen, then recited the words on the scroll.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she became a white marble shrine, and Nestor became a silver bell hanging above it.

Agan the servants ran straight by with scarcely a second glance. On their way back, they stopped in the shrine to leave an offering. "What did you see this time?" the cook asked when they got home.

"Only a white marble shrine with a silver bell...."

"Cretins! That was them! You should have torn down the shrine and brought me the bell!"

"That would be bad karma," said the footmen. "You will have to do that yourself." So the cook set off following the path alone.

Again the children had become themselves, and saw the cook coming after them. They were still a long way from the wood, so Gretchen took out the last scroll. For Transformation to a Lily-Pond, it said. "Hold my hand," she said.

Nestor held her hand tight and said, "If you never leave me, I will never leave you."

"I will never leave you," said Gretchen, then recited the words on the scroll.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she became a beautiful lily-pond, and Nestor became a little white duck swimming among the flowers.

But old Crumppet the cook was not fooled. He stalked up to the pond and commanded: "Change back!"

"Quack quack, to you!" said the duck, swimming away.

Crumppet waded into the water to catch the duck. But the duck grabbed Crumppet's shoelaces and untied them, and then pecked at his behind till he sat down in the mud and stuck fast. All the servants came running and stood round laughing at him. The duck swam round and round quacking, "You can't catch me, you can't cook me!"

Finally Crumppet became so angry that he shouted, "When you become a boy again, then I will cook you! The kettle is hot!"

The servants were shocked. "So you are as bad as that!" they said. Most of the servants stayed and began throwing mud at him, but the scullery maids ran back to the house and put out the fire and took the kettle back to the basement, and hung it upside down and rubbed with cooking oil so it wouldn't rust.

Just then the wizard, who had completed his business sooner than expected, returned and asked what the fuss was about. The maids told him the whole story and led him to the lily-pond, where the cook was still stuck in the mud and shouting at the duck.

The wizard was so angry that he fired the cook at once, and furthermore summoned the bailiff to put him in jail. Then the wizard said to the duck, "You must be Nestor. Where is Gretchen?"

"She is the lily-pond," said the duck, climbing out. "Will you please change us back?" For Gretchen had been a lily-pond so long that she could not seem to change back again.

"With all my heart!" said the wizard, and spoke a magic formula. At once Nestor and Gretchen became themselves again - though Gretchen was quite muddy and rather stirred up. So the wizard took them straight home and the servants gave them both a hot bath, clean clothes, and hot soup and crackers and butter.

"And now," said the wizard, "I have got some wonderful good news." It seems that while on the journey he had met Nestor's mother, who had been seeking for her lost child all this time. So after this she came to live with them in the wizard's house; and she and Gretchen studied magic together, and Nestor took over the kitchen, and all lived in peace and happiness from then on.

The End

Based on a story from Grimm. -- RL

 

This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince,
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure

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