For the first time in his life that he could remember, he heard of Santa Claus and Christmas trees, of Bluebeard and Aladdin's lamp, and all the dear old fairy tales that were so entrancing he almost forgot to eat. Then they played that he was the prince, Prince Ethelried, and that the goats in the carriage-house were his royal steeds, and that Joyce was a queen whom he had come to visit.
Joyce saw his distress, and with quick womanly tact recognized her duty as hostess. It would never do to let this, his first Thanksgiving Day, be clouded by a single unhappy remembrance. She would pretend that it was a part of their last game; so she waved her hand, and said, in a theatrical voice, "You forget, Prince Ethelried, that in the castle of Irmingarde she rules supreme.
But it came to an end, as all beautiful things must do. The bells in the village rang four, and Prince Ethelried started up as Cinderella must have done when the pumpkin coach disappeared. He was no longer a king's son; he was only Jules, the little goatherd, who must hurry back to the field before the coming of Brossard. Joyce went with him to the carriage-house.
Again the Fairy touched the scissors, saying: "Giant scissors, bridge the path, And save us from the Ogre's wrath." Again the scissors grew longer and longer, until they lay across the chasm like a shining bridge. Ethelried hurried across after the Fairy, trembling and dizzy, for the Ogre was now almost upon them.
In the morning I shall surely come again, and then beware!" Now as he stopped to grin once more at the poor Prince, a Fly darted in, and, blinded by the darkness of the dungeon, flew straight into a spider's web, above the head of Ethelried. "Poor creature!" thought Ethelried. "Thou shalt not be left a prisoner in this dismal spot while I have the power to help thee."
They did not know his name, they did not know that he was Prince Ethelried, but they knew by his valor that there was royal blood in his veins. So they all cried out long and loud: "Long live the Prince! Prince Ciseaux!" Then the King stepped down from his throne and took off his crown to give to the conqueror, but Ethelried put it aside. "Nay," he said.
"My grain must fall and rot in the field from overripeness because I have not the strength to rise and harvest it; then indeed must we all starve." Ethelried heard him, and that night, when the moon rose, he stole into the field to cut it down with the giant scissors. They were so rusty from long idleness that he could scarcely move them.
It had suddenly disappeared, and in its place stood a beautiful Fairy with filmy wings, which shone like rainbows in the moonlight. "Prince Ethelried," she said in a voice that was like a crystal bell's for sweetness, "dost thou not know that thou art in the domain of a frightful Ogre? It was he who changed me into the form of a wild beast, and set the snare to capture me.
All of a sudden he shut up the house, sent away all the servants but the two who take care of it, and went off to Algiers to live. Five years ago he came back to bring his little grand-nephew, but nobody has seen him since that time. Doesn't that make you think of Prince Ethelried in the fairy tale? 'Little and lorn; no fireside welcomed him and no lips gave him a friendly greeting.
"Not until thou hast proved thyself a prince with these, shalt thou come into thy kingdom," he swore with a mighty oath. "Until that far day, now get thee gone!" So Ethelried left the palace, and wandered away over mountain and moor with a heavy heart. No one knew that he was a prince; no fireside offered him welcome; no lips gave him a friendly greeting.