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 The Princess and the Pea

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there lived a handsome young prince. The tome had come for him to find a princess to marry.
"She must be a real princess," the Prince told the King and Queen, "That is the most important thing of all."
So the Prince rode off to search for a real princess.
He traveled far and wide for many years. Whenever he saw a castle, he stopped to find out if a real princess lived there.
On his travels, the Prince met many clever and beautiful ladies, but he was never quite sure if they were real princesses. For a real princess is a very special person, and there are very few of them to be found.
At last, sad and lonely, the Prince returned home.
One night a terrible storm raged around the castle where the Prince lived with the King and Queen. Rain beat against the old stone walls, and thund
er roared overhead.
As lightning flashed across the sky, a small figure struggled through the rain and knocked on the castle door.
Inside, all the servants were hiding, frightened of the storm. The King himself went to see who was knocking on such a wild night.
The King was astonished to see a beautiful young girl standing outside!
She was shivering with cold, and dripping from head to foot.
"My dear, come in at once!" cried the King. He led the lovely stranger to the warm room where the Queen and the Prince were waiting.
As soon as he saw her, the Prince fell in love with the beautiful girl.
He was filled with happiness when she curtsied and said, "Your Majesties, I am a real Princess."
"Well, well," thought the Queen, "we'll soon find out whether she's a real princess." While the lovely visitor put on dry clothes, the Queen herself went to see that a comfortable bed was made ready.
Right at the b
ottom of the bed, on the very first mattress, the Queen put a tiny green pea. Then she said, "Bring more mattresses! Hurry!"
At last the bed was ready. There were so many mattresses that a ladder was needed to reach the top!
"I hope you will have a comfortable night, my dear," said the Queen, leading her visitor to bed.
In the morning, th Queen hurried to find out if her plan had worked.
The young girl was already awake and sitting up in bed.
"Did you sleep well, my dear?" asked the Queen.
"I'm afraid I didn't sleep at all," the girl replied, "There was something hard in the bed, and it has made me black and blue all over."
The Queen smiled. "Only a real princess would have such delicate skin that she could feel a pea through so many mattresses." she said.
When the Queen told the Prince the news, he was overjoyed. "At last I have found you!" he told the Princess. "Please say you will be my bride."
The Princess shone with happiness. "I will," she whispered.
So the Prince and the Princess were married, amid great rejoicing.
As for the pea, it was put in a museum. People came from far and near to look at it.
"You see," they said to each other, "our princess is a real princess. She is a very special person indeed!"

By Nicola Baxter
illustrated by Robert Ayton