"You gave a gift to that pollywogthat she would not die when she bit on an explosive, but that she would weep and weep. Now you must take that gift away from the child," cried Old Dame Hornet. "She's making an unholy racket."
"I'm not an unreasonable beetle," said the bishop. "But you're far too quick to the sting, Old Dame Hornet. If you get over your anger and apologize to little Beauty and promise never to hurt her again, I'll say a blessing over her. Maybe she'll stop crying."
"Her parents didn't invite me to the party," said Old Dame Hornet. "I never get invited anywhere. It makes me mad all over again just to think about it. I'm not going to promise anything, Your Eminence. I don't bargain with clergy. Besides, I like to be mean. It's fun."
Off she flew to interfere with the baron of the butterflies.
"Can you do me a favor, Your Excellency?" she said. "That little Beauty is weeping too hard. I can't stand it. Can you say a spell of your own and make her stop weeping?"
"I don't know much about weeping," said the baron. "Butterflies don't weep. But we spend a lot of time sleeping in our cocoons before we become so gorgeous. Maybe I could change the spell from weeping to sleeping. It's simply a spelling change, after all, from w to sl. Weeping to sleeping."
"Do it," said Old Dame Hornet.
"What'll you pay me?" he said.
"Your Excellency, I'll sting you if you don't," she said. "Excellently."
The baron of the butterflies knew that her stinger would puncture his beautiful wing and cripple him for life. He was a good fairy, but he was a little vain. So he meandered over to Weeping Beauty in as direct a route as he could manage, being a butterfly.
"Maybe it'll be better if she sleeps a little," he said to the king and the queen of the frogs. "You need some rest too."
"We'll never rest till this spell is lifted off our one and only child," they said.
The baron of the butterflies said a spell and changed Weeping to Sleeping. Instantly the little frog stopped wailing and sobbing and began to sleep. Boy, did she sleep. She snored so loudly that it sounded like a chain saw buzzing through the oak tree.
When Old Dame Hornet came along and saw what had happened, she was relievedat first. She took herself to bed with a hot toddy and a copy of TV Guide. But she couldn't concentrate. Little Sleeping Beauty snored like thunder, louder than ever. Old Dame Hornet tried to sleep. But little Sleeping Beauty snored like competing kettledrum quartets having a battle of the bands during a thunderstorm. Thunder and landslides and rock bands and kettledrums. It was just awful. Old Dame Hornet pulled her braided rug up over her head.
Soon the wicked old fairy could stand it no longer. Off she zizzed to see the boss of the bumblebees.
"That Weeping Beauty has become Sleeping Beauty, and it's worse than ever!" she cried. "I can get no rest, neither day nor night! You're a bumblebee. Are you a spelling bee? Can you change the spell, Your Effervescence?"
"No can do, tootsie," said the boss of the bumblebees, who had a little sting of his own and therefore wasn't so scared of Old Dame Hornet.
"Please," said Old Dame Hornet.
"What's the payoff if I do?" said the boss of the bumblebees.
"What do you want as a payment?" asked Old Dame Hornet, in as fetching a manner as she could manage given she was quivering with exhaustion and rage.
The boss of the bumblebees buzzed in thought. At last he said, "Listen, you Old Dame, this is my fee. You aren't to put any more evil spells on little babies. You know why you never get invited to birthday parties? Because you're a nasty piece of work. Try being a little nicer. Maybe you'll get asked out more often."
The foregoing is the complete short story titled Leaping Beauty from the book of the same name by Gregory Maguire. Text copyright © 2004 by Gregory Maguire. Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Chris Demarest. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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