Long ago there was a little maid who lived all alone with her grandmother. They were very poor. The girl's name was Honoria.
One day the grandmother sent the girl out to sell some of the oranges from their orange tree.
"You must bring home at least three vintens to me," she said. "Don't dare return without at least that small amount of money."
Honoria went from door to door trying to sell the oranges. Every one seemed to have plenty of them that day. There was nobody who would purchase a single one.
She walked on and on through the town, everywhere obtaining the same answer, "We do not wish to purchase any oranges to-day."
Finally she found herself outside the town and in the forest. There was a house with the door wide open and on the table in front of the door lay three vintens. There was no one in sight and nobody answered Honoria's knock at the door.
"I'll take the money and leave some oranges in place of it," said Honoria. "That will not be stealing."
Accordingly, she selected some of the largest and finest of her oranges and placed them on the table. She put the money away carefully to take to her grandmother. Then she turned to leave, but found that the door was closed.
She tried her best to open it but could not. Neither could she open any of the windows to climb out by that means. The windows were all fastened just as securely as the door.
"What shall I do?" cried the girl, who was now thoroughly frightened.
She did not like the idea of remaining a prisoner in the house in the forest. All day she tried to find some way of escape, but there seemed nothing to do except to wait until somebody came to her aid.
"This house is not far from the city. Surely some one will be passing this way and will come and help me get out," said Honoria. "I hope they'll come before night."
There was nothing to eat in the house and she was thankful enough for the big basket full of juicy oranges.
At last it grew dark. Then Honoria heard footsteps outside the house. She could not see who was coming, but a key was turned in the lock and some one entered. She was so frightened that she hid under the table.
A lighted candle showed that seven dwarfs had entered the house. They had brought food with them, and they at once went to work to prepare their evening meal.
"Who left us all these fine oranges?" asked one of the dwarfs.
"I do not know," replied another. "Some one has surely been here and it must have been a kind friend."
Honoria was almost tempted to crawl from under the table and show herself, but she decided that it would be better to stay where she was and go home the next day when it was light.
When morning came, however, she found that she had been sleeping so soundly that she had not heard the seven dwarfs when they left the house. The door was fastened just as securely as before.
Honoria looked about the house and saw that there was enough work to keep her busy all day. There were dishes to wash and floors to sweep and beds to make. Fortunately the dwarfs had left plenty of food.
When night came she heard the footsteps approaching and again hid under the table. As soon as the seven dwarfs came into the house they saw that it had been changed wonderfully during their absence.
"Our dishes are all washed!" cried one of the dwarfs. "Last night we forgot to wash them after supper!"
"Our beds are all made!" cried another. "We left home so early this morning we did not have time to make them!"
"Our floors are all swept and everything is in order!" cried another. "We never have looked so neat and clean!"
"Somebody must have been here," said one of the dwarfs.
"It is surely a kind friend," said another.
"Perhaps they are here yet!" cried another.
"If they are men we'll treat them like brothers and if they are women we'll treat them like sisters," said the seventh dwarf who had not spoken before. He had been looking around the house carefully, but he had seen no one.
Honoria crawled out from under the table. The dwarfs joined hands and danced around her in a circle.
"We have a big sister now!" they cried. "A big sister to take care of us!"
Honoria knew that if she said anything about leaving the dwarfs they would be heartbroken. She knew, too, that her grandmother would give her a terrible beating for staying away from home so long. The easiest thing seemed to be to remain in the forest and keep house for the seven dwarfs.
Weeks and months went by and Honoria led a happy life in the forest. The dwarfs brought home plenty of delicious food and they also brought her the prettiest dresses she had ever seen. They were green like the moss and the leaves of the forest and brown like the rich earth about the house. There was a little hat with red berries upon it which Honoria thought the most charming hat in the world. She tried it on and ran to the brook to look at her reflection, for there was not a single mirror in the house.
One day the king passed by with his gay hunting party. That day Honoria had on her prettiest moss-green dress and the king thought her the loveliest maiden he had ever seen. He stopped to chat with her.
"Do you live here in the forest all alone?" he asked.
"No, I keep house for my seven brothers," was Honoria's answer.
"What a lovely little housekeeper!" cried the king. "Marry me and come to live in the royal palace!"
"I must ask my brothers first," responded Honoria. "I will tell you to-morrow what they say."
That night when the seven dwarfs came home Honoria told them about her visit from the king.
"How can we spare our big sister?" cried one of the dwarfs.
"Who will keep house for us when she goes away?" cried another.
"Who will make the beds so nicely?" asked another.
"Who will sweep our floors?"
"Who will wash our dishes?"
"Who will sew on our buttons?"
"I have known that our big sister would marry sometime," said the seventh dwarf who had not spoken, but who had been thinking quietly. "Why shouldn't she marry the king?"
"We must let her marry the king! We must not be selfish!" cried all the dwarfs together.
They decided that Honoria should marry the king, but they asked her not to let him kiss her until he had first said these words: "By permission of the seven enchanted princes." He would have to remember it without being reminded by Honoria.
Honoria told the king what her brothers had said and the wedding was celebrated with great joy.
When the king tried to kiss Honoria she burst into tears. He had forgotten all about saying: "By permission of the seven enchanted princes."
Honoria would not let the king kiss her, and she cried so much and struggled so hard that the king thought she had gone crazy. He ordered her shut up in the dark cell underneath the palace. Then he married a new queen.
Now it happened that there was a faithful servant who was quite sure that Honoria was not crazy. When Honoria told her of the words which the king must say before he kissed her this servant tried to think of some way to help her. She was very angry at the fact that there was a new queen.
One day she went to the queen and said: "Queen Honoria who is shut up in the dark cell underneath the palace is much more clever than you are."
"What does Queen Honoria do that is so clever?" asked the new queen.
"Queen Honoria will take a sword and cut off her head. Then she will put it back on again so that it is as good as new. I don't believe you are clever enough to do that."
"I never tried it," answered the new queen, "but just to show you that I'm as clever as Queen Honoria I'll do it."
With these words she seized a sword and cut off her head. Of course she fell dead immediately. The king married a new queen.
Then the servant went to the new queen and said: "Queen Honoria who is shut up in the dark cell underneath the palace is more clever than you are."
The new queen was indignant at this remark. "Why is she more clever than I am?" she asked. "What can she do that I can't do?"
"She can take a sword and cut off her hand. Then she'll stick the hand on again and it will be as good as new."
"I've never tried it, but I'll do it just to convince you that I am clever too," said this new queen.
She took up a sword and cut off her right hand. Then she fainted away. The arm grew full of poison and the queen soon died, but not until she had told the king what the servant had said to her.
The king was very angry at the servant and called her to him.
"What do you mean," he thundered, "by telling such a story about Queen Honoria's magic powers?"
"I wanted you to remember where you had found Queen Honoria," replied the servant.
Then the king suddenly remembered how he had first seen Queen Honoria when she was in the house in the forest. He thought of how pretty she had been in the dress which looked like soft green moss. Then he thought of how she had said that she must ask permission of her seven brothers before she consented to become his queen.
"By permission of the seven enchanted princes!" he cried. "I forgot to say these words before I kissed my dear Queen Honoria!"
He quickly ran to the dark cell underneath the palace where she was confined. He said the magic words and kissed his fair queen who was just as beautiful as before she had been shut up in the cell, though a trifle paler.
In the house in the forest the seven dwarfs who were in truth seven enchanted princes suddenly were disenchanted.
"Our dear sister Honoria did not forget us after all," they cried in joy.
Notes: The book contains 34 folktales from the Azores (Portugal).
Author: Elsie Spicer Eells
Publisher: Hardcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., New York