said that it confused her to have to remember so many names. One
day the King decided to call them January, February, March (though
of course in Siamese) till he came to the youngest whom he
The King of Siam had a peculiar habit. Instead of receiving
gifts on his birthday he gave them. One year on his birthday, not
having anything else handy, he gave each of his daughters a
green parrot in a golden cage. The princesses were very proud of
their parrots and they spent an hour every day in teaching them
to talk. Presently all the parrots could say ‘God save the king’
and some of them could say ‘Pretty Polly’ in no less than seven
But one day when Princess September went to say good morning
to her parrot she found it lying dead at the bottom of its golden
cage. She burst into a flood of tears, and nothing that her Maids
of Honour could say comforted her. She cried so much that the
Maids of Honour, not knowing what to do, told the Queen, and
the Queen said it was stuff and nonsense and the child had better
go to bed without any supper. The Maids of Honour wanted to go
to a party, so they put Princess September to bed as quickly as
they could and left her by herself. And while she lay in her bed,
crying still even though she felt rather hungry, she saw a little
bird hop into her room. She wiped her tears and sat up. Then the
little bird began to sing and he sang a beautiful song all about the
lake in the King’s garden and the willow trees that looked at
themselves in the still water and the goldfish that glided in and
out of the branches that were reflected in it. When he had finished,
the Princess was not crying any more and she quite forgot that
she had had no supper. “That was a very nice song,” she said.
The little bird gave her a bow. “Would you care to have me in
place of your parrot?” said the little bird. “It’s true that I’m not so
pretty to look at, but on the other hand I have a much better voice.”
Princess September clapped her hands with delight and then the
little bird hopped on to the end of her bed and sang her to sleep.
When she awoke next day the little bird was still there, and as
she opened her eyes he said, “Good morning!” The Maids of Honour
brought in her breakfast, and he ate rice out of her hand and he
had his bath in her saucer. He began to sing again so beautifully
that the Maids of Honour were quite surprised, for they had never
heard anything like it, and Princess September was very proud
“Now I want to show you to my eight sisters,” said the Princess.
She stretched out the first finger of her right hand so that it
served as a perch and the little bird flew down and sat on it. Then,
followed by her Maids of Honour, she went through the palace and
called on each of the Princesses. And for each of them the little bird
sang a different song. But the parrots could only say ‘God save the
king’ and ‘Pretty Polly’. At last she showed the little bird to the King
and the Queen. They were surprised and delighted.
“I knew I was right to send you to bed without any supper,” said
“This bird sings much better than the parrots,” said the King.
“I should have thought you got quite tired of hearing people say
‘God save the king’,” said the Queen. “I can’t think why those girls
wanted to teach their parrots to say it too.”
“The sentiment is admirable,” said the King, “and I never mind
how often I hear it. But I do get tired of hearing those parrots say
“They say it in seven different languages,” said the Princesses.
“I dare say they do,” said the King, “but it reminds me too much
of my Councillors. They say the same thing in seven different ways
and it never means anything in any way they say it.”
The Princesses were vexed at this, and the parrots looked very
glum indeed. But Princess September ran through all the rooms of
the palace, singing like a lark, while the little bird flew round and
round her singing like a nightingale.
Things went on like this for several days and then the eight
Princesses put their heads together. They went to September and sat
down in a circle round her. “My poor September,” they said, “we are
sorry for the death of your beautiful parrot. It must be dreadful for you
not to have a pet bird as we have. So we have all put our pocket-money
together and we are going to buy you a lovely green and yellow parrot.”
‘‘Thank you for nothing,” said September. “I have a pet bird which
sings the most charming songs to me and I don’t know what on
earth I should do with a green and yellow parrot.”
“Well, my dear,” they said, “it’s absurd to talk of your bird when
the little fellow flies in and out just as he likes.” They looked round
the room and raised their eyebrows.
“Do you mind our asking where your bird is now?” they said.
“He has gone to pay a visit to his father-in-law,” said Princess
“And what makes you think he’ll come back?” asked the Princesses.
“He always does come back,” said September.
“Well, my dear,” said the eight Princesses, “if you’ll take our advice
you won’t run any risks like that. If he comes back, and mind you,
if he does you’ll be lucky, pop him into the cage and keep him
there. That’s the only way you can be sure of him.”
“But I like to have him fly about the room,” said the young
“Safety first,” said her sisters ominously.
They got up and walked out of the room, shaking their heads,
and they left September very uneasy