Once upon a time a beautiful child was born to a king and his queen. They named her Gold Tree. Her mother, Silver Tree, was beautiful, too, and everyone said that one day Gold Tree would be as lovely as her mother. And as Gold Tree grew older, she grew more and more beautiful, too.
One day Silver Tree visited the wishing well near the castle. There she called to the magical trout, "Tell me, who is the most beautiful woman in all the land?"
"That is simple," the magical trout answered. "Gold Tree is more beautiful than any other woman in all the land."
When Silver Tree heard this, she flew into a jealous rage. "I will get rid of her," she cried, for she could not bear the notion of someone more beautiful than she.
She ran home and flung herself into her bed. There she lay, weeping, shaking, refusing to eat. Her husband came to her bedside. "My beloved," he said, "how can I help you to heal?"
"The only thing that will cure me," said Silver Tree, "is the heart of our daughter Gold Tree. I must eat her heart, or I will die."
The king was horrified, but he knew exactly what he had to do. A prince had come to him from a faraway land. The prince wished to marry Gold Tree. Now the king summoned the prince and told him of his troubles. "Marry her and take her far away, so that you can always protect her," he said.
The prince was overjoyed. Gold Tree loved the prince, so she too was pleased. They married and rode by ship to the prince's palace.
Now the king presented to his wife a baked heart. "The heart of Gold Tree," he said, though in truth he had the servants prepare the heart of a slaughtered sheep.
Silver Tree ate the heart and leaped from her bed, healed at the thought that she no longer need worry about competition from her daughter.
Some weeks later, Silver Tree visited the magical trout. She smugly asked, "Now, magical trout, tell me who is the most beautiful woman in all the land?"
"Gold Tree is the most beautiful," answered the trout.
"But she is dead," Silver Tree cried.
"Oh no," said the trout. "She lives in a faraway palace, but she is alive and well, and still the most beautiful woman in all the land."
Silver Tree raced back to the palace. "Where is my daughter?" she raged at the king. The king, terrified by his wife's fury, confessed he could not summon the will to kill his own child. And when Silver Tree learned where her daughter now lived, she instructed the king to prepare his ship for her journey. "I must visit my child," said Silver Tree.
When Gold Tree saw her father's ship approaching, she ran to her husband. "I fear my mother has come to kill me," she said, and so the prince locked her behind the palace gates and instructed his servants. "Let no one open the doors to Queen Silver Tree."
Silver Tree was both wicked and clever, and she called to her daughter, "My dearest child, just put out your hand so that I might kiss you. It is the least you can do for your mother."
Gold Tree was struck to the heart to think her mother might not love her, and hoping that wasn't true, she put her hand through the gates. Silver Tree stabbed her finger with a poison needle. Gold Tree fell to the ground. When the servants found her, they called to their prince. "Our beloved Gold Tree is dead," they lamented.
The prince could not bear to bury his beautiful wife. He lay her in a casket and covered her with flowers, and there, day after day, people came to visit her.
Now by chance one of the women in the village who loved the prince and princess came to visit, and when she looked at Gold Tree, her heart swelled with pity. She glanced down then and saw a tiny gleam on Gold Tree's finger, and looking closer, she saw the needle and pulled it out.
Gold Tree sat up, alive and well.
"You have saved me," she said to the woman, and the two embraced. When the prince learned of this good deed, he was so filled with joy, he insisted this woman move into the palace with them as a lady in waiting to the princess and share their happiness, wealth and comfort.
Some weeks passed, and Silver Tree again went to visit the trout. When she learned once more that Gold Tree was alive, she flew into another rage, and once again she journeyed to visit her daughter.
Gold Tree and the prince and their beloved friend saw the ship approaching. "What shall we do?" Gold Tree wept, but her friend raised her hand. "Allow me to take care of this," she said.
The prince and Gold Tree trusted their friend, and so they sat and watched as she approached the ship and greeted Silver Tree. "Come," said the woman, "we must toast your arrival."
"Ah yes, and I have brought the wine," Silver Tree said.
When they had gathered to sip their wine, Gold Tree's friend spoke. "The visitor must take the first sip, of course," she said, and Silver Tree nodded. She lifted the goblet to her lips, but she had no intention of drinking. She had poisoned the wine. This time she would kill Gold Tree for good.
But guessing that the wine was poisoned, Gold Tree's friend reached out and tipped the glass, and Silver Tree swallowed the wine. A moment later she was dead.
From that day on, Gold Tree, her husband and her dearest friend lived in peace and happiness.
The second book collection of wonderful tales from "Tell Me a Story" is available for $14.95, plus $2 for postage and handling. Send your orders to "The Spectacular Gift," in care of Andrews McMeel Publishing, P.O. Box 419242, Kansas City, Mo. 64141; or call (800) 642-6480. Be sure to indicate your newspaper's name on your order. Allow three to four weeks for delivery.