"once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess. she lived in a faraway castle on the edge of a faraway sea. but although the castle was far away , it was not far enough away to shield it from the intrigues and turmoils of the world.
some years before, the princess's mother, the queen, had had a spell placed on her by a wandering magician and been turned into a tarantula. a series of lord chamberlains had made every effort to apprehend the magician - or discover whose employ, if any, he had been in - but at the point at which our story begins, they had had no success .
the tarantula, meanwhile, was kept in a comfortable, airy and well lit room in a strategic part of the castle, where a specially trained retinue of servants kept it well fed and well groomed. the former servants and attendants of the queen had all been arrested on suspicion of complicity with the wandering magician, and were languishing in a dungeon deep beneath the castle.
the princess was permitted to visit the tarantula every day. she brought it little treats from the castle's excellent bakery, such as blueberry scones or strawberry cakes, of which it was especially fond.
one morning as the princess was returning to her chambers from a visit to the tarantula she was informed by one of the palace guards that the lord chamberlain wished to see her .
the princess had seen numerous lord chamberlains come and go and she had grown accustomed to their often whimsical and arbitrary ways. some were cold and dignified and concerned only with matters of grave import, others given to retailing little jokes and stories meant to amuse her, although the princess had a sensitive and romantic nature and was not so easily amused. one particularly jovial fellow had made a habit of pinching her cheeks - he was the only one she had personally had removed.
none of the lord chamberlains had ever changed the furniture or decor of the lord chamberlain's chambers - a spartan suite of rooms within easy distance of the dungeons.