She said nothing. Her eyes were black as coal, black as her hair; her lips were redder than blood. She looked up at me and smiled. Her teeth seemed sharp, even then, in the lamplight.
"What are you doing away from your room?"
"I'm hungry," she said, like any child.
It was winter, when fresh food is a dream of warmth and sunlight; but I had strings of whole apples, cored and dried, hanging from the beams of my chamber, and I pulled an apple down for her.
Autumn is the time of drying, of preserving, a time of picking apples, of rendering the goose fat. Winter is the time of hunger, of snow, and of death; and it is the time of the midwinter feast, when we rub the goose-fat into the skin of a whole pig, stuffed with that autumn's apples, then we roast it or spit it, and we prepare to feast upon the crackling.
She took the dried apple from me and began to chew it with her sharp yellow teeth.
"Is it good?"
She nodded. I had always been scared of the little princess, but at that moment I warmed to her and, with my fingers, gently, I stroked her cheek. She looked at me and smiled — she smiled but rarely — then she sank her teeth into the base of my thumb, the Mound of Venus, and she drew blood.
I began to shriek, from pain and from surprise; but she looked at me and I fell silent.