Part 4 out of 6
about, much mischief was wrought.
However, for the moment all was gaiety in the palace, and everybody
inside ran to the windows to watch the fairies' carriages, for no two
were alike. One had a car of ebony, drawn by white pigeons, another
was lying back in her ivory chariot, driving ten black crows, while the
rest had chosen rare woods or many-coloured sea-shells, with scarlet
and blue macaws, long-tailed peacocks, or green love-birds for horses.
These carriages were only used on occasions of state, for when they
went to war flying dragons, fiery serpents, lions or leopards, took the
place of the beautiful birds.
The fairies entered the queen's chamber followed by little dwarfs who
carried their presents and looked much prouder than their mistresses.
One by one their burdens were spread upon the ground, and no one had
ever seen such lovely things. Everything that a baby could possibly
wear or play with was there, and besides, they had other and more
precious gifts to give her, which only children who have fairies for
godmothers can ever hope to possess.
They were all gathered round the heap of pink cushions on which the
baby lay asleep, when a shadow seemed to fall between them and the sun,
while a cold wind blew through the room. Everybody looked up, and
there was the crab- fairy, who had grown as tall as the ceiling in her
'So I am forgotten!' cried she, in a voice so loud that the queen
trembled as she heard it. 'Who was it soothed you in your trouble?
Who was it led you to the fairies? Who was it brought you back in
safety to your home again? Yet I--I--am overlooked, while these who
have done nothing in comparison, are petted and thanked.'
The queen, almost dumb with terror, in vain tried to think of some
explanation or apology; but there was none, and she could only confess
her fault and implore forgiveness. The fairies also did their best to
soften the wrath of their sister, and knowing that, like many plain
people who are not fairies, she was very vain, they entreated her to
drop her crab's disguise, and to become once more the charming person
they were accustomed to see.
For some time the enraged fairy would listen to nothing; but at length
the flatteries began to take effect. The crab's shell fell from her,
she shrank into her usual size, and lost some of her fierce expression.
'Well,' she said, 'I will not cause the princess's death, as I had
meant to do, but at the same time she will have to bear the punishment
of her mother's fault, as many other children have done before her.
The sentence I pass upon her is, that if she is allowed to see one ray
of daylight before her fifteenth birthday she will rue it bitterly, and
it may perhaps cost her her life.' And with these words she vanished
by the window through which she came, while the fairies comforted the
weeping queen and took counsel how best the princess might be kept safe
during her childhood.
At the end of half an hour they had made up their minds what to do, and
at the command of the fairies, a beautiful palace sprang up, close to
that of the king and queen, but different from every palace in the
world in having no windows, and only a door right under the earth.
However, once within, daylight was hardly missed, so brilliant were the
multitudes of tapers that were burning on the walls.
Now up to this time the princess's history has been like the history of
many a princess that you have read about; but, when the period of her
imprisonment was nearly over, her fortunes took another turn. For
almost fifteen years the fairies had taken care of her, and amused her
and taught her, so that when she came into the world she might be no
whit behind the daughters of other kings in all that makes a princess
charming and accomplished. They all loved her dearly, but the fairy
Tulip loved her most of all; and as the princess's fifteenth birthday
drew near, the fairy began to tremble lest something terrible should
happen--some accident which had not been foreseen. 'Do not let her out
of your sight,' said Tulip to the queen, 'and meanwhile, let her
portrait be painted and carried to the neighbouring Courts, as is the
custom in order that the kings may see how far her beauty exceeds that
of every other princess, and that they may demand her in marriage for
And so it was done; and as the fairy had prophesied, all the young
princes fell in love with the picture; but the last one to whom it was
shown could think of nothing else, and refused to let it be removed
from his chamber, where he spent whole days gazing at it.
The king his father was much surprised at the change which had come
over his son, who generally passed all his time in hunting or hawking,
and his anxiety was increased by a conversation he overheard between
two of his courtiers that they feared the prince must be going out of
his mind, so moody had he become. Without losing a moment the king
went to visit his son, and no sooner had he entered the room than the
young man flung himself at his father's feet.
'You have betrothed me already to a bride I can never love!' cried he;
'but if you will not consent to break off the match, and ask for the
hand of the princess Desiree, I shall die of misery, thankful to be
alive no longer.'
These words much displeased the king, who felt that, in breaking off
the marriage already arranged he would almost certainly be bringing on
his subjects a long and bloody war; so, without answering, he turned
away, hoping that a few days might bring his son to reason. But the
prince's condition grew rapidly so much worse that the king, in
despair, promised to send an embassy at once to Desiree's father.
This news cured the young man in an instant of all his ills; and he
began to plan out every detail of dress and of horses and carriages
which were necessary to make the train of the envoy, whose name was
Becasigue, as splendid as possible. He longed to form part of the
embassy himself, if only in the disguise of a page; but this the king
would not allow, and so the prince had to content himself with
searching the kingdom for everything that was rare and beautiful to
send to the princess. Indeed, he arrived, just as the embassy was
starting, with his portrait, which had been painted in secret by the
The king and queen wished for nothing better than that their daughter
marry into such a great and powerful family, and received the
ambassador with every sign of welcome. They even wished him to see the
princess Desiree, but this was prevented by the fairy Tulip, who feared
some ill might come of it.
'And be sure you tell him,' added she, 'that the marriage cannot be
celebrated till she is fifteen years old, or else some terrible
misfortune will happen to the child.'
So when Becasigue, surround by his train, made a formal request that
the princess Desiree might be given in marriage to his master's son,
the king replied that he was much honoured, and would gladly give his
consent; but that no one could even see the princess till her fifteenth
birthday, as the spell laid upon her in her cradle by a spiteful fairy,
would not cease to work till that was past. The ambassador was greatly
surprised and disappointed, but he knew too much about fairies to
venture to disobey them, therefore he had to content himself with
presenting the prince's portrait to the queen, who lost no time in
carrying it to the princess. As the girl took it in her hands it
suddenly spoke, as it had been taught to do, and uttered a compliment
of the most delicate and charming sort, which made the princess flush
'How would you like to have a husband like that?' asked the queen,
'As if I knew anything about husbands!' replied Desiree, who had long
ago guessed the business of the ambassador.
'Well, he will be your husband in three months,' answered the queen,
ordering the prince's presents to be brought in. The princess was very
pleased with them, and admired them greatly, but the queen noticed that
all the while her eyes constantly strayed from the softest silks and
most brilliant jewels to the portrait of the prince.
The ambassador, finding that there was no hope of his being allowed to
see the princess, took his leave, and returned to his own court; but
here a new difficulty appeared. The prince, though transported with
joy at the thought that Desiree was indeed to be his bride, was
bitterly disappointed that she had not been allowed to return with
Becasigue, as he had foolishly expected; and never having been taught
to deny himself anything or to control his feelings, he fell as ill as
he had done before. He would eat nothing nor take pleasure in
anything, but lay all day on a heap of cushions, gazing at the picture
of the princess.
'If I have to wait three months before I can marry the princess I shall
die!' was all this spoilt boy would say; and at length the king, in
despair, resolved to send a fresh embassy to Desiree's father to
implore him to permit the marriage to be celebrated at once. 'I would
have presented my prayer in person, he added in his letter, 'but my
great age and infirmities do not suffer me to travel; however my envoy
has orders to agree to any arrangement that you may propose.'
On his arrival at the palace Becasigue pleaded his young master's cause
as fervently as the king his father could have done, and entreated that
the princess might be consulted in the matter. The queen hastened to
the marble tower, and told her daughter of the sad state of the prince.
Desiree sank down fainting at the news, but soon came to herself
again, and set about inventing a plan which would enable her to go to
the prince without risking the doom pronounced over her by the wicked
'I see!' she exclaimed joyfully at last. 'Let a carriage be built
through which no light can come, and let it be brought into my room. I
will then get into it, and we can travel swiftly during the night and
arrive before dawn at the palace of the prince. Once there, I can
remain in some underground chamber, where no light can come.'
'Ah, how clever you are,' cried the queen, clasping her in her arms.
And she hurried away to tell the king.
'What a wife our prince will have!' said Becasigue bowing low; 'but I
must hasten back with the tidings, and to prepare the underground
chamber for the princess.' And so he took his leave.
In a few days the carriage commanded by the princess was ready. It was
of green velvet, scattered over with large golden thistles, and lined
inside with silver brocade embroidered with pink roses. It had no
windows, of course; but the fairy Tulip, whose counsel had been asked,
had managed to light it up with a soft glow that came no one knew
It was carried straight up into the great hall of the tower, and the
princess stepped into it, followed by her faithful maid of honour,
Eglantine, and by her lady in waiting Cerisette, who also had fallen in
love with the prince's portrait and was bitterly jealous of her
mistress. The fourth place in the carriage was filled by Cerisette's
mother, who had been sent by the queen to look after the three young
Now the Fairy of the Fountain was the godmother of the princess Nera,
to whom the prince had been betrothed before the picture of Desiree had
made him faithless. She was very angry at the slight put upon her
godchild, and from that moment kept careful watch on the princess. In
this journey she saw her chance, and it was she who, invisible, sat by
Cerisette, and put bad thoughts into the minds of both her and her
The way to the city where the prince lived ran for the most part
through a thick forest, and every night when there was no moon, and not
a single star could be seen through the trees, the guards who travelled
with the princess opened the carriage to give it an airing. This went
on for several days, till only twelve hours journey lay between them
and the palace. The Cerisette persuaded her mother to cut a great hole
in the side of the carriage with a sharp knife which she herself had
brought for the purpose. In the forest the darkness was so intense
that no one perceived what she had done, but when they left the last
trees behind them, and emerged into the open country, the sun was up,
and for the first time since her babyhood, Desiree found herself in the
light of day.
She looked up in surprise at the dazzling brilliance that streamed
through the hole; then gave a sigh which seemed to come from her heart.
The carriage door swung back, as if by magic, and a white doe sprang
out, and in a moment was lost to sight in the forest. But, quick as
she was, Eglantine, her maid of honour, had time to see where she went,
and jumped from the carriage in pursuit of her, followed at a distance
by the guards.
Cerisette and her mother looked at each other in surprise and joy.
They could hardly believe in their good fortune, for everything had
happened exactly as they wished. The first thing to be done was to
conceal the hole which had been cut, and when this was managed (with
the help of the angry fairy, though they did not know it), Cerisette
hastened to take off her own clothes, and put on those of the princess,
placing the crown of diamonds on her head. She found this heavier than
she expected; but then, she had never been accustomed to wear crowns,
which makes all the difference.
At the gates of the city the carriage was stopped by a guard of honour
sent by the king as an escort to his son's bride. Though Cerisette and
her mother could of course see nothing of what was going on outside,
they heard plainly the shouts of welcome from the crowds along the
The carriage stopped at length in the vast hall which Becasigue had
prepared for the reception of the princess. The grand chamberlain and
the lord high steward were awaiting her, and when the false bride
stepped into the brilliantly lighted room, they bowed low, and said
they had orders to inform his highness the moment she arrived. The
prince, whom the strict etiquette of the court had prevented from being
present in the underground hall, was burning with impatience in his own
'So she had come!' cried he, throwing down the bow he had been
pretending to mend. 'Well, was I not right? Is she not a miracle of
beauty and grace? And has she her equal in the whole world?' The
ministers looked at each other, and made no reply; till at length the
chamberlain, who was the bolder of the two, observed:
'My lord, as to her beauty, you can judge of that for yourself. No
doubt it is as great as you say; but at present it seems to have
suffered, as is natural, from the fatigues of the journey.'
This was certainly not what the prince had expected to hear. Could the
portrait have flattered her? He had known of such things before, and a
cold shiver ran through him; but with an effort he kept silent from
further questioning, and only said:
'Has the king been told that the princess is in the palace?'
'Yes, highness; and he has probably already joined her.'
'Then I will go too,' said the prince.
Weak as he was from his long illness, the prince descended the
staircase, supported by the ministers, and entered the room just in
time to hear his father's loud cry of astonishment and disgust at the
sight of Cerisette.
'There was been treachery at work,' he exclaimed, while the prince
leant, dumb with horror, against the doorpost. But the lady in
waiting, who had been prepared for something of the sort, advanced,
holding in her hand the letters which the king and queen had entrusted
'This is the princess Desiree,' said she, pretending to have heard
nothing, 'and I have the honour to present to you these letters from my
liege lord and lady, together with the casket containing the princess'
The king did not move or answer her; so the prince, leaning on the arm
of Becasigue, approached a little closer to the false princess, hoping
against hope that his eyes had deceived him. But the longer he looked
the more he agreed with his father that there was treason somewhere,
for in no single respect did the portrait resemble the woman before
him. Cerisette was so tall that the dress of the princess did not
reach her ankles, and so thin that her bones showed through the stuff.
Besides that her nose was hooked, and her teeth black and ugly.
In his turn, the prince stood rooted to the spot. At last he spoke,
and his words were addressed to his father, and not to the bride who
had come so far to marry him.
'We have been deceived,' he said, 'and it will cost me my life.' And
he leaned so heavily on the envoy that Becasigue feared he was going to
faint, and hastily laid him on the floor. For some minutes no one
could attend to anybody but the prince; but as soon as he revived the
lady in waiting made herself heard.
'Oh, my lovely princess, why did we ever leave home?' cried she. 'But
the king your father will avenge the insults that have been heaped on
you when we tell him how you have been treated.'
'I will tell him myself,' replied the king in wrath; 'he promised me a
wonder of beauty, he has sent me a skeleton! I am not surprised that
he has kept her for fifteen years hidden away from the eyes of the
world. Take them both away,' he continued, turning to his guards, 'and
lodge them in the state prison. There is something more I have to
learn of this matter.'
His orders were obeyed, and the prince, loudly bewailing his sad fate,
was led back to bed, where for many days he lay in a high fever. At
length he slowly began to gain strength, but his sorrow was still so
great that he could not bear the sight of a strange face, and shuddered
at the notion of taking his proper part in the court ceremonies.
Unknown to the king, or to anybody but Becasigue, he planned that, as
soon as he was able, he would make his escape and pass the rest of his
life alone in some solitary place. It was some weeks before he had
regained his health sufficiently to carry out his design; but finally,
one beautiful starlight night, the two friends stole away, and when the
king woke next morning he found a letter lying by his bed, saying that
his son had gone, he knew not whither. He wept bitter tears at the
news, for he loved the prince dearly; but he felt that perhaps the
young man had done wisely, and he trusted to time and Becasigue's
influence to bring the wanderer home.
And while these things were happening, what had become of the white
doe? Though when she sprang from the carriage she was aware that some
unkind fate had changed her into an animal, yet, till she saw herself
in a stream, she had no idea what it was.
'Is it really, I, Desiree?' she said to herself, weeping. 'What wicked
fairy can have treated me so; and shall I never, never take my own
shape again? My only comfort that, in this great forest, full of lions
and serpents, my life will be a short one.'
Now the fairy Tulip was as much grieved at the sad fate of the princess
as Desiree's own mother could have been if she had known of it. Still,
she could not help feeling that if the king and queen had listened to
her advice the girl would by this time be safely in the walls of her
new home. However, she loved Desiree too much to let her suffer more
than could be helped, and it was she who guided Eglantine to the place
where the white doe was standing, cropping the grass which was her
At the sound of footsteps the pretty creature lifted her head, and when
she saw her faithful companion approaching she bounded towards her, and
rubbed her head on Eglantine's shoulder. The maid of honour was
surprised; but she was fond of animals, and stroked the white doe
tenderly, speaking gently to her all the while. Suddenly the beautiful
creature lifted her head, and looked up into Eglantine's face, with
tears streaming from her eyes. A thought flashed through her mind, and
quick as lightning the girl flung herself on her knees, and lifting the
animal's feet kissed them one by one. 'My princess! O my dear
princess!' cried she; and again the white doe rubbed her head against
her, for thought the spiteful fairy had taken away her power of speech,
she had not deprived her of her reason!
All day long the two remained together, and when Eglantine grew hungry
she was led by the white doe to a part of the forest where pears and
peaches grew in abundance; but, as night came on, the maid of honour
was filled with the terrors of wild beasts which had beset the princess
during her first night in the forest.
'Is there no hut or cave we could go into?' asked she. But the doe
only shook her head; and the two sat down and wept with fright.
The fairy Tulip, who, in spite of her anger, was very soft-hearted, was
touched at their distress, and flew quickly to their help.
'I cannot take away the spell altogether,' she said, 'for the Fairy of
the Fountain is stronger than I; but I can shorten the time of your
punishment, and am able to make it less hard, for as soon as darkness
fall you shall resume your own shape.'
To think that by-and-by she would cease to be a white doe--indeed, that
she would at once cease to be one during the night--was for the present
joy enough for Desiree, and she skipped about on the grass in the
'Go straight down the path in front of you,' continued the fairy,
smiling as she watched her; 'go straight down the path and you will
soon reach a little hut where you will find shelter.' And with these
words she vanished, leaving her hearers happier than they ever thought
they could be again.
An old woman was standing at the door of the hut when Eglantine drew
near, with the white doe trotting by her side.
'Good evening!' she said; 'could you give me a night's lodging for
myself and my doe?'
'Certainly I can,' replied the old woman. And she led them into a room
with two little white beds, so clean and comfortable that it made you
sleepy even to look at them.
The door had hardly closed behind the old woman when the sun sank below
the horizon, and Desiree became a girl again.
'Oh, Eglantine! what should I have done if you had not followed me,'
she cried. And she flung herself into her friend's arms in a transport
Early in the morning Eglantine was awakened by the sound of someone
scratching at the door, and on opening her eyes she saw the white doe
struggling to get out. The little creature looked up and into her
face, and nodded her head as the maid of honour unfastened the latch,
but bounded away into the woods, and was lost to sight in a moment.
Meanwhile, the prince and Becasigue were wandering through the wood,
till at last the prince grew so tired, that he lay down under a tree,
and told Becasigue that he had better go in search of food, and of some
place where they could sleep. Becasigue had not gone very far, when a
turn of the path brought him face to face with the old woman who was
feeding her doves before her cottage.
'Could you give me some milk and fruit?' asked he. 'I am very hungry
myself, and, besides, I have left a friend behind me who is still weak
'Certainly I can,' answered the old woman. 'But come and sit down in
my kitchen while I catch the goat and milk it.'
Becasigue was glad enough to do as he was bid, and in a few minutes the
old woman returned with a basket brimming over with oranges and grapes.
'If your friend has been ill he should not pass the night in the
forest,' said she. 'I have room in my hut--tiny enough, it is true;
but better than nothing, and to that you are both heartily welcome.'
Becasigue thanked her warmly, and as by this time it was almost sunset,
he set out to fetch the prince. It was while he was absent that
Eglantine and the white doe entered the hut, and having, of course, no
idea that in the very next room was the man whose childish impatience
had been the cause of all their troubles.
In spite of his fatigue, the prince slept badly, and directly it was
light he rose, and bidding Becasigue remain where he was, as he wished
to be alone, he strolled out into the forest. He walked on slowly,
just as his fancy led him, till, suddenly, he came to a wide open
space, and in the middle was the white doe quietly eating her
breakfast. She bounded off at the sight of a man, but not before the
prince, who had fastened on his bow without thinking, had let fly
several arrows, which the fairy Tulip took care should do her no harm.
But, quickly as she ran, she soon felt her strength failing her, for
fifteen years of life in a tower had not taught her how to exercise her
Luckily, the prince was too weak to follow her far, and a turn of a
path brought her close to the hut, where Eglantine was awaiting her.
Panting for breath, she entered their room, and flung herself down on
When it was dark again, and she was once more the princess Desiree, she
told Eglantine what had befallen her.
'I feared the Fairy of the Fountain, and the cruel beasts,' said she;
'but somehow I never thought of the dangers that I ran from men. I do
not know now what saved me.'
'You must stay quietly here till the time of your punishment is over,'
answered Eglantine. But when the morning dawned, and the girl turned
into a doe, the longing for the forest came over her, and she sprang
away as before.
As soon as the prince was awake he hastened to the place where, only
the day before, he had found the white doe feeding; but of course she
had taken care to go in the opposite direction. Much disappointed, he
tried first one green path and then another, and at last, wearied with
walking, he threw himself down and went fast asleep.
Just at this moment the white doe sprang out of a thicket near by, and
started back trembling when she beheld her enemy lying there. Yet,
instead of turning to fly, something bade her go and look at him
unseen. As she gazed a thrill ran through her, for she felt that, worn
and wasted though he was by illness, it was the face of her destined
husband. Gently stooping over him she kissed his forehead, and at her
touch he awoke.
For a minute they looked at each other, and to his amazement he
recognized the white doe which had escaped him the previous day. But
in an instant the animal was aroused to a sense of her danger, and she
fled with all her strength into the thickest part of the forest. Quick
as lightning the prince was on her track, but this time it was with no
wish to kill or even wound the beautiful creature.
'Pretty doe! pretty doe! stop! I won't hurt you,' cried he, but his
words were carried away by the wind.
At length the doe could run no more, and when the prince reached her,
she was lying stretched out on the grass, waiting for her death blow.
But instead the prince knelt at her side, and stroked her, and bade her
fear nothing, as he would take care of her. So he fetched a little
water from the stream in his horn hunting cup, then, cutting some
branches from the trees, he twisted them into a litter which he covered
with moss, and laid the white doe gently on it.
For a long time they remained thus, but when Desiree saw by the way
that the light struck the trees, that he sun must be near its setting,
she was filled with alarm lest the darkness should fall, and the prince
should behold her in her human shape.
'No, he must not see me for the first time here,' she thought, and
instantly began to plan how to get rid of him. Then she opened her
mouth and let her tongue hang out, as if she were dying of thirst, and
the prince, as she expected, hastened to the stream to get her some
When he returned, the white doe was gone.
That night Desiree confessed to Eglantine that her pursuer was no other
than the prince, and that far from flattering him, the portrait had
never done him justice.
'Is it not hard to meet him in this shape,' wept she, 'when we both
love each other so much?' But Eglantine comforted her, and reminded her
that in a short time all would be well.
The prince was very angry at the flight of the white doe, for whom he
had taken so much trouble, and returning to the cottage he poured out
his adventures and his wrath to Becasigue, who could not help smiling.
'She shall not escape me again,' cried the prince. 'If I hunt her
every day for a year, I will have her at last.' And in this frame of
mind he went to bed.
When the white doe entered the forest next morning, she had not made
up her mind whether she would go and meet the prince, or whether she
would shun him, and hide in thickets of which he knew nothing. She
decided that the last plan was the best; and so it would have been if
the prince had not taken the very same direction in search of her.
Quite by accident he caught sight of her white skin shining through the
bushes, and at the same instant she heard a twig snap under his feet.
In a moment she was up and away, but the prince, not knowing how else
to capture her, aimed an arrow at her leg, which brought her to the
The young man felt like a murderer as he ran hastily up to where the
white doe lay, and did his best to soothe the pain she felt, which, in
reality, was the last part of the punishment sent by the Fairy of the
Fountain. First he brought her some water, and then he fetched some
healing herbs, and having crushed them in his hand, laid them on the
'Ah! what a wretch I was to have hurt you,' cried he, resting her head
upon his knees; 'and now you will hate me and fly from me for ever!'
For some time the doe lay quietly where she was, but, as before, she
remembered that the hour of her transformation was near. She struggled
to her feet, but the prince would not hear of her walking, and thinking
the old woman might be able to dress her wound better than he could, he
took her in his arms to carry her back to the hut. But, small as she
was, she made herself so heavy that, after staggering a few steps under
her weight, he laid her down, and tied her fast to a tree with some of
the ribbons of his hat. This done he went away to get help.
Meanwhile Eglantine had grown very uneasy at the long absence of her
mistress, and had come out to look for her. Just as the prince passed
out of sight the fluttering ribbons dance before her eyes, and she
descried her beautiful princess bound to a tree. With all her might
she worked at the knots, but not a single one could she undo, though
all appeared so easy. She was still busy with them when a voice behind
'Pardon me, fair lady, but it is MY doe you are trying to steal!'
'Excuse me, good knight' answered Eglantine, hardly glancing at him,
'but it is MY doe that is tied up here! And if you wish for a proof of
it, you can see if she knows me or not. Touch my heart, my little
one,' she continued, dropping on her knees. And the doe lifted up its
fore-foot and laid it on her side. 'Now put your arms round my neck,
and sigh.' And again the doe did as she was bid.
'You are right,' said the prince; 'but it is with sorrow I give her up
to you, for though I have wounded her yet I love her deeply.'
To this Eglantine answered nothing; but carefully raising up the doe,
she led her slowly to the hut.
Now both the prince and Becasigue were quite unaware that the old woman
had any guests besides themselves, and, following afar, were much
surprised to behold Eglantine and her charge enter the cottage. They
lost no time in questioning the old woman, who replied that she knew
nothing about the lady and her white doe, who slept next the chamber
occupied by the prince and his friend, but that they were very quiet,
and paid her well. Then she went back to her kitchen.
'Do you know,' said Becasigue, when they were alone, 'I am certain that
the lady we saw is the maid of honour to the Princess Desiree, whom I
met at the palace. And, as her room is next to this, it will be easy
to make a small hole through which I can satisfy myself whether I am
right or not.'
So, taking a knife out of his pocket, he began to saw away the
woodwork. The girls heard the grating noise, but fancying it was a
mouse, paid no attention, and Becasigue was left in peace to pursue his
work. At length the hole was large enough for him to peep through, and
the sight was one to strike him dumb with amazement. He had guessed
truly: the tall lady was Eglantine herself; but the other--where had he
seen her? Ah! now he knew--it was the lady of the portrait!
Desiree, in a flowing dress of green silk, was lying stretched out upon
cushions, and as Eglantine bent over her to bathe the wounded leg, she
began to talk:
'Oh! let me die,' cried she, 'rather than go on leading this life. You
cannot tell the misery of being a beast all the day, and unable to
speak to the man I love, to whose impatience I owe my cruel fate. Yet,
even so, I cannot bring myself to hate him.'
These words, low though they were spoken, reached Becasigue, who could
hardly believe his ears. He stood silent for a moment; then, crossing
to the window out of which the prince was gazing, he took his arm and
led him across the room. A single glance was sufficient to show the
prince that it was indeed Desiree; and how another had come to the
palace bearing her name, at that instant he neither knew nor cared.
Stealing on tip- toe from the room, he knocked at the next door, which
was opened by Eglantine, who thought it was the old woman bearing their
She started back at the sight of the prince, whom this time she also
recognised. But he thrust her aside, and flung himself at the feet of
Desiree, to whom he poured out all his heart!
Dawn found them still conversing; and the sun was high in the heavens
before the princess perceived that she retained her human form. Ah!
how happy she was when she knew that the days of her punishment were
over; and with a glad voice she told the prince the tale of her
So the story ended well after all; and the fairy Tulip, who turned out
to be the old woman of the hut, made the young couple such a wedding
feast as had never been seen since the world began. And everybody was
delighted, except Cerisette and her mother, who were put in a boat and
carried to a small island, where they had to work hard for their living.
[Contes des Fees, par Madame d'Aulnoy.]
Once upon a time there lived, on the bank of a stream, a man and a
woman who had a daughter. As she was an only child, and very pretty
besides, they never could make up their minds to punish her for her
faults or to teach her nice manners; and as for work-- she laughed in
her mother's face if she asked her to help cook the dinner or to wash
the plates. All the girl would do was to spend her days in dancing and
playing with her friends; and for any use she was to her parents they
might as well have no daughter at all.
However, one morning her mother looked so tired that even the selfish
girl could not help seeing it, and asked if there was anything she was
able to do, so that her mother might rest a little.
The good woman looked so surprised and grateful for this offer that the
girl felt rather ashamed, and at that moment would have scrubbed down
the house if she had been requested; but her mother only begged her to
take the fishing-net out to the bank of the river and mend some holes
in it, as her father intended to go fishing that night.
The girl took the net and worked so hard that soon there was not a hole
to be found. She felt quite pleased with herself, though she had had
plenty to amuse her, as everybody who passed by had stopped and had a
chat with her. But by this time the sun was high overhead, and she was
just folding her net to carry it home again, when she heard a splash
behind her, and looking round she saw a big fish jump into the air.
Seizing the net with both hands, she flung it into the water where the
circles were spreading one behind the other, and, more by luck than
skill, drew out the fish.
'Well, you are a beauty!' she cried to herself; but the fish looked up
to her and said:
'You had better not kill me, for, if you do, I will turn you into a
The girl laughed contemptuously, and ran straight in to her mother.
'Look what I have caught,' she said gaily; 'but it is almost a pity to
eat it, for it can talk, and it declares that, if I kill it, it will
turn me into a fish too.'
'Oh, put it back, put it back!' implored the mother. 'Perhaps it is
skilled in magic. And I should die, and so would your father, if
anything should happen to you.'
'Oh, nonsense, mother; what power could a creature like that have over
me? Besides, I am hungry, and if I don't have my dinner soon, I shall
be cross.' And off she went to gather some flowers to stick in her
About an hour later the blowing of a horn told her that dinner was
'Didn't I say that fish would be delicious?' she cried; and plunging
her spoon into the dish the girl helped herself to a large piece. But
the instant it touched her mouth a cold shiver ran through her. Her
head seemed to flatten, and her eyes to look oddly round the corners;
her legs and her arms were stuck to her sides, and she gasped wildly
for breath. With a mighty bound she sprang through the window and fell
into the river, where she soon felt better, and was able to swim to the
sea, which was close by.
No sooner had she arrived there than the sight of her sad face
attracted the notice of some of the other fishes, and they pressed
round her, begging her to tell them her story.
'I am not a fish at all,' said the new-comer, swallowing a great deal
of salt water as she spoke; for you cannot learn how to be a proper
fish all in a moment. 'I am not a fish at all, but a girl; at least I
was a girl a few minutes ago, only--' And she ducked her head under the
waves so that they should not see her crying.
'Only you did not believe that the fish you caught had power to carry
out its threat,' said an old tunny. 'Well, never mind, that has
happened to all of us, and it really is not a bad life. Cheer up and
come with us and see our queen, who lives in a palace that is much more
beautiful than any your queens can boast of.'
The new fish felt a little afraid of taking such a journey; but as she
was still more afraid of being left alone, she waved her tail in token
of consent, and off they all set, hundreds of them together. The
people on the rocks and in the ships that saw them pass said to each
'Look what a splendid shoal!' and had no idea that they were hastening
to the queen's palace; but, then, dwellers on land have so little
notion of what goes on in the bottom of the sea! Certainly the little
new fish had none. She had watched jelly-fish and nautilus swimming a
little way below the surface, and beautiful coloured sea-weeds floating
about; but that was all. Now, when she plunged deeper her eyes fell
upon strange things.
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl, inestimable stones,
unvalued jewels-- all scattered in the bottom of the sea! Dead men's
bones were there also, and long white creatures who had never seen the
light, for they mostly dwelt in the clefts of rocks where the sun's
rays could not come. At first our little fish felt as if she were
blind also, but by-and-by she began to make out one object after
another in the green dimness, and by the time she had swum for a few
hours all became clear.
'Here we are at last,' cried a big fish, going down into a deep valley,
for the sea has its mountains and valleys just as much as the land.
'That is the palace of the queen of the fishes, and I think you must
confess that the emperor himself has nothing so fine.'
'It is beautiful indeed,' gasped the little fish, who was very tired
with trying to swim as fast as the rest, and beautiful beyond words the
palace was. The walls were made of pale pink coral, worn smooth by the
waters, and round the windows were rows of pearls; the great doors were
standing open, and the whole troop floated into the chamber of
audience, where the queen, who was half a woman after all, was seated
on a throne made of a green and blue shell.
'Who are you, and where do you come from?' said she to the little fish,
whom the others had pushed in front. And in a low, trembling voice,
the visitor told her story.
'I was once a girl too,' answered the queen, when the fish had ended;
'and my father was the king of a great country. A husband was found
for me, and on my wedding-day my mother placed her crown on my head and
told me that as long as I wore it I should likewise be queen. For many
months I was as happy as a girl could be, especially when I had a
little son to play with. But, one morning, when I was walking in my
gardens, there came a giant and snatched the crown from my head.
Holding me fast, he told me that he intended to give the crown to his
daughter, and to enchant my husband the prince, so that he should not
know the difference between us. Since then she has filled my place and
been queen in my stead. As for me, I was so miserable that I threw
myself into the sea, and my ladies, who loved me, declared that they
would die too; but, instead of dying, some wizard, who pitied my fate,
turned us all into fishes, though he allowed me to keep the face and
body of a woman. And fished we must remain till someone brings me back
my crown again!'
'I will bring it back if you tell me what to do!' cried the little
fish, who would have promised anything that was likely to carry her up
to earth again. And the queen answered:
'Yes, I will tell you what to do.'
She sat silent for a moment, and then went on:
'There is no danger if you will only follow my counsel; and first you
must return to earth, and go up to the top of a high mountain, where
the giant has built his castle. You will find him sitting on the steps
weeping for his daughter, who has just died while the prince was away
hunting. At the last she sent her father my crown by a faithful
servant. But I warn you to be careful, for if he sees you he may kill
you. Therefore I will give you the power to change yourself into any
creature that may help you best. You have only to strike your
forehead, and call out its name.'
This time the journey to land seemed much shorter than before, and when
once the fish reached the shore she struck her forehead sharply with
her tail, and cried:
'Deer, come to me!'
In a moment the small, slimy body disappeared, and in its place stood a
beautiful beast with branching horns and slender legs, quivering with
longing to be gone. Throwing back her head and snuffing the air, she
broke into a run, leaping easily over the rivers and walls that stood
in her way.
It happened that the king's son had been hunting since daybreak, but
had killed nothing, and when the deer crossed his path as he was
resting under a tree he determined to have her. He flung himself on
his horse, which went like the wind, and as the prince had often hunted
the forest before, and knew all the short cuts, he at last came up with
the panting beast.
'By your favour let me go, and do not kill me,' said the deer, turning
to the prince with tears in her eyes, 'for I have far to run and much
to do.' And as the prince, struck dumb with surprise, only looked at
her, the deer cleared the next wall and was soon out of sight.
'That can't really be a deer,' thought the prince to himself, reining
in his horse and not attempting to follow her. 'No deer ever had eyes
like that. It must be an enchanted maiden, and I will marry her and no
other.' So, turning his horse's head, he rode slowly back to his
The deer reached the giant's castle quite out of breath, and her heart
sank as she gazed at the tall, smooth walls which surrounded it. Then
she plucked up courage and cried:
'Ant, come to me!' And in a moment the branching horns and beautiful
shape had vanished, and a tiny brown ant, invisible to all who did not
look closely, was climbing up the walls.
It was wonderful how fast she went, that little creature! The wall
must have appeared miles high in comparison with her own body; yet, in
less time than would have seemed possible, she was over the top and
down in the courtyard on the other side. Here she paused to consider
what had best be done next, and looking about her she saw that one of
the walls had a tall tree growing by it, and in the corner was a window
very nearly on a level with the highest branches of the tree.
'Monkey, come to me!' cried the ant; and before you could turn round a
monkey was swinging herself from the topmost branches into the room
where the giant lay snoring.
'Perhaps he will be so frightened at the sight of me that he may die of
fear, and I shall never get the crown,' thought the monkey. 'I had
better become something else.' And she called softly: 'Parrot, come to
Then a pink and grey parrot hopped up to the giant, who by this time
was stretching himself and giving yawns which shook the castle. The
parrot waited a little, until he was really awake, and then she said
boldly that she had been sent to take away the crown, which was not his
any longer, now his daughter the queen was dead.
On hearing these words the giant leapt out of bed with an angry roar,
and sprang at the parrot in order to wring her neck with his great
hands. But the bird was too quick for him, and, flying behind his
back, begged the giant to have patience, as her death would be of no
use to him.
'That is true,' answered the giant; 'but I am not so foolish as to give
you that crown for nothing. Let me think what I will have in
exchange!' And he scratched his huge head for several minutes, for
giants' minds always move slowly.
'Ah, yes, that will do!' exclaimed the giant at last, his face
brightening. 'You shall have the crown if you will bring me a collar
of blue stones from the Arch of St. Martin, in the Great City.'
Now when the parrot had been a girl she had often heard of this
wonderful arch and the precious stones and marbles that had been let
into it. It sounded as if it would be a very hard thing to get them
away from the building of which they formed a part, but all had gone
well with her so far, and at any rate she could but try. So she bowed
to the giant, and made her way back to the window where the giant could
not see her. Then she called quickly:
'Eagle, come to me!'
Before she had even reached the tree she felt herself borne up on
strong wings ready to carry her to the clouds if she wished to go
there, and seeming a mere speck in the sky, she was swept along till
she beheld the Arch of St. Martin far below, with the rays of the sun
shining on it. Then she swooped down, and, hiding herself behind a
buttress so that she could not be detected from below, she set herself
to dig out the nearest blue stones with her beak. It was even harder
work than she had expected; but at last it was done, and hope arose in
her heart. She next drew out a piece of string that she had found
hanging from a tree, and sitting down to rest strung the stones
together. When the necklace was finished she hung it round her neck,
and called: 'Parrot, come to me!' And a little later the pink and grey
parrot stood before the giant.
'Here is the necklace you asked for,' said the parrot. And the eyes of
the giant glistened as he took the heap of blue stones in his hand.
But for all that he was not minded to give up the crown.
'They are hardly as blue as I expected,' he grumbled, though the parrot
knew as well as he did that he was not speaking the truth; 'so you must
bring me something else in exchange for the crown you covet so much.
If you fail it will cost you not only the crown but you life also.'
'What is it you want now?' asked the parrot; and the giant answered:
'If I give you my crown I must have another still more beautiful; and
this time you shall bring me a crown of stars.'
The parrot turned away, and as soon as she was outside she murmured:
'Toad, come to me!' And sure enough a toad she was, and off she set in
search of the starry crown.
She had not gone far before she came to a clear pool, in which the
stars were reflected so brightly that they looked quite real to touch
and handle. Stooping down she filled a bag she was carrying with the
shining water and, returning to the castle, wove a crown out of the
reflected stars. Then she cried as before:
'Parrot, come to me!' And in the shape of a parrot she entered the
presence of the giant.
'Here is the crown you asked for,' she said; and this time the giant
could not help crying out with admiration. He knew he was beaten, and
still holding the chaplet of stars, he turned to the girl.
'Your power is greater than mine: take the crown; you have won it
The parrot did not need to be told twice. Seizing the crown, she
sprang on to the window, crying: 'Monkey, come to me!' And to a
monkey, the climb down the tree into the courtyard did not take half a
minute. When she had reached the ground she said again: 'Ant, come to
me!' And a little ant at once began to crawl over the high wall. How
glad the ant was to be out of the giant's castle, holding fast the
crown which had shrunk into almost nothing, as she herself had done,
but grew quite big again when the ant exclaimed:
'Deer, come to me!'
Surely no deer ever ran so swiftly as that one! On and on she went,
bounding over rivers and crashing through tangles till she reached the
sea. Here she cried for the last time:
'Fish, come to me!' And, plunging in, she swam along the bottom as far
as the palace, where the queen and all the fishes gathered together
The hours since she had left had gone very slowly--as they always do to
people that are waiting--and many of them had quite given up hope.
'I am tired of staying here,' grumbled a beautiful little creature,
whose colours changed with every movement of her body, 'I want to see
what is going on in the upper world. It must be months since that fish
'It was a very difficult task, and the giant must certainly have killed
her or she would have been back long ago,' remarked another.
'The young flies will be coming out now,' murmured a third, 'and they
will all be eaten up by the river fish! It is really too bad!' When,
suddenly, a voice was heard from behind: 'Look! look! what is that
bright thing that is moving so swiftly towards us?' And the queen
started up, and stood on her tail, so excited was she.
A silence fell on all the crowd, and even the grumblers held their
peace and gazed like the rest. On and on came the fish, holding the
crown tightly in her mouth, and the others moved back to let her pass.
On she went right up to the queen, who bent and, taking the crown,
placed it on her own head. Then a wonderful thing happened. Her tail
dropped away or, rather, it divided and grew into two legs and a pair
of the prettiest feet in the world, while her maidens, who were grouped
around her, shed their scales and became girls again. They all turned
and looked at each other first, and next at the little fish who had
regained her own shape and was more beautiful than any of them.
'It is you who have given us back our life; you, you!' they cried; and
fell to weeping from very joy.
So they all went back to earth and the queen's palace, and quite forgot
the one that lay under the sea. But they had been so long away that
they found many changes. The prince, the queen's husband, had died
some years since, and in his place was her son, who had grown up and
was king! Even in his joy at seeing his mother again an air of sadness
clung to him, and at last the queen could bear it no longer, and begged
him to walk with her in the garden. Seated together in a bower of
jessamine--where she had passed long hours as a bride--she took her
son's hand and entreated him to tell her the cause of his sorrow.
'For,' said she, 'if I can give you happiness you shall have it.'
'It is no use,' answered the prince; 'nobody can help me. I must bear
'But at least let me share your grief,' urged the queen.
'No one can do that,' said he. 'I have fallen in love with what I can
never marry, and I must get on as best I can.'
'It may not be as impossible as you think,' answered the queen. 'At
any rate, tell me.'
There was silence between them for a moment, then, turning away his
head, the prince answered gently:
'I have fallen in love with a beautiful deer!'
'Ah, if that is all,' exclaimed the queen joyfully. And she told him
in broken words that, as he had guessed, it was no deer but an
enchanted maiden who had won back the crown and brought her home to her
'She is here, in my palace,' added the queen. 'I will take you to her.'
But when the prince stood before the girl, who was so much more
beautiful than anything he had ever dreamed of, he lost all his
courage, and stood with bent head before her.
Then the maiden drew near, and her eyes, as she looked at him, were the
eyes of the deer that day in the forest. She whispered softly:
'By your favour let me go, and do not kill me.'
And the prince remembered her words, and his heart was filled with
happiness. And the queen, his mother, watched them and smiled.
[From Cuentos Populars Catalans, por lo Dr. D. Francisco de S.
Maspons y Labros.]
The Owl and the Eagle
Once upon a time, in a savage country where the snow lies deep for many
months in the year, there lived an owl and an eagle. Though they were
so different in many ways they became great friends, and at length set
up house together, one passing the day in hunting and the other the
night. In this manner they did not see very much of each other--and
perhaps agreed all the better for that; but at any rate they were
perfectly happy, and only wanted one thing, or, rather, two things, and
that was a wife for each.
'I really am too tired when I come home in the evening to clean up the
house,' said the eagle.
'And I am much too sleepy at dawn after a long night's hunting to begin
to sweep and dust,' answered the owl. And they both made up their
minds that wives they must have.
They flew about in their spare moments to the young ladies of their
acquaintance, but the girls all declared they preferred one husband to
two. The poor birds began to despair, when, one evening, after they
had been for a wonder hunting together, they found two sisters fast
asleep on their two beds. The eagle looked at the owl and the owl
looked at the eagle.
'They will make capital wives if they will only stay with us,' said
they. And they flew off to give themselves a wash, and to make
themselves smart before the girls awoke.
For many hours the sisters slept on, for they had come a long way, from
a town where there was scarcely anything to eat, and felt weak and
tired. But by-and-by they opened their eyes and saw the two birds
'I hope you are rested?' asked the owl politely.
'Oh, yes, thank you,' answered the girls. 'Only we are so very hungry.
Do you think we could have something to eat?'
'Certainly!' replied the eagle. And he flew away to a farmhouse a mile
or two off, and brought back a nest of eggs in his strong beak; while
the owl, catching up a tin pot, went to a cottage where lived an old
woman and her cow, and entering the shed by the window dipped the pot
into the pail of new milk that stood there.
The girls were so much delighted with the kindness and cleverness of
their hosts that, when the birds inquired if they would marry them and
stay there for ever, they accepted without so much as giving it a
second thought. So the eagle took the younger sister to wife, and the
owl the elder, and never was a home more peaceful than theirs!
All went well for several months, and then the eagle's wife had a son,
while, on the same day, the owl's wife gave birth to a frog, which she
placed directly on the banks of a stream near by, as he did not seem to
like the house. The children both grew quickly, and were never tired
of playing together, or wanted any other companions.
One night in the spring, when the ice had melted, and the snow was
gone, the sisters sat spinning in the house, awaiting their husbands'
return. But long though they watched, neither the owl nor the eagle
ever came; neither that day nor the next, nor the next, nor the next.
At last the wives gave up all hope of their return; but, being sensible
women, they did not sit down and cry, but called their children, and
set out, determined to seek the whole world over till the missing
husbands were found.
Now the women had no idea in which direction the lost birds had gone,
but they knew that some distance off was a thick forest, where good
hunting was to be found. It seemed a likely place to find them, or, at
any rate, they might hear something of them, and they walked quickly
on, cheered by the thought that they were doing something. Suddenly
the younger sister, who was a little in front, gave a cry of surprise.
'Oh! look at that lake!' she said, 'we shall never get across it.'
'Yes we shall,' answered the elder; 'I know what to do.' And taking a
long piece of string from her pocket, fastened it into the frog's
mouth, like a bit.
'You must swim across the lake,' she said, stooping to put him in, 'and
we will walk across on the line behind you.' And so they did, till
they got to about the middle of the lake, when the frog boy stopped.
'I don't like it, and I won't go any further,' cried he sulkily. And
his mother had to promise him all sorts of nice things before he would
go on again.
When at last they reached the other side, the owl's wife untied the
line from the frog's mouth and told him he might rest and play by the
lake till they got back from the forest. Then she and her sister and
the boy walked on, with the great forest looming before them. But they
had by this time come far and were very tired, and felt glad enough to
see some smoke curling up from a little hut in front of them.
'Let us go in and ask for some water,' said the eagle's wife; and in
The inside of the hut was so dark that at first they could see nothing
at all; but presently they heard a feeble croak from one corner. But
sisters turned to look, and there, tied by wings and feet, and their
eyes sunken, were the husbands that they sought. Quick as lightning
the wives cut the deer- thongs which bound them; but the poor birds
were too weak from pain and starvation to do more than utter soft
sounds of joy. Hardly, however, were they set free, than a voice of
thunder made the two sisters jump, while the little boy clung tightly
round his mother's neck.
'What are you doing in my house?' cried she. And the wives answered
boldly that now they had found their husbands they meant to save them
from such a wicked witch.
'Well, I will give you your chance,' answered the ogress, with a
hideous grin; 'we will see if you can slide down this mountain. If you
can reach the bottom of the cavern, you shall have your husbands back
again.' And as she spoke she pushed them before her out of the door to
the edge of a precipice, which went straight down several hundreds of
feet. Unseen by the witch, the frog's mother fastened one end of the
magic line about her, and whispered to the little boy to hold fast the
other. She had scarcely done so when the witch turned round.
'You don't seem to like your bargain,' said she; but the girl answered:
'Oh, yes, I am quite ready. I was only waiting for you!' And sitting
down she began her slide. On, on, she went, down to such a depth that
even the witch's eyes could not follow her; but she took for granted
that the woman was dead, and told the sister to take her place. At
that instant, however, the head of the elder appeared above the rock,
brought upwards by the magic line. The witch gave a howl of disgust,
and hid her face in her hands; thus giving the younger sister time to
fasten the cord to her waist before the ogress looked up.
'You can't expect such luck twice,' she said; and the girl sat down and
slid over the edge. But in a few minutes she too was back again, and
the witch saw that she had failed, and feared lest her power was going.
Trembling with rage though she was, she dared not show it, and only
'I sha'n't let my prisoners go as easily as all that!' she said. 'Make
my hair grow as thick and as black as yours, or else your husbands
shall never see daylight again.'
'That is quite simple,' replied the elder sister; 'only you must do as
we did--and perhaps you won't like the treatment.'
'If you can bear it, of course I can,' answered the witch. And so the
girls told her they had first smeared their heads with pitch and then
laid hot stones upon them.
'It is very painful,' said they, 'but there is no other way that we
know of. And in order to make sure that all will go right, one of us
will hold you down while the other pours on the pitch.'
And so they did; and the elder sister let down her hair till it hung
over the witch's eyes, so that she might believe it was her own hair
growing. Then the other brought a huge stone, and, in short, there was
an end of the witch. The sisters were savages who had never seen a
So when the sisters saw that she was dead they went to the hut, and
nursed their husbands till they grew strong. Then they picked up the
frog, and all went to make another home on the other side of the great
[From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.]
The Frog and the Lion Fairy
Once upon a time there lived a king who was always at war with his
neighbours, which was very strange, as he was a good and kind man,
quite content with his own country, and not wanting to seize land
belonging to other people. Perhaps he may have tried too much to
please everybody, and that often ends in pleasing nobody; but, at any
rate, he found himself, at the end of a hard struggle, defeated in
battle, and obliged to fall back behind the walls of his capital city.
Once there, he began to make preparations for a long siege, and the
first thing he did was to plan how best to send his wife to a place of
The queen, who loved her husband dearly, would gladly have remained
with him to share his dangers, but he would not allow it. So they
parted, with many tears, and the queen set out with a strong guard to a
fortified castle on the outskirts of a great forest, some two hundred
miles distant. She cried nearly all the way, and when she arrived she
cried still more, for everything in the castle was dusty and old, and
outside there was only a gravelled courtyard, and the king had
forbidden her to go beyond the walls without at least two soldiers to
take care of her.
Now the queen had only been married a few months, and in her own home
she had been used to walk and ride all over the hills without any
attendants at all; so she felt very dull at her being shut up in this
way. However, she bore it for a long while because it was the king's
wish, but when time passed and there were no signs of the war drifting
in the direction of the castle, she grew bolder, and sometimes strayed
outside the walls, in the direction of the forest.
Then came a dreadful period, when news from the king ceased entirely.
'He must surely be ill or dead,' thought the poor girl, who even now
was only sixteen. 'I can bear it no longer, and if I do not get a
letter from him soon I shall leave this horrible place and go back to
see what is the matter. Oh! I do wish I had never come away!'
So, without telling anyone what she intended to do, she ordered a
little low carriage to be built, something like a sledge, only it was
on two wheels--just big enough to hold one person.
'I am tired of being always in the castle,' she said to her attendants;
'and I mean to hunt a little. Quite close by, of course,' she added,
seeing the anxious look on their faces. 'And there is no reason that
you should not hunt too.'
All the faces brightened at that, for, to tell the truth, they were
nearly as dull as their mistress; so the queen had her way, and two
beautiful horses were brought from the stable to draw the little
chariot. At first the queen took care to keep near the rest of the
hunt, but gradually she stayed away longer and longer, and at last, one
morning, she took advantage of the appearance of a wild boar, after
which her whole court instantly galloped, to turn into a path in the
Unluckily, it did not happen to lead towards the king's palace, where
she intended to go, but she was so afraid her flight would be noticed
that she whipped up her horses till they ran away.
When she understood what was happening the poor young queen was
terribly frightened, and, dropping the reins, clung to the side of the
chariot. The horses, thus left without any control, dashed blindly
against a tree, and the queen was flung out on the ground, where she
lay for some minutes unconscious.
A rustling sound near her at length caused her to open her eyes; before
her stood a huge woman, almost a giantess, without any clothes save a
lion's skin, which was thrown over her shoulders, while a dried snake's
skin was plaited into her hair. In one hand she held a club on which
she leaned, and in the other a quiver full of arrows.
At the sight of this strange figure the queen thought she must be dead,
and gazing on an inhabitant of another world. So she murmured softly
'I am not surprised that people are so loth to die when they know that
they will see such horrible creatures.' But, low as she spoke, the
giantess caught the words, and began to laugh.
'Oh, don't be afraid; you are still alive, and perhaps, after all, you
may be sorry for it. I am the Lion Fairy, and you are going to spend
the rest of your days with me in my palace, which is quite near this.
So come along.' But the queen shrank back in horror.
'Oh, Madam Lion, take me back, I pray you, to my castle; and fix what
ransom you like, for my husband will pay it, whatever it is. But the
giantess shook her head.
'I am rich enough already,' she answered, 'but I am often dull, and I
think you may amuse me a little.' And, so saying, she changed her
shape into that of a lion, and throwing the queen across her back, she
went down the ten thousand steps that led to her palace. The lion had
reached the centre of the earth before she stopped in front of a house,
lighted with lamps, and built on the edge of a lake of quicksilver. In
this lake various huge monsters might be seen playing or fighting--the
queen did not know which-- and around flew rooks and ravens, uttering
dismal croaks. In the distance was a mountain down whose sides waters
slowly coursed--these were the tears of unhappy lovers--and nearer the
gate were trees without either fruit of flowers, while nettles and
brambles covered the ground. If the castle had been gloomy, what did
the queen feel about this?
For some days the queen was so much shaken by all she had gone through
that she lay with her eyes closed, unable either to move or speak.
When she got better, the Lion Fairy told her that if she liked she
could build herself a cabin, as she would have to spend her life in
that place. At these words the queen burst into tears, and implored
her gaoler to put her to death rather than condemn her to such a life;
but the Lion Fairy only laughed, and counselled her to try to make
herself pleasant, as many worse things might befall her.
'Is there no way in which I can touch your heart?' asked the poor girl
'Well, if you really wish to please me you will make me a pasty out of
the stings of bees, and be sure it is good.'
'But I don't see any bees,' answered the queen, looking round.
'Oh, no, there aren't any,' replied her tormentor; 'but you will have
to find them all the same.' And, so saying, she went away.
'After all, what does it matter?' thought the queen to herself, 'I have
only one life, and I can but lose it.' And not caring what she did,
she left the palace and seating herself under a yew tree, poured out
all her grief.
'Oh, my dear husband,' wept she, 'what will you think when you come to
the castle to fetch me and find me gone? Rather a thousand times that
you should fancy me dead than imagine that I had forgotten you! Ah,
how fortunate that the broken chariot should be lying in the wood, for
then you may grieve for me as one devoured by wild beasts. And if
another should take my place in your heart--Well, at least I shall
never know it.'
She might have continued for long in this fashion had not the voice of
a crow directly overhead attracted her attention. Looking up to see
what was the matter she beheld, in the dim light, a crow holding a fat
frog in his claws, which he evidently intended for his supper. The
queen rose hastily from the seat, and striking the bird sharply on the
claws with the fan which hung from her side, she forced him to drop the
frog, which fell to the round more dead than alive. The crow, furious
at his disappointment, flew angrily away.
As soon as the frog had recovered her senses she hopped up to the
queen, who was still sitting under the yew. Standing on her hind legs,
and bowing low before her, she said gently:
'Beautiful lady, by what mischance do you come here? You are the only
creature that I have seen do a kind deed since a fatal curiosity lured
me to this place.'
'What sort of a frog can you be that knows the language of mortals?'
asked the queen in her turn. 'But if you do, tell me, I pray, if I
alone am a captive, for hitherto I have beheld no one but the monsters
of the lake.'
'Once upon a time they were men and women like yourself,' answered the
frog, 'but having power in their hands, they used it for their own
pleasure. Therefore fate has sent them here for a while to bear the
punishment of their misdoings.'
'But you, friend frog, you are not one of these wicked people, I am
sure?' asked the queen.
'I am half a fairy,' replied the frog; 'but, although I have certain
magic gifts, I am not able to do all I wish. And if the Lion Fairy
were to know of my presence in her kingdom she would hasten to kill me.'
'But if you are a fairy, how was it that you were so nearly slain by
the crow?' said the queen, wrinkling her forehead.
'Because the secret of my power lies in my little cap that is made of
rose leaves; but I had laid it aside for the moment, when that horrible
crow pounced upon me. Once it is on my head I fear nothing. But let
me repeat; had it not been for you I could not have escaped death, and
if I can do anything to help you, or soften your hard fate, you have
only to tell me.'
'Alas,' sighed the queen, 'I have been commanded by the Lion Fairy to
make her a pasty out of the stings of bees, and, as far as I can
discover, there are none here; as how should there be, seeing there are
no flowers for them to feed on? And, even if there were, how could I
'Leave it to me,' said the frog, 'I will manage it for you.' And,
uttering a strange noise, she struck the ground thrice with her foot.
In an instant six thousand frogs appeared before her, one of them
bearing a little cap.
'Cover yourselves with honey, and hop round by the beehives,' commanded
the frog, putting on the cap which her friend was holding in her mouth.
And turning to the queen, he added:
'The Lion Fairy keeps a store of bees in a secret place near to the
bottom of the ten thousand steps leading into the upper world. Not
that she wants them for herself, but they are sometimes useful to her
in punishing her victims. However, this time we will get the better of
Just as she had finished speaking the six thousand frogs returned,
looking so strange with bees sticking to every part of them that, sad
as she felt, the poor queen could not help laughing. The bees were all
so stupefied with what they had eaten that it was possible to draw
their stings without hunting them. So, with the help of her friend,
the queen soon made ready her pasty and carried it to the Lion Fairy.
'Not enough pepper,' said the giantess, gulping down large morsels, in
order the hide the surprise she felt. 'Well, you have escaped this
time, and I am glad to find I have got a companion a little more
intelligent than the others I have tried. Now, you had better go and
build yourself a house.'
So the queen wandered away, and picking up a small axe which lay near
the door she began with the help of her friend the frog to cut down
some cypress trees for the purpose. And not content with that the six
thousand froggy servants were told to help also, and it was not long
before they had built the prettiest little cabin in the world, and made
a bed in one corner of dried ferns which they fetched from the top of
the ten thousand steps. It looked soft and comfortable, and the queen
was very glad to lie down upon it, so tired was she with all that had
happened since the morning. Scarcely, however, had she fallen asleep
when the lake monsters began to make the most horrible noises just
outside, while a small dragon crept in and terrified her so that she
ran away, which was just what the dragon wanted!
The poor queen crouched under a rock for the rest of the night, and the
next morning, when she woke from her troubled dreams, she was cheered
at seeing the frog watching by her.
'I hear we shall have to build you another palace,' said she. 'Well,
this time we won't go so near the lake.' And she smiled with her funny
wide mouth, till the queen took heart, and they went together to find
wood for the new cabin.
The tiny palace was soon ready, and a fresh bed made of wild thyme,
which smelt delicious. Neither the queen nor the frog said anything
about it, but somehow, as always happens, the story came to the ears of
the Lion Fairy, and she sent a raven to fetch the culprit.
'What gods or men are protecting you?' she asked, with a frown. 'This
earth, dried up by a constant rain of sulphur and fire, produces
nothing, yet I hear that YOUR bed is made of sweet smelling herbs.
However, as you can get flowers for yourself, of course you can get
them for me, and in an hour's time I must have in my room a nosegay of
the rarest flowers. If not--! Now you can go.'
The poor queen returned to her house looking so sad that the frog, who
was waiting for her, noticed it directly.
'What is the matter?' said she, smiling.
'Oh, how can you laugh!' replied the queen. 'This time I have to bring
her in an hour a posy of the rarest flowers, and where am I to find
them? If I fail I know she will kill me.'
'Well, I must see if I can't help you,' answered the frog. 'The only
person I have made friends with here is a bat. She is a good creature,
and always does what I tell her, so I will just lend her my cap, and if
she puts it on, and flies into the world, she will bring back all we
want. I would go myself, only she will be quicker.'
Then the queen dried her eyes, and waited patiently, and long before
the hour had gone by the bat flew in with all the most beautiful and
sweetest flowers that grew on the earth. The girl sprang up overjoyed
at the sight, and hurried with them to the Lion Fairy, who was so
astonished that for once she had nothing to say.
Now the smell and touch of the flowers had made the queen sick with
longing for her home, and she told the frog that she would certainly
die if she did not manage to escape somehow.
'Let me consult my cap,' said the frog; and taking it off she laid it
in a box, and threw in after it a few sprigs of juniper, some capers,
and two peas, which she carried under her right leg; she then shut down
the lid of the box, and murmured some words which the queen did not
In a few moments a voice was heard speaking from the box.
'Fate, who rules us all,' said the voice, 'forbids your leaving this
place till the time shall come when certain things are fulfilled. But,
instead, a gift shall be given you, which will comfort you in all your
And the voice spoke truly, for, a few days after, when the frog peeped
in at the door she found the most beautiful baby in the world lying by
the side of the queen.
'So the cap has kept its word,' cried the frog with delight. 'How soft
its cheeks are, and what tiny feet it has got! What shall we call it?'
This was a very important point, and needed much discussion. A
thousand names were proposed and rejected for a thousand silly reasons.
One was too long, and one was too short. One was too harsh, and
another reminded the queen of somebody she did not like; but at length
an idea flashed into the queen's head, and she called out:
'I know! We will call her Muffette.'
'That is the very thing,' shouted the frog, jumping high into the air;
and so it was settled.
The princess Muffette was about six months old when the frog noticed
that the queen had begun to grow sad again.
'Why do you have that look in your eyes?' she asked one day, when she
had come in to play with the baby, who could now crawl.
The way they played their game was to let Muffette creep close to the
frog, and then for the frog to bound high into the air and alight on
the child's head, or back, or legs, when she always sent up a shout of
pleasure. There is no play fellow like a frog; but then it must be a
fairy frog, or else you might hurt it, and if you did something
dreadful might happen to you. Well, as I have said, our frog was
struck with the queen's sad face, and lost no time in asking her what
was the reason.
'I don't see what you have to complain of now; Muffette is quite well
and quite happy, and even the Lion Fairy is kind to her when she sees
her. What is it?'
'Oh! if her father could only see her!' broke forth the queen, clasping
her hands. 'Or if I could only tell him all that has happened since we
parted. But they will have brought him tidings of the broken carriage,
and he will have thought me dead, or devoured by wild beasts. And
though he will mourn for me long--I know that well--yet in time they
will persuade him to take a wife, and she will be young and fair, and
he will forget me.'
And in all this the queen guessed truly, save that nine long years were
to pass before he would consent to put another in her place.
The frog answered nothing at the time, but stopped her game and hopped
away among the cypress trees. Here she sat and thought and thought,
and the next morning she went back to the queen and said:
'I have come, madam, to make you an offer. Shall I go to the king
instead of you, and tell him of your sufferings, and that he has the
most charming baby in the world for his daughter? The way is long, and
I travel slowly; but, sooner or later, I shall be sure to arrive.
Only, are you not afraid to be left without my protection? Ponder the
matter carefully; it is for you to decide.'
'Oh, it needs no pondering,' cried the queen joyfully, holding up her
clasped hands, and making Muffette do likewise, in token of gratitude.
But in order that he may know that you have come from me I will send
him a letter.' And pricking her arm, she wrote a few words with her
blood on the corner of her handkerchief. Then tearing it off, she gave
it to the frog, and they bade each other farewell.
It took the frog a year and four days to mount the ten thousand steps
that led to the upper world, but that was because she was still under
the spell of a wicked fairy. By the time she reached the top, she was
so tired that she had to remain for another year on the banks of a
stream to rest, and also to arrange the procession with which she was
to present herself before the king. For she knew far too well what was
due to herself and her relations, to appear at Court as if she was a
mere nobody. At length, after many consultations with her cap, the
affair was settled, and at the end of the second year after her parting
with the queen they all set out.
First walked her bodyguard of grasshoppers, followed by her maids of
honour, who were those tiny green frogs you see in the fields, each one
mounted on a snail, and seated on a velvet saddle. Next came the
water-rats, dressed as pages, and lastly the frog herself, in a litter
borne by eight toads, and made of tortoiseshell. Here she could lie at
her ease, with her cap on her head, for it was quite large and roomy,
and could easily have held two eggs when the frog was not in it.
The journey lasted seven years, and all this time the queen suffered
tortures of hope, though Muffette did her best to comfort her. Indeed,
she would most likely have died had not the Lion Fairy taken a fancy
that the child and her mother should go hunting with her in the upper
world, and, in spite of her sorrows, it was always a joy to the queen
to see the sun again. As for little Muffette, by the time she was
seven her arrows seldom missed their mark. So, after all, the years of
waiting passed more quickly than the queen had dared to hope.
The frog was always careful to maintain her dignity, and nothing would
have persuaded her to show her face in public places, or even along the
high road, where there was a chance of meeting anyone. But sometimes,
when the procession had to cross a little stream, or go over a piece of
marshy ground, orders would be given for a halt; fine clothes were
thrown off, bridles were flung aside, and grasshoppers, water-rats,
even the frog herself, spent a delightful hour or two playing in the
But at length the end was in sight, and the hardships were forgotten in
the vision of the towers of the king's palace; and, one bright morning,
the cavalcade entered the gates with all the pomp and circumstance of a
royal embassy. And surely no ambassador had ever created such a
sensation! Door and windows, even the roofs of houses, were filled
with people, whose cheers reached the ears of the king. However, he
had no time to attend to such matters just then, as, after nine years,
he had at last consented to the entreaties of his courtiers, and was on
the eve of celebrating his second marriage.
The frog's heart beat high when her litter drew up before the steps of
the palace, and leaning forward she beckoned to her side one of the
guards who were standing in his doorway.
'I wish to see his Majesty,' said he.
'His Majesty is engaged, and can see no one,' answered the soldier.
'His Majesty will see ME,' returned the frog, fixing her eye upon him;
and somehow the man found himself leading the procession along the
gallery into the Hall of Audience, where the king sat surrounded by his
nobles arranging the dresses which everyone was to wear at his marriage
All stared in surprise as the procession advanced, and still more when
the frog gave one bound from the litter on to the floor, and with
another landed on the arm of the chair of state.
'I am only just in time, sire,' began the frog; 'had I been a day later
you would have broken your faith which you swore to the queen nine
'Her remembrance will always be dear to me,' answered the king gently,
though all present expected him to rebuke the frog severely for her
impertinence. But know, Lady Frog, that a king can seldom do as he
wishes, but must be bound by the desires of his subjects. For nine
years I have resisted them; now I can do so no longer, and have made
choice of the fair young maiden playing at ball yonder.'
'You cannot wed her, however fair she may be, for the queen your wife
is still alive, and sends you this letter written in her own blood,'
said the frog, holding out the square of handkerchief as she spoke.
'And, what is more, you have a daughter who is nearly nine years old,
and more beautiful than all the other children in the world put
The king turned pale when he heard these words, and his hand trembled
so that he could hardly read what the queen had written. Then he
kissed the handkerchief twice or thrice, and burst into tears, and it
was some minutes before he could speak. When at length he found his
voice he told his councillors that the writing was indeed that of the
queen, and now that he had the joy of knowing she was alive he could,
of course, proceed no further with his second marriage. This naturally
displeased the ambassadors who had conducted the bride to court, and
one of them inquired indignantly if he meant to put such an insult on
the princess on the word of a mere frog.
'I am not a "mere frog," and I will give you proof of it,' retorted the
angry little creature. And putting on her cap, she cried: Fairies that
are my friends, come hither!' And in a moment a crowd of beautiful
creatures, each one with a crown on her head, stood before her.
Certainly none could have guessed that they were the snails, water-
rats, and grasshoppers from which she had chosen her retinue.
At a sign from the frog the fairies danced a ballet, with which
everyone was so delighted that they begged to have to repeated; but now
it was not youths and maidens who were dancing, but flowers. Then
these again melted into fountains, whose waters interlaced and, rushing
down the sides of the hall, poured out in a cascade down the steps, and
formed a river found the castle, with the most beautiful little boats
upon it, all painted and gilded.
'Oh, let us go in them for a sail!' cried the princess, who had long
ago left her game of ball for a sight of these marvels, and, as she was
bent upon it, the ambassadors, who had been charged never to lose sight
of her, were obliged to go also, though they never entered a boat if
they could help it.
But the moment they and the princess had seated themselves on the soft
cushions, river and boats vanished, and the princess and the
ambassadors vanished too. Instead the snails and grasshoppers and
water-rats stood round the frog in their natural shapes.
'Perhaps,' said she, 'your Majesty may now be convinced that I am a
fairy and speak the truth. Therefore lose no time in setting in order
the affairs of your kingdom and go in search of your wife. Here is a
ring that will admit you into the presence of the queen, and will
likewise allow you to address unharmed the Lion Fairy, though she is
the most terrible creature that ever existed.'
By this time the king had forgotten all about the princess, whom he had
only chosen to please his people, and was as eager to depart on his
journey as the frog was for him to go. He made one of his ministers
regent of the kingdom, and gave the frog everything her heart could
desire; and with her ring on his finger he rode away to the outskirts
of the forest. Here he dismounted, and bidding his horse go home, he
pushed forward on foot.
Having nothing to guide him as to where he was likely to find the
entrance of the under- world, the king wandered hither and thither for
a long while, till, one day, while he was resting under a tree, a voice
spoke to him.
'Why do you give yourself so much trouble for nought, when you might
know what you want to know for the asking? Alone you will never
discover the path that leads to your wife.'
Much startled, the king looked about him. He could see nothing, and
somehow, when he thought about it, the voice seemed as if it were part
of himself. Suddenly his eyes fell on the ring, and he understood.
'Fool that I was!' cried he; 'and how much precious time have I wasted?
Dear ring, I beseech you, grant me a vision of my wife and my
daughter!' And even as he spoke there flashed past him a huge lioness,
followed by a lady and a beautiful young maid mounted on fairy horses.
Almost fainting with joy he gazed after them, and then sank back
trembling on the ground.
'Oh, lead me to them, lead me to them!' he exclaimed. And the ring,
bidding him take courage, conducted him safely to the dismal place
where his wife had lived for ten years.
Now the Lion Fairy knew beforehand of his expected presence in her
dominions, and she ordered a palace of crystal to be built in the
middle of the lake of quicksilver; and in order to make it more
difficult of approach she let it float whither it would. Immediately
after their return from the chase, where the king had seen them, she
conveyed the queen and Muffette into the palace, and put them under the
guard of the monsters of the lake, who one and all had fallen in love
with the princess. They were horribly jealous, and ready to eat each
other up for her sake, so they readily accepted the charge. Some
stationed themselves round the floating palace, some sat by the door,
while the smallest and lightest perched themselves on the roof.
Of course the king was quite ignorant of these arrangements, and boldly
entered the palace of the Lion Fairy, who was waiting for him, with her
tail lashing furiously, for she still kept her lion's shape. With a
roar that shook the walls she flung herself upon him; but he was on the
watch, and a blow from his sword cut off the paw she had put forth to
strike him dead. She fell back, and with his helmet still on and his
shield up, he set his foot on her throat.
'Give me back the wife and the child you have stolen from me,' he said,
'or you shall not live another second!'
But the fairy answered:
'Look through the window at that lake and see if it is in my power to
give them to you.' And the king looked, and through the crystal walls
he beheld his wife and daughter floating on the quicksilver. At that
sight the Lion Fairy and all her wickedness was forgotten. Flinging
off his helmet, he shouted to them with all his might. The queen knew
his voice, and she and Muffette ran to the window and held out their
hands. Then the king swore a solemn oath that he would never leave the
spot without taking them if it should cost him his life; and he meant
it, though at the moment he did not know what he was undertaking.
Three years passed by, and the king was no nearer to obtaining his
heart's desire. He had suffered every hardship that could be
imagined--nettles had been his bed, wild fruits more bitter than gall
his food, while his days had been spent in fighting the hideous
monsters which kept him from the palace. He had not advanced one
single step, nor gained one solitary advantage. Now he was almost in
despair, and ready to defy everything and throw himself into the lake.
It was at this moment of his blackest misery that, one night, a dragon
who had long watched him from the roof crept to his side.
'You thought that love would conquer all obstacles,' said he; 'well,
you have found it hasn't! But if you will swear to me by your crown
and sceptre that you will give me a dinner of the food that I never
grow tired of, whenever I choose to ask for it, I will enable you to
reach your wife and daughter.'
Ah, how glad the king was to hear that! What oath would he not have
taken so as to clasp his wife and child in is arms? Joyfully he swore
whatever the dragon asked of him; then he jumped on his back, and in
another instant would have been carried by the strong wings into the
castle if the nearest monsters had not happened to awake and hear the
noise of talking and swum to the shore to give battle. The fight was
long and hard, and when the king at last beat back his foes another
struggle awaited him. At the entrance gigantic bats, owls, and crows
set upon him from all sides; but the dragon had teeth and claws, while
the queen broke off sharp bits of glass and stabbed and cut in her
anxiety to help her husband. At length the horrible creatures flew
away; a sound like thunder was heard, the palace and the monsters
vanished, while, at the same moment--no one knew how-- the king found
himself standing with his wife and daughter in the hall of his own home.
The dragon had disappeared with all the rest, and for some years no
more was heard or thought of him. Muffette grew every day more
beautiful, and when she was fourteen the kings and emperors of the
neighbouring countries sent to ask her in marriage for themselves or
their sons. For a long time the girl turned a deaf ear to all their
prayers; but at length a young prince of rare gifts touched her heart,
and though the king had left her free to choose what husband she would,
he had secretly hoped that out of all the wooers this one might be his
son-in-law. So they were betrothed that some day with great pomp, and
then with many tears, the prince set out for his father's court,
bearing with him a portrait of Muffette.
The days passed slowly to Muffette, in spite of her brave efforts to
occupy herself and not to sadden other people by her complaints. One
morning she was playing on her harp in the queen's chamber when the
king burst into the room and clasped his daughter in his arms with an
energy that almost frightened her.
'Oh, my child! my dear child! why were you ever born?' cried he, as
soon as he could speak.
'Is the prince dead?' faltered Muffette, growing white and cold.
'No, no; but--oh, how can I tell you!' And he sank down on a pile of
cushions while his wife and daughter knelt beside him.
At length he was able to tell his tale, and a terrible one it was!
There had just arrived at court a huge giant, as ambassador from the
dragon by whose help the king had rescued the queen and Muffette from
the crystal palace. The dragon had been very busy for many years past,
and had quite forgotten the princess till the news of her betrothal
reached his ears. Then he remembered the bargain he had made with her
father; and the more he heard of Muffette the more he felt sure she
would make a delicious dish. So he had ordered the giant who was his
servant to fetch her at once.
No words would paint the horror of both the queen and the princess as
they listened to this dreadful doom. They rushed instantly to the
hall, where the giant was awaiting them, and flinging themselves at his
feet implored him to take the kingdom if he would, but to have pity on
the princess. The giant looked at them kindly, for he was not at all
hard- hearted, but said that he had no power to do anything, and that
if the princess did not go with him quietly the dragon would come
Several days went by, and the king and queen hardly ceased from
entreating the aid of the giant, who by this time was getting weary of
'There is only one way of helping you,' he said at last, 'and that is
to marry the princess to my nephew, who, besides being young and
handsome, has been trained in magic, and will know how to keep her safe
from the dragon.'
'Oh, thank you, thank you!' cried the parents, clasping his great hands
to their breasts. 'You have indeed lifted a load from us. She shall
have half the kingdom for her dowry.' But Muffette stood up and thrust
'I will not buy my life with faithlessness,' she said proudly; 'and I
will go with you this moment to the dragon's abode.' And all her
father's and mother's tears and prayers availed nothing to move her.
The next morning Muffette was put into a litter, and, guarded by the
giant and followed by the king and queen and the weeping maids of
honour, they started for the foot of the mountain where the dragon had
his castle. The way, though rough and stony, seemed all too short, and
when they reached the spot appointed by the dragon the giant ordered
the men who bore the litter to stand still.
'It is time for you to bid farewell to your daughter,' said he; 'for I
see the dragon coming to us.'
It was true; a cloud appeared to pass over the sun, for between them
and it they could all discern dimly a huge body half a mile long
approaching nearer and nearer. At first the king could not believe
that this was the small beast who had seemed so friendly on the shore
of the lake of quicksilver but then he knew very little of necromancy,
and had never studied the art of expanding and contracting his body.
But it was the dragon and nothing else, whose six wings were carrying
him forward as fast as might be, considering his great weight and the
length of his tail, which had fifty twists and a half.
He came quickly, yes; but the frog, mounted on a greyhound, and wearing
her cap on her head, went quicker still. Entering a room where the
prince was sitting gazing at the portrait of his betrothed, she cried
'What are you doing lingering here, when the life of the princess is
nearing its last moment? In the courtyard you will find a green horse
with three heads and twelve feet, and by its side a sword eighteen
yards long. Hasten, lest you should be too late!'
The fight lasted all day, and the prince's strength was well-nigh
spent, when the dragon, thinking that the victory was won, opened his
jaws to give a roar of triumph. The prince saw his chance, and before
his foe could shut his mouth again had plunged his sword far down his
adversary's throat. There was a desperate clutching of the claws to
the earth, a slow flagging of the great wings, then the monster rolled
over on his side and moved no more. Muffette was delivered.
After this they all went back to the palace. The marriage took place
the following day, and Muffette and her husband lived happy for ever
[From Les Contes des Fees, par Madame d'Aulnoy.]
The Adventures of Covan the Brown- Haired
On the shores of the west, where the great hills stand with their feet
in the sea, dwelt a goatherd and his wife, together with their three
sons and one daughter. All day long the young men fished and hunted,
while their sister took out the kids to pasture on the mountain, or
stayed at home helping her mother and mending the nets.
For several years they all lived happily together, when one day, as the
girl was out on the hill with the kids, the sun grew dark and an air
cold as a thick white mist came creeping, creeping up from the sea.
She rose with a shiver, and tried to call to her kids, but the voice
died away in her throat, and strong arms seemed to hold her.
Loud were the wails in the hut by the sea when the hours passed on and
the maiden came not. Many times the father and brothers jumped up,
thinking they heard her steps, but in the thick darkness they could
scarcely see their own hands, nor could they tell where the river lay,
nor where the mountain. One by one the kids came home, and at every
bleat someone hurried to open the door, but no sound broke the
stillness. Through the night no one slept, and when morning broke and
the mist rolled back, they sought the maiden by sea and by land, but
never a trace of her could be found anywhere.
Thus a year and a day slipped by, and at the end of it Gorla of the
Flocks and his wife seemed suddenly to have grown old. Their sons too
were sadder than before, for they loved their sister well, and had
never ceased to mourn for her. At length Ardan the eldest spoke and
'It is now a year and a day since our sister was taken from us, and we
have waited in grief and patience for her to return. Surely some evil
has befallen her, or she would have sent us a token to put our hearts
at rest; and I have vowed to myself that my eyes shall not know sleep
till, living or dead, I have found her.'
'If you have vowed, then must you keep your vow,' answered Gorla. 'But
better had it been if you had first asked your father's leave before
you made it. Yet, since it is so, your mother will bake you a cake for
you to carry with you on your journey. Who can tell how long it may
So the mother arose and baked not one cake but two, a big one and a
'Choose, my son,' said she. 'Will you have the little cake with your
mother's blessing, or the big one without it, in that you have set
aside your father and taken on yourself to make a vow?'
'I will have the large cake,' answered the youth; 'for what good would
my mother's blessing do for me if I was dying of hunger?' And taking
the big cake he went his way.
Straight on he strode, letting neither hill nor river hinder him.
Swiftly he walked-- swiftly as the wind that blew down the mountain.
The eagles and the gulls looked on from their nests as he passed,
leaving the deer behind him; but at length he stopped, for hunger had
seized on him, and he could walk no more. Trembling with fatigue he
sat himself on a rock and broke a piece off his cake.
'Spare me a morsel, Ardan son of Gorla,' asked a raven, fluttering down
'Seek food elsewhere, O bearer of ill-news,' answered Ardan son of
Gorla; 'it is but little I have for myself.' And he stretched himself
out for a few moments, then rose to his feet again. On and on went he
till the little birds flew to their nests, and the brightness died out
of the sky, and a darkness fell over the earth. On and on, and on,
till at last he saw a beam of light streaming from a house and hastened
The door was opened and he entered, but paused when he beheld an old
man lying on a bench by the fire, while seated opposite him was a
maiden combing out the locks of her golden hair with a comb of silver.
'Welcome, fair youth,' said the old man, turning his head. 'Sit down
and warm yourself, and tell me how fares the outer world. It is long
since I have seen it.'
'All my news is that I am seeking service,' answered Ardan son of
Gorla; 'I have come from far since sunrise, and glad was I to see the
rays of your lamp stream into the darkness.'
'I need someone to herd my three dun cows, which are hornless,' said
the old man. 'If, for the space of a year, you can bring them back to
me each evening before the sun sets, I will make you payment that will
satisfy your soul.'
But here the girl looked up and answered quickly: