Once a king and queen had a charming and pretty daughter. She was called Graciola, and the queen was fond of her. Once in a while she gave the princess a lovely new frock, and when she was hungry she got sugar-plums and jam.
At the court was also a very rich old duchess, called Grumbly. She was cross and mean, and could not bear to hear anyone talk well of Graciola. So the duchess went away from the court to her own castle, which was not far off.
Soon after this, the queen was taken ill and died. The king mourned so much that for a whole year he shut himself up in his castle. At last his physicians, fearing that he would fall ill, ordered that he should go out and amuse himself, and hunting party was arranged. But as it was very hot weather the king soon got tired and he said would get off his horse and rest at a castle they were passing. This happened to be the duchess Grumbly's castle. When she heard that the king was coming, she went out to meet him and said that the large wine cellar was the coolest place in the whole castle. Down they went together. The king saw about two hundred great casks ranged side by side, and asked if it was only for herself that she had this immense store.
"Yes, sire," she answered, took up a little hammer and tapped on a cask twice. Out came many crowns.
"There is enough there to buy ten kingdoms," said the king.
"All those casks are full of gold and jewels, and if you will marry me it shall all be yours," she said.
The king loved money more than anything else, and cried joyfully:
"Marry you? Tomorrow if you like. Let us shake hands on the bargain," said the king.
So they shook hands and went up out of the cellar of treasure together, and the duchess locked the door and gave the key to the king.
When he got back to his own castle, Graciola ran out to meet him, and asked if he had had good sport.
"I have caught a dove - I mean I met the duchess Grumbly, and have promised to marry her. I want you to behave prettily to her."
So the princess went very sorrowfully to her own room, and her nurse, seeing her tears, asked what was vexing her.
"Alas! Father wants to marry again, and has chosen for his new bride the hideous Duchess Grumbly."
"Oh, well, you are expected to set a good example. Promise me not to let the duchess see how much you dislike her," said the nurse.
The nurse then gave her so many good reasons for it. In the end the princess agreed.
Then the nurse dressed her in a robe, and put on her head a crown. When she was ready, the princess still could not help looking sad.
Graciola went alone through the garden into a little wood. Tere she sat down on a mossy bank and began to think and cry. Suddenly saw a handsome page standing before her. He was dressed in green, and the cap he held in his hand was adorned with white plumes. When Graciola looked at him he went down on one knee, and said to her:
"Princess, the king waits for you."
The princess could not remember to have seen this page before. He explained: "I am not in the service of the king, but in yours."
"In mine?" said the princess. "But I have never seen you before!"
"Let me explain," he said. "The king's marriage may lead to many dangers for you. I'm Prince Percinet in disguise."
"Ah, Percinet!" cried the princess, and understood he was the fairy Percinet. "I have often wished to see you!"
They went back to the castle together. Percinet brought her a splendid horse to ride. The king had so many other things to think of that he did not notice this. When they met the duchess Grumbly, who was dressed up a lot for the occasion, the king and the princess saluted her. But when she saw Graciola's she cried angrily:
"If that child is to have a better horse than mine, I will go back to my own castle now."
On this the king commanded Graciola to dismount and let the duchess mount her horse. The duchess scrambled up on the splendid horse. Even then she was not satisfied, and was still grumbling.
"I wish that page in green to come and lead the horse, as he did when Graciola rode it," she saidvery sharply.
And the king ordered the page to come and lead the queen's horse. He did as the king commanded, and the procession started in great pomp. But when it was least expected the beautiful horse began to plunge and rear and kick, and finally to run away at such a pace that it was impossible to stop him.
The duchess was thrown off. They found her quickly. Her face was scratched, and her fine clothes were covered with mud. They carried her to the king's castle. As soon as she recovered enough to speak, she began to scold and rage that it was all Graciola's fault, and that she therefore would not marry the king.
The king did not want to lose all those barrels of gold and jewels. He hastened to calm down the duchess and told her she might punish Graciola as she pleased.
She sent for Graciola, whe looked all about for Percinet, but he was nowhere to be seen. Graciola had no choice but to go to Grumbly's room. She had hardly got inside the door when she was seized by four waiting women. They looked so tall and strong and cruel that the princess shuddered at the sight of them. She shuddered still more when she saw them arming themselves with great bundles of rods and heard the duchess call out to them from her bed to beat the princess without mercy.
Graciola wished miserably that Percinet could only know what was happening and come to rescue her. But no sooner did they begin to beat her than the rods changed to bundles of peacock's feathers, and though the duchess's women went on till they were so tired that they could no longer raise their arms from their sides, yet Graciola was not hurt in the least. The duchess thought she must be black and blue after such a beating; so Graciola was released, and could go away into her own room. There was Percinet. She thanked him gratefully. He advised her to rest in her room for a few days. Then he disappeared.
The duchess recovered fast and the king married her. He also ordered that her portrait should be painted and that a tournament should be held in honour of her.
Knights came from far and wide to accept the challenge. The king's knights were so brave and skilled that for a long time they won in every combat of the tournament. But when nearly all the strangers had been defeated, a young, unknown knight presented himself. He claimed that the princess was the most worthwhile to fight for there.
So one by one the knights came out against him, and one by one he vanquished them. Graciola had no difficulty in guessing that the knight was Percinet.
The queen got so furiously angry that she overwhelmed Graciola with a torrent of reproaches.
"What!" she said. "I will not bear this, princess."
"I had nothing to do with it," said the princess.
The queen did not believe her. The king was speedily told what had happened. He only said: "The queen must do as she pleases. Graciola belongs to her stepmother!"
The queen waited till night fell. Then she ordered her carriage to be brought. Graciola was forced into it much against her will. Away they drove, and did not stop till they reached a great and gloomy forest a long way from the castle. The forest was full of wild beasts. Nobody dared pass through it even by daylight. Here they set down the unhappy princess in the middle of the black night, and left her in tears.
The princess stood quite still at first, and then began to run aimlessly here and there. Soon she was too tired to run any more, and threw herself down on the ground and cried. At that moment the forest was lighted up, and at the end of a long avenue of trees she saw a castle. A slight sound behind her made her turn around, and there stood Percinet .
"Did I frighten you, princess?" he said. "I come to bid you welcome to our fairy castle in the name of the queen, my mother, who is prepared to love you as much as I do."
The princess joyfully mounted with him into a little sledge drawn by two stags. At the lovely castle the queen received her with the great care and kindness. A splendid banquet was served. Graciola was happy to have found Percinet and to have escaped from the terrors of the forest. She had also become very hungry and merry.
After supper the princess grew sleepy. Maidens helped her to bed in the prettiest room she had ever seen, and then sang to her so sweetly that Graciola's dreams were so wonderful that she woke up - she learnt that she was not suited to not stay in such a wonderful place, but must go back to her father.
Prince Percinet was sorely disappointed when she told him what she had been thinking. He begged her to consider again. If she would but marry him, all the fairy castle would be hers, and his one thought would be to please her. But the princess was quite determined to go back, though he at last persuaded her to stay eight days. Those days were so full of pleasure and amusement that they passed like a few hours.
On the last day, Graciola and Percinet went together to the top of a very high tower that was built entirely of rock-crystal. There the prince held Graciola's hand in his, and made her look towards the town, and at once she saw the wicked queen go to the king, and heard her say to him, "Your daughter is dead, and no great loss either. I have ordered that she shall be buried at once."
And then the princess saw how she dressed up a log of wood and had it buried, and how the old king cried, and all the people murmured that the queen had killed Graciola and that she ought to have her head cut off.
When the princess saw that the king was so sad that he could neither eat nor drink, she cried:
"Percinet! take me back quickly if you love me."
And he was made to promise that he would let her go.
"I fear that you don't love me well enough yet; yet I can see that you will more than once regret that you left this fairy castle."
She bade farewell to the queen, his mother, and prepared to set out. Percinet unwillingly, brought the little sledge with the stags and she mounted beside him.
"You are angry with me now," said Graciola in her most coaxing voice, "though after all I'm more to be pitied than you are."
When they got near the castle the prince made the sledge and themselves invisible, so the princess got in without being seen by anybody. She ran up to the great hall where the king was sitting all by himself. She told him how the queen had left her out in the forest, and how she had let a dressed-up log of wood to be buried. The king sent quickly and had it dug up, and it was as the princess had said. Then he caressed Graciola, and made her sit down to supper with him.
But someone had by this time told the wicked queen that Graciola had come back, and was at supper with the king, and in she flew in a terrible fury. If the king did not give up his daughter at once, queen Grumbly would go back to her own castle and never see him again.
The money-fond king did not protest when the queen sent for her waiting women, who dragged the princess away and shut her up in a small, dismal attic room. They took away all her jewels and her pretty dress, and gave her a rough cotton frock, wooden shoes, and a little cloth cap. There was some straw in a corner. That was all she had for a bed, and they gave her a very little bit of black bread to eat. She would have called Percinet to her aid, but she felt sure he was still vexed with her for leaving him and thought that she could not expect him to come.
Meanwhile the queen had sent for an old fairy who was as malicious as herself, and said to her:
"You must find me some task for this fine princess which she cannot possibly do, for I mean to punish her, and if she does not do what I order, she will not be able to say that I'm unjust."
So the old fairy said she would think it over and come again the next day. When she returned she brought with her a length of coiled. thin thread. The thread was so tangled that it was impossible to see the beginning or the end of it.
The queen sent for Graciola, and said to her:
"Do you see this coil of thread? Set to work on it. You must have it disentangled by sunset, and if you break a single thread it will be the worse for you." So saying she left her, locking the door behind her with three keys.
The princess was dismayed at the sight of the terrible coil. If she did but turn it over to see where to begin, she broke a thousand threads, and not one could she disentangle. At last she threw it into the middle of the floor, crying:
"Oh, Percinet! this coil will be the death of me if you won't forgive me and help me once more."
At once Percinet was there, as easily as if he had all the keys.
"Here I am at your service as much as ever," he said, "though you are not very kind to me."
Then he just stroked the skein with his wand, and all the broken threads joined themselves together, and the whole skein wound itself smoothly off in the most surprising manner, and the prince, turning to Graciola, asked if there was nothing else that she wished him to do for her, and if she would wish for him for his own sake.
"Don't be vexed with me, Percinet," she said. "I am unhappy enough without that."
"But why be unhappy, my dear?" cried he. "Only come with me and we shall be as happy together as the day is long."
"But suppose you get tired of me?" said Graciola.
The prince was so grieved at this that he left her without another word.
The wicked queen was in such a hurry to punish Graciola that she thought the sun would never set; and indeed it was before the appointed time that she came with her four fairies. But, as soon as she entered, Graciola presented her with the ball of thread in perfect order. There was no fault to find.
Then the queen sent for the fairy again and scolded her furiously. "Don't make such a mistake again; find me something that it will be quite impossible for her to do," she said.
So the next day the fairy appeared with a huge barrel full of the feathers of all sorts of birds. There were nightingales, canaries, goldfinches, linnets, tomtits, parrots, owls, sparrows, doves, ostriches, bustards, peacocks, larks, partridges, and more too. These feathers were all mixed up in such confusion that the birds themselves could not have chosen out their own.
"Here," said the fairy, "tell your prisoner to pick out and lay in a separate heap the feathers of each bird."
The queen sent for Graciola, and with the same threats as before locked her up in the attic room with the three keys, ordering that all the feathers should be sorted by sunset. Graciola set to work at once, but was unable to sort much.
She sighed, "If Percinet really loved me he would not wait till I called him."
"I am here, dear," cried Percinet, springing out of the barrel. Then he gave three strokes of his wand on the barrel, and all the feathers flew out in a cloud and settled down in neat little separate heaps all round the room.
Graciola was grateful, but still she could not quite make up her mind to go with him and leave her father's kingdom forever. She begged him to give her more time to think of it, and he did.
When the wicked queen came at sunset she was amazed and infuriated to find the task done. Then the queen sent for the fairy once more, and scolded her till she was fairly terrified, and promised to go home and think of another task for Graciola, worse than either of the others.
At the end of three days she came again, bringing with her a box.
"Tell your prisoner," she said, "to carry this wherever you please, but on no account to open it. She will not be able to help doing so."
The queen came to Graciola, and said:
"Carry this box to my castle, and place it on the table in my own room. But I forbid you to look at what it contains."
Graciola set out, wearing her little cap and wooden shoes and the old cotton frock. She had not gone far before the heat of the sun and the weight of the box tired her so much that she sat down to rest in the shade of a little wood which lay on one side of a green meadow. She was carefully holding the box on her lap when she suddenly felt the greatest desire to open it.
"What could possibly happen if I did?" she said to herself. "I should not take anything out. I should only just see what was there."
And without further hesitation she lifted the cover.
At once out came swarms of little men and women, no taller than her finger, and scattered themselves all over the meadow, singing and dancing, and playing the merriest games, so that at first Graciola was delighted and watched them with much amusement. But presently, when she was rested and wished to go on her way, she found that, do what she would, she could not get them back into their box. If she chased them in the meadow they fled into the wood, and if she pursued them into the wood they dodged round trees and behind sprigs of moss, and with peals of elfin laughter scampered back again into the meadow. At last, weary and terrified, she sat down and cried.
"It's my own fault," she said sadly. "Percinet, if you can still care for such an imprudent Princess, do come and help me once more."
At once Percinet stood before her. "Ah, princess!" he said, "but for the wicked queen I fear you would never think of me at all."
"I should," said Graciola; "I am not so ungrateful as you might think."
Percinet was pleased at this, and with one stroke of his wand compelled all the wilful little people to come back to their places in the box, and then he made the princess invisible and took her with him in his chariot to the castle.
When the princess presented herself at the door and said that the queen had ordered her to place the box in her own room, the governor laughed at the idea.
"No, no, little shepherdess," he said, "that is not the place for you. No wooden shoes have ever been over that floor yet."
Then Graciola begged him to give her a written message telling the queen that he had refused to admit her. This he did, and she went back to Percinet who was waiting for her. They set out together for the castle. Before they parted she promised him that if the queen was still cruel to her and tried again to play her any spiteful trick, she come to Percinet forever.
When the queen saw her returning and the princess presented the letter and the box she threw them both on the fire without opening them, and made servants dig a great hole as deep as a well in her garden. The top of it was covered with a flat stone. Then she walked near it, and said to Graciola and all her ladies who were with her:
"A great treasure might lie under that stone; let us see if we can lift it."
So they all began to push and pull at it, and Graciola among the others. This was just what the queen had wanted, for as soon as the stone was lifted high enough, she gave the princess a push that sent her down to the bottom of the well. Then the stone closed the hole again, and she was a prisoner.
"This is like being buried alive," Graciola said with a shudder. "Oh, Percinet! How could I be sure that you would not be like many other men and tire of me from the moment you were sure I loved you?"
As she spoke she suddenly saw a little door open, and the sunshine blazed into the dismal well. Graciola did not hesitate a moment, but passed through into a charming garden. Flowers and fruit grew on every side, fountains plashed, and birds sang in the branches overhead. When she reached a great avenue of trees and looked up to see where it would lead her, she found herself close to the castle that Percinet and his mother lived in. Now they were coming to meet her.
The princess kissed the queen on her cheeks gratefully, and said with a smile to Percinet:
"Do you remember you told me that I should not see your castle again till I had been buried? I wonder if you also knew I should then tell you how much I love you and will marry you whenever you like?"
Prince Percinet gladly took her hand in his. For fear that the princess should change her mind, the wedding was held at once in great splendour, and Graciola and Percinet lived happily ever after.
Once there was a king and queen. They loved each other so much that they were never happy unless they were together. Day after day they went out hunting or fishing; night after night they went to balls or to the opera; they sang, and danced, and ate sugar-plums, and were the gayest of the gay, and all their subjects followed their example so that the kingdom was called the Joyous Land. Now in the next kingdom everything was as different as it could possibly be. The king was sulky and savage, and never enjoyed himself at all. He looked so ugly and cross that all his subjects feared him, and he hated the very sight of a cheerful face; so if he ever caught anyone smiling he had his head cut off that very minute. This kingdom was very appropriately called the Land of Tears. Now when this wicked king heard of the happiness of the Jolly King, he was so jealous that he collected a great army and set out to fight him, and the news of his approach was soon brought to the king and queen. The queen, when she heard of it, was frightened out of her wits, and began to cry bitterly. "Sire," she said, "let us collect all our riches and run away as far as ever we can, to the other side of the world."
But the king answered:
"Fie, madam! I'm far too brave for that. It's better to die than to be a coward."
Then he assembled all his armed men, and after bidding the queen a tender farewell, he mounted his splendid horse and rode away. When he was lost to sight the queen could do nothing but weep, and wring her hands, and cry.
"Alas! If the king is killed, what will become of me and of my little daughter?" and she was so sorrowful that she could neither eat nor sleep.
The king sent her a letter every day, but at last, one morning, as she looked out of the castle window, she saw a messenger approaching in hot haste.
"What news, courier? What news?" cried the queen, and he answered:
"The battle is lost and the king is dead, and in another moment the enemy will be here."
The poor queen fell back insensible, and all her ladies carried her to bed, and stood round her weeping and wailing. Then began a tremendous noise and confusion, and they knew that the enemy had arrived, and very soon they heard the king himself stamping about the castle seeking the queen. Then her ladies put the little princess into her arms, and covered her up, head and all, in the bedclothes, and ran for their lives, and the poor queen lay there shaking, and hoping she would not be found. But very soon the wicked king clattered into the room, and in a fury because the queen would not answer when he called to her, he tore back her silken coverings and tweaked off her lace cap, and when all her lovely hair came tumbling down over her shoulders, he wound it three times round his hand and threw her over his shoulder, where he carried her like a sack of flour.
The poor queen held her little daughter safe in her arms and shrieked for mercy, but the wicked king only mocked her, and begged her to go on shrieking, as it amused him, and so mounted his great black horse, and rode back to his own country. When he got there he declared that he would have the queen and the little princess hanged on the nearest tree; but his courtiers said that seemed a pity, for when the baby grew up she would be a very nice wife for the king's only son.
The king was rather pleased with this idea, and shut the queen up in the highest room of a tall tower, which was very tiny, and miserably furnished with a table and a very hard bed on the floor. Then he sent for a fairy who lived near his kingdom, and after receiving her with more politeness than he generally showed, and entertaining her at a sumptuous feast, he took her up to see the queen. The fairy was so touched by the sight of her misery that when she kissed her hand she whispered:
"Courage, madam! I think I see a way to help you."
The queen, a little comforted by these words, received her graciously, and begged her to take pity on the poor little princess, who had met with such a sudden reverse of fortune. But the king got very cross when he saw them whispering together, and cried harshly:
"Make an end of these fine speeches, madam. I brought you here to tell me if the child will grow up pretty and fortunate."
Then the fairy answered that the princess would be as pretty, and clever, and well brought up as it was possible to be, and the old king growled to the queen that it was lucky for her that it was so, as they would certainly have been hanged if it were otherwise. Then he stamped off, taking the fairy with him, and leaving the poor queen in tears.
"How can I wish my little daughter to grow up pretty if she is to be married to that horrid little dwarf, the king's son," she said to herself, "and yet, if she is ugly we shall both be killed. If I could only hide her away somewhere, so that the cruel King could never find her."
As the days went on, the queen and the little princess grew thinner and thinner, for their hard-hearted gaoler gave them every day only three boiled peas and a tiny morsel of black bread, so they were always terribly hungry. At last, one evening, as the queen sat at her spinning-wheel - for the king was so avaricious that she was made to work day and night - she saw a tiny, pretty little mouse creep out of a hole, and said to it:
"Alas, little creature! what are you coming to look for here? I only have three peas for my day's provision, so unless you wish to fast you must go elsewhere."
But the mouse ran here and there, and danced and capered so prettily, that at last the queen gave it her last pea, which she was keeping for her supper, saying: "Here, little one, eat it up; I have nothing better to offer you, but I give this willingly in return for the amusement I have had from you."
She had hardly spoken when she saw on the table a delicious little roast partridge, and two dishes of preserved fruit. "Truly," said she, "a kind action never goes unrewarded; "and she and the little princess ate their supper with great satisfaction, and then the queen gave what was left to the little mouse, who danced better than ever afterwards. The next morning came the gaoler with the queen's allowance of three peas, which he brought in on a large dish to make them look smaller; but as soon as he set it down the little mouse came and ate up all three, so that when the queen wanted her dinner there was nothing left for her. Then she was quite provoked, and said:
"What a bad little beast that mouse must be! If it goes on like this I shall be starved." But when she glanced at the dish again it was covered with all sorts of nice things to eat, and the queen made a very good dinner, and was gayer than usual over it. But afterwards as she sat at her spinning-wheel she began to consider what would happen if the little princess did not grow up pretty enough to please the king, and she said to herself:
"Oh! if I could only think of some way of escaping."
As she spoke she saw the little mouse playing in a corner with some long straws. The queen took them and began to plait them, saying:
"If only I had straws enough I would make a basket with them, and let my baby down in it from the window to any kind passer- by who would take care of her."
By the time the straws were all plaited the little mouse had dragged in more and more, till the queen had plenty to make her basket, and she worked at it day and night, while the little mouse danced for her amusement; and at dinner and supper time the queen gave it the three peas and the bit of black bread, and always found something good in the dish in their place. She really could not imagine where all the nice things came from. At last one day when the basket was finished, the queen was looking out of the window to see how long a cord she must make to lower it to the bottom of the tower, when she noticed a little old woman who was leaning on her stick and looking up at her. Presently she said:
"I know your trouble, madam. If you like I will help you."
"Oh! my dear friend," said the queen. "If you really wish to be of use to me you will come at the time that I will appoint, and I will let down my poor little baby in a basket. If you will take her, and bring her up for me, when I'm rich I will reward you splendidly."
"I don't care about the reward," said the old woman, "but there is one thing I should like. You must know that I'm very particular about what I eat, and if there is one thing that I fancy above all others, it is a plump, tender little mouse. If there is such a thing in your garret just throw it down to me, and in return I will promise that your little daughter shall be well taken care of."
The queen when she heard this began to cry, but made no answer, and the old woman after waiting a few minutes asked her what was the matter.
"Why," said the queen, "there is only one mouse in this garret, and that is such a dear, pretty little thing that I cannot bear to think of its being killed."
"What!" cried the old woman, in a rage. "Do you care more for a miserable mouse than for your own baby? Good-bye, madam! I leave you to enjoy its company, and for my own part I thank my stars that I can get plenty of mice without troubling you to give them to me."
And she hobbled off grumbling and growling. As to the queen, she was so disappointed that, in spite of finding a better dinner than usual, and seeing the little mouse dancing in its merriest mood, she could do nothing but cry. That night when her baby was fast asleep she packed it into the basket, and wrote on a slip of paper, "This unhappy little girl is called Delicia!" This she pinned to its robe, and then very sadly she was shutting the basket, when in sprang the little mouse and sat on the baby's pillow.
"Ah! little one," said the queen, "it cost me dear to save your life. How shall I know now whether my Delicia is being taken care of or no? Anyone else would have let the greedy old woman have you, and eat you up, but I could not bear to do it." Whereupon the Mouse answered:
"Believe me, madam, you will never repent of your kindness."
The queen was immensely astonished when the Mouse began to speak, and still more so when she saw its little sharp nose turn to a beautiful face, and its paws to hands and feet; then it suddenly grew tall, and the queen recognised the fairy who had come with the wicked king to visit her.
The fairy smiled at her astonished look, and said:
"I wanted to see if you were faithful and capable of feeling a real friendship for me, for you see we fairies are rich in everything but friends, and those are hard to find."
"It's not possible that you should want for friends, you charming creature," said the queen, kissing her.
"Indeed it is so," the fairy said. "For those who are only friendly with me for their own advantage, I do not count at all. But when you cared for the poor little mouse you could not have known there was anything to be gained by it, and to try you further I took the form of the old woman whom you talked to from the window, and then I was convinced that you really loved me." Then, turning to the little princess, she kissed her rosy lips three times, saying:
"Dear little one, I promise that you shall be richer than your father, and shall live a hundred years, always pretty and happy, without fear of old age and wrinkles."
The queen, quite delighted, thanked the fairy gratefully, and begged her to take charge of the little Delicia and bring her up as her own daughter. This she agreed to do, and then they shut the basket and lowered it carefully, baby and all, to the ground at the foot of the tower. The fairy then changed herself back into the form of a mouse, and this delayed her a few seconds, after which she ran nimbly down the straw rope, but only to find when she got to the bottom that the baby had disappeared.
In the greatest terror she ran up again to the queen, crying:
"All is lost! my enemy Cancaline has stolen the princess away. You must know that she is a cruel fairy who hates me, and as she is older than I'm and has more power, I can do nothing against her. I know no way of rescuing Delicia from her clutches."
When the queen heard this terrible news she was heart-broken, and begged the fairy to do all she could to get the poor little princess back again. At this moment in came the gaoler, and when he missed the little princess he at once told the king, who came in a great fury asking what the queen had done with her. She answered that a fairy, whose name she did not know, had come and carried her off by force. on this the king stamped on the ground, and cried in a terrible voice:
"You shall be hung! I always told you you should." And without another word he dragged the unlucky Queen out into the nearest wood, and climbed up into a tree to look for a branch to which he could hang her. But when he was quite high up, the fairy, who had made herself invisible and followed them, gave him a sudden push, which made him lose his footing and fall to the ground with a crash and break four of his teeth, and while he was trying to mend them the fairy carried the queen off in her flying chariot to a beautiful castle, where she was so kind to her that but for the loss of Delicia the queen would have been perfectly happy. But though the good little mouse did her very utmost, they could not find out where Cancaline had hidden the little princess.
Thus fifteen years went by, and the queen had somewhat recovered from her grief, when the news reached her that the son of the wicked king wished to marry the little maiden who kept the turkeys, and that she had refused him; the wedding-dresses had been made, nevertheless, and the festivities were to be so splendid that all the people for leagues round were flocking in to be present at them. The queen felt quite curious about a little turkey-maiden who did not wish to be a Queen, so the little mouse conveyed herself to the poultry-yard to find out what she was like.
She found the turkey-maiden sitting on a big stone, barefooted, and miserably dressed in an old, coarse linen gown and cap; the ground at her feet was all strewn with robes of gold and silver, ribbons and laces, diamonds and pearls, over which the turkeys were stalking to and fro, while the king's ugly, disagreeable son stood opposite her, declaring angrily that if she would not marry him she should be killed. The Turkey-maiden answered proudly:
"I never will marry you I you are too ugly and too much like your cruel father. Leave me in peace with my turkeys, which I like far better than all your fine gifts."
The little mouse watched her with the greatest admiration, for she was as beautiful as the spring; and as soon as the wicked prince was gone, she took the form of an old peasant woman and said to her:
"Good day, my pretty one! you have a fine flock of turkeys there."
The young Turkey-maiden turned her gentle eyes on the old woman, and answered:
"Yet they wish me to leave them to become a miserable Queen! what is your advice on the matter?"
"My child," said the fairy, "a crown is a very pretty thing, but you know neither the price nor the weight of it."
"I know so well that I have refused to wear one," said the little maiden, "though I don't know who was my father, or who was my mother, and I have not a friend in the world."
"You have goodness and beauty, which are of more value than ten kingdoms," said the wise fairy. "But tell me, child, how came you here, and how is it you have neither father, nor mother, nor friend?"
"A Fairy called Cancaline is the cause of my being here," answered she, "for while I lived with her I got nothing but blows and harsh words, till at last I could bear it no longer, and ran away from her without knowing where I was going, and as I came through a wood the wicked prince met me, and offered to give me charge of the poultry-yard. I accepted gladly, not knowing that I should have to see him day by day. And now he wants to marry me, but that I will never consent to."
On hearing this the fairy became convinced that the little turkey-maiden was none other than the princess Delicia.
"What is your name, my little one?" said she.
"I am called Delicia, if it please you," she answered.
Then the fairy threw her arms round the princess's neck, and nearly smothered her with kisses, saying:
"Ah, Delicia! I'm a very old friend of yours, and I'm truly glad to find you at last; but you might look nicer than you do in that old gown, which is only fit for a kitchen-maid. Take this pretty dress and let us see the difference it will make." So Delicia took off the ugly cap, and shook out all her fair shining hair, and bathed her hands and face in clear water from the nearest spring till her cheeks were like roses, and when she was adorned with the diamonds and the splendid robe the fairy had given her, she looked the most beautiful Princess in the world, and the fairy with great delight cried:
"Now you look as you ought to look, Delicia: what do you think about it yourself?"
And Delicia answered:
"I feel as if I were the daughter of some great king."
"And would you be glad if you were?" said the fairy.
"Indeed I should," answered she.
"Ah, well," said the fairy, "tomorrow I may have some pleasant news for you."
So she hurried back to her castle, where the queen sat busy with her embroidery, and cried:
"Well, madam! will you wager your thimble and your golden needle that I'm bringing you the best news you could possibly hear?"
"Alas!" sighed the queen, "since the death of the Jolly King and the loss of my Delicia, all the news in the world is not worth a pin to me.
"There, there, don't be melancholy," said the fairy. "I assure you the princess is quite well, and I have never seen her equal for beauty. She might be a Queen tomorrow if she chose; "and then she told all that had happened, and the queen first rejoiced over the thought of Delicia's beauty, and then wept at the idea of her being a Turkey-maiden.
"I will not hear of her being made to marry the wicked king's son," she said. "Let us go at once and bring her here."
In the meantime the wicked prince, who was very angry with Delicia, had sat himself down under a tree, and cried and howled with rage and spite till the king heard him, and cried out from the window:
"What is the matter with you, that you are making all this disturbance?"
The prince replied:
"It's all because our Turkey-maiden will not love me!"
"Won't love you? eh!" said the king. "We'll very soon see about that!" So he called his guards and told them to go and fetch Delicia. "See if I don't make her change her mind pretty soon!" said the wicked king with a chuckle. Then the guards began to search the poultry-yard, and could find nobody there but Delicia, who, with her splendid dress and her crown of diamonds, looked such a lovely Princess that they hardly dared to speak to her. But she said to them very politely:
"Pray tell me what you are looking for here?"
"Madam," they answered, "we are sent for an insignificant little person called Delicia."
"Alas!" said she, "that is my name. What can you want with me?"
So the guards tied her hands and feet with thick ropes, for fear she might run away, and brought her to the king, who was waiting with his son.
When he saw her he was very much astonished at her beauty, which would have made anyone less hard-hearted sorry for her. But the wicked king only laughed and mocked at her, and cried: "Well, little fright, little toad! why don't you love my son, who is far too handsome and too good for you? Make haste and begin to love him this instant, or you shall be tarred and feathered." Then the poor little princess, shaking with terror, went down on her knees, crying:
"Oh, don't tar and feather me, please! It would be so uncomfortable. Let me have two or three days to make up my mind, and then you shall do as you like with me."
The wicked prince would have liked very much to see her tarred and feathered, but the king ordered that she should be shut up in a dark dungeon. It was just at this moment that the queen and the fairy arrived in the flying chariot, and the queen was dreadfully distressed at the turn affairs had taken, and said miserably that she was destined to be unfortunate all her days. But the fairy bade her take courage.
"I'll pay them out yet," said she, nodding her head with an air of great determination.
That very same night, as soon as the wicked king had gone to bed, the fairy changed herself into the little mouse, and creeping up on to his pillow nibbled his ear, so that he squealed out quite loudly and turned over on his other side; but that was no good, for the little mouse only set to work and gnawed away at the second ear till it hurt more than the first one.
Then the king cried "Murder!" and "Thieves!" and all his guards ran to see what was the matter, but they could find nothing and nobody, for the little mouse had run off to the prince's room and was serving him in exactly the same way. All night long she ran from one to the other, till at last, driven quite frantic by terror and want of sleep, the king rushed out of the castle crying:
"Help! help! I'm pursued by rats."
The prince when he heard this got up also, and ran after the king, and they had not gone far when they both fell into the river and were never heard of again.
Then the good Fairy ran to tell the queen, and they went together to the black dungeon where Delicia was imprisoned. The fairy touched each door with her wand, and it sprang open instantly, but they had to go through forty before they came to the princess, who was sitting on the floor looking very dejected. But when the queen rushed in, and kissed her twenty times in a minute, and laughed, and cried, and told Delicia all her history, the princess was wild with delight. Then the fairy showed her all the wonderful dresses and jewels she had brought for her, and said:
"Don't let us waste time; we must go and harangue the people."
So she walked first, looking very serious and dignified, and wearing a dress the train of which was at least ten ells long. Behind her came the queen wearing a blue velvet robe embroidered with gold, and a diamond crown that was brighter than the sun itself. Last of all walked Delicia, who was so beautiful that it was nothing short of marvellous.
They proceeded through the streets, returning the salutations of all they met, great or small, and all the people turned and followed them, wondering who these noble ladies could be.
When the audience hall was quite full, the fairy said to the subjects of the Wicked king that if they would accept Delicia, who was the daughter of the Jolly King, as their queen, she would undertake to find a suitable husband for her, and would promise that during their reign there should be nothing but rejoicing and merry-making, and all dismal things should be entirely banished. on this the people cried with one accord, "We will, we will! we have been gloomy and miserable too long already." And they all took hands and danced round the queen, and Delicia, and the good Fairy, singing: "Yes, yes; we will, we will!"
Then there were feasts and fireworks in every street in the town, and early the next morning the fairy, who had been all over the world in the night, brought back with her, in her flying chariot, the most handsome and good-tempered prince she could find anywhere. He was so charming that Delicia loved him from the moment their eyes met, and as for him, of course he could not help thinking himself the luckiest Prince in the world. The queen felt that she had really come to the end of her misfortunes at last, and they all lived happily ever after.
La bonne vetite Souris is a literary fairy tale by d'Aulnoy. The Langs included it in The Red Fairy Book.
Once on a time there lived a king who was immensely rich. He had broad lands, and sacks overflowing with gold and silver; but he did not care a bit for all his riches, because the queen, his wife, was dead. He shut himself up in a little room and knocked his head against the walls for grief, till his courtiers were really afraid that he would hurt himself. So they hung feather-beds between the tapestry and the walls, and then he could go on knocking his head as long as it was any consolation to him without coming to much harm. All his subjects came to see him, and said whatever they thought would comfort him: some were grave, even gloomy with him; and some agreeable, even gay; but not one could make the least impression on him. Indeed, he hardly seemed to hear what they said. At last came a lady who was wrapped in a black mantle, and seemed to be in the deepest grief. She wept and sobbed till even the king's attention was attracted; and when she said that, far from coming to try and diminish his grief, she, who had just lost a good husband, was come to add her tears to his, since she knew what he must be feeling, the king redoubled his lamentations. Then he told the sorrowful lady long stories about the good qualities of his departed queen, and she in her turn recounted all the virtues of her departed husband; and this passed the time so agreeably that the king quite forgot to thump his head against the feather-beds, and the lady did not need to wipe the tears from her great blue eyes as often as before. By degrees they came to talking about other things in which the king took an interest, and in a wonderfully short time the whole kingdom was astonished by the news that the king was married again to the sorrowful lady.
Now the king had one daughter, who was just fifteen years old. Her name was Fiordelisa, and she was the prettiest and most charming Princess imaginable, always gay and merry. The new Queen, who also had a daughter, very soon sent for her to come to the castle. Turritella, for that was her name, had been brought up by her godmother, the fairy Mazilla, but in spite of all the care bestowed on her, she was neither beautiful nor gracious. Indeed, when the queen saw how ill-tempered and ugly she appeared beside Fiordelisa she was in despair, and did everything in her power to turn the king against his own daughter, in the hope that he might take a fancy to Turritella. One day the king said that it was time Fiordelisa and Turritella were married, so he would give one of them to the first suitable prince who visited his Court. The queen answered:
'My daughter certainly ought to be the first to be married; she is older than yours, and a thousand times more charming!'
The king, who hated disputes, said, 'Very well, it's no affair of mine, settle it your own way.'
Very soon after came the news that King Charming, who was the most handsome and magnificent Prince in all the country round, was on his way to visit the king. As soon as the queen heard this, she set all her jewellers, tailors, weavers, and embroiderers to work on splendid dresses and ornaments for Turritella, but she told the king that Fiordelisa had no need of anything new, and the night before the king was to arrive, she bribed her waiting woman to steal away all the princess's own dresses and jewels, so that when the day came, and Fiordelisa wished to adorn herself as became her high rank, not even a ribbon could she find.
However, as she easily guessed who had played her such a trick, she made no complaint, but sent to the merchants for some rich stuffs. But they said that the queen had expressly forbidden them to supply her with any, and they dared not disobey. So the Princess had nothing left to put on but the little white frock she had been wearing the day before; and dressed in that, she went down when the time of the king's arrival came, and sat in a corner hoping to escape notice. The queen received her guest with great ceremony, and presented him to her daughter, who was gorgeously attired, but so much splendour only made her ugliness more noticeable, and the king, after one glance at her, looked the other way. The queen, however, only thought that he was bashful, and took pains to keep Turritella in full view. King Charming then asked it there was not another Princess, called Fiordelisa.
'Yes,' said Turritella, pointing with her finger, 'there she is, trying to keep out of sight because she is not smart.'
At this Fiordelisa blushed, and looked so shy and so lovely, that the king was fairly astonished. He rose, and bowing low before her, said
'Madam, your incomparable beauty needs no adornment.'
'Sire,' answered the princess, 'I assure you that I am not in the habit of wearing dresses as crumpled and untidy as this one, so I should have been better pleased if you had not seen me at all.'
'Impossible!' cried king Charming. 'Wherever such a marvellously beautiful Princess appears I can look at nothing else.'
Here the queen broke in, saying sharply
'I assure you, Sire, that Fiordelisa is vain enough already. Pray make her no more flattering speeches.'
The king quite understood that she was not pleased, but that did not matter to him, so he admired Fiordelisa to his heart's content, and talked to her for three hours without stopping.
The queen was in despair, and so was Turritella, when they saw how much the king preferred Fiordelisa. They complained bitterly to the king, and begged and teased him, till he at last consented to have the princess shut up somewhere out of sight while King Charming's visit lasted. So that night, as she went to her room, she was seized by four masked figures, and carried up into the topmost room of a high tower, where they left her in the deepest dejection. She easily guessed that she was to be kept out of sight for fear the king should fall in love with her; but then, how disappointing that was, for she already liked him very much, and would have been quite willing to be chosen for his bride! As King Charming did not know what had happened to the Princess, he looked forward impatiently to meeting her again, and he tried to talk about her with the courtiers who were placed in attendance on him. But by the queen's orders they would say nothing good of her, but declared that she was vain, capricious, and bad-tempered; that she tormented her waiting-maids, and that, in spite of all the money that the king gave her, she was so mean that she preferred to go about dressed like a poor shepherdess, rather than spend any of it. All these things vexed the king very much, and he was silent.
'It is true,' thought he, 'that she was very poorly dressed, but then she was so ashamed that it proves that she was not accustomed to be so. I cannot believe that with that lovely face she can be as ill-tempered and contemptible as they say. No, no, the queen must be jealous of her for the sake of that ugly daughter of hers, and so these evil reports are spread.'
The courtiers could not help seeing that what they had told the King did not please him, and one of them cunningly began to praise Fiordelisa, when he could talk to the king without being heard by the others.
King Charming thereupon became so cheerful, and interested in all he said, that it was easy to guess how much he admired the Princess. So when the queen sent for the courtiers and questioned them about all they had found out, their report confirmed her worst fears. As to the poor Princess Fiordelisa, she cried all night without stopping.
'It would have been quite bad enough to be shut up in this gloomy tower before I had ever seen King Charming,' she said; 'but now when he is here, and they are all enjoying themselves with him, it is too unkind.'
The next day the queen sent King Charming splendid presents of jewels and rich stuffs, and among other things an ornament made expressly in honour of the approaching wedding. It was a heart cut out of one huge ruby, and was surrounded by several diamond arrows, and pierced by one. A golden true-lover's knot above the heart bore the motto, 'But one can wound me,' and the whole jewel was hung on a chain of immense pearls. Never, since the world has been a world, had such a thing been made, and the king was quite amazed when it was presented to him. The page who brought it begged him to accept it from the princess, who chose him to be her knight.
'What!' cried he, 'does the lovely Princess Fiordelisa deign to think of me in this amiable and encouraging way?'
'You confuse the names, Sire,' said the page hastily. 'I come on behalf of the princess Turritella.'
'Oh, it is Turritella who wishes me to be her knight,' said the King coldly. 'I am sorry that I cannot accept the honour.' And he sent the splendid gifts back to the queen and Turritella, who were furiously angry at the contempt with which they were treated. As soon as he possibly could, King Charming went to see the king and queen, and as he entered the hall he looked for Fiordelisa, and every time anyone came in he started round to see who it was, and was altogether so uneasy and dissatisfied that the queen saw it plainly. But she would not take any notice, and talked of nothing but the entertainments she was planning. The Prince answered at random, and presently asked if he was not to have the pleasure of seeing the princess Fiordelisa.
'Sire,' answered the queen haughtily, 'her father has ordered that she shall not leave her own apartments till my daughter is married.'
'What can be the reason for keeping that lovely Princess a prisoner?' cried the king in great indignation.
'That I do not know,' answered the queen; 'and even if I did, I might not feel bound to tell you.'
The king was terribly angry at being thwarted like this. He felt certain that Turritella was to blame for it, so casting a furious glance at her he abruptly took leave of the queen, and returned to his own apartments. There he said to a young squire whom he had brought with him: 'I would give all I have in the world to gain the good will of one of the princess's waiting-women, and obtain a moment's speech with Fiordelisa.'
'Nothing could be easier,' said the young squire; and he very soon made friends with one of the ladies, who told him that in the evening Fiordelisa would be at a little window which looked into the garden, where he could come and talk to her. Only, she said, he must take very great care not to be seen, as it would be as much as her place was worth to be caught helping King Charming to see the princess. The squire was delighted, and promised all she asked; but the moment he had run off to announce his success to the king, the false waiting-woman went and told the queen all that had passed. She at once determined that her own daughter should be at the little window; and she taught her so well all she was to say and do, that even the stupid Turritella could make no mistake.
The night was so dark that the king had not a chance of finding out the trick that was being played on him, so he approached the window with the greatest delight, and said everything that he had been longing to say to Fiordelisa to persuade her of his love for her. Turritella answered as she had been taught, that she was very unhappy, and that there was no chance of her being better treated by the queen till her daughter was married. And then the King entreated her to marry him; and thereupon he drew his ring from his finger and put it on Turritella's, and she answered him as well as she could. The king could not help thinking that she did not say exactly what he would have expected from his darling Fiordelisa, but he persuaded himself that the fear of being surprised by the queen was making her awkward and unnatural. He would not leave her till she had promised to see him again the next night, which Turritella did willingly enough. The queen was overjoyed at the success of her stratagem, end promised herself that all would now be as she wished; and sure enough, as soon as it was dark the following night the king came, bringing with him a chariot which had been given him by an Enchanter who was his friend. This chariot was drawn by flying frogs, and the king easily persuaded Turritella to come out and let him put her into it, then mounting beside her he cried triumphantly
'Now, my Princess, you are free; where will it please you that we shall hold our wedding?'
And Turritella, with her head muffled in her mantle, answered that the fairy Mazilla was her godmother, and that she would like it to be at her castle. So the king told the Frogs, who had the map of the whole world in their heads, and very soon he and Turritella were set down at the castle of the fairy Mazilla. The King would certainly have found out his mistake the moment they stepped into the brilliantly lighted castle, but Turritella held her mantle more closely round her, and asked to see the fairy by herself, and quickly told her all that had happened, and how she had succeeded in deceiving King Charming.
'Oho! my daughter,' said the fairy, 'I see we have no easy task before us. He loves Fiordelisa so much that he will not be easily pacified. I feel sure he will defy us!' Meanwhile the king was waiting in a splendid room with diamond walls, so clear that he could see the fairy and Turritella as they stood whispering together, and he was very much puzzled.
'Who can have betrayed us?' he said to himself. 'How comes our enemy here? She must be plotting to prevent our marriage. Why doesn't my lovely Fiordelisa make haste and come hack to me?'
But it was worse than anything he had imagined when the fairy Mazilla entered, leading Turritella by the hand, and said to him
'King Charming, here is the princess Turritella to whom you have plighted your faith. Let us have the wedding at once.'
'I!' cried the king. 'I marry that little creature! What do you take me for? I have promised her nothing!'
'Say no more. Have you no respect for a Fairy?' cried she angrily.
'Yes, madam,' answered the king, 'I am prepared to respect you as much as a Fairy can be respected, if you will give me back my Princess.'
'Am I not here?' interrupted Turritella. 'Here is the ring you gave me. With whom did you talk at the little window, if it was not with me?'
'What!' cried the king angrily, 'have I been altogether deceived and deluded? Where is my chariot? Not another moment will I stay here.'
'Oho,' said the fairy, 'not so fast.' And she touched his feet, which instantly became as firmly fixed to the floor as if they had been nailed there.
'Oh! do whatever you like with me,' said the king; 'you may turn me to stone, but I will marry no one but Fiordelisa.'
And not another word would he say, though the fairy scolded and threatened, and Turritella wept and raged for twenty days and twenty nights. At last the fairy Mazilla said furiously (for she was quite tired out by his obstinacy), 'Choose whether you will marry my goddaughter, or do penance seven years for breaking your word to her.'
And then the king cried gaily: 'Pray do whatever you like with me, as long as you deliver me from this ugly scold!'
'Scold!' cried Turritella angrily. 'Who are you, I should like to know, that you dare to call me a scold? A miserable King who breaks his word, and goes about in a chariot drawn by croaking frogs out of a marsh!'
'Let us have no more of these insults,' cried the fairy. 'Fly from that window, ungrateful King, and for seven years be a Blue Bird.' As she spoke the king's face altered, his arms turned to wings, his feet to little crooked black claws. In a moment he had a slender body like a bird, covered with shining blue feathers, his beak was like ivory, his eyes were bright as stars, and a crown of white feathers adorned his head.
As soon as the transformation was complete the king uttered a dolorous cry and fled through the open window, pursued by the mocking laughter of Turritella and the fairy Mazilla. He flew on till he reached the thickest part of the wood, and there, perched on a cypress tree, he bewailed his miserable fate. 'Alas! in seven years who knows what may happen to my darling Fiordelisa!' he said. 'Her cruel stepmother may have married her to someone else before I am myself again, and then what good will life be to me?'
In the meantime the fairy Mazilla had sent Turritella back to the Queen, who was all anxiety to know how the wedding, had gone off. But when her daughter arrived and told her all that had happened she was terribly angry, and of course all her wrath fell on Fiordelisa. 'She shall have cause to repent that the king admires her,' said the queen, nodding her head meaningly, and then she and Turritella went up to the little room in the tower where the Princess was imprisoned. Fiordelisa was immensely surprised to see that Turritella was wearing a royal mantle and a diamond crown, and her heart sank when the queen said: 'My daughter is come to show you some of her wedding presents, for she is King Charming's bride, and they are the happiest pair in the world, he loves her to distraction.' All this time Turritella was spreading out lace, and jewels, and rich brocades, and ribbons before Fiordelisa's unwilling eyes, and taking good care to display King Charming's ring, which she wore on her thumb. The princess recognised it as soon as her eyes fell on it, and after that she could no longer doubt that he had indeed married Turritella. In despair she cried, 'Take away these miserable gauds! what pleasure has a wretched captive in the sight of them?' and then she fell insensible on the floor, and the cruel Queen laughed maliciously, and went away with Turritella, leaving her there without comfort or aid. That night the queen said to the king, that his daughter was so infatuated with King Charming, in spite of his never having shown any preference for her, that it was just as well she should stay in the tower till she came to her senses. To which he answered that it was her affair, and she could give what orders she pleased about the princess.
When the unhappy Fiordelisa recovered, and remembered all she had just heard, she began to cry bitterly, believing that King Charming was lost to her for ever, and all night long she sat at her open window sighing and lamenting; but when it was dawn she crept away into the darkest corner of her little room and sat there, too unhappy to care about anything. As soon as night came again she once more leaned out into the darkness and bewailed her miserable lot.
Now it happened that King Charming, or rather the Blue Bird, had been flying round the castle in the hope of seeing his beloved princess, but had not dared to go too near the windows for fear of being seen and recognised by Turritella. When night fell he had not succeeded in discovering where Fiordelisa was imprisoned, and, weary and sad, he perched on a branch of a tall fir tree which grew close to the tower, and began to sing himself to sleep. But soon the sound of a soft voice lamenting attracted his attention, and listening intently he heard it say
'Ah! cruel Queen! what have I ever done to be imprisoned like this? And was I not unhappy enough before, that you must needs come and taunt me with the happiness your daughter is enjoying now she is King Charming's bride?'
The Blue Bird, greatly surprised, waited impatiently for the dawn, and the moment it was light flew off to see who it could have been who spoke thus. But he found the window shut, and could see no one. The next night, however, he was on the watch, and by the clear moonlight he saw that the sorrowful lady at the window was Fiordelisa herself.
'My Princess! have I found you at last?' he said, alighting close to her.
'Who is speaking to me?' cried the princess in great surprise.
'Only a moment since you mentioned my name, and now you do not know me, Fiordelisa,' he said sadly. 'But no wonder, since I am nothing but a Blue Bird, and must remain one for seven years.'
'What! Little Blue Bird, are you really the powerful King Charming?' said the princess, caressing him.
'It is too true,' he answered. 'For being faithful to you I am thus punished. But believe me, if it were for twice as long I would bear it joyfully rather than give you up.'
'Oh! what are you telling me?' cried the princess. 'Has not your bride, Turritella, just visited me, wearing the royal mantle and the diamond crown you gave her? I cannot be mistaken, for I saw your ring on her thumb.'
Then the Blue Bird was furiously angry, and told the princess all that had happened, how he had been deceived into carrying off Turritella, and how, for refusing to marry her, the fairy Mazilla had condemned him to be a Blue Bird for seven years.
The princess was very happy when she heard how faithful her lover was, and would never have tired of hearing his loving speeches and explanations, but too soon the sun rose, and they had to part lest the Blue Bird should be discovered. After promising to come again to the princess's window as soon as it was dark, he flew away, and hid himself in a little hole in the fir-tree, while Fiordelisa remained devoured by anxiety lest he should be caught in a trap, or eaten up by an eagle.
But the Blue Bird did not long stay in his hiding-place. He flew away, and away, till he came to his own castle, and got into it through a broken window, and there he found the cabinet where his jewels were kept, and chose out a splendid diamond ring as a present for the princess. By the time he got back, Fiordelisa was sitting waiting for him by the open window, and when he gave her the ring, she scolded him gently for having run such a risk to get it for her.
'Promise me that you will wear it always!' said the Blue Bird. And the princess promised on condition that he should come and see her in the day as well as by night. They talked all night long, and the next morning the Blue Bird flew off to his kingdom, and crept into his castle through the broken window, and chose from his treasures two bracelets, each cut out of a single emerald. When he presented them to the princess, she shook her head at him reproachfully, saying
'Do you think I love you so little that I need all these gifts to remind me of you?'
And he answered
'No, my Princess; but I love you so much that I feel I cannot express it, try as I may. I only bring you these worthless trifles to show that I have not ceased to think of you, though I have been obliged to leave you for a time.' The following night he gave Fiordelisa a watch set in a single pearl. The princess laughed a little when she saw it, and said
'You may well give me a watch, for since I have known you I have lost the power of measuring time. The hours you spend with me pass like minutes, and the hours that I drag through without you seem years to me.'
'Ah, Princess, they cannot seem so long to you as they do to me!' he answered. Day by day he brought more beautiful things for the Princess diamonds, and rubies, and opals; and at night she decked herself with them to please him, but by day she hid them in her straw mattress. When the sun shone the Blue Bird, hidden in the tall fir-tree, sang to her so sweetly that all the passersby wondered, and said that the wood was inhabited by a spirit. And so two years slipped away, and still the princess was a prisoner, and Turritella was not married. The queen had offered her hand to all the neighbouring Princes, but they always answered that they would marry Fiordelisa with pleasure, but not Turritella on any account. This displeased the queen terribly. 'Fiordelisa must be in league with them, to annoy me!' she said. 'Let us go and accuse her of it.'
So she and Turritella went up into the tower. Now it happened that it was nearly midnight, and Fiordelisa, all decked with jewels, was sitting at the window with the Blue Bird, and as the Queen paused outside the door to listen she heard the princess and her lover singing together a little song he had just taught her. These were the words:
'Oh! what a luckless pair are we, One in a prison, and one in a tree. All our trouble and anguish came From our faithfulness spoiling our enemies' game. But vainly they practice their cruel arts, For nought can sever our two fond hearts.'
They sound melancholy perhaps, but the two voices sang them gaily enough, and the queen burst open the door, crying, 'Ah! my Turritella, there is some treachery going on here!'
As soon as she saw her, Fiordelisa, with great presence of mind, hastily shut her little window, that the Blue Bird might have time to escape, and then turned to meet the queen, who overwhelmed her with a torrent of reproaches.
'Your intrigues are discovered, Madam,' she said furiously; 'and you need not hope that your high rank will save you from the punishment you deserve.'
'And with whom do you accuse me of intriguing, Madam?' said the Princess. 'Have I not been your prisoner these two years, and who have I seen except the gaolers sent by you?'
While she spoke the queen and Turritella were looking at her in the greatest surprise, perfectly dazzled by her beauty and the splendour of her jewels, and the queen said:
'If one may ask, Madam, where did you get all these diamonds? Perhaps you mean to tell me that you have discovered a mine of them in the tower!'
'I certainly did find them here,' answered the princess.
'And pray,' said the queen, her wrath increasing every moment, 'for whose admiration are you decked out like this, since I have often seen you not half as fine on the most important occasions at Court?'
'For my own,' answered Fiordelisa. 'You must admit that I have had plenty of time on my hands, so you cannot be surprised at my spending some of it in making myself smart.'
'That's all very fine,' said the queen suspiciously. 'I think I will look about, and see for myself.'
So she and Turritella began to search every corner of the little room, and when they came to the straw mattress out fell such a quantity of pearls, diamonds, rubies, opals, emeralds, and sapphires, that they were amazed, and could not tell what to think. But the queen resolved to hide somewhere a packet of false letters to prove that the princess had been conspiring with the King's enemies, and she chose the chimney as a good place. Fortunately for Fiordelisa this was exactly where the Blue Bird had perched himself, to keep an eye on her proceedings, and try to avert danger from his beloved princess, and now he cried:
'Beware, Fiordelisa! Your false enemy is plotting against you.'
This strange voice so frightened the queen that she took the letter and went away hastily with Turritella, and they held a council to try and devise some means of finding out what Fairy or Enchanter was favouring the princess. At last they sent one of the queen's maids to wait on Fiordelisa, and told her to pretend to be quite stupid, and to see and hear nothing, while she was really to watch the princess day and night, and keep the Queen informed of all her doings.
Poor Fiordelisa, who guessed she was sent as a spy, was in despair, and cried bitterly that she dared not see her dear Blue Bird for fear that some evil might happen to him if he were discovered.
The days were so long, and the nights so dull, but for a whole month she never went near her little window lest he should fly to her as he used to do.
However, at last the spy, who had never taken her eyes off the Princess day or night, was so overcome with weariness that she fell into a deep sleep, and as son as the princess saw that, she flew to open her window and cried softly:
'Blue Bird, blue as the sky, Fly to me now, there's nobody by.'
And the Blue Bird, who had never ceased to flutter round within sight and hearing of her prison, came in an instant. They had so much to say, and were so overjoyed to meet once more, that it scarcely seemed to them five minutes before the sun rose, and the Blue Bird had to fly away.
But the next night the spy slept as soundly as before, so that the Blue Bird came, and he and the princess began to think they were perfectly safe, and to make all sorts of plans for being happy as they were before the queen's visit. But, alas! the third night the spy was not quite so sleepy, and when the princess opened her window and cried as usual:
'Blue Bird, blue as the sky, Fly to me now, there's nobody nigh,'
she was wide awake in a moment, though she was sly enough to keep her eyes shut at first. But presently she heard voices, and peeping cautiously, she saw by the moonlight the most lovely blue bird in the world, who was talking to the princess, while she stroked and caressed it fondly.
The spy did not lose a single word of the conversation, and as soon as the day dawned, and the Blue Bird had reluctantly said good-bye to the princess, she rushed off to the queen, and told her all she had seen and heard.
Then the queen sent for Turritella, and they talked it over, and very soon came to the conclusion than this Blue Bird was no other than King Charming himself.
'Ah! that insolent Princess!' cried the queen. 'To think that when we supposed her to be so miserable, she was all the while as happy as possible with that false King. But I know how we can avenge ourselves!'
So the spy was ordered to go back and pretend to sleep as soundly as ever, and indeed she went to bed earlier than usual, and snored as naturally as possible, and the poor Princess ran to the window and cried:
'Blue Bird, blue as the sky, Fly to me now, there's nobody by!'
But no bird came. All night long she called, and waited, and listened, but still there was no answer, for the cruel Queen had caused the fir tree to be hung all over with knives, swords, razors, shears, bill-hooks, and sickles, so that when the Blue Bird heard the princess call, and flew towards her, his wings were cut, and his little black feet clipped off, and all pierced and stabbed in twenty places, he fell back bleeding into his hiding place in the tree, and lay there groaning and despairing, for he thought the princess must have been persuaded to betray him, to regain her liberty.
'Ah! Fiordelisa, can you indeed be so lovely and so faithless?' he sighed, 'then I may as well die at once!' And he turned over on his side and began to die. But it happened that his friend the enchanter had been very much alarmed at seeing the Frog chariot come back to him without King Charming, and had been round the world eight times seeking him, but without success. At the very moment when the king gave himself up to despair, he was passing through the wood for the eighth time, and called, as he had done all over the world:
'Charming! King Charming! Are you here?'
The king at once recognised his friend's voice, and answered very faintly:
'I am here.'
The enchanter looked all round him, but could see nothing, and then the king said again:
'I am a Blue Bird.'
Then the enchanter found him in an instant, and seeing his pitiable condition, ran hither and thither without a word, till he had collected a handful of magic herbs, with which, and a few incantations, he speedily made the king whole and sound again.
'Now,' he said, 'let me hear all about it. There must be a Princess at the bottom of this.'
'There are two!' answered king Charming, with a wry smile.
And then he told the whole story, accusing Fiordelisa of having betrayed the secret of his visits to make her peace with the Queen, and indeed saying a great many hard things about her fickleness and her deceitful beauty, and so on. The enchanter quite agreed with him, and even went further, declaring that all Princesses were alike, except perhaps in the matter of beauty, and advised him to have done with Fiordelisa, and forget all about her. But, somehow or other, this advice did not quite please the king.
'What is to be done next?' said the enchanter, 'since you still have five years to remain a Blue Bird.'
'Take me to your castle,' answered the king; 'there you can at least keep me in a cage safe from cats and swords.'
'Well, that will be the best thing to do for the present,' said his friend. 'But I am not an Enchanter for nothing. I'm sure to have a brilliant idea for you before long.'
In the meantime Fiordelisa, quite in despair, sat at her window day and night calling her dear Blue Bird in vain, and imagining over and over again all the terrible things that could have happened to him, till she grew quite pale and thin. As for the Queen and Turritella, they were triumphant; but their triumph was short, for the king, Fiordelisa's father, fell ill and died, and all the people rebelled against the queen and Turritella, and came in a body to the castle demanding Fiordelisa.
The queen came out on the balcony with threats and haughty words, so that at last they lost their patience, and broke open the doors of the castle, one of which fell back on the queen and killed her. Turritella fled to the fairy Mazilla, and all the nobles of the kingdom fetched the princess Fiordelisa from her prison in the tower, and made her queen. Very soon, with all the care and attention they bestowed on her, she recovered from the effects of her long captivity and looked more beautiful than ever, and was able to take counsel with her courtiers, and arrange for the governing of her kingdom during her absence. And then, taking a bagful of jewels, she set out all alone to look for the Blue Bird, without telling anyone where she was going.
Meanwhile, the enchanter was taking care of King Charming, but as his power was not great enough to counteract the fairy Mazilla's, he at last resolved to go and see if he could make any kind of terms with her for his friend; for you see, Fairies and Enchanters are cousins in a sort of way, after all; and after knowing one another for five or six hundred years and falling out, and making it up again pretty often, they understand one another well enough. So the fairy Mazilla received him graciously. 'And what may you be wanting, Gossip?' said she.
'You can do a good turn for me if you will;' he answered. 'A King, who is a friend of mine, was unlucky enough to offend you '
'Aha! I know who you mean,' interrupted the fairy. 'I am sorry not to oblige you, Gossip, but he need expect no mercy from me unless he will marry my goddaughter, whom you see yonder looking so pretty and charming. Let him think over what I say.'
The enchanter hadn't a word to say, for he thought Turritella really frightful, but he could not go away without making one more effort for his friend the king, who was really in great danger as long as he lived in a cage. Indeed, already he had met with several alarming accidents. Once the nail on which his cage was hung had given way, and his feathered Majesty had suffered much from the fall, while Madam Puss, who happened to be in the room at the time, had given him a scratch in the eye which came very near blinding him. Another time they had forgotten to give him any water to drink, so that he was nearly dead with thirst; and the worst thing of all was that he was in danger of losing his kingdom, for he had been absent so long that all his subjects believed him to be dead. So considering all these things the enchanter agreed with the fairy Mazilla that she should restore the king to his natural form, and should take Turritella to stay in his castle for several months, and if, after the time was over he still could not make up his mind to marry her, he should once more be changed into a Blue Bird.
Then the fairy dressed Turritella in a magnificent gold and silver robe, and they mounted together on a flying Dragon, and very soon reached king Charming's castle, where he, too, had just been brought by his faithful friend the enchanter.
Three strokes of the fairy's wand restored his natural form, and he was as handsome and delightful as ever, but he considered that he paid dearly for his restoration when he caught sight of Turritella, and the mere idea of marrying her made him shudder.
Meanwhile, Queen Fiordelisa, disguised as a poor peasant girl, wearing a great straw hat that concealed her face, and carrying an old sack over her shoulder, had set out on her weary journey, and had travelled far, sometimes by sea and sometimes by land; sometimes on foot, and sometimes on horseback, but not knowing which way to go. She feared all the time that every step she took was leading her farther from her lover. One day as she sat, quite tired and sad, on the bank of a little brook, cooling her white feet in the clear running water, and combing her long hair that glittered like gold in the sunshine, a little bent old woman passed by, leaning on a stick. She stopped, and said to Fiordelisa:
'What, my pretty child, are you all alone?'
'Indeed, good mother, I am too sad to care for company,' she answered; and the tears ran down her cheeks.
'Don't cry,' said the old woman, 'but tell me truly what is the matter. Perhaps I can help you.'
The queen told her willingly all that had happened, and how she was seeking the Blue Bird. Thereupon the little old woman suddenly stood up straight, and grew tall, and young, and beautiful, and said with a smile to the astonished Fiordelisa:
'Lovely Queen, the king whom you seek is no longer a bird. My sister Mazilla has given his own form back to him, and he is in his own kingdom. Do not be afraid, you will reach him, and will prosper. Take these four eggs; if you break one when you are in any great difficulty, you will find aid.'
So saying, she disappeared, and Fiordelisa, feeling much encouraged, put the eggs into her bag and turned her steps towards Charming's kingdom. After walking on and on for eight days and eight nights, she came at last to a tremendously high hill of polished ivory, so steep that it was impossible to get a foothold on it. Fiordelisa tried a thousand times, and scrambled and slipped, but always in the end found herself exactly where she started from. At last she sat down at the foot of it in despair, and then suddenly bethought herself of the eggs. Breaking one quickly, she found in it some little gold hooks, and with these fastened to her feet and hands, she mounted the ivory hill without further trouble, for the little hooks saved her from slipping. As soon as she reached the top a new difficulty presented itself, for all the other side, and indeed the whole valley, was one polished mirror, in which thousands and thousands of people were admiring their reflections. For this was a magic mirror, in which people saw themselves just as they wished to appear, and pilgrims came to it from the four corners of the world. But nobody had ever been able to reach the top of the hill, and when they saw Fiordelisa standing there, they raised a terrible outcry, declaring that if she set foot on their glass she would break it to pieces. The queen, not knowing what to do, for she saw it would be dangerous to try to go down, broke the second egg, and out came a chariot, drawn by two white doves, and Fiordelisa got into it, and was floated softly away. After a night and a day the doves alighted outside the gate of King Charming's kingdom. Here the queen got out of the chariot, and kissed the doves and thanked them, and then with a beating heart she walked into the town, asking the people she met where she could see the king. But they only laughed at her, crying:
'See the king? And pray, why do you want to see the king, my little kitchen-maid? You had better go and wash your face first, your eyes are not clear enough to see him!' For the queen had disguised herself, and pulled her hair down about her eyes, that no one might know her. As they would not tell her, she went on farther, and presently asked again, and this time the people answered that tomorrow she might see the king driving through the streets with the princess Turritella, as it was said that at last he had consented to marry her. This was indeed terrible news to Fiordelisa. Had she come all this weary way only to find Turritella had succeeded in making King Charming forget her?
She was too tired and miserable to walk another step, so she sat down in a doorway and cried bitterly all night long. As soon as it was light she hastened to the castle, and after being sent away fifty times by the guards, she got in at last, and saw the thrones set in the great hall for the king and Turritella, who was already looked on as Queen.
Fiordelisa hid herself behind a marble pillar, and very soon saw Turritella make her appearance, richly dressed, but as ugly as ever, and with her came the king, more handsome and splendid even than Fiordelisa had remembered him. When Turritella had seated herself on the throne, the queen approached her.
'Who are you, and how dare you come near my high-mightiness, on my golden throne?' said Turritella, frowning fiercely at her.
'They call me the little kitchen-maid,' she replied, 'and I come to offer some precious things for sale,' and with that she searched in her old sack, and drew out the emerald bracelets King Charming had given her.
'Ho, ho!' said Turritella, those are pretty bits of glass. I suppose you would like five silver pieces for them.'
'Show them to someone who understands such things, Madam,' answered the queen; 'after that we can decide on the price.'
Turritella, who really loved king Charming as much as she could love anybody, and was always delighted to get a chance of talking to him, now showed him the bracelets, asking how much he considered them worth. As soon as he saw them he remembered those he had given to Fiordelisa, and turned very pale and sighed deeply, and fell into such sad thought that he quite forgot to answer her. Presently she asked him again, and then he said, with a great effort:
'I believe these bracelets are worth as much as my kingdom. I thought there was only one such pair in the world; but here, it seems, is another.'
Then Turritella went back to the queen, and asked her what was the lowest price she would take for them.
'More than you would find it easy to pay, Madam,' answered she; 'but if you will manage for me to sleep one night in the Chamber of Echoes, I will give you the emeralds.'
'By all means, my little kitchen-maid,' said Turritella, highly delighted.
The king did not try to find out where the bracelets had come from, not because he did not want to know, but because the only way would have been to ask Turritella, and he disliked her so much that he never spoke to her if he could possibly avoid it. It was he who had told Fiordelisa about the Chamber of Echoes, when he was a Blue Bird. It was a little room below the king's own bed-chamber, and was so ingeniously built that the softest whisper in it was plainly heard in the king's room. Fiordelisa wanted to reproach him for his faithlessness, and could not imagine a better way than this. So when, by Turritella's orders, she was left there she began to weep and lament, and never ceased till daybreak.
The king's pages told Turritella, when she asked them, what a sobbing and sighing they had heard, and she asked Fiordelisa what it was all about. The queen answered that she often dreamed and talked aloud.
But by an unlucky chance the king heard nothing of all this, for he took a sleeping draught every night before he lay down, and did not wake up till the sun was high.
The queen passed the day in great disquietude.
'If he did hear me,' she said, 'could he remain so cruelly indifferent? But if he did not hear me, what can I do to get another chance? I have plenty of jewels, it is true, but nothing remarkable enough to catch Turritella's fancy.'
Just then she thought of the eggs, and broke one, out of which came a little carriage of polished steel ornamented with gold, drawn by six green mice. The coachman was a rose-coloured rat, the postilion a grey one, and the carriage was occupied by the tiniest and most charming figures, who could dance and do wonderful tricks. Fiordelisa clapped her hands and danced for joy when she saw this triumph of magic art, and as soon as it was evening, went to a shady garden-path down which she knew Turritella would pass, and then she made the mice galop, and the tiny people show off their tricks, and sure enough Turritella came, and the moment she saw it all cried:
'Little kitchen-maid, little kitchen-maid, what will you take for your mouse-carriage?'
And the queen answered:
'Let me sleep once more in the Chamber of Echoes.'
'I won't refuse your request, poor creature,' said Turritella condescendingly.
And then she turned to her ladies and whispered
'The silly creature does not know how to profit by her chances; so much the better for me.'
When night came Fiordelisa said all the loving words she could think of, but alas! with no better success than before, for the King slept heavily after his draught. One of the pages said:
'This peasant girl must he crazy;' but another answered:
'Yet what she says sounds very sad and touching.'
As for Fiordelisa, she thought the king must have a very hard heart if he could hear how she grieved and yet pay her no attention. She had but one more chance, and on breaking the last egg she found to her great delight that it contained a more marvellous thing than ever. It was a pie made of six birds, cooked to perfection, and yet they were all alive, and singing and talking, and they answered questions and told fortunes in the most amusing way. Taking this treasure Fiordelisa once more set herself to wait in the great hall through which Turritella was sure to pass, and as she sat there one of the king's pages came by, and said to her:
'Well, little kitchen-maid, it is a good thing that the king always takes a sleeping draught, for if not he would be kept awake all night by your sighing and lamenting.'
Then Fiordelisa knew why the king had not heeded her, and taking a handful of pearls and diamonds out of her sack, she said, 'If you can promise me that tonight the king shall not have his sleeping draught, I will give you all these jewels.'
'Oh! I promise that willingly,' said the page.
At this moment Turritella appeared, and at the first sight of the savoury pie, with the pretty little birds all singing and chattering, she cried:
'That is an admirable pie, little kitchen-maid. Pray what will you take for it?'
'The usual price,' she answered. 'To sleep once more in the Chamber of Echoes.'
'By all means, only give me the pie,' said the greedy Turritella. And when night was come, Queen Fiordelisa waited till she thought everybody in the castle would be asleep, and then began to lament as before.
'Ah, Charming!' she said, 'what have I ever done that you should forsake me and marry Turritella? If you could only know all I have suffered, and what a weary way I have come to seek you.'
Now the page had faithfully kept his word, and given King Charming a glass of water instead of his usual sleeping draught, so there he lay wide awake, and heard every word Fiordelisa said, and even recognised her voice, though he could not tell where it came from.
'Ah, Princess!' he said, 'how could you betray me to our cruel enemies when I loved you so dearly?'
Fiordelisa heard him, and answered quickly:
'Find out the little kitchen-maid, and she will explain everything.'
Then the king in a great hurry sent for his pages and said:
'If you can find the little kitchen-maid, bring her to me at once.'
'Nothing could be easier, Sire,' they answered, 'for she is in the Chamber of Echoes.'
The king was very much puzzled when he heard this. How could the lovely Princess Fiordelisa be a little kitchen-maid? or how could a little kitchen-maid have Fiordelisa's own voice? So he dressed hastily, and ran down a little secret staircase which led to the Chamber of Echoes. There, on a heap of soft cushions, sat his lovely Princess. She had laid aside all her ugly disguises and wore a white silken robe, and her golden hair shone in the soft lamp-light. The king was overjoyed at the sight, and rushed to throw himself at her feet, and asked her a thousand questions without giving her time to answer one. Fiordelisa was equally happy to be with him once more, and nothing troubled them but the remembrance of the fairy Mazilla. But at this moment in came the enchanter, and with him a famous Fairy, the same in fact who had given Fiordelisa the eggs. After greeting the king and queen, they said that as they were united in wishing to help King Charming, the fairy Mazilla had no longer any power against him, and he might marry Fiordelisa as soon as he pleased. The king's joy may be imagined, and as soon as it was day the news was spread through the castle, and everybody who saw Fiordelisa loved her directly. When Turritella heard what had happened she came running to the king, and when she saw Fiordelisa with him she was terribly angry, but before she could say a word the enchanter and the fairy changed her into a big brown owl, and she floated away out of one of the castle windows, hooting dismally. Then the wedding was held with great splendour, and King Charming and Queen Fiordelisa lived happily ever after.