Once on a time there was a princess who was the prettiest creature in the world. And because she was so beautiful, and because her hair was like the finest gold, and waved and rippled nearly to the ground, she was called Pretty Goldilocks. She always wore a crown of flowers, and her dresses were embroidered with diamonds and pearls, and everybody who saw her fell in love with her.
Now one of her neighbors was a young king who was not married. He was very rich and handsome, and when he heard all that was said about Pretty Goldilocks, though he had never seen her, he fell so deeply in love with her that he could neither eat nor drink. So he resolved to send an ambassador to ask her in marriage. He had a splendid carriage made for his ambassador, and gave him more than a hundred horses and a hundred servants, and told him to be sure and bring the princess back with him. After he had started nothing else was talked of at Court, and the king felt so sure that the princess would consent that he set his people to work at pretty dresses and splendid furniture, that they might be ready by the time she came. Meanwhile, the ambassador arrived at the princess's palace and delivered his little message, but whether she happened to be cross that day, or whether the compliment did not please her, is not known. She only answered that she was very much obliged to the king, but she had no wish to be married. The ambassador set off sadly on his homeward way, bringing all the king's presents back with him, for the princess was too well brought up to accept the pearls and diamonds when she would not accept the king, so she had only kept twenty- five English pins that he might not be vexed.
When the ambassador reached the city, where the king was waiting impatiently, everybody was very much annoyed with him for not bringing the princess, and the king cried like a baby, and nobody could console him. Now there was at the Court a young man, who was more clever and handsome than anyone else. He was called Charming, and everyone loved him, excepting a few envious people who were angry at his being the king's favorite and knowing all the State secrets. He happened to one day be with some people who were speaking of the ambassador's return and saying that his going to the princess had not done much good, when Charming said rashly:
"If the king had sent me to the princess Goldilocks I am sure she would have come back with me."
His enemies at once went to the king and said:
"You will hardly believe, sire, what Charming has the audacity to say – that if he had been sent to the princess Goldilocks she would certainly have come back with him. He seems to think that he is so much handsomer than you that the princess would have fallen in love with him and followed him willingly." The king was very angry when he heard this.
"Ha, ha!" said he; "does he laugh at my unhappiness, and think himself more fascinating than I am? Go, and let him be shut up in my great tower to die of hunger."
So the king's guards went to fetch Charming, who had thought no more of his rash speech, and carried him off to prison with great cruelty. The poor prisoner had only a little straw for his bed, and but for a little stream of water which flowed through the tower he would have died of thirst.
One day when he was in despair he said to himself:
"How can I have offended the king? I am his most faithful subject, and have done nothing against him."
The king chanced to be passing the tower and recognized the voice of his former favorite. He stopped to listen in spite of Charming's enemies, who tried to persuade him to have nothing more to do with the traitor. But the king said:
"Be quiet, I wish to hear what he says."
And then he opened the tower door and called to Charming, who came very sadly and kissed the king's hand, saying:
"What have I done, sire, to deserve this cruel treatment?"
"You mocked me and my ambassador," said the king, "and you said that if I had sent you for the princess Goldilocks you would certainly have brought her back."
"It is quite true, sire," replied Charming; "I should have drawn such a picture of you, and represented your good qualities in such a way, that I am certain the princess would have found you irresistible. But I cannot see what there is in that to make you angry."
The king could not see any cause for anger either when the matter was presented to him in this light, and he began
to frown very fiercely at the courtiers who had so misrepresented his favorite.
So he took Charming back to the palace with him, and after seeing that he had a very good supper he said to him:
"You know that I love Pretty Goldilocks as much as ever, her refusal has not made any difference to me; but I don't know how to make her change her mind; I really should like to send you, to see if you can persuade her to marry me."
Charming replied that he was perfectly willing to go, and would set out the very next day.
"But you must wait till I can get a grand escort for you," said the king. But Charming said that he only wanted a good horse to ride, and the king, who was delighted at his being ready to start so promptly, gave him letters to the princess, and bade him good speed. It was on a Monday morning that he set out all alone on his errand, thinking of nothing but how he could persuade the princess Goldilocks to marry the king. He had a writing-book in his pocket, and whenever any happy thought struck him he dismounted from his horse and sat down under the trees to put it into the harangue which he was preparing for the princess, before he forgot it.
One day when he had started at the very earliest dawn, and was riding over a great meadow, he suddenly had a capital idea, and, springing from his horse, he sat down under a willow tree which grew by a little river. When he had written it down he was looking round him, pleased to find himself in such a pretty place, when all at once he saw a great golden carp lying gasping and exhausted on the grass. In leaping after little flies she had thrown herself high on the bank, where she had lain till she was nearly dead. Charming had pity on her, and, though he couldn't help thinking that she would have been very nice for dinner, he picked her up gently and put her back into the water. As soon as Dame Carp felt the refreshing coolness of the water she sank down joyfully to the bottom of the river, then, swimming up to the bank quite boldly, she said:
"I thank you, Charming, for the kindness you have done me. You have saved my life; one day I will repay
you." So saying, she sank down into the water again, leaving Charming greatly astonished at her politeness.
Another day, as he journeyed on, he saw a raven in great distress. The poor bird was closely pursued by an eagle, which would soon have eaten it up, had not Charming quickly fitted an arrow to his bow and shot the eagle dead. The raven perched on a tree very joyfully.
"Charming," said he, "it was very generous of you to rescue a poor raven; I am not ungrateful, some day I will repay you."
Charming thought it was very nice of the raven to say so, and went on his way.
Before the sun rose he found himself in a thick wood where it was too dark for him to see his path, and here he heard an owl crying as if it were in despair.
"Hark!" said he, "that must be an owl in great trouble, I am sure it has gone into a snare"; and he began to hunt about, and presently found a great net which some bird- catchers had spread the night before.
"What a pity it is that men do nothing but torment and persecute poor creatures which never do them any harm!" said he, and he took out his knife and cut the cords of the net, and the owl flitted away into the darkness, but then turning, with one flicker of her wings, she came back to Charming and said:
"It does not need many words to tell you how great a service you have done me. I was caught; in a few minutes the fowlers would have been here – without your help I should have been killed. I am grateful, and one day I will repay you."
These three adventures were the only ones of any consequence that befell Charming on his journey, and he made all the haste he could to reach the palace of the princess Goldilocks.
When he arrived he thought everything he saw delightful and magnificent. Diamonds were as plentiful as pebbles, and the gold and silver, the beautiful dresses, the sweetmeats and pretty things that were everywhere quite amazed him; he thought to himself: "If the princess consents to leave all this, and come with me to marry the king, he may think himself lucky!"
Then he dressed himself carefully in rich brocade, with
scarlet and white plumes, and threw a splendid embroidered scarf over his shoulder, and, looking as gay and as graceful as possible, he presented himself at the door of the palace, carrying in his arm a tiny pretty dog which he had bought on the way. The guards saluted him respectfully, and a messenger was sent to the princess to announce the arrival of Charming as ambassador of her neighbour the king.
"Charming," said the princess, "the name promises well; I have no doubt that he is good looking and fascinates everybody."
"Indeed he does, madam," said all her maids of honour in one breath. "We saw him from the window of the garret where we were spinning flax, and we could do nothing but look at him as long as he was in sight."
"Well to be sure," said the princess, "that's how you amuse yourselves, is it? Looking at strangers out of the window! Be quick and give me my blue satin embroidered dress, and comb out my golden hair. Let somebody make me fresh garlands of flowers, and give me my high- heeled shoes and my fan, and tell them to sweep my great hall and my throne, for I want everyone to say I am really 'Pretty Goldilocks.' "
You can imagine how all her maids scurried this way and that to make the princess ready, and how in their haste they knocked their heads together and hindered each other, till she thought they would never have done. However, at last they led her into the gallery of mirrors that she might assure herself that nothing was lacking in her appearance, and then she mounted her throne of gold, ebony, and ivory, while her ladies took their guitars and began to sing softly. Then Charming was led in, and was so struck with astonishment and admiration that at first not a word could he say. But presently he took courage and delivered his harangue, bravely ending by begging the princess to spare him the disappointment of going back without her.
"Sir Charming," answered she, "all the reasons you have given me are very good ones, and I assure you that I should have more pleasure in obliging you than anyone else, but you must know that a month ago as I was walking by the river with my ladies I took off my glove, and
as I did so a ring that I was wearing slipped off my finger and rolled into the water. As I valued it more than my kingdom, you may imagine how vexed I was at losing it, and I vowed to never listen to any proposal of marriage unless the ambassador first brought me back my ring. So now you know what is expected of you, for if you talked for fifteen days and fifteen nights you could not make me change my mind."
Charming was very much surprised by this answer, but he bowed low to the princess, and begged her to accept the embroidered scarf and the tiny dog he had brought with him. But she answered that she did not want any presents, and that he was to remember what she had just told him. When he got back to his lodging he went to bed without eating any supper, and his little dog, who was called Frisk, couldn't eat any either, but came and lay down close to him. All night Charming sighed and lamented.
"How am I to find a ring that fell into the river a month ago?" said he. "It is useless to try; the princess must have told me to do it on purpose, knowing it was impossible." And then he sighed again.
Frisk heard him and said:
"My dear master, don't despair; the luck may change, you are too good not to be happy. Let us go down to the river as soon as it is light."
But Charming only gave him two little pats and said nothing, and very soon he fell asleep.
At the first glimmer of dawn Frisk began to jump about, and when he had waked Charming they went out together, first into the garden, and then down to the river's brink, where they wandered up and down. Charming was thinking sadly of having to go back unsuccessful when he heard someone calling: "Charming, Charming!" He looked all about him and thought he must be dreaming, as he could not see anybody. Then he walked on and the voice called again: "Charming, Charming!"
"Who calls me?" said he. Frisk, who was very small and could look closely into the water, cried out: "I see a golden carp coming." And sure enough there was the great carp, who said to Charming:
"You saved my life in the meadow by the willow tree,
and I promised that I would repay you. Take this, it is Princess Goldilock's ring." Charming took the ring out of Dame Carp's mouth, thanking her a thousand times, and he and tiny Frisk went straight to the palace, where someone told the princess that he was asking to see her.
"Ah! poor fellow," said she, "he must have come to say good-by, finding it impossible to do as I asked."
So in came Charming, who presented her with the ring and said:
"Madam, I have done your bidding. Will it please you to marry my master?" When the princess saw her ring brought back to her unhurt she was so astonished that she thought she must be dreaming.
"Truly, Charming," said she, "you must be the favorite of some fairy, or you could never have found it."
"Madam," answered he, "I was helped by nothing but my desire to obey your wishes."
"Since you are so kind," said she, "perhaps you will do me another service, for till it is done I will never be married. There is a prince not far from here whose name is Galifron, who once wanted to marry me, but when I refused he uttered the most terrible threats against me, and vowed that he would lay waste my country. But what could I do? I could not marry a frightful giant as tall as a tower, who eats up people as a monkey eats chestnuts, and who talks so loud that anybody who has to listen to him becomes quite deaf. Nevertheless, he does not cease to persecute me and to kill my subjects. So before I can listen to your proposal you must kill him and bring me his head.
Charming was rather dismayed at this command, but he answered:
"Very well, Princess, I will fight this Galifron; I believe that he will kill me, but at any rate I shall die in your defence."
Then the princess was frightened and said everything she could think of to prevent Charming from fighting the giant, but it was of no use, and he went out to arm himself suitably, and then, taking little Frisk with him, he mounted his horse and set out for Galifron's country. Everyone he met told him what a terrible giant Galifron was, and that nobody dared go near him; and the more he heard,
the more frightened he grew. Frisk tried to encourage him by saying: "While you are fighting the giant, dear master, I will go and bite his heels, and when he stoops down to look at me you can kill him."
Charming praised his little dog's plan, but knew that this help would not do much good.
At last he drew near the giant's castle, and saw to his horror that every path that led to it was strewn with bones. Before long he saw Galifron coming. His head was higher than the tallest trees, and he sang in a terrible voice:
"Bring out your little boys and girls, Pray do not stay to do their curls, For I shall eat so very many, I shall not know if they have any."
Thereupon Charming sang out as loud as he could to the same tune:
"Come out and meet the valiant Charming Who finds you not at all alarming; Although he is not very tall, He's big enough to make you fall."
The rhymes were not very correct, but you see he had made them up so quickly that it is a miracle that they were not worse; especially as he was horribly frightened all the time. When Galifron heard these words he looked all about him, and saw Charming standing, sword in hand this put the giant into a terrible rage, and he aimed a blow at Charming with his huge iron club, which would certainly have killed him if it had reached him, but at that instant a raven perched on the giant's head, and, pecking with its strong beak and beating with its great wings so confused and blinded him that all his blows fell harmlessly on the air, and Charming, rushing in, gave him several strokes with his sharp sword so that he fell to the ground. Whereupon Charming cut off his head before he knew anything about it, and the raven from a tree close by croaked out:
"You see I have not forgotten the good turn you did me
in killing the eagle. Today I think I have fulfilled my promise of repaying you."
"Indeed, I owe you more gratitude than you ever owed me," replied Charming.
And then he mounted his horse and rode off with Galifron's head.
When he reached the city the people ran after him in crowds, crying:
"Behold the brave Charming, who has killed the giant!" And their shouts reached the princess's ear, but she dared not ask what was happening, for fear she should hear that Charming had been killed. But very soon he arrived at the palace with the giant's head, of which she was still terrified, though it could no longer do her any harm.
"Princess," said Charming, "I have killed your enemy; I hope you will now consent to marry the king my master."
"Oh dear! no," said the princess, "not till you have brought me some water from the Gloomy Cavern.
"Not far from here there is a deep cave, the entrance to which is guarded by two dragons with fiery eyes, who will not allow anyone to pass them. When you get into the cavern you will find an immense hole, which you must go down, and it is full of toads and snakes; at the bottom of this hole there is another little cave, in which rises the Fountain of Health and Beauty. It is some of this water that I really must have: everything it touches becomes wonderful. The beautiful things will always remain beautiful, and the ugly things become lovely. If one is young one never grows old, and if one is old one becomes young. You see, Charming, I could not leave my kingdom without taking some of it with me."
"Princess," said he, "you at least can never need this water, but I am an unhappy ambassador, whose death you desire. Where you send me I will go, though I know I shall never return."
And, as the princess Goldilocks showed no sign of relenting, he started with his little dog for the Gloomy Cavern. Everyone he met on the way said:
"What a pity that a handsome young man should throw away his life so carelessly! He is going to the cavern alone, though if he had a hundred men with him he could
not succeed. Why does the princess ask impossibilities?" Charming said nothing, but he was very sad. When he was near the top of a hill he dismounted to let his horse graze, while Frisk amused himself by chasing flies. Charming knew he could not be far from the Gloomy Cavern, and on looking about him he saw a black hideous rock from which came a thick smoke, followed in a moment by one of the dragons with fire blazing from his mouth and eyes. His body was yellow and green, and his claws scarlet, and his tail was so long that it lay in a hundred coils. Frisk was so terrified at the sight of it that he did not know where to hide. Charming, quite determined to get the water or die, now drew his sword, and, taking the crystal flask which Pretty Goldilocks had given him to fill, said to Frisk:
"I feel sure that I shall never come back from this expedition; when I am dead, go to the princess and tell her that her errand has cost me my life. Then find the king my master, and relate all my adventures to him."
As he spoke he heard a voice calling: "Charming, Charming!"
"Who calls me?" said he; then he saw an owl sitting in a hollow tree, who said to him:
"You saved my life when I was caught in the net, now I can repay you. Trust me with the flask, for I know all the ways of the Gloomy Cavern, and can fill it from the Fountain of Beauty." Charming was only too glad to give her the flask, and she flitted into the cavern quite unnoticed by the dragon, and after some time returned with the flask, filled to the very brim with sparkling water. Charming thanked her with all his heart, and joyfully hastened back to the town.
He went straight to the palace and gave the flask to the princess, who had no further objection to make. So she thanked Charming, and ordered that preparations should be made for her departure, and they soon set out together. The princess found Charming such an agreeable companion that she sometimes said to him: "Why didn't we stay where we were? I could have made you king, and we should have been so happy!"
But Charming only answered:
"I could not have done anything that would have
vexed my master so much, even for a kingdom, or to please you, though I think you are as beautiful as the sun."
At last they reached the king's great city, and he came out to meet the princess, bringing magnificent presents, and the marriage was celebrated with great rejoicings. But Goldilocks was so fond of Charming that she could not be happy unless he was near her, and she was always singing his praises.
"If it hadn't been for Charming," she said to the king, "I should never have come here; you ought to be very much obliged to him, for he did the most impossible things and got me water from the Fountain of Beauty, so I can never grow old, and shall get prettier every year."
Then Charming's enemies said to the king:
"It is a wonder that you are not jealous, the queen thinks there is nobody in the world like Charming. As if anybody you had sent could not have done just as much!"
"It is quite true, now I come to think of it," said the king. "Let him be chained hand and foot, and thrown into the tower."
So they took Charming, and as a reward for having served the king so faithfully he was shut up in the tower, where he only saw the jailer, who brought him a piece of black bread and a pitcher of water every day.
However, little Frisk came to console him, and told him all the news.
When Pretty Goldilocks heard what had happened she threw herself at the king's feet and begged him to set Charming free, but the more she cried, the more angry he was, and at last she saw that it was useless to say any more; but it made her very sad. Then the king took it into his head that perhaps he was not handsome enough to please the princess Goldilocks, and he thought he would bathe his face with the water from the Fountain of Beauty, which was in the flask on a shelf in the princess's room, where she had placed it that she might see it often. Now it happened that one of the princess's ladies in chasing a spider had knocked the flask off the shelf and broken it, and every drop of the water had been spilt. Not knowing what to do, she had hastily swept away the pieces of crystal, and then remembered that in the king's room
she had seen a flask of exactly the same shape, also filled with sparkling water. So, without saying a word, she fetched it and stood it on the queen's shelf.
Now the water in this flask was what was used in the kingdom for getting rid of troublesome people. Instead of having their heads cut off in the usual way, their faces were bathed with the water, and they instantly fell asleep and never woke up any more. So, when the king, thinking to improve his beauty, took the flask and sprinkled the water on his face, he fell asleep, and nobody could wake him.
Little Frisk was the first to hear the news, and he ran to tell Charming, who sent him to beg the princess not to forget the poor prisoner. All the palace was in confusion on account of the king's death, but tiny Frisk made his way through the crowd to the princess's side, and said:
"Madam, do not forget poor Charming."
Then she remembered all he had done for her, and without saying a word to anyone went straight to the tower, and with her own hands took off Charming's chains. Then, putting a golden crown on his head, and the royal mantle on his shoulders, she said:
"Come, faithful Charming, I make you king, and will take you for my husband."
Charming, once more free and happy, fell at her feet and thanked her for her gracious words.
Everybody was delighted that he should be king, and the wedding, which took place at once, was the prettiest that can be imagined, and prince Charming and princess Goldilocks lived happily ever after.
ONCE on a time there lived a queen who had been the mother of a great many children, and of them all only one daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a thousand.
Her mother, who, since the death of the king, her father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much as this little princess, was so terribly afraid of losing her that she quite spoiled her, and never tried to correct any of her faults. The consequence was that this little person, who was as pretty as possible, and was one day to wear a crown, grew up so proud and so much in love with her own beauty that she despised everyone else in the world.
The queen, her mother, by her caresses and flatteries, helped to make her believe that there was nothing too good for her. She was dressed almost always in the prettiest frocks, as a fairy, or as a queen going out to hunt, and the ladies of the Court followed her dressed as forest fairies.
And to make her more vain than ever the queen caused her portrait to be taken by the cleverest painters and sent it to several neighboring kings with whom she was very friendly.
When they saw this portrait they fell in love with the princess – every one of them, but on each it had a different effect. One fell ill, one went quite crazy, and a few of the luckiest set off to see her as soon as possible, but these poor princes became her slaves the moment they set eyes on her.
Never has there been a gayer Court. Twenty delightful kings did everything they could think of to make themselves agreeable, and after having spent ever so much money in giving a single entertainment thought themselves very lucky if the princess said "That's pretty."
All this admiration vastly pleased the queen. Not a day passed but she received seven or eight thousand sonnets, and as many elegies, madrigals, and songs, which were sent her by all the poets in the world. All the prose and the poetry that was written just then was about Bellissima – for that was the princess's name – and all the bonfires that they had were made of these verses, which crackled and sparkled better than any other sort of wood.
Bellissima was already fifteen years old, and every one of the princes wished to marry her, but not one dared to say so. How could they when they knew that any of them might have cut off his head five or six times a day just to please her, and she would have thought it a mere trifle, so little did she care? You may imagine how hard- hearted her lovers thought her; and the queen, who wished to see her married, did not know how to persuade her to think of it seriously.
"Bellissima," she said, "I do wish you would not be so proud. What makes you despise all these nice kings? I wish you to marry one of them, and you do not try to please me."
"I am so happy," Bellissima answered: "do leave me in peace, madam. I don't want to care for anyone."
"But you would be very happy with any of these princes," said the queen, "and I shall be very angry if you fall in love with anyone who is not worthy of you."
But the princess thought so much of herself that she did not consider any one of her lovers clever or handsome enough for her; and her mother, who was getting really angry at her determination not to be married, began to
wish that she had not allowed her to have her own way so much.
At last, not knowing what else to do, she resolved to consult a certain witch who was called "The fairy of the Desert." Now this was very difficult to do, as she was guarded by some terrible lions; but happily the queen had heard a long time before that whoever wanted to pass these lions safely must throw to them a cake made of millet flour, sugar-candy, and crocodile's eggs. This cake she prepared with her own hands, and putting it in a little basket, she set out to seek the fairy. But as she was not used to walking far, she soon felt very tired and sat down at the foot of a tree to rest, and presently fell fast asleep. When she awoke she was dismayed to find her basket empty. The cake was all gone! and, to make matters worse, at that moment she heard the roaring of the great lions, who had found out that she was near and were coming to look for her
"What shall I do?" she cried; "I shall be eaten up," and being too frightened to run a single step, she began to cry, and leaned against the tree under which she had been asleep.
Just then she heard some one say: "H'm, h'm!"
She looked all round her, and then up the tree, and there she saw a little tiny man, who was eating oranges.
"Oh! Queen," said he, "I know you very well, and I know how much afraid you are of the lions; and you are quite right too, for they have eaten many other people: and what can you expect, as you have not any cake to give them?"
"I must make up my mind to die," said the poor queen. "Alas! I should not care so much if only my dear daughter were married."
"Oh! you have a daughter," cried the Yellow Dwarf (who was so called because he was a dwarf and had such a yellow face, and lived in the orange tree). "I'm really glad to hear that, for I've been looking for a wife all over the world. Now, if you will promise that she shall marry me, not one of the lions, tigers, or bears shall touch you."
The queen looked at him and was almost as much afraid of his ugly little face as she had been of the lions before, so that she could not speak a word.
"What! you hesitate, madam," cried the dwarf. "You must be very fond of being eaten up alive."
And, as he spoke, the queen saw the lions, which were running down a hill toward them.
Each one had two heads, eight feet, and four rows of teeth, and their skins were as hard as turtle shells, and were bright red.
At this dreadful sight, the poor queen, who was trembling like a dove when it sees a hawk, cried out as loud as she could, "Oh! dear Mr. Dwarf, Bellissima shall marry you."
"Oh, indeed!" said he disdainfully. "Bellissima is pretty enough, but I don't particularly want to marry her – you can keep her."
"Oh! noble sir," said the queen in great distress, ado not refuse her. She is the most charming Princess in the world."
"Oh! well," he replied, "out of charity I will take her; but be sure and don't forget that she is mine."
As he spoke a little door opened in the trunk of the orange tree, in rushed the queen, only just in time, and the door shut with a bang in the faces of the lions.
The queen was so confused that at first she did not notice another little door in the orange tree, but presently it opened and she found herself in a field of thistles and nettles. It was encircled by a muddy ditch, and a little further on was a tiny thatched cottage, out of which came the Yellow Dwarf with a very jaunty air. He wore wooden shoes and a little yellow coat, and as he had no hair and very long ears he looked altogether a shocking little object.
"I am delighted," said he to the queen, "that, as you are to be my mother-in-law, you should see the little house in which your Bellissima will live with me. With these thistles and nettles she can feed a donkey which she can ride whenever she likes; under this humble roof no weather can hurt her; she will drink the water of this brook and eat frogs – which grow very fat about here; and then she will have me always with her, handsome, agreeable, and gay as you see me now. For if her shadow stays by her more closely than I do I shall be surprised."
The unhappy Queen. seeing all at once what a miserable
life her daughter would have with this Dwarf could not bear the idea, and fell down insensible without saying a word.
When she revived she found to her great surprise that she was lying in her own bed at home, and, what was more, that she had on the loveliest lace night cap that she had ever seen in her life. At first she thought that all her adventures, the terrible lions, and her promise to the Yellow Dwarf that he should marry Bellissima, must have been a dream, but there was the new cap with its beautiful ribbon and lace to remind her that it was all true, which made her so unhappy that she could neither eat, drink, nor sleep for thinking of it.
The princess, who, in spite of her wilfulness, really loved her mother with all her heart, was much grieved when she saw her looking so sad, and often asked her what was the matter; but the queen, who didn't want her to find out the truth, only said that she was ill, or that one of her neighbours was threatening to make war against her. Bellissima knew quite well that something was being hidden from her – and that neither of these was the real reason of the queen's uneasiness. So she made up her mind that she would go and consult the fairy of the Desert about it, especially as she had often heard how wise she was, and she thought that at the same time she might ask her advice as to whether it would be as well to be married, or not.
So, with great care, she made some of the proper cake to pacify the lions, and one night went up to her room very early, pretending that she was going to bed; but instead of that, she wrapped herself in a long white veil, and went down a secret staircase, and set off all by herself to find the Witch.
But when she got as far as the same fatal orange tree, and saw it covered with flowers and fruit, she stopped and began to gather some of the oranges – and then, putting down her basket, she sat down to eat them. But when it was time to go on again the basket had disappeared and, though she looked everywhere, not a trace of it could she find. The more she hunted for it, the more frightened she got, and at last she began to cry. Then all at once she saw before her the Yellow Dwarf.
"What's the matter with you, my pretty one?" said he. "What are you crying about?"
"Alas!" she answered; "no wonder that I am crying, seeing that I have lost the basket of cake that was to help me to get safely to the cave of the fairy of the Desert."
"And what do you want with her, pretty one?" said the little monster, "for I am a friend of hers, and, for the matter of that, I am quite as clever as she is."
"The queen, my mother," replied the princess, "has lately fallen into such deep sadness that I fear that she will die; and I am afraid that perhaps I am the cause of it, for she very much wishes me to be married, and I must tell you truly that as yet I have not found anyone I consider worthy to be my husband. So for all these reasons I wished to talk to the fairy."
"Do not give yourself any further trouble, Princess," answered the dwarf. "I can tell you all you want to know better than she could. The queen, your mother, has promised you in marriage – – "
"Has promised me!" interrupted the princess. "Oh! no. I'm sure she has not. She would have told me if she had. I am too much interested in the matter for her to promise anything without my consent – you must be mistaken."
"Beautiful Princess," cried the dwarf suddenly, throwing himself on his knees before her, "I flatter myself that you will not be displeased at her choice when I tell you that it is to me she has promised the happiness of marrying you."
"You!" cried Bellissima, starting back. "My mother wishes me to marry you! How can you be so silly as to think of such a thing?"
"Oh! it isn't that I care much to have that honor," cried the dwarf angrily; "but here are the lions coming; they'll eat you up in three mouthfuls, and there will be an end of you and your pride."
And, indeed, at that moment the poor Princess heard their dreadful howls coming nearer and nearer.
"What shall I do?" she cried. "Must all my happy days come to an end like this?"
The malicious Dwarf looked at her and began to laugh spitefully. "At least," said he, "you have the satisfaction
of dying unmarried. A lovely Princess like you must surely prefer to die rather than be the wife of a poor little dwarf like myself."
"Oh, don't be angry with me," cried the princess, clasping her hands. "I'd rather marry all the dwarfs in the world than die in this horrible way."
"Look at me well, Princess, before you give me your word," said he. "I don't want you to promise me in a hurry."
"Oh!" cried she, "the lions are coming. I have looked at you enough. I am so frightened. Save me this minute, or I shall die of terror.
Indeed, as she spoke she fell down insensible, and when she recovered she found herself in her own little bed at home; how she got there she could not tell, but she was dressed in the most beautiful lace and ribbons, and on her finger was a little ring, made of a single red hair, which fitted so tightly that, try as she might, she could not get it off.
When the princess saw all these things, and remembered what had happened, she, too, fell into the deepest sadness, which surprised and alarmed the whole Court, and the queen more than anyone else. A hundred times she asked Bellissima if anything was the matter with her; but she always said that there was nothing
At last the chief men of the kingdom, anxious to see their Princess married, sent to the queen to beg her to choose a husband for her as soon as possible. She replied that nothing would please her better, but that her daughter seemed so unwilling to marry, and she recommended them to go and talk to the princess about it themselves so this they at once did. Now Bellissima was much less proud since her adventure with the Yellow Dwarf, and she could not think of a better way of getting rid of the little monster than to marry some powerful king, therefore she replied to their request much more favorably than they had hoped, saying that, though she was very happy as she was, still, to please them, she would consent to marry the king of the Gold Mines. Now he was a very handsome and powerful Prince, who had been in love with the princess for years, but had not thought that she would ever care about him at all. You can easily imagine
how delighted he was when he heard the news, and how angry it made all the other kings to lose for ever the hope of marrying the princess; but, after all, Bellissima could not have married twenty kings – indeed, she had found it quite difficult enough to choose one, for her vanity made her believe that there was nobody in the world who was worthy of her.
Preparations were begun at once for the grandest wedding that had ever been held at the palace. The king of the Gold Mines sent such immense sums of money that the whole sea was covered with the ships that brought it. Messengers were sent to all the gayest and most refined Courts, particularly to the Court of France, to seek out everything rare and precious to adorn the princess, although her beauty was so perfect that nothing she wore could make her look prettier. At least that is what the king of the Gold Mines thought, and he was never happy unless he was with her.
As for the princess, the more she saw of the king the more she liked him; he was so generous, so handsome and clever, that at last she was almost as much in love with him as he was with her. How happy they were as they wandered about in the beautiful gardens together, sometimes listening to sweet music! And the king used to write songs for Bellissima. This is one that she liked very much:
In the forest all is gay When my Princess walks that way. All the blossoms then are found Downward fluttering to the ground, Hoping she may tread on them. And bright flowers on slender stem Gaze up at her as she passes Brushing lightly through the grasses. Oh! my Princess, birds above Echo back our songs of love, As through this enchanted land Blithe we wander, hand in hand.
They really were as happy as the day was long. All the king's unsuccessful rivals had gone home in despair. They said good-by to the princess so sadly that she could not help being sorry for them.
"Ah! madam," the king of the Gold Mines said to her "how is this? Why do you waste your pity on these princes, who love you so much that all their trouble would be well repaid by a single smile from you?"
"I should be sorry," answered Bellissima, "if you had not noticed how much I pitied these princes who were leaving me for ever; but for you, sire, it is very different: you have every reason to be pleased with me, but they are going sorrowfully away, so you must not grudge them my compassion."
The king of the Gold Mines was quite overcome by the princess's good-natured way of taking his interference, and, throwing himself at her feet, he kissed her hand a thousand times and begged her to forgive him.
At last the happy day came. Everything was ready for Bellissima's wedding. The trumpets sounded, all the streets of the town were hung with flags and strewn with flowers, and the people ran in crowds to the great square before the palace. The queen was so overjoyed that she had hardly been able to sleep at all, and she got up before it was light to give the necessary orders and to choose the jewels that the princess was to wear. These were nothing less than diamonds, even to her shoes, which were covered with them, and her dress of silver brocade was embroidered with a dozen of the sun's rays. You may imagine how much these had cost; but then nothing could have been more brilliant, except the beauty of the princess! on her head she wore a splendid crown, her lovely hair waved nearly to her feet, and her stately figure could easily be distinguished among all the ladies who attended her.
The king of the Gold Mines was not less noble and splendid; it was easy to see by his face how happy he was, and everyone who went near him returned loaded with presents, for all round the great banqueting hall had been arranged a thousand barrels full of gold, and numberless bags made of velvet embroidered with pearls and filled with money, each one containing at least a hundred thousand gold pieces, which were given away to everyone who liked to hold out his hand, which numbers of people hastened to do, you may be sure – indeed, some found this by far the most amusing part of the wedding festivities.
The queen and the princess were just ready to set out with the king when they saw, advancing toward them from the end of the long gallery, two great basilisks, dragging after them a very badly made box; behind them came a tall old woman, whose ugliness was even more surprising than her extreme old age. She wore a ruff of black taffeta, a red velvet hood, and a farthingale all in rags, and she leaned heavily on a crutch. This strange old woman, without saying a single word, hobbled three times round the gallery, followed by the basilisks, then stopping in the middle, and brandishing her crutch threateningly, she cried:
"Ho, ho, Queen! Ho, ho, Princess! Do you think you are going to break with impunity the promise that you made to my friend the Yellow Dwarf? I am the fairy of the Desert; without the Yellow Dwarf and his orange tree my great lions would soon have eaten you up, I can tell you, and in Fairyland we do not suffer ourselves to be insulted like this. Make up your minds at once what you will do, for I vow that you shall marry the Yellow Dwarf. If you don't, may I burn my crutch!"
"Ah! Princess," said the queen, weeping, "what is this that I hear? What have you promised?"
"Ah! my mother," replied Bellissima sadly, "what did you promise, yourself?"
The king of the Gold Mines, indignant at being kept from his happiness by this wicked old woman, went up to her, and threatening her with his sword, said:
"Get away out of my country at once, and for ever, miserable creature, lest I take your life, and so rid myself of your malice."
He had hardly spoken these words when the lid of the box fell back on the floor with a terrible noise, and to their horror out sprang the Yellow Dwarf, mounted on a great Spanish cat. "Rash youth!" he cried, rushing between the fairy of the Desert and the king. "Dare to lay a finger on this illustrious Fairy! Your quarrel is with me only. I am your enemy and your rival. That faithless Princess who would have married you is promised to me. See if she has not on her finger a ring made of
one of my hairs. Just try to take it off, and you will soon find out that I am more powerful than you are!"
"Wretched little monster!" said the king; "do you dare to call yourself the princess's lover, and to lay claim to such a treasure? Do you know that you are a dwarf – that you are so ugly that one cannot bear to look at you – and that I should have killed you myself long before this if you had been worthy of such a glorious death?"
The Yellow Dwarf, deeply enraged at these words, set spurs to his cat, which yelled horribly, and leaped hither and thither – terrifying everybody except the brave King, who pursued the dwarf closely, till he, drawing a great knife with which he was armed, challenged the king to meet him in single combat, and rushed down into the courtyard of the palace with a terrible clatter. The king, quite provoked, followed him hastily, but they had hardly taken their places facing one another, and the whole Court had only just had time to rush out on the balconies to watch what was going on, when suddenly the sun became as red as blood, and it was so dark that they could scarcely see at all. The thunder crashed, and the lightning seemed as if it must burn up everything; the two basilisks appeared, one on each side of the bad Dwarf, like giants, mountains high, and fire flew from their mouths and ears, till they looked like flaming furnaces. None of these things could terrify the noble young King, and the boldness of his looks and actions reassured those who were looking on, and perhaps even embarrassed the Yellow Dwarf himself; but even his courage gave way when he saw what was happening to his beloved princess. For the fairy of the Desert, looking more terrible than before, mounted on a winged griffin, and with long snakes coiled round her neck, had given her such a blow with the lance she carried that Bellissima fell into the queen's arms bleeding and senseless. Her fond mother, feeling as much hurt by the blow as the princess herself, uttered such piercing cries and lamentations that the king, hearing them, entirely lost his courage and presence of mind. Giving up the combat, he flew toward the princess, to rescue or to die with her; but the Yellow Dwarf was too quick for him. Leaping with his Spanish cat on the balcony, he snatched Bellissima from the queen's arms, and before any of the ladies of the Court could stop him he had sprung on the roof of the palace and disappeared with his prize.
The king, motionless with horror, looked on despairingly at this dreadful occurrence, which he was quite powerless to prevent, and to make matters worse his sight failed him, everything became dark, and he felt himself carried along through the air by a strong hand.
This new misfortune was the work of the wicked Fairy of the Desert, who had come with the Yellow Dwarf to help him carry off the princess, and had fallen in love with the handsome young King of the Gold Mines directly she saw him. She thought that if she carried him off to some frightful cavern and chained him to a rock, then the fear of death would make him forget Bellissima and become her slave. So, as soon as they reached the place, she gave him back his sight, but without releasing him from his chains, and by her magic power she appeared before him as a young and beautiful fairy, and pretended to have come there quite by chance.
"What do I see? she cried. "Is it you, dear Prince? What misfortune has brought you to this dismal place?"
The king, who was quite deceived by her altered appearance, replied:
"Alas! beautiful Fairy, the fairy who brought me here first took away my sight, but by her voice I recognized her as the fairy of the Desert, though what she should have carried me off for I cannot tell you."
"Ah!" cried the pretended Fairy, "if you have fallen into her hands, you won't get away till you have married her. She has carried off more than one prince like this, and she will certainly have anything she takes a fancy to." While she was thus pretending to be sorry for the king, he suddenly noticed her feet, which were like those of a griffin, and knew in a moment that this must be the fairy of the Desert, for her feet were the one thing she could not change, however pretty she might make her face.
Without seeming to have noticed anything, he said, in a confidential way:
"Not that I have any dislike to the fairy of the Desert, but I really cannot endure the way in which she protects the Yellow Dwarf and keeps me chained here like a
criminal. It is true that I love a charming princess, but if the fairy should set me free my gratitude would oblige me to love her only."
"Do you really mean what you say, Prince?" said the fairy, quite deceived.
"Surely," replied the prince; "how could I deceive you? You see it is so much more flattering to my vanity to be loved by a fairy than by a simple princess. But, even if I am dying of love for her, I shall pretend to hate her till I am set free."
The fairy of the Desert, quite taken in by these words, resolved at once to transport the prince to a pleasanter place. So, making him mount her chariot, to which she had harnessed swans instead of the bats which generally drew it, away she flew with him. But imagine the distress of the prince when, from the giddy height at which they were rushing through the air, he saw his beloved princess in a castle built of polished steel, the walls of which reflected the sun's rays so hotly that no one could approach it without being burnt to a cinder! Bellissima was sitting in a little thicket by a brook, leaning her head on her hand and weeping bitterly, but just as they passed she looked up and saw the king and the fairy of the Desert. Now, the fairy was so clever that she could not only seem beautiful to the king, but even the poor Princess thought her the most lovely being she had ever seen.
"What!" she cried; "was I not unhappy enough in this lonely castle to which that frightful Yellow Dwarf brought me? Must I also be made to know that the king of the Gold Mines ceased to love me as soon as he lost sight of me? But who can my rival be, whose fatal beauty is greater than mine?"
While she was saying this, the king, who really loved her as much as ever, was feeling terribly sad at being so rapidly torn away from his beloved princess, but he knew too well how powerful the fairy was to have any hope of escaping from her except by great patience and cunning.
The fairy of the Desert had also seen Bellissima, and she tried to read in the king's eyes the effect that this unexpected sight had had on him.
"No one can tell you what you wish to know better than I can," said he. "This chance meeting with an unhappy
princess for whom I once had a passing fancy, before I was lucky enough to meet you, has affected me a little, I admit, but you are so much more to me than she is that I would rather die than leave you."
"Ah, Prince," she said, "can I believe that you really love me so much?"
"Time will show, madam," replied the king; "but if you wish to convince me that you have some regard for me, do not, I beg of you, refuse to aid Bellissima."
"Do you know what you are asking?" said the fairy of the Desert, frowning, and looking at him suspiciously. "Do you want me to employ my art against the Yellow Dwarf, who is my best friend, and take away from him a proud princess whom I can but look on as my rival?"
The king sighed, but made no answer – indeed, what was there to be said to such a clear-sighted person? At last they reached a vast meadow, gay with all sorts of flowers; a deep river surrounded it, and many little brooks murmured softly under the shady trees, where it was always cool and fresh. A little way off stood a splendid palace, the walls of which were of transparent emeralds. As soon as the swans which drew the fairy's chariot had alighted under a porch, which was paved with diamonds and had arches of rubies, they were greeted on all sides by thousands of beautiful beings, who came to meet them joyfully, singing these words:
"When Love within a heart would reign, Useless to strive against him 'tis. The proud but feel a sharper pain, And make a greater triumph his."
The fairy of the Desert was delighted to hear them sing of her triumphs; she led the king into the most splendid room that can be imagined, and left him alone for a little while, just that he might not feel that he was a prisoner; but he felt sure that she had not really gone quite away, but was watching him from some hiding- place. So walking up to a great mirror, he said to it, "Trusty counsellor, let me see what I can do to make myself agreeable to the charming Fairy of the Desert; for I can think of nothing but how to please her."
And he at once set to work to curl his hair, and, seeing on a table a grander coat than his own, he put it on
carefully. The fairy came back so delighted that she could not conceal her joy.
"I am quite aware of the trouble you have taken to please me," said she, "and I must tell you that you have succeeded perfectly already. You see it is not difficult to do if you really care for me."
The king, who had his own reasons for wishing to keep the old Fairy in a good humor, did not spare pretty speeches, and after a time he was allowed to walk by himself on the sea-shore. The fairy of the Desert had by her enchantments raised such a terrible storm that the boldest pilot would not venture out in it, so she was not afraid of her prisoner's being able to escape; and he found it some relief to think sadly over his terrible situation without being interrupted by his cruel captor.
Presently, after walking wildly up and down, he wrote these verses on the sand with his stick:
"At last may I on this shore Lighten my sorrow with soft tears. Alas! alas! I see no more My Love, who yet my sadness cheers.
"And thou, O raging, stormy Sea, Stirred by wild winds, from depth to height, Thou hold'st my loved one far from me, And I am captive to thy might.
"My heart is still more wild than thine, For Fate is cruel to me. Why must I thus in exile pine? Why is my Princess snatched from me?
"O! lovely Nymphs, from ocean caves, Who know how sweet true love may be, Come up and calm the furious waves And set a desperate lover free!"
While he was still writing he heard a voice which attracted his attention in spite of himself. Seeing that the waves were rolling in higher than ever, he looked all round, and presently saw a lovely lady floating gently toward him on the crest of a huge billow, her long hair spread all about her; in one hand she held a mirror, and in the other a comb, and instead of feet she had a beautiful tail like a fish, with which she swam.
The king was struck dumb with astonishment at this unexpected sight; but as soon as she came within speaking distance, she said to him, "I know how sad you are at losing your Princess and being kept a prisoner by the fairy of the Desert; if you like I will help you to escape from this fatal place, where you may otherwise have to drag on a weary existence for thirty years or more."
The king of the Gold Mines hardly knew what answer to make to this proposal. Not because he did not wish very much to escape, but he was afraid that this might be only another device by which the fairy of the Desert was trying to deceive him. As he hesitated the mermaid, who guessed his thoughts, said to him:
"You may trust me: I am not trying to entrap you. I am so angry with the Yellow Dwarf and the fairy of the Desert that I am not likely to wish to help them, especially since I constantly see your poor Princess, whose beauty and goodness make me pity her so much; and I tell you that if you will have confidence in me I will help you to escape."
"I trust you absolutely," cried the king, "and I will do whatever you tell me; but if you have seen my Princess I beg of you to tell me how she is and what is happening to her.
"We must not waste time in talking," said she. "Come with me and I will carry you to the Castle of Steel, and we will leave on this shore a figure so like you that even the fairy herself will be deceived by it."
So saying, she quickly collected a bundle of sea-weed, and, blowing it three times, she said:
"My friendly sea-weeds, I order you to stay here stretched on the sand till the fairy of the Desert comes to take you away." And at once the sea-weeds became like the king, who stood looking at them in great astonishment, for they were even dressed in a coat like his, but they lay there pale and still as the king himself might have lain if one of the great waves had overtaken him and thrown him senseless on the shore. And then the mermaid caught up the king, and away they swam joyfully together.
"Now," said she, "I have time to tell you about the princess. In spite of the blow which the fairy of the
Desert gave her, the Yellow Dwarf compelled her to mount behind him on his terrible Spanish cat; but she soon fainted away with pain and terror, and did not recover till they were within the walls of his frightful Castle of Steel. Here she was received by the prettiest girls it was possible to find, who had been carried there by the Yellow Dwarf, who hastened to wait on her and showed her every possible attention. She was laid on a couch covered with cloth of gold, embroidered with pearls as big as nuts."
"Ah!" interrupted the king of the Gold Mines, "if Bellissima forgets me, and consents to marry him, I shall break my heart."
"You need not be afraid of that," answered the mermaid, "the princess thinks of no one but you, and the frightful Dwarf cannot persuade her to look at him."
"Pray go on with your story," said the king.
"What more is there to tell you?" replied the mermaid. "Bellissima was sitting in the wood when you passed, and saw you with the fairy of the Desert, who was so cleverly disguised that the princess took her to be prettier than herself; you may imagine her despair, for she thought that you had fallen in love with her."
"She believes that I love her!" cried the king. "What a fatal mistake! What is to be done to undeceive her?"
"You know best," answered the mermaid, smiling kindly at him. "When people are as much in love with one another as you two are, they don't need advice from anyone else."
As she spoke they reached the Castle of Steel, the side next the sea being the only one which the Yellow Dwarf had left unprotected by the dreadful burning walls.
"I know quite well," said the mermaid, "that the princess is sitting by the brook-side, just where you saw her as you passed, but as you will have many enemies to fight with before you can reach her, take this sword; armed with it you may dare any danger, and overcome the greatest difficulties, only beware of one thing – that is, never to let it fall from your hand. Farewell; now I will wait by that rock, and if you need my help in carrying off your beloved princess I will not fail you, for the queen, her mother, is my best friend, and it was for her sake that I went to rescue you."
So saying, she gave to the king a sword made from a single diamond, which was more brilliant than the sun. He could not find words to express his gratitude, but he begged her to believe that he fully appreciated the importance of her gift, and would never forget her help and kindness.
We must now go back to the fairy of the Desert. When she found that the king did not return, she hastened out to look for him, and reached the shore, with a hundred of the ladies of her train, loaded with splendid presents for him. Some carried baskets full of diamonds, others golden cups of wonderful workmanship, and amber, coral, and pearls, others, again, balanced on their heads bales of the richest and most beautiful stuffs, while the rest brought fruit and flowers, and even birds. But what was the horror of the fairy, who followed this gay troop, when she saw, stretched on the sands, the image of the king which the mermaid had made with the sea-weeds. Struck with astonishment and sorrow, she uttered a terrible cry, and threw herself down beside the pretended king, weeping, and howling, and calling on her eleven sisters, who were also fairies, and who came to her assistance. But they were all taken in by the image of the king, for, clever as they were, the mermaid was still cleverer, and all they could do was to help the fairy of the Desert to make a wonderful monument over what they thought was the grave of the king of the Gold Mines. But while they were collecting jasper and porphyry, agate and marble, gold and bronze, statues and devices, to immortalize the king's memory, he was thanking the good Mermaid and begging her still to help him, which she graciously promised to do as she disappeared; and then he set out for the Castle of Steel. He walked fast, looking anxiously round him, and longing once more to see his darling Bellissima, but he had not gone far before he was surrounded by four terrible sphinxes who would very soon have torn him to pieces with their sharp talons if it had not been for the mermaid's diamond sword. For, no sooner had he flashed it before their eyes than down they fell at his feet quite helpless, and he killed them with one blow. But he had
hardly turned to continue his search when he met six dragons covered with scales that were harder than iron. Frightful as this encounter was the king's courage was unshaken, and by the aid of his wonderful sword he cut them in pieces one after the other. Now he hoped his difficulties were over, but at the next turning he was met by one which he did not know how to overcome. Four- and-twenty pretty and graceful nymphs advanced toward him, holding garlands of flowers, with which they barred the way.
"Where are you going, Prince?" they said; "it is our duty to guard this place, and if we let you pass great misfortunes will happen to you and to us. We beg you not to insist on going on. Do you want to kill four-and- twenty girls who have never displeased you in any way?"
The king did not know what to do or to say. It went against all his ideas as a knight to do anything a lady begged him not to do; but, as he hesitated, a voice in his ear said:
"Strike! strike! and do not spare, or your Princess is lost for ever!"
So, without reply to the nymphs, he rushed forward instantly, breaking their garlands, and scattering them in all directions; and then went on without further hindrance to the little wood where he had seen Bellissima. She was seated by the brook looking pale and weary when he reached her, and he would have thrown himself down at her feet, but she drew herself away from him with as much indignation as if he had been the Yellow Dwarf
"Ah! Princess," he cried, "do not be angry with me. Let me explain everything. I am not faithless or to blame for what has happened. I am a miserable wretch who has displeased you without being able to help himself."
"Ah!" cried Bellissima, "did I not see you flying through the air with the loveliest being imaginable? Was that against your will?"
"Indeed it was, Princess," he answered; "the wicked Fairy of the Desert, not content with chaining me to a rock, carried me off in her chariot to the other end of the earth, where I should even now be a captive but for the unexpected help of a friendly mermaid, who brought me here to rescue you, my Princess, from the unworthy hands
that hold you. Do not refuse the aid of your most faithful lover." So saying, he threw himself at her feet and held her by her robe. But, alas! in so doing he let fall the magic sword, and the Yellow Dwarf, who was crouching behind a lettuce, no sooner saw it than he sprang out and seized it, well knowing its wonderful power.
The princess gave a cry of terror on seeing the dwarf, but this only irritated the little monster; muttering a few magical words he summoned two giants, who bound the king with great chains of iron.
"Now," said the dwarf, "I am master of my rival's fate, but I will give him his life and permission to depart unharmed if you, Princess, will consent to marry me."
"Let me die a thousand times rather," cried the unhappy King.
"Alas!" cried the princess, "must you die? Could anything be more terrible?"
"That you should marry that little wretch would be far more terrible," answered the king.
"At least," continued she, "let us die together."
"Let me have the satisfaction of dying for you, my Princess," said he.
"Oh, no, no!" she cried, turning to the dwarf; "rather than that I will do as you wish."
"Cruel Princess!" said the king, "would you make my life horrible to me by marrying another before my eyes?"
"Not so," replied the Yellow Dwarf; "you are a rival of whom I am too much afraid; you shall not see our marriage." So saying, in spite of Bellissima's tears and cries, he stabbed the king to the heart with the diamond sword.
The poor Princess, seeing her lover lying dead at her feet, could no longer live without him; she sank down by him and died of a broken heart.
So ended these unfortunate lovers, whom not even the mermaid could help, because all the magic power had been lost with the diamond sword.
As to the wicked dwarf, he preferred to see the princess dead rather than married to the king of the gold mines; and the fairy of the desert, when she heard of the king's adventures, pulled down the grand monument which she had built, and was so angry at the trick that
had been played her that she hated him as much as she had loved him before.
The kind mermaid, grieved at the sad fate of the lovers, caused them to be changed into two tall palm trees, which stand always side by side, whispering together of their faithful love and caressing one another with their interlacing branches.
ONCE on a time – in the days when the fairies lived – there was a king who had three daughters, who were all young, and clever, and beautiful; but the youngest of the three, who was called Miranda, was the prettiest and the most beloved.
The king, her father, gave her more dresses and jewels in a month than he gave the others in a year; but she was so generous that she shared everything with her sisters, and they were all as happy and as fond of one another as they could be.
Now, the king had some quarrelsome neighbors, who, tired of leaving him in peace, began to make war on him so fiercely that he feared he would be altogether beaten if he did not make an effort to defend himself. So he collected a great army and set off to fight them, leaving the princesses with their governess in a castle where news of the war was brought every day – sometimes that the king had taken a town, or won a battle, and, at last, that he had altogether overcome his enemies and chased them out of his kingdom, and was coming back to the castle as quickly as possible, to see his dear little Miranda whom he loved so much.
The three princesses put on dresses of satin, which they had had made on purpose for this great occasion, one green, one blue, and the third white; their jewels were the same colors. The eldest wore emeralds, the second turquoises, and the youngest diamonds, and thus adorned they went to meet the king, singing verses which they had composed about his victories.
When he saw them all so beautiful and so gay he embraced them tenderly, but gave Miranda more kisses than either of the others.
Presently a splendid banquet was served, and the king and his daughters sat down to it, and as he always thought that there was some special meaning in everything, he said to the eldest:
"Tell me why you have chosen a green dress."
"Sire," she answered, "having heard of your victories
I thought that green would signify my joy and the hope of your speedy return."
"That is a very good answer," said the king; "and you, my daughter," he continued, "why did you take a blue dress?"
"Sire," said the princess, "to show that we constantly hoped for your success, and that the sight of you is as welcome to me as the sky with its most beautiful stars."
"Why," said the king, "your wise answers astonish me, and you, Miranda. What made you dress yourself all in white?
"Because, sire," she answered, "white suits me better than anything else."
"What!" said the king angrily, "was that all you thought of, vain child?"
"I thought you would be pleased with me," said the princess; "that was all."
The king, who loved her, was satisfied with this, and even pretended to be pleased that she had not told him all her reasons at first.
"And now," said he, "as I have supped well, and it is not time yet to go to bed, tell me what you dreamed last night."
The eldest said she had dreamed that he brought her a dress, and the precious stones and gold embroidery on it were brighter than the sun.
The dream of the second was that the king had brought her a spinning wheel and a distaff, that she might spin him some shirts.
But the youngest said: "I dreamed that my second sister was to be married, and on her wedding-day, you, father, held a golden ewer and said: 'Come, Miranda, and I will hold the water that you may dip your hands in it.' "
The king was very angry indeed when he heard this dream, and frowned horribly; indeed, he made such an ugly face that everyone knew how angry he was, and he got up and went off to bed in a great hurry; but he could not forget his daughter's dream.
"Does the proud girl wish to make me her slave?" he said to himself. "I am not surprised at her choosing to dress herself in white satin without a thought of me.
She does not think me worthy of her consideration! But I will soon put an end to her pretensions!"
He rose in a fury, and although it was not yet daylight, he sent for the Captain of his Bodyguard, and said to him:
"You have heard the princess Miranda's dream? I consider that it means strange things against me, therefore I order you to take her away into the forest and kill her, and, that I may be sure it is done, you must bring me her heart and her tongue. If you attempt to deceive me you shall be put to death!"
The Captain of the Guard was very much astonished when he heard this barbarous order, but he did not dare to contradict the king for fear of making him still more angry, or causing him to send someone else, so he answered that he would fetch the princess and do as the king had said. When he went to her room they would hardly let him in, it was so early, but he said that the king had sent for Miranda, and she got up quickly and came out; a little black girl called Patypata held up her train, and her pet monkey and her little dog ran after her. The monkey was called Grabugeon, and the little dog Tintin.
The Captain of the Guard begged Miranda to come down into the garden where the king was enjoying the fresh air, and when they got there, he pretended to search for him, but as he was not to be found, he said:
"No doubt his Majesty has strolled into the forest," and he opened the little door that led to it and they went through.
By this time the daylight had begun to appear, and the princess, looking at her conductor, saw that he had tears in his eyes and seemed too sad to speak.
"What is the matter?" she said in the kindest way. "You seem very sorrowful."
"Alas! Princess," he answered, "who would not be sorrowful who was ordered to do such a terrible thing as I am? The king has commanded me to kill you here, and carry your heart and your tongue to him, and if I disobey I shall lose my life."
The poor Princess was terrified, she grew very pale and began to cry softly.
Looking up at the Captain of the Guard with her beautiful eyes, she said gently:
Will you really have the heart to kill me? I have never done you any harm, and have always spoken well of you to the king. If I had deserved my father's anger I would suffer without a murmur, but, alas! he is unjust to complain of me, when I have always treated him with love and respect."
"Fear nothing, Princess," said the Captain of the Guard. "I would far rather die myself than hurt you; but even if I am killed you will not be safe: we must find some way of making the king believe that you are dead."
"What can we do?" said Miranda; "unless you take him my heart and my tongue he will never believe you."
The princess and the Captain of the Guard were talking so earnestly that they did not think of Patypata, but she had overheard all they said, and now came and threw herself at Miranda's feet
"Madam," she said, "I offer you my life; let me be killed, I shall be only too happy to die for such a kind mistress."
"Why, Patypata," cried the princess, kissing her, "that would never do; your life is as precious to me as my own, especially after such a proof of your affection as you have just given me."
"You are right, Princess," said Grabugeon, coming forward, "to love such a faithful slave as Patypata; she is of more use to you than I am, I offer you my tongue and my heart most willingly, especially as I wish to make a great name for myself in Goblin Land."
"No, no, my little Grabugeon," replied Miranda, "I cannot bear the thought of taking your life."
"Such a good little dog as I am," cried Tintin, acould not think of letting either of you die for his mistress. If anyone is to die for her it must be me."
And then began a great dispute between Patypata, Grabugeon, and Tintin, and they came to high words, till at last Grabugeon, who was quicker than the others, ran up to the very top of the nearest tree, and let herself fall, head first, to the ground, and there she lay – quite dead!
The princess was very sorry, but as Grabugeon was
really dead, she allowed the Captain of the Guard to take her tongue; but, alas! it was such a little one – not bigger than the princess's thumb – that they decided sorrowfully that it was of no use at all: the king would not have been taken in by it for a moment!
"Alas! my little monkey," cried the princess, "I have lost you, and yet I am no better off than I was before."
"The honor of saving your life is to be mine," interrupted Patypata, and, before they could prevent her, she had picked up a knife and cut her head off in an instant.
But when the Captain of the Guard would have taken her tongue it turned out to be quite black, so that would not have deceived the king either.
"Am I not unlucky?" cried the poor Princess; "I lose everything I love, and am none the better for it."
"If you had accepted my offer," said Tintin, "you would only have had me to regret, and I should have had all your gratitude."
Miranda kissed her little dog, crying so bitterly, that at last she could bear it no longer, and turned away into the forest. When she looked back the Captain of the Guard was gone, and she was alone, except for Patypata, Grabugeon, and Tintin, who lay on the ground. She could not leave the place till she had buried them in a pretty little mossy grave at the foot of a tree, and she wrote their names on the bark of the tree, and how they had all died to save her life. And then she began to think where she could go for safety – for this forest was so close to her father's castle that she might be seen and recognized by the first passer-by, and, besides that, it was full of lions and wolves, who would have snapped up a princess just as soon as a stray chicken. So she began to walk as fast as she could, but the forest was so large and the sun was so hot that she nearly died of heat and terror and fatigue; look which way she would there seemed to be no end to the forest, and she was so frightened that she fancied every minute that she heard the king running after her to kill her. You may imagine how miserable she was, and how she cried as she went on, not knowing which path to follow, and with the
thorny bushes scratching her dreadfully and tearing her pretty frock to pieces.
At last she heard the bleating of a sheep, and said to herself:
"No doubt there are shepherds here with their flocks; they will show me the way to some village where I can live disguised as a peasant girl. Alas! it is not always kings and princes who are the happiest people in the world. Who could have believed that I should ever be obliged to run away and hide because the king, for no reason at all, wishes to kill me?"
So saying she advanced toward the place where she heard the bleating, but what was her surprise when, in a lovely little glade quite surrounded by trees, she saw a large sheep; its wool was as white as snow, and its horns shone like gold; it had a garland of flowers round its neck, and strings of great pearls about its legs, and a collar of diamonds; it lay on a bank of orange-flowers, under a canopy of cloth of gold which protected it from the heat of the sun. Nearly a hundred other sheep were scattered about, not eating the grass, but some drinking coffee, lemonade, or sherbet, others eating ices, strawberries and cream, or sweetmeats, while others, again, were playing games. Many of them wore golden collars with jewels, flowers, and ribbons.
Miranda stopped short in amazement at this unexpected sight, and was looking in all directions for the shepherd of this surprising flock, when the beautiful sheep came bounding toward her.
"Approach, lovely Princess," he cried; "have no fear of such gentle and peaceable animals as we are."
"What a marvel!" cried the princess, starting back a little. "Here is a sheep that can talk."
"Your monkey and your dog could talk, madam," said he; "are you more astonished at us than at them?"
"A fairy gave them the power to speak," replied Miranda. "So I was used to them."
"Perhaps the same thing has happened to us," he said, smiling sheepishly. "But, Princess, what can have led you here?"
"A thousand misfortunes, Sir Sheep," she answered.
"I am the unhappiest princess in the world, and I am seeking a shelter against my father's anger."
"Come with me, madam," said the Sheep; "I offer you a hiding-place which you only will know of, and where you will be mistress of everything you see."
"I really cannot follow you," said Miranda, "for I am too tired to walk another step."
The Sheep with the golden horns ordered that his chariot should be fetched, and a moment after appeared six goats, harnessed to a pumpkin, which was so big that two people could quite well sit in it, and was all lined with cushions of velvet and down. The princess stepped into it, much amused at such a new kind of carriage, the king of the Sheep took his place beside her, and the goats ran away with them at full speed, and only stopped when they reached a cavern, the entrance to which was blocked by a great stone. This the king touched with his foot, and at once it fell down, and he invited the princess to enter without fear. Now, if she had not been so alarmed by everything that had happened, nothing could have induced her to go into this frightful cave, but she was so afraid of what might be behind her that she would have thrown herself even down a well at this moment. So, without hesitation, she followed the Sheep, who went before her, down, down, down, till she thought they must come out at the other side of the world – indeed, she was not sure that he wasn't leading her into Fairyland. At last she saw before her a great plain, quite covered with all sorts of flowers, the scent of which seemed to her nicer than anything she had ever smelled before; a broad river of orange-flower water flowed round it and fountains of wine of every kind ran in all directions and made the prettiest little cascades and brooks. The plain was covered with the strangest trees, there were whole avenues where partridges, ready roasted, hung from every branch, or, if you preferred pheasants, quails, turkeys, or rabbits, you had only to turn to the right hand or to the left and you were sure to find them. In places the air was darkened by showers of lobster-patties, white puddings, sausages, tarts, and all sorts of sweetmeats, or with pieces of gold and silver, diamonds and pearls. This unusual kind of rain, and
the pleasantness of the whole place, would, no doubt, have attracted numbers of people to it, if the king of the Sheep had been of a more sociable disposition, but from all accounts it is evident that he was as grave as a judge.
As it was quite the nicest time of the year when Miranda arrived in this delightful land the only palace she saw was a long row of orange trees, jasmines, honeysuckles, and musk-roses, and their interlacing branches made the prettiest rooms possible, which were hung with gold and silver gauze, and had great mirrors and candlesticks, and most beautiful pictures. The Wonderful Sheep begged that the princess would consider herself queen over all that she saw, and assured her that, though for some years he had been very sad and in great trouble, she had it in her power to make him forget all his grief.
"You are so kind and generous, noble Sheep," said the princess, "that I cannot thank you enough, but I must confess that all I see here seems to me so extraordinary that I don't know what to think of it."
As she spoke a band of lovely fairies came up and offered her amber baskets full of fruit, but when she held out her hands to them they glided away, and she could feel nothing when she tried to touch them.
"Oh!" she cried, "what can they be? Whom am I with?" and she began to cry.
At this instant the king of the Sheep came back to her, and was so distracted to find her in tears that he could have torn his wool.
"What is the matter, lovely Princess?" he cried. "Has anyone failed to treat you with due respect?"
"Oh! no," said Miranda; "only I am not used to living with sprites and with sheep that talk, and everything here frightens me. It was very kind of you to bring me to this place, but I shall be even more grateful to you if you will take me up into the world again."
"Do not be afraid," said the Wonderful Sheep; "I entreat you to have patience, and listen to the story of my misfortunes. I was once a king, and my kingdom was the most splendid in the world. My subjects loved me, my neighbors envied and feared me. I was respected by everyone, and it was said that no king ever deserved it more.
"I was very fond of hunting, and one day, while chasing a stag, I left my attendants far behind; suddenly I saw the animal leap into a pool of water, and I rashly urged my horse to follow it, but before we had gone many steps I felt an extraordinary heat, instead of the coolness of the water; the pond dried up, a great gulf opened before me, out of which flames of fire shot up, and I fell helplessly to the bottom of a precipice.
"I gave myself up for lost, but presently a voice said: 'Ungrateful Prince, even this fire is hardly enough to warm your cold heart!'
" 'Who complains of my coldness in this dismal place?' I cried.
" 'An unhappy being who loves you hopelessly,' replied the voice, and at the same moment the flames began to flicker and cease to burn, and I saw a fairy, whom I had known as long as I could remember, and whose ugliness had always horrified me. She was leaning on the arm of a most beautiful young girl, who wore chains of gold on her wrists and was evidently her slave.
" 'Why, Ragotte,' I said, for that was the fairy's name, 'what is the meaning of all this? Is it by your orders that I am here?'
" 'And whose fault is it,' she answered, 'that you have never understood me till now? Must a powerful fairy like myself condescend to explain her doings to you who are no better than an ant by comparison, though you think yourself a great king?'
" 'Call me what you like,' I said impatiently; 'but what is it that you want – my crown, or my cities, or my treasures?'
" 'Treasures!' said the fairy, disdainfully. 'If I chose I could make any one of my scullions richer and more powerful than you. I do not want your treasures, but,' she added softly, 'if you will give me your heart – if you will marry me – I will add twenty kingdoms to the one you have already; you shall have a hundred castles full of gold and five hundred full of silver, and, in short, anything you like to ask me for.'
" 'Madam Ragotte,' said I, 'when one is at the bottom of a pit where one has fully expected to be roasted alive, it is impossible to think of asking such a charming person
as you are to marry one! I beg that you will set me at liberty, and then I shall hope to answer you fittingly.'
" 'Ah!' said she, 'if you really loved me you would not care where you were – a cave, a wood, a fox-hole, a desert, would please you equally well. Do not think that you can deceive me; you fancy you are going to escape, but I assure you that you are going to stay here and the first thing I shall give you to do will be to keep my sheep – they are very good company and speak quite as well as you do.
"As she spoke she advanced, and led me to this plain where we now stand, and showed me her flock, but I paid little attention to it or to her.
"To tell the truth, I was so lost in admiration of her beautiful slave that I forgot everything else, and the cruel Ragotte, perceiving this, turned on her so furious and terrible a look that she fell lifeless to the ground.
"At this dreadful sight I drew my sword and rushed at Ragotte, and should certainly have cut off her head had she not by her magic arts chained me to the spot on which I stood; all my efforts to move were useless, and at last, when I threw myself down on the ground in despair, she said to me, with a scornful smile:
" 'I intend to make you feel my power. It seems that you are a lion at present, I mean you to be a sheep.'
"So saying, she touched me with her wand, and I became what you see. I did not lose the power of speech, or of feeling the misery of my present state.
" 'For five years,' she said, 'you shall be a sheep, and lord of this pleasant land, while I, no longer able to see your face, which I loved so much, shall be better able to hate you as you deserve to be hated.'
"She disappeared as she finished speaking, and if I had not been too unhappy to care about anything I should have been glad that she was gone.
"The talking sheep received me as their king, and told me that they, too, were unfortunate princes who had, in different ways, offended the revengeful fairy, and had been added to her flock for a certain number of years; some more, some less. From time to time, indeed, one regains his own proper form and goes back again to his place in the upper world; but the other beings whom you
saw are the rivals or the enemies of Ragotte, whom she has imprisoned for a hundred years or so; though even they will go back at last. The young slave of whom I told you about is one of these; I have seen her often, and it has been a great pleasure to me. She never speaks to me, and if I were nearer to her I know I should find her only a shadow, which would be very annoying. However, I noticed that one of my companions in misfortune was also very attentive to this little sprite, and I found out that he had been her lover, whom the cruel Ragotte had taken away from her long before; since then I have cared for, and thought of, nothing but how I might regain my freedom. I have often been in the forest; that is where I have seen you, lovely Princess, sometimes driving your chariot, which you did with all the grace and skill in the world; sometimes riding to the chase on so spirited a horse that it seemed as if no one but yourself could have managed it, and sometimes running races on the plain with the princesses of your Court – running so lightly that it was you always who won the prize. Oh! Princess, I have loved you so long, and yet how dare I tell you of my love! what hope can there be for an unhappy sheep like myself?"
Miranda was so surprised and confused by all that she had heard that she hardly knew what answer to give to the king of the Sheep, but she managed to make some kind of little speech, which certainly did not forbid him to hope, and said that she should not be afraid of the shadows now she knew that they would some day come to life again. "Alas!" she continued, "if my poor Patypata, my dear Grabugeon, and pretty little Tintin, who all died for my sake, were equally well off, I should have nothing left to wish for here!"
Prisoner though he was, the king of the Sheep had still some powers and privileges.
"Go," said he to his Master of the Horse, "go and seek the shadows of the little black girl, the monkey, and the dog: they will amuse our Princess."
And an instant afterward Miranda saw them coming toward her, and their presence gave her the greatest pleasure, though they did not come near enough for her to touch them.
The king of the Sheep was so kind and amusing, and loved Miranda so dearly, that at last she began to love him too. Such a handsome sheep, who was so polite and considerate, could hardly fail to please, especially if one knew that he was really a king, and that his strange imprisonment would soon come to an end. So the princess's days passed very gaily while she waited for the happy time to come. The king of the Sheep, with the help of all the flock, got up balls, concerts, and hunting parties, and even the shadows joined in all the fun, and came, making believe to be their own real selves.
One evening, when the couriers arrived (for the king sent most carefully for news – and they always brought the very best kinds), it was announced that the sister of the princess Miranda was going to be married to a great Prince, and that nothing could be more splendid than all the preparations for the wedding.
"Ah!" cried the young Princess, "how unlucky I am to miss the sight of so many pretty things! Here am I imprisoned under the earth, with no company but sheep and shadows, while my sister is to be adorned like a queen and surrounded by all who love and admire her, and everyone but myself can go to wish her joy!"
"Why do you complain, Princess?" said the king of the Sheep. "Did I say that you were not to go to the wedding? Set out as soon as you please; only promise me that you will come back, for I love you too much to be able to live without you."
Miranda was very grateful to him, and promised faithfully that nothing in the world should keep her from coming back. The king caused an escort suitable to her rank to be got ready for her, and she dressed herself splendidly, not forgetting anything that could make her more beautiful. Her chariot was of mother-of-pearl, drawn by six dun-colored griffins just brought from the other side of the world, and she was attended by a number of guards in splendid uniforms, who were all at least eight feet high and had come from far and near to ride in the princess's train.
Miranda reached her father's palace just as the wedding ceremony began, and everyone, as soon as she came in, was struck with surprise at her beauty and the
splendor of her jewels. She heard exclamations of admiration on all sides; and the king her father looked at her so attentively that she was afraid he must recognize her; but he was so sure that she was dead that the idea never occurred to him.
However, the fear of not getting away made her leave before the marriage was over. She went out hastily, leaving behind her a little coral casket set with emeralds. On it was written in diamond letters: "Jewels for the Bride," and when they opened it, which they did as soon as it was found, there seemed to be no end to the pretty things it contained. The king, who had hoped to join the unknown Princess and find out who she was, was dreadfully disappointed when she disappeared so suddenly, and gave orders that if she ever came again the doors were to be shut that she might not get away so easily. Short as Miranda's absence had been, it had seemed like a hundred years to the king of the Sheep. He was waiting for her by a fountain in the thickest part of the forest, and the ground was strewn with splendid presents which he had prepared for her to show his joy and gratitude at her coming back.
As soon as she was in sight he rushed to meet her, leaping and bounding like a real sheep. He caressed her tenderly, throwing himself at her feet and kissing her hands, and told her how uneasy he had been in her absence, and how impatient for her return, with an eloquence which charmed her.
After some time came the news that the king's second daughter was going to be married. When Miranda heard it she begged the king of the Sheep to allow her to go and see the wedding as before. This request made him feel very sad, as if some misfortune must surely come of it, but his love for the princess being stronger than anything else he did not like to refuse her.
"You wish to leave me, Princess," said he; "it is my unhappy fate – you are not to blame. I consent to your going, but, believe me, I can give you no stronger proof of my love than by so doing."
The princess assured him that she would only stay a very short time, as she had done before, and begged him
not to be uneasy, as she would be quite as much grieved if anything detained her as he could possibly be.
So, with the same escort, she set out, and reached the palace as the marriage ceremony began. Everybody was delighted to see her; she was so pretty that they thought she must be some fairy princess, and the princes who were there could not take their eyes off her.
The king was more glad than anyone else that she had come again, and gave orders that the doors should all be shut and bolted that very minute. When the wedding was all but over the princess got up quickly, hoping to slip away unnoticed among the crowd, but, to her great dismay, she found every door fastened.
She felt more at ease when the king came up to her, and with the greatest respect begged her not to run away so soon, but at least to honor him by staying for the splendid feast which was prepared for the princes and princesses. He led her into a magnificent hall, where all the Court was assembled, and himself taking up the golden bowl full of water, he offered it to her that she might dip her pretty fingers into it.
At this the princess could no longer contain herself; throwing herself at the king's feet, she cried out:
"My dream has come true after all – you have offered me water to wash my hands on my sister's wedding day, and it has not vexed you to do it."
The king recognized her at once – indeed, he had already thought several times how much like his poor little Miranda she was.
"Oh! my dear daughter," he cried, kissing her, "can you ever forget my cruelty? I ordered you to be put to death because I thought your dream portended the loss of my crown. And so it did," he added, "for now your sisters are both married and have kingdoms of their own – and mine shall be for you." So saying he put his crown on the princess's head and cried:
"Long live Queen Miranda!"
All the Court cried: "Long live Queen Miranda!" after him, and the young Queen's two sisters came running up, and threw their arms round her neck, and kissed her a thousand times, and then there was such a laughing and crying, talking and kissing, all at once, and Miranda thanked her father, and began to ask after everyone – particularly the Captain of the Guard, to whom she owed so much; but, to her great sorrow, she heard that he was dead. Presently they sat down to the banquet, and the king asked Miranda to tell them all that had happened to her since the terrible morning when he had sent the Captain of the Guard to fetch her. This she did with so much spirit that all the guests listened with breathless interest. But while she was thus enjoying herself with the king and her sisters, the king of the Sheep was waiting impatiently for the time of her return, and when it came and went, and no Princess appeared, his anxiety became so great that he could bear it no longer.
"She is not coming back any more," he cried. "My miserable sheep's face displeases her, and without Miranda what is left to me, wretched creature that I am! Oh! cruel Ragotte; my punishment is complete."
For a long time he bewailed his sad fate like this, and then, seeing that it was growing dark, and that still there was no sign of the princess, he set out as fast as he could in the direction of the town. When he reached the palace he asked for Miranda, but by this time everyone had heard the story of her adventures, and did not want her to go back again to the king of the Sheep, so they refused sternly to let him see her. In vain he begged and prayed them to let him in; though his entreaties might have melted hearts of stone they did not move the guards of the palace, and at last, quite broken-hearted, he fell dead at their feet.
In the meantime the king, who had not the least idea of the sad thing that was happening outside the gate of his palace, proposed to Miranda that she should be driven in her chariot all round the town, which was to be illuminated with thousands and thousands of torches, placed in windows and balconies, and in all the grand squares. But what a sight met her eyes at the very entrance of the palace! There lay her dear, kind sheep, silent and motionless, on the pavement!
She threw herself out of the chariot and ran to him, crying bitterly, for she realized that her broken promise had cost him his life, and for a long, long time she was so unhappy that they thought she would have died too.
So you see that even a princess is not always happy – especially if she forgets to keep her word; and the greatest misfortunes often happen to people just as they think they have obtained their heart's desires!