Fairy Tales by the Countess d'Aulnoy/Green-Serpent
Once upon a time there was a great Queen, who, on giving birth to twin daughters, invited twelve fairies, residing in her neighbourhood, to come and see them, and endow them, as was the custom in those days,—and a very convenient custom too, for the power of the fairies generally made up the deficiencies of nature, though it certainly did sometimes spoil what nature had done her best to make perfect.
When the fairies had all assembled in the banquet chamber, a magnificent collation was served up to them. They were just seating themselves at the table, when Magotine entered the apartment. She was the sister of Carabosse, and no less malicious. The Queen shuddered at the sight of her, fearing some disaster, as she had not invited her to the entertainment; but, carefully concealing her uneasiness, she placed, herself, an arm-chair for the Fairy, which was covered with green velvet embroidered with sapphires. As Magotine was the eldest of the fairies, all the rest made way for her to pass, and whispered to each other, "Let us hasten, sister, to endow the little Princesses, so that we may be beforehand with Magotine."
When the arm-chair was placed for her, she rudely said she would not have it, and that she was big enough to eat standing. But she made a mistake, for the table being rather a high one, she was not tall enough even to see over it; and this annoyance increased her ill-humour. "Madam," said the Queen, "I beg you will take your seat at the table." "If you had wished me to do so," replied the Fairy, "you would have sent an invitation to me, as you did to the others; but you would only have handsome persons at your court, with fine figures and fine dresses, like my sisters here. As for me I am too ugly and too old; but, for all that, I have no less power than they—and, without boasting of it, I may perhaps have more." All the fairies pressed her so much to sit down to table, that at length she consented. A golden basket was placed before them, containing twelve bouquets composed of jewels. The fairies who had arrived first, each took her bouquet; so that there was not one left for Magotine, who began to mutter between her teeth. The Queen ran to her cabinet, and brought her a casket of perfumed Spanish morocco, covered with rubies and filled with diamonds, praying her acceptance of it; but Magotine shook her head, and said to her, "Keep your jewels, Madam; I have enough and to spare. I only came to see if you had thought of me. You have neglected me shamefully." Thereupon she struck the table with her wand, and all the dainties with which it was loaded turned into fricaseed serpents; at which the fairies were all so horrified, that they flung down their napkins, and left the table.
Whilst they were talking together respecting the sad trick Magotine had played them, that cruel little Fairy approached the cradle in which the Princesses were lying wrapped in their swaddling clothes of cloth of gold, and looking the loveliest children in the world. "I endow thee," said she rapidly to one of them, "with perfect ugliness." She was about to utter some malediction on the other, when the fairies, in great agitation, ran and stopped her; on which the mischievous Magotine broke one of the window-panes, and, darting through it like a flash of lightning, vanished from their sight.
All the good gifts which the benevolent fairies could bestow on the Princess were insufficient to alleviate the wretchedness of the Queen, at finding herself the mother of the ugliest being in the universe. She took the infant in her arms, and had the misery to see it grow more hideous every instant. She struggled in vain to suppress her tears in presence of their fairy ladyships; she could not prevent their flowing, and it is impossible to imagine the compassion they felt for her. "What shall we do, sisters?" said they to each other; "what shall we do to console the Queen?" They held a grand council on the subject, and, on its conclusion, told the Queen not to give way so much to grief, as there was a time coming when her daughter would be very happy. "But," interrupted the Queen, "will she become beautiful again?" "We cannot give you any further information," replied the fairies. "Be satisfied, Madam, with the assurance that your daughter will be happy." She thanked them very much, and did not neglect loading them with presents; for, although the fairies were very rich, they always liked people to give them something; and the custom has descended from that day to this, through all the nations of the earth, without time having had the least effect upon it.
The Queen named her eldest daughter Laidronette, and the youngest Bellotte. These names suited them perfectly; for Laidronette became so frightful, that, in spite of all her intelligence, it was not possible to look at her; while her sister's beauty increased hourly, and her appearance was altogether charming. The consequence was, that Laidronette, having arrived at twelve years of age, went and threw herself at the feet of the King and Queen, and implored them to permit her to go and shut herself up in the Lonelythat she might afflict them no longer with the contemplation of her ugliness. As, notwithstanding her hideous appearance, they could not help being fond of her, it was not without some pain they consented to let her depart; but Bellotte remained with them, and that was a sufficient consolation.
Laidronette beseeched the Queen to send nobody with her, but her nurse and a few officers to wait on her. "You need not be under any apprehension, Madam, of my being run away with," said she; "and I can assure you that, being what I am, I would willingly avoid even the light of day." The King and Queen acceded to her wishes, and she was conducted to the Castle she had chosen to reside in. It had been built many ages. The sea came in close under its windows, and served it for a canal. There was a large forest in the vicinity, to walk or ride in, and several meadows terminated the prospect. The Princess played various instruments, and sang divinely. She passed two years in this agreeable solitude, and even wrote in it some volumes of reflections; but the desire to see the King and Queen again induced her to take coach and revisit the Court. She arrived just as they were about to celebrate the marriage of Bellotte. The joy was universal; but the moment they beheld Laidronette, everybody looked distressed. She was neither embraced nor caressed by any of her relations, and the only thing they had to say to her was, that she had grown very much uglier, and that they advised her not to appear at the ball; but that if she wished to see it, they would manage to find some hole for her to peep through. She replied that she had come there neither to dance nor to hear the music; that she had been so long in the Lonely Castle, that she could not resist quitting it, to pay her respects to the King and the Queen; that she was most painfully aware they could not endure the sight of her, and that she would therefore return to her wilderness, where the trees, the flowers, and the fountains did not reproach her with her ugliness, when she wandered amongst them. When the King and Queen saw she was so much hurt, they told her, with some reluctance, that she might stay two or three days with them; but, as she was a girl of high feeling, she answered that it would give her more pain to leave them if she passed so much time in their good company. They were too anxious for her departure, to press her to stay, and therefore coldly observed that she was quite right.
The Princess Bellotte, for a wedding gift, presented her with an old riband, which she had worn all the winter in a bow on her muff, and the king Bellotte was going to marry gave her some zinzolin taffety to make a petticoat with. If she is to be believed, she would willingly have thrown the riband and the rag of zinzolin in the faces of the generous donors; but she had so much good sense, prudence, and judgment, that she exhibited no ill-temper. So, with her faithful nurse, she left the Court to return to her Castle, her heart so full of grief, that she never spoke a word the whole journey.
One day, as she was walking in one of the most gloomy avenues in the forest, she saw at the foot of a tree a large green serpent, which, rearing its head, said to her: "Laidronette, thou art not the only unhappy creature. Look at my horrible form, and know that I was born handsomer even than thou wert," The Princess, greatly terrified, heard not one half of these words. She fled from the spot, and for many days did not venture to leave the castle, so much was she afraid of meeting with such another adventure. At last, weary of sitting alone in her chamber, she came down one evening, and walked on the sea-beach. She was pacing it slowly, musing on her sad fate, when she perceived sailing towards her a little barque, gilt and painted all over with a thousand, various devices. The sail was of gold brocade, the mast of cedar, the oars of eagle-wood. It appeared to be drifting at random, and, coming close in shore, the Princess, curious to inspect all its beautiful decorations, stepped on board of it. She found it fitted up with crimson velvet, on a gold ground, the nails being all diamonds. But suddenly the barque was borne to sea again, and the Princess, alarmed at the impending danger, caught up the oars, and endeavoured to row back to the beach; but her efforts were in vain. The wind rose, and the waves ran high: she lost sight of land, and, perceiving nothing round her but sea and sky, she resigned herself to her fate, fully assured that it was little likely to be a happy one, and that this was another malicious trick of the Fairy Magotine. "I must die," she said, "and wherefore this secret dread of death? Alas! have I ever yet enjoyed any of those pleasures of life which might cause me to regret leaving it? My ugliness disgusts even my nearest relatives. My sister is a great queen, and I am consigned to exile in the depths of a wilderness, where the only companion I have found is a serpent who can speak. Is it not better I should perish, than drag on so miserable an existence?" With these reflections, she dried up her tears, and courageously looked out for the quarter from which death would come. She appeared to invite his speedy approach; when over the billows she saw a serpent making towards the vessel, and which, on nearing it, said to her: "If you were willing to receive some assistance from a poor green serpent like me, I am able to save your life." "Death is less frightful to me than thou art," exclaimed the Princess; "and if thou seekest to do me some kindness, never let me set eyes on thee again." The green serpent gave a long hiss (the manner in which serpents sigh), and without answering a word, went immediately under water. "What a horrible monster!" said the Princess to herself. "He has green wings, a body of a thousand colours, ivory claws, fiery eyes, and on his head is a bristling mane of long hair. Oh, I would much rather die than owe my life to him! But," continued she, "what motive has he in following me? and by what accident has he the power of speaking like a rational being?" She was thus musing, when a voice, in answer to her thoughts, said to her: "Learn, Laidronette, that Green-Serpent is not to be despised; and, were it not a harsh thing to say to thee, I might assure thee he is less hideous in the sight of his species than thou art in the eyes of thine. But, far from desiring to annoy thee, our wish is to lighten thy sorrows, provided thou dost consent." This voice greatly surprised the Princess, and the words it uttered appeared to her so unjustifiable, that she could not suppress her tears; but a sudden reflection striking her, she exclaimed: "How is this? Do I grieve to die, because I am reproached with my ugliness? Alas! should I not perish as certainly, were I the handsomest person in the world? It should rather console me, and prevent my regretting the speedy termination of my existence." Whilst she thus moralized, the vessel, completely at the mercy of the winds, drifted on till it struck upon a rock, and went immediately to pieces. The poor Princess felt that all her philosophy could not support her in such an extremity. She caught at some pieces of the wreck, and clung, as she imagined, to them; she felt herself supported in the water, and happily reached the shore at the foot of a great rock. Alas! what was her horror, when she discovered that her arms were tightly locked round the neck of the green serpent! Perceiving her dreadful terror, he retired a short distance from her, and said: "You would fear me less, if you knew me better; but it is my hard fate to terrify all who see me." With that he plunged into the waves, and Laidronette remained alone upon the rock, which soared to a prodigious height above her.
On whichever side she cast her eyes, she saw nothing to save her from despair. Night was approaching; she was without food, and knew not where to go. "I thought," said she, sadly, "to perish in the ocean, but here, doubtless, is the end reserved for me. Some sea-monster will come and devour me, or I shall die of hunger." She climbed up, and seated herself on the summit of the rock. As long as it was light, she gazed upon the ocean; and when it was quite dark, she took off her taffety petticoat, covered her head with it, and remained in trembling expectation of what might befal her. Sleep at length overpowered her; and presently she thought she heard the music of several instruments. She was perfectly persuaded that she was dreaming; but a moment afterwards she heard some one sing the following verses, which seemed to have been composed expressly for her:—
"Suffer Cupid here to wound thee,
Here his gentle sway we own;
Love with pleasure will surround thee,
In this isle no grief is known."
The attention she paid to these words had the effect of waking her completely. "What good or ill fortune now awaits me?" she exclaimed. "Can there yet be happy days in store for one in my wretched condition?" She opened her eyes timidly, under the apprehension of seeing herself surrounded by monsters; but what was her astonishment when, in place of the rude and terrible rock, she perceived an apartment, the walls and ceiling of which were entirely of gold. She was lying in a bed, which perfectly corresponded in its magnificence with the rest of this most splendid palace in the universe. She asked herself a hundred questions respecting this extraordinary sight, not being able to believe she was wide awake. At length, she got up, and ran to open a glass door that gave access to a spacious balcony, from which she beheld all the beauties nature, assisted by art, could create upon earth. Gardens, filled with flowers, fountains, statues, and the rarest trees; distant woods; palaces, the walls of which were ornamented with jewels, and the roofs composed of pearls, so wonderfully constructed that each was a masterpiece of architecture. A calm and smiling sea, covered with thousands of vessels, whose sails, pendants, and streamers, fluttering in the breeze, completed the charm of the prospect.
"Ye gods!—ye just gods!" exclaimed the Princess, "what do I behold? Where am I? What an astounding  formed and dressed in a hundred different fashions. The tallest were about a cubit in height, and the shortest not above four inches,—some beautiful, graceful, and agreeable; others hideous, alarmingly ugly. Their bodies were of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, crystal, amber, coral, porcelain, gold, silver, brass, bronze, iron, wood, and clay; some without arms, others without feet, others had mouths extending to their ears, eyes all askew, broken noses; in a word, there is not more variety amongst all the creatures that inhabit the world than there was amongst these pagods.! What has become of the terrible rock, that seemed to threaten the skies with its lofty pinnacles? Can I be she who was shipwrecked last night, and saved by a serpent?" She continued thus talking to herself—walking about, then stopping, perfectly bewildered. At length, she heard a noise in her apartment. She re-entered it, and saw advancing towards her a hundred Pagods,
Those who presented themselves before the Princess were the deputies of the kingdom. After an oration, which contained some very judicious reflections, they entertained her by the information, that for some time past they had travelled about the world; but that, in order to obtain their sovereign's permission to do so, they took an oath not to speak during their absence; that some there were, indeed, so scrupulous, they would not even shake their heads, or move their hands or feet, but that the majority of them could not help it. That in this way they traversed the universe; and when they returned, they amused the king by telling him everything that had occurred, even the most secret transactions and adventures in all the courts they had visited. "A pleasure, Madam," added one of the deputies, "which we shall have the honour of occasionally affording you; for we are commanded to neglect nothing which can entertain you. In lieu of bringing you presents, we now come to amuse you with our songs and dances." They began immediately to sing the following words, dancing at the same time a round, to the music of tambourines and castagnets:—
"Sweet are pleasures after pains,
Lovers, do not break your chains;
Trials though you may endure,
Happiness they will ensure.
Sweet are pleasures after pains,
Joy from sorrow lustre gains."
When they ceased dancing and singing, the deputy who had been spokesman said to the Princess: "Here, Madam, are a hundred pagodines, who have been selected to have the honour of waiting on you. Every wish you can have in the world will be gratified, provided you consent to remain amongst us." The pagodines appeared in their turn; they carried baskets, proportioned to their own size, filled with a hundred different articles, so pretty, so useful, so well made, and so costly, that Laidronette was never weary of admiring and praising them, uttering exclamations of wonder and delight at all the marvels they displayed to her. The most prominent pagodine, who was a little figure made of diamonds, recommended her to enter the Grotto of the Baths, as the heat of the day was increasing. The Princess proceeded in the direction indicated, between two ranks of body-guards, whose forms and appearance were enough to make one die with laughter.
She found in the grotto two baths of crystal, ornamented with gold, full of scented water, so delicious and uncommon, that she was perfectly astonished at it. The baths were under a pavilion of green and gold brocade. The Princess inquired why there were two. They answered, that one was for her, and the other for the King of the Pagods. "But where is he, then!" exclaimed the Princess. "Madam," they replied, "he is at present with the army, making war on his enemies. You will see him as soon as he returns." The Princess then inquired if he were married. They answered, no; and that he was so charming, no one had ever yet been found worthy of him. She indulged her curiosity no further, but undressed and entered the bath. All the pagods and pagodines began immediately to sing and play on various instruments. Some had theorbos made out of nut-shells—others, bass-viols made out of almond-shells; for it was, of course, necessary that the instruments should be proportioned to the size of the performers. But everything was so perfect, and harmonized so completely, that nothing could surpass the delight experienced at their concerts.
When the Princess came out of her bath, they presented her with a magnificent dressing-gown. Several pagods who played the flute and the hautbois marched before her, and a train of pagodines followed her, singing songs in her praise. In this state, she entered an apartment, where her toilet was set out. Immediately the pagodines in waiting, and the pagodines of the bed-chamber, bustled about, dressed her hair, put on her robes, praised her, admired her. There was no longer talk of her ugliness, of zinzolin petticoats, or greasy ribands.
The Princess was truly astounded. "To whom can I be indebted for such extraordinary happiness?" said she to herself. "I was on the brink of destruction—I awaited death, and could hope for nothing else; and, notwithstanding, I suddenly find myself in the most beautiful and magnificent place in the world, and where I am received with the greatest joy!" As the Princess was endued with great good sense and good nature, she conducted herself in such a manner that all the little creatures who approached her were enchanted at her behaviour.
Every morning, at her levée, she was presented with new dresses, new lace, new jewels. It was a great pity she was so ugly; but, notwithstanding, she who could not abide herself, began to fancy she was less disagreeable, in consequence of the great pains they took in attiring her. She scarcely passed an hour without some pagods coming to visit her, and recounting to her all the most curious and private circumstances that occurred in the world. Treaties of peace, leagues offensive and defensive, treasons and quarrels of lovers, infidelities of mistresses, distractions, reconciliations, heirs disappointed, matches broken off, old widows remarrying very foolishly, treasures discovered, bankruptcies declared, fortunes made in a minute, favourites disgraced, place-hunters, jealous husbands, coquettish wives, naughty children, ruined cities; in short, what did they not talk of to amuse or interest the Princess? She occasionally saw some pagods, who were so exceedingly corpulent, and had such puffed-out checks, that they were wonderful to look at. When she asked them the cause, they answered: "As we are not permitted to laugh or to speak during our travels, and are constantly witnessing all sorts of absurdities and almost intolerable follies, our inclination to laugh is so great, that the suppression of it swells us up, and causes what may properly be called risible dropsy, of which we cure ourselves as soon as we get home." The Princess admired the good sense of the pagodine people; for really we might be ready to burst with laughter, if we laughed at all the extravagancies we are daily beholding.
There was scarcely an evening without a performance of one of the best plays of Corneille or Moliere. There were frequent balls. The most diminutive pagods danced on the tightrope, in order to be better seen. Finally, the banquets given to the Princess might have served for feasts at the greatest solemnities. They brought her books of every description, serious, amusing, historical: in short, the days ran away like minutes; although, to speak the truth, all these ingenious pagods appeared to the Princess intolerably little, for it often happened that when she went out walking, she had to put some thirty or so into her pockets, in order to take care of them. It was the most amusing thing in the world to hear the chattering of their little voices, shriller than those of the puppets in a show at the fair.
It happened one night that the Princess not being able to sleep, said to herself, "What is to become of me? Shall I always remain here? I pass my days more agreeably than I could have ventured to hope; yet something is wanting to my heart. I know not what it is; but I begin to feel that this round of pleasures, unvaried by a single event, is rather insipid." "Ah Princess," said a voice, as in answer to her thoughts, "is it not your own fault? If you would consent to love, you would soon know that it is possible to remain with a beloved object, not only in a palace, but in a frightful wilderness, for ages without wishing to leave it."
"What pagodine speaks to me?" inquired the Princess. "What pernicious advice does she give me,—inimical to my future peace?" "It is not a pagodine," replied the voice, "who forewarns you of what will sooner or later occur. It is the unhappy sovereign of this realm, who adores you, Madam, and who cannot tell you so without trembling." "A king who adores me," replied the Princess. "Has that king eyes, or is he blind? Can he know that I am the ugliest person in the world." "I have seen you, Madam," answered the invisible being, "and have not found you what you represent yourself. Be it for your person, your merit, or your misfortunes, I repeat, I adore you; but my respectful and timid affection obliges me to conceal myself." "I am indebted to you for so doing," rejoined the Princess; "for alas, what would be my fate should I love any one?" "You would make the happiness of him who cannot live without you," said the voice, "but he will not venture to appear before you without your permission." "No, no," said the Princess; "I would avoid seeing any object that might too powerfully interest me." The voice was silent, and the Princess remained all the rest of the night in deep meditation on this adventure.
However she might have resolved not to say the least word to any one respecting it, she could not resist asking the pagods if their king had returned. They answered in the negative. This reply, so ill-agreeing with what she had heard, disturbed her. She continued her inquiries as to whether their king was young and handsome. They told her he was young, handsome, and very amiable. She asked if they frequently received intelligence of him. They replied, "Every day." "But," added she, "does he know that I am in his palace?" "Yes, Madam," answered her attendants, "he knows everything that occurs here concerning you: he takes great interest in it, and every hour a courier is sent off to him with an account of you." She was silent, and became much more thoughtful than she had formerly been. Whenever she was alone, the voice spoke to her. Sometimes she was alarmed at it: but at others, she felt pleased; for nothing could be more polite than its language to her. "Although," said the Princess, "I have resolved never to love, and have every reason to defend my heart against an attachment which could only be fatal to it, I nevertheless confess to you that I should much like to behold a king who has so strange a taste; for if it be true that you love me, you are perhaps the only being in the world who could be guilty of a similar weakness for a person so ugly as I am." "Think of me whatever you please, adorable Princess," replied the voice. "I find in your merit a sufficient justification for my passion; nor is it from singularity of taste that I conceal myself. I have motives so melancholy, that if you knew them you could not refrain from pitying me." The Princess then pressed the voice to explain itself; but it ceased to speak,—she only heard long and heavy sighs. All these circumstances made her very uneasy. Although her lover was unknown and invisible to her, he paid her a thousand delicate attentions. Add to this, the beautiful place she was in induced her to desire society more suitable to it than that of the pagods. She consequently began to feel tired and dull everywhere. The voice of her invisible admirer alone had power to please her. Waking suddenly one exceedingly dark night, she found that somebody was seated beside her bed. She thought it was the Pagodine of Pearls, who, having more wit than the others, used sometimes to come and keep her company. The Princess stretched out her arm to take hold of her; but the person seized her hand, pressed it, kissed it, dropped some tears upon it, and was evidently too much affected to speak. She was convinced it was the invisible monarch. "What would you of me?" said she to him, sighing. "Can I love you without knowing or seeing you?" "Ah, Madam," replied he, "by what conditions do you fetter the delight of obeying you? It is impossible for me to appear before you. The same wicked Magotine who has so illtreated you, has condemned me to suffer for seven years. Five have already elapsed: two yet remain, the misery of which you could entirely relieve by accepting me for your husband. You will think me a rash fool, and that I am asking an absolute impossibility; but if you knew, Madam, the excess of my passion and the extent of my misfortunes, you would not refuse me the favour I implore of you."
Laidronette, I have already told you, had began to feel very dull; she found the invisible king everything that could be most charming in conversation, and love took possession of her heart, under the specious disguise of generous commiseration. She replied, that she must be allowed some days to consider of it. It was a great thing to have brought her to require only a few days to decide on a matter which he had not ventured to flatter himself she would ever listen to. The fêtes and the concerts recommenced with increased splendour. Nothing was to be heard but hymeneal strains. Presents were continually brought her, surpassing all that had ever been seen. The enamoured voice assiduously wooed her in the sweetest accents, as soon as it was dark; and the Princess retired at an earlier hour, in order to have more time to listen to it.
At length she consented to marry the invisible king, and gave him her promise that she would not attempt to see him till the full term of his penance had expired. "It is of vital importance," said the King to her, "both to you and to me. Any imprudent curiosity you might indulge in, would entail on me a recommencement of my penance, and involve you in a like misfortune: but if you can resist the evil counsels that will be given to you, you will have the satisfaction of finding me all your heart desires, and of regaining, at the same time, the marvellous beauty of which the malicious Magotine deprived you." The Princess, enraptured at this new hope, vowed a thousand times to her husband that she would indulge in no curiosity without his permission. So the nuptials took place without any public demonstrations; but the heart and the mind were not less gainers by that arrangement.
As all the pagods were eager to amuse their new queen, one of them brought her the history of Psyche, written in a charming style by one of the most popular authors of the day. She found in it many passages bearing a strong resemblance to her own adventures, and it inspired her with such an anxiety to behold her father, mother, sister, and brother-in-law, that all the King could say to her would not suffice to combat this fancy. "The book you are reading," said he, "displays to you the misfortunes which befel Psyche. Oh, for mercy's sake, profit by the warning, and avoid them!" She promised more than he even required of her; and finally a vessel, manned by pagods, and laden with presents, was despatched with letters from Queen Laidronette to the Queen her mother, conjuring her to come and pay a visit to her daughter in her own dominions; and the pagods who were charged with this mission were permitted, on this occasion only, to speak in a foreign land. The loss of the Princess had not been entirely unfelt by her relations: they believed she had perished; consequently her letter gave great delight to the Court. The Queen, who was dying to see Laidronette again, lost not a moment in setting out, with her other daughter and her son-in-law. The pagods, who alone knew the way to their kingdom, safely conducted thither the whole royal family; and when Laidronette saw her relations, she was ready to expire with joy. She read the story of Psyche over and over again, to be completely on her guard respecting any questions that might be put to her, and to regulate her answers to them; but the pains she took were all in vain—she made a hundred mistakes. Sometimes the King was with the army; sometimes he was ill, and in no mood to see any one; sometimes he was on a pilgrimage; and at others, hunting or fishing. At last, it seemed as if she was pledged to talk nothing but nonsense, and that the barbarous Magotine had unsettled her wits.
Her mother and sister consulted together on the subject, and came to the conclusion that she was deceiving them, and might probably be deceived herself. They, therefore, with ill-directed zeal, resolved to tell her so, and managed very skilfully to infect her mind with a thousand doubts and fears. After having refused for a long time to acknowledge the justice of their suspicions, she at last confessed that up to that period she had never seen her husband; but that his conversation was so charming, that it was sufficient happiness to listen to it: that he had yet two years to pass in this state of penance, but that at the end of that time, not only should she behold him, but become, herself, beautiful as the orb of day. "Oh, unfortunate creature!" exclaimed the Queen; "how gross is the snare they have laid for thee! Is it possible that thou couldst have listened with such extreme simplicity to such fables? Thy husband is a monster; and how could it be otherwise, for all the pagods, of whom he is the King, are downright monkeys." "I believe, rather," replied Laidronette, "that he is the God of Love himself." "What a delusion!" cried Queen Bellotte. "They told Psyche that she had married a monster, and she discovered that it was Cupid. You are positive that Cupid is your husband, and to a certainty he is a monster! At least, satisfy your mind on this point; enlighten yourself on the matter, as you may so easily." The Queen said as much, and her son-in-law still more.
The poor Princess was so confused and so agitated, that, after having sent all her family home, laden with presents, which sufficiently repaid the zinzolin taffety and the muff-riband, she resolved, come what would, to obtain a sight of her husband. Oh, fatal curiosity, which a thousand fearful examples fail to correct in us, how dearly art thou about to cost this unfortunate Princess! She would have thought it a great pity not to imitate her predecessor, Psyche; so she concealed a lamp in the same manner, and by the aid of its light gazed upon the hitherto invisible king, so dear to her heart. But what frightful shrieks did she not utter, when, instead of the tender Cupid, fair, white, young, and every way charming, she beheld the horrible green serpent, with his long bristling mane. He awoke in a paroxysm of rage and despair. "Cruel woman," cried he, "is this the reward of so much affection?" The Princess heard him not—she had fainted with terror; and the serpent in an instant was far away.
At the disturbance caused by this tragical scene, some pagods ran to the spot; they carried the Princess to her couch, and gave her every assistance. Imagination cannot paint the distress of Laidronette, upon returning to her senses. How did she reproach herself for the affliction she had brought upon her husband! She loved him tenderly, but she was horrified at his form, and would have cheerfully given half the remainder of her days never to have seen him.
But these sad reflections were interrupted by the entrance of some pagods into her chamber, with alarm in their countenances. They came to inform her that several ships full of puppets, with Magotine at their head, had entered the harbour, without meeting any resistance. The puppets and the pagods have been enemies from the earliest periods. They are opposed to each other in a thousand ways; and the puppets enjoy the privilege of talking wherever they go, which is denied the pagods. Magotine was their queen. Her hatred of poor Green-Serpent, and of the unfortunate Laidronette, prompted her to assemble her forces, with the intention to come and harass them at the moment they were in the greatest affliction.
She succeeded easily enough in her object; for the Queen was in such despair, that, although they urged her to give the requisite directions, she excused herself on the plea that she knew nothing of the art of war. They called together, by her desire, such pagods as had been in besieged cities, or in the cabinets of the greatest commanders. She ordered them to see to everything, and went and shut herself up in her cabinet, looking with an indifferent eye upon all the events of life.
Magotine had for her general that celebrated puppet Punch, who knew his business well, and who had in reserve a large body of wasps, mayflies, and butterflies, who performed wonders against some light armed frogs and lizards. The latter had been for many years in the pay of the pagods, and were, in truth, much more terrible in name than in action.
Magotine amused herself for some time in witnessing the combat. The pagods and pagodines surpassed themselves in their exertions; but the Fairy, with a stroke of her wand, dissolved all their superb edifices. Those charming gardens, those woods, those meadows, those fountains were overwhelmed with their own ruins, and Queen Laidronette could not escape the sad fate of becoming the slave of the most malignant fairy that ever was or will be. Four or five hundred puppets forced her into the presence of Magotine. "Madam," said Punch to the Fairy, "behold the Queen of the Pagods, whom I have taken the liberty to bring before you." "She has been long known to me," said Magotine. "She was the cause of my being insulted on the day she was born, and I will never forget it." "Alas, Madam," said the Queen to her, "I believed you were sufficiently revenged. The gift of ugliness which you bestowed upon me in so supreme a degree might have satisfied any one less vindictive than you." "How she argues!" said the Fairy. "Here is a learned doctor of a new sort! Your first employment shall be teaching philosophy to my ants. Prepare yourself to give them a lesson every day." "How shall I set about it, Madam?" replied the afflicted Queen. "I am ignorant of philosophy, and were I even well versed in it, are your ants capable of understanding it?" "Hear, hear this logician!" exclaimed Magotine. "Very well, Queen. You shall not teach them philosophy; but in spite of yourself you shall set the whole world an example of patience which it will be difficult to imitate."
Thereupon she had brought to her a pair of iron shoes so small that she couldn't get half her foot into either of them; but notwithstanding that, she was compelled to put them on. The poor Queen could only weep and suffer. "Here!" said Magotine, "there is a spindle full of spider's web. I expect you to spin it as fine as your hair, and I give you but two hours to do it in." "I have never spun, Madam," said the Queen; "but though what you desire appears to me to be impossible, I will endeavour to obey you." She was led immediately into the depths of a very dark grotto, the entrance to which was closed with a great stone, after they had given her some brown bread and a pitcher of water.
In trying to spin this filthy spider's web, she dropped her too heavy spindle a hundred times. She had the patience to pick it up again as many, and to begin her work over again, but always in vain. "Clearly do I now perceive," said she, "the extent of my misery. I am consigned to the power of the implacable Magotine, who is not satisfied with having deprived me of all my beauty,—she would find some pretext to kill me." She began to weep, recalling to her memory the happiness she enjoyed in the kingdom of Pagodia, and casting away her spindle, exclaimed, "Let Magotine come when she will! I cannot do impossibilities." A voice answered, "Ah Queen, your too imprudent curiosity has caused you these tears; but one cannot see those suffer whom we love. I have a friend whom I have not mentioned to you before. She is called the Fairy Protectrice. I trust she will be of great service to you." Immediately she heard three taps, and without seeing any one, she found her web spun and wound into a skein.
At the expiration of the two hours, Magotine, who was eager for a fray, had the stone rolled from the mouth of the grotto, and entered it, followed by a numerous train of puppets. "Come, come, let us see," said the Fairy, "the work of this idle hussy, who neither knows how to sew nor to spin." "Madam," said the Queen, "it is quite true I did not; but I was obliged to learn." When Magotine saw the extraordinary result, she took the skein of spider's web, and said, "Verily, you are too skilful, it would be a great pity not to keep you employed. Here, Queen, make me some nets with this thread strong enough to catch salmons in." "Nay, for mercy's sake," replied the Queen, "remember that it is barely strong enough to hold flies." "You are a great casuist, my pretty friend," said Magotine, "but it will avail you nothing." She quitted the grotto, had the stone replaced at the mouth of it, and assured Laidronette that if the nets were not finished in two hours, she was a lost creature.
"Oh, Fairy Protectrice!" exclaimed the Queen, "if it be true that my sorrows can move your pity, do not deny me your assistance." As she spoke, the nets were made. Laidronette was extremely surprised. She thanked, with all her heart, the friendly fairy who had conferred on her such a benefit, and thought with delight that it was undoubtedly her husband who had secured for her such a friend. "Alas, Green-Serpent," said she, "you are very generous, to continue to love me after the injuries I have done you." No reply was made, for Magotine entered, and was much astonished to find the nets so exceedingly well made, that no common hands were capable of executing such a work. "What!" she cried, "will you have the audacity to maintain that you have woven these nets?" "I have no friend in your Court, Madam," said the Queen; "and even if I had, I am so carefully imprisoned that it would be difficult for any one to speak to me without your permission." "As you are so clever and skilful, you will be of great use to me in my kingdom," rejoined the fairy.
She immediately ordered her fleet to be got ready for sea, and all the puppets to be prepared to go on board. She had the Queen heavily chained down, fearing that in some fit of despair she might fling herself overboard. One night as the unhappy Princess was deploring her sad fate, she perceived, by the light of the stars, the green serpent, who quietly approached the vessel. "I am always afraid of alarming you," said he, "and despite the reasons I have for not sparing you, you are infinitely dear to me." "Can you pardon my imprudent curiosity?" replied she, "and may I say to you without offence,—
"Is it thou? Is it thou, love? Again art thou near!
My own royal Serpent, so faithful and dear!
Again dare I hope a fond husband I see?
Oh, what have I suffer'd since parted from thee!"
The serpent replied as follows:—
"To hearts that love truly, to part is a pain,
With Hope e'en to whisper of meeting again;
In Pluto's dark regions what torture above
Our absence for ever from those whom we love?"
Magotine was not one of those fairies who occasionally sleep. The desire to do mischief kept her continually awake. She did not fail to overhear the conversation between the Serpent-King and his wife. She flew to interrupt it like a fury. "Aha!" said she; "you amuse yourselves with tagging rhymes, do you? and complain in heroics of your destiny? Truly, I am delighted to hear it. Proserpine, who is my best friend, has begged me to send her a poet on hire. Not that there is a dearth of poets below; but because she wants more. Green-Serpent! I command thee to go finish thy penance in the Shades, and to give my compliments to the gentle Proserpine."
The unfortunate serpent departed, uttering prolonged hisses, leaving the Queen in the deepest affliction. She felt she had no longer anything to care for. In her passion she exclaimed, "By what crime have we offended thee, Magotine? I was scarcely born when thy fiendish malediction robbed me of my beauty and rendered me horrible. Canst thou accuse me of any crime, when I had not at that time attained the use of reason? when I did not know myself? I am convinced that the unhappy King, whom thou hast just consigned to the infernal regions, is as innocent as I was. But finish thy work. Give me instant death. It is the only favour I ask of thee." "Thou wouldst be too happy if I granted thy prayer," said Magotine. "Thou must first draw water for me from the bottomless spring."
As soon as the ships had reached the kingdom of puppets, the cruel Magotine took a millstone, and tied it round the Queen's neck, ordering her to ascend with it to the summit of a mountain which soared high above the clouds. When there, she was to gather four-leaved trefoils enough to fill a basket, and then she was to descend into the depths of the valley, to draw the Water of Discretion in a pitcher with a hole in the bottom of it, and to bring her as much as would fill her large glass. The Queen told her it was out of her power to obey her: that the millstone was more than ten times her own weight; that the pitcher with a hole in it could never retain the water she wished to drink; and that she could not resolve to attempt anything so impossible. "If thou dost not," said Magotine, "rest assured thy Green-Serpent shall suffer for it." This threat so frightened the Queen, that without considering her weakness, she endeavoured to walk; but, alas! the effort would have been idle, if the Fairy Protectrice, whom she invoked, had not come to her assistance. "Behold," said the Fairy to her, "the just punishment of your fatal curiosity. Blame no one but yourself for the state to which Magotine has reduced you." So saying, she transported her to the top of the mountain, and filled her basket for her with four-leaved trefoils, despite the terrible monsters that guarded the spot, and made supernatural efforts to defend it; but were rendered more gentle than lambs by one tap of the wand of the Fairy Protectrice.
She waited not for the grateful Queen to thank her, before she completed her good offices as far as it laid in her power. She gave her a little car drawn by two white canary-birds, who spoke and whistled to admiration. She told her to descend the mountain, and to fling her iron shoes at two giants armed with clubs who guarded the fountain, who would thereupon fall senseless; that she must then give her pitcher to the little canaries, who would easily find means to fill it with the water of Discretion; that as soon as she was in possession of it, she should wash her face with it, and she would become the most beautiful person in the world. She also advised her not to remain at the fountain, nor to reascend the hill, but to stop in a very pleasant little grove she would find on her road; that she might remain there for three years, as Magotine would only imagine that she was endeavouring to fill her pitcher with water, or that she had fallen a victim to some of the other perils of the journey.
The Queen embraced the knees of the Fairy Protectrice, and thanked her a hundred times for the special favours she had conferred on her. "But," added the Queen, "neither the success I may achieve, nor the beauty, Madam, which you promise me, can give me the least pleasure, until my serpent is unserpented." "That will not be till after you have passed three years in the mountain grove," said the Fairy, "and have returned to Magotine with the trefoils and the water in the leaky pitcher."
The Queen promised the Fairy Protectrice she would scrupulously follow her directions. "But, Madam," she added, "shall I be three years without hearing tidings of King-Serpent?" "You deserve never to hear of him again as long as you live; for can anything be more shocking than to have caused him to recommence his penance?" The Queen made no reply,—the tears that flowed down her cheeks, and her silence, sufficiently proved the pain she suffered. She got into her little car; the canary-birds did their duty, and conducted her to the bottom of the valley, where the giants guarded the fountain of Discretion. She quickly took off her iron shoes, and threw them at their heads. The moment the shoes touched them, they fell lifeless as colossal statues. The canaries took the leaky pitcher, and mended it with such wonderful skill, that there was no appearance of its having ever been broken. The name given to this water made her anxious to drink some of it. "It will make me," said she, "more prudent and more discreet than I have been. Alas, if I had possessed those qualities I should still be in the kingdom of Pagodia." After she had drunk a long draught of the water, she washed her face with some of it, and became so beautiful—so beautiful, you would have taken her rather for a goddess than a mortal.
The Fairy Protectrice immediately appeared, and said to her, "You have just done that which has pleased me exceedingly. You knew that this water could embellish your mind as well as your person. I wished to see to which of the two you would give the preference, and it has been to your mind. I laud you for it, and this act will shorten the term of your punishment by four years." "Diminish none of my sufferings," replied the Queen; "I deserve them all; but comfort Green-Serpent, who deserves none of his." "I will do all in my power," said the Fairy, embracing her; "but since you are now so beautiful, I desire you will drop the name of Laidronette, which no longer suits you; you must be called Queen Discrète." So saving she vanished, leaving the Queen a pair of little shoes, so pretty and so nicely embroidered, that she thought it almost a pity to wear them.
When she had re-entered her car, with her pitcher full of water, the canaries flew with her straight to the Grove of the Mountain. There never was a more agreeable spot. The myrtle and orange-trees interlaced their branches to form long covered walks and bowers, into which the sun could not penetrate. A thousand rills, from gently-flowing fountains, shed a refreshing coolness through this beautiful abode; but what was most curious, all the animals in it spoke, and gave the warmest welcome in the world to the little canaries. "We thought you had deserted us," said they. "The term of our penance is not yet completed," replied the canaries; "but here is a Queen whom the Fairy Protectrice has ordered us to bring to you. Take all the pains you can to amuse her." She was immediately surrounded by all sorts of animals, who paid her their best compliments. "You shall be our Queen," said they to her: "you shall find no attention or respect wanting on our parts." "Where am I?" she exclaimed. "By what supernatural power are you enabled to speak to me?" One of the little canary birds, who had remained beside her, whispered in her ear, "You must know, Madam, that several fairies being on their travels, were distressed to see persons fall into bad habits. They at first imagined it would be sufficient to advise them to correct themselves, but their warnings were in vain, and, becoming at length quite vexed with them, they imposed penances upon them. Some who talked too much they changed into parrots, magpies, and hens; lovers and their mistresses they transformed into pigeons, canary birds, and lap-dogs; those who ridiculed their friends, into monkeys; gormandizers, into pigs; and passionate people into lions. In short, the number of persons they made to do penance was so great that this grove is full of them, and you will therefore find in it folks of all qualities and humours." "From what you have just told me, my dear little canary," said the Queen, "I have reason to believe that you are here only because you were too loving." "It is quite true, Madam," replied the canary. "I am the son of a Spanish Grandee. Love in our country has such absolute power over all hearts, that one cannot resist it without incurring the charge of rebellion. An English Ambassador arrived at the court. He had a daughter who was extremely beautiful, but insupportably haughty and satirical. Notwithstanding this, I was caught by her; I loved her to idolatry. Sometimes she seemed touched by my attentions, and at others repulsed me with such disdain that I lost all patience with her. One day that she had exasperated me, a venerable old woman accosted me, and reproached me for my weakness; but all she could say to me only made me more obstinate; she perceived it, and became angry. 'I condemn thee,' said she, 'to be a canary bird for three years, and thy mistress to be a wasp.' Instantly I felt a change take place in me of the most extraordinary description. Despite my affliction, I could not forbear flying into the Ambassador's garden, to ascertain what was the fate of his daughter. But I had hardly arrived there when I saw her approach in the form of a large wasp, buzzing four times louder than any other. I hovered round her with the devotion of a lover, that nothing can destroy. She tried several times to sting me.
"'Would you kill me, beautiful wasp?' said I. 'It is unnecessary you should use your sting. You have but to command me to die, and I will obey you.' The wasp made no answer. She alighted on some flowers, that had to endure her ill-temper.
"Overwhelmed by her contempt, and the situation to which I was reduced, I flew away without caring whither my wings would take me. I arrived at length at one of the most beautiful cities in the universe, and which they call Paris. I was weary; I flung myself on a tuft of large trees, enclosed within some walls, and before I knew who had caught me, I found myself behind the door of a cage, painted green, and ornamented with gold. The apartment and its furniture were of a magnificence that surprised me. A young lady came immediately and caressed me, and spoke to me so sweetly that I was charmed with her. I was not long a resident in her chamber without learning the secret of her heart. I saw a sort of Matamore visit her, who was always in a rage that nothing could appease, and who, not contented with unjustly accusing her, beat her till he left her for dead in the arms of her women. I was not a little afflicted to see her suffer this unworthy treatment, and what distressed me still more was, that the blows he dealt her seemed to have the power of increasing the affection of that lovely lady.
"Night and day I wished that the fairies who had changed me into a canary bird would come and set to rights such ill-assorted lovers. My desires were at length fulfilled. The fairies suddenly appeared in the apartment just as the furious gallant began his usual uproar. They loaded him with reproaches, and condemned him to become a wolf. As to the patient person who had allowed him to beat her, they turned her into a ewe, and sent her into the Grove of the Mountain. With respect to myself, I easily found means of escape. I wished to see the various courts of Europe. I flew into Italy, and fell into the hands of a man who, having frequent business in the city, and not choosing that his wife, of whom he was very jealous, should see any one in his absence, took care to lock her up from morning till night, so that to me was accorded the honour of amusing this lovely captive; but she had other occupation than attending to me. A certain neighbour, who had long loved her, came in the evening to the top of the chimney, and slid down it into the room, looking blacker than a devil. The keys which the jealous husband had charge of, served only to keep his mind at ease. I was constantly fearing some fatal catastrophe, when one day the fairies entered by the keyhole, and not a little surprised the two lovers. 'Go and do penance!' said the fairies, touching them with their wands. 'Let the chimney sweeper become a squirrel, and the lady an ape, for she is a cunning one; and the husband, who is so fond of keeping the keys of his house, become a mastiff for ten years.'
"It would be too much to tell you," added the canary, "all the various adventures I met with. I was obliged occasionally to visit the Grove of the Mountain, and I rarely returned to it without finding fresh animals, as the fairies continued to travel, and were incessantly irritated by the numberless faults of mankind; but during your residence here, you will have time enough to divert yourself by listening to the recital of all the adventures of the inhabitants." Several of them immediately offered to relate theirs whenever she pleased. She thanked them very politely, but as she felt more inclined to muse than to talk, she sought a retired spot, where she could remain alone. As soon as she had fixed on one, a little palace arose in it, and the most sumptuous banquet in the world was served up to her. It consisted only of fruits, but they were of the rarest description; they were brought to her by birds, and during her stay in the grove she wanted for nothing.
There were entertainments occasionally, which pleased her more from their singularity than anything else. Lions were seen to dance in them with lambs; bears whispered tender things to doves, and serpents softened for linnets. A butterfly might be seen courting a panther; in short, there was no classification of species, for it was not that one was a tiger and another a sheep, but simply that they were persons whom the fairies had chosen to punish for their faults.
They all loved Queen Discrète to adoration. Every one made her their umpire in any difference. Her power was absolute in this little republic, and if she had not continually reproached herself as the cause of Green-Serpent's misfortunes, she might have borne her own with some degree of patience; but when she thought of the state to which he was reduced, she could not forgive herself for her imprudent curiosity. The time having arrived for her to leave the Grove of the Mountain, she gave notice of it to her little conductors, the faithful canaries, who promised her a happy return. She left secretly in the night-time, to avoid the leave-takings and lamentations which would have cost her some tears, for she was affected by the friendship and respect which all these rational animals had testified for her.
She forgot neither the pitcher full of the water of Discretion, nor the basket of trefoil, nor the iron shoes; and at the moment when Magotine believed her to be dead, she presented herself suddenly before her, the mill-stone round her neck, the iron shoes on her feet, and the pitcher in her hand. The Fairy, at sight of her, uttered a loud cry, and then inquired whence she came. "Madam," said the Queen, "I have passed three years drawing water in the broken pitcher, at the end of which time I found the way to make it hold water." Magotine burst into a fit of laughter, thinking on the fatigue the poor Queen must have undergone; but, looking at her more attentively, "What's this I see!" she exclaimed. "Laidronette has become quite lovely! How came you by this beauty?" The Queen informed her that she had washed herself with the water of Discretion, and that this miracle had been the consequence. At these tidings Magotine dashed the pitcher on the ground. "Oh, thou power that defiest me!" she exclaimed, "I will be revenged. Get your iron shoes ready," said she to the Queen. "You must go for me to the infernal regions, and demand of Proserpine the Essence of long life; I am always afraid of falling sick, and perhaps dying; when I am possessed of that antidote, I shall have no more cause for alarm. Take care, therefore, you do not uncork the bottle, nor taste the liquor she gives you, or you will diminish my portion."
The poor Queen had never been so astonished as she was by this order. "Which is the way to the infernal regions?" said she. "Can those who go to them return? Alas, Madam, will you never weary of persecuting me? Under what luckless star was I born? My sister is much happier than I. It must no longer be thought that the constellations are equally favourable to everybody." She began to weep, and Magotine exulting at the sight of her tears, laughed loudly, and cried, "Go! go! Do not delay a moment your departure on a voyage from which I shall reap so much gratification." She filled for her a wallet with old nuts and black bread, and with this handsome provision the poor Queen started, determined to dash her brains out against the first rock she came to, and terminate her sorrows.
She walked for some time at random, now turning one way and now another, and thinking it was a most extraordinary affair to be thus sent to the infernal regions. When she was tired, she laid down at the foot of a tree, and began to think of the poor serpent, forgetting all about her own journey, when suddenly she beheld the Fairy Protectrice, who said to her, "Know you not, beautiful Queen, that to release your husband from the shades in which the commands of Magotine detain him, it is necessary you should seek the home of Proserpine?" "I would go much further, if it were possible, Madam," replied she; "but I do not know the way by which I can descend into that dark abode." "Hold," said the Fairy Protectrice. "Here is a green branch; strike the earth with it, and repeat these lines distinctly." The Queen embraced the knees of this generous friend, and then said after her:—
"Thou who canst wrest from mighty Jove the thunder!
Love, listen to my prayer!
Come, save me from despair,
And calm the pangs that rend my heart asunder!
Be to the realms of Tartarus my guide.
E'en in those drear abodes they own thy sway.
Pluto for Proserpine, thy subject, sigh'd;
Open for me then to their throne the way;
A faithful husband from my arms they tear!
My fate is harder than my heart can bear;
More than mortal is its pain;
Yet for death it sighs in vain!"
She had scarcely finished this prayer, when a young child, more beautiful than anything we can behold, appeared in the midst of a gold and azure cloud. He flew down at her feet; a crown of flowers encircled his brow. The Queen knew by his bow and his arrows, that it was Love. He addressed her thus:—
"I have heard thy tender sighs,
And for thee have left the skies;
Love will chase thy tears away,
All for thee will Love essay.
Shortly shall thine eyes be blest
With his sight thou lovest best;
And the penance that shall be
Of thy cruel enemy."
The Queen, dazzled by the splendour that surrounded Love and delighted at his promises, exclaimed,
"Down to the realms of woe,
I'll fearless follow thee;
Bliss even there to know,
If there my love I see."
Love, who rarely speaks in prose, struck the earth three times, whilst he sang, in the most, enchanting manner, these words:—
"Earth! my voice obey!
The power of Cupid own!
Ope for Love the way
To Pluto's gloomy throne!"
"I come to share thy prison and thy pain;
Though doom'd no more the light of Heaven to see,
Here let but Love unite our hearts again,
No terrors these sad Shades will have for me!"
The King, transported by the violence of his passion, said, in reply to his wife, everything that could prove his ardour and delight; but Love, who is not fond of losing time, pressed them to approach Proserpine. The Queen gave Magotine's compliments to her, and requested she would entrust her with the Essence of long life. It was the watchword between these good people. Proserpine immediately gave the Queen a phial very badly corked, in order to induce her to open it. Love, who is no novice, warned the Queen against the indulgence of a curiosity which would again be fatal to her; and quickly leaving those dreary regions, the King and Queen returned to the light of day. Love would not abandon them. He led them back to Magotine, and that she might not see him, he hid himself in their hearts. His presence nevertheless inspired the fairy with such humane sentiments, that although she knew not the reason, she received these illustrious unfortunates very graciously. With a supernatural effort of generosity she restored to them the kingdom of Pagodia. They returned to it immediately, and passed the rest of their days in as much happiness as they had previously endured afflictions and anxieties.
Too oft is curiosity
The cause of fatal woe;
A secret which may hurtful be,
Why should we seek to know?
The weakness 'tis of womankind,
Witness the first created;
From whom Pandora was design'd,
And Psyche imitated.
Each, spite of warning, on the same
Forbidden quest intent,
Of her own misery became
The fatal instrument.
Psyche's example fail'd to save
Poor Laidronette from erring;
Like warning she was led to brave,
Like punishment incurring.
Alas! for human common sense,
No tale, no caution, schools!
The proverb says, Experience
Can render wise e'en fools:—
But when of our own errors past,
The lessons we despise,—
Despite the shadows forward cast,—
I fear the proverb lies.
- The muffs worn by persons of fashion at that period were ornamented with a bow of riband in front.
- A mixture of silk and red worsted. Zinzolin by itself was much used in the working of tapestry.
- From her description of the monster at page 307, it would appear that Madame D'Aulnoy adopted the word serpent in the sense of the German and old English wurm, worm, which is used indifferently for a dragon or a serpent, and as the former it has been figured in the print to the Geneva and Paris edition of the "Cabinet des Fées," 1785. I have adhered to the word I found in the text, and leave the inference to the reader.
- See note to page 179.
- See note 3, page 305.
- Pagodes, the French name not only for Indian or Chinese temples, but for those figures, whether idols or not, which have movable heads. "Il remue la tête comme une Pagode," is a popular saying in the language.
- La Fontaine. His version of the classical story of Psyche was published in 1669. Its great popularity caused it to be selected as the subject for a tragic ballet in five acts by Molière, and Pierre Corneille, first performed at court in 1670, and subsequently in public, July 24, 1671.
- An epithet of Spanish origin, signifying literally, "a Moorkiller," but applied to a ruffianly bully, or professed duellist—the old English "swash-buckler" and the modern "fire-eater."