Fairy Tales by the Countess d'Aulnoy/Princess Printaniere

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PRINCESS PRINTANIERE.

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who had several children, but they all died; and the king and queen were so very, very much afflicted, that it was impossible to be more so, for they possessed considerable property, and only wanted children to inherit it. Five years had elapsed since the queen had given birth to her last infant. Everybody believed she could have no more, because she fretted so excessively, when she thought of all the pretty little princes she had lost.

At length, however, the queen found she was likely to have another. Day and night she passed in thinking how she could best preserve the little creature she was about to bring into the world,—what name it should bear,—what dresses, what dolls, what toys she should give to it.

It had been proclaimed by sound of trumpet, and bills had been posted up in all the highways, stating that all the best nurses should present themselves before the queen, that she might choose one for her child. Accordingly, behold them arrive from the four quarters of the world; nothing was to be seen but nurses with their babies. One day as the queen was taking the air in a great forest, she sat down, and said to the king, "Let us send for all the nurses hither, and choose one, for our cows have not milk enough to supply food for all these little children." "Most willingly, my dear," said the king: "come, let the nurses be summoned!" Lo! where they all appear, one after the other, making a fine curtsy to the king and the queen; after which they place themselves in a row, each standing under a tree. When they were all arranged, and their majesties had admired their fresh complexions, white teeth, and fine persons, they beheld, advancing in a wheelbarrow, propelled by two filthy little dwarfs, an ugly little woman, whose feet turned in, whose knees touched her chin, who had a great hump on her back, squinting eyes, and a skin blacker than ink. She held in her arms a little monkey, which she suckled, and spoke a jargon nobody could understand. She approached to offer herself in her turn; but the queen, repelling her, cried, "Hence, you great fright!—You are an ignorant creature to come before me dressed as you are!—If you do not immediately retire, I will have you removed by force." The nasty old woman passed on grumbling excessively, and, dragged by her frightful little dwarfs, went and placed herself in the hollow of a large tree, from whence she could see everything that occurred.

The queen, who had ceased to think about her, chose a handsome nurse: but the instant she was appointed, a horrible serpent, which was concealed beneath some grass, bit her foot, and she fell down as if dead. The queen, much grieved at this accident, cast her eyes on another. Immediately an eagle came flying with a tortoise in its talons, and dropped it on the head of the poor nurse, which was shivered to pieces like a glass. The queen, still more afflicted, called forward a third nurse, who, in her hurry to advance, stumbled against a thicket, full of long thorns, and knocked out one of her eyes. "Ah!" cried the queen, "I am most unfortunate to-day. It is impossible for me to choose a nurse without causing her some mischief. I must leave the affair to my physician." As she arose to return to the palace, she heard peals of laughter. She looked and saw behind her the wicked old humpbacked woman, who sat like an ape with her swaddled monkey in the wheelbarrow, mocking the whole company, and particularly the queen. Her majesty was so enraged that she would have flown at and beaten her, feeling assured that she was the cause of all this mischief to the nurses; but the humpback, with three taps of her wand, changed the dwarfs into winged griffins, the wheelbarrow into a chariot of fire, and rose with it into the air, uttering loud threats and horrible shrieks.

"Alas, my darling, we are lost," said the king; "it is the Fairy Carabossa! The wicked creature has hated me ever since I was a little boy, on account of a trick I played her, putting some brimstone into her broth. From that moment she has always sought an opportunity to be revenged." The queen began to weep. "If I could have guessed who she was," said she, "I would have tried to make a friend of her. I'm sure I wish I were dead!" When the king saw her so deeply afflicted, he said to her, "My love, let us go and consult on what step we should take;" and led her away, supporting her by the arm, for she was still trembling from the fright into which Carabossa had thrown her.

When the king and queen reached their apartments, they summoned their counsellors, caused all the doors and windows to be carefully closed, that nobody might hear a word that was uttered, and came to the resolution to invite all the Fairies for a thousand leagues round to be present at the birth of the child. Couriers were despatched immediately with very polite letters to the Fairies, requesting them to take the trouble to attend the queen's confinement, and to keep the matter a great secret; for they trembled at the idea of Carabossa's hearing of it, and coming to make some disturbance. As a reward for their trouble, they were each promised a hongreline[1] of blue velvet, a petticoat of amaranth velvet, a pair of slippers of crimson satin, slashed, a small pair of gilt scissors, and a case full of fine needles.

As soon as the couriers had departed, the queen set to work, with all her maids and servants, to prepare the presents she had promised the Fairies. She knew a great many, but only five answered their invitation. They arrived at the very moment the queen gave birth to a little princess. Behold them quickly closeted to endow her with precious gifts. The first endowed her with perfect beauty; the second bestowed on her infinite wit; the third, the faculty of singing admirably; the fourth, the talent of composition both in prose and verse. As the fifth was about to speak, a noise was heard in the chimney, like that of the falling of a huge stone from the top of a steeple, and Carabossa appeared all begrimed with soot, and shouting as loud as she could, "I endow this little creature

"With ill-luck in plenty, until she be twenty!"

At these words the queen, who was in bed, began to cry, and beg Carabossa would have pity on the little Princess. All the Fairies said to her, "Alas, my sister! take off your spell again; what has this infant done to you?" But that ugly Fairy kept grumbling to herself, without making any reply; so that the fifth, who had not yet spoken, tried to mend the matter, and endowed the Princess with a long life of happiness after the period of the evil spell had expired. Carabossa only laughed at this, and sang twenty satirical songs, as she climbed up the chimney again. All the Fairies remained in great consternation, but particularly the poor queen. She did not, however, neglect to give them the presents she had promised; she even added to them some ribands, of which they are very fond. They were magnificently feasted; and at their departure the eldest advised that the Princess should be lodged, till she completed her twentieth year, in some place where she could see no one but her own female attendants, and confined strictly to that spot.

Thereupon the king had a tower built without a window, so that you could only see by candlelight. It was entered by a vault that ran a league underground. Through this subterranean passage everything was carried that was required for the nurses and the governesses. Every twenty paces there were massive gates that were kept closely shut, and sentinels were posted in every direction.

The Princess had been called Printaniere, because she had a complexion of lilies and roses, fresher and more blooming than the spring. Everything she said or did was admirable. She acquired a knowledge of the most difficult sciences with the greatest ease, and grew so tall and handsome that the king and queen never saw her without crying for joy. She sometimes begged they would stay with her, or take her with them, for she found herself dull, without well knowing why; but her parents always put her off with some excuse. Her nurse, who had never quitted her, and who did not lack sense, described to her, occasionally, the appearance of the world, and she comprehended her instantly as well as if she had seen it. The king frequently said to the queen, "My darling, Carabossa will be outwitted; we are more cunning than she is. Our Printaniere will be happy in despite of her predictions;" and the queen laughed till she cried at thinking on the vexation of the wicked Fairy. They had had Printaniere's portrait painted, and copies of it sent all over the world, for the time was approaching for her to leave the tower, and they were desirous that she should be married. She only wanted four days of being twenty. The court and the city were in great delight at the prospect of the speedy liberation of the Princess; and their joy was increased by the news that King Merlin wished her to be the wife of his son, and that he had sent his ambassador, Fanfarinet, to propose for her in due form.

The nurse, who told the Princess all the news, informed her of this, and assured her that nothing in the world could be a finer sight than the entry of Fanfarinet. "Ah! how unfortunate am I!" exclaimed the Princess. "They coop me up here in a dark tower, as if I had committed some great crime. I have never seen the sky, the sun, and the stars, of which they tell so many wonders. I have never seen a horse, a monkey, or a lion, except in a picture. The king and queen say that they will take me out of this place when I am twenty; but they only say so to make me patient, and I am certain they will let me die here, without my having done anything to offend them." Thereupon she began to cry so much—so much—that her eyes swelled as big as one's fist; and the wet-nurse, and the foster-sister, and the cradle-rocker, and the dresser, and the nursery-maid, who all loved her passionately, began also to cry so much—so much—that nothing was to be heard but sobs and sighs. It was a scene of utter despair. When the Princess saw them worked up to such a pitch of grief, she seized a knife, and exclaimed, "There! there! I am determined to kill myself instantly, if you do not find means to let me behold the grand entry of Fanfarinet! The king and queen will never know anything about it. Decide amongst yourselves, whether you had rather I should cut my throat on the spot, than that you should procure me this gratification!" At these words the nurse and all the others recommenced crying still more bitterly, and resolved unanimously that they would enable her to see Fanfarinet, or die themselves in the attempt. They passed the rest of the night in proposing various schemes, without finding any that were feasible, and Printaniere, who was almost out of her wits, continually exclaimed, "Never again try to make me believe that you love me!—you would find plenty of ways if you did. I feel convinced that love and friendship could overcome every obstacle!"

At last they decided they would make a hole in the tower, on the side towards that part of the city by which Fanfarinet would arrive. They moved the bed of the Princess from the wall, and immediately set to work, all together, and without ceasing, day or night. By dint of scraping they removed the plaster, and then the smaller stones. They got out so many, that at last they effected an opening, through which, with considerable trouble, you might have passed a small needle. It was through this aperture that Printaniere saw the daylight for the first time! She was perfectly dazzled by it, and as she continued to peep through this little hole, she saw Fanfarinet appear at the head of all his retinue. He was mounted on a white horse, that pranced to the sound of the trumpets, and curveted admirably. Six flute-players preceded him: they played the finest opera airs, and six hautboys echoed them; after them came the trumpets and kettle-drums, making a great noise. Fanfarinet wore a dress embroidered all over with pearls, boots made of cloth of gold, a plume of scarlet feathers, ribands in profusion, and so many diamonds (for King Merlin had rooms full) that the sun was not to be compared to him for brilliancy. Printaniere at the sight felt so completely beside herself that she could not move; and after pondering upon it for a short time, vowed that she would never have any other husband than the handsome Fanfarinet; that there was no probability of his master being so agreeable; that she had no ambition; that as she had managed to exist in a tower, she could live very happily with him, if it were necessary, in some country château; that she would prefer bread and water with Fanfarinet to chickens and sweetmeats with another. In short, she was so eloquent on the subject, that her women were puzzled to imagine where she had acquired one quarter of the knowledge she displayed; and when they attempted to impress upon her a sense of her own dignity, and of the wrong she would be guilty of to herself as well as to others, she ordered them to be silent, without deigning to listen to them. As soon as Fanfarinet had arrived at the king's palace, the queen came to fetch her daughter. All the houses were hung with tapestry, and the windows filled with ladies; some had baskets of flowers, others of pearls, or of what was better, excellent sugar-plums, to shower upon the Princess as she passed.

They had commenced attiring her, when a dwarf arrived at the tower, mounted on an elephant. He came from the five good Fairies, who had endowed her on the day she was born. They sent her a crown, a sceptre, a robe of gold brocade, a petticoat of butterflies' wings of the most wonderful workmanship, with a casket still more marvellous; so stuck full was it with jewels, it was accounted priceless; and such a mass of riches had never been seen before. The queen was ready to faint with admiration; as to the Princess, she looked upon it all with indifference, for she could think only of Fanfarinet. The dwarf was thanked, and had a pistole given him to drink, and upwards of a thousand ells of nonpareil of all sorts of colours, with which he made himself very handsome garters, a bow to his cravat, and another for his hat. This dwarf was so very diminutive, that when he had all this riband on, you could not see him at all. The queen told him she would find something very beautiful to present in return to the Fairies; and the Princess, who was very generous, sent them several German spinning-wheels, with spindles made of cedar.

They dressed the Princess in all the greatest rarities that had been brought by the dwarf, and she appeared so extremely beautiful that the sun hid himself for shame, and the moon, who is not over-bashful, did not dare peep out while the Princess was abroad. She proceeded through the streets on foot, over rich carpets, the people crowding round her, and exclaiming, "Oh, how handsome she is! Oh, how handsome she is!"

As she passed along in this pompous array, with the queen and four or five dozen princesses of the blood-royal, not to mention upwards of ten dozen who had arrived from various neighbouring states to assist at this fête, the sky began to cloud over, the thunder growled, and rain and hail fell in torrents. The queen drew her royal mantle over her head, all the ladies did the same with their upper petticoats, and Printaniere was about to follow their example, when a noise was heard in the air of more than a thousand ravens, screech-owls, crows, and other ill-omened birds, who by their croaking and hooting boded nothing good. At the same moment a horrible owl of prodigious size came flying at full speed, holding in his beak a scarf of spiders-web, embroidered with bats' wings, and let it fall upon the shoulders of Printaniere, amid long and loud shrieks of laughter, which proved too surely that it was a wicked trick of the Fairy Carabossa.

At this melancholy sight everybody began to weep, and the queen, more afflicted than any one, tried to pull off the black scarf; but it seemed nailed to her daughter's shoulders. "Ah!" cried she, "this is our enemy's doing! Nothing can appease her! In vain have I sent her fifty pounds of sweetmeats, as much double-refined sugar, ond two Mayence hams; they have gone for nothing with her!"

Whilst thus the queen gave vent to her sorrow, the whole company got wet through to their skins. Printaniere, thinking of nothing but the ambassador, hastened on without saying a single word. Provided she could but charm him, she cared neither for Carabossa nor her unlucky scarf. She wondered to herself that he did not come to meet her, when suddenly she saw him advancing in company with the king. Immediately the trumpets, drums, and violins executed a lively flourish. The shouts of the crowd were redoubled, and the general manifestations of joy were extraordinary.

Fanfarinet had considerable sense; but when he saw the beautiful Printaniere in all her grace and majesty, he was so enchanted that, instead of speaking, he could do nothing but stutter; one would have thought he was tipsy, although he certainly had taken nothing but a cup of chocolate. He was in despair at finding that he had forgotten, in the twinkling of an eye, an oration he had studied every day for many months, and that he was so perfect in, he could have spoken it in his sleep.

While torturing his memory to recover it, he kept bowing profoundly to the Princess, who, in return, made him half-a-dozen curtsies without any remark. At length she commenced the conversation; and to relieve him from the embarrassment in which she perceived him thrown, she said, "My Lord Fanfarinet, I can easily imagine that all your ideas are of the most charming description. I give you credit for the possession of infinite wit. But let us hasten to the palace. It pours in torrents; it is the wicked Carabossa who is drenching us in this way. When we are once under shelter, we may laugh at her malice." He replied, with much gallantry, that the Fairy had wisely foreseen the conflagration such bright eyes were certain to cause, and had sent a deluge of water to keep it under. With these words he offered her his hand to lead her to the palace. She said to him, in a whisper, "I entertain sentiments for you which you would never imagine, if I did not express them to you myself. It is not without some pain that I do so: but 'honi soit qui mal y pense.' Know, therefore, my Lord Ambassador, that it was with admiration I saw you mounted on your beautiful dancing horse; that I regretted you came hither on any person's account but your own. If you have as much courage as I have, we will not fail to find a remedy for this evil. Instead of marrying you in the name of your master, I will marry you in your own. I know that you are not a prince; but you please me as much as if you were one. We will fly together to some safe retreat. It will make a great talk for a time, and then some one will do the same thing, or worse, and the world will leave me alone to talk about her, and I shall have the gratification of being your wife."

Fanfarinet thought he was dreaming, for Printaniere was a princess of such marvellous beauty and accomplishments, that but for this extraordinary fancy, he never could have hoped for such an honour. He was unable even to answer her. Had they been alone, he would have flung himself at her feet; he took, however, the liberty of squeezing her hand so hard that he hurt her little finger desperately; but she did not cry out, she was so exceedingly fond of him.

As she entered the palace, it resounded with the music of a thousand different instruments, with the strains of which, voices almost celestial blended in such exquisite harmony, that the listeners dared scarcely breathe for fear of making so much noise as would drown the softest note of it.

After the king had kissed his daughter on the forehead and on both cheeks, he said to her, "My pretty little lamb, (for he called her by all sorts of endearing names,) will you not be glad to marry the son of the great King Merlin? Here is Lord Fanfarinet, who will be proxy for him, and conduct you to the finest kingdom in the world." "Certainly, father," said she, making him a low curtsy, "I will do whatever you please, provided my good mother consents." "I consent, my darling," said the queen, embracing her. "So, quick! let them serve up the dinner,"—which they did directly. There were a hundred tables set out in a great gallery, and in the memory of man never did people eat so much, with the exception of Printaniere and Fanfarinet, who cared only to look at each other, and were so lost in their own thoughts that they forgot everything around them.

After the banquet, there was a ball, a ballet, and a play; but it was already so late, and they had eaten so much, that notwithstanding all this, the company slept as they stood. The king and queen, overpowered with sleep, flung themselves on a couch, the majority of the ladies and gentlemen snored, the musicians played out of tune, and the actors did not know what they were saying. Our lovers only were as lively as mice, and made a hundred little signs to each other. The princess, seeing there was nothing to fear, and that the guards, stretched on their straw-beds, were as fast asleep as the rest, said to Fanfarinet, "Take my advice, let us profit by so favourable an opportunity, for if I wait for the marriage ceremony, the king will place ladies in waiting about me, and appoint a prince to accompany me to the court of your King Merlin. We had better therefore be off at once as quick as we can."

She rose and took the king's dagger, the hilt of which was encrusted with diamonds, and the queen's head-dress, which her majesty had taken off in order to sleep more comfortably. She gave her white hand to Fanfarinet for him to lead her forth; he took it, and putting one knee to the ground, "I swear," said he, "eternal fidelity and obedience to your highness. Great princess, you sacrifice everything for me, what would I not do for you!" They quitted the palace; the ambassador carried a dark-lantern, and through very muddy lanes they made their way to the port. They got into a little boat in which a poor old boatman lay fast asleep. They awoke him, and when he saw the princess so beautiful and finely dressed, with so many diamonds, and her scarf of spider's web, he took her for the Goddess of the Night, and fell on his knees before her; but as they had no time for trifling, she ordered him to put off immediately. It was at great risk, for there was neither moon nor stars to be seen; the sky was still cloudy with the remains of the storm Carabossa had raised. It is true there was a carbuncle in the queen's head-dress, which gave more light than fifty flambeaux, and Fanfarinet (according to report) might have dispensed with his dark-lantern. There was also in the head-dress a precious stone which could render the wearer invisible.

Fanfarinet asked the princess whither she wished to go. "Alas!" she replied, "I would go with you; I have no other desire in the world." "But, Madam," rejoined he, "I dare not conduct you to the dominions of King Merlin. Hanging would be too good for me there." "Well," said she, "let us go to the Island of Squirrels; it is sufficiently distant to prevent your being followed." She ordered the boatman to make for it, and although his boat was a very little one, he obeyed.

As day began to dawn, the king, the queen, and all the court, having shaken their ears and rubbed their eyes a little, thought of nothing but proceeding to the marriage of the princess. The queen, in a great bustle, asked for the rich head-dress she wanted to put on again. They looked for it in all the cupboards, and hunted for it even in the saucepans; but no head-dress was to be found. The queen, very uneasy about it, ran up stairs and down stairs, into the cellar and into the garret. It was not to be found.

The king, in his turn, wished to wear his brilliant dagger. With the same diligence they rummaged for it every corner, and broke open quantities of chests and caskets, the keys of which had been lost for upwards of a century. They found a thousand curiosities in them;—dolls that shook their heads and moved their eyes; golden sheep with their little lambs; candied lemon-peel and sugared almonds: but all this could not console the king. His despair was so great that he tore his beard, and the queen, out of sympathy, tore her hair, for, truth to say, the head-dress and the dagger were worth more than ten cities as big as Madrid.

When the king saw there was no hope of finding either again, he said to the queen, "My love, let us take courage and hasten to finish the ceremony which has already cost us so dear." He inquired for the princess. Her nurse advanced and said, "My liege, I assure you that I have been seeking her these two hours in vain." These words crowned the grief of the king and queen. The latter began to scream like an eagle that has lost its young, and fell down in a swoon. Never was anything seen so distressing. They flung more than two pails full of Queen-of-Hungary water in her majesty's face without bringing her to herself. The ladies and maids of honour wept, and all the valets exclaimed, "What, is the king's daughter, then, lost?" The king, finding that the princess did not appear, said to his state page, "Go, seek Fanfarinet, who is asleep in some corner, that he may come and mourn with us." The pages sought everywhere, everywhere, and found him no more than they found Printaniere, the head-dress, or the dagger. Here was an additional affliction, which completed their majesties' despair.

The king summoned all his counsellors and officers; he entered, with the queen, a great hall, which had been hastily hung with black. They had put off their grand robes, and were each clad in a long mourning gown, girt with a cord. When they appeared in this attire, there was not a heart so hard that it was not ready to break. The hall resounded with sobs and sighs, and rivulets of tears ran down the floor. As the king had not had time to prepare a speech, he sat for three hours without uttering a word; at last he began thus:—

"Oyez! great folks and little! I have lost my beloved daughter Printaniere; I cannot tell whether she has melted away or been stolen from me. The queen's head-gear and my poignard, which are worth their weight in gold, have disappeared with the princess; and what is still worse, the ambassador Fanfarinet is gone too. I much fear that the king his master, not hearing any tidings of him, will come hither to seek for him, and will accuse us of having made him into minced-meat. Notwithstanding all this, I might have endured my misfortunes with resignation, if I had had any money; but I confess to you frankly, that the expenses of this wedding have ruined me. Consider, therefore, my dear subjects, what I can do to recover my daughter, Fanfarinet, et cætera."

Everybody admired the king's fine oration. Never before had he displayed so much eloquence. Lord Gambille, the chancellor of the kingdom, arose and spoke as follows:—

"Sire, we are exceedingly vexed at your vexation, and would willingly have sacrificed even our wives and our little children to have saved you from so much annoyance; but apparently this is a trick of the Fairy Carabossa. The princess had not completed her twentieth year; and as the whole truth should be told, I observed that she was constantly looking at Fanfarinet, and he at her. Perhaps Love has played one of his usual pranks on this occasion."

At these words, the queen, who was very hasty, interrupted him: "Take care what you are saying, my Lord Gambille," said she; "know that the princess is not the sort of person to fall in love with Fanfarinet; she has been too well brought up." Upon this, the nurse, who had overheard everything, entered, and flung herself on her knees before the king and queen. "I come," said she, "to confess the whole affair to you. The princess resolved to see Fanfarinet or die. We made a small aperture, through which she saw him enter the city, and she vowed upon the spot that she would never marry any one else."

At these tidings, everybody grieved deeply, and acknowledged that the Lord Chancellor Gambille was a person of great penetration. The queen, exceedingly annoyed, rated the nurse, the foster-sister, the dresser, the cradle-rocker, and the nursery-maid so soundly, that another word would have killed them.

Admiral Chapeau-pointu, interrupting the queen, exclaimed, "Come, let us pursue Fanfarinet! There can be no doubt that jackanapes has carried off our princess." Everybody clapped their hands, and cried, "Let us go!" Off went some to sea; others travelled from kingdom to kingdom, calling the people together by sound of drums and trumpets; and when a crowd had assembled, saying, "Whoever would obtain a beautiful doll, dry and wet sweetmeats, little scissors, a robe of gold stuff, and a handsome satin cap, has only to inform us whither the Princess Printaniere has fled with Fanfarinet." The answer was always, "Pass on; we have not seen them."

Those who sought the princess at sea were more fortunate; for after a considerably long cruise, they perceived one night something blazing in the distance like a great fire. They were afraid to approach it, not knowing what it could be; but all of a sudden this light appeared to stop at the Island of Squirrels; for, in fact, it was the princess and her lover with the great carbuncle which shed this wonderful lustre. They disembarked, and having given the good man who had rowed them a hundred golden crowns, bade him adieu, warning him, as he valued the eyes in his head, not to say a word about them to any one.

The first thing he met with was the king's fleet, which he no sooner caught sight of, than he tried to avoid it; but the admiral, having espied him, sent a boat after him, and the good man was so old and feeble, that he could not pull fast enough to escape. They soon came up with him, and brought him back to the admiral, who had him searched. They found on him a hundred gold crowns, bran new from the mint; for they had issued a new coinage in honour of the marriage of the princess. The admiral interrogated him, and to avoid answering, he pretended to be deaf and dumb. "Aha!" said the admiral, "tie me up this mute to the mainmast, and give him a sound lashing. It's the best cure in the world for dumbness."

When the old man found they were in earnest, he gave in, and confessed that a girl, more like a celestial than a human being, accompanied by a gentle cavalier, had commanded him to row them to the uninhabited Island of Squirrels. The admiral, on hearing these words, concluded immediately that it was the princess, and ordered the fleet to make sail for and surround the island.

In the meanwhile, Printaniere, weary after her voyage, finding a spot of green turf under some spreading trees, laid herself down, and fell into a sweet sleep; but Fanfarinet, whose hunger far exceeded his love, did not allow her much time for repose. "Do you imagine, Madam," said he, waking her, "that I can remain long here? I can find nothing to eat. Though you were fairer than day, I can't live upon love; I must have some more substantial food. I have good sharp teeth, and a very empty stomach!" "How! Fanfarinet," replied she, "is it possible that this proof of my affection for you has so little effect? Is it possible that you can think of anything but your good fortune?" "I think much more of my misfortune," exclaimed the ambassador. "Would to heaven you were in your dark tower again!" "Fair sir," said the princess, kindly, "be not angry, I pray you; I will go and hunt about everywhere, and perhaps I shall find some fruit." "I hope you will find a wolf that will eat you up," said Fanfarinet. The princess, much grieved, ran into the wood, tearing her fine clothes with the brambles, and her white skin with the thorns. She was scratched as if she had been playing with cats. (This is what comes of loving young men; it brings nothing but trouble!) After having searched everywhere, she returned, very sad, to Fanfarinet, and told him she had found nothing. He turned his back on her, and left her, muttering between his teeth.

The next morning they made another fruitless search; in short, they passed three days without eating anything but some leaves and a few cockchafers. The princess did not complain, though she was by far the most delicate. "I should be content," said she, "if I were the only sufferer, and should not mind being starved provided you had enough to eat." "You might die for what I care," replied he, "if I had but as much as I wanted." "Is it possible," rejoined the princess, "that you would be so little affected by my death? Is this the end of all the vows you have made me?" "There is a vast difference," said he, "between a man perfectly at his ease, who is neither hungry nor thirsty, and an unhappy wretch at the point of death in a desert island." "I am in the same danger," continued she, "and yet I do not murmur." "You would do so with a good grace, truly," answered he, bluntly: "you chose to quit your father and mother, to come rambling about here!—Mighty comfortable we are!" "But it was for love of you, Fanfarinet!" said she, holding out her hand to him. "I could willingly have spared you the trouble," said he; and thereupon he turned away from her.

The princess, pained to the heart, began to weep so bitterly that it would have melted a stone. She sat herself down beneath a bush covered with white and red roses. After having contemplated them for some time, she said to them: "How happy you are, young flowers! The zephyrs caress you, the dew bathes you, the sun embellishes you, the bees love you, the thorns defend you. Everybody admires you!—Alas! must you enjoy more tranquillity than I!"—This reflection caused her tears to flow so plenteously, that the roots of the rose-tree were quite soaked with them: she then perceived, to her great astonishment, that the bush became agitated, the roses expanded into fuller bloom, and the most beautiful one said to her: "If thou hadst not loved, thy lot would have been as enviable as mine. Who loves, incurs the greatest of misfortunes! Poor princess, thou wilt find in the hollow of that tree a honeycomb; take it: but do not be simple enough to give any to Fanfarinet." The princess ran to the tree, scarcely knowing whether she was in a dream or wide awake. She found the honey, and the moment she had it, she took it to her ungrateful lover. "Here," said she, "is a honeycomb; I could have eaten it all by myself, but I preferred sharing it with you." Without thanking, or even looking at her, he snatched it from her and ate it all up, refusing to give her the least morsel of it. He added sarcasm even to his brutality, saying that it was too sweet, and would spoil her teeth, and a hundred similar impertinences. Printaniere, more than ever afflicted, sat down under an oak, and addressed it in much the same strain as she had the rose-bush. The oak, touched with compassion, bent down to her some of its branches, and said, "'Twere pity thou shouldst perish, lovely princess; take that pitcher of milk, and drink it, without giving one drop to thy ungrateful lover." The princess, perfectly astonished, looked behind her, and immediately perceived a large pitcher full of milk. She could think of nothing from that moment, but the thirst which Fanfarinet might be enduring after eating more than fifteen pounds of honey. She ran to him with the pitcher: "Quench your thirst, handsome Fanfarinet," said she; "but don't forget to leave me a little, for I am parched and famishing!" He took the pitcher rudely from her, made but one draught of its contents, and then, flinging it on some stones, broke it to pieces, saying, with a malicious smile, "When one hasn't eaten one isn't thirsty."

The princess clasped her hands, and raising her beautiful eyes to heaven, exclaimed, "Ah! I have well deserved this! I am justly punished for having left the king and queen!—for having so thoughtlessly loved a man of whom I knew nothing!—for having fled with him without considering my rank, or reflecting on the misfortunes with which I was threatened by Carabossa!" She then began to weep more bitterly than she had ever done in her life, and plunging into the thickest part of the wood, she sank, exhausted, at the foot of an elm, on a branch of which sat a nightingale that sang marvellously the following words, flapping his wings, as if he sang them only for Printaniere. He had learned them expressly from Ovid:—

"Love is a wicked god. The little knave
Ne'er grants a boon but to secure a slave;
Beneath the cover of deceitful joys,
His poison'd shaft the heart's repose destroys.

"Who can know it better than I!" exclaimed she, interrupting the bird. "Alas! I am too well acquainted with the cruelty of his shafts and that of my fate!" "Take courage," said the amorous nightingale, "and look in this thicket; thou wilt find therein sweetmeats and tartlets from Le Coq's; but do not again commit the imprudence of giving any to Fanfarinet." The princess needed not this prohibition to prevent her doing so. She had not yet forgotten the last two tricks he had played her; and besides, she was so very hungry, that she began at once to eat the almonds and the tartlets. The greedy Fanfarinet, having perceived her eating by herself, flew into such a passion, that he ran to her, his eyes flashing with fury, and his drawn sword in his hand, to kill her. She instantly uncovered the jewel of the head-dress which rendered the possessor invisible, and, keeping out of his reach, reproached him with his ingratitude in terms which sufficiently proved that she could not yet positively hate him.

In the meanwhile, Admiral Chapeau-pointu had despatched Jean Caquet, with his straw boots, Cabinet-courier in ordinary, to tell the king that the princess and Fanfarinet had landed on the Island of Squirrels; but that, being unacquainted with the country, he was afraid of ambuscades.

At these tidings, which gave their majesties much joy, the king sent for a great book, each leaf of which was eight ells long. It was the masterpiece of a learned Fairy, and contained a description of the whole earth. The king learned thereby that the Island of Squirrels was uninhabited. "Go," said he to Jean Caquet, "and order the admiral in my name to land instantly. It was very wrong of him, and of me, to leave my daughter so long with Fanfarinet."

As soon as Jean Caquet had returned to the fleet, the admiral ordered a grand flourish of drums, kettle-drums, trumpets, hautbois, flutes, violins, hurdygurdys, organs, and guitars. There was the most desperate uproar, for all these musical instruments of war and peace were to be heard incessantly throughout the island. Alarmed by the noise, the princess flew to her lover to offer him her assistance. He was by no means brave, and their mutual danger quickly reconciled them. "Keep behind me," said she to him, "I will go first; I will uncover the jewel that renders the bearer invisible, and with my father's dagger I will kill all I can of the enemy, while you kill the rest with your sword."

The invisible princess advanced to meet the soldiers. She and Fanfarinet killed numbers without being seen. Nothing was heard but cries of "I am slain!" "I am dying!" The troops fired in vain; they hit nothing, for the princess and her lover dived like ducks, and the balls passed over their heads. At length, the admiral, concerned at losing so many men in so extraordinary a manner, without knowing who attacked him, or how to defend himself, ordered a retreat to be sounded, and returned to his ships to hold a council of war.

Night was already far advanced. The princess and Fanfarinet took refuge in the thickest part of the wood. Printaniere was so tired that she lay down on the grass, and was just dropping off to sleep, when she heard a sweet little voice whisper in her ear, "Save thyself, Printaniere, for Fanfarinet would murder and devour you!" Quickly opening her eyes, she saw, by the light of the carbuncle, the wicked Fanfarinet, with his arm already raised to pierce her bosom with his sword; for, being very hungry, her whiteness and plumpness had tempted him to kill and eat her. She no longer hesitated about what she should do. She drew the dagger she had kept about her since the battle, and struck him with it such a blow in the eye, that he fell dead on the spot. "Ungrateful wretch!" she cried; "take that as the reward thou hast most deserved. Be thou an example for the future to all perfidious lovers; and may thy treacherous spirit never rest in peace!" When the first transports of her fury had subsided, and she thought of the situation she was in, she became almost as lifeless as him she had just slain. "What will become of me?" she exclaimed, weeping: "I am all alone in this island! wild bears will devour me, or I shall be starved to death." She almost regretted she had not let herself be eaten by Fanfarinet. She sat herself down trembling, waiting for daylight, which she was most anxious to behold, for she was afraid of ghosts, and particularly of the nightmare.

As she leaned her head against a tree, and looked up to the sky, she observed, on one side, a beautiful golden chariot drawn by six great tufted hens, with a cock for coachman, and a fat chicken for postilion. In the chariot was a lady, so handsome—so handsome—that she resembled the sun. Her dress was embroidered all over with gold spangles and bars of silver. She saw also another chariot to which were harnessed six bats. A crow was the coachman, and a beetle the postilion. In it was a frightful little monkey-faced woman, whose dress was made of a serpent's skin, and upon her head a large toad by way of a fontange.[2]

Never, no never in the world was any one so astonished as the young princess. As she contemplated these wonders, she suddenly perceived the chariots advance to meet each other; and the lovely lady wielding a golden lance, whilst the ugly one grasped a rusty pike, they commenced a furious combat, which lasted more than a quarter of an hour. At length, the beauty was victorious, and the fright flew away with her bats. The former immediately descended, and addressing Printaniere, said to her: "Fear nothing, amiable princess, I came hither only to serve you. The combat I have fought with Carabossa was only for the love of you. She claimed the right to whip you for having left the tower four days before you were twenty, but you perceive that I took your part and have put her to flight. Enjoy the happiness I have won for you." The grateful princess flung herself at the lady's feet. "Great Queen of the Fairies," said she to her, "your generosity transports me; I know not how to thank you; but I feel that there is not a drop of this blood you have saved which I would not shed to serve you." The Fairy embraced her three times, and made her more beautiful than she was before—supposing such a thing to be possible.

The Fairy ordered the cock to proceed to the royal fleet, and tell the admiral to approach without fear, and sent the fat chicken to her palace to fetch the most beautiful dresses in the world for Printaniere. The admiral was so overjoyed at the tidings brought him by the cock, that he narrowly escaped a fit of illness. He came ashore instantly with all his men, including Jean Caquet, who, observing the hurry in which everybody left the ships, made as much haste himself, and threw upon his shoulder a spit, well loaded with game.

Admiral Chapeau-pointu had scarcely proceeded a league when he perceived in one of the great avenues of the forest the chariot drawn by hens, in which the two ladies were riding. He recognised the princess, and was about to kneel, but she told him that all the honours were due to the generous Fairy, who had saved her from the clutches of Carabossa; on which he kissed the hem of the Fairy's robe, and paid her the finest compliment that was ever uttered upon such an occasion. Before he could finish, the Fairy interrupted him, exclaiming, "I vow I smell roast meat!" "Yes, Madam," said Jean Caquet, displaying the spit loaded with excellent birds; "it is only for your highness to desire to taste." "Most willingly," she replied; "less for my own sake than for that of the princess, who has need to make a good meal." They immediately sent to the fleet for everything that was necessary, and the delight of having found the princess, joined to the good cheer, left nothing to be wished for.

The repast being finished, and the fat chicken having returned, the Fairy dressed Printaniere in a robe of gold and green brocade, powdered with rubies and pearls. She tied up her beautiful hair with strings of diamonds and emeralds, crowned her with flowers, and placing her in the chariot, all the stars that saw her pass thought it was Aurora who had not yet made her appearance, and said as she went by, "Good morning, Aurora."

After much leave-taking between the Fairy and the princess, the latter said, "Shall I not, Madam, have the pleasure of informing the queen, my mother, who it is that has done me such service?" "Beautiful princess," replied she, "embrace her for me, and say that I am the fifth Fairy who endowed you at your birth."

The princess having gone on board the admiral's ship, they fired all the guns and more than a thousand rockets. She arrived safely in port, and found the king and the queen awaiting her, and who received her with such caresses that she had no time to ask pardon for her past follies, though she had flung herself at their feet the moment she saw them. Paternal tenderness excused her completely, and all the fault was laid upon old Carabossa. At the same moment the son of the great King Merlin arrived, exceedingly anxious at not having heard any news of his ambassador. He came with a thousand horses and thirty servants splendidly dressed in scarlet richly laced with gold. He was a hundred times more amiable than the ungrateful Fanfarinet. They took good care not to say anything to him about the little adventure of the elopement. It might perhaps have awakened a few suspicions. They told him the very plausible story, that his ambassador being thirsty, and endeavouring to draw some water to drink, had fallen into the well and been drowned. He believed it implicitly, and the nuptials were celebrated amidst so much joy that all past sorrow was entirely forgotten.

Whatsoever Love may urge,
Ne'er from Duty's path diverge;
Suffer not, in any season,
Will to triumph over Reason.
Ever should that mistress kind
Rule the heart and school the mind,
Curbing, with her friendly rein,
Passions wild and wishes vain.


 

 
  1. A jacket or pelisse of the Hungarian fashion; whence its name.
  2. A knot of riband, so called from the celebrated Madame de Fontange, whose hair coming down during a hunting party at Vincennes, tied it up hastily with one of her garters. Louis XIV. was so pleased with the effect, that he requested her to continue to wear her hair so arranged; and the next day the ladies of the court made their appearance with a riband or top-knot, thenceforth known as a fontange.