ONCE upon a time there was a poor labourer who, knowing he was about to die, wished to leave nothing behind him that his son and daughter could quarrel about after his death, for he loved them tenderly. "Your mother brought me for a dowry," he said, "two stools and a straw mattress. These, with my hen, would have been my only belongings, had not a pot of pinks and a silver ring been given me by a great lady who lived for some time in my poor cottage. When she went away, she said to me: 'My good man, here is a present for you. Be careful to water the pinks, and to keep the ring in a safe place. I may also tell you that your daughter will be wonderfully beautiful. Call her Fortunée; and give her the ring and the pinks to comfort her for being so poor.' So, dear Fortunée," the good man went on, "you shall have both these, and the rest of my belongings I leave to your brother."
The labourer's two children appeared to be satisfied. Their father died, and they wept, and afterwards they shared his belongings without any dispute. Fortunée thought her brother loved her, but once when she was about to sit down on one of the stools, he said to her in an angry tone: "You keep your pinks and your ring, but don't meddle with my stool. I like order in my house." Fortunée, who was very gentle, began to cry quietly, and remained standing, while Bedou [that was the brother's name] sat there as fine as if he had been a learned doctor. Supper time came on; Bedou had a beautiful, fresh egg which his only hen had laid, and he threw the shell towards his sister, saying: "See, I have nothing else to give you; if that isn't enough, go and hunt for frogs; there are plenty in the marsh near by". Fortunée answered nothing, but lifting her eyes to heaven she wept again; then she went to her own room. She found it filled with a delicious scent, which she knew, of course, must be from her pinks. She went up to them, saying, in a sad voice: "Pretty pinks, With all your different colours so fair to see, how you comfort my sad heart by your sweet scent. Never fear that I shall let you want for water, or with cruel hand wrench you from your stalks. I shall take care of you, for you are all I have in the world." Then she looked to see if they wanted watering. They were very dry, so she took the pitcher and ran out in the moonlight to the stream some little way off. As she had walked very fast, she sat down on the bank to rest, but hardly had she done so before she saw a lady, whose majestic air beseemed the large number of attendants who accompanied her. Six maids-of-honour held up the train of her robe, while she leaned on two others. Her guards marched before her, richly clad in amaranth velvet embroidered with pearls. They carried an armchair spread with cloth of gold, on which she presently sat down, and a portable canopy was quickly set up over her head. At the same time there were others spreading a table all covered with golden vessels and crystal vases. An excellent supper was served on the banks of the stream, and the soft murmur of the water seemed to blend with the different voices that were singing these words:--
"Soft and low the summer air
Gently stirs the woodlands there;
Bright flowers glittering on the sod
Mark where Flora's feet have trod;
'Neath the cool shades hear the choirs
Of birds that sing their soft desires;
Would you catch the soft notes too?
Lovers plenty wait for you."
Fortunée hid in a little corner, not daring to move, so surprised was she with all that was happening. After a moment the queen said to one of her squires: "It seems to me that I see a shepherdess near that bush. Bring her here." So Fortunée came forward; and though she was naturally very timid, she did not fail to make a deep bow to the queen, and she did it with so much grace that those who saw her were much astonished. Taking the hem of the queen's robe in her hand she kissed it, and then stood before her with her eyes cast dawn, the pink blush on her cheek showing up the whiteness of her complexion. Altogether you could not fail to see in her manners that air of mild simplicity that is so charming in young people. "What are you doing here?" the queen asked her. "Are you not afraid of robbers?" "Alas! madam," said Fortunée, "I have only a cotton frock; so what good would it do them to rob a poor shepherdess like me?" "You are not rich then?" replied the queen, smiling. "I am so poor," said Fortunée, "that my whole inheritance from my father is a pot of pinks and a silver ring." "But you have a heart," added the queen. "If some one wished to take it from you, would you give it away?" "I do not know what it means to give away my heart, madam," she replied. "I have always heard that without one's heart one cannot live; that when it is wounded one must die, and in spite of my poverty I am not sorry to live.' "You will always be right, my pretty girl, to defend your heart. But tell me," the queen went on, "did you have a good supper this evening?" "No, madam," said Fortunée, "my brother ate up everything." The queen ordered them to lay a place for her, and setting her down at the table, she gave her all the best things on it. The young shepherdess was so struck with admiration, and so touched with the queen's kindness, that she could hardly eat a morsel. "I would like very much to know," said the queen, "what you were doing so late at the stream." "Madam," she answered, "there is my pitcher; I was fetching water to water my pinks." So saying she bent down to take hold of the pitcher which was near her; but when she showed it to the queen she was much astonished to find it turned into a golden one, all covered with diamonds and filled with deliciously-scented water. She dared not take it away with her, fearing it was not her own. "I give it to you, Fortunée," said the queen. "Go and water the flowers which you take such good care of, and do not forget that the Queen of the Woods means to be a friend to you." At these words the shepherdess threw herself at her feet. "After giving you my very humble thanks, madam," she said, "for the honour you do me, I make so bold as to ask you to wait here a moment. I am going to fetch you the half of what belongs to me, my pot of pinks. It can never be in better hands than yours." "Very well, Fortunée," said the queen, gently stroking her cheeks. "I will remain here till you return." Fortunée took her golden pitcher, and ran to her little room; but while she had been away her brother Bedou had gone in, taken away her pot of pinks, and put a big cabbage in its place. When Fortunée saw this miserable cabbage she was in despair, and hesitated whether she should go back to the stream or not. At last she made up her mind to do so, and kneeling down before the queen she said: "Madam, Bedou has stolen my pot of pinks; I have only my ring left, and I beg you to take it as a proof of my gratitude". "If I take your ring, pretty shepherdess," said the queen, "you will be ruined." "Ah! madam," she answered, with a pretty air of grace, "if I have your favour I cannot be ruined." The queen took Fortunée's ring and put it on her finger. Then she got into her chariot of coral, decked with emeralds, which was drawn by six white horses, more splendid than the equipage of the sun. Fortunée followed her with her eyes as long as she could, till the turns in the forest roads hid her from her sight. Then she went back to Bedou, her mind full of this adventure.
The first thing she did on entering her room was to throw the cabbage out of the window. But she was much astonished to hear a voice crying: "Ah! you have killed me!" She could not understand what these cries could mean for cabbages are not in the habit of talking. As soon as it was day, Fortunée anxious about her pot of pinks, went outside to look for it, and the first thing she found was the miserable cabbage. Giving it a kick, she said: "What are you doing here? Do you think you do as well in my room as my pinks?" "If I had not been put there," replied the cabbage, "I should never have thought of intruding." Fortunée trembled, for she was very much afraid. But the cabbage spoke once more. "If you will only put me back amongst my kind, I will tell you in two words that your pinks are in Bedou's bed." Fortunée, in despair, did not know how to get possession of them, but she was kind enough first to plant the cabbage, and then taking up her brother's favourite hen, she said: "Naughty creature! I shall make you pay for all the trouble that Bedou gives me". "Ah! shepherdess," said the hen, "let me live, and as I am of a very talkative humour, I shall tell you the most interesting things. Do not think that you are the daughter of the labourer in whose house you have grown up? No, fair Fortunée, he was not your father. But the queen who gave you life had already had six daughters, and--as if she could have borne a son if she had wished--her husband and her father-in-law told her they would stab her if she did not give them an heir. The poor queen, in great distress, was about to have another child. They shut her up in a castle, surrounded her with guards, or rather executioners, who were ordered to kill her if she bore another daughter. The princess, terrified at the danger that threatened her, neither ate nor slept. But she had a sister who was a fairy, and she wrote to tell her of her fears. The fairy, too, was to bear a child, whom she knew would be a son. When he was born, therefore, she packed her son comfortably in a basket, which she gave in charge to the winds, telling them to carry the little prince into the queen's room, and exchange him for the daughter whom she would bear. This plan was, however, of no use, for the queen, not receiving news from her sister the fairy, took advantage of the good nature of one of her guards, who pitied her and let her escape by a cord ladder. As soon as you were born, the poor queen, seeking a hiding-place, came to this hut half dead with fatigue and pain. I was an industrious woman," said the hen, "and a good nurse, so she gave you in charge to me, telling me all her sorrows, with which she was so overcome that she died before she had time to tell us what should be done with you. As I have been very fond of talking all my life, I could not keep from telling this adventure. So one day there came here a beautiful lady, to whom I related everything I knew about it. She touched me immediately with her wand, and I was turned into a hen, and never could speak any more. My grief was terrible, and my husband, who was from home when the change occurred, never knew the truth. When he came hack he looked for me everywhere, till at last he thought I was drowned, or that the beasts of the forest had devoured me. The same lady who had done me such a wrong passed by here a second time; she ordered him to call you Fortunée, and made him a present of a pot of pinks and a silver ring. But while she was in the hut, there came five-and-twenty of your royal father's guards, who were seeking you with evil intentions. She muttered some words, and they were all turned into green cabbages, one of which it was you threw out of the window last night. I had never heard him speak till now. I myself could not speak either, and I know not how my voice has come back to me."
The princess was very much astonished at the wonders which the hen told her of. She felt stirred with pity for her, and said: "I am deeply sorry, my poor nurse, that you were turned into a hen. I should very much like to give you back your former shape if I could. But despair of nothing. It seems to me that all the things you have just told me about cannot always remain as they are now. Meanwhile I am going to look for my pinks, for I love them better than anything else."
Bedou had gone to the wood, never imagining that Fortunée would think of rummaging in his bed. She was delighted that he was from home, and was hoping she would find no difficulty, when all at once she saw a great quantity of enormous rats ready for fight. They were drawn up in battalions, with the bed in question behind them, and the stools by their sides. Some large mice formed a reserve force, bent on fighting like Amazons. Fortunée was much surprised, and dared not go nearer, for the rats were attacking her, biting her, and making the blood flow. "What "she cried, "my pinks, my dear pinks, will you remain in such bad company?" All at once the thought struck her that perhaps the perfumed water which she kept in the golden pitcher might have some special virtue, so she ran to fetch it, and threw some drops of it on the host of rats and mice. In a moment the rabble scampered off, each one to his hole, while the princess bore away her beautiful pinks in haste. They were nearly dead, so much in want of water were they, and she poured on them all she had in her golden pitcher. She was smelling them with great delight when she heard a very sweet voice which came from amongst the leaves and which said: "Wonderful Fortunée! behold the happy day so longed for, when I may declare my feelings to you; for the power of your beauty is such, that even flowers are conscious of it". The princess trembling and astonished at having heard a cabbage and a hen talk, and now a pot of pinks, and at having seen an army of rats, turned pale and fainted.
At that moment Bedou arrived. His work and the heat of the sun had so excited him, that when he saw that Fortunée had come to seek for her pinks, and had found them, he dragged her to the door and put her out. Hardly had her cheeks touched the cool earth before she opened her beautiful eyes, and saw standing by her the Queen of the Woods, ever charming and dignified. "You have a wicked brother," she said to Fortunée, "I saw how cruelly he threw you out here. Do you wish to be revenged on him?" "No, madam," she said, "I do not know what anger is, and his evil nature cannot change mine." "But," said the queen, "I have a strong Conviction that this coarse labourer is not your brother; what do you think?" "All the facts that I am aware of go to prove that he is, madam," replied the shepherdess, modestly, "and I must believe them." "What 'said the queen, "have you not heard that you were born a princess?" "I have just heard it," she answered; "yet dare I venture to boast of a thing of which I have no proof?" "Ah, dear child," said the queen, "how I like to see you in this humour! I know now that the obscure bringing up you have had has not stifled the noble blood in your veins. Yes, you are a princess, and it has not been in my power to save you from the misfortunes which you have experienced up till now."
Here she was interrupted by the arrival of a young man, who was fairer than the day. He was dressed in a long doublet of green and gold silk, fastened with large buttons of emeralds and rubies and diamonds. On his head was a crown of pinks, and his hair hung clown over his shoulders. As soon as he saw the queen, he bent one knee to the ground and greeted her respectfully. "Ah! dear Pink," she said, "the unhappy term of your enchantment has come to an end by the help of fair Fortunée. What joy to see you!" And she clasped him close in her arms, and then turning towards the shepherdess she said: "Fair princess, I know all that the hen has told you; but what you do not know is, that the zephyrs, whom I had ordered to exchange my son for you, carried him to a flower-bed while they were searching for your mother, who was my sister. Meanwhile a fairy who knew the most secret things, and with whom I had long been on bad terms, so cleverly seized the opportunity she had been on the watch for ever since the birth of my son, that she changed him on the spot into a pot of pinks, anti for all my skill I could not prevent this misfortune. Stung with grief, I used all my art to find a remedy, and I could think of nothing better than to bring Prince Pink to the place where you were being brought up, guessing that when you would have watered the flowers with the delicious water which I had in the golden vase, he would speak, he would love you, and that after that nothing would disturb your peace. I had even in my possession the silver ring which it was necessary for me to receive from your hand, as a sign that the hour was at hand when the charm should lose its force, in spite of the rats and the mice that our enemy sent out to hinder you from touching the pinks. So, dear Fortunée, if my son marries you with this ring, your happiness will never end. Look now if the prince seems to you handsome enough to take him for a husband." "Madam," she replied, blushing, "you heap favours on me. I know that you are my aunt, that by your skill the guards sent to kill me were turned into cabbages, and my nurse into a hen. In proposing to marry me to Prince Pink, you do me more honour than I deserve. But, may I tell you why I hesitate? I do not know what his feelings are for me, and I begin to feel for the first time in my life that I would not be satisfied if he did not love me." "Have no doubts on that point, fair princess," said Pink; "for long you have impressed me as you wish to impress me now, and if I had been able to speak, what should I not have told you every day as to how my affection was growing, burning within me? But I am an unfortunate prince to whom you are quite indifferent." Then he repeated these verses to her:--
"Ah I kinder was my lot before,
When I, a flower, was all your care,
When on my blossoms you Set store,
And happier were that I was fair;
For your dear eyes I bloomed anew;
For you I gathered perfume sweet;
And when I looked in vain for you
While far off tarried your feet,
My faded petals told a tale
Of a poor heart that down would sink,
And a poor life that 'gan to fail.
Then water cool you'd bid me drink,
And kisses sweet would be my food,
And I was whole and bloomed again,
My soul aglow with gratitude;
To prove my passion I was fain;
Oh! how I longed some fairy power
Would break the charm that bound so fast
My being in a fragile flower!
My prayers are answered now at last.
I see you, love you, and can speak
My love, and all my soul's desire--
Only, alas I in vain I seek
What once was mine. Your looks retire,
Your words their former feeling lack.
Gods! did I of my lot complain?
My human shape I give you back
Ah, let me be a flower again!"
The princess seemed very pleased with Pink's gallantry, and praised highly the verses he had made on the spot, and though she was not used to hearing verses, she spoke of them like a person of good taste. The queen, who was impatient at seeing her still dressed as a shepherdess, touched her with her wand, and wished for her the richest dresses that ever were seen. At the word her white cotton frock changed into silver brocade embroidered with carbuncles. From her hair, which was piled high on her head, a long veil of gauze and gold fell down. Her black hair sparkled with diamonds, and her complexion, which had been of dazzling whiteness, became like blooming roses, till the prince could hardly bear to look on its brilliancy. "Ah! Fortunée, how beautiful and charming you are!" cried he, with a sigh. "Will you not comfort me in my distress?" "Nay, my son," said the queen, "your cousin will not resist our prayers."
While she was speaking, Bedou passed by on his way to work, and seeing Fortunée like a goddess, he thought he must be dreaming. She called him in a kindly voice, and begged the queen to have pity on him. "What! after having ill-treated you so?" she said. "Ah, madam," replied the princess, "I am incapable of revenge." The queen kissed her, praising her generous feeling. "To please you," she added, "I am going to make the ungrateful Bedou rich." Thereupon his hut became a palace, beautifully furnished and full of money. But his stools did not change, neither did his bed, to remind him of his former state. And the Queen of the Woods sharpened his wits, softened his manners, and changed his face. Then Bedou felt capable of gratitude, and poured out his thanks to the queen and the princess.
Afterwards by a touch of her wand, the cabbages became men, and the hen a woman. Only Prince Pink was dissatisfied, and sighed as he stood by his princess, begging her to look more kindly upon him. At last she consented. She had never seen a handsome prince before, and the handsomest was as nothing to this one. The Queen of the Woods, delighted by so happy a marriage, took every pain to make all the arrangements as sumptuous as possible. The merrymaking went on for several years, and the happiness of this loving couple lasted their whole life long.