THERE was once a queen who had nothing left to wish for but to have children. She could talk of nothing else, and would constantly say that the Fairy Fanferluche, who had been present at her birth, and who bore a grudge against the queen, her mother, had flown into a rage, and had wished her no thing but ill-luck.
One day, as she sat alone grieving by the fireside, she saw a little old woman, no bigger than your hand, come down the chimney, riding on three reeds. On her head was a branch of hawthorn; her gown was of flies' wings, and two nutshells served for shoes. She rode through the air, sweeping three times round the room, and then stopped in front of the queen. "For a long time," she said, "you have been grumbling at me, saying I am to blame for your misfortunes, and that I am responsible for all that happens to you. You think, madam, that it is my fault you have no children. I come to announce to you the birth of an infanta, but I warn you she will cost you many a tear." "Ah! noble Fanferluche," exclaimed the queen, "do not deny me your pity and your aid; I undertake to do everything in my power for you if you will promise that the princess shall be a comfort to me and not a grief." "Fate is stronger than I," replied the fairy. "All that I can do to prove my affection for you is to give you this hawthorn. Fasten it to your daughter's head as soon as she is horn; it will protect her from many perils." And, giving her the haw thorn, she vanished like a flash of lightning.
The queen remained sad and pondering. "What!" she said, "do I really desire a daughter who is to cost me many sighs and tears? Should I not be happier without her?" When the king, whom she dearly loved, was with her her troubles seemed more bearable. Her child would soon be born, and in preparation for the event she gave her attendants strict charge to fasten the haw thorn on the princess's head directly she should come into the world. She kept the branch in a golden box covered with diamonds, and valued it above all her possessions.
At length the queen gave birth to the loveliest creature that ever was seen. Without delay the hawthorn was fastened on her head, and at the same instant, wonderful to relate! she turned into a little monkey, and jumped and ran and capered about the room a perfect monkey and no mistake! At this metamorphosis all the ladies uttered horrible cries, and the queen, more alarmed than any one, thought she should die of despair. She ordered the flowers to be taken off the creature's head. With the greatest difficulty the monkey was caught but it was in vain that the fatal flowers were removed. She was already a monkey, a confirmed monkey. She could not suck nor do anything else like a child, and cared only about nuts and chestnuts.
"Wicked Fanferluche!" exclaimed the queen, sorrowfully, "what have I done that you should treat me so cruelly? What is to become of me? What a disgrace for me, that all my subjects should think I have brought a monster into the world! and how horrified the king will be at seeing such a child!" In tears she entreated her ladies to advise her what to do in this serious case. "Madam," said the oldest, "you must persuade the king that the princess is dead, and we must shut up this monkey in a box and cast it to the bottom of the sea; it would be a terrible thing to keep an animal of this sort any longer."
The queen had some scruple in making up her mind; but when she was told that the king was coming into her room, she became so confused and distressed that without further consideration, she bid the lady-in-waiting do what she liked with the monkey.
It was carried into another apartment and shut up in a box. One of the queen's servants was ordered to throw it into the sea; and he at once set off with it. Now was the princess in the greatest danger; for the man, seeing that the box was beautiful, was very unwilling to throw it away. Sitting down by the sea-shore, he took the monkey out of the box, and, not knowing it was his sovereign, resolved to kill her. But while he held it in his hand a loud noise startled him and made him turn his head. He saw an open chariot drawn by six unicorns, glittering with gold and precious stones, and in front marched several trumpeters. A queen in royal robes and with a crown on her head was seated on cushions of cloth of gold, and held her four-year-old son on her knee.
The servant recognised the queen, for she was his mistress's sister and had come to rejoice with her. But as soon as she learned that the little princess was dead, she set out in great sadness to return to her own kingdom. She was startled from a deep reverie by her son crying out: "I want the monkey! I will have it"; and, on looking, the queen saw the prettiest monkey that ever was. The servant looked about for means of escape, but they would not let him go. The queen gave him a large sum of money; and, finding the monkey a gentle little plaything, called her Babiole, who thus, in spite of the cruelty of fate, fell into the hands of her aunt.
When she reached her own realms the little prince begged her to give him Babiole for a playmate. He wished her to be dressed like a princess; so every day new frocks were made for her. She was taught to walk only on her feet; and a prettier and nicer-looking monkey could nowhere be found. Her face was black as a jay's, and she wore a little white hood with bright red tufts at the ears. Her hands were no bigger than butterflies' wings, and the expression of her bright eyes was so intelligent that no one could be astonished at her accomplishments. When the prince, who was very fond of her, caressed her, as he was always doing, she took great care not to bite him; and when he cried she cried too.
She had been living four years with the queen when, one day, she began to stutter like a child trying to speak. Every one was astonished, and still more so when she began to talk in a sweet and clear voice, and so distinctly that not a word was lost. Here was a marvel! Babiole talking! Babiole making her self understood by words! The queen sent for the monkey to amuse, her; and, to the great disappointment of the prince, she was taken to the queen's apartment. It cost him some tears; and, to console him, dogs, cats, birds, and squirrels were given him, and even a pony, called Criquetin, who danced the saraband ; but all that did not make up for a word from Babiole. As for her, she was less at her ease with the queen than with the prince. She had to reply like a sybil to a hundred witty and learned questions that she did not always understand. Directly an ambassador or a foreigner arrived she had to appear in a gown of velvet or brocade with stiff bodice and ruff. If the court was in mourning she wore a long mantle and crape, a costume that tired her very much, she was no longer permitted to eat what was to her taste: the doctor gave the orders, and these did not at all please her; for she was as self as only a monkey born a princess could be.
The queen gave her masters who cultivated her bright wit. She excelled in playing on the harpsichord; and a wonderful instrument had been made for her out of an oyster-shell. Painters from the four quarters of the globe, and especially from Italy, came to paint her. Her fame flew from one end of the earth to the other, for never before had a talking monkey been heard of.
The prince, as beautiful as Cupid, and as full of grace and wit, was a Prodigy no less extraordinary. He came to see Babiole, and sometimes played with her; and now and then their talk would turn from merry jests to serious subjects, and to moralising. Babiole had a heart; and it had not been metamorphosed like the rest of her little person; and she became so exceedingly fond of the prince that her affection began to be harmful to her. The unhappy I did not know what to do. She passed her nights on the top of a window shutter, or in the chimney corner, and would not enter her clean, soft, downy, and padded basket. Her governess (for she had one) heard her often sigh, and sometimes she would utter her laments aloud. Her melancholy grew with her intelligence; and she never saw herself in a mirror without trying in her vexation to break it. For, as it used to be said, once an ape, always an ape, so Babiole could not get rid of the evil disposition natural to her race.
The prince had grown up. He liked hunting, dancing, the drama, feats of arms, and books, and rarely now gave the monkey a thought. With her it was quite otherwise. She loved him better at twelve than she had at six; but when she reproached him for his neglect he thought he made the amplest amends that could to be expected of him when he gave her a rosy apple or some candied chestnuts
At last the fame of Babiole began to make a great sensation in Monkeyland, and Magot, the king of the monkeys, was greatly desirous of marrying her. For that purpose he sent a magnificent embassy to ask her hand from the queen. It was not difficult to explain his intentions to his chief ministers, but it would have been infinitely hard to express them to others without the aid of parrots and the birds commonly called magpies. They chattered a great deal; and the jays, who accompanied the procession, felt in honour bound to make as much noise as their companions.
A big ape, called Mirlifiche was chief of the embassy. He had a coach made of pasteboard on which were painted the loves of the King Magot with Monette, a monkey renowned throughout Monkeyland, who had died a cruel death by the claws of a wild cat that had taken her playfulness seriously. The delights that Magot and Monette had enjoyed during their married life, and the profound sorrow with which the king had wept for her after her death, were there depicted. Six white rabbits, of first-rate breed, drew the coach, called by distinction the state carriage. Behind came a chariot, in which were the monkeys destined to wait on Babiole. You should have seen how they were dressed! It really seemed as if they were going to a wedding. The rest of the procession was composed of little spaniels, young greyhounds, Spanish cats, Muscovy rats, a few hedgehogs, sly weasels, and greedy foxes. Some drove the chariots, others carried the baggage. Mirlifiche, graver than a Roman dictator, wiser than a Cato, rode a young hare that ambled better than an English gelding. The queen knew nothing of this magnificent embassy until it arrived at her palace. Hearing shouts of laughter from the people and the guards she put her head out of the window, and beheld the most extraordinary cavalcade she had ever seen in her life. Immediately Mirlifiche, followed by a considerable number of monkeys, approached the chariot of the ladies of his troop, and, giving his paw to the big one, called Gigona, he helped her to get down. Then letting loose the little parrot, who was to act as his interpreter, he waited while the beautiful bird was presented to the queen and begged an audience.
The parrot, mounting gently in the air, went to the window from which the queen was looking out, and said in the prettiest tone of voice imaginable: "Madam, his grace Count Mirlifiche, ambassador of the celebrated Magot, king of Monkeyland, begs an audience of your majesty, to discuss a very important question". "Pretty parrot," said the queen, caressing him, "first you must eat some roast meat and have something to drink. After that, you may go and tell Count Mirlifiche that he is heartily welcome to my realm, and so are all who accompany him. If he is not too much fatigued by his journey, he can presently enter the audience chamber, where I, on my throne, will await him with the whole court."
At these words the parrot kissed his claw twice, saluted the guard, sang a little tune to give vent to his joy, and taking to his wings again and perching on Mirlifiche's shoulder, whispered in his ear the favourable answer he had just received. Mirlifiche was fully sensible of the honour, and told the magpie Magot, who had been appointed as sub-interpreter, to ask one of the queen's officers to be good enough to give him a room in which to rest for a few moments. Accordingly, a saloon paved with coloured and gilded marble, one of the handsomest in the palace, was opened, and he entered with a part of his suite. But since monkeys are naturally very inquisitive, they smelt out a certain corner in which many pots of preserves had been stored. Immediately the gluttons set on it. One seized a crystal cup full of apricots, another a bottle of syrup; some took patties, others marzipan. The winged creatures who accompanied them were vexed at the sight of a repast where there was neither hemp or millet seed; and a jay, by profession a great talker, flew into the audience chamber, and, respectfully approaching the queen, said: "Madam, I am too much your majesty's obedient servant to be a willing party to the havoc that is being made in your delicious preserves. Count Mirlifiche has already eaten three pots himself; he was gobbling up the fourth without the slightest respect for your royal majesty, when, deeply grieved, I came to warn you." "Thanks, little jay, for your friendly thought," said the queen, smiling, "but you need not be so zealous for my pots of preserves; I relinquish them for the sake of Babiole, whom I love with all my heart." The jay, somewhat ashamed of the attack he had just made, withdrew without a word.
A few moments later the ambassador entered, accompanied by his suite. He was not dressed quite in the fashion, for since the famous Fagotin, who made such a brilliant figure in the world, had returned home, a good model had been lacking. He wore a sugarloaf hat with a bunch of green feathers, a shoulder belt of blue paper covered with gold spangles, deep frills to his breeches, and carried a cane. The parrot, who passed for something of a poet, having Composed a very solemn harangue, advanced to the foot of the throne on which the queen was seated. Addressing her he spoke thus:--
"Learn the power of your eyes' bright lire
By the love that they in King Magot inspire!
These monkeys, birds, cats--all this splendid array
Are here, at his word, and his passion display.
Monette, the queen, beloved of her race--
Except you, none had ever so comely a face--
By a wild cat's claws she was mangled and torn,
And Magot, the king, was left all forlorn.
The king to her memory faithfulness swore,
And to love her for ever and evermore;
But you, from his heart, by your sweet perfection,
Have chased of his first love all recollection.
In you now, madam, he finds all his delight;
And, could you but measure his passion's height,
No doubt but your heart, framed in pity's fashion
To cure his love, would share his passion.
For once on a time he was hearty and gay,
But now he is weak and thin alway
As if pain bore him company every hour--
Ah! madam, indeed he feels love's power!
The olives and nuts that he found so good
Are now to his palate but tasteless food
He dies!--'tis you alone that can save--
You alone can keep him on this side the grave.
On all the delights that your coming await
In our happy land, can I not dilate.
There figs and grapes will fail you never,
And the finest fruits are in season ever."
The parrot had no sooner finished his speech than the queen looked at Babiole, who was covered with confusion. Before replying, the queen, wishing to find out her feelings, asked the parrot to explain to the ambassador that, as far as she was concerned, she favoured his master's suit. The audience finished, she withdrew, and Babiole followed her into her closet. "My little one," she said, "I shall be very sorry to part with you, but it is not possible to refuse Magot, who asks your hand in marriage, for I have not yet forgotten that his father sent two hundred thousand monkeys into the field to carry on a great war against mine. They ate so many of our subjects that we were obliged to make an ignominious peace." "You mean, madam," answered Babiole, impatiently, "that, to avoid his wrath, you are resolved to sacrifice me to this wretched monster, but I at least implore your majesty to grant me a few days in which to make up my mind." "That is but fair," said the queen; "nevertheless, if you will take my advice, decide quickly. Consider the honours in store for you, the magnificence of the embassy, and the number of ladies-in- waiting sent to you. I am sure that Magot never did for Monette what he has done for you." "I do not know what he did for Monette," replied little Babiole, disdainfully, "but I do know that I care very little for these marks of affection for me." Then she rose, and, gracefully curtseying, sought the prince to tell him her troubles. As soon as he saw her, he cried out: "Well, my Babiole, when are we to dance at your wedding?" "I do not know, sir," she said, sadly; "but I am so wretched that I have no longer the strength to keep my secret from you; and, although it ill becomes my modesty, I must confess to you that you are the only one I wish for a husband." "Husband!" said the prince, bursting out laughing, "husband, little one! Well, that is delightful! but all the same, I trust, you will excuse me if I do not accept your proposal, for, to tell the truth, in our persons, our appearance, and our manners, we are not exactly a match." "I agree with you," she said, "especially since our hearts are not alike. For a long while I have seen that you are ungrateful, and I am extremely foolish to love a prince who so little deserves it." "But, Babiole," said he, "think of the trouble I should be in to see you perched on the top of a sycamore, holding on to a branch by the end of your tail. Come now, let this be a joke, and for your honour and mine marry the monkey king, and, in token of our firm friendship, send me your first little Magot." "It is fortunate for you, sir, that my nature is not entirely that of a monkey. Any other than myself would have already torn out your eyes, bitten off your nose, and wrenched off your ears; but I leave you to the reflections your unworthy conduct will one day cause you.' She could say no more. Her governess came to fetch her, the ambassador Mirlifiche having entered her apartment with magnificent presents.
There was a costume made of a spider's web, embroidered with tiny glow-worms, an egg-shell case for combs. A white-heart cherry served for a pin cushion, and all the linen was trimmed with paper lace. In a basket there were several carefully-chosen shells, some to serve for ear-rings, others for bodkins, all of them shining like diamonds; and, what was even better, a dozen boxes full of sweetmeats, and a little glass chest with a hazel-nut and an olive inside. But the key of this was lost, and Babiole troubled little about it.
The ambassador gave her to understand, in the chattering language of Monkeyland, that his sovereign was more touched by her charms than he had ever been by those of any other monkey; that he intended to build her a palace at the top of a fir tree; that he sent these gifts and the fine preserves as a mark of his attachment; and that indeed the king, his master, could prove his affection in no better way. "But," he added, "the strongest testimony to his love, and that which you ought to feel most deeply, is, madam, the trouble he has been at to have his picture painted, so that you may anticipate the pleasure of seeing him." He then displayed the portrait of the King of the Monkeys, seated on a huge log, eating an apple.
Babiole turned away her head that she might not look longer on so ugly a face, and after some little display of temper gave Mirlifiche to understand that she thanked his master for his esteem, but that, as yet, she had not made up her mind whether she intended to marry at all.
Meanwhile, the queen determined not to draw down on herself the anger of the monkeys, and, believing there would be little difficulty in sending Babiole wherever she wished her to go, had everything prepared for her departure. At this news, despair took possession of Babiole. The prince's disdain on one hand, the queen's indifference on the other, and more than all that, the prospect of such a husband, made her resolve to run away. It was not a very difficult matter, for, since she could speak, she was no longer tied up, and came and went as she liked, and would enter her room as often by the window as by the door.
She set out as quickly as possible, jumping from tree to tree, from branch to branch, until she came to the bank of a river. The violence of her despair blinded her to the danger she was running into in attempting to cross by swimming. Without the least consideration she threw herself in, and immediately went to the bottom. But there she did not lose consciousness; she saw a magnificent grotto, adorned with shells. She hastened in, and was received by a venerable old man, whose white beard reached to his waist. He was lying on a bed of reeds and irises, with a crown of poppies and wild lilies on his head, and propped up against a rock, from whence flowed several springs that fed the river.
"Well! what brings you here, my little Babiole?" said he, reaching her his hand. "Sir," she replied, "I am an unfortunate monkey; I am running away from a hideous ape, to whom they wish to marry me." "I know more about you than you think," added the wise old man. "It is true you detest Magot, but it is equally true that you love a young prince who cares nothing for you." "Ah! sir," cried Babiole, sighing, "do not let us speak of him. The recollection of him only makes my sorrows harder to bear." "He will not be always insensible to love," continued the King of the Fish "I know he is reserved for the most beautiful princess in the world." "Unhappy wretch that I am!" continued Babiole; "then he will never be mine!" The old man smiled, and said: "Do not grieve, my good Babiole. Time is a wonderful master. Only take care not to lose the little glass chest Magot sent you, and that you have, perchance, now in your pocket. I can tell you no more. Here is a tortoise that travels at a good rate. Seat yourself on her; she will take you where you have to go." "After what I owe you," said Babiole, "I cannot help wishing to know your name." "I am called," he said, "Biroquoi, father of Biroquie, a river, as you see, of considerable size and fame."
Babiole mounted her tortoise with the greatest confidence. For a long time they floated over the water, and at length, by what seemed a very round about way, the tortoise gained the bank. It would be difficult to imagine anything prettier than the side saddle and the rest of the trappings. There were even little horse-pistols, for which two crab-shells served as cases.
Babiole was journeying on with the utmost confidence in wise Biroquoi's promises when she suddenly heard a great noise. Alas! alas! it was the ambassador Mirlifiche, with all his attendants returning to Monkeyland sad and sorrowful at Babiole's flight. A monkey belonging to the troop had, during the halt for dinner, climbed a nut tree, in order to throw down nuts to feed the little ones; but no sooner had he reached the top of the tree than, looking round on every side, he saw Babiole on the poor tortoise, who was slowly making her way across the open country. At sight of her he began to shout so loudly that the assembled monkeys asked him, in their language, what was the matter. He told them, and immediately the magpies and jays were let loose, and they flew to where she was. On their report, the ambassador, the monkeys, and the rest of the company ran and stopped her.
Here was a misfortune for Babiole! Nothing more unlucky or disagreeable could possibly have happened. She was forced to get into the state carriage, which was immediately surrounded by the most vigilant monkeys, by a few foxes, and a cock who, perched on the top, kept guard day and night. A monkey led the tortoise along as a rare animal, and so the cavalcade continued its journey, to the great sorrow of Babiole, whose sole companion was Madam Gigona, a cross-grained and disagreeable monkey.
At the end of three days, which passed without adventure, the guides having lost their way, they reached a large and magnificent city, whose name they did not know; but, seeing a beautiful garden with the gate standing open, they stopped there, and plundered it, as if it had been a conquered country. One crunched nuts, another gobbled cherries, a third despoiled a plum tree. Indeed, there was not the smallest monkey but joined in the pillage, and laid in a store.
You must know that this city was the capital of the kingdom where Babiole was born; her mother lived there, and since she had had the misfortune to see her daughter changed into a monkey by means of a hawthorn branch, had never allowed a monkey, a baboon, or an ape to remain in the kingdom, nor, indeed, anything that could recall to her mind the deplorable and fatal circumstance. A monkey was looked upon as a disturber of the public peace. Think, then, what was the astonishment of the people to see a paste board coach, a chariot of painted straw, and all the rest of the most extraordinary cavalcade that was ever seen since tales were tales, and fairies fairies
The news spread quickly to the palace. The queen was paralysed; she thought the whole race of monkeys meant to make an attack on her government. She immediately summoned her council, who, by her orders, found the whole troop guilty of high treason, and, not wishing to lose the opportunity of making such an example of them as should be remembered in the future, she sent her officers into the garden with orders to seize them all. Big nets were cast over the trees, and the capture was soon effected.
In spite of the respect due to the rank of an ambassador, this high office was most contemptuously treated in the person of Mirlifiche, who was pitilessly cast into the depths of a cellar under a big empty cask, where he and his companions were imprisoned, with the lady monkeys, both matrons and damsels, who accompanied Babiole.
As for Babiole, she felt a secret joy at this fresh disturbance. When misfortunes reach a certain point nothing further is dreaded, and death itself seems desirable. Such was her condition, for her heart was full of the prince who disdained her, and her mind occupied with the horrible thought of King Magot, whose wife she was on the point of becoming.
Besides, we must not forget to mention that she was so prettily dressed, and her manners were so distinguished, that those who had seized her, stopped to look at her as something quite marvellous, and when she spoke to them they were still more surprised, for they had already heard of the wonderful Babiole. The queen who had found her, and who did not know of her niece's metamorphosis, had often written to her sister that she possessed an extraordinary monkey, and begged her to come and see it, but the unhappy queen would pass over that sentence without reading it.
At length the warders, carried away by admiration, brought Babiole into a big gallery and made her a little throne. She sat on it more like a sovereign than a captive monkey, and the queen, happening to pass by, was so vastly taken with her pretty face and the charming compliments she paid her, that, in spite of herself, the nature within her made appeal for the infanta. She took her in her arms; and, as for the little creature, feelings she had never known before stirred within her. She threw herself on the queen's neck and spoke such loving and engaging words that all who heard her were delighted. "No, madam," she exclaimed, "it is not the fear of approaching death, with which I am told you threaten the unfortunate race of monkeys, that terrifies me and makes me try to please you and soften your heart. The cutting short of my life is by no means the greatest misfortune that can happen to me, and I have in me feelings so far above my condition that I should regret any step whatsoever that might be taken to preserve my life. It is you yourself I love. Your crown is of far less consequence to me than your goodness."
I ask you, what reply could be made when Babiole spoke such winning words? The queen said not a word, but opened her two eyes wide, seemed to consider, and felt her heart strangely stirred.
She carried the monkey into her closet, and when they were alone she said to her: "Tell me your adventures without a moment's delay, for I feel that of all the animals who inhabit the menageries, and whom I keep in my palace, you will be the one I shall love most. I assure you that for your sake I will pardon the monkeys who accompany you." "Ah! madam," she exclaimed, "I ask nothing for them. By ill-luck I was born a monkey, and that same ill-luck gave me intelligence that will cause me suffering till I die. For what must I feel when I see myself in my mirror: little, ugly, and sooty, my hands covered with hair, with a tail, and with teeth ever ready to bite; while, at the same time, I do not lack intelligence, and have taste, refinement, and quick feelings?" "Do you know what it is to love?" said the queen. Babiole sighed, but did not answer. "Oh!" continued the queen, "you must tell me if you love a monkey, a rabbit, or a squirrel; for, if you are not already too deeply pledged, I have a dwarf who will just suit you." At that proposal Babiole looked so disdainful that the queen burst out laughing. "Don't be angry," she said, "and tell me how it is that you can speak."
"All that I know of my adventures," replied Babiole, "is that your sister had scarcely left you after the birth and death of your daughter, when going along the sea-shore she saw one of your servants on the point of drowning! At her command I as taken from him By a miracle that equally astonished everybody, speech and reason were given to me. Masters, who taught me several languages and to play musical instruments, were pro vided for me. At length, madam, I became aware of my misfortune, and--but," she exclaimed, seeing the queen's face pale and covered with a cold perspiration, "what is the matter, madam? I observe an extraordinary change in your appearance." "I am dying!" said the queen, in a weak, almost inaudible voice, "I am dying; my beloved and only too unhappy daughter! have I at last found you again!" At these words she swooned. Babiole, terrified, ran and called for aid. The queen's ladies hurried to give her water, to unlace her and put her to bed. Babiole crept in with her, and she was so small that no one noticed her.
When the queen had recovered from the long swoon into which the princess's words had thrown her, she desired to be left alone with the ladies who knew the fatal secret of her daughter's birth. She told them what had happened, and they were so dismayed that they did not know what advice to give.
But the queen commanded them to tell her what they considered it expedient to do in this lamentable case. Some said the monkey must be strangled, others that she should be shut up in a den; others, even, that she should be again thrown into the sea. The queen wept and sobbed. "She has so much intelligence," said she; "what a pity to see her reduced to this miserable condition by an enchanted bouquet! But, after all," continued she, "she is my daughter; it is I who brought on her the wicked Fanferluche's anger. Is it right that she should suffer on account of that fairy's hatred for me?" "Yes, madam," exclaimed her old lady-in-waiting, "your reputation must be saved. What would the world think if you declared that a little monkey was your daughter? It's not in nature to have such children when one is as beautiful as you." The queen lost patience at hearing her talk thus. But the old lady and the others were equally persistent that the little monster must be got rid of; and, finally, she determined to shut Babiole up in a castle, where she would be well fed and kindly treated, for the rest of her life.
When Babiole heard that the queen intended to put her in prison, she slipped quietly out by the side of the bed, and, throwing herself from the window on to a tree in the garden, escaped to the big forest, and left everybody in confusion at her loss.
She spent the night in the hollow of an oak, where she had leisure to reflect on the cruelty of her fate. What caused her most distress was to be forced to leave the queen, but she preferred voluntary exile and the preservation of her liberty to the loss of it for ever.
As soon as it was light she continued her journey, without knowing where she wished to go, thinking and thinking a thousand times over of the strangeness of this most extraordinary adventure. "What a difference," she exclaimed "between what I am and what I was meant to be!" Tears flowed freely from poor Babiole's little eyes.
Directly day appeared she set out, fearing the queen would send after her, or that one of the monkeys escaped from the cellar would take her, against her will, to King Magot. She went on by slow degrees without following road or path until she reached a great desert, where there was neither house, nor tree, nor fruit, nor grass, nor spring. She entered it without thinking; and, only when she began to feel hungry, recognised too late that travelling in such a country was exceedingly imprudent.
Two days and two nights went by without her being able to catch even a grub or a fly. The fear of death seized on her, and she was so weak that she was on the point of swooning. She sank down on the ground; and, remembering the olive and the hazel nut in the little glass box, she thought they might make her a slight repast. Delighted at this ray of hope, she took a stone, broke the box to pieces, and crunched the olive.
But she had scarcely put her teeth in it when a great quantity of scented oil came pouring out upon her paws, which immediately turned into the most beautiful hands in the world. Her surprise was extreme: she took the oil and rubbed herself all over. Oh! wondrous! she immediately became so beautiful that there was nothing in the world like her. She felt that she had big eyes, a small mouth and a well-shaped nose. She was dying for a mirror; and at length managed to improvise one out of the biggest piece of the glass box. And when she saw herself, what joy! What a delightful surprise! Her clothes grew in size like herself; her head was well dressed; her hair fell in thousands of curls; her complexion was fresh as the flowers in spring. The first moments of surprise over, hunger made itself more acutely felt, and her distress vastly increased. "What!" she said, "so young and so beautiful, a born princess, and I must perish in this barren place! Oh! wretched fate that led me here! How strangely is my destiny shaped! Have you made so delightful and unexpected a change in me only to make my troubles greater? And you, venerable river Biroquie, who so generously saved my life, will you leave me to perish in this frightful solitude?"
In vain did the infanta implore help--the whole world was deaf to her voice. Hunger tormented her to such a degree that she took the hazel nut and cracked it; but, in throwing away the shell, she was greatly surprised to see come out of it architects, painters, masons, upholsterers, sculptors, and ever so many other sorts of workmen. Some made designs for a palace, others built it; others, again, furnished it. Some decorated the rooms, and some cultivated the gardens; everything shone with gold and azure. A magnificent banquet was served; sixty princesses, more beautifully dressed than queens, accompanied by squires and followed by pages, came to her with charming compliments, and invited her to the feast that awaited her. Babiole at once, without waiting to be entreated, advanced quickly, with the air of a queen, into the hail, where she ate ravenously of the food.
Scarcely had she left the table when her treasurers brought her fifteen thousand chests, big as hogsheads, filled with gold and diamonds. They asked her if she was agreeable that they should pay the workmen who had built her palace. She replied that was only right, on condition that they would also build a city, marry, and remain with her. They all consented and, although the city was five times bigger than Rome, it was finished in three quarters of an hour. Surely these were wonders enough to come out of a little hazel nut!
The princess was considering in her mind whether she should send an imposing embassy to her mother, and some reproachful messages to her cousin, the young prince. While the necessary measures were being taken she amused herself with looking on at the tilting, where she always awarded the prize, with cards, the play, hunting and fishing, for a river had been brought into her domain. The fame of her beauty spread over the whole world: kings from the four corners of the earth came to her court with giants taller than mountains, and pigmies smaller than rats.
It happened that on a certain day a great tournament was being held. Several knights entered the lists. They got angry with each other, came to blows, and were wounded. The princess, in great wrath, came down from the balcony to see who were the guilty men: but when they were disarmed what was her distress to see the prince, her cousin! If he was not dead, he was very nearly so, and she thought she must herself die of surprise and grief. She had him carried into the finest apartment of the palace, where nothing necessary for his cure was wanting--physicians from Chodrai, surgeons, salves, broths, and syrups. The infanta herself made the bandages and prepared the lint. Her eyes moistened them with tears, and such tears must have been balm to the sick man. For, indeed, he was ill in more ways than one; not to reckon a half-dozen sword thrusts, and as many cuts from a lance which pierced him right through, he had been for some time at the court incognito, and had fallen a victim to the power of Babiole's charms to an extent past recovery. It is then easy to imagine something of what he now felt, when he could read in the kindly princess's face that she was in the utmost trouble because of the condition to which he was reduced.
I shall not stop to record all the things his heart prompted him to say in thanking her for the kindness she showed him. Those who heard him were surprised that a man so ill could show so much affection and gratitude. The infanta, who blushed more than once, begged him to be silent; but the emotion and the ardour of his words excited him to such an extent that she saw him suddenly seized by a frightful agony. Until then she had remained perfectly calm, but now she entirely lost her self-control, tore her hair, uttered loud cries, and made everybody think that her heart was easily given away, since, in this short time, she had become so fond of a stranger. For in Babiola (as she had called her kingdom) it was not known that the prince was her cousin, and that she had loved him since her childhood.
It was while travelling that he had stopped at her court, and, as he knew no one to present him to the infanta, he thought nothing would serve him better than to perform before her five or six heroic feats: for instance, to cut off the legs and arms of the knights of the tournament. But he did not find them amiable enough to permit this. There was only in consequence a wild confusion; the strongest overcame the weakest, and, as I have already said, the weakest was the prince.
Babiole, in despair, ran along the high road without carriage or guards. Entering a wood, she fell swooning at the foot of a tree, where the Fairy Fanferluche, who never slept, and only sought opportunities of doing evil, came and carried her off in a cloud which was blacker than ink, and travelled faster than the wind. For some time the princess remained unconscious, but at length she came to herself. Never did surprise equal hers at finding herself so far from the earth, and so near the heavens. The floor of the cloud was not solid, so that in running here and there she seemed to be walking on feathers, and when it partly opened she had much ado to keep from falling off. There was no one to whom she could complain, for the wicked Fanferluche had made herself invisible. She had time to think of her beloved prince, and of the condition in which she had left him, and her soul was filled with the saddest thoughts. "How!" she exclaimed, "can I survive him whom I love, or how can dread of a speedy death find a place in my heart! Ah! if the sun would scorch me it would be doing me a good turn, or if I could drown myself in the rainbow, how happy I should be! But, alas! the whole zodiac is deaf to my cries: the archer has no arrows, the bull no horns, the lion no teeth. Perhaps the earth will be kinder, and on the sharp point of a rock I may meet my death. Oh, prince! my beloved cousin, if you were only here to see me take the most tragic leap a despairing lover can imagine." With these words she ran to the edge of the cloud, and threw herself off like an arrow shot from a tight strung bow.
All who saw her thought the moon was falling; and as the moon was then on the wane, many of its worshippers, who were some time without seeing it again, went into deep mourning, and persuaded themselves that the sun had played it this wicked trick out of jealousy.
However desirous the infanta might be of dying, she did not succeed. She fell into the glass bottle in which the fairies generally exposed their ratafia to the sun. But what a bottle! No tower in the universe was so big. Fortunately it was empty, or she would have been drowned like a fly.
The six giants who guarded it immediately recognised the infanta. They were the same who dwelt in her court, and they loved her. The malicious Fanferluche, who did nothing by chance, had transported them there each on his winged dragon, and when the giants slept the dragons guarded the bottle. While Babiole was there, there were many days when, she regretted the loss of her monkey's skin. She lived like the chameleons on air and dew.
The infanta's prison was known to none. The prince was ignorant of its existence. He was not dead, and continually asked for Babiole. He saw by the melancholy of all those who attended him that there was some cause of general grief at the court. His native good-breeding prevented him from seeking to discover it. But when he was convalescent he begged so hard for news of the princess that they had not the courage to conceal her loss from him. Those who had seen her enter the wood declared she had been devoured by lions, and others believed she had killed herself out of despair; others again maintained that she had gone out of her mind, and was wandering over the world.
Since the last suggestion was the least terrible, and somewhat revived the prince's hopes, he decided it was so, and set out on Criquetin, whom I mentioned before--although I did not remark that he was the eldest son of Bucephalus, and one of the best horses of that age. Riding with a loose rein, letting his horse go at hazard, he called the infanta's name aloud, but the echoes alone replied.
At length he reached the bank of a broad river. Criquetin was thirsty, and went into the water to drink; and the prince, according to his custom, began to shout with all his might: "Babiole, beautiful Babiole, where are you?
He heard a voice whose sweetness seemed to delight the wave; it said to him: "Approach, and you shall know where she is". At those words the prince, as brave as he was loving, gave two pricks of the spur to Criquetin, swam out and found a gulf where the water rushed down more rapidly. He sank to the bottom, fully persuaded that he was going to be drowned.
He arrived safely at the abode of the good Biroquoi, who was celebrating his daughter's marriage with one of the richest and most important rivers of the land. All the fishy deities were in the grotto; tritons and mermaids made pleasant music, and the river Biroquie, lightly clad, danced Olivettes  with the Seine, the Thames, the Euphrates, and the Ganges, who had certainly come a long way to enjoy each other's society. Criquetin, who was a well-bred horse, stopped respectfully at the entrance of the grotto, and the prince, whose manners were even better than those of his horse, making a low bow, asked if a mortal like himself was permitted to appear among so fine a company.
Biroquoi took up the word, and replied in an affable manner that they would be honoured and pleased were he to do so. "I have been expecting you, sir, for some days," he continued. "I am devoted to your interests, and those of the infanta are dear to me. You must rescue her from the fatal place where the vindictive Fanferluche has imprisoned her. She is shut up in a bottle." "What do you tell me!" exclaimed the prince, "the infanta in a bottle?" "Yes," said the wise old man, "she suffers greatly; but I warn you, sir, that unless you follow my advice it is not easy to overcome the giants and dragons who guard her. You must leave your good horse here, and mount a winged dolphin I have been training for you for a long time past." He ordered the dolphin, saddled and bridled, to be brought, and it pranced and curvetted so finely that Criquetin was jealous.
Biroquoi and his companions made haste to arm the prince. They put on him a shining cuirass made of the scales of golden carps; his helmet was a big snail-shell, shaded by a large cod's tail, raised up to form an aigrette; a naiad girded him with an eel belt, from which hung a formidable sword made of a long fish bone. Afterwards he was given a great tortoise-shell for a shield; and so equipped there was never a little gudgeon that would not have taken him for the god of the soles, for, to speak the truth, this young prince had a certain air seldom found among mortals.
The hope of soon finding the charming princess he loved, inspired him with a gladness he had been unable to feel since her disappearance, and the faithful chronicler of this tale remarks that he ate with a good appetite at Biroquoi's board, and thanked the company in no common words. He bade his Criquetin farewell, and mounted the flying fish, which immediately set out.
At the end of the day the prince found himself so high up that, in order to rest a little, he entered the kingdom of the moon. The strange and rare things he discovered there would have delighted him had he been less anxious to get his infanta out of the bottle in which she had been living for several months.
Day had scarcely dawned when he saw her surrounded by the giants and dragons that the fairy, by the power of her wand, had set over her. So little did the fairy dream that any one could be strong enough to deliver her, that she relied on the vigilance of her terrible guards to keep her in suffering.
The beautiful princess was pitifully looking at the heavens, and addressing her sad laments to them, when she saw the flying dolphin and knight who came to rescue her. She would not have believed the adventure possible had she not known, from her own experience, that to certain people the most extraordinary things are always happening. "Is this knight," she said, "transported into the air by the malice of the fairies? Alas! how I pity him if a bottle or a decanter is to serve him for a prison, like me!
While she was reflecting thus, the giants, who saw the prince above their heads, thought it was a kite, and cried one to the other: "Catch it; catch the cord, it will amuse us"; but when they stooped to pick it up, he cut and thrust at them, and hacked them to pieces like a pack of cards you cut in half and scatter to the winds. At the noise of this great combat the infanta turned her head and recognised her young prince. What joy to be certain he still lived! but what terror to see him in so evident danger in the midst of those terrible giants and dragons who were throwing themselves on him! She cried aloud in terror, and the thought of the danger he was in nearly killed her.
However, the magic fish bone with which Biroquoi had armed the prince's hand did not strike in vain, and the nimble dolphin, who raised himself, and came down just at the right moment, was also a wonderful help; so that in a very short time the ground was covered with the monsters.
The impatient prince, seeing his infanta through the glass, would have dashed it in pieces had he not feared wounding her. So he descended instead by the neck of the bottle. When he was at the bottom he threw himself at Babiole's feet and respectfully kissed her hand. "Sir," said she, "it is right, if I am to deserve your esteem, that I should tell you the reasons that induced me to take so tender an interest in your preservation, You must know that we are near relations; that I am the daughter of the queen, your aunt, and the very same Babiole you found in the shape of a monkey by the sea-shore, and who afterwards was weak enough to show towards you an affection you disdained." "Ah, madam!" exclaimed the prince. "Can I believe so extra ordinary a tale? You were a monkey! You loved me! I knew it; and my heart was capable of refusing the greatest happiness in the world!" "I should now," replied the infanta, smiling, "have a very poor opinion of your taste if you could then have felt any affection for me. But, sir, let us depart; I am tired of being a prisoner, and I fear my enemy. Let us go to the queen, my mother, and tell her these extraordinary things, that must surely be of great interest to her." "Come, let us go, madam," said the anxious prince, mounting his winged dolphin, and taking her in his arms; "let us restore to her, in your person, the most charming princess in the world."
The dolphin rose up gently, and shaped his course towards the capital, where the queen was passing her sad life. Babble's flight had left her not a moment of peace. She could not help thinking of her and recalling the pretty things she had said to her; and, monkey as she was, the queen would have given half her kingdom to see Babiole again.
When the prince arrived he disguised himself as an old man and asked for a private audience "Madam," he said, "since my earliest youth I have studied the art of necromancy. You must know, therefore, that I am not ignorant of the hatred Fanferluche has for you, and the terrible results it has caused. But dry your tears, madam; Babiole, whom you remember so ugly, is now the most beautiful princess in the world. You will have her with you if you will forgive the queen, your sister, for the cruel war she has waged against you, and conclude the peace by the marriage of your infanta with your nephew, the prince." "I cannot delude myself that what you tell me is true," replied the queen, weeping; "good old man, you wish to alleviate my distress; I have lost my daughter, I have no longer a husband; my sister claims my kingdom, her son is as unjust as she is, they persecute me; I will never make an alliance with them." "Fate decrees otherwise," he continued; "I am chosen to inform you of it." "Well, and where would be the good, if I did consent to this marriage? The wicked Fanferluche has too much power and malice; she would never be reconciled to it." "Do not disturb yourself about that, madam," replied the old man; "only promise me that you will offer no opposition to the desired marriage." "I promise everything," exclaimed the queen, "if only I may see my beloved daughter once more."
The prince left her, and ran to the spot where the infanta was waiting for him. She was surprised at his disguise, and he was obliged to tell her that for some time the interests of the two queens had been greatly opposed, and that there had been much ill-feeling between them, but that he had just gained his aunt's consent to what he wished. The princess was enchanted. She repaired to the palace, and all who looked on her saw in her so perfect a likeness to her mother that they eagerly followed to find out who she was.
As soon as the queen saw her, her heart was so mightily stirred that no other testimony was needed to the truth of the story. The princess threw her self at the feet of the queen, who clasped her in her arms. At first they were silent, wiping away each other's tears with a thousand tender kisses; and then they said everything that such an occasion could suggest. Then the queen, casting her eyes on her nephew, welcomed him very kindly, and repeated to him what she had promised the magician. She would have gone on speaking, but, hearing a noise in the courtyard of the palace, she put her head out of the window, and had the pleasant surprise of seeing that the queen, her sister, had arrived. The prince and the infanta, who were also looking out, recognised in her suite the venerable Biroquoi; and even the good Criquetin was there too. Each party shouted for joy at the sight of the other; and they hastened to meet once again with a delight that cannot be described. The far-famed marriage of the prince and the infanta was immediately concluded in defiance of the Fairy Fanferluche, whose cunning and malice were thus equally confounded.
: A slow dance in triple time.
: Olivette, a kind of dance in use among the Provencals after the gathering in of the olives.