THERE was once a queen who had lost all her children except one daughter, who was all the world to her. But, being a widow, and loving the young princess as the dearest thing on earth, she was so fearful of losing her that she never corrected her faults. Thus the maiden, whose beauty was extraordinary and divine rather than mortal, and who was destined to wear a crown one day, became so headstrong and so vain of her budding charms that she looked down on everybody.
Her mother, by her caresses and indulgence, encouraged her in the belief that there was nobody worthy of her. She was nearly always dressed as Pallas or Diana, attended by the greatest ladies of the court attired as nymphs. And, to put the finishing stroke to her vanity, the queen called her Toutebelle: and having had her picture painted by the most skilled artists, sent it to several kings with whom she kept up a close friendship. When they gazed on the picture, not one of them was proof against the irresistible power of her charms. Some fell ill, others went out of their mind, and the more fortunate who reached her side in good health, no sooner set eyes on her than they became her slaves.
Never was there such gallantry and courtesy at any court. Twenty kings vied with each other to please her; and, after spending three and four hundred millions on a single fête, they thought themselves only too well recompensed if they obtained from her a word, such as "How pretty!" Their adoration delighted the queen. Not a day passed but there came to her court seven or eight thousand sonnets, and as many elegies, madrigals, and songs, sent by all the poets of the universe. Toutebelle was the one and only subject of the prose and verse of the authors of the time. Yet these poems served for nothing but lighting bonfires, and they sparkled and burned better than any kind of fuel.
The princess was fifteen years old, but no one dared aspire to the honour of becoming her husband; and yet there was no one who did not desire to be the happy man. But how were they to touch a heart like hers? They would have thought little of being hanged five or six times a-day just to please her, but she would have regarded it as a mere trifle. Her lovers murmured loudly against her cruelty, and the queen, who wished her to marry, did not know how to persuade her to make up her mind. "Will you not," she used sometimes to say, "lay aside a little of the intolerable pride that causes you to look with contempt on all the kings who come to our court? I want you to marry one of them. You have no desire to please me." "I am so happy," replied Toutebelle. "Allow me, madam, to remain as I am, calm and indifferent. If I once lost my peace of mind you would be sorry." "Yes," replied the queen; "I should be sorry if you loved some one beneath you; but consider those who ask you, and learn that nowhere are others to be found like them."
That was true; but the princess's idea of her own merits was such that she thought herself worth something better still; and by degrees her obstinacy in remaining single began deeply to grieve her mother, who repented, but too late, of having been so indulgent.
Uncertain what she ought to do, she determined to go all by herself to see a celebrated fairy called the Fairy of the Desert. But it was no easy matter to get at her, for she was guarded by lions. The queen would have found it impossible had she not long since learnt that you had to throw them a cake made of millet seed, sugar candy, and crocodiles' eggs. She kneaded the cake herself, and put it in a little basket which she carried on her arm. Unaccustomed to so much walking, she became tired, and lay down at the foot of a tree to take some rest. Before she was aware of it she had fallen asleep, and on awaking found that the cake was no longer in the basket; and, to complete her misfortune, she heard the lions approaching. They had scented her, and were making a great noise.
"Alas!" she cried, sorrowfully, "what will become of me? I shall be eaten up." She wept, and, having no strength to run away, remained by the tree where she had slept. At the same time she heard a sound like "Chet! Chet! Hem! Hem!" Raising her eyes, she looked all round her, and saw on the tree a little man no bigger than your arm, eating oranges. "Oh! queen," he said to her, "I know you well, and I know the fright you are in lest the lions should eat you up; and you have every reason to be afraid, for they have eaten many others. To add to your misfortune, you have no cake." "I must make up my mind to die," said the queen, sighing. "Alas, I should be less distressed if my dear daughter were married!" "What? You have a daughter!" cried the yellow dwarf, who was so called from the colour of his complexion and the orange tree in which he lived. "Truly, I rejoice, for I have been seeking a wife over sea and land. Come now, if you promise to give her to me I will under take to protect you from lions, tigers, and bears." The queen looked at him, and was scarcely less afraid of his hideous little face than of the lions. She seemed to be pondering, and she answered not a word. "What! you hesitate, madam?" he cried. "Then you do not care much for your life?" At the same moment the queen saw the lions on the top of a hill running towards her.
They had each two heads, eight feet, four rows of teeth, and their skin was as hard as shell, and as red as morocco leather. At that sight the poor queen, more fearful than a dove at the sight of a kite, exclaimed with all her might: "Sir Dwarf! Toutebelle is yours". "Oh!" he said, with a contemptuous air, "Toutebelle is too beautiful; I don't want her; keep her." "Ah, sir," continued the distressed queen, "do not refuse her. She is the most charming princess in the world." "Well," he replied, "I will take her out of charity; but remember the gift you make me." The orange tree immediately opened; the queen rushed headlong inside. It closed again, and the lions caught nothing.
The queen was so upset that she did not notice a door which had been contrived in this tree. At last she saw it, and opened it. It looked on a field of nettles and thistles, and was surrounded by a muddy ditch, while a little further off was a low thatched hut, out of which came the yellow dwarf with a sprightly air. He wore wooden shoes and a yellow frieze jacket. He had no hair on his head, big ears, and looked a perfect little villain.
"I am delighted, mother-in-law," he said to the queen, "for you to see the little castle in which your Toutebelle will live with me. With the nettles and thistles she can feed an ass to ride on. Under this rustic roof she will be protected from stress of weather. She will drink of this water and feed on the fat frogs that live in it; and then she will have me beside her day and night, hand some, lively, and gallant as you see me; for I should be sorry if her shadow were a closer companion to her than I."
The unhappy queen, suddenly realising the miserable existence the dwarf promised her beloved daughter, and unable to endure so terrible a thought, fell prostrate on the floor, unconscious and without strength enough to utter a single word. While in this condition, she was put to bed with the greatest care, and in the finest night-cap, trimmed with the prettiest ribbon knots she had ever worn in her life. The queen, when she awoke, remembered what had happened, but she thought it must have been a delusion, for, finding herself in her palace in the midst of her ladies with her daughter by her side, there seemed no evidence of her having been in the desert, of her having encountered such great danger, nor of the dwarf having saved her on the hard condition of Toutebelle's hand in marriage. And yet this night-cap of valuable lace and the knot of ribbons were quite as surprising as the dream she thought she had dreamt. These things preyed on her mind to such an extent that she could scarcely speak, eat, or sleep for the extraordinary melancholy that took possession of her.
The princess, who loved her with all her heart, was exceedingly uneasy, and entreated her over and over again to tell her what was the matter. But the queen would put her off by telling her sometimes that it was caused by her bad health, sometimes that one of her neighbours was threatening her with a great war. Toutebelle saw that these replies were plausible enough, but that there was something more behind which the queen was trying to hide from her. Unable to endure her anxiety any longer, she determined to seek the celebrated Fairy of the Desert, whose wisdom was known far and wide. She was also desirous of asking her advice as to whether she should remain single or marry; for everybody was strongly urging her to choose a husband. She took care to knead with her own hands the cake which was to appease the fury of the lions; and, pretending to go to bed early in the evening, she went out by a little secret stair-case, her face covered with a long white veil that reached to her feet; and thus, alone, she took her way towards the grotto where the wise fairy lived.
But reaching the fateful orange tree, of which I have already spoken, she saw that it was full of fruit and flowers, and was seized with a longing to pluck some. Placing her basket on the ground, she gathered and ate a few oranges. But when she wished to pick up her basket and her cake it was no longer there. As she stood there uneasy and unhappy at her loss, she suddenly saw in front of her the hideous little dwarf I mentioned before. "What is the matter with you, my fine maiden? Why do you weep?" said he. "Alas! who would not weep?" she replied. "I've lost my basket and my cake, and I can never reach the Fairy of the Desert safely without them." "Well, and what do you want with her, pretty maid?" said the ugly little man. "I am her relative, her friend, and, to say the least, as clever as she is." "The queen, my mother," replied the princess, "has for some time been so terribly melancholy that I fear for her life. I cannot help thinking that I am perhaps the cause, for she wants me to marry. I confess to you that as yet I have found no one worthy of me. All these reasons make me desirous of speaking with the fairy." "Don't take the trouble, princess," said the dwarf; "I am better able than she to explain these matters to you. The queen is in trouble because she has promised you in marriage." "The queen has promised me!" she said, interrupting him. "Ah, doubtless you are mistaken; she would have told me, and I have too much interest in the matter for her to have pledged me without my consent." "Beautiful princess," said the dwarf, suddenly falling on his knees, "I flatter myself that this choice will not be displeasing to you when I tell you that it is I who am destined to such happiness." "My mother wishes you to be her son-in-law!" exclaimed Toutebelle, falling back a step or two; "was ever any one so mad as you?" "I care very little for the honour," said the dwarf, testily. "Here come the lions. In three bites they will avenge me for your unjust contempt."
At the same moment the princess heard them coming with loud roars. "What is to become of me?" she exclaimed. "Am I thus to end my fair days?" The wicked dwarf looked at her, and smiled contemptuously. "You will at least have the satisfaction of dying unmarried," said he, "and of not allying your shining merit with a miserable dwarf like myself." "Do not be angry, I beg of you," said the princess, clasping her beautiful hands; "I would rather marry all the dwarfs in the world than perish in this frightful way." "Look at me well, princess, before pledging your word," he replied, "for I have no desire to entrap you." "I have looked at you enough and to spare. The lions are on me; my terror grows. Save me! save me! or I shall die of fear." Indeed, scarcely had she uttered these words before she swooned; and, without knowing how, she found herself in her own bed in the most beautiful night gown trimmed with the prettiest ribbons, and a little ring made of a single red hair which clung so closely that it would have been easier to have torn off her skin than to have removed the ring from her finger.
When the princess saw these things and remembered what had happened in the night, she fell into a melancholy that surprised and alarmed the whole court. The queen was the most distressed of all, and asked her hundreds and hundreds of times what was the matter. But she persisted in concealing her adventure. At length the estates of the realm, impatient to see their princess married, after holding a council, came to the queen begging her to choose a husband. She said that was exactly what she wished to do, but that her daughter showed so much repugnance that she advised them to go and talk to her themselves. They did so without delay. Since her adventure with the yellow dwarf Toutebelle's pride had been greatly humbled, and she could conceive no better way of getting out of the difficulty than by marrying some great king, with whom the ugly little man would be in no position to dispute so glorious a prize. Thus she replied more favourably than could have been expected: that, although she should have considered herself happy in remaining single all her life, she consented to marry the King of the Gold Mines. He was a powerful, handsome prince, who had loved her with the utmost passion for some years, and who, so far, had had no reason to flatter himself that his love was returned.
When he learned the delightful news his supreme joy can be easily imagined, arid also the rage of all his rivals at losing for ever the hope that fed their passion. But Toutebelle could not marry twenty kings; it had given her trouble enough to choose one, for her vanity did not fail her, and she was entirely persuaded that no one in the world could be compared with her.
Everything necessary for the greatest fête imaginable was prepared. The King of the Gold Mines sent such enormous sums that the whole sea was covered with the ships that brought them. He sent to the most elegant and brilliant courts, and especially to that of France, to procure the most valuable things to adorn the princess, although her beauty was so perfect that she had little need of ornaments to set it off. The King of the Gold Mines, seeing himself on the point of becoming happy, never left the side of the charming princess.
It was to her interest to know him well, and, studying him with care, she discovered in him so much merit and intelligence, such lively and delicate feelings--in short, so beautiful a soul in so perfect a body--that she began to feel for him something of what he felt for her. These were happy times for both, when, in the loveliest gardens in the world, they were free to speak to each other all their passion. Those delights were often accompanied by music. The king, always gallant and loving, made poems and songs for the princess. Here is one which pleased her very much:--
"These woods and meadows don their gayest dress,
Shine out their best to greet your loveliness;
And west winds blow and fairest flowers up-spring,
While loving birds their sweetest roundels sing.
All nature hastes, in humour gay,
Homage to love's own queen to pay."
They were at the height of their joy. The king's rivals, disconsolate at his good fortune, returned to their homes overwhelmed with the keenest sorrow, Unable to be present at Toutebelle's wedding. They bade her farewell in so touching a manner that she could not but pity them. "Ah, madam," said the King of the Gold Mines, "of what are you robbing me? You grant your pity to lovers who are only too well paid for their distresses by a single one of your glances." "I should be sorry," replied Toutebelle, "if you had not observed the compassion I show these princes, who are losing me for ever; it is a proof of your delicacy which I prize. But, sir, their condition is so different from yours. You have so much reason to be pleased with me, and they have so little, that you should not carry your jealousy further." The King of the Gold Mines, ashamed at the kindly way in which the princess took a thing that might have annoyed her, threw himself at her feet, and, kissing her hands, asked her pardon a thousand times.
At last the long-expected and much-desired day arrived: when everything was ready for Toutebelle's wedding, musical instruments and trumpets announced the great fête through the city. The streets were laid with red cloth, strewn with flowers, and the people rushed in crowds to the great courtyard of the palace. The queen was so excited that she had scarcely been to bed at all; and she rose before the dawn to give the necessary instructions and to choose the precious stones with which the princess was to be decked. She was covered with diamonds to her very shoes, which were made of them. Her gown of silver brocade was trimmed with a dozen sunbeams, of countless price indeed; but there! what could have been more brilliant?--only the beauty of the princess herself. A magnificent crown adorned her head; her hair hung down to her feet; and her dignified bearing marked her out from all the ladies attending her. The King of the Gold Mines was no less perfectly appointed and magnificent. His joy appeared in his countenance and in all his actions. No one went to greet him without returning loaded with gifts; for round his banqueting hall he had had placed a thousand casks filled with gold, and big velvet bags embroidered with pearls filled with gold pieces. Each one held a hundred thousand. They were given indiscriminately to all who came for them; so that this little ceremony, which was not the least useful and pleasant part of the wedding, attracted many persons who would scarcely have appreciated the other entertainments.
As the queen and the princess were on their way to join the king they saw two big turkey cocks, dragging a very ill-made box, enter the long gallery where they were. Behind them came a tall old woman, whose advanced age and decrepitude were not less surprising than her exceeding ugliness. She leaned on a crutch, and wore a black silk ruff, a red velvet hood, and a ragged farthingale. She went three times round with the turkey cocks without saying a word; then, stopping in the middle of the gallery and brandishing her crutch in a threatening manner: "Ho! ho queen!--Ho! ho! princess!" she shouted. "You think you can break with impunity the promise you gave my friend the yellow dwarf! I am the Fairy of the Desert. Without him, without his orange tree, do you not know my big lions would have eaten you up? Such insults are not endured in Fairyland. Consider quickly what you intend to do; for I swear by the cap on my head that you shall marry him or I will burn my crutch."
"Ah! princess," said the queen, in tears, "do I hear? What have you promised?" "Ah! mother," replied Toutebelle, sorrowfully, "what did you promise yourself?" The King of the Gold Mines, angry at what was going on and because the wicked old woman had come in the way of his happiness, approached her, sword in hand, pointing it at her throat. "Wretched woman," he said, "depart from this place for ever, or your life shall pay for your wicked ness."
He had scarcely spoken these words when the lid of the box jumped right up to the ceiling with a fearful noise, and out came the yellow dwarf, mounted on a big Spanish cat. He placed himself between the Fairy of the Desert and the King of the Gold Mines. "Rash youth," he said, "do not seek to injure this most distinguished fairy. It is with me that you have to reckon. I am your rival; I am your enemy. The faithless princess who intends to marry you has given me her promise, and accepted mine. Look if she has not a ring made of one of my hairs. Try to take it from her, and even by that slight test you will see that your power is less than mine." "Wretched monster," said the king, "you are actually bold enough to call yourself the adorer of this divine princess, and to lay claim to so splendid a possession? Consider, you are an ugly little imp, whose hideous face hurts one's eyes. I should have already taken your life had you been worthy of so glorious a death." The yellow dwarf, mortally offended, struck his spurs into the cat, which set up a horrible mewing, and, jumping first to one side and then to the other, frightened every one except the brave king. He was grappling with the dwarf when the creature drew a large cutlass with which he was armed, and, challenging the king to a combat, with a strange noise rushed down into the courtyard of the palace.
With hasty strides the wrathful king followed him. Hardly were they face to face, and the whole court on the balconies, than the sun growing suddenly red as if stained with blood, darkness came on so that they could scarcely distinguish each other. Thunder and lightning seemed bent on the destruction of the world; and the two turkey cocks looked by the side of the wicked dwarf like two giants, taller than the mountains, casting forth fire from their mouths and eyes in such quantities that you might have taken them for a fiery furnace. All these things would not have terrified the brave heart of the young monarch. The boldness of his look and actions reassured all who were anxious for his preservation, and even, perhaps, somewhat troubled the yellow dwarf. But his courage was not equal to seeing the condition to which his beloved princess was reduced. The Fairy of the Desert, like Tisiphone her head covered with long snakes, was mounted on a winged griffin and armed With a spear, with which she struck the princess such cruel blows that she fell into the queen's arms bathed in blood. The tender mother, more hurt by the blow than her daughter, uttered the most piteous cries and laments. At this the king lo his courage and his presence of mind, and, giving up the combat, ran to help the princess, and to die with her. But the yellow dwarf did not give him time to reach her. With his Spanish cat he sprang on to the balcony where she was tore her from the hands of the queen and of all her ladies, and, jumping on to the roof of the palace, disappeared with his prey.
The king, stupefied and motionless was regarding with the uttermost despair so extraordinary an event, and one in which he had the misfortune to be quite powerless when, to add to his ill-luck, he felt a veil come over his eyes, which deprived him of all sense of sight; while some one with remarkable strength carried him away into the Vast region of air. What a tale of misfortunes! Love, cruel love! is it thus you treat those who own you for their conqueror? The wicked Fairy of the Desert, who had come to help the yellow dwarf to carry off the princess, had scarcely looked at the King of the Gold Mines when, her savage heart feeling the worth of the young prince, she wished to make him her prey. So she carried him to the depths of a horrible cave and loaded him with chains which she had fastened to a rock, hoping that the fear of a speedy death would make him forget Toutebelle, and induce him to do whatever she wished. As soon as they arrived she restored his sight with out giving him his liberty, and, borrowing from the fairies' art the grace and charm nature had denied her, she appeared before him as a lovely nymph whom chance had led to that spot.
Whom do I see here?" she cried. "What! it is you, charming prince? What ill fortune has come upon you and keeps you in so sorry an abode?" The king, deceived by these false appearances, replied: "Alas, lovely nymph, I have no idea what the fiendish fury who brought me here wants of me. Although she deprived me of the use of my eyes when she carried me off and has not appeared since, I did not fail to recognise, by the Sound of her voice, that she was the Fairy of the Desert." "Ah, sir," cried the pretended nymph, "if you are in the power of that woman you will not get free until she has married you. She has played this trick on more than one hero, and she is the least manageable person in the world with regard to her infatuations" While she was pretending to sympathise with the king's distress, he looked at the nymph's feet, and saw that they resembled those of a griffin. The fairy, in her various metamorphoses, might always be recognised by these; for she was unable to change that part of her griffin nature.
The king took no notice, and went on speaking in a confidential tone: "I have no aversion," he said, "for the Fairy of the Desert, but I cannot brook that she should protect the yellow dwarf from me and keep me chained like a criminal. What have I done to her? I loved a charming princess; but, if she restores me my liberty, I feel that gratitude would oblige me to love only her." "Are you speaking sincerely?" asked the deluded nymph. "Do not doubt it," replied the king; "the art of feigning is unknown to me, and I confess that the idea of a fairy flatters my vanity more than a mere princess; hut, even were I dying of love for her, I should always show her nothing but hatred until I was set free,"
The Fairy of the Desert, deceived by these words, resolved to carry the king away to a place as delightful as the present solitude was horrible. Forcing him to get into her chariot, to which she had yoked swans instead of the bats that usually drew her, she flew from one end of the earth to the other.
But what were the prince's feelings when, traversing the vast region of air, he saw his beloved princess in a castle of steel, whose walls, struck by the sun's rays, formed glowing mirrors that burned all who attempted to approach them! She was in a grove, lying by the side of a stream. One of her hands supported her head, while with the other she seemed to be wiping away her tears. As she lifted her eyes to heaven, as if to ask its aid, she saw the king pass with the Fairy of the Desert, who, employing the fairy art in which she was skilled to appear beautiful in the eyes of the young monarch, seemed, in fact, in those of the princess the most wondrously fair lady in the world. "What!" she exclaimed, "am I not wretched enough in this inaccessible castle to which the horrible yellow dwarf has brought me? To add to my misfortunes, must I be persecuted by the demon of jealousy? By so strange an adventure must I learn the faithlessness of the King of the Gold Mines? He thought in losing sight of me that he was freed from all the oaths he made me. But who is this formidable rival, whose fatal beauty surpasses mine?"
While she was speaking thus the amorous king felt sick at heart at flying with such speed from the beloved object of his vows. If he had had less know ledge of the fairy's power he would have tried everything to get away from her, either by killing her, or by any other means his love and courage might have suggested. But what could he do against so powerful a personage? Only time and cunning could free him from her clutches.
The fairy had seen Toutebelle, and sought to discover in the king's eyes the effect of the sight on his heart. "I am better able than any one," he said, "to tell you what you desire to know. The unexpected meeting with an unfortunate princess, to whom I was attached before I knew you, has somewhat moved me, but you rank so far above her in my heart that rather than be faith less to you I would die." "Ah, prince," she said, "may I flatter myself that I have inspired in you such a strong affection?" "Time will convince you, madam," he said; "but, if you wish to prove to me that I have found favour with you, do not refuse me your assistance for Toutebelle." "Think what you are asking," said the fairy, frowning and looking askance at him. "You wish me to use my skill against the yellow dwarf, who is my best friend, and take out of his hands a haughty princess, whom I cannot but regard as my rival?" The king sighed, and answered never a word. What could he have replied to this keen-sighted person?
They reached a vast meadow brilliant with a thousand different flowers. A deep river surrounded it, and many a rivulet flowed gently under the thick-spreading trees, in whose shade it was always cool. In the distance rose a magnificent palace, the walls of which were of transparent emerald. Immediately the swans that drew the fairy alighted under a portico with a pavement of diamonds and a roof of rubies. Then appeared on all sides a thousand beautiful ladies, who received her with great shouts of joy, singing these words:--
"When love would fain subdue a heart
Resistance but augments the smart:
The warrior, most famed in fight,
Must soonest yield to Cupid's might".
The Fairy of the Desert was charmed to hear them sing the story of her love. She led the king into the most magnificent chamber ever seen within the memory of fairy; and, that he should not think himself absolutely a prisoner, left him there a few minutes. He felt pretty certain that she was not far off, and that, hidden in some place, she was watching what he did. So he went up to a large mirror, and, addressing it, said: "Faithful counsellor, show me what I can do to make myself agreeable to the charming Fairy of the Desert, for the desire to please her is never out of my mind". Then he combed and powdered his hair, put on a patch, and, seeing on a table a coat more splendid than his own, hastily put it on. The fairy entered, so carried away by her joy, that she was unable to restrain it. "I see," she said, "the care you take to please me; without any effort you have discovered the secret; judge then, sir, if, when you wish it, it will be difficult."
The king, who had his reasons for saying pretty things to the old fairy, was not sparing of them, and, little by little, gained permission to walk along the sea-shore. By her art she had made the sea so terrible and stormy that there were no pilots bold enough to sail it. Thus she had nothing to fear from the indulgence she showed her prisoner; and he found some consolation for his troubles in being able to dream in solitude, without the interruptions of his wicked gaoler.
After walking for some time on the sand, he bent down and wrote these lines with a stick he carried in his hand:--
"Here am I free
To ease my grief with pouring out my tears,
For that my loved one never more appears.
O wind-toss'd sea!
That scal'st heaven's height,
Searchest hell's night,
Driving poor mortals from this churlish shore!--
The winds torment thee with an endless strife,
Yet my heart struggleth more.
O cruel fate, that bore Toutebelle away,
O heaven, that said my loved one might not stay,
Wilt thou not take my life?
Fair goddess of the wave,
If that thou ever yet hast felt love's power,
Come from thy deepest cave,
And help the lover in his darkest hour!"
While he was writing he heard a voice, which, in spite of himself, attracted his whole attention, and, seeing that the waves began to swell, he looked all around, and saw a woman of extraordinary beauty. Her only covering was her long hair, which, gently stirred by zephyrs, floated on the water. She held a mirror in one hand and a comb in the other. Her body ended in a long fish's tail with fins. The king was very much surprised at so strange an encounter. As soon as she was within speaking distance, she said to him: "I know the sad plight to which you are reduced by the loss of your princess, and by the strange passion the Fairy of the Desert has for you. If you like, I will take you away from this fatal place, where, it may be, you will languish for more than thirty years." The king did not know what reply to make to the proposal: not from any lack of desire for his liberty, but because he feared the Fairy of the Desert had only borrowed this shape to deceive him. As he hesitated the mermaid, who divined his thoughts, said: "Do not think I am setting a trap for you; I am too sincere to wish to serve your enemies. The doings of the Fairy of the Desert and of the yellow dwarf have incensed me against them. I see your beautiful princess every day. Her beauty and merit alike make me Pity her. I again repeat that, if you have Confidence in me, I will save you." trust you so entirely," cried the king, "that I will do everything you command, but, since you have seen my princess, give me news of her." "We should lose too much time talking," said she. "Come with me; I will take you to the castle of steel, and leave on this shore a figure so nearly resembling you that the fairy will be deceived."
She then cut some sea rushes, made a big bundle of them, and, breathing on them three times, said "Sea rushes, my friends, I command you to remain stretched out on the sand, Without moving, until the Fairy of the Desert comes to carry you off". The sea rushes had all the appearance of being covered with skin, and were so like the King of the Gold Mines that nothing more wonderful was ever seen. They were dressed in a coat like his, and were pale and feeble to look like the drowned king. Then the good mermaid made the king seat himself on her big fish tail, and both, equally pleased, sailed out to sea.
"I will now tell you," said she, "that when the wicked yellow dwarf carried off Toutebelle, notwithstanding the wound the Fairy of the Desert had inflicted on her, he put her behind him on his terrible Spanish cat. She lost so much blood and was so disturbed by the adventure that her strength failed, and she remained in a Swoon the whole way. But the yellow dwarf would not stop to restore her to consciousness until he was safely arrived in his terrible castle of steel. There he was received by the most beautiful ladies in the world, whom he had stolen away. Each vied with the other in her eagerness to serve the princess. She was placed in a bed made of cloth of gold, embroidered with pearls bigger than nuts." "Ah," exclaimed the King of the Gold Mines, interrupting the mermaid. "He has married her. I am faint; I shall die." "No, sir," said she, "make yourself easy; Toutebelle's firmness preserved her from the violence of the horrid dwarf." "Go on, I beg of you," said the king. "What more have I to tell you?" replied the mermaid. "She was in the wood when you passed. She saw you with the Fairy of the Desert, who was so disguised that she seemed her superior in beauty. Her despair cannot be imagined; she thinks you love the fairy." "She thinks I love her Oh, ye gods "cried the king, "into how fatal an error has she fallen! and how shall I undeceive her?" "Consult your heart," replied the mermaid, with a charming smile. "When a man is so passionately in love he has no need of advice." By this time they had reached the castle of steel. The side looking seawards was the only part that the yellow dwarf had not fortified with the formidable walls that burned up everybody.
"I know," said the mermaid to the king, "that Toutebelle is by the side of the same stream where you saw her when you passed; but, since you will have foes to vanquish before reaching her, here is a sword with which, pro vided you do not let it fall, you can undertake anything and brave the greatest dangers. Farewell; I shall betake myself to the shade of the rock you see there. If you have need of me to help you further with your beloved princess, I shall not fail you; for the queen is my best friend, and it was to serve her that I came to your aid." So saying, she gave the king a sword made of a single diamond, brighter than the sun's rays. He well understood its use; and, unable to find words strong enough to express his gratitude, he begged her to supply those that would describe what a grateful heart is capable of feeling for such good service.
We must now tell something of what has been happening to the Fairy of the Desert. Since her charming lover did not return, she hastened in search of him, betaking herself to the shore with a hundred damsels of her suite, all bearing magnificent presents for him. Some carried large baskets filled with diamonds, others golden vases wonderfully wrought, several containing amber-gris, coral, and pearls. Others bore on their heads bales of stuffs of inconceivable richness; others, again, fruits, flowers and even birds. But what were the feelings of the fairy, who was following this fine and numerous company, when she saw the sea rushes so like the King of the Gold Mines that no difference could be discovered? At the sight, struck with astonishment and the keenest sorrow, she uttered a terrible cry, which pierced the heavens and made the mountains tremble and re-echo even to the depths of hell. The faces of the furies, Megara, Alecto, and Tisiphone themselves, could not have been more terrible to look on than hers. Throwing herself on the king's body, she wept, she howled, she tore in pieces fifty of the most beautiful damsels who had ac companied her, sacrificing them to the spirit of her dead lover. Afterwards she summoned eleven of her sisters, fairies like herself begging them to aid her building a magnificent mausoleum for the young hero. There was not one who was not deceived by the sea rushes. This may seem surprising, for the fairies knew everything; but the clever mermaid knew even more than they did.
While they were Providing the porphyry, the jasper, the agate, and the marble, the statues, the inscriptions the gold, and the bronze to immortalise the memory of the king whom they thought dead, he was thanking the good mermaid and imploring her to grant him her protection. She promised with the best grace in the world, and vanished from his sight. Nothing remained but to advance towards the castle of steel.
So, guided by his love, he walked with great strides, looking about eagerly for his adored princess. But he was not long without occupation Four terrible sphinxes surrounded him, and, sticking their sharp claws into him, would have torn him in pieces, had not the diamond sword been as useful as the mermaid had foretold. It scarcely glittered in the eyes of the monsters before they fell helpless at his feet. Giving each a mortal wound, he advanced further and saw six dragons covered with scales harder to pierce than iron. However alarming the encounter was he did not Jose heart, and, making use of his formidable sword, cut each one of them in half. He hoped he had now overcome the greatest difficulties; but there still remained an embarrassing one. He met four-and-twenty nymphs, beautiful and charming, holding long wreaths of flowers, and by their means barring his passage. "Where do you wish to go, sir?" said they. "We are the guardians of this place; if we let you pass endless disasters will happen to you and to us. We entreat you not to persist. Would you stain your victorious hand with the blood of four innocent damsels who have never done you any harm?" At this sight the king remained dumbfounded and undecided, not knowing what to do. He, who professed to respect the fair sex and to be their knight to the death, must, on this occasion, destroy them. But a voice that he heard suddenly gave him strength. Strike! strike! spare no one," said the voice, "or you will lose the princess forever!"
Then, without answering the nymphs, he rushed into their midst, broke their wreaths, attacked them without quarter, and scattered them in a moment, it was one of the last obstacles he was to find, and he at length entered the little wood where he had seen Toutebelle she was beside the stream, pale and languishing. He approached her trembling, and would have thrown himself at her feet, but she drew back as quickly as if he had been the yellow dwarf. "Do not condemn me unheard, madam," he said; "I am neither faithless nor guilty; I am unfortunate enough to have displeased you without intending it." "Ah! cruel one!" she exclaimed, "I saw you ride through the air with a woman of extra ordinary beauty. Did you set out on that journey against your will?" Yes, princess," he replied, "it was against my will. The wicked Fairy of the Desert, not satisfied with chaining me to a rock, carried me off in a chariot to one of the ends of the earth, where, if it had not been for the unexpected aid of a good mermaid who brought me here, I should be languishing now. I come, princess, to snatch you from the hand that keeps you captive. Do not refuse the help of the most faithful of all lovers.' He threw himself at her feet, but in laying hold of her gown unfortunately dropped his famous sword. The yellow dwarf, who was hidden under a lettuce, no sooner saw it out of the king's hands than, knowing its power, he threw himself upon it and seized it.
The princess uttered a heartrending cry on seeing the dwarf; hut her lamentations only served to exasperate the little monster. Uttering two words in his own jargon, two giants appeared, who loaded the king with chains and irons. "Now," said the dwarf to the princess, "I am master of my rival's destiny; but I will grant him his life and permission to leave this place, if you will agree to marry me without delay." "Ah! Let me rather die a thousand deaths!" said the love-stricken king. "Alas!" cried the princess. "What more terrible than that you should die?" "And what more frightful," replied the king, "than that you should become the victim of this monster?" "Let us then die together," continued she. "Let me, my princess, have the consolation of dying for you." "Nay, rather do I consent," she said to the dwarf, "to your wishes." "In my sight," replied the king; "in my sight, you would take him for your husband, cruel princess? Life would be hateful to me." "No," said the yellow dwarf. "The betrothal will not take place in your presence; I dread too much a favoured rival."
At these words, in spite of the tears and cries of Toutebelle, he stabbed the king to the heart and stretched him at his feet. The princess, who could not live after her lover's death, fell on his body, and it was not long before her soul joined his. Thus perished the unhappy prince and princess; and the mermaid could give them no help, for all the power of her magic lay in the diamond sword.
The wicked dwarf was better pleased to see the princess dead than in the arms of another; and the Fairy of the Desert, having heard what had happened destroyed the mausoleum she had built, conceiving for the memory of the King of the Gold Mines as great a hatred as she had felt affection for his person before. The only favour the good mermaid, in despair at the ill-fortune, could obtain from Destiny was to change the lovers into palm trees. The two perfect bodies became two beautiful trees, bearing ever a faithful love one to the other, embracing each other with their intertwined branches, and in this tender union immortalising their loves.