ONCE upon a time there was a king and queen who were perfectly happy. They loved each other dearly, and were adored by their subjects; but every one regretted there should be no heir. The queen felt sure that if she had a child the king would love her even more, and never omitted each spring to drink the water for which the district was famous. People came in crowds, and large numbers of foreigners from all quarters of the globe were to be seen there. The springs were situated in a wood, and were surrounded by marble and porphyry, for every one took pleasure in adorning them. One day, when the queen was sitting by the springs, she asked her attendants to leave her alone. She then began her usual complaints: "How unhappy I am," she said, "to have no children! The poorest women have plenty of them, while I have for five years been imploring the gods to grant my desire, but without success; am I to die without knowing the delight of being a mother?
She noticed that while she was speaking the water of the spring became agitated; a big lobster appeared and said: "Great queen, you shall have your desire. Not far from here is a magnificent palace, built by the fairies, but it very difficult to find, because it is surrounded by clouds too thick for mortal eye to pierce; however, I am your very humble servant, and if you will entrust yourself to a poor lobster, I will take you there."
The queen listened without interrupting. She was surprised at the novelty of a talking lobster, and accepted the offer, remarking that it could not, however, walk backwards like the fish. The lobster smiled, and immediately, assumed the form of a handsome old woman. "Well, madam," she said, "I promise not to walk backwards. Look upon me as one of your friends, for I only wish your happiness."
She came out of the water perfectly dry; her gown was white, lined with crimson, and her grey hair was tied up with green ribbons. A more elegant old lady was never seen; she saluted the queen, who embraced her, and without further delay the old lady led the queen down a path she had never seen before; for although she had been in the wood thousands and thousands of times, she had never walked down that particular path. How should she have done so? It was the fairies' road to the spring, and was usually shut in by briers and thorns. But when the queen and her guide appeared, the briers brought forth roses, the jasmine and the orange trees twined their branches to form an arcade of leaves and flowers, the ground was covered with violets, and a thousand different birds sang enchantingly in the trees.
Before the queen had recovered from her astonishment, her eyes were dazzled by the brilliance of a palace built entirely of diamonds; the walls, roof, ceilings, floors, staircases, balconies even the terraces were all of diamonds. She could not help giving a loud cry of admiration, and asked her companion if what she saw was a phantom or a reality. "Nothing could be more real, madam," she replied. The palace gates opened, and six fairies came forth, but what fairies they were the most beautiful and magnificent ever seen. They curtesied low to the queen, and each presented her with a flower of precious stones to form bouquet; there was a rose, a tulip, an anemone a columbine, a pink, and a pomegranate. "Madam," they said, "we cannot give you a greater mark of our respect than allowing you to visit us here, and we are very glad to announce that you will become the mother of a beautiful princess. You are to name her Desirée, for it cannot be denied you have long desired her; do not fail to summon us as soon as she is born, for we want to endow her with all Sorts of good qualities. To bring us to you, you have merely to take the bouquet we have given you and name each flower aloud, thinking of us all the while."
The queen, overjoyed, threw her arms round their necks, and embraced them for more than half-an-hour. They then invited her to enter the palace, of which it is impossible to give any adequate description. The architect of the sun was responsible for the design, and he had really reproduced that luminary in miniature. The brilliance was almost too much for the queen, and she had to keep shutting her eyes. They took her into the garden; she had never seen such fine fruit; the apricots were bigger than a man's head; it was impossible to eat a cherry without cutting it into four, and the flavour was so delicate that after eating it the queen never wished to take any other sort. There was an orchard of artificial trees which were alive and growing just like the others.
To describe the queen's great joy is impossible, or how much she talked of the little Princess Desirée, and how often she thanked the kind creature who had told her such a pleasant piece of news, but I can assure you that no expressions of affection and gratitude were forgotten. The fairy of the spring, as she well deserved, had her full share, and the queen remained in the palace till evening. She loved music, and heard singing as of heavenly angels; she was loaded with presents, and thanking her hostess, the queen departed with the fairy of the spring.
All the household had been greatly distressed at her absence, and had searched for her very anxiously; they could not imagine what had become of her. They feared some bold stranger had carried her off, for she was both young and beautiful. Thus they all rejoiced exceedingly at her return, and since the hopes just communicated to her had put her into a very good humour, everybody was charmed with her agreeable and brilliant conversation.
The fairy of the spring left her near her home; compliments and embraces were renewed at parting, and as the queen remained eight days longer at the springs, she did not fail to pay other visits to the fairies' palace in company with the delightful old lady, who always appeared first as a lobster and then assumed her natural form.
According to promise, a princess was born to the queen, and was called Desirée. The queen took the bouquet, named the flowers one after the other, and immediately the fairies arrived. Each had a chariot of a different sort; one was of ebony drawn by white pigeons, another of ivory drawn by ravens, another of cedar and calambour. These were their carriages in time of peace, for when they were angry they used flying dragons, snakes emitting flame from eyes and mouth, lions, leopards, panthers who carried them from one end of the globe to the other in less time than it takes to say good-morning. But on this occasion they were in excellent humour.
They entered the queen's room gaily and majestically, accompanied by dwarfs bearing presents. After embracing the queen and kissing the little princess, they displayed the layette: it was of such fine and good quality of linen that it would wear a hundred years; the fairies wove it in their leisure time. The lace surpassed the linen in beauty; the design executed with the needle or bobbin showed pictures of the history of the world. Then they showed the swaddling clothes and bed coverings that had been expressly embroidered with designs forming a thousand different children's games; since embroiderers had existed, nothing so marvellous had been produced. But when the cradle appeared, the queen uttered an exclamation of delight, for it excelled all the rest of the things. It was made of a very rare wood costing a hundred thousand crowns a-pound. It was supported by four little Cupids, each a masterpiece, for such was the victory of art over material that although they were made of diamonds and rubies, it was impossible to praise them too highly. Moreover, the fairies had endowed them with life, and when the child cried they rocked her and put her to sleep, a convenience the nurses greatly appreciated.
The fairies took the little princess, dressed her with their own hands, and gave her more than a hundred kisses, for she was already so beautiful that to see her was to love her. They observed that the babe was hungry, and striking the ground with their wands, a nurse appeared perfectly suited to the infant. It now only remained for them to bestow gifts on her; the fairies hastened to do so: one gave her virtue, another intelligence, a third miraculous beauty, the fourth good fortune, the fifth health and long life, and the last guaranteed her success in all she undertook.
The queen, delighted beyond measure, was thanking the fairies a thousand times for the favours they had bestowed on the little princess, when a lobster, so big that it could hardly get through the doorway, entered the room: "Un grateful queen," she exclaimed, "you have forgotten me. Do you not remember the fairy of the spring and my kindness in taking you to my sisters? You summoned them and forgot me. A presentiment of your conduct made me assume the form of a lobster the first time I spoke to you, to mark that your affection would go back instead of forward."
The queen, inconsolable for her mistake, interrupted her and asked to be forgiven. She said she thought she had named her flower with the rest, that it was therefore the bouquet of precious flowers that had deceived her, she was altogether incapable of forgetting the obligations she owed her. The queen en treated her not to withdraw her friendship, and particularly not to remove her favour from the princess. The fairies, fearing she should bestow misery and evil fortune on the princess, joined with the queen in the attempt to lessen her anger. "My dear sister," they said, "we entreat your highness not to be angry with a queen who never intended to displease you: throw off your lobster disguise and let us see you in all your beauty."
I have already mentioned that the fairy of the spring was something of a coquette, and her sisters' praises somewhat mollified her. "Well," she said, "I will not bring on Desirée all the evil I had intended, for I certainly meant to do her harm, and nothing should have prevented me, but I warn you, that if she sees daylight before her fifteenth birthday, she will repent it and perhaps lose her life." Neither the queen's tears nor the fairies' entreaties could change the sentence. She withdrew, walking backwards, for she would not lay aside her lobster disguise.
Directly she had gone, the sad queen asked the fairies to advise her how she could best save her daughter from the threatened evils. They held a council, and after much discussion, decided it would he best to build a palace without doors or windows, to make a subterranean passage leading into it, and let the princess live there until the fatal age at which misfortune threatened was past.
The building was begun and ended by three strokes of the wand. It was of white marble, green on the outside, the ceilings and floors were of diamonds and emeralds that formed flowers, birds, and many pretty things. The hangings and carpets were of coloured velvet, embroidered by the fairies themselves, and, as they were learned in history, they delighted in depicting interesting and remarkable events, the future as well as the past, and the heroic deeds of the greatest king in the world  filled many tapestries.
Mark you now his piercing eye!
Like the ancient God of Thrace;
See how proudly he rides by,
Full of courage, full of grace.
And lie rules by wisdom's lore;
For, O France! how peacefully
Dost thou rest from shore to shore;
Other nations envy thee.
To depict his varied charms
All the greatest painters vie
Dauntless he 'mid war's alarms;
Matchless he in clemency.
The wise fairies invented this means of teaching the young princess the different events in the lives of heroes and great men.
Wax candles furnished light, and there were so many of them that the day light was scarcely missed. Tutors came to her, and her intelligence, vivacity, and skill were so great that she nearly always divined what they had to teach her, and the professors were continually surprised by the remarkable things she said at an age when other children scarcely knew their nurse's name; but the fairies' gifts did not include ignorance and Stupidity.
Her beauty equalled her intelligence; even those least likely to be attracted by it were enchanted, and the queen would never have left off looking at her had not duty called her to the king's side. The good fairies visited the princess occasionally; they brought her precious gifts, elegant, pretty, well-made gowns fit for the wedding of the most charming princess. But of all the fairies Tulip loved her best, and anxiously warned the queen not to let her see daylight before she was fifteen. "Our sister of the spring is revengeful," she said; "whatever care we take of this child, she will harm her if she can, so, madam, it is impossible to be too vigilant." The queen promised to be on her guard, but as the time when her beloved daughter might safely leave the castle drew near, she had her portrait painted and taken to all the great courts of the world. The princes no sooner looked at it than they admired it, and one of them was so struck by it that he refused to part with it. He put it in his closet, shut himself up with it and talked to it in the most passionate manner as if it had been alive and could understand
The king, seeing his son so seldom, inquired what he was doing with himself and what made him so much less gay and cheerful than formerly. Some of the courtiers, eager to tell, for such is very often their character, informed him that it was greatly to be feared the prince would go out of his mind because he spent whole days shut up alone in his closet, and yet talked just as if there was some one there.
This information made the king anxious. "Is it possible," he said, "that my son should lose his reason? He was always so intelligent; you know how lie has always been admired. Although he seems sad, he looks perfectly sensible. I must talk to him, and try to discover what is wrong with him."
Accordingly the king sent for him, ordered the courtiers to withdraw, and after a few questions, to which the prince paid scant attention and answered very wide of the mark, asked him what had caused the change in his appearance and humour. The prince, seizing the moment as favourable, threw himself at his father's feet. "You are determined," he said, "to marry me to the Black Princess. You find advantages in that match which I cannot promise you with the Princess Desirée but, sire, I perceive charms in the one I do not recognise in the other." "And when have you seen these ladies?" asked the king. "Their portraits have been brought to me," replied Prince Warrior--he was so named because he had won three great battles--"and I confess my passion for Princess Desirée is so great that if you do not retract the promise given to the Black Princess I shall die, happy in leaving a world where all hope of possessing the woman I love is at an end."
"It is, I suppose, with her portrait," said the king, "that you are pleased to hold conversations that make you a laughing-stock to the whole court. They think you mad, and if you knew all I have suffered on your account you would be ashamed of such weakness." "I cannot blame myself for my passion," said the prince; "when you see the portrait of this beautiful girl, you will understand my feelings." "Go and fetch it at once," said the king impatiently, and looking so annoyed that if the prince had not felt certain of the magical power of Desirée beauty lie would have been greatly distressed. He brought the picture to the king, and he was almost as much enchanted with it as his son. "Well, my dear warrior," he said, "I consent to what you wish. The presence of such a lovely princess at my court will renew my youth. I will despatch ambassadors to the Black Princess without delay, to announce to her that I must break my word. Even at the risk of a war, I will do as I say."
The prince knelt and respectfully kissed his father's hand. He was so joyful that the courtiers hardly recognised him. He urged the king to send ambassadors not only to the Black Princess but also to Desirée, and for the latter embassy wished him to choose a very wealthy and capable man, because on such an occasion it would be well to make an imposing appearance and possess powers of persuasion. The king fixed on Becafigue, a very eloquent young noble, with a rent roll of a hundred millions. He loved Prince Warrior passionately, and to please him ordered the most magnificent equipage and gorgeous liveries that could be procured. He made the greatest possible haste, for the prince's love increased daily, and he incessantly implored him to set out. "My life," lie said, confidentially, "is ebbing away. I grow distracted when I think how likely it is that the princess's father has pledged his word to another, and may not be willing to break his promise for me, and I shall thus lose her for ever." In order to gain time, Becafigue reassured him, for lie was anxious that the expense he was at should do him honour. He had eighty coaches shining with gold and diamonds; the most highly finished miniatures did not come up to those with which they were adorned. There were fifty coaches besides, twenty-four thou sand pages on horseback, with the rest of the cortege to match.
At the farewell audience the prince embraced his ambassador affectionately: "Remember, my dear Becafigue," he said, "that my life depends on the negotiation of this marriage; leave nothing undone to gain my adorable princess". He entrusted to him a thousand presents as remarkable for the gallantry of their design as for their splendour. Amorous devices were engraved on diamond seals, watches were set in carbuncles adorned with Desirée's monogram, and heart-shaped ruby bracelets, and indeed everything most likely to please her, abounded.
The ambassador also took with him the prince's portrait, painted by so skilful an artist that it spoke and made pretty speeches. It did not reply to everything said to it, but very nearly. Becafigue promised the prince to leave no means untried to procure him what he wanted, and added that, as he was taking with him plenty of money, should the king refuse to give him the princess, he would bribe one of her women and carry her off. "Ah!" exclaimed the prince, "I cannot agree to that; she would be offended at so disrespectful a proceeding." Becafigue made no reply, and set out on his mission.
Rumour of his coming and his errand preceded him. The king and queen were delighted; they heir! his master in high esteem, and had heard of the prince's great deeds, yet they were more pleased with his personal merits, and felt certain that if they sought through the wide world for a husband for their daughter they could not find one more worthy of her. A palace was prepared for Becafigue's reception, and the court was ordered to appear in its very greatest magnificence.
The king and queen had made up their minds that the ambassador should see Desirée, but Fairy Tulip came to the queen and said: "Be sure, madam, not to take Becafigue to our child"--for thus she spoke of the princess it would be dangerous for her to see him just yet, and do not send her to the king until after her fifteenth birthday. I am certain, if she goes before, some misfortune will occur." The queen embraced the good Tulip and promised to follow her advice, and they then paid the princess a visit.
The ambassador arrived. The passing of the procession took twenty-three hours, for there were six thousand mules with bells and shoes of gold, and trappings of gold-embroidered velvet and brocade. The streets were crowded, everybody turned out to see the sight, and so glad were they of his coming that the king and queen went in person to meet him. Since they can so easily be imagined, it is useless to repeat here the speech Becafigue made, and the compliments that passed on both sides, but he was extremely surprised when his request to see the Princess Desirée was refused. "It is not from caprice, Sir Becafigue," said the king, "that we deny what you have every right to demand; you must hear our daughter's strange story.
"At the time of her birth a fairy conceived a great hatred for her, and threatened her with a terrible misfortune if she say daylight before the age of fifteen: she dwells, therefore, in an underground palace. We had decided to take you to visit her, but Fairy Tulip advised us not to do so." "Then, sir, am I to return without her?" said Becafigue. "You are willing, you declare, to give her in marriage to my master's son who awaits her with the utmost impatience, and yet you allow yourself to be influenced by such trifles as fairies' predictions! Here is Prince Warrior's portrait, which I was asker! to give her; it is so excel lent a likeness that when I look at it I seem to see him in person." He exhibited it, and the portrait, only instructed how to speak to the princess, said: "Lovely Desirée, you cannot imagine with what ardour I await you; come soon to our court to adorn it with your matchless beauty". The king and queen were so astonished that they asked Becafigue to give it to them to take to the princess; he was delighted to do so, and entrusted it to their care.
The queen had not informed her daughter of what was going on, and had for bidden her attendants to tell her of the ambassador's arrival. But they had not obeyed her, and the princess knew that a marriage was in contemplation for her; she was, however, so prudent that she did not let her mother think she suspected anything. When the prince's portrait, which made her affectionate and gallant speeches, was shown her, she was extremely surprised, for she had never seen anything to equal it; the prince's good looks, intelligent expression, and regular features astonished her as much as what it said. "How would you like," said the queen, smiling, "to have a husband like this prince?" "Madam," she replied, "it is not for me to choose I shall be satisfied with anyone you destine for me." "But," continued the queen, "would you not think it fortunate if my choice fell on him?" Desirée lowered her eyes, blusher!, and made no reply. The queen took her in her arms and kissed her many times: she could not help shedding tears at the thought of so soon losing her daughter, for in three months she would be fifteen; but, concealing her grief, she told her all about the illustrious Becafigue's embassy, and gave her the exquisite presents he had brought for her. She admired them, and praised them in most tasteful terms; but, from time to time, her glance wandered to the prince's portrait with a pleasure hitherto unknown to her.
The ambassador, seeing it was useless to hope they would give him the princess, had to rest content with their solemn promises, and returned to inform his master of the result of his negotiations. When the prince learned that it would be three months before he could have his beloved Desirée his laments distressed the whole court. He neither slept nor ate, he became melancholy and dreamy, and his brilliant complexion took the colour of marigolds. He spent whole days lying on a couch in his closet, gazing at the princess's portrait, and Writing it letters as if it had been able to read them. His strength gradually declined, he fell dangerously ill, and neither physician nor doctor was needed to discover the cause.
The king was in despair; never had a father loved his son more tenderly. He now saw himself on the verge of losing him, and his grief may be better imagined than described. There was no means of curing him; all he wanted was Desirée, and without her he must die. The sorrowing father, therefore, resolved as a last chance to go in person to the king and queen and implore them in pity for the prince's condition not to delay a marriage that, if they waited till the princess's fifteenth birthday, would never take place at all.
It was, of course, a most unusual proceeding, but it would have been still more extraordinary if he had allowed so well-loved a son to die. There was, how ever, one insurmountable difficulty, the king's advanced age only permitted him to travel in a litter, a mode of progression far too slow for his son's impatience, so that he again sent the trusty Becafigue travelling post, and bearing pathetic letters to induce the king and queen to accede to his wishes.
During this time Desirée found quite as much pleasure in looking at the prince's portrait as he did at hers. At every possible opportunity she visited the place where it was kept, and in spite of all her efforts to hide her sentiments, they were easily discovered. Gilliflower and Long-Thorn, her ladies-in-waiting, saw that her mind was disturbed. Gilliflower loved her passionately and faithfully; Long-Thorn was secretly jealous of her. Her mother had been the princess's governess, and was now her lady-in-waiting, and would have continued to love her well, but she adored her daughter, and seeing her hatred of the princess, ceased to care for her well-being.
When his mission was known, the ambassador despatched to the court of the Black Princess was scarcely well received; the Ethiopian was a very vindictive person, and considered it cavalier treatment first to make her promises, and then to send and say he would have nothing more to do with her. She had seen a portrait of the prince and had fallen passionately in love with it, and when Ethiopians become Cupid's victims they are more extravagant in their Passion than others. She asked the ambassador: "Does not your master consider me rich and beautiful enough? Look round my realms; you can scarcely find any of greater extent. Come into my treasury and you will see more gold than is contained in the mines of Peru. Look at my jet black complexion, my flat nose and thick lips; is anything wanting that makes a woman handsome?" "Madam," replied the ambassador, who feared a beating worse than that administered to the Turks, "as much as a subject dares, I blame my master's conduct, and if heaven had placed me on a throne, I know with whom I should hope to share it." "That speech will save your life," she said; "I had determined to begin my revenge with you, but since you are not the instigator of the prince's actions, it would be an injustice. Go, tell him that, since I could never love a dishonourable man, I am glad to be released from my promise." The ambassador, who desired nothing so much as permission to depart, no sooner obtained it than he availed himself of it.
But the Ethiopian was too deeply offended with Prince Warrior to forgive him. She got into an ivory chariot drawn by six ostriches that went at the rate of ten leagues an hour. She hastened to the palace of the fairy of the spring, who was her god-mother and best friend; she told her what had happened, and begged her to help her to be revenged. The fairy sympathised with the princess, and consulted the book of all knowledge. She discovered that Prince Warrior had renounced the Black Princess for Princess Desirée, that he loved her distractedly, and had fallen sick with his longing to see her. That news rekindled the fairy's anger; it had been almost extinguished, and as she had not seen Desirée since the time of her birth, it is most likely that had it not been for the Black Princess she would never have clone her any harm. "What!" she exclaimed, "this wretched Desirée is always doing something to annoy me No, my dearest princess, I will not allow you to suffer such an affront; I will enlist the heavens and elements in your behalf. Go home and rely on your god-mother." The Black Princess thanked her, and made her presents of flowers and fruit, which she received with much condescension.
Meanwhile the ambassador Becafigue had travelled with all possible speed to the capital of Desirée's father. He threw himself at the feet of the king and queen, and told them in the most pathetic words how the prince would die with out Desirée, and that as she would be fifteen in three months, it was impossible any misfortune could happen to her in so short a time moreover, he took the liberty to warn them that such a firm belief in fairies was scarcely in keeping with their high position. In fact, in the end his hearers were convinced by his eloquence. They wept in concert over the prince's sad condition, and told Becafigue it would be some clays before they could give him a reply. He rejoined he could only allow them a few hours; his master was dying, and thought the delay was caused by the princess's hatred of him. The royal pair then promised to let him know their decision in the evening.
The queen hastened to her daughter's palace, and told her all that had happened. Desirée was so overcome with grief that she fainted, a circumstance that clearly showed her feelings in regard to the prince. "Do not distress your self, my clear daughter," said the queen; "his cure lies in your hands I am only anxious on account of the threats of the fairy of the spring at your birth." "I think, madam," she replied, "that by taking certain precautions we call outwit the wicked fairy. For instance, cannot I travel in a close carriage so That I need not see the daylight? It could be opened at night to admit food, and thus I should reach Prince Warrior without accident."
The idea commended itself to the queen, and when the king was made acquainted with it he also approved. Becafigue was summoned and received a promise that the princess should set out very soon, and that he might at once return to his master with the good news. In order not to delay her departure, they informed him they should not wait to provide the equipage and trousseau suited to her rank. The ambassador, overjoyed, threw himself at their feet, thanked them, and set off, without, however, having seen the princess.
Had Desirée been less prepossessed in the prince's favour, she would have felt the separation from her parents very keenly, but there are sentiments that stifle all the rest. A coach was constructed for her, with the outside of green velvet, ornamented with gold plaques, and lined inside with silver brocade, embroidered in pink; there were no windows, it was very large, and closed as tightly as a box. The keys were given to the charge of one of the first lords of the kingdom.
Flutt'ring about her, the Graces were seen,
Joy and gay laughter and pleasure Serene,
Cupid adoring her played round her feet,
Eager to follow her presence so sweet,
Calm and majestic her dignified grace,
Heavenly tenderness shone from her face,
Swayed were all hearts by her attributes rare,
Perfect in truth was this pure maiden fair
Many her Virtues not spoken of here,
Equal in charms, she was Adelaide's peer
When here once she came with Hymen as guide
Bearer of peace to the whole country side.
As a numerous suite would have been embarrassing, she was accompanied by only a few officers, After giving her most beautiful jewels, and some handsome gowns, after farewells that almost suffocated the king, queen, and court, in their efforts to keep from weeping, she was shut up in the dark coach with the ladies Long-Thorn and Gilliflower.
It has perhaps been forgotten that Long-Thorn did not love the princess, while she had been deeply smitten with Prince Warrior's speaking portrait. In fact, so severely had Cupid's dart wounded her, that when they were on the point of setting out she told her mother that if the princess's marriage took place she should die; if, therefore, she wished to save her life, she must find a means of breaking off the match. In order to pacify her, the lady-in-waiting promised she would try to make her happy.
When the queen sent her beloved child away, she recommended her beyond everything to this bad woman's care. "What a precious trust I am confiding to you!" she said; "it is dearer to me than my life. Take good care of my daughter's health, and above all guard her carefully against seeing daylight, for then all would be lost. You know the misfortune with which she is threatened, and Prince Warrior's ambassador has promised me that until she is fifteen she shall be placed in a castle where she shall see no other light than that of wax candles." The queen heaped presents on the woman in order to make more sure of her. She promised to watch over the princess, and directly on their arrival to write the queen everything that had happened.
The king and queen, trusting her fully, felt no further anxiety, and were thus a little consoled for their daughter's departure. But Long-Thorn, learning from the officers who opened the carriage every evening to give them food that they were getting near the town where they were expected, urged her mother to carry out her plan without delay, for if the king or prince came to meet them it would be too late. About mid-day, when the heat of the sun is greatest, she suddenly Cut the imperial of the coach with a big knife she had had made for the purpose, and then for the first time Princess Desirée saw daylight. She had scarcely looked at it when, sighing deeply, she jumped out of the coach in the form of a white hind, and ran to the neighbouring forest where she concealed herself in a gloomy spot to lament in solitude the beautiful form she had just lost.
The fairy of the spring, who was the cause of this unlucky adventure, finding that the princess's companions knew their duty, and that some were following her into the wood, while others set off to the town to inform Prince Warrior of the accident, called up a dreadful storm. The thunder and lightning were so terrific that they frightened the most courageous, and thus by means of her vast knowledge the fairy succeeded in carrying the faithful servants far away from the place where their presence was troublesome. Only Long-Thorn, her mother, anti Gilliflower remained. The last ran after her mistress, making the woods and rocks resound with her cries and lamentations. The other two, delighted to be left alone, did not lose a moment in carrying out their plans. Long-Thorn put on Desirée handsomest gown; the royal cloak made for the wedding was of unparalleled magnificence, and every diamond in the crown was two or three times as big as your fist; the Sceptre was of a single rubs', the globe she held in the other hand was a pearl bigger than your head; it was very precious and exceedingly heavy, for to convince the people that she was the princess, Long-Thorn considered it wise to omit none of the royal attributes.
Thus attired, Long-Thorn accompanied by her mother as trainbearer went towards the town. The false princess walked in a most dignified manner, thinking the king and prince would come to meet her, and, in fact, they had scarcely gone any distance when they perceived a troop of cavalry. in it midst were two litters shining with gold and precious stones, borne by mules and decorated with large bunches of green feathers, the princess's favourite colour. The king who was in one and the prince in the other did no know what to think of the ladies who were approaching them. The most eager of the horsemen galloped up to them and, from the splendour of their costume, judged them to be persons of distinction. They dismounted and addressed them respectfully. "Will you be good enough," said Long-Thorn, "to tell me who are in those litters?" "Ladies," they replied, "the king and his son, who come to meet Princess Desirée." "Go, if you please," she said, "and tell them I am she. A fairy, jealous of my happiness, dispersed my attendants by means of a terrible storm, but my lady-in-waiting here has charge of my jewels and of letters from my father."
The cavaliers kissed the hem of her robe and speedily announced to the king that the princess was approaching. "What!" he exclaimed "she comes on foot and in broad daylight!" They then informed him of what she had told them. The prince, burning with impatience, summoned them, and without asking them any questions, said: "Come now, confess, is she not a miracle of beauty, a prodigy, a most perfect princess?" To the prince's great surprise, they made no answer. "There is so much to praise," he continued, "that I suppose you prefer to be silent." "Sir," said the boldest of them, "you will see her yourself directly; apparently the fatigue of the journey has affected her appearance." The prince was greatly astonished and had he not been too weak would have jumped out of the litter in order to satisfy without delay his impatience and curiosity. The king, however, got out of his, and advancing with all his court, came up with the pretended princess; but, directly he saw her, he uttered a loud cry, and falling back a few paces: "What do I see?" he said, "what perfidy!" "Sire," said the lady boldly coming forward, "here is Princess Desirée, with letters from the king and queen. I also deliver over to you the casket of jewels entrusted to my care at our setting out."
The king preserved a gloomy silence and the prince leaning on Becafigue approached Long-Thorn. O ye gods! How did he feel when he saw the girl? Her extraordinary appearance almost produced terror in the spectator. She was so tall that the princess's gown scarcely came below her knees, she was fright fully thin, her nose was like a parrot's beak, and was of a bright red colour; her teeth we black and uneven, and indeed she was as ugly as Desirée was beautiful.
The prince, whose mind had been entirely filled with his beautiful princess, was almost paralysed with horror at the sight of this girl: he had not the strength to utter a word. He looked at her in astonishment, and turning to the king, said: "I am betrayed; this person is not in the least like the lovely picture that won my heart; I have been deceived, and my life will be the cost." "What do you mean, sir?" said Long-Thorn. "How have you been deceived? I promise you you will make no mistake if you marry me.' Her impertinence and arrogance knew no bounds, yet the lady-in-waiting almost surpassed her. "My dear princess,' she said, "what sort of a country can this be? Is this the way to receive a lady of rank? 'What inconsistency! What conduct! Your father must obtain satisfaction." "That will be rather for us," said the king. "We were promised a beautiful princess and instead are sent a skeleton, a mummy, frightful to behold! I am no longer surprised this treasure should have been shut up for fifteen years. Your king wanted to make a dupe of some one, and, since he has chosen us, we will be revenged."
"What outrageous behaviour!" exclaimed the pretended princess. "How foolish I was to trust the promises of such people! See how wrong it is to let a painter flatter you a little! But does it not happen every day? If princes refused their brides for that reason, not many of them would marry."
The king and his son were too angry to reply: they got into their litters again, and without any ceremony one of the horsemen put the princess up be hind him, and the lady-in-waiting was treated in the same way. By the king's orders, they were taken to the town and shut up in the castle of the three gables.
Prince Warrior was so overcome by the blow that for a time he was unable to find words in which to express his grief. When at length he found himself able to give vent to it, he had much to say about the hardness of his fate. He was still in love, and the object of his passion was a portrait. His hopes were gone, his delightful imaginings about Desirée had all been castles in the air; death was preferable to marriage with the woman whom he believed to be Desirée. In the depths of his misery, he felt he could no longer endure life at Court, and determined, as soon as his health allowed it, to leave the palace secretly and spend the rest of his life in some solitary place.
He did not speak of his plan to any one except Becafigue; he felt convinced he would follow him everywhere, and often talked over with him the shabby trick that had been played on him. As soon as he began to feel better he departed, leaving a letter for the king promising to return when his grief had become less keen. He begged him meanwhile to think of their common vengeance and not to set the ugly princess free.
The king's grief on reading his son's letter may be easily imagined. Indeed, the separation from so beloved a child almost cost the father his life. While everybody was occupied in comforting him, the prince and Becafigue were journeying far away, and at the end of three days found themselves in a big forest. The thickly growing trees made it so dark, the fresh grass and the murmuring brooks made it so pleasant, that the prince, tired out with the long journey, for he was not yet entirely recovered from his illness, dismounted; he threw himself sadly on the ground, his hand Supporting his head, and he was so weak that he could scarcely speak. "Sir," said Becafigue, "while you are resting I will go and find some fruit, and have a look round this place." The prince replied only by a sign of assent.
It is so long since we left the hind in the wood that I must now speak of the matchless princess. She wept like a hind in despair when she saw her form mirrored in the brook. "What do I see?" she said. "I have to-day undergone the strangest change the fairies' power could devise for an innocent princess. How long will this change last? Where can I hide to be out of the reach of lions, bears, and wolves? How can I live on grass?" She asked herself a thousand such questions, and suffered the most cruel agony possible. The only consoling circumstance was that she was as beautiful a hind as she had been a princess.
Being exceedingly hungry, Desirée nibbled grass with a good appetite, and was vastly astonished to find such a thing possible. She lay down on the moss, and spent the night in the greatest terror. She heard the cries of wild beasts near her, and often forgetting she was a hind, attempted to climb a tree. The dawn reassured her a little; she admired its beauty, and the sun seemed to her something so wonderful that she could not leave off looking at it: all she had heard of it fell far short of the reality. It was her only consolation in that desolate spot, where she remained for several days quite alone.
Fairy Tulip, who had always loved the princess, although much distressed at her misfortune, was extremely vexed with her mother and herself for paying so little attention to her advice; she had told them over and over again that if the princess left the subterranean castle before she was fifteen, mischief would follow. However, she could not leave her to the anger of the fairy of the spring, and it was she who led Gilliflower to the forest in order that her faithful friend might be a comfort to the princess in her misfortune.
The beautiful hind was quietly feeding beside the brook, when Gilliflower, overcome with fatigue, lay down to rest and sadly began to wonder in which direction she ought to go to find her mistress. The hind saw her, jumped the brook, which was both wide and deep, and threw herself on Gilliflower and tenderly caressed her. She was greatly surprised, uncertain if the animals of that district had a particular affection for men, a circumstance that made them almost human, or if she knew her, for it was passing strange that a hind should be accomplished enough to do the honours of the forest so perfectly.
She looked at her attentively, and saw with extreme astonishment tears fall from her eyes; she then felt sure it could be no other than her princess. She kissed her feet with as much respect and affection as if they had been her hands.
She spoke; the hind understood her but could not reply; the tears and sighs of both were redoubled. Gilliflower promised her mistress not to abandon her; the hind made signs with her head and eyes that she was glad and felt comforted in her trouble.
They remained together nearly the whole day. The hind, fearing lest her faithful Gilliflower would be hungry, led her to a place in the forest where she had observed wild fruit growing; she ate a great quantity, for she was famished. The meal ended, she became very anxious about where they could sleep; for she could not make up her mind to remain in the forest exposed to all the dangers of the night. "Are you not afraid, beautiful hind," she said, "to spend the night here?" The hind raised her eves to heaven and sighed. "But," continued Gilliflower, "you have already traversed a part of this solitude; are there no houses, no woodcutters, charcoal burners, or hermits?" By a shake of the head the hind showed that she had seen no one. "O ye gods "exclaimed Gilliflower, "I shall never sec the morrow, even if I am lucky enough to escape tigers and bears. I am certain I should die of terror. But you must not think, my dear princess, that I should regret life on my own account; it is entirely on yours. Alas could anything be more miserable than to leave you in this place, destitute of all comfort?" The little hind began to weep, and sobbed almost like a human being.
Fairy Tulip, who loved her tenderly, was touched by her tears; notwithstanding her disobedience, she had always watched over her, and now suddenly appearing before her, said "I am too sorry for you to scold you". The hind and Gilliflower interrupted her, the former by licking her hands and caressing her, the latter imploring her to take pity on the princess and restore her to her natural form. "That is not in my power," said Tulip. "She who has Worked this mischief is too influential, hut I can shorten the time of penance, and make it less disagreeable by permitting the princess to leave her hind form directly night takes the place of day; she must assume it again, how ever, each day at dawn, and roam the plains and forests like the rest of the Species."
It was certainly something to cease being a hind at night, and the princess testified her joy by leaps and bounds that greatly delighted Tulip. "Go down that narrow path," she said, "you will find there a hut not so bad for so rustic a situation." With these words she vanished. They obeyed her, took the route indicated, and came upon an old woman seated on her door-step weaving a wicker basket. Gilliflower made a curtesy, and said: "Will you give me and my hind shelter? I want a small room." "Yes, my fair daughter," she replied, "I will gladly give you a retreat here. Come in, you and your hind." She led them into a very pretty room, panelled with cherry-wood; it contained two little white beds with fine linen sheets, and it was all so simple and clean that the princess has said since that nothing could have been more to her liking.
As Soon as night was over all the earth, Desirée ceased to be a hind; she kissed her beloved Gilliflower, thanked her for following her fortunes, and promised when her penance was over to do all in her power to render her happy. The old woman knocked gently at the door, and without going in, gave Gull flower excellent fruit of which the princess ate with much appetite. They then went to bed. When daylight appeared, Desirée became a hind again and began to scratch at the door. Gilliflower opened it and, although it was not for long, they showed a sincere regret at parting; the hind darted into the thickest part of the wood, and began to roam about as usual.
I have already mentioned that Prince Warrior had stopped in the forest, and that Becafigue had gone in quest of food. It was late when he reached the old woman's cottage. He addressed her politely, and asked her for the things he needed for his master. She at once filled a basket for him. "If you spend the night here," she said, "without shelter of some kind, I fear an accident may happen to you. The accommodation I can offer you is very poor, but it will at least put you out of the reach of lions." He thanked her, and told her he was with a friend to whom he would point out the wisdom of accepting her kind offer. The prince was prevailed on to come to the good woman's house. She was waiting at the door, and very quietly led them to a room similar to that of the princess and only divided from it by a partition wall.
The prince, as usual, passed a disturbed night; as soon as the first rays of the sun shone in at his window, he rose and took his way into the forest in the hope of diverting his misery, telling Becafigue he preferred to be alone.
For some time he walked on without any fixed purpose, and at last reached a mossy spot sheltered by trees, out of which darted a hind. He could not help following her; the chase had been his ruling passion, but since another passion had possessed his heart, he had not indulged in it to any great extent. All the same he now followed the poor hind, and from time to time let fly arrows that, although they did not wound her, nearly caused her to die of fear. Her friend Tulip protected her, and it certainly needed a fairy's helping hand to prevent the serious effects of such well-aimed shafts. The hind was excessively fatigued; she was altogether unaccustomed to so much exercise. At length she turned down a path, and happily the hunter lost sight of her; finding himself extremely tired, he desisted from following her.
After a day spent in that manner, the hind joyfully welcomed the hour for retiring, and turned her steps towards the house where Gilliflower was impatiently awaiting her. Directly she reached her room, she threw herself on her bed out of breath and worn out. Gilliflower, eager to know what had happened, caressed her. At the appointed hour the princess resumed her natural shape, and throwing her arms round her favourite's neck, said: "Alas! I thought I had nothing to fear but the fairy of the spring and the wild inhabitants of this forest, but I was chased to-day by a young huntsman whom I hardly looked at, so anxious was I to get away. The arrows he aimed at me threatened inevitable death; indeed, I cannot tell by what good fortune I escaped." "You must not go out again, my princess," replied Gilliflower; 'you must spend the time of your penance in this room. I will go to the nearest town and purchase books to divert our minds; we will read the newest fairs' tales, and ourselves compose songs and poems." "My dear girl," said the princess, "the delightful thought of Prince Warrior is enough to occupy my mind pleasantly, but the same power that forces me to he a hind during the day makes me against my will act as they do; thus I run, jump, eat grass, and at those times the confinement of a room would be intolerable to me." She was so fatigued that as soon as she had satisfied her hunger, she closed her beautiful eyes till dawn appeared. Then the usual change took place, and she returned to the forest.
The prince likewise rejoined his friend in the evening. "I spent my time," he said, "in hunting the most beautiful hind I have ever seen; she escaped me a hundred times with the most wonderful skill. I aimed so surely that I cannot conceive how I missed her; as soon as it is light I must go and look for her, and I shall not fail to find her." In fact, the prince was anxious to erase from his mind the face of a woman whom he now thought did not exist, and was, there fore, not sorry to occupy himself with the chase. He went early to the same spot where he had first seen the hind. But she, fearing a repetition of yesterday's disagreeable adventure, took good care not to go there. The prince searched everywhere, arid walked about for a long time. It was very hot, and he was much delighted to find apples whose rosy colour was greatly to his taste; he gathered some and ate them, and was soon sleeping soundly, lying on the fresh grass under trees that seemed the trysting place of a thousand melodious birds.
While he slept the timid hind, eager to discover a place of shelter, came to the very spot where he was. If she had seen him sooner, she would have fled, but as she was so near him, she could not help looking at him. His deep slumber gave her courage, and she had leisure to examine his features. But imagine her state of mind when she recognised him. His charming image had become so deeply impressed on her memory that she could not have forgotten him in so short a time. O Cupid, Cupid, what is your purpose? Is the hind to die by the hands of her lover? Yes, indeed, she is exposed to that danger; there is no possibility of safety. She lay down some paces from him, and her joy at the sight of him was so great that she could not take her eyes off him for a moment, She sighed and moaned and becoming bolder, she went nearer, touched him, and he woke up.
He was much surprised to recognise the hind that had given him so much trouble, and that he had sought so long in vain; he could not at all understand her familiarity. She did not wait until he tried to seize her, but ran away at the top of her speed, and he followed as quickly as he could. Now and again they stopped to take breath, for both the beautiful hind and the prince were still tired from yesterday's chase; but it must be confessed that what most retarded the hind's flight was parting from him who had inflicted on her a more serious wound with his charms than with his arrows. He noticed that she often turned her head towards him as if to ask him if he intended to kill her, and whenever he was on the point of coming up with her, she made fresh attempts to escape. "Ah! if only you could understand me, little hind," he exclaimed, "you would not fly from me; I love you, and want to make a pet of you, you are so charming I will take the greatest care of you." But the sound of his words was lost in the air, and they did not reach her.
After going all round the forest, the hind, too fatigued to continue running, slackened her pace, and the prince, feeling more joyful than he had believed Possible came up with her. He saw that all her strength was spent, and she lay, a little half-dead creature, expecting her life to be taken by her conqueror; but, on the contrary, he began to caress her. "I hind," he said, "there is nothing to fear; I want to take you away with me, and keep you with me always." He cut down some branches skilfully, bent them, covered them with moss, and scattered roses over them that grew on the bushes hard by; taking the hind in his arms, he supported her head against his neck, and laid her gently on the improvised couch. He sat near her, and from time to time gathered fine grass which she ate out of his hand.
Although the prince knew she could not understand him, he went on talking to her. Notwithstanding the pleasure she felt in his society, as night came on she began to grow anxious. "What would happen," she said to herself, "if he saw me suddenly change my form? He would be startled, and would avoid me, or if not, there would be everything to fear alone with him in this forest." She thought continually of some way of escape, when luckily he himself provided the means. Thinking she must he thirsty, the prince went in search of a brook to which he might take her. While he was gone she stole off and reached the cottage where Gilliflower was awaiting her. She threw herself on her bed, night came, the change took place, and she related the day's adventure.
"Would you believe it?" she said, "my Prince Warrior is in this forest; he is the hunter who has been chasing me for two clays, and at last he caught me and caressed me again and again. His portrait falls far short of the original, he is a hundred times handsomer than the painting. Even the disorder and fatigue consequent on hard hunting took off nothing from his good looks, but rather added indescribable attractions. Am I not unfortunate to be obliged to avoid him, the prince destined for me by my nearest relatives, who loves me, and whom I love in return? Why should a wicked fairy conceive a dislike to me on the day of my birth, and make all my life miserable?" She began to weep; Gilliflower tried to console her with the hope that her troubles would soon be turned into pleasures.
When the prince had found a stream, he returned to his beloved hind but she 'as no longer where he had left her. In vain he searched for her, and felt as much annoyed with her as if she had been a reasoning being. "I am always,'' he said, "it seems, to have to complain of that deceitful and faithless sex." Very melancholy he returned to the old woman's house, and in relating his adventure with the hind to his friend, accused her of ingratitude. Becafigue could not help smiling at the prince's anger, and advised him to punish the hind the next time he met her. "That is my only reason for remaining here,' replied the prince; "afterwards we will pursue our journey further."
Day returned, and with it the princess resumed the form of a white hind. She was undecided how to act; whether to go to the prince's usual haunts, or to take a different route and so avoid him. She chose the latter course, and went far away; but the prince, equally cunning, did the same, thinking she would try that trick, and found her in the thickest part of the forest. She had just begun to think herself safe when she saw him. Over the bushes she sprang and leaped, and, as if she dreaded worse treatment on account of the trick she had played him, she was swifter than the wind. But as she was crossing a path, he took such sure aim that he shot her leg with his arrow. She felt a violent pain, and her strength deserting her, she fell down.
Cruel and barbarous Love, what were you thinking of? You permit a matchless girl to be wounded by her tender lover! But the sad accident was inevitable, for the fairy of the spring destined it to be the turning-point of the adventure. The prince was much distressed to see that the hind was bleeding. He applied herbs to the wound to relieve the pain, and again improvised a couch with branches. He held the hind's head against his knees. "You have only yourself to blame, fickle creature," he said, "for your suffering. Why did you forsake me yesterday? You will not have the chance to-day, for I intend to take you with me." The hind made no reply; indeed what could she have said? She was in the wrong, and was unable to speak; it is certainly of rare occurrence that those who are in the wrong keep silence. The prince caressed her again and again. "How sorry I am to have wounded you," he said; "you will hate me for it, and I want you to love me." It would seem that some hidden genius inspired him what to say to the hind. At length it was time to return to his old hostess; he burdened himself with his prey, and it gave him no little trouble; he led it, carried it, and sometimes dragged it.
The hind had not the least desire to go with him. "What will happen," she said, "when night comes and I am alone with the prince? I would sooner die." She made herself as heavy as possible, and he began to perspire with the exertion; it was not far to the cottage, but he saw that without help he would be unable to get there. He decided to fetch his faithful Becafigue, but before he left his prey, fearing she would escape, he tied her with many ribbons to the trunk of a tree.
Alas! who would have dreamed that the most beautiful princess in the world would one day be treated thus by the prince who loved her! She tried in vain to break the ribbons, but her efforts only drew the knots tighter. She was almost on the point of strangling herself with a slip-knot he had tied most unskilfully when Gilliflower, tired of being shut up in her room, went out to get some air, and came to the place where the poor hind was struggling. Her consternation at her mistress's condition may easily be imagined. The ribbons were knotted in so many different places that she was not very quick at undoing them, so that just as she was ready to take the hind away the prince and Becafigue arrived on the scene.
"Although my respect for you, madam, is very great," said the prince, "allow me to protest against the theft you are committing. I wounded the hind, she is mine, I love her, and entreat you to leave her to me." "Sir," replied Gilliflower, politely, for she was both nice-looking and well-bred, "the hind was mine first. I would rather lose my life than my hind; if you wish to make sure she knows me, let me set her free. Come, my little white darling, embrace me." The hind threw herself on the girl's neck. "Kiss my right cheek"; the order was obeyed; "touch my heart"; she laid her foot on it; "sigh," and she sighed. The prince could no longer doubt the truth of Gilliflower's words. "I give her up to you," he said, politely, "but I confess I am very sorry to do so." She at once departed with her hind.
They did not know that the prince lived in their house; he followed them, and was surprised to see them enter the good old woman's cottage. He reached it soon after, and, impelled by curiosity, asked the woman who the young lady was; she replied that she did not know, she had received her and the hind, she paid well and lived in the completest isolation. Becafigue asked where her room was situated and heard it was next to his, separated only by the partition wall.
When they gained their apartment, Becafigue told the prince he was the most mistaken of men if the girl with the hind had not lived with Princess Desirée, and he felt sure he had seen her at the palace when he had acted as ambassador there. "Why do you revive my recollection of that fatal under taking? By what chance could she be here?" "That I cannot tell, sir," added Becafigue, "but I should like another look at her, and as nothing but a wooden framework divides us I am going to make a hole." "What useless curiosity," said the prince sadly, for Becafigue's words had brought back all his sorrows. He opened the window that looked on to the forest and fell a-dreaming.
Meanwhile, by Becafigue's exertions, a hole was made through which he saw the lovely princess dressed in a gown of silver brocade, embroidered with gold and emeralds and worked with flowers in red silk. Her hair fell in long curls over her beautiful shoulders, her complexion was brilliant and her eyes were shining. Gilliflower was on her knees binding up the arm which still bled copiously. They both seemed much troubled by the wound. "Let me die," said the princess; "death is preferable to the wretched life I am leading, to be a hind all day, to see the man whom I was destined to marry, without being able to speak to him, and tell him my wretched story! Alas! if you knew how pathetic were the things he said to me, what a sweet-sounding voice he has, what noble and attractive manners, you would pity me even more than you do, for my inability to explain matters to him."
Becafigue's astonishment at all he saw and heard may be easily imagined. He ran to the prince, tore him from the window with more joy than can be expressed. "Sir," he said, "come to the wall without delay, you will see the original of the portrait that enchanted you." The prince no sooner looked than he recognised his princess if he had not feared he must be the victim of some strange sorcery, he would have been beside himself with joy, but how could he reconcile such a surprising encounter with Long-Thorn and her mother who were shut up in the castle of the three gables, and who designated themselves respectively Desirée and her lady-in-waiting?
His inclination was, of course, to think it all right we are ever ready to persuade ourselves of what we wish, and on such an occasion the one thing to do was to seek an explanation. He, therefore, without delay, knocked gently at the door of the princess's room. Gilliflower, thinking it was the good old woman, and needing her help to bind up the princess's wound, hastened to open it, and was vastly surprised to see the prince, who immediately entered, and threw himself at Desirée's feet. His great joy prevented him making any coherent speech, so that, notwithstanding my efforts to learn what he said in those first moments, I have found no one able to tell me. The princess's answers were equally confused, but Love, that so often serves as interpreter to the dumb, made a third at the interview and convinced the lovers that never before were such charming things said. And certainly it was all very tender and pathetic; tears, sighs, vows, and smiles played a part. Thus the night passed and day began to break; Desirée had not given a thought to its approach, and she never again became a hind. She noticed the circumstance, and nothing could equal her joy. The prince was too dear to her not to be allowed to share her gladness. She told him her story with a charm and natural eloquence excelling that of the cleverest men and women.
"My lovely princess," he exclaimed, "was it you I wounded in the form of a white hind? How can I atone for so great a crime? Will it be enough if I die of grief before your eyes?" He was so distressed that his grief was depicted in his face. This troubled Desirée more than her wound; she assured him it was very slight, and that she rather took pleasure in a misfortune that had been productive of so much good.
Her manner of saying this was so kind that he could not but believe her protestations. To explain everything on his side, he told her of the fraud of Long-Thorn and her mother, adding that he must hasten to inform his father of his good fortune in finding Desirée, because he intended to wage war with her father in revenge for the affront he thought had been put upon him. Desirée begged him to send letters by Becafigue. He was about to obey her when a loud sound of trumpets, clarions, big drums and little drums was heard in the forest. It seemed as if a large concourse of people was passing close to the little house. The prince looked out of the window, recognised several officers and his own flags and standards he ordered them to halt till he could join them.
The army was delighted; the men thought the prince meant to lead them against Desirée's father. The king, in spite of his great age, was commanding them in person. He was in a litter of gold-embroidered velvet, followed by an open chariot in which were Long-Thorn and her mother. Prince Warrior, perceiving the litter, hastened up to it, and the king embraced him very tenderly. "Where do you come from, my dear son?" he exclaimed; "how could you grieve me by going away?" "Sire," replied the prince, "deign to hear my story." The king got out of the litter, and withdrawing to a retired spot, his son told him of the fortunate meeting and of Long-Thorn's villainy.
The king was delighted, clasped his hands and raised his eyes to heaven in token of gratitude. Princess Desirée looked more beautiful than all the stars together. She mounted a magnificent horse that curvetted finely; her head was adorned with feathers of many colours, and the biggest diamonds imaginable were to be seen on her gown. She wore the costume of a huntress. Gilliflower, who accompanied her, was equally resplendent. This was the result of Tulip's protection; she had looked after everything carefully and successfully. The pretty wooden house had been built on purpose for the princess, and in the guise of an old woman Tulip had entertained her for several days.
When the prince had recognised his troops, and had gone to meet his father, Tulip entered Desirée's room, cured the wound in her arm by breathing on it, and gave her the rich garments in which she appeared before the king. He said all that was kind and suited to the occasion, and entreated her not to delay becoming his subjects' queen, for he went on: "I am determined to give up kingdom to Prince Warrior in order to make him more worthy of you". Desirée replied with all the politeness to be expected from a highly bred lady, and then looking at the two prisoners in the chariot who had covered their faces with their hands, generously demanded their pardon, and that they might be allowed the use of the chariot to take them wherever they wished to go. The king consented, all the while admiring her kind heart and praising her highly.
The army was ordered to return, and the prince mounted his horse to accompany his lovely princess. They were received in the capital with great shouts of joy. The preparations made for the wedding were of a very solemn character on account of the presence of the six kind fairies who loved the princess. They gave her the richest presents imaginable; among others, the magnificent palace where the queen had visited them Suddenly appeared in the air, borne by fifty thousand Cupids. They placed it in a beautiful plain by the river side. After a gift like that, no other seemed of any importance.
Faithful Becafigue asked his master to speak to Gilliflower and when he wedded the princess, to marry him to her. The prince was quite agreeable, and the girl was very glad to find so advantageous a match in a foreign land. Fairy Tulip, who was more generous than her sisters, gave her four gold mines in the Indies, so that her husband might not be able to say he was richer than she. The marriage festivities lasted for several months, some new entertainment was forthcoming every day, and the whole world has Sung the White Hind's adventures.