A prince has a red hat that makes him invisible, and uses it to pursue Love.
This is a vintage fairy tale, and contains violence. We would encourage parents to read beforehand if your child is sensitive to such themes.
Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen who had only one son, of whom they were passionately fond, though he was a very ill-shapen boy. He was as stout as the biggest man and as short as the tiniest dwarf. But the ugliness of his face and the deformity of his body were as nothing compared to his evil disposition.
He was a self-willed little wretch, and a nuisance to everybody. From his earliest childhood the king had noticed this, but the queen was foolishly blind to his faults, and helped to spoil him still more by her excessive indulgence, which let him plainly see the power he had over her.
To gain favour with this princess you had but to tell her that her son was handsome and clever. She wished to give him a name that would inspire respect and fear, and after racking her brains for a long time she called him Furibon.
When he was old enough to have a tutor, the king chose for this purpose a prince who had ancient claims on the crown, and who would have maintained them like a man of spirit, if his affairs had been in a better state. But he had long given up all thought of this, and his whole time was occupied with the education of his only son. Never was there a lad gifted with a finer nature, a quicker or keener mind, or a gentler, meeker spirit. Everything he said had a happy turn and a special grace of its own, and in his person he was charming.
The king having chosen this great lord to be the guide of Furibon’s youth, told his son to be very obedient, but Furibon was a naughty urchin to whom a hundred floggings made no difference. The tutor’s son was called Leander, and everybody liked him. The ladies looked on him with much interest, but as he paid no special attention to any of them, they called him the Fair Indifferent. And they laid siege to him to make him change his manner towards them, but for all that he hardly ever left Furibon.
Furibon, however, only seemed to them the more hideous now that he appeared side by side with Leander, for he never came near the ladies except to say rude things to them: sometimes to tell them they were badly dressed, or that they were like country cousins, or-and this before everybody-that their faces were painted. He would get to know their secrets, only to tell them to the queen, who scolded them, and as a punishment cut short their rations.
All this made them hate Furibon with a deadly hatred. He knew it, and he took his revenge on young Leander.
“You are very lucky,” he said, looking at him sulkily. “The ladies are always praising you, but they behave very differently to me.”
“My lord,” said Leander, modestly. “The respect they have for you prevents their being on such familiar terms.”
“It is just as well for them they do feel so,” he said. “For otherwise I would beat them to a jelly to teach them their duty.”
One day, when ambassadors from a far country were expected, the prince and Leander were waiting in a gallery to see them go past. As soon as the ambassadors saw Leander they came forward and made profound bows before him, showing in every way their admiration. Then, looking at Furibon, thinking he must be the prince’s inferior, they took him by the arm, and twirled him round and round in spite of himself.
Leander was in despair. He made every effort to make them understand that it was the king’s son they were treating in this fashion. They did not know what he was saying, and unfortunately the interpreter had gone to await them by the king. Leander, seeing that they did not understand his signs, humbled himself still more before Furibon, and the ambassadors and their suite, thinking he was playing, laughed like to split their sides, and wanted to tweak the prince by the noise, after the fashion of their country. Furibon, in a towering rage, drew his little sword, which was no longer than a fan, and would have attacked them if the king had not come at that moment to meet the ambassadors, and been a witness to this violent scene. He apologised to them, for he knew their tongue, but they answered that it was of no consequence, for they had seen very well that the hideous Furibon was in a bad temper. The king was much distressed that the ugly face and the violence of his son should prevent his being recognised.
When the king and the ambassadors were out of sight Furibon took Leander by the hair, and plucked out two or three handfuls, and he would have strangled him if he had been able. Then he told him never again to come into his presence.
Leander’s father, very angry at what Furibon had done, sent his son away to a castle he had in the country. There Leander never found time to lay heavily on his hands, for he was fond of hunting, fishing, and walking. He could paint; he read a great deal, and could play on several instruments. He thought himself lucky no longer to have to pay court to the eccentric prince, and in spite of his being all by himself he was never lonely.
One day when he had been walking for a long time in his gardens, the heat becoming very great, he went into a little wood where the trees were tall and the foliage thick, to enjoy the pleasant shade. He began playing the flute to amuse himself, when he felt something turning round his leg and gripping it very tight. He looked to see what it could be, and was much astonished to find a great adder.
Taking his handkerchief he seized it by the head, and was just going to kill it when the creature twisted the rest of its body round his arm, and fixed its eyes on him as if asking for mercy.
One of his gardeners came up at that moment, and no sooner had he seen the adder than he cried out to his master:
“My lord, hold it fast. For a whole hour I have been running after it trying to kill it. It is the slyest beast in the world, and ruins our flower beds.”
Leander cast his eyes again on the adder. It was spotted all over with a thousand different colours. It looked at him still fixedly, but made not a movement to defend itself.
“Since you wished to kill it,” he said to his gardener, “and it has come to take refuge with me, I forbid you to hurt it in any way. I wish to feed it, and when it has cast off its beautiful skin I shall let it go.” Then he went back to his castle, and put it in a large room of which he kept the key, and sent bran, and milk, and flowers, and herbs to feed it and make it happy.
What a lucky snake! Sometimes he would go to see it, and as soon as it caught sight of him it came to meet him, crawling along and putting on all the little airs and graces an adder is capable of. The prince was very much surprised, yet he paid no great attention to the matter. Meanwhile all the ladies of the court were grieved at Leander’s absence, and their talk was of nothing but him and of how they wished he were back again.
“Alas!” they said, “there is no more pleasure at the court since Leander has gone, and it is all the fault of that wicked Furibon. Why should he be jealous because Leander is handsomer and more beloved than himself? Must Leander, to please him, disfigure his shape and his face? Must he dislocate his bones to be like him, or split his mouth from ear to ear, or close up his fine eyes, or cut off his nose? What an unreasonable little wretch! He will never be happy his whole life long, for he will never find anyone who is not handsomer than himself.”
But however wicked princes may be, they always have flatterers – and, in fact, wicked princes have even more than others. So it was with Furibon. His power over the mind of the queen made him formidable. When he heard what the ladies said he was mad with rage, and going to the queen’s room he told her he would kill himself before her face if she did not find some means of putting Leander to death. The queen, who hated Leander because he was handsomer than her son, replied that she had long looked upon him as a traitor, and that with a right good will she would have a hand in his death.
So he planned that he would go hunting with those favourites whom he could put most trust in, and that when Leander joined them they would teach him what comes of people worming themselves into everybody’s favour. Furibon, therefore, went a-hunting.
When Leander heard the dogs and the horns in his woods, he mounted his horse and rode out to see what was happening. When he saw the prince he was very much surprised, and dismounting, he saluted him respectfully. Furibon received him better than he expected, and told him to follow him. Then, turning round, he made a sign to the assassins not to fail in their attack. He himself was riding off at full speed when a lion of an enormous size came out of the depths of its cavern, and rushing on him, threw him to the ground. Those who were with him ran away.
Leander alone remained to face the furious animal.
Advancing with his sword in his hand, at the risk of being devoured, by his valour and his dexterity he saved his most cruel enemy. Furibon had fainted from fright. Leander tended him in the most careful fashion, and when he had recovered consciousness, he set him on his own horse.
Anyone but a thankless wretch would have felt grateful to the very depths of his soul for so great and recent a service, and by word and deed would have shown his gratitude. Not so Furibon. He did not even look at Leander, and only used his horse to go and seek the assassins, whom he again ordered to kill his preserver. They therefore surrounded Leander, who must certainly have been killed had his courage been less.
Making for a tree, he leant up against it so as not to be attacked from behind, and, sparing none of his enemies, he fought desperately. Furibon, thinking he was dead, hastened up to have the pleasure of looking on his dead body, but a very different scene from what he expected met his eyes, for the whole gang of villains were breathing their last.
Leander saw him, he came forward and said: “My lord, if it is by your order that they attempted to murder me, I am sorry I resisted “.
“Get you gone with your insolence,” replied the prince, in wrath. “If ever you appear before me again I will put you to death.”
Leander made no reply, and, sad at heart, he made his way home.
The night was spent in thinking what he should do, for there seemed no likelihood of his being able to successfully resist the king’s son; so he made up his mind to travel over the whole world. But just when he was ready to set off, he remembered the adder, and went to take it some milk and fruit.
As he was opening the door, he saw a strange light shining in one of the corners of the room. Looking more closely, he was much astonished to see a lady, whose noble and majestic presence gave evidence of her high rank. Her dress was of amaranth satin, embroidered with diamonds and pearls. Coming forward with a gracious air, she said to him:
“Young prince, do not seek here for the adder you brought hither. It is here no longer, and you find me in its place to pay you its debt. But to speak more plainly: well, I am fairy Gentille, famous for the many merry and dexterous tricks I know how to perform. All our family live for a hundred years without growing old. We are never ill: we have no sorrows or pains. That time over, we become adders for eight days. It is this period alone that is dangerous for us, for then we can neither foresee nor prevent any misfortunes that may happen to us; and if we are killed we never live again. The eight days past, we assume once more our ordinary shape, our beauty, our power, and our treasures. Now you understand, my lord, what I owe you, and it is only just that I should pay my debt. Think, therefore, what would be useful to you, and be sure of my good will.”
The young prince, who up to this time had had no dealings with the fairies, was so filled with astonishment that it was long before he could speak. But, making her a low bow, he said:
“Madam, after the honour that has been mine in serving you, fortune has nothing left to give me. “
“I should be very sorry,” she said, “were you not to give me a chance of being useful to you. Think a little, for I can make you a great king. I can prolong your life; make you even handsomer than you are; give you mines of diamonds, and houses full of gold. I can make you a fine orator, a poet, a musician, a painter. I can give you favour in the ladies’ eyes: I can give you a fuller intelligence. I can turn you into a spirit of the air, the water, and the earth.”
Here Leander interrupted her. “Forgive me for asking, madam,’ he said, “but what would be the good of being a spirit?”
“Why, it would have all kinds of uses and delights,” replied the fairy. “You could cross in a moment the vast plains of the universe. You could mount into the air without wings. You could visit the depths of the earth without being dead; sound the abysses of the sea without being drowned: gain entrance everywhere though the windows and the doors be shut. Then, whenever you liked, you could take your own natural shape again.”
“Ah, madam!” he cried, “I should like to be such a spirit. I am on the point of setting out on my travels, and I can imagine the infinite delight which I could enjoy with the powers you describe, and I prefer this gift to all those you have so generously offered to me.”
“Then,” replied Gentille, passing her hand three times over his eyes and face, “henceforth be Ariel, Ariel the beloved, Ariel the beautiful, Ariel the merry.” She kissed him, and gave him a little red hat, decked with parrots’ feathers. “When you put on this hat,” she said, “you will be invisible; when you take it off you will be visible.”
Leander, in great delight, clapped the little red hat on his head, and wished that he might go into the forest and pick the wild roses he had seen there. At that moment his body became light as thought. He was transported into the forest, passing through the window and flying like a bird. He could not help feeling afraid when he saw himself so high in the air, and when he was above a river he feared he might fall into it without the fairy having the power of preventing it. But he found himself safely at the foot of the rose tree, and plucking three roses, he returned at once to the room where the fairy still was.
He presented them to her, full of delight that his little trial trip had succeeded so well. But she told him to keep the roses: that one of them would supply him with all the money he would need; that if he put the second on his mistress’s throat he would know if she loved him truly; and that the third would prevent his falling ill. Then, without waiting for his thanks, she wished him bon voyage and vanished.
He was greatly delighted with the fine gift he had just received. “Could I ever have thought,” he said, “that saving a poor snake from the hands of my gardener would have brought me such a wonderful, such a splendid reward? Oh, how happy I shall be! What a pleasant time I shall have! How much I shall learn! When I am invisible I can find out the greatest secrets.”
It passed through his mind, too, that he should very much enjoy taking vengeance on Furibon. Setting his affairs hastily in order, he mounted the finest horse in his stable, which was called Grisdelin, and ordered some of his servants in his own livery to follow him, in order that the news of his return to court might the sooner get abroad.
Now you must know that Furibon, who was a great liar, had reported that had it not been for his own bravery, Leander would have murdered him while they were out hunting, that he had killed all his men, and that he must be brought to justice. The king, urged by the queen, ordered him to be arrested, so that when Leander came to court in this bold fashion, Furibon was warned of his arrival. He was too timid to go to meet him himself; but running to his mother’s room, he told her that Leander had just come, and begged her to have him seized. The queen, ever eager to fulfil the least desire of her miserable son, set off at once to find the king, and the prince impatient to know the decision, followed her in silence.
Stopping at the door, he leaned his ear to the key hole, putting his hair aside so as to hear the better. Meanwhile Leander came into the great hail of the palace wearing his little red hat, which, of course, made him invisible. When he saw Furibon listening he took a hammer and nail and nailed his ear fast to the door. Furibon, desperate, raging with pain, knocked at the door like a madman, shrieking loudly.
At his voice the queen ran to open the door, and in doing so tore off the prince’s ear, which made him bleed as if he had been murdered, and caused him to make faces horrible to see. The queen, inconsolable, took him on her knee, and taking the ear in her hand, kissed it and stuck it on again. Ariel seized a bunch of rods that were used for beating the king’s little dogs, and with these he rapped the queen’s knuckles and her son’s nose several times. She shrieked out that she was being murdered. The king looked everywhere. Everybody ran hither and thither, hut no one was to be seen, and they whispered that the queen must be mad from the grief of seeing Furibon’s ear torn off. It was the king who first thought so, and when she came near him he moved out of her way. It was a very awful scene!
At last, after Ariel had given Furibon a good beating, he left the room, and went into the garden, where he made himself visible again. Here he openly plucked the cherries, the apricots, the strawberries, and the flowers from the queen’s beds. She used to water these herself, and it was as much as anyone’s life was worth to touch them. The gardeners, very much surprised, came and told their majesties that Prince Leander was robbing the trees of their fruit and the garden of its flowers.
“What insolence!” cried the queen. “My little Furibon, my own darling, forget for a moment your hurt, and run after this villain. Take the guards, the musketeers, the policemen, the courtiers. Place yourself at their head, seize him, and cut him to pieces.”
Furibon, fired by his mother’s words, and followed by a thousand well-armed men, entered the garden, and saw Leander under a tree. Leander threw a stone at Furibon and broke his arm, and he pelted the rest of the troop with oranges. They rushed towards him, but lo! at that moment he had disappeared. Stepping behind Furibon, who was already in a sorry plight, he passed a cord through his legs, which threw him on his nose. The prince was picked up and taken home to bed, very ill.
Leander, satisfied with this revenge, returned to his attendants, who were waiting for him, and giving them money, he sent them back to his castle, not wishing to take anyone with him who might know the secret of the little red hat and the roses. Not having made up his mind where he wished to go, he mounted his beautiful horse Grisdelin and let it go at its will. He passed through countless woods, over plains, hills and valleys, resting now and again, eating and sleeping, without meeting any remarkable adventure.
At last he reached a forest, where he stopped to enjoy the shade for a little, for it was very hot. After a moment he heard the sound of sighing and sobbing, and looking round everywhere, he saw a man running, then stopping, now crying out, now saying nothing for a while, tearing his hair, beating his body, till Leander had no doubt but that he was some miserable person who had lost his wits. He seemed to be handsome and young. His clothes had once been splendid, but now they were all tattered. The prince, moved with compassion, addressed him:
“I see you in so unhappy a condition that I cannot help asking you what is the matter and offering you my services”.
“Ah! my lord,” replied the young man, “there is no remedy for my ills. Today my dear mistress is going to be sacrificed to a jealous old wretch, who is rich in the world’s goods, but who will make her the unhappiest creature in the whole world!”
“She loves you then,” said Leander.
“I may flatter myself she does,” he answered.
“And where is she?” said the prince.
“In a castle at the farther end of this forest,” replied the lover.
“Very well, wait for me,” said Leander again. “I will bring you good news before very long.”
And so saying, he put on the little red hat, and wished himself in the castle.
He had not reached it before he heard the sound of beautiful music; and, on entering, the whole palace resounded with the noise of violins and other instruments. He made his way into a great hail thronged with the relatives and friends of the old man and the young damsel. Nothing could have been lovelier than she was, but the pallor of her complexion, the sadness in her face, and the tears that flooded her eyes from time to time, were quite enough to show her suffering.
Leander, who had now turned into the invisible Ariel, remained in a corner to watch some of those who were present. He saw the father and mother of the pretty maiden, who were scolding her for the discontented face she was wearing. When they had returned to their places, Ariel stationed himself behind the mother, and whispered in her ear:
“Since you force your daughter to give her hand to this old villain, know for certain that before eight days are over you will be punished by death “.
The woman, terrified at hearing a voice and seeing no one, and still more at the threat which had been uttered, screamed aloud and fell down on the floor. Her husband asked what was the matter, and she cried out that she was a dead woman if her daughter’s marriage took place, and that for all the riches of the world she would not permit it.
The husband laughed at her, and told her she was dreaming; but Ariel, going up to him, said:
“Old skeptic, if you do not believe what your wife says, you will pay for your doubt with your life. Break off your daughter’s wedding, and give her up at once to the man she loves.”
These words produced a wonderful effect. Without more ado they despatched the bridegroom, telling him they would not have broken off the match but for orders from on high.
He did not believe what they said, and would have sought to gain his end by trickery, for he was a Norman; but Ariel shouted so loud in his ear that he was nearly deafened, and to make sure of his departure, he trod so hard on his gouty feet that he nearly squeezed them flat. So they ran to seek for the lover in the wood, who in the meanwhile was in despair.
Ariel was waiting for him with the utmost impatience, only less than that of his young mistress. The lover and his bride nearly died of joy. The feast prepared for the old mans wedding served for the happy lovers, and Ariel taking his human shape again, appeared suddenly at the hail door in the guise of a stranger drawn thither by the noise of the feast. As soon as the bridegroom saw him, he ran and threw himself at his feet, calling him every name that his gratitude could suggest to him.
Leander spent two days in this castle, and if he had liked he might have ruined them, for they offered him all they possessed; and he did not quit such good company without regret.
Going on his way, he reached a large city where lived a queen whose great desire was to gather about her court all the handsomest persons in her kingdom. Leander on his arrival had the finest equipage prepared that ever was seen; for, after all, he had only to shake the rose, and money never failed him.
It is easy to imagine that being handsome, young, witty, and, above all, splendid in appearance, the queen and all the princesses received him with every mark of respect and consideration. This was the most gallant court in the whole world, and not to be in love there was to be laughed at. So wishing to follow the custom, he thought he would play at falling in love, and that when he went away he could leave his love behind him as easily as his suite. And he cast his eyes on one of the queen’s maids-of-honour, called Fair Blondine.
This lady was very clever, but so cold and so serious that he did not know very well what to do to please her. He arranged wonderful fetes, and balls, and plays every night. He sent for rarities from all parts of the world, but it seemed to have no effect on her. Still, the more indifferent she was, the more was he determined to gain her favour. What chiefly attracted him was that he believed she had never loved anyone else. But to be certain he thought he should like to try on her the power of the rose. So, as if playfully, he placed it on Blondine’s bosom, when suddenly, fresh and blooming as it had been, it withered and faded.
That was enough to let Leander know that he had a rival whom she loved. He felt this very keenly, and to be convinced of it by his own eyes, he wished himself in Blondine’s room in the evening. There he saw a musician come in who had the most villainous face imaginable. This man screeched out three or four couplets he had made for her, the Words and the music of which were alike detestable, but she enjoyed them as if they were the finest things she had ever heard in her life. He made faces as if he were possessed, and even these she praised, so mad about him was she; and at last she let this hideous wretch kiss her hand as a reward.
Ariel, enraged, threw himself on this impertinent musician; and pushing him roughly against a balcony, flung him into the garden, where he broke his few remaining teeth. If a thunderbolt had fallen on Blondine she could not have been more surprised. She thought it must be the work of some spirit. Ariel vanished from the room without showing himself, and at once returned to his own quarters, where he wrote to Blondine, heaping reproaches upon her. Without awaiting her answer he set off, leaving behind him his equipage, which he presented to his squires and his gentlemen, and rewarding the rest of his people. Then mounting on his trusty Grisdelin, he made up his mind never to fall in love again after what had happened.
He set out at full speed. For a long time he was very melancholy, but his good sense and absence from Blondine came to his aid in time. On his arrival in another town he learnt that a great ceremony was to take place that day, on the occasion of the admission of a maiden among the vestal virgins, though she had no wish to be one.
The prince was much touched when he heard of this. He now felt that the little red hat had only been given him to repair public wrongs and to comfort the distressed. So he hastened to the temple. There the young girl was crowned with flowers, dressed in white, and her long hair falling over her like a mantle. Two of her brothers led her by the hand, and her mother followed her with a great company of men and women. The eldest vestal was waiting for her at the temple door.
At that moment Ariel called out: “Stop, stop, wicked brethren, cruel mother, stop! heaven will not consent to this wrong being done. If you go on you will be trampled to death like frogs.”
They looked round everywhere without finding out where the terrible threats were coming from. The brothers said it must be their sister’s lover who was hiding at the bottom of some hole to play the oracle, but Ariel, flying into a rage, took a long stick and beat them soundly. You could see the stick rise and fall about their shoulders like a hammer on an anvil, and the blows at least were real enough. The vestals were seized with terror, and fled, the others following.
Ariel remained with the young victim. Taking off his little hat, he asked her in what way he could help her. She told him, with more courage than could have been expected of a girl of her age, that there was a knight whom she cared for very much, but who was poor. Then he shook Fairy Gentille’s rose so vigorously that he shot out ten million gold coins for her and her lover. The two young people got married, and lived happy ever afterwards.
The last adventure he had was the best of all. Entering a great forest he heard the piteous cries of a young maiden, who he had no doubt was being hurt in some way. Looking all around he saw four men, fully armed, bearing away a damsel who seemed to be about thirteen or fourteen years of age.
Advancing as speedily as possible, he cried out: “What has this child done that you should treat her as a slave? “
“And what is that to you, my little lordling? “said he who seemed to be the leader of the band.
“I command you,” said Leander, “to let her go at once.”
“Oh, certainly, certainly!” they answered, laughing. In great wrath the prince dismounted, and put on the little red hat, for he did not think it would be wise to attack all by himself four men strong enough to be a match for twelve. When he had on his little hat you would have been very clever if you could have seen him.
The robbers said: “He is gone; Don’t let us mind about him. Seize his horse only.”
One stopped to guard the young damsel, while the other three ran after Grisdelin, who gave them no end of trouble.
“Alas, fair princess!” said the girl, “how happy I was in your palace! How can I live without you? If you knew what has happened to me, you would send your Amazons after poor Abricotine.”
Leander listened, and without a moment’s delay he seized the arm of the robber who kept the girl, and tied it to a tree before he had the time to defend himself, for he did not even know who it was that had bound him. At his cries one of his comrades came running up out of breath and asked him who had tied him to the tree.
“I do not know. I have seen no one.”
“That is only an excuse,” said the other. “But I have known for long that you were nothing but a coward, and I shall treat you as you deserve.” Thereupon he belaboured him with his stirrup leathers. Ariel was much amused to hear him shouting.
Then going up to the second robber he took him by the arm, and fastened him also to a tree, just opposite his comrade, not forgetting to ask him: “Well, my good fellow, and who has dared to attack you? Are you not a great coward to have permitted it?”
The man answered not a word, but bent his head for shame, unable to imagine how he had been tied to the tree without seeing anyone.
Meanwhile Abricotine took the opportunity of running away, without even knowing where she was going. Leander, no longer seeing her, called out to Grisdelin, and the horse, eager to find his master, freed himself by two kicks from the robbers who had caught him, breaking the head of one and three ribs of the other.
The first thing to be done now was to rejoin Abricotine, for Ariel thought her very pretty, and he wished to be in the young damsel’s company. In a moment he had reached her, and found her so very, very tired that she was leaning up against a tree, hardly able to stand.
When she saw Grisdelin coming along so gaily, she cried out: “What good luck! Here is a pretty horse to carry Abricotine to the Palace of Delights.”
Ariel heard what she said, but she did not see him. He went up to her; Grisdelin stopped; and she sprang on his back. Ariel clasped her in his arms, and set her gently in front of him. Oh! how terrified Abricotine was to feel someone there, and yet to see nobody! She dared not move, and she shut her eyes for fear she should see a spirit, and did not utter a syllable. The prince, who had always his pockets full of the nicest sugar-plums in the world, tried to put some in her mouth, but she shut her teeth and lips quite tight. At last, taking off his little hat, he said:
“Why, Abricotine, you are a very timid girl to be so much afraid of me. It was I who saved you out of the robbers’ hands.”
Then she opened her eyes and recognised him. “Ah my lord,” she said, “I owe you everything. It is true I was terrified at being in the company of someone whom I could not see.”
“I am not invisible,” he replied; “but you have evidently hurt your eyes, and you could not therefore see me.” Abricotine believed him, though for all that she was sharp enough as a rule.
After talking for some time on things in general, Leander begged her to tell him her age, where her home was, and by what mischance she had fallen into the bandits’ hands.
“I owe you too much,” she said, “not to satisfy your curiosity; but, my lord, I beg you to give less attention to my story than to the means of getting on our way speedily. A fairy, who surpassed every other in fairy lore,” began Abricotine, “fell so madly in love with a certain prince that, though she was the first of her race who had been so weak, she married him, in spite of all persuasions to the contrary from the other fairies, who placed before her ceaselessly the wrong she was doing to their kind. They refused to let her live amongst them any longer, and all she could do was to build a great palace on the borders of their kingdom. But the prince whom she had married got tired of her. He was much annoyed because she had the power of seeing all his actions; and as soon as he showed the least favour to any other lady she made a terrible commotion, and would revenge herself on the prettiest damsel in the world by making her hideously ugly. The prince, feeling very uncomfortable by such an inconvenient amount of affection, set off one fine morning with post horses, and journeyed a long, long way off, to hide himself in a big hole in the depths of a mountain, in order that she might not be able to find him. It was no use. She followed him, and, telling him that a child was about to be born, begged him to return to his palace; that she would give him money, and horses, and dogs, and arms; that she would have a riding-school built, and a tennis-court and a mall made for his amusement. All this had no effect on him, for by nature he was very obstinate and fond of lawless pleasures. He said all sorts of rude things to her, and called her an old surly witch. ‘It is very lucky for you,’ she said, ‘that my good temper is greater than your folly, otherwise I would turn you into a cat, and you should pass your life mewling on the spout, or into a filthy toad, dabbling in the mud, or into a pumpkin or an owl. But the worst I can possibly do is to leave you to your own folly. Stay here, then, in your hole, in your dark cave with the bears. Call the shepherdesses of the neighbourhood round you, in time you will get to know the difference between the low country folks and a fairy like me, who can be as charming as she likes.'”
“With this she mounted on her flying car, and sped away as swift as a bird. As soon as she reached her home she transported her palace to an island, drove away her guards and her officers, took women of the Amazonian race and set them round her isle to keep a careful watch so that no men might ever set foot thereon. She called the spot the Isle of Calm Delights, and she used to say that no true pleasures were possible wherein men had any part. She bred up her daughter in this opinion. Never was there such a beautiful maiden. She is the princess I serve,” continued Abricotine; “and, as pleasures reign where she is, no one grows old in her palace. To look at me you would not think it, but I am more than two hundred years old. When my mistress grew up her fairy mother left her her island; and having given her many lessons in the art of living a happy- life, went back to the realm of Faërie once more. And the Princess of Calm Delights governs her state in an admirable fashion. I do not remember in all my life having seen an other men than those robbers who carried me off; and now you, my lord. Those men told me that they had been sent by a certain ugly, misshapen creature called Furibon, who loves my mistress, though he has only seen her portrait. They hung round the island with out daring to set foot on it, for our Amazons are too watchful to let anyone land. But I have charge of the princess’s birds, and I let a beautiful parrot escape, and fearing I should be scolded, I imprudently left the island to seek for it. So they’ caught me, and would have taken me away with them had it not been for your help.”
“If you really feel grateful,” said Leander, “may I not hope, fair Abricotine, that you will let me land on the Isle of Calm Delights, and let me see this wonderful princess who never grows old? “
“Ah! my lord,” she said, “we should be ruined, both you and I, if we did anything of the kind. It should be very easy for you to do without a pleasure which you have never known. You have never been in this palace: imagine to yourself that it does not exist.”
“It is not so easy as you think,” answered the prince, “to wipe out of one’s memory the things that take kindly root there; and I do not agree with you that to banish our sex is a sure means of securing calm delights.”
“My lord,” she replied, “it is not for me to decide. I even confess that if all men were like you I should be glad that the princess should make other laws; but having only seen five, four of whom were villains, I conclude that the wicked outnumber the good, and that it is therefore best to banish all of them.”
While they were speaking, they arrived at the banks of a great river. Abricotine jumped lightly to the ground.
“Adieu, my lord,” she said to the prince, making him a low bow; “I wish you so much happiness that the whole earth may be for you an island of delights. Now go away in haste, lest our Amazons see you.”
“And as for me,” he answered, “fair Abricotine, I pray that a tender heart may be given you, so that some memory of me may remain with you.” Then he went on his way.
In the thickest part of a wood which he saw near the river he unharnessed Grisdelin, so that he might wander about and graze for a little. Putting on the little red hat, he wished himself in the Isle of Calm Delights. His wish was granted at once, and he found himself in a very beautiful and very extraordinary place.
The palace was of pure gold, with figures on the roof of crystal and precious stones, representing the signs of the zodiac and all the wonders of nature-the sciences, the arts, the elements, the sea with its fish, the earth with its living things; Diana at the chase with her nymphs, the noble exercises of the Amazons, the amusements of a country life, shepherdesses with their flocks and their dogs; rustic labours, agriculture, harvesting, gardens, flowers, bees… and yet amongst all those different things there was never the image of a man nor a boy, not even a little Cupid; for the fairy had been too angry with her disloyal husband to show favour to any of his unfaithful sex.
“Abricotine has not deceived me,” said the prince to himself. “The very idea of men has been banished from this place; let us see whether they lose much thereby.”
Entering the palace, at every step he took such wonderful things met his eyes that it was with great difficulty he could withdraw them again. The gold and the diamonds were wonderful, even more for their workmanship than for their intrinsic worth. Everywhere he met maidens of gentle look, innocent and merry, and fair as a sunny morning.
Passing through endless vast rooms, he found some full of exquisite china vases, the odour from which, along with the odd colours and designs, delighted him greatly. Some of the rooms had walls of porcelain, so fine that you could see the light through them. Others were of engraved rock crystal, others of amber and coral, lapis lazuli, agate, and cornelian, while the princess’s room was all made of great mirrors, for so fair an object could not be too often seen. The throne was made of a single pearl, hollowed out like a shell, in which she sat with perfect ease. It was all hung round with branched candlesticks decked with rubies and diamonds.
But this splendour was as nothing by the side of the incomparable beauty of the princess herself. Her childlike air had all the grace of youth with the dignity of a riper age. Nothing could equal the gentleness and the brightness of her eyes. In fact, it was impossible to find fault with her at any point.
She was just then smiling graciously to her maids-of-honour, who that day had dressed themselves as nymphs for her amusement. Not seeing Abricotine, she asked where she was. The nymphs replied that they had sought her in vain. She was nowhere to be found.
Ariel was dying to speak to her, and so he imitated the shrill little voice of a parrot (there were several in the room), and said:
“Dear princess, Abricotine will come back soon. She was in great danger of being carried off, had not a young prince found her.”
“You are very pretty, my little parrot,” she said, “but I think you are mistaken, and when Abricotine returns she will beat you.”
“I shall not be beaten,” said Ariel, still in the parrot’s voice. “She will tell you how much the stranger wished he might come into this palace, to root out from your mind your false ideas against his sex.”
“Really, my pretty Polly,” cried the princess, “it is quite a pity that you are not as amusing every day. I would love you dearly.”
“Ah if I need only talk to please you,” said Ariel, “I shall not stop talking for a minute.”
“Well, no,” said the princess. “Would you not certainly say this parrot was a wizard?”
“He is too much of a lover to be a wizard,” he answered.
At that moment Abricotine entered; and threw herself at her fair mistress’s feet, she told her adventure, and painted the prince’s portrait in the brightest and most pleasing colours.
“I should have hated all men,” she added, “if I had not seen him. Ah! madam, how charming he is! In his look and his whole manner there is something noble and spiritual, and as everything he says is most fascinating, I think I have done wisely in not bringing him here.”
The princess made no answer to this, but went on questioning Abricotine about the prince, as to his name, his country, his birth, where he came from, where he was going to. Afterwards she fell into a deep reverie. Ariel watched everything, and continued to speak in the same voice.
“Abricotine is an ungrateful girl, madam,” he said. “This poor stranger will die of grief if he does not see you.”
“Very well, Polly, let him die; and, since you take upon yourself to talk seriously, I forbid you ever to speak to me again of that unknown prince.”
Leander was delighted to see that Abricotine’s story and the parrot’s had made such an impression on the princess, and he looked at her with a pleasure which made him forget his former vows never to fall in love in his life – for there was no comparison between her and the vain Blondine.
“Is it possible,” he said to himself, “that this masterpiece of nature, this miracle of our days, must stay forever on an island where no mortal man may dare approach her! But after all,” he went on, “what does it matter that all the rest are banished, since I have the honour of being here, since I see her, hear her, admire her, since I love her better than my life!”
It was late, and the princess passed into a hall all of marble and porphyry, where fountains were playing, and everything was pleasant and cool. As soon as she had entered, a symphony began and a sumptuous supper was served. At the side of the hail there were long aviaries filled with rare birds which Abricotine tended. Leander had learnt on his travels how to sing like birds; he used even to invent songs such as no living birds ever sang. The princess listened, looked in great astonishment, then left the table and came near. Ariel then gave out a louder, stronger note, and in the voice of a canary he sang these words to an impromptu air:-
“O! heavy the tread of the march of life,
And weary the striving and vain the strife,
And lonely the way for you and for me
If Love be not of the company.
For life is love, and love is life,
And everything else is useless strife
See, Love is beckoning you and me,
Haste then and join his company.”
The princess, still more astonished, sent for Abricotine, and asked her if she had taught any of the canaries to sing. She said no, but she thought that canaries were probably as intelligent as parrots. The princess smiled, and thought all the same that Abricotine had given the birds singing lessons. Then she sat down to table again to finish her supper.
Leander’s journey had been long enough to give him an appetite, and he made his way towards the good things, the very smell of which was grateful to him.
The princess had a blue cat-a very fashionable colour for cats at that period-which she was very fond of, and one of her maidens held it in her arms, saying: “Madam, I assure you Bluet is hungry “.
So they seated him at the table, with a little golden plate and a lace napkin neatly folded. He wore a golden bell and a pearl collar. With a voracious appetite he began to eat.
“Oh, ho!” said Ariel. “A great blue tom-cat, who probably never caught a mouse in his life, and who certainly is not of better birth than I, has the honour of supping with my fair princess! I would like to know if he loves her as much as I do, and if it is right that I have nothing but the smell of the dishes for my supper, while he munches all the dainty bits?”
Thereupon he very quietly removed Bluet, sat down himself in the armchair, and took the cat on his lap. No one saw Ariel. How could they have seen him, for he had his little red hat on? The princess put partridge, quail, and pheasant on Bluet’s golden plate. The partridge, quail, and pheasant disappeared in a moment, and the whole court said there never was a cat with such an appetite.
The ragouts were excellent, too; and Ariel taking a fork, and holding it in the cat’s paw, tasted them. Sometimes he took rather much on his fork, and Bluet, who did not understand a joke, mewed, and tried to scratch viciously. Then the princess would say: “Put that tart, or that fricassee, near poor Bluet. Hear how he is crying to have it!”
Leander laughed to himself at such a funny adventure. But now he felt very thirsty, not being used to such long repasts without drinking. So he caught hold of a large melon with the cat’s paw, and this satisfied him somewhat, and when supper was nearly over he ran to the sideboard and drank two bottles of delicious nectar.
The princess retired to her room, telling Abricotine to come along with her, and to shut the door. Ariel followed fast after, and made an unseen third to the company. The princess said to her confidant:
“Confess, now, that you were exaggerating in drawing the portrait of this unknown prince. It does not seem to me possible for him to be so beautiful as you say.”
“I assure you, madam,” she answered, “that if I have failed in any way it is that I have said too little.”
The princess sighed, and for a moment she was silent. Then, speaking again, she said:
“It was wise of you to have refused to bring him with you “.
“But, madam,” answered Abricotine, who was in fact a sly little monkey, and who already guessed what was in her mistress’s mind. “Even if he had come to admire the wonders of this lovely place, what harm could he have done you? Do you wish to live forever unknown in a corner of the world, hidden away from the rest of mortals? What is the use of so much grandeur, pomp, and magnificence if nobody sees it all?”
“Hold your tongue, you little chatterbox,” said the princess, “and do not trouble the happy calm which has been mine for two hundred years. Think you, if I had lived an anxious, noisy life, I should have lived so long? It is only innocent and quiet pleasures that leave no bad effects behind. Have we not heard in the best histories of revolutions in great states, of the unforeseen strokes of fickle fortune, the terrible disturbances caused by love, the griefs of absence and of jealousy? What is it brings about all these sorrows and troubles? Nothing but the interrelations of human beings with each other. Now, thanks to the care of my mother, I am free from all these crosses. I know neither bitterness of heart, nor vain desires, nor envy, nor love, nor hate. Ah, let us go on living always in this same calm!”
Abricotine dared not answer. The princess waited some time, and then asked her if she had nothing to say. Abricotine inquired why she had sent her portrait to various courts, where it could only make people miserable, for everyone who saw it would wish to see the original, and, being unable to, they would be in despair.
“I confess, in spite of that,” replied the princess, “that I would like my portrait to fall into the hands of that stranger, whose name I do not know.”
“Ah, madam!” she replied, “is he not already eager enough to see you? Would you have him more so?”
“Yes,” said the princess. “A certain impulse of vanity, which has been unknown to me till now, breeds this desire in me.”
Ariel listened to all this without losing a single one of the words: some of them gave him flattering hopes, which were dashed to pieces by others. It grew late, and the princess went to her room to bed. Ariel would have much liked to have been present when she made her toilette, but though this was possible, the respect he had for her prevented him. It seemed to him that he ought to take no liberties with her but those she might have permitted; and his affection for her was so delicate and so refined that he tormented himself about the smallest things. So he went into a cabinet near the princess’s room to have at least the pleasure of hearing her speak.
At that moment she was asking Abricotine if she had seen nothing extraordinary during her little journey.
“Madam,” she said, “I passed through a forest where I saw animals very much like children. They were leaping and dancing about the trees like squirrels. They were very ugly, but wonderfully nimble.”
“Ah, how I should like to have some of them!” said the princess. “If they were less agile one could catch them.”
Ariel, who had passed through this forest, knew the animals must be monkeys.
Thereupon he wished himself back in their haunts, where he caught a dozen, little and big. Putting them all into a sack, he wished himself at Paris, where he had heard you could have anything you liked for money. So he went to Dautel, a dealer in curiosities, and bought a little golden coach, to which he harnessed six green monkeys, with little trappings of flame-coloured morocco pricked out with gold. Then he hastened to Brioche, a famous marionette show man, where he found two very clever monkeys-one, the more intelligent, called Briscambille, the other Perceforêt. They were very polite and very well-bred. Briscambille he dressed as a king, and put him in the coach; Perceforêt was the coachman, while the rest of the monkeys were pages.
Never was seen anything so pretty. He put the carriage and the dressed-up monkeys in the same sack and returned. As the princess had not yet gone to bed she heard the noise of the little coach in her gallery, and her nymphs came to tell her of the arrival of the king of the dwarfs. At that moment the coach with its procession of monkeys entered her room, and the country monkeys did as pretty tricks as even Briscambille and Perceforêt. To tell the truth, it was Ariel who was leading the whole of them. Taking the monkey out of the little golden coach, he made him gracefully present a box covered with diamonds to the princess. She opened it at once, and found inside a letter, in which she read these verses:–
“Here is pleasure’s dwelling-place,
Palace bright, ‘mid gardens shady;
Fair the spot and full of grace,
Yet not so fair as my fair lady.
“All unseen, I envying see
Life’s cool stream here calmly gliding;
Bound and struggling restlessly,
All my passion from her hiding.”
It is not difficult to imagine her astonishment. Briscambille made a sign to Perceforêt to come and dance with him, and they excelled all the most celebrated performing monkeys that ever lived. But the princess, uneasy at being unable to guess whence the verses came, sent the dancers away sooner than she would other wise have done, for they amused her endlessly, and she had laughed at first enough to make her ill.
When they were gone she gave herself up entirely to her own thoughts, but she could make nothing of so dark a mystery. Leander, much pleased by the interest with which his verses had been read, and by the delight of the princess in looking at the monkeys, now thought of taking some rest, of which he stood in much need. But he feared lest he might choose some room occupied by one of the princess’s nymphs, and therefore he waited for a time in the great gallery of the palace.
When at last he went downstairs, he found an open door, and entering noiselessly, found himself in a room on one of the lower floors – the prettiest, the pleasantest ever seen. The bed was hung with green and gold gauze, draped in festoons, with ropes of pearls and tassels of rubies and emeralds. It was still light enough to enable him to admire all this wonderful splendour.
After shutting the door he fell asleep; but the remembrance of his fair princess woke him up several times, anti he could not keep from heaving sighs for his great love for her.
He rose so very early that the time dragged till he could see her. Looking about him, he saw a canvas ready prepared, and colours, and he called to mind what his princess had said to Abricotine about her portrait. Now he could paint better than the great masters, and without losing a moment he sat down before a large mirror and painted his own picture; also, in an oval, that of the princess, her face being so present to his imagination that he had no need to see her for this first sketch. Afterwards he touched up the work with her before him, though she was unconscious of his presence; and as it was the desire of pleasing her that gave him the impulse to work, never was a portrait more perfectly finished. He had represented himself as kneeling before her, holding the princess’s portrait in one hand and in the other a scroll, on which was written:–
“The likeness graven on my heart is fairer far”.
When she entered the cabinet she was astonished to see there the portrait of a man, and she fixed her eyes on it with the greater wonder inasmuch as she recognised her own as well. The words written on the scroll gave her abundant matter for curiosity and thought.
At that moment she was alone. She knew not what to think of such an extraordinary incident; but she persuaded herself it must be Abricotine who had played her this trick. The only thing to do was to find out whether the picture of this knight was painted from her imagination, or if there had been a living model.
Getting up quickly, she ran to call Abricotine. Ariel was already in the cabinet with the little red hat, very curious to hear what would take place.
The princess told Abricotine to cast her eyes on that picture, and tell her what she thought.
As soon as she saw it she cried out: “Madam, I protest to you this is the portrait of that generous stranger to whom I owe my life. Yes, it is indeed the same; there is no doubt of it. These are his features, his figure, his hair, his whole bearing.”
“You pretend to be surprised,” said the princess, smiling; “but it was you that put it here.”
“I, madam!” said Abricotine. “I swear to you I have never seen this picture before in all my life. Could I be so bold as to hide anything which could be of interest to you? And by what miracle could it have fallen into lily hands? I cannot paint. No man has ever entered this place; yet – here he is, and painted along with you.”
“I am seized with terror,” said the princess. “Some demon must have brought it here.”
“Madam,” said Abricotine, “may it not have been Love? If you think so too, I advise you to have it burned at once.”
“What a pity that would be!” said the princess, sighing. “It seems to me my boudoir could have no prettier decoration than this picture.”
While she said so, she looked at it; but Abricotine persisted in saying she should burn a thing that could only have come there by magic power.
“And these words:-
“The likeness graven on my heart is fairer far,”-
said the princess. “Shall we burn them too? “
“We must spare nothing,” replied Abricotine, “not even your own portrait.”
She ran off at once to fetch a light. The princess went and stood near the window, unable to look any longer at a portrait which made such an impression on her heart.
But Ariel, unwilling to let them burn it, took advantage of this moment, and ran off with it unseen. Hardly was he out of the room when she turned round to look again at the magic portrait which pleased her so much. What was her surprise to see it gone! She looked on all sides.
When Abricotine came in again the princess asked if it was she who had just taken it away, but Abricotine said “No,” and this last adventure really did frighten them.
After hiding the portrait Leander came back. During these days it was a source of much delight to him to hear and see his fair princess. Every day he ate at the table along with the blue cat, whose appetite was none the more satisfied in consequence. Yet Ariel’s happiness was far from perfect, since he dared neither speak nor let himself be seen, and without that one has little chance of being loved.
The princess delighted in all beautiful things, and in the present state of her heart she had need of amusement. One day when she was with her nymphs, she told them that she should like very much to know how the ladies of all the different courts in the universe were clad, in order that she might dress according to the finest model.
A suggestion was all that Ariel wanted to make him set off on a journey through the whole earth. So, clapping on his little red hat, he wished himself in China, where he bought the finest stuffs and took patterns of the costumes. Then he flew to Siam, where he did the same. He ran through the four quarters of the world in three days, and when he was laden he came back to the Palace of Calm Delights, and hid in a room all that he had brought. When he had in this way collected a number of wonderful curiosities (for money was nothing to him, his rose furnishing a constant supply), he bought five or six dozen dolls, which he had dressed in Paris, for there more than anywhere else in the world fashion has sway. There were costumes of all kinds, and of an untold splendour. All these Ariel arranged in the princess’s cabinet.
When she entered she was surprised beyond words. Every doll carried a present, either watches, bracelets, diamond buttons, or necklaces, whilst the principal one had a case containing a portrait. Opening it, the princess found a miniature of Leander. Her remembrance of the first one made her recognise the second. She uttered a loud cry, then, looking at Abricotine, she said:
“I cannot understand all that has been passing for some time in this palace. My birds talk like rational beings. It seems I have only to wish in order to be obeyed. I twice see the portrait of him who saved you from the bandits. Here are Stuffs, diamonds, embroideries, lace, and wonderful curiosities. Who is then the fairy, who is the demon, that seeks with such care to please me so? “
Leander, hearing her speak, wrote these words on his tablets, and threw them at the princess’s feet:-
“Neither sprite am I nor fairy;
But, though near you still I hover,
Yet to show my face I’m chary-
Pity your unhappy lover,
The tablets were so splendid with gold and jewels that as soon as she saw them she opened them, and read with the utmost astonishment what Leander had written.
“This invisible creature must be a monster, then,” she said, “since he dares not show himself; but if it were true that he had some attachment for me, he would surely have delicacy enough not to present me with so attractive a portrait. He cannot love me, else he would not expose my heart to this trial, or he has such a good opinion of himself that he thinks himself handsomer than he is in reality.”
“I have heard tell, madam,” replied Abricotine, “that there are spirits made of air and fire; they have no body, and it is only their mind and their will that act.”
“I am very glad of it,” replied the princess. “A lover like that could hardly disturb the calm of my life.”
Leander was delighted to hear her, and to see her so much occupied with his portrait. He called to mind that in a grotto which she often used to visit was a pedestal on which a Diana, still unfinished, was one day to be placed. He went and stood there in a strange dress, crowned with laurels and holding a lyre in his hand, which he could play better than Apollo. Then he waited patiently for his princess to come, as she did every day, for it was here she came to dream about her unknown lover.
Abricotine’s account of her champion, added to the pleasure she had in looking at Leander’s picture, hardly left her a moment of rest. She loved solitude, and her merry humour had changed so much that her nymphs hardly recognised her. When she entered the grotto, she signed to them not to follow her, so they each went away along separate walks. Meanwhile she threw herself on a grassy bed, sighing, shedding tears, even speaking, but so low that Ariel could not hear her.
At first he had put on the little red hat, so that she might not see him. When he took it off she gazed on him with the utmost astonishment, imagining that it was a statue, for he tried not to change the attitude he had chosen. It was with a joy mingled with fear that she looked on him. This vision so unexpected filled her with surprise, but in the end the pleasure cast out the fear, and she was just growing used to seeing so lifelike a figure when the prince tuned his lyre and sang these words:–
“There lurketh here such dangerous art
That stones and stones might feel it.
In vain I vowed to guard my heart,
Nor let the fair ones steal it.
Now, wounded, who will heal it, will heal it
“Is this the Isle of Calm Delights
Here passion met me on the shore,
Made me a slave beneath his might;
Yet, spite of freedom heretofore, ‘
Tis here I’d stay for evermore, for evermore.’
Although Leander’s voice was charming, the princess could not master the terror that seized her. Suddenly she grew pale, and fell in a swoon.
Ariel, alarmed, leaped from the pedestal to the ground, and put on his little red hat so that no one might see him. Then taking the princess in his arms, he tended her with the utmost care and eagerness.
She opened her beautiful eyes and cast them about on all sides, as if to look for him. She saw no one, but yet she felt someone near her, holding her hands, kissing them, and moistening them with tears. It was long before she dared to speak, her fluttered spirit hovering between fear and hope. She feared the invisible Ariel, but she loved him when he took the figure of the stranger.
At last she cried out: “Ariel, brave Ariel, why are you not he whom I desire? “
At these words Ariel was on the point of making himself known, but he dared not do it yet. “If I terrify this lady whom I love,” he said; “if she fears me, she will never love me.” This thought made him keep silence, and induced him to retire into a corner of the grotto.
The princess, thinking she was alone, called for Abricotine, and told her the wonders of the animated statue, whose voice was so heavenly, and that in her swoon Arjel had tended her so well.
“What a pity,” she said, “that this spirit is deformed and hideous, for could anyone have more gracious and pleasant manners?”
“And who told you,” said Abricotine, “that he is as you imagine him to be? Did not Psyche think that love was a serpent? Your adventure is something like hers. You are no less beautiful. If it were Cupid that loved you, would you not love him?”
“If Cupid and the unknown were the same,” said the princess, blushing, “alas! I would indeed love Cupid. But how far I am from such happiness! I am following a chimera, and that fatal portrait of the stranger, added to what you have told me, makes me wish for things so opposed to my mother’s precepts that I am sure to be punished.”
“Ah! madam,” said Abricotine, interrupting her, “have you not already trouble enough? Why look forward to the evils that will never come to pass?”
It is easy to imagine all the pleasure such a conversation gave to Leander. Meanwhile little Furibon, still in love with the princess, though he had never seen her, waited impatiently for the return of the four men whom he had sent to the Island of Calm Delights.
Only one, came back, who gave him an account of what had passed, telling him that it had been defended by Amazons, and that unless he were to lead a great army there he would never enter the island.
His father, the king, had just died, and Furibon now found himself sole master. So he gathered together more than four hundred thousand men, and set off at their head. Truly he was a fine general! Briscambille or Perceforêt would have done better than this dwarf, with his war-horse hardly half-an-ell in height.
When the Amazons saw this great army they warned the princess, who at once sent Abricotine to the kingdom of the fairies to beg her mother to tell her what she should do to drive little Furibon out of her states.
But Abricotine found the fairy very angry. “I know quite well all that my daughter is doing,” she said. “Prince Leander is in her palace. He loves her, and she loves him. All my care has not been able to save her from the tyranny of love, and now she is under his fatal sway. Alas! the cruel god is not satisfied with the harm he has done me: he exercises his power on what I love better than my life. Such are the decrees of fate, and I cannot resist them. Return, Abricotine; I do not wish even to hear of the daughter who grieves me in this way.”
Abricotine brought back the bad news to the princess, who was on the point of despair. Ariel was near her, invisible, and he saw with extreme sorrow her great grief.
He did not dare to speak to her at that moment, but he remembered that Furibon was very avaricious, and that by giving him money he might be induced to go away. So he dressed himself as an Amazon, and wished himself first of all in the forest, that he might secure his horse. He called out: “Grisdelin!” and Grisdelin came to him, leaping and bounding, for he was very wearied at being so long away from his dear master. But when he saw him dressed as a woman he did not recognise him, and feared some mistake.
When Leander arrived at Furibon’s camp everybody took him for an Amazon, so handsome was he. The king was told that a young lady wished to deliver him a message from the Princess of Calm Delights, so, quickly putting on his royal robes, he went and sat on his throne, looking like a big toad playing at being king.
Leander spoke, telling him that the princess, who preferred a quiet, peaceful life to the troubles of war, sent to offer him as much money as he wanted if she might be left in peace; but that, if he refused her offer, she would take every means to defend herself.
Furibon replied that he was willing to show mercy to her, that he accorded her the honour of his protection, and that she had only to send him a hundred thousand billions of gold coins and he would return at once to his own kingdom.
Leander said it would take too long to count so many, but that he had only to say how many roomfuls he wished for, and that the princess was generous enough and rich enough not to look to a gold coin more or less.
Furibon was much astonished that instead of beating him down they proposed to give him even more than he demanded. He thought to himself that he would do well to take all the money he could get; then he could arrest the Amazon and kill her, so that she might not return to her mistress. So he told Leander he would like thirty very large rooms quite filled with gold pieces, and he would give his word as a king to go back to his own country.
Leander was led into the rooms to be filled with gold, and, taking the rose, shook it and shook it till there rained from it torrents of gold coins as had never been seen. Nothing could have been prettier than this shower of gold.
Furibon was beside himself with joy, and the more gold he saw the more desirous was he of seizing the Amazon and carrying off the princess. As soon as the thirty rooms were full he cried to his guards “Arrest that cheat! It is false money she has brought me-arrest her!”.
All the guards tried to get hold of the Amazon, but at that moment the little red hat was put on, and Ariel disappeared. They thought he had fled outside, and running after him, they left Furibon alone. Then Ariel took him by the hair and disarmed him, before ever the unfortunate little king could even see the hand that was taking his life.
As soon as Ariel had secured the kings head he wished himself in the Palace of Delights. The princess was walking in the grounds thinking in deep sadness of what her mother had said, and wondering what means she could take to repulse Furibon. It was a very difficult task for her and her little band of Amazons, who could not possibly defend her against four hundred thousand men. But then she heard a voice saying: “Fear no more, dear princess; Furibon is dead, and will never again do you wrong”.
Abricotine recognised the voice of Leander, and cried out: “I assure you, madam, that the unseen one who is speaking is the stranger who came to my aid.”
The princess was astonished and delighted. “Ah!” she said, “if it is true that Ariel and the stranger are the same, I confess I should be very pleased to prove my gratitude to him.”
Ariel went away, saying: “I want still to work that I may be worthy of her.”
And he returned to the army of Furibon, the noise of whose death had been spread abroad. As soon as he appeared amongst them in his ordinary dress, everyone came up to him: the captains and the soldiers surrounded him, shouting aloud for joy, proclaiming him their king, and telling him the crown belonged to him. He divided the thirty rooms full of gold generously amongst them, so that the soldiers were made rich forever. And after some formalities, which assured Leander of the loyalty of the soldiers, he returned to the princess, ordering his army to make their way gradually back to his own kingdom.
The princess had gone to bed when Leander returned to the palace, and the deep respect which he had for her prevented his entering her room. So he went to his own, for he still kept the one below. He was tired enough to be glad of some rest, and this made him forget to shut the door as carefully as he usually did.
The princess, who was in a fever of anxiety, got up before the dawn, and in her morning went to her room downstairs. But what was her surprise to find Leander asleep on a bed! She had time enough to look at him without being seen, and to be convinced that it was the person whose portrait was in the diamond case.
“It is not possible,” she said, “that it is Ariel; for, do spirits sleep? Is that body made of air or fire, as Abricotine said? Does it not fill space?” She touched his hair gently: she heard him breathe, and she could not tear herself away, being half delighted and half alarmed at having found him.
Just as she was looking at him with eager eyes, her fairy mother entered with such a terrible noise that Leander awoke with a start. How surprised, how grieved he was to see his princess in the utmost despair! Her mother was dragging her off, loading her with reproaches. Oh, what grief for these young lovers about to be separated for ever!
The princess dared not say a word to this terrible fairy, and turned her eyes towards Leander as if to ask for help. He knew well enough that he could not keep her against the wish of so powerful a lady; but he trusted somewhat to his persuasive tongue and the mildness of his manner for appeasing this angry mother.
He ran after her, threw himself at her feet, and begged her to take pity on a young king who would never cease to love her daughter, and whose highest happiness would he to make her happy. The princess, encouraged by this example, then clung about her mother’s knees, saying that without the king she could not be content, and she owed him much.
“You do not know the trouble of love,” cried the fairy, “nor the treasons of which lovers are capable. They only fascinate in order to poison us. I have experienced it. Do you wish your fate to be like mine?”
“Ah, madam,” replied the princess, “is there no exception? Do you not think that the assurances which the king gives you, and which seem so sincere, will shelter me from what you dread?”
But the obstinate fairy let them sigh at her feet. In vain did they moisten her hands with their tears. She took no notice, and she would certainly never have forgiven them had not the lovely Fairy Gentille appeared in the room, shining brighter than the sun. The Graces accompanied her, and she was followed by a troop of loves, of sports, and of pleasures, who sang a thousand pretty songs that had never been heard before, dancing about as merry as children the while.
Embracing the old fairy, Gentille said: “My clear sister, I am sure you have not forgotten the services I did you when you wished to return to our kingdom. Had it not been for me you would never have been received. Since then I have asked for nothing in return; but at last the time is come when you can do me a real favour. Forgive this fair princess; give your consent to her marriage with this young king, and I will answer for him that he will never cease to love her. The web of their life will be spun with threads of silk and gold, and their union will give you infinite pleasure, while I shall never forget the kindness you have done me.”
“I consent to all you ask, dear Gentille,” cried the fairy. “Come, my children, come to my arms, and receive the assurance of my love.” With that she embraced the princess and her lover.
The Fairy Gentille was full of joy, and the whole troop began to sing the wedding hymns and the soft music having awakened all the nymphs of the palace, they came running in their light gauze robes to learn what was happening. Here was a pleasant surprise for Abricotine! No sooner had she set eyes on Leander than she recognised him; and seeing him holding the princess’s hand, she felt sure that they had both been made happy. What confirmed her was that the fairy mother said she would transport the Isle of Calm Delights, with the castle and all the wonders it contained, into Leander’s kingdom; that she would dwell with them there, and would heap still greater riches on them.
“Whatever your generosity may suggest to you to bestow on me,” answered the king, “it is impossible that you can give me anything equal to what I have received to-day.” This little compliment pleased the fairy very much, for she belonged to the olden time, when they would compliment each other all day long for some trifle no bigger than a pin-point.
As Gentille had forgotten nothing, she had had, by the power of Brelic Breloc, the generals and the captains of Furibon’s army brought to the palace of the princess, in order that they might be present at the splendid feast that was about to take place. It was she who took charge of the arrangements; and five or six volumes would not be enough to describe the comedies, the operas, the running at the ring, the music, the gladiator fights, the hunts, and the other splendid amusements of this charming wedding-feast.
But, most wonderful of all, each nymph found among the brave soldiers that Gentille had brought to this beautiful spot, a husband as affectionate as if she had known him for ten years. Yet their acquaintance had only lasted four-and-twenty hours; but then the little wand can do even more wonderful things than that.
Illustration by Pixabay, with thanks.
1. Leander loves the Princess. What are some of the ways that he shows his love in this story?
2. Do you think it’s important to do things for the people we love? Why or why not?