TO WHATEVER greatness Destiny may elevate those it favours, there is no worldly felicity exempt from serious sorrow. One cannot be acquainted with Fairies, and be ignorant that the most skilful amongst them have failed to discover a charm which would secure them from the misfortune of being compelled to change their shape some few days in every month, for that of some animal, terrestrial, celestial, or aquatic.
During that dangerous period, when they are completely at the mercy of mankind, they have frequently great difficulty in saving themselves from the perils to which that stern necessity exposes them.
One amongst them, who had changed herself into an Eel, was unfortunately taken by fishermen, and flung immediately into a small square tank in the midst of a beautiful meadow, wherein they kept the fish that were daily required for the table of the King of that country. Anguillette (so was the Fairy named) found in her new abode a great many fine fish destined, like herself, to live but a few hours. She had heard the fishermen say to one another, that that very evening the King purposed to give a grand banquet, for the which these fine fish had been carefully selected.
What tidings for the unfortunate Fairy! She accused the Fates of cruelty a thousand times! She sighed most sadly; but after hiding herself for some time at the very bottom of the water, in order to bewail her misfortune in solitude, the desire to escape if possible from so urgent a peril, induced her to look about her in every direction to see if she could not by some means get out of the reservoir, and regain the river which ran at no great distance from that spot. But the Fairy looked in vain. The tank was too deep for her to hope to get out of it without help, and her distress was augmented by seeing the fishermen who had taken her again approaching. They began to throw in their nets, and Anguillette, by avoiding them with great cunning, retarded for a few moments the death that awaited her. The youngest of the King's daughters was walking at that time in the meadow. She approached the tank to amuse herself by seeing the men fish.
The sun, about to set, shone brilliantly on the water. The skin of Anguillette, which was very glossy, glittered in its rays as if partly gilt and of all the colours of the rainbow. The young Princess caught sight of her, and thinking her exceedingly beautiful, ordered the fishermen to try and catch that Eel for her. They obeyed, and the unfortunate Fairy was speedily placed in the hands of the person who would decide her fate.
When the Princess had contemplated Anguillette for a few moments, she was touched with compassion, and running to the riverside, put her gently into the water. This unexpected service filled the Fairy's heart with gratitude. She appeared on the surface, and said to the Princess, "I owe you my life, generous Plousine (such was her name), but it is most fortunate for you that I do so. Be not afraid," she continued, observing the young Princess about to run away. "I am a Fairy, and will prove the truth of my words by heaping an infinite number of favours upon you."
As people were accustomed in those days to behold Fairies, Plousine recovered from her first alarm, and listened with great attention to the agreeable promises of Anguillette. She even began to answer her; but the Fairy interrupting her, said, "Wait till you have profited by my favour before you express your acknowledgments. Go, young Princess, and return to this spot to-morrow morning. Think, in the meantime, what you would wish for, and whatever it may be I will grant it. You may, at your choice, possess the most perfect and bewitching beauty, the finest and most charming intellect, or incalculable riches." After these words, Anguillette sank to the bottom of the river, and left Plousine highly gratified with her adventure.
She determined not to tell any one what had befallen her, "For," said she, to herself, "if Anguillette should deceive me, my sisters will believe that I invented this story."
After this little reflection, she hastened to rejoin her suite, which was composed of only a few ladies. She found them looking for her.
The young Plousine was occupied all the succeeding night in thinking what should be her choice. Beauty almost turned the scale; but as she had sufficient sense to desire still more, she finally determined to request that favour of the Fairy.
She rose with the sun, and ran to the meadow under the pretence of gathering flowers to make a garland, as she said, to present to the Queen, her mother, at her levée. Her attendants dispersed themselves about the meadow to cull the freshest and most beautiful of the flowers with which it was everywhere enamelled.
Meanwhile, the young Princess hastened to the riverside, and found upon the spot where she had seen the Fairy, a column of white marble, of the most perfect purity. An instant afterwards, the column opened and the Fairy emerged from it, and appeared to the Princess no longer as a fish, but as a tall and beautiful woman, of majestic demeanour, and whose robes and head-dress were covered with jewels.
"I am Anguillette," said she to the young Princess, who gazed upon her with great attention; "I come to fulfil my promise. You have chosen intellectual perfection, and you shall possess it from this very moment. You shall have so much sense as to be envied by those who till now have flattered themselves they were specially endowed with it."
The youthful Plousine, at these words, felt a considerable alteration taking place in her mind. She thanked the Fairy with an eloquence that till then she had been a stranger to.
The Fairy smiled at the astonishment the Princess could not conceal at her own powers of expression. "I am so much pleased with you," said the benignant Anguillette, "for making the choice you have done, in lieu of preferring beauty of person, which has such charms for one of your sex and age, that to reward you, I will add the gift of that loveliness you have so prudently foregone. Return hither to-morrow, at the same hour,--I give you till then to choose the style of beauty you would possess."
The Fairy disappeared, and left the young Plousine still more impressed with her good fortune. Her choice of superior intellect was dictated by reason, but the promise of surpassing beauty flattered her heart, and that which touches the heart is always felt most deeply.
On quitting the riverside, the Princess took the flowers presented to her by her attendants, and made a very tasteful garland with them, which she carried to the Queen; but what was her Majesty's astonishment, that of the King, and of all the Court, to hear Plousine speak with an elegance and a fluency which captivated every heart.
The Princesses, her sisters, vainly endeavoured to contest her mental superiority; they were compelled to wonder at and admire it.
Night came. The Princess, occupied with the expectation of becoming beautiful, instead of retiring to rest, passed into a cabinet hung with portraits, in which, under the form of goddesses, were represented several of the Queens and Princesses of her family. All these were beauties, and she indulged a hope that they would assist her in deciding on a style of beauty worthy to be solicited from a Fairy. The first that met her sight was a Juno. She was fair and had a presence such as should distinguish the Queen of the Gods. Pallas and Venus stood beside her. The subject of the picture was the Judgment of Paris.
The noble haughtiness of Pallas excited the admiration of the young Princess; but the loveliness of Venus almost decided her choice. Nevertheless, she passed on to the next picture, in which was seen Pomona reclining on a couch of turf, beneath trees laden with the finest fruits in the world. She appeared so charming, that the Princess, who since morning had become acquainted with all their stories, was not surprised that a God had taken various forms in order to please her.
Diana next appeared, attired as the poets represent her, the quiver slung behind her, and the bow in her hand. She was pursuing a stag, and followed by a numerous band of Nymphs.
Flora attracted her attention a little further off. She appeared to be walking in a garden, the flowers of which, although exquisite, could not be compared to the bloom of her complexion. Next came the Graces, beautiful and enchanting. This picture was the last in the room.
But the Princess was struck by that which was over the mantel-piece. It was the Goddess of Youth. A heavenly air was shed over her whole person. Her tresses were the fairest in the world; the turn of her head was most graceful, her mouth charming, her figure perfectly beautiful, and her eyes appeared much more likely to intoxicate than the nectar with which she seemed to be filling a cup.
"I will wish," exclaimed the young Princess, after she had contemplated with delight this lovely portrait, "I will wish to be as beautiful as Hebe, and to remain so as long as possible."
After this determination she returned to her bed-chamber, where the day she awaited seemed to her impatience as if it would never dawn.
At length it came, and she hastened again to the riverside. The Fairy kept her word. She appeared, and threw a few drops of water in the face of Plousine, who became immediately as beautiful as she had desired to be.
Some sea-gods had accompanied the Fairy. Their applause was the first effect produced by the charms of the fortunate Plousine. She looked at her image in the water, and could not recognise herself. Her silence and her astonishment were for the moment the only indications of her thankfulness.
"I have fulfilled all your wishes," said the generous Fairy. "You ought to be content; but I shall not be so if my favours do not far exceed your desires. In addition to the wit and beauty I have endowed you with, I bestow on you all the treasures at my disposal. They are inexhaustible. You have but to wish whenever you please for infinite wealth, and at the same moment you will acquire it, not only for yourself, but for all those you may deem worthy to possess it."
The Fairy disappeared, and the youthful Plousine, now as lovely as Hebe, returned to the palace. Everybody who met her was enchanted. They announced her arrival to the King, who was himself lost in admiration of her, and it was only by her voice and her talent that they recognised the amiable Princess. She informed the King that a Fairy had bestowed all those precious gifts upon her; and she was no longer called anything but Hebe, in consequence of her perfect resemblance to the portrait of that Goddess. What new causes were here to engender the hatred of her sisters against her! The beauties of her mind had excited their jealousy much less than those of her person.
All the Princes who had been attracted by their charms became faithless to them without the least hesitation. In like manner were all the other Court beauties abandoned by their admirers. No tears or reproaches could stop the flight of those inconstant lovers, and this conduct, which then appeared so singular, has since, it is said, become a common custom.
Hebe inflamed all hearts around her, while her own remained insensible.
Notwithstanding the hatred her sisters evinced towards her, she neglected nothing that she thought might please them. She wished for so much wealth for the eldest--and to wish and to give were the same thing to her,--that the greatest Sovereign in that part of the world requested the hand of that Princess in marriage, and the nuptials were celebrated with incredible magnificence. The King, Hebe's father, desired to take the field with a great army. The wishes of his beautiful daughter caused him to succeed in all his enterprises, and his kingdom was filled with such immense wealth, that he became the most formidable of all the monarchs in the universe.
The divine Hebe, however, weary of the bustle of the Court, was anxious to pass a few months in a pleasant mansion a short distance from the capital. She had excluded from it all magnificence, but everything about it was elegant, and of a charming simplicity. Nature alone had taken care to embellish the walks, which Art had not been employed to form. A wood, the paths through which had something wild in their scenery, intersected by rivulets and little torrents that formed natural cascades, surrounded this beautiful retreat.
The youthful Hebe often walked in this solitary wood. One day, when her heart felt more than usually oppressed with a tedium and lassitude to which she was now constantly subject, she endeavoured to ascertain the reason of it. She seated herself on the turf, beside a rivulet that with gentle murmur courted meditation.
"What sorrow is it," she asked herself, "that comes thus to trouble the excess of my happiness? What Princess in all the universe is blest with a lot so perfect as mine? The beneficence of the Fairy has accorded me all I wished for. I can heap treasures upon all who surround me. I am adored by all who behold me, and my heart is a stranger to every painful emotion. No! I cannot imagine whence arises the insupportable weariness which has for some time past detracted from the happiness of my life."
The young Princess was incessantly occupied by this reflection. At length she determined to go to the bank of Anguilette's river, and endeavour to obtain an interview with her.
The Fairy, accustomed to indulge her inclinations, appeared on the surface of the water. It happened to be one of the days when she was changed into a fish.
"It always gives me pleasure to see you, young Princess," said she to Hebe. "I know you have been passing some time in a very solitary dwelling, and you appear to me in a languishing state, which does not at all correspond with your good fortune. What hails you, Hebe? Confide in me." "There is nothing the matter," replied the young Princess, with some embarrassment. "You have showered too many benefits upon me for anything to be wanting to a felicity which is your own work." "You would deceive me," rejoined the Fairy; "I see it easily. You are no longer satisfied. Yet what more can you desire? Deserve my favour by a frank confession," added the gracious Fairy, "and I promise you I will again fulfil your wishes." "I know not what I wish," replied the charming Hebe. "But nevertheless," she continued, casting down her beautiful eyes, "I feel a lack of something, and that, whatever it may be, it is that which is absolutely essential to my happiness." "Ah!" exclaimed the Fairy, "it is love that you are sighing for. That passion alone could inspire you with such strange ideas. Dangerous disposition!" continued the prudent Fairy. "You sigh for love--you shall experience it. Hearts are but too naturally disposed to be affected by it. But I warn you that you will vainly invoke me to deliver you from the fatal passion you believe to be so sweet a blessing. My power does not extend so far."
"I care not," quickly replied the Princess, smiling and blushing at the same moment. "Alas! of what value to me are all the gifts you have bestowed upon me, if I cannot in turn make with them the happiness of another?" The Fairy sighed at these words, and sank to the bottom of the river.
Hebe retraced her steps to the wilderness, her heart filled with a hope which already began to dissipate her melancholy. The warnings of the Fairy caused her some anxiety; but her prudent reflections were soon banished by others, as dangerous as they were agreeable.
On reaching home she found a courier awaiting her with a message from the King, commanding her return to the Court that very day, in order that she might be present at an entertainment in preparation for the succeeding one. She took her departure accordingly, a few hours after the receipt of the message, and returned to the Court, where she was received with great pleasure by the King and Queen; who informed her that a foreign Prince, upon his travels, having arrived there a few days previously, they had determined to give him a fête, that he might talk in other countries of the magnificence displayed in their kingdom.
The youthful Hebe, obeying a presentiment of which she was unconscious, first inquired of the Princess, her sister, if the foreigner was handsome. "I never yet saw any one that could be compared to him," answered the Princess. "Describe, him to me," said Hebe, with emotion. "He is such as they paint heroes," replied Ilerie. "His form is graceful; his demeanour noble; his eyes are full of a fire that has already made more than one indifferent beauty at this Court acknowledge their power. He has the finest head in the world; his hair is dark brown; and the moment he appears, he absorbs the attention of all beholders."
"You draw a most charming portrait of him," said the youthful Hebe; "is it not a little flattered?" "No, sister," replied the Princess Ilerie, with a sigh she could not suppress. "Alas! you will find him, perhaps, but too worthy of admiration."
The Queen retired, and the beautiful Hebe, as soon as she had time to examine her heart, perceived that she had lost that tranquillity of which, till now, she had not known the value.
"Anguillette!" she exclaimed, as soon as she was alone. "Alas! what is this object which you have allowed to present itself to my sight? Your prudent counsels are rendered vain by its presence. Why do you not give me strength enough to resist such attractive charms? It may be, however, that their power surpasses that of any Fairy."
Hebe slept but little that night. She rose very early, and the thought of how she should dress herself for the fête that evening occupied her the whole day, to a degree she had been previously a stranger to, for it was the first time she had felt an anxiety to please.
The young foreigner, actuated by the same desire, neglected nothing that might make him appear agreeable to the eyes of the charming Hebe. The Princess Ilerie was equally solicitous of conquest. She possessed a thousand attractions, and when Hebe was not beside her, she was considered the most beautiful creature in the world; but Hebe outshone every one. The Queen gave a magnificent ball that evening; it was succeeded by a marvellous banquet. The young foreigner would have been struck by its prodigious splendour, if he could have looked at anything besides Hebe. After the banquet, a novel and brilliant illumination shed another daylight over the palace gardens. It was summer-time; the company descended into the gardens for the pleasure of an evening promenade. The handsome foreigner conducted the Queen; but this honour did not compensate him for being deprived of the company of his Princess, even for a few moments. The trees were decorated with festoons of flowers, and the lamps which formed the illumination were disposed in a manner to represent, in every direction, bows, arrows, and other weapons of Cupid, together, in some places, with inscriptions.
The company entered a little grove, illuminated like the rest of the gardens, and the Queen seated herself beside a pleasant fountain, around which had been arranged seats of turf, ornamented with garlands of pinks and roses. Whilst the Queen was engaged in conversation with the King and a host of courtiers that surrounded them, the Princesses amused themselves by reading the sentences formed by small lamps under the various devices. The handsome foreigner was at that moment close to the beautiful Hebe. She turned her eyes towards a spot in which appeared a shower of darts, and read aloud these words, which were displayed beneath them:--
"Some are inevitable."
"They are those which are shot from the eyes of the divine Hebe," quickly added the Prince, looking at her tenderly. The Princess heard him, and felt confused; but the Prince drew from her embarrassment a happy augury for his love, as it appeared unmingled with anger. The fête terminated with a thousand delightful novelties. The charms of the stranger had touched too sensibly the heart of Ilerie for her to be long without perceiving that he loved another. The Prince had paid her some attention previous to the arrival of Hebe at Court; but since he had seen the latter, he had been wholly engrossed by his passion.
In the meanwhile the young stranger endeavoured, by every proof of affection, to touch the heart of the beautiful Princess. He was devoted, amiable--her fate compelled her to love, and the Fairy abandoned her to the inclinations of her heart. What excuses for yielding! She could no longer struggle against herself. The charming Stranger had informed her that he was the son of a King, and that his name was Atimir. This name was known to the Princess. The Prince had performed wonders in a war between the two kingdoms; and as they had always been opposed to each other, he had not chosen to appear at the Court of Hebe's royal father under his real name.
The young Princess, after a conversation during which her heart fully imbibed the sweet and dangerous poison of which the Fairy had warned her, gave permission to Atimir to disclose to the King his rank and his love. The young Prince was transported with delight; he flew to the King's apartments, and urged his suit with all the eloquence his love could inspire him with.
The King conducted him to the Queen. This proposed marriage, assuring the establishment of a lasting peace between the two kingdoms, the hand of the beautiful Hebe was promised to her happy lover as soon as he had received the consent of the King, his father. The news was soon circulated, and the Princess Ilerie suffered anguish equal to her jealousy. She wept--she groaned; but it was necessary to control her emotion and conceal her vain regrets.
The beautiful Hebe and Atimir now saw each other continually; their affection increased daily, and in those happy days the young Princess could not imagine why the Fairies did not employ all their skill to make mortals fall in love when they wished to insure their felicity.
An ambassador from Atimir's royal father arrived at Court. He had been awaited with the utmost impatience. He was the bearer of the required consent, and preparations were immediately commenced for the celebration of those grand nuptials. Atimir had therefore no longer any reason for anxiety--a dangerous state for a lover one desires to retain faithful.
As soon as the Prince felt certain of his happiness, he became less ardent. One day that he was on his way to meet the fair Hebe in the palace gardens, he heard the voices of females in conversation in a bower of honeysuckles. He caught the sound of his name, and this awakened his curiosity to know more. He approached the bower softly, and easily recognised the voice of the Princess Ilerie. "I shall die before that fatal day, my dear Cléonice," said she, to a young person seated beside her. "The gods will not permit me to behold the ungrateful object of my love united to the too fortunate Hebe. My torments are too keen to endure much longer." "But, madam," replied her female companion, "Prince Atimir is not faithless; he has never avowed love for you. Destiny alone is to blame for your misfortunes, and amongst all the princes who adore you, you might find, perhaps, one more amiable than he is, did not a fatal prepossession engross your heart." "More amiable than him!" rejoined Ilerie. "Is there such a being in the universe? Powerful Fairy!" she added, with a sigh, "of all the blessings with which you have laden the fortunate Hebe, I but covet that of Atimir's devoted attachment to her." The words of the Princess were interrupted by her tears. Ah! how happy would she have been had she known how much those tears had moved the heart of Atimir!
She rose to leave the bower, and the Prince hid himself behind some trees to escape observation. The tears and the love of Ilerie had affected him deeply, but he imagined they were but the emotions of pity which he felt for a beautiful Princess whom he had unintentionally made so miserable. He proceeded to join Hebe, and the contemplation of her charms banished for the moment all other thoughts from his mind. In passing through the gardens, as he returned with the Princess Hebe to the Palace, he trod upon something which attracted his attention. He picked it up, and found it was a set of magnificent tablets. It was not far from the bower in which he had overheard the conversation of Ilerie and her attendant. He feared if Hebe saw the tablets, she would obtain some knowledge of his adventure. He hid them, therefore, without her having observed them. She happened at that moment to be occupied in re-adjusting some ornament in her head-dress.
That evening Ilerie did not make her appearance in the Queen's apartments. It was reported that she had felt indisposed on returning from her walk. Atimir perfectly understood that her object was to conceal the agitation to which he had seen her a prey in the bower of honeysuckles. This reflection increased his compassion for her.
As soon as he had retired to his own chamber he opened the tablets he had picked up. On the first leaf he saw a cipher formed of a double A, crowned with a wreath of myrtle, and supported by two little Cupids, one of whom appeared to be wiping the tears from his cheeks with the end of the ribbon that bandaged his eyes, and the other breaking his arrows. The sight of this cipher agitated the young Prince. He knew that Ilerie drew admirably. He turned over the leaf quickly to gain further information, and on the opposite side found the following lines:-
Hither all-conquering Love thy footsteps led;
At thy first glance sweet peace my bosom fled;
Oh, cruel one, to try on me the dart
With which you meant to wound another's heart!
The handwriting, which he recognised, but too clearly proved to him that the tablets were those of the Princess Ilerie. He was affected by the great tenderness of these sentiments, which far from being nourished by his love and attentions, were not even encouraged by hope. These verses reminded him that previous to the arrival of Hebe at Court he had thought Ilerie lovely. He began to consider himself unfaithful to that Princess, and he became too seriously so to the charming Hebe.
He struggled, however, against these first emotions; but his heart was accustomed to range, and so dangerous a habit is rarely corrected.
He threw Ilerie's tablets on a table, resolving not to look at them any more; but he took them up again a moment afterwards, despite himself, and found in them a thousand things which completed the triumph of Ilerie over the divine Hebe.
The Prince's heart was occupied all night by conflicting feelings. In the morning he waited on the King, who named the day he had fixed on for his marriage with Hebe. Atimir replied with an embarrassment which the King mistook for a proof of his passion--(how little do we know of the human heart!) It was the effect of his inconstancy! The King desired to visit the Queen; the Prince was obliged to follow him. He had been there but a short time when the Princess Ilerie appeared with an air of melancholy which made her more lovely in the eyes of the inconstant Atimir, who was aware of its cause. He approached her, and talked to her for some time. He gave her to understand that he was no longer ignorant of her affection for him. He spoke with ardour of his feelings for her. It was too much for Ilerie. Ah! how is it possible to receive calmly the assurance of so great so unexpected a happiness.
The charming Hebe entered the Queen's apartments shortly afterwards. Her sight brought the blood into the cheeks both of the Princess Ilerie and of the fickle Atimir. "How beautiful she is!" exclaimed Ilerie, looking at the Prince with an emotion she could not conceal. "Avoid her, sir, or end at once my existence." The Prince had not power to answer her. Hebe approached them with a grace and charm which unconsciously loaded with reproaches the ungrateful Atimir. He could not long endure his position. He quitted the Princess, saying that he was anxious to despatch a courier to his father. She was so prepossessed in his favour that she never noticed some eloquent glances at Ilerie, which he cast on leaving her.
While Ilerie triumphed in secret, the beautiful Hebe learned from the King and Queen that in three days she was to be the bride of Atimir. How unworthy was he of the sensations which this news awakened in the heart of the lovely Hebe.
The faithless Prince, though pre-occupied by his new passion, passed part of the day in Hebe's company. Ilerie was present, and was a thousand times ready to die with jealousy. Her love had redoubled since she had entertained hope.
On returning to his own apartments in the evening, the Prince was presented with a note by an unknown messenger. He opened it hastily, and found in it these words:--
"I yield to a passion a thousand times stronger than my reason. Since I can no longer attempt to conceal sentiments which chance has revealed to you, come, Prince, come, and learn the determination to which I am driven by the love you have inspired me with. Oh, how happy will it be for me if it cost me but my life!"
The bearer of the note informed the Prince that he was commissioned to conduct him to the spot where the Princess Ilerie awaited him. Atimir did not hesitate a moment to follow him, and after several turnings, he was introduced into a little pavilion at the end of a very dark avenue. The interior of the pavilion was sufficiently lighted. He found in it Ilerie with one of her attendants; the rest were walking in the gardens. When she had retired to this apartment, no one entered it without her orders. Ilerie was seated on a pile of cushions of crimson and gold embroidery. Her dress was rich and elegant, the material being of yellow and silver tissue. Her hair, which was black and exceedingly beautiful, was ornamented with ribbons of the same colour as the dress, and ties of yellow diamonds. At her sight, Atimir could not persuade himself that infidelity was a crime. He knelt at her feet, and Ilerie, gazing upon him with a tenderness sufficiently indicative of the emotion of her heart, said, "Prince, I have not caused you to come hither in order to persuade you to break off your marriage; I know too well it is determined upon, and the expressions with which you have endeavoured to alleviate my misfortune and flatter my affection do not induce me to believe that you would abandon Hebe for me; but," she continued, with a gush of tears, which completed the conquest of the heart of Atimir, "I will not endure the life which you have rendered so wretched. I will sacrifice it without regret to my love, and this poison," she added, showing a little box which she had in her hand, "will save me from the fearful torment of seeing you the husband of Hebe."
"No, beautiful Ilerie!" exclaimed the fickle Prince, "I will never be her husband. I will abandon all for your sake; I love you a thousand times better than I loved Hebe; and despite my duty and my faith so solemnly plighted, I am ready to fly with you to a spot where no obstacle shall exist to our happiness." "Ah, Prince!" said Ilerie, with a sigh, "can I confide, then, in one so faithless?" "He will never be faithless to you," rejoined Atimir. "And the King, your father, who gave Hebe to me, will not refuse to sanction my union with the lovely Ilerie, when she is already mine." "Away, then, Atimir," said the Princess, after a few minutes' silence. "Let us hasten whither our destiny leads us. Whatever misery the step entails on me, nothing can weigh against the sweet delights of loving and being beloved."
After these words, they consulted together respecting their flight. There was no time to lose. They determined to depart the following night. They separated with regret, and, notwithstanding the vows of Atimir, Ilerie still feared the power of Hebe's attractions. The rest of that night and all the next day she was a prey to that anxiety.
In the meanwhile, the Prince hurriedly gave all the necessary orders for keeping his departure secret, and the next day, as soon as everybody in the palace had retired to their apartments, he hastened to join Ilerie in the pavilion in the garden, where she awaited him, attended only by Cléonice. They set out, and made incredible haste to pass the frontiers of the kingdom.
The following morning the news was made public, by a letter which Ilerie had written to the Queen, and another which Atimir had addressed to the King. They were couched in touching language, and it was easy to perceive that love had dictated them. The King and Queen were extremely enraged; but no words can express the agony of the unfortunate and charming Hebe. What despair! what tears! what petitions to the Fairy Anguillette to terminate torments equal to the most cruel she had predicted! But the Fairy kept her word. In vain did Hebe seek the riverside. Anguillette did not appear, and she abandoned herself to all the horrors of desperation. The Princes who had been discouraged by the success of the ungrateful Atimir now felt their hopes revive; but their attentions and professions only increased the torture of the faithful Hebe.
The King ardently desired that she should select for herself a husband, and had several times urged her to do so; but that duty appeared too cruel to her affectionate heart. She determined to fly from her father's kingdom; but, before her departure, she went once more in search of Anguillette. The Fairy could no longer resist the tears of the beautiful Hebe. She appeared to her, and at her sight the Princess wept still more, and had not the power to speak to her.
"You have now experienced," said the Fairy, "what that fatal pleasure which I would never willingly have accorded to you is; but Atimir has too severely punished you, Hebe, for your neglect of my advice. Go! Fly these scenes, where everything recalls to you the remembrance of your love. You will find a vessel on the coast, which will bear you to the only spot in the world where you can be cured of your unfortunate attachment; but take care," added Anguillette, raising her voice, "when your heart shall have regained its tranquillity, that you never seek to behold again the faithless Atimir, or it will cost you your life!" Hebe wished more than once to see that Prince again at whatever price Love might compel her to pay for that gratification; but a whisper of Reason, and respect for her own honour, induced her to accept the Fairy's offer. She thanked her for this last favour, and departed the next morning for the sea-coast, followed by such of her women as she had most confidence in.
She found the vessel Anguillette had promised her. It was gilt all over. The masts were of marqueterie of the most admirable pattern; the sails, of rose-colour and silver tissue; and in every part of it was inscribed the word "Liberty." The crew were attired in dresses of the same colours as the sails. All appeared to breathe in this atmosphere the sweet air of freedom.
The Princess entered a magnificent cabin. The furniture was admirable, and the paintings perfect. She was as much a prey to sorrow in this new abode as she was in her father's Court. They strove in vain to amuse her by a thousand pleasures; she was not yet in a state of mind to pay the slightest attention to them.
One day while she was contemplating a painting in her cabin, which represented a landscape, she remarked in it a young shepherd, who, with a smiling countenance, was depicted cutting nets to set at liberty a great number of birds that had been caught in them, and some of these little creatures seemed to be soaring to the skies with marvellous velocity. All the other pictures displayed similar subjects. None suggested an idea of love, and all appeared to boast the charms of Liberty. "Alas!" exclaimed the Princess, sorrowfully, "will my heart never enjoy that sweet happiness which reason prays for so often in vain?"
The unfortunate Hebe thus passed her days, struggling between her love and her desire to forget it. The ship had been a month at sea without touching anywhere, when one morning that the Princess was on deck she saw land at a distance, which appeared to be that of a very lovely country. The trees were of surprising height and beauty, and as the vessel neared them, she perceived they were covered with birds of the most brilliant plumage, whose songs made a charming concert. Their notes were very soft, and it appeared as if they were afraid of making too much noise. They landed on this beautiful shore. The Princess descended from the vessel, followed by her women, and from the moment she breathed the air of this island, some unknown power seemed to set her heart at rest, and she fell into an agreeable slumber, which for a short time sealed up her beautiful eyes.
This pleasant country, to which she was a stranger, was the Peaceful Island. The Fairy Anguillette, a near relation of the Princes who reigned in these parts, had conferred upon it, for two thousand years, the happy power of curing unfortunate attachments. It is confidently asserted that it still possesses that power; but the difficulty is to find the island.
The Prince who reigned in it at that period, was descended in a right line from the celebrated Princess Carpillon and her charming husband, of whom a modern Fairy, wiser and more polished than those of ancient times, has so gracefully recounted the wonderful adventures. 
While the fair Hebe enjoyed a repose, the sweetness of which she had not tasted for six months, the Prince of the Peaceful Island was taking an airing in the wood that fringed the shore. He was seated in his car, drawn by four young white elephants, and surrounded by a portion of his Court. The sleeping Princess attracted his attention. Her beauty astonished him. He descended from his car with a haste and vivacity unusual to his nature. He felt at the sight of her all the love which the charms of Hebe were worthy to inspire. The noise awoke her, and on opening her lovely eyes, she was struck by a thousand beauties in the young Prince. He was of the same age as Hebe--just nineteen. He was perfectly handsome, his figure full of grace, his height above the ordinary standard, and his hair, which fell in rich curls down to his waist, was of the same colour as Hebe's. His dress was composed of feathers of a thousand different colours, over which he wore a sort of mantle, with a train all made of swan's-down, and fastened on his shoulders by the finest jewels in the world. His girdle was of diamonds, from which hung by golden chains a small sabre, the hilt and sheath of which were entirely covered with rubies. A sort of helmet, made of feathers like the rest of his attire, crowned his handsome head, and on one side of it, fastened by a diamond of prodigious size, was a plume of heron's feathers, which added greatly to the effect of his appearance.
The Prince was the first object that presented itself to the eyes of the young Princess at her waking. He appeared worthy of her observation, and for the first time in her life she looked upon another than Atimir with some interest.
"Everything assures me," said the Prince of the Peaceful Island to the Princess, "that you can be no other than the divine Hebe. Alas! who else could possess so many charms?" "Who, my Lord," replied the young Princess, blushing, as she rose to her feet, "could have so soon informed you of my having landed on this island?" "A powerful Fairy," answered the young monarch, "who, desirous of making me the happiest Prince in the world, and this country the most fortunate, had promised to lead you hither, and had even permitted me to indulge in the proudest hopes; but I am too well aware," he added, with a sigh, "that my fate depends much more upon your favour than upon hers."
After this speech, to which she replied with much propriety, the Prince requested her to enter his car, that she might be conducted to the palace; and out of respect to her, he would have declined taking his place in it, but as she had gathered from his language and his attendants that he was the sovereign of the island, she insisted on his seating himself beside her. Never had two such beautiful persons been seen in the same car. All the Prince's courtiers at the sight involuntarily burst into a tumult of applause. On the road, the young Prince entered into conversation with Hebe, with great animation and tenderness; and the Princess, happy to find her heart once more at ease, had recovered all her natural vivacity.
They reached the palace; it was not far from the sea-coast. It was approached through long and beautiful avenues, bordered by canals of running water. It was built entirely of ivory and roofed with agate.
The Prince's guards were drawn up in line in all the courts. In the first, they were clothed with yellow feathers, and carried quivers, bows and arrows of silver. In the second, they were all clothed with flame-coloured feathers, and wore sabres with golden hilts, and sheaths ornamented with turquoises. The royal party entered the third court, in which the guards were dressed in white feathers, and held in their hands demi-lances painted and gilt, and entwined with garlands of flowers. There was never any war in that country, so that they did not carry any formidable weapons.
The Prince, descending from his car, led the lovely Hebe to a magnificent apartment. His Court was numerous, the ladies were beautiful; the men gallant and graceful; and although everybody in the Island was dressed in feathers only, they evinced so much taste in the arrangement of the colours, that the effect was very agreeable.
That evening, the Prince of the Peaceful Island gave a superb banquet to the beautiful Hebe, which was followed by a concert of flutes, lutes, theorbos and harpsichords. In that country they were not fond of any noisy instruments. The music was very charming; when it had lasted some time, a very sweet voice sang the following words:--
Ever to be thy beauty's slave I swear,
Nor can my heart conceive a happier state
Than constant bondage in a chain so fair--
Faithful as fond--on thee depends my fate.
The Prince gazed on Hebe while this tender air was sung, with an expression which persuaded her that the verses but declared his own sentiments.
When the concert was over, the Prince of the Peaceful Island, as it was late, led the Princess to the apartment selected for her. It was the most beautiful room in the palace. She found in it a great many ladies, who had been chosen by the Prince to have the honour of attending upon her.
The Prince quitted the beautiful Hebe the most enamoured of men. The Princess retired to rest, the ladies of the Court withdrew, and no one remained in the bed-chamber except the attendants she had brought with her. "Who could have believed it?" said she to them, as soon as they were left together, "my heart is tranquil. What deity has appeased my sufferings? I no longer love Atimir. I can think that he is the husband of Ilerie without dying of grief. Is not all this a dream which passes around me? No," she continued, after a moment's pause; "for even my dreams were never so free from agitation." She then returned thanks a thousand times to Anguillette, and fell asleep.
When she awoke the next morning the Fairy appeared to her with a gracious smile upon her countenance, which she had not seen her wear since the fatal day she had requested the gift of love. "At length," said the kind Fairy, "I have fortunately brought you hither. Your heart is free, and therefore it may be happy. I have cured you of a baneful passion; but, Hebe, may I trust that the fearful torments to which you have been exposed will sufficiently induce you to shun for ever those places in which you might chance to meet the ungrateful Atimir." What promises did not the young Princess make to the Fairy! How repeatedly did she abjure love and her faithless lover! "Remember, at least, your promises," rejoined the Fairy, with an air that inspired respect. "You will perish with Atimir should you ever seek again to behold him; but everything around you here ought to prevent your entertaining a desire so fatal to your existence. I will no longer conceal from you what I have determined upon in your favour. The Prince of the Peaceful Island is my kinsman. I protect him and his empire. He is young, he is amiable, and no Prince in the world is so worthy of being your husband. Reign, then, fair Hebe, in his heart and over his realm. Your royal father consents to your union. I was in his palace yesterday. I informed him and the Queen of your present position, and they gave me full power to care for your future fortunes."
The Princess was greatly tempted to ask the Fairy what news had been heard of Atimir and Ilerie since her departure, but she dared not, after so many favours, run the risk of displeasing her. She employed to thank her all the eloquence the Fairy had gifted her with.
Her attendants now entered the chamber, and the Fairy disappeared. As soon as Hebe had arisen, twelve children of the most perfect beauty, dressed as Cupids, brought to her from the Prince twelve crystal baskets, filled with the most brilliant and fragrant flowers in the world. These flowers covered sets of jewels of all colours and of marvellous beauty. In the first basket presented to her, she found a note containing these lines:--
TO THE DIVINE HEBE.
That I adored thee yesterday I swore
An hundred times; and broken ne'er can be
The vows I uttered from my fond heart's core;
For Love himself dictated them to me,
And beauty such as thine ensureth constancy.
After what the Fairy had ordained, the Princess comprehended that she ought to receive these attentions from her new admirer as those of a Prince who was shortly to be her husband.
She received the little Cupids very graciously, and they had scarcely taken their departure, when twenty-four dwarfs, fancifully, but magnificently attired, appeared, bearing other presents. They consisted of dresses made entirely of feathers; but the colours, the work, and the jewels with which they were ornamented were so beautiful, that the Princess admitted she had never seen anything so elegant.
She chose a rose-coloured dress to wear that day. Her head-dress was composed of plumes of the same colour. She appeared so charming with these new ornaments, that the Prince of the Peaceful Island, who came to see her as soon as she was dressed, felt his passion for her redoubled. All the Court hastened to admire the Princess. In the evening the Prince proposed to the fair Hebe to descend into the palace gardens, which were admirably laid out.
During the promenade, the Prince informed Hebe that the Fairy had, for the last four years, led him to expect that Princess's arrival in the Peaceful Island; "but shortly after that period," added the Prince, "on my pressing her to fulfil her promise, she appeared distressed, and said to me, 'The Princess Hebe is destined by her father to another; but if my science does not deceive me, she will not marry the Prince who has been chosen for her husband. I will let you know the issue.' Some months afterwards the Fairy returned to the island. 'Fate favours you,' said she to me: 'the Prince who was to have married Hebe will not be her husband, and in a short time you will behold here the most beautiful Princess in the world.'"
"It is true," replied Hebe, blushing, "that I was to have married the son of a King whose dominions were adjacent to those of my father; but, after several events, the love he conceived for the Princess, my sister, induced him to fly with her from my father's kingdom."
The Prince of the Peaceful Island said a thousand tender things to the beautiful Hebe respecting the happy destiny which, in accordance with the Fairy's desire, had brought the Princess into his dominions. She listened to him with greater pleasure, as it interrupted her account of her own adventures, for she feared she could not speak of her faithless lover without the Prince's observing how great had been her affection for him.
The Prince of the Peaceful Island led Hebe into a grotto, highly decorated, and embellished by wonderful fountains. The further end of the grotto was dark; there were a great many niches in it, filled with statues of nymphs and shepherds, but they could scarcely be distinguished in the obscurity. As soon as the Princess had remained a few minutes in the grotto, she heard some agreeable music. A sudden and very brilliant illumination disclosed to her that it was a portion of these statues who were performing this music, whilst the rest advanced, and danced before her a very elegant and well-conceived ballet. It was intermixed with sweet and tender songs.
They had placed all the actors in this divertissement in the depths of the grotto, to surprise the Princess more agreeably.
After the ballet wild men appeared, and served up a superb collation under an arbour of jasmine and orange flowers.
The entertainment had nearly reached its termination, when suddenly the Fairy Anguillette appeared in the air, seated in a car drawn by four monkeys. She descended, and announced to the Prince of the Peaceful Island a delightful piece of good fortune, by apprising him that it was her desire he should become the husband of Hebe, and that that beautiful Princess had promised her consent.
The Prince, transported with joy, was uncertain at the moment whether his first thanks were due to Hebe or to Anguillette; and although joy does not inspire one with such affecting expressions as sorrow, he nevertheless acquitted himself with much talent and grace.
The Fairy determined not to leave the Prince and Princess before the day fixed for their union. It was to be in three days. She made superb presents to the fair Hebe and to the Prince of the Peaceful Island, and at length, on the day she had named, they repaired, followed by their whole Court and an infinite number of the inhabitants of the Island, to the temple of Hymen.
It was constructed simply of branches of olive and palmtrees interlaced, and which, by the power of the Fairy, never withered.
Hymen was therein represented by a statue of white marble, crowned with roses, elevated on an altar, decorated only with flowers, and leaning on a little Cupid of exquisite beauty, who, with a smiling countenance, presented to him a crown of myrtle.
Anguillette, who had erected this temple, resolved that everything in it should be marked by the greatest simplicity, to show that love alone could render Hymen happy. The difficulty is to unite them. As it was a miracle worthy the power of a Fairy, she had joined them indissolubly in the Peaceful Island, and, contrary to the custom in other kingdoms, one could there be married, and remain fond and faithful.
In this temple of Hymen the fair Hebe, led by Anguillette, plighted her troth to the Prince of the Peaceful Island, and received his vows with pleasure. She did not feel for him the same involuntary inclination which she had done for Atimir; but her heart, being at that moment free from passion, she received this husband, by command of the Fairy, as a Prince worthy of her by his personal merit, and still more so by the affection he bore to her.
The marriage was celebrated by a thousand splendid entertainments, and Hebe found herself happy with a Prince who adored her.
In the meanwhile the King, Hebe's father, had received some ambassadors from Atimir, who sent them to request permission for him to espouse Ilerie. The King, Atimir's father, was dead, and that Prince was consequently absolute master in his own country. The hand of the Princess he had carried off was accorded to him with joy. After the marriage Queen Ilerie sent other ambassadors to her royal parents to request permission for her to revisit their Court, and to obtain their forgiveness for the fault which love had caused her to commit, and which the merit of Atimir might be pleaded in excuse of. The King consented, and Atimir proceeded to the Palace with his bride. A thousand entertainments marked the day of their arrival. Shortly afterwards the fair Hebe and her charming husband sent ambassadors also to the King and Queen, to announce their marriage to them. Anguillette had already informed them of the event, but they did not on that account receive the ambassadors with less delight or distinction.
Atimir was with the King when they were introduced to their first audience. The lovely form of Hebe could never be effaced from a heart in which she had reigned with such supreme power. Atimir sighed, in spite of himself, at the recital of the happiness of the Prince of the Peaceful Island. He even accused Hebe of being inconstant, forgetting how much reason he had given her for becoming so.
The ambassadors of the Prince of the Peaceful Island returned to their sovereign laden with honours and presents. They related to the Princess how much delight the King and Queen had manifested at the tidings of her happy marriage. But, oh! too faithful chroniclers, they informed her at the same time that the Princess Ilerie and Atimir were at the Court. These names, so dangerous to her peace, renewed her anxiety. She was happy; but can mortals command uninterrupted felicity?
She could not resist her impatience to return to the Court of the King, her father. It was only, she said, to see once more him and her mother. She believed this herself; and how often, when we are in love, do we mistake our own feelings!
Notwithstanding the threats uttered by the Fairy, in order to prevent her from revisiting the spot where she might again behold Atimir, she proposed this voyage to the Prince of the Peaceful Island. At first he refused. Anguillette had forbidden him to let Hebe go out of his dominions. She continued to press him. He adored her, and was ignorant of the passion she had formerly entertained for Atimir. Is it possible to refuse anything to those we love?
He hoped to please Hebe by his blind obedience. He gave orders for their departure, and never was there seen such magnificence as was displayed in his equipage and on board his vessels.
The sage Anguillette, indignant at the little respect paid by Hebe and the Prince of the Peaceful Island to her instructions, abandoned them to their destiny, and did not make her appearance to renew the prudent advice by which they had so little profited.
The Prince and Princess embarked, and after a very prosperous voyage, arrived at the Court of Hebe's father. The King and Queen were extremely delighted to behold once more that dear Princess. They were charmed with the Prince of the Peaceful Island: they celebrated the arrival of the royal pair by a thousand entertainments throughout the kingdom. Ilerie trembled on hearing of the return of Hebe. It was decided that they should meet, and that no reference whatever should be made to past events.
Atimir requested to be allowed to see Hebe. It appeared to Ilerie, indeed, that he preferred his request with a little too much eagerness.
The Princess Hebe blushed when he entered her apartment, and they both felt an embarrassment out of which all their presence of mind could not extricate them.
The King, who was present, remarked it. He joined in their conversation; and to render the visit shorter, proposed to the Princess to descend into the Palace Gardens.
Atimir dared not offer his hand to Hebe. He bowed to her respectfully, and retired.
But what thoughts and what feelings did he not carry away with him in his heart! All the deep and tender passion he had formerly felt for Hebe was rekindled in a moment. He hated Ilerie; he hated himself. Never was infidelity followed by so much repentance, nor by so much suffering.
In the evening he went to the Queen's apartments. The Princess Hebe was there. He had no eyes but for her. He sought assiduously for an opportunity of speaking to her. She continued to avoid him; but her glances were too clearly comprehended by him for his peace. He persisted for some time in compelling her to observe that her eyes had regained their former empire over him.
Hebe's heart was alarmed by it. Atimir appeared to her still too charming. She determined to shun him as carefully as he sought her. She never spoke to him but in presence of the Queen, and then only when she could not possibly avoid it. She resolved also to advise the Prince of the Peaceful Island to return speedily to his own kingdom. But with what difficulty do we endeavour to fly from those we love!
One evening that she was reflecting on this subject, she shut herself up in her cabinet, in order to indulge in her musings without interruption. She found in her pocket a note, which had been slipped into it unperceived by her, and the handwriting of Atimir, which she recognised, threw her into an agitation which cannot be described. She considered she ought not to read it; but her heart triumphed over her reason, and opening it she found these lines:--
No more my love can to your heart appeal--
For me indifference alone you feel.
Your heart, fair Hebe, faithless is in turn,
So soon my fatal falsehood could it learn.
Alas, why can you not, with equal speed,
Back to its early faith the truant lead?
The happy time is past when Hebe fair,
Love's pains and pleasures deigned with me to share.
Both have their fetters broken, it is true,
But I my bondage hasten to renew.
Alas! for my sad fault must I atone,
By languishing in this sweet chain alone?
"Ah, cruel one!" exclaimed the Princess. "What have I done to you that you seek to rekindle in my soul a passion which has cost me so much agony?" The tears of Hebe interrupted her utterance.
In the meanwhile Ilerie was tortured by a jealousy which was but too well founded. Atimir, carried away by his passion, lost all control over himself. The Prince of the Peaceful Island began to perceive his attachment to Hebe; but he was desirous of examining more narrowly the conduct of Atimir before he spoke to the Princess on the subject. He adored her with unabating constancy, and feared by his remarks to draw her attention to the passion of his rival.
A few days after Hebe had received Atimir's note, a tournament was proclaimed. The Princes, and all the young noblemen of the Court, were invited to break a lance in honour of the ladies.
The King and Queen honoured the tournament with their presence. The fair Hebe and the Princess Ilerie were to confer the prizes with their own hands. One was a sword, the hilt and sheath of which were entirely covered with jewels of extraordinary beauty. The other, a bracelet of brilliants of the finest water.
All the knights entered for the lists made their appearance with marvellous magnificence, and mounted on the finest horses in the world. Each wore the colours of his mistress, and on their shields were pictured gallant devices, expressive of the sentiments of their hearts.
The Prince of the Peaceful Island was superbly attired, and rode a dun-coloured horse with black mane and tail of incomparable beauty. In all his appointments rose colour was predominant. It was the favourite colour of Hebe. An ample plume of the same hue floated above his light helmet. He drew down the applause of all the spectators, and looked so handsome in his brilliant armour, that Hebe mentally reproached herself a thousand times for entertaining such feelings as the unhappiness of another had inspired her with.
The retinue of the Prince of the Peaceful Island was numerous. They were all attired according to the fashion of their country. Everything around him was elegant and costly. An esquire bore his shield, and all were eager to examine the device.
It was a heart pierced with an arrow; a little Cupid was depicted shooting many others at it to inflict fresh wounds, but all except the first appeared to have been shot in vain. Beneath were these words:--
"I fear no others."
The colour and the device of the Prince of the Peaceful Island, rendered it obvious that it was as the champion of the fair Hebe he had chosen to enter the lists.
The spectators were still admiring his magnificent array, when Atimir appeared, mounted on a proud and fiery steed, entirely black. The prevailing colour of the dress he had assumed for that day was what is usually termed "dead-leaf," unadorned with gold, silver, or jewels; but on his helmet he wore a tuft of rose-coloured feathers, and although he affected great negligence in his attire, he was so handsome, and bore himself so proudly, that from the moment he entered the lists no one looked at anything else. On his shield, which he carried himself, was painted a Cupid trampling upon some chains, while at the same time he was loading himself with others that were heavier. Around the figure were these words:--
"These alone are worthy of me."
The train of Atimir were attired in dead-leaf and silver, and on them he had showered jewels. It was composed of the principal noblemen of his Court, and although they were all fine-looking men, it was easy to see by the air of Atimir that he was born to command them. It is impossible to describe the various emotions which the sight of Atimir awakened in the hearts of Hebe and Ilerie, and the poignant jealousy which the Prince of the Peaceful Island felt when he saw floating over the helmet of Atimir, a plume of the same colour as his own.
The motto of his device kindled his anger into a fury, which he controlled for the moment, only to choose a better time to vent it on his rival.
The King and Queen saw clearly enough the audacity and imprudence of Atimir, and were exceedingly angry with him; but it was not the time to show it.
The tilting was commenced amidst a flourish of trumpets which rent the air. It was exceedingly good. All the young knights made proof of their skill. The Prince of the Peaceful Island, although a prey to his jealousy, signalized himself particularly, and remained conqueror.
Atimir, who was aware that the prize for the first encounter would be given by Ilerie, did not present himself to dispute the victory with the Prince of the Peaceful Island. The judges of the field declared the latter victor; and, amidst the acclamation and applause of all the spectators, he advanced with the greatest possible grace to the spot where the Royal Family were seated, to receive the diamond bracelet.
The Princess Ilerie presented it to him. He received it with due respect, and having saluted the King, Queen, and Princesses, returned to his place in the lists.
The mournful Ilerie had too clearly observed the contempt with which the fickle Atimir had treated the prize destined to be accorded by her hand. She sighed sadly, while the fair Hebe felt a secret joy which reason vainly endeavoured to stifle in her heart. Other courses were run with results similar to those which had preceded them. The Prince of the Peaceful Island, animated by the presence of Hebe, performed wonders, and was a second time conqueror; but Atimir, weary of beholding the glory of his rival, and flattered by the idea of receiving the prize from the hand of Hebe, presented himself at the opposite end of the lists.
The rivals gazed at each other fiercely, and the impending encounter between two such great Princes was distinguished by the fresh agitation which it excited in the two Princesses. The Princes ran their course with equal advantage. Each broke his lance fairly without swerving in his saddle. The acclamations were redoubled, and the Princes, without giving their horses time to breathe, returned to their places, received fresh lances, and ran a second course with the same address as the first. The King, who feared to see Fortune give the victory to either of these rivals, and in order to spare the feelings of both, sent in all haste to them to say that they ought to be satisfied with the glory they had acquired, and to request them to let the tilting terminate for that day with the course they had just run.
The King's messenger having approached them, they listened with impatience to the royal request, particularly Atimir, who, seizing the first opportunity to reply, said, "Go, tell the King that I should be unworthy the honour he does me in taking an interest in my glory, if I could remain satisfied without conquest."
"Let us see," rejoined the Prince of the Peaceful Island, clapping spurs to his horse, "who best deserves the esteem of the King and the favours of Fortune!"
The King's messenger had not retraced his steps to the royal balcony before the two rivals, animated by stronger feelings than the mere desire to carry off the prize of the joust, had met in full career.
Fortune favoured the audacious Atimir: he was the conqueror. The horse of the Prince of the Peaceful Island, fatigued with the many severe courses he had run, fell, and rolled his master in the dust.
What joy for Atimir! and what fury for the unfortunate Prince of the Peaceful Island! Leaping to his feet again instantly, and advancing to his rival before any one could reach to part them,--"Thou hast conquered me in these games, Atimir," said he, with an air which sufficiently expressed his wrath, "but it is with the sword that our quarrel must be decided." "Willingly," replied the haughty Atimir. "I will await thee to-morrow at sunrise in the wood that borders the palace gardens." The Judges of the Field joined them as these last words were uttered, and the Princes mutually affected unconcern, for fear the King should suspect and frustrate their intentions. The Prince of the Peaceful Island remounted his horse, and rode with all the speed he could urge it to, from the fatal spot where he had been defeated by Atimir. In the meanwhile that Prince proceeded to receive the prize of the joust from the hand of Hebe, who presented it to him with a confusion sufficiently betraying the conflicting emotions in her bosom; while Atimir, in receiving it, displayed all the extravagancies of a passionate lover.
The King and Queen, who kept their eyes upon him, could not fail to observe this, and returned to the Palace much discontented with the termination of the day. Atimir, occupied only by his passion, left the lists, forbidding any of his train to accompany him; and Ilerie, smarting with grief and jealousy, retired to her apartments.
What then were the feelings of Hebe! "I must depart," she said to herself. "What other remedy is there for the evil I anticipate?"
In the meanwhile, the King and the Queen determined to request Atimir would return to his own dominions, to avoid the painful consequences which his love might entail upon them. They resolved also to make the same proposition to the Prince of the Peaceful Island, in order not to show any preference for either; but ah! too tardy prudence! whilst they were deliberating how best to secure the departure of the two Princes, the rivals were preparing to meet in mortal combat.
Hebe, on returning from the lists, immediately inquired for the Prince of the Peaceful Island. She was answered that he was in the palace gardens; that he had desired he might not be followed, and that he appeared very melancholy. The fair Hebe thought it was her duty to seek and console him for the slight mischances which had happened to him, and therefore, without staying a moment in her own apartment, descended into the gardens, followed only by a few of her women.
In the course of her search for the Prince of the Peaceful Island, she entered a shady alley, and came suddenly on the enamoured Atimir, who, transported by his passion, and listening only to its promptings, threw himself on his knees at a short distance from the Princess, and drawing the sword which he had that day received from her hand, exclaimed, "Hear me, beautiful Hebe! or see me die at your feet!"
Hebe's attendants, terrified by the actions of the Prince, rushed upon him, and endeavoured to force from his grasp the sword, the point of which he had directed towards himself with desperate resolution. Hebe, the unhappy Hebe, would have flown from the spot; but how many reasons concurred to detain her near him she loved!
The desire to suppress the scandal this adventure might create; the intention to implore Atimir to endeavour to stifle a passion which was so perilous to them; the pity naturally awakened by so affecting an object,--everything, in short, conspired to arrest her flight. She approached the Prince. Her presence suspended his fury. He let fall his sword at the feet of the Princess. Never was so much agitation, so much love, so much anguish, displayed in an interview that lasted but a few minutes. No words can express the feelings of those wretched lovers during that brief period. Hebe, alarmed at finding herself in the company of Atimir, almost, perhaps, in sight of the Prince of the Peaceful Island, made a great effort to depart, and left him with a command never to see her more. What an order for Atimir! But for the recollection of the combat to which he had been challenged by the Prince of the Peaceful Island, he would have turned his sword an hundred times against his own breast; but he trusted to perish in revenging himself on his rival.
In the meanwhile, the fair Hebe shut herself up in her own chamber, to avoid more surely the sight of Atimir. "Relentless Fairy," she cried, "thou didst only predict my death as the consequence of my again beholding this unhappy Prince; but the tortures I suffer are a much more dreadful penalty." Hebe sent her attendants to seek for the Prince of the Peaceful Island in the gardens, and throughout the Palace; but he was nowhere to be found, and she became extremely anxious on his account. They hunted for him all night long, but in vain, for he had concealed himself in a little rustic building in the middle of the wood, to be more certain that no one could prevent his proceeding to the spot fixed on for the combat. He was on the ground at sunrise, and Atimir arrived a few minutes afterwards. The two rivals, impatient for revenge and victory, drew their swords. It was the first time the Prince of the Peaceful Island had wielded his in earnest, for war was unknown in his island.
He proved, however, not a less redoubtable antagonist on that account to Atimir. He had little skill, but much bravery, and great love. He fought like a man who set no value on his life, and Atimir worthily sustained in this combat the high reputation he had previously acquired. The Princes were animated by too many vindictive feelings for their encounter not to terminate fatally. After having fought with equal advantage for a considerable period, they dealt each other at the same instant so furious a blow, that both fell to the earth which was speedily red with their blood.
The Prince of the Peaceful Island fainted with the loss of his; and Atimir, mortally wounded, uttered but the name of Hebe as he expired for her sake.
One of the parties in search of the Prince of the Peaceful Island arrived on the spot, and were horror-struck at the sight of this cruel spectacle.
The Princess Hebe, urged by her anxiety, had descended into the gardens. She hastened towards the place from whence she heard the exclamations of her people, who uttered in confusion the names of the two Princes, and beheld these fatal and affecting objects. She believed the Prince of the Peaceful Island was dead as well as Atimir, and at that moment there was little difference to be distinguished between them. "Precious lives," exclaimed Hebe, despairingly, after gazing for an instant on the unfortunate Princes,--"precious lives, which have been sacrificed for me; I hasten to avenge you by the termination of my own!" With these words she flung herself upon the fatal sword Atimir had received from her hands, and buried the point in her bosom before her people, astonished at this dreadful scene, had power to prevent her.
She expired, and the Fairy Anguillette, moved by so much misery despite of all the obstacles her science had enabled her to raise, appeared on the spot which had witnessed the destruction of these beautiful beings. The Fairy upbraided Fate, and could not restrain her tears. Then hastening to succour the Prince of the Peaceful Island, who she knew was still breathing, she healed his wound, and transported him in an instant to his own island, where, by the miraculous power she had conferred on it, the Prince consoled himself for his loss, and forgot his passion for Hebe.
The King and Queen, who had not the advantage of such assistance, gave themselves up entirely to their sorrow; and time only brought them consolation. As to Ilerie, nothing could exceed her despair. She remained constant to her grief, and to the memory of the ungrateful Atimir.
Meanwhile, Anguillette, having transported the Prince of the Peaceful Island to his dominions, touched with her wand the sad remains of the charming Atimir and the lovely Hebe. At the same instant they were transformed into two trees of the most perfect beauty. The Fairy gave them the name of Charmes,  to preserve for ever the remembrance of the charms which had been so brilliantly displayed in the persons of these unfortunate lovers.