THERE was once upon a time a King, who fell desperately in love with a Princess of his Court. As soon as he loved her he told her so. Kings are more privileged than common lovers. The Princess was not offended at a love which might place her on the throne, and the King found her as virtuous as she was charming. He married her: the wedding was incredibly magnificent; and what was even more remarkable, he became a husband without ceasing to be a lover. The felicity of this love-match was only disturbed by the fact of their having no children to succeed to their happiness and to their kingdom. The King, in order to obtain at least the comfort of hope on this point, resolved to consult a fairy, whom he believed to be particularly friendly. She was called Formidable, although she had not always been so to the King. It is said even that in the old collections of the time in that country are to be found ballads which tell a great deal about them. So bold have poets been in all ages! For the Fairy was very much respected, and appeared so stern that it was almost impossible to imagine she could ever have felt the power of love; but where are the hearts that escape? The King, who had always been very gallant, and who had a great deal of discernment, was well aware that appearances are often very deceptive. He had first met with Formidable in a wood where he had been hunting; she appeared to his eyes under a form so graceful, and with so charming an air, that the King did not doubt for a moment her desire to please: it is seldom such charms are displayed without that intention. The King fell in love with her; the Fairy felt more pleasure in being loved than in always inspiring terror. This affection lasted several years; but one day when she reckoned on the heart of her lover as on a property it was impossible for her to lose, she let the King see her in her real form: she was no longer young or handsome. She repented immediately when she perceived by the altered expression of the King's face that she had been too confident of her power, and discovered that, however tender hearts may be, they cannot excite or retain love if they are not united with an agreeable person. The King was ashamed at finding he had been in love with only an imaginary beauty; he ceased to love the Fairy, and thenceforth only treated her with attention and respect. Formidable, with a pride that was natural to her, assumed so well the appearance of being contented with the esteem of the King, that she persuaded him she was one of his best friends. She even went to his wedding, in company with all the other fairies of the country, who were invited, in order not to give any one reason to fancy from her refusal that she had any dislike to the marriage.
The King, therefore, counting on the friendship of his old mistress, went to visit her in her residence, which was a palace of flame-coloured marble in the midst of a vast forest. The approach to it was by an avenue of immense length, bordered on both sides by a hundred flame-coloured lions. Formidable liked only this colour, and she had therefore by her magic art caused all the animals born in the forest to be of the same hue. At the end of the avenue was a large square, wherein a troop of Moors, clothed in flame-colour and gold, magnificently armed, kept perpetual guard.
The King traversed the forest alone; he knew the way perfectly well; he even passed through the avenue of lions without danger, for he threw them, as he entered, some ranunculuses, which the Fairy had formerly given him to use when passing those terrible beasts. As soon as the King had thrown them those beautiful flowers, they became gentle and quiet. He at length reached the Moorish guard, who at first bent their bows at him, but the King threw them some pomegranate blossoms, which he had received from the Fairy with the ranunculuses, and the Moors shot their arrows into the air, and drew themselves up in line to allow him to pass. He entered the palace of Formidable: she was in a saloon, seated on a throne of rubies, in the midst of twelve Moorish women, clothed in flame-coloured gauze and gold. The Fairy's dress was of the same fashion and colour, but so covered with precious stones that it shone like the sun; yet it did not make her appear any the more beautiful. The King looked and listened for a few minutes before he entered the saloon. Near the Fairy was a quantity of books on a table of red marble: he saw that she took one and began to instruct the slaves in those secrets which render fairies so powerful; but Formidable taught them none but such as would be inimical to the happiness and comfort of mankind; she took good care to prevent their learning anything that would contribute to human felicity. The King felt he hated the Fairy; and entering the apartment, interrupted the fatal lesson, and surprised Formidable by his appearance; but recovering herself immediately, she dismissed her Moors, and regarding the King with an air of pride and anger,--"What seek you here, inconstant Prince?" she exclaimed. "Wherefore do you come to disturb by your odious presence the repose I endeavour to obtain in this seclusion?" The King was quite surprised by so unexpected a mode of address; and the Fairy, opening one of the books, continued: "I see clearly what you want. Yes, you shall have a daughter by this Princess whom you have so unjustly preferred to me, but do not hope to be happy: it is time for me to be avenged. The daughter that shall be born to you ere long shall be as much hated by all the world as I formerly loved you!" The King did everything in his power to soften the anger of the Fairy; but it was useless; hatred had succeeded to love, and nothing but love could soften the Fairy's heart; for pity and generosity were sentiments quite unknown to her. She haughtily commanded the King to leave the palace, and opening a cage, a flame-coloured parrot flew out. "Follow this bird," said she to the King, "and bless my clemency for not delivering you to the fury of my lions and guards."
The bird flew off, and the King followed, and was conducted by a road hitherto unknown to him, and much shorter than the one he had come by, into his own kingdom. The Queen, who on his return remarked his extreme sadness, begged to know the reason so importunately, that the King at length told her of the cruel prediction of the Fairy, but without informing her of all that had occurred between them in former times, in order not to add to the troubles of his beautiful wife. This young Princess knew that one fairy could not positively prevent anything predicted by another of her own class, but that she might mitigate the punishment which that other had inflicted.
"I shall go," said the Queen, "in search of Lumineuse, Sovereign of the Happy Empire; she is a celebrated fairy who delights in protecting the unfortunate. She is a relation of mine; she has ever favoured me, and she even predicted the good fortune to which love would lead me." The King quite approved of the expedition of the Queen, and hoped much from it. Her equipage being ready, she set off to seek Lumineuse. The Fairy bore this name because her beauty was so dazzling that it was hardly possible to endure the brilliancy of it, and the grandeur of her soul quite equalled her extreme loveliness. The Queen arrived in a vast plain, and perceived, at a great distance, a large tower; but although it was in sight, it was very long before she could approach it, owing to the many windings in the road. It was built of white marble, and had no doors, but arched windows of crystal; a beautiful river, of which the waves appeared of liquid silver, bathed the foot of the tower, and wound nine times around it. The Queen, with all her Court, arrived on the bank of the river, at the point where it began its first circle round the dwelling of the Fairy. The Queen crossed it on a bridge of white poppies, which the power of Lumineuse had rendered as safe and as durable as if it had been built of brass. But although it was only made of flowers, it was nevertheless to be feared, for it had the power of putting people to sleep for seven years who attempted to pass it contrary to the wish of the Fairy. The Queen perceived on the other side of the bridge, six young men, magnificently attired, sleeping on beds of moss, under tents of foliage. These were princes enamoured of the Fairy: and as she never would hear love spoken of, she had not allowed them to pass any farther. The Queen, after having crossed the bridge, found herself in the first spot which the river left free; it was occupied by a charming labyrinth of laurestinus and jasmine; there were none but white, for that was the colour Lumineuse preferred. After having admired this lovely maze, and easily threaded its paths, which were only difficult for those the Fairy did not wish should enter her agreeable dwelling, the Queen again crossed the river by a bridge of white anemones; it took at this place its second turn, and the space which it left before it made its third circle was occupied by a forest of acacias always in full bloom; the roads through it were charming, and so overshadowed that the rays of the sun never penetrated; a number of white doves whose plumage might have put the snow to shame were seen in all directions, and the trees were covered with countless white canary-birds, that made a delicious concert. Lumineuse, with a touch of her wand, had taught them the most beautiful and charming songs in the world. They left this lovely forest by a bridge of tube-roses, and they then entered a fair plain, wooded with trees laden with such fine and delicious fruit, that the least of them would have put to shame the famous gardens of the Hesperides. Every evening the Queen found the most beautiful tents in the world prepared for her, and a magnificent repast was served as soon as she arrived, without her seeing any of the skilful and active officers who prepared it. The Fairy, who had learnt by her books of the arrival of the Queen, took care that her journey should not be in the least degree fatiguing to her. The Queen, leaving this marvellous spot, passed the river again, by a bridge of white pinks, and entered the park of the Fairy. It was as beautiful as all the rest. The Fairy sometimes came to hunt there; it was filled with an infinite number of white stags and does, with other animals of the same colour; a pack of white greyhounds were scattered over the park, and lying on the turf with the deer and white rabbits, and other animals usually wild, but they were not so in this place, the art of the Fairy had tamed them; and when the dogs chased some beast for the amusement of Lumineuse, it appeared as if they understood it was only in play, for while they hunted it in the best style, they never did the animal any harm. In this place, the river made its fifth circuit round the dwelling of the Fairy. The Queen, in quitting the park, crossed the water on a bridge of white jasmine, and found herself in a charming hamlet. All the little cottages were built of alabaster. The inhabitants of this pleasant place were subjects of the Fairy, and tended her flocks; their garments were of silver gauze; they were crowned with chaplets of flowers; and their crooks were brilliantly studded with precious stones. All the sheep were of surprising whiteness; all the shepherdesses were young and handsome; and Lumineuse loved the colour of white too well to have forgotten to bestow on them a complexion so beautiful that even the sun itself seemed to have only helped to render it more dazzling. All the shepherds were amiable, and the sole fault that could be found with this agreeable country was that there was not a single brunette to be seen there. The shepherdesses came to receive the Queen, and presented her with porcelain vases, filled with the most beautiful flowers in the world. The Queen and all her Court were charmed with their agreeable journey, and drew from it a happy presage of obtaining what she desired of the Fairy.
As she was about to leave the hamlet, a young shepherdess advanced towards the Queen, and presented her with a little white greyhound on a cushion of white velvet, embroidered with silver and pearls: it was hardly possible to distinguish the dog from the cushion, the colour was so exactly the same. "The Fairy Lumineuse, Sovereign of the Happy Empire," said the young shepherdess to the Queen, "has commanded me to present you, in her name, with 'Blanc-blanc,' which is the name of this little greyhound; she has the honour of being beloved by Lumineuse, whose art has made a marvel of her, and who has commanded her to conduct you to the tower. You will have nothing to do, Princess, but to let her go, and follow."
The Queen received the little dog with much pleasure, and was charmed at the attentions shown her by the Fairy. She caressed Blanc-blanc, who, after having returned her endearments with much intelligence and grace, jumped lightly to the ground, and began to frisk before the Queen, who followed her with all her Court. They arrived at the bank of the river, which there made its sixth turn, and were surprised to find no bridge by which to cross it. The Fairy did not wish to be troubled by the shepherds in her retreat, so there was never a bridge at that point, except when she desired herself to pass or to receive any of her friends. The Queen was pondering on this adventure, when she heard Blanc-blanc bark three times; immediately a light breeze agitated the trees on the banks of the river, and shook from them such a great quantity of orange-flowers into the water, that they formed a bridge of themselves, and the Queen crossed the river by it. She rewarded Blanc-blanc by caresses, and found herself in an avenue of myrtles and orange-trees, which having traversed without any feeling of fatigue, although it was an immense length, she found herself again on the bank of the river, which made its seventh turn at that spot. She saw no bridge, but the adventure of the morning re-assured her. Blanc-blanc struck the ground three times with her little paw, and in a moment there appeared a bridge of white hyacinths. The Queen crossed it, and entered a meadow enamelled with flowers. Her beautiful tents were already pitched in it. She rested a short time, and then resumed her journey, till she again found herself on the bank of the river. There was again no means of crossing it; but Blanc-blanc advanced and drank a little of the beautiful stream, whereupon a bridge of white roses appeared, and the Queen was thereby enabled to enter the garden of the Fairy. It was so filled with wonderful flowers, extraordinary fountains, and statues of superior beauty, that it is impossible to give an exact description of it. If the Queen had not felt the utmost impatience to avert the evils with which the cruel Formidable menaced her, she would have lingered some time in this charming place. All the Court left it with regret; but they were obliged to follow Blanc-blanc, who conducted the Queen to the spot where the river made its last circuit round the dwelling of Lumineuse. The Queen then saw the Palace of the Fairy quite near to her. Nothing but the river divided her from it. She gazed on it with pleasure as the goal of her journey, and read this inscription, written on the tower in letters of gold:--
Of perfect bliss behold the charming seat,
By Lumineuse to pleasure dedicated.
Love only may not enter this retreat,
Although 'twould seem for Love alone created.
This inscription had been composed in honour of Lumineuse by the most celebrated fairies of her time. They had wished to leave to posterity the expression of their friendship and esteem for her. Whilst the Queen thus amused herself on the banks of the river, Blanc-blanc swam across the stream, and diving brought up a shell of mother-of-pearl, which she again let fall into the water. At this signal six beautiful nymphs, in brilliant attire, opened a large crystal window, and a staircase of pearls issued from it and slowly approached the Queen. Blanc-blanc ran up it quickly, till the arrival at the window of the Fairy, and entered the tower: the Queen followed, but as she ascended, the steps of the pretty staircase which she had mounted disappeared behind her, and prevented any one else from following her. She entered the beautiful tower of Lumineuse, and the window was immediately closed.
All the suite of the Queen were in despair when they lost sight of her, and found they were unable to follow, for they loved her most sincerely; their lamentations were heard even in the place where Lumineuse conversed with the Queen, and in order to re-assure these unfortunates, the Fairy sent one of her nymphs to conduct them to the hamlet, where they could await the return of the Queen. The staircase of pearls re-appeared and revived their hopes; the nymph descended, and the Queen from the window commanded them to follow and obey the messenger. The Queen remained with the Fairy, who entertained her with prodigious magnificence, and with a charm of manner which won all hearts. The Queen stayed with her for three days, which were not sufficient, however, for the inspection of all the marvels of the tower of Lumineuse; it would have taken centuries to see and admire everything which the Fairy had to show. The fourth day Lumineuse, after having laden the Queen with presents as elegant as they were magnificent, said to her, "Beautiful Princess, I am sorry not to be able to repair the misfortune with which Formidable threatens you; but that is the fault of destiny, which allows us to bestow good gifts on those whom we favour, but forbids us to undo or avert the evils inflicted by other fairies. However, to console you for the misfortune that has been predicted for you, I promise that before a year be over, you shall have a daughter so beautiful that all those who behold her shall be enchanted with her, and I will take care," added the Fairy, "to cause a Prince to be born who shall be worthy of her hand."
So favourable a prophecy made the Queen forget for a time the hatred of Formidable, and the misfortune she had threatened her with. Lumineuse did not tell the Queen the reason of Formidable being her enemy. Fairies, even when they quarrel amongst themselves, keep jealously secret everything which would render them contemptible in the eyes of mortals, and 'tis said they are the only women who have the generosity not to speak ill of one another. After a thousand thanks on the part of the Queen, Lumineuse ordered twelve of her nymphs to take charge of the presents, and to conduct the Queen to the hamlet, she herself accompanying her as far as the staircase of pearls, which appeared as soon as they opened the window. When the Queen and nymphs were at the foot of the stairs they saw a silver car drawn by six white hinds: their harness was covered with diamonds; a young child, lovely as the day, drove the car, and the nymphs followed on white horses which might have vied in beauty with those of the sun. In this elegant equipage the Queen arrived at the hamlet; she there found all her Court, who were rejoiced to see her again; the nymphs then took leave of the Queen, and presented her with the twelve beautiful animals enchanted by the Fairy, so that they were never tired, informing her that Lumineuse begged she would offer them in her name to the King. The Queen, overwhelmed by the kindness of the Fairy, returned to her kingdom; the King met and received her at the frontier; he was so charmed at her return, and the agreeable news which she announced on the part of Lumineuse, that he ordered public rejoicings, the renown of which reached the ear of Formidable, and thereby redoubled her hate and anger against the King.
Soon after the return of the Queen she found she was about to become a mother, and felt assured that the beautiful Princess who was to charm all hearts would be ere long presented to the King by her, for Lumineuse had promised her birth should take place before the end of the year, and Formidable had not prescribed the time when her vengeance should be accomplished; but she had no idea of postponing it long. The Queen gave birth to two princesses, and did not doubt for a moment which was the daughter promised to her by Lumineuse, from the eagerness she felt to embrace the one which first saw the light. She found her quite worthy of the praises of the Fairy; nothing in the world could be so beautiful; the King and all who were present hastened to admire the first-born little Princess, and they entirely forgot the other; but the Queen, judging by the general neglect, that the prediction of Formidable was also accomplished, gave orders several times that the same care should be taken of her as of the eldest.
The waiting-women obeyed with a repugnance which they could not overcome, and for which the King and Queen dared scarcely blame them, as they felt the same themselves. Lumineuse arrived with all speed, upon a cloud, and named the beautiful Princess Aimée, significant of the destiny which she had promised her. The King paid Lumineuse all the respect she deserved. She promised the Queen always to protect Aimée, but she bestowed on her no gift, for she had already given her all in her power. As for the other Princess, it was in vain that the King gave her the name of one of his provinces; insensibly every one accustomed themselves to call her Naimée, in cruel contradistinction to her sister Aimée. When the two Princesses had attained the age of twelve years, Formidable desired them to be sent away from the Court, in order, as she said, to diminish the love and the hate which they inspired. Lumineuse let Formidable have her way; she was sure that nothing would prevent the beautiful Aimée from reigning in the kingdom of her father, and in the hearts of his subjects. She had endowed her with such charms that no one could see her and have any doubt about it. The King, in the hope of appeasing the hatred of Formidable, which extended to all his family, resolved to obey her. He therefore sent the two young Princesses, with a youthful and agreeable Court, to a marvellous castle which he possessed in a remote part of his empire: it was called the Castle of Portraits, and was a place worthy of the learned fairy who had built it four thousand years before. The gardens and all the promenades surrounding it were lovely, but the most remarkable thing was the gallery, of immense length, which contained portraits of all the princes and princesses of the blood royal of that and all the neighbouring countries. As soon as they attained their fifteenth year their portraits were placed here, painted with an art which could be but feebly imitated by any but a fairy. This custom was to be observed until the time when the most beautiful princess in all the world should enter the castle.
This gallery was divided into two vast and magnificent apartments: the two Princesses occupied them; they had the same masters, the same education; they taught nothing to the charming Aimée which was not also taught to her sister; but Formidable came and instilled lessons into the latter which spoilt all the rest, while Lumineuse, on her side, rendered Aimée, by her instructions, worthy of the admiration of the whole universe. After the Princesses had been in this castle, excluded from the Court for three years, they heard one day a strange noise, which was followed by the sound of charming music; they looked about everywhere to find from whence the noise and the concert proceeded, when they perceived three portraits occupying three places which a moment before had been vacant. The first represented a lady being crowned by two Cupids with flowers, one of whom regarded the beautiful portrait with all the attention it merited, and seemed to have forgotten to let fly an arrow at it which was fixed in his bent bow; the other held a little streamer, on which were these verses:--
Aimée received from Nature at her birth
Those beauties which immortal are, alone.
The Graces added loveliness to worth,
And Venus yielded up to her her zone.
It was not necessary to announce this as the portrait of the beautiful Aimée; one saw in it all her features depicted with that charming grace which attracted every heart; she had an exquisitely fair complexion, the most beautiful colour in the world, a round face, lovely light hair, blue eyes, which shone with so much brightness that those who had the pleasure of seeing them thought it useless that Lumineuse should have bestowed on Aimée a gift which she was sure of possessing from her own personal beauty: her mouth was charming, her teeth as white as her skin, and Venus seemed to have given her the power of smiling like herself. It was this divine portrait which occupied the end of the gallery. The second was that of Naimée: she was fair, and did not want beauty; but notwithstanding, like the original, the portrait failed to please. These words were inscribed beneath it in letters of gold:--
Naimée, of more than common charms possest,
Can in no mortal heart a dwelling find.
Learn that in vain we are with beauty blest,
Wanting the rarer graces of the mind.
These two portraits occupied all the attention of the two Princesses and of their juvenile Court, when Aimée, who was not proud of her own personal charms, and leaving to the others the task of admiring them, turned her eyes towards the third portrait, which had appeared at the same time with her own. She found it well worth looking at. It was that of a young Prince, a thousand times handsomer than Cupid himself; he had more the air of a god than a mortal; his black hair fell in large curls on his shoulders, and his eyes bespoke as much intelligence as his person displayed manly beauty. These words were written underneath the portrait:--"This is the Prince of the Pleasant Island." Its beauty surprised everybody, but it affected the lovely Aimée particularly--her young heart experienced an unknown emotion; and Naimée even, at the sight of this handsome portrait, found she was not exempt from a passion which she could not herself inspire. The adventure itself did not so much astonish any one, for they were accustomed to see wonderful things in that country. The King and Queen came to the Castle to visit the Princesses, and had a great many copies made of their portraits, which they sent to all the neighbouring kingdoms. But Aimée, as soon as she was alone, carried away by an involuntary impulse, returned to the gallery of portraits, where that of the Prince of the Pleasant Island engrossed all her attention, and was every way worthy of it.
Naimée, who had nothing in common with her sister, save an equal admiration of the portrait of the Prince, also passed nearly all her time in the gallery. This growing passion so increased the hatred of Naimée for her sister, that not being able herself to injure her, she incessantly implored the fairy Formidable to punish her for possessing superior charms. The cruel Fairy never neglected an opportunity of doing harm; so, following her own inclination, while yielding to the solicitations of Naimée, she went in search of the amiable Princess, who was walking on the bank of the river which flowed at the foot of the Castle of Portraits: "Go!" said Formidable to her, touching her with an ebony wand which she carried in her hand,--"Go! Follow continually the winding of this river, until the day when thou shalt meet a person who hates thee more than I do, and until that hour thou shalt not stop to rest in any place in the world!" The Princess, at this terrible order, began to weep. Such tears! In all the universe no heart but that of Formidable could be found incapable of being softened by them. Lumineuse hastened to the assistance of the beautiful and unhappy Aimée. "Be comforted," said she; "the journey to which Formidable has condemned thee shall terminate in a delightful adventure, and during it thou shalt have nothing but pleasure." Aimée, after this favourable prediction, departed with one single regret, which was that she should see no more the beautiful portrait of the Prince of the Pleasant Island; but she dared not express her sorrow to the Fairy. She therefore set out on her journey, and everything appeared sensible of her charms. None but the gentlest airs breathed in the places through which she passed. Everywhere she found nymphs ready to wait on her with the utmost respect; the meadows were covered with flowers at her approach; and when the sun became too powerful, the trees increased their foliage to protect her from its beams.
While the beautiful Princess made so pleasant a journey, Lumineuse did not merely limit her exertions to neutralizing the evil designs of Formidable; she sought Naimée, and striking her with an ivory wand--"Begone!" said she. "Follow in thy turn the banks of the river, and never shalt thou rest until thou shalt find a person who loves thee as much as thou deservest to be hated!" Naimée departed, and no one regretted her absence.
Even Formidable, who was always well pleased when she caused pain, thought no more of Naimée, and did not condescend to protect her any longer. The two Princesses thus continued their journey, Naimée with all the fatigue possible, the most beautiful flowers changing into thorns in her path; and the lovely Princess, with all the pleasures which Lumineuse had led her to hope for,--indeed, she found them still greater than she had expected.
At the close of a beautiful day, at the hour when the sun sank to rest in the arms of Thetis, Aimée seated herself on the bank of the river. Immediately an infinite number of flowers, springing up around her, formed a sort of couch, the charms of which she would have admired for a much longer time had she not perceived an object on the river which prevented her from thinking of anything else; it was a little boat made of amethyst, ornamented with a thousand streamers of the same colour, inscribed with cyphers and gallant devices. Twelve young men, clothed in light garments of grey and silver, crowned with garlands of amaranths, rowed with so much diligence, that the boat was very soon sufficiently close to the shore to allow Aimée to remark its various beauties. It was with a feeling of agreeable surprise that she perceived in every part of it her name and her initials. A moment after, the Princess recognised her portrait upon a little altar of topaz, raised in the centre of the boat; and beneath the portrait she read these words.
"If this be not love, what is it?"
After the first emotion of surprise and admiration, she feared to see the stranger land who appeared to be so very gallant. "Everything informs me of the love of an unknown admirer," said Aimée to herself; "but I feel that the Prince of the Pleasant Island is alone worthy to inspire me with that sentiment which I too plainly perceive is entertained for me by another. Fatal portrait!" she exclaimed; "why did destiny present it to my view at a time when, so far from defending myself from its influence, I was even ignorant that it was possible to love anything more tenderly than flowers."
This reflection was followed by many sighs, and she would have remained longer buried in her sweet reverie, if the agreeable sound of divers instruments had not roused her from it. She looked towards the boat from whence these pleasing sounds proceeded. A man, whose face she could not see, clothed in a robe of that same magnificent colour which was displayed in his entire equipage, appeared to be entirely occupied in the contemplation of her portrait, whilst six beautiful nymphs formed a charming concert, and accompanied these words, which were sung by him who did not take his eyes off the picture of the Princess. The air was Duboulai's:-- 
Let all things witness to my passion bear,
And vaunt the beauties of my matchless fair!
Aimée more charms than Venus' self displays!
Ye Nymphs in turn your tuneful voices raise.
Let all things witness to my passion bear,
And vaunt the beauties of my matchless fair!
The Graces gladly quit the Queen of Love
To follow one whose smile far more they prize.
To see and serve her is a bliss above
All that the gods can offer in the skies.
Aimée more charms, &c.
One glance from her sweet eyes my heart subdued.
All yield to her! all to her empire bow!
And till the moment man her beauty viewed
None could have loved as all the world must now!
Aimée more charms, &c.
The sweetness of the music detained the beautiful Aimée on the bank of the river. When it was finished, the stranger turned his face towards her, and enabled her to recognise, with as much confusion as pleasure, the agreeable features of the Prince of the Pleasant Island. What a surprise, what joy to see this charming Prince, and to find he thought of nothing but her! One must know how to love as they did in the days of the Fairies, to understand all that the young Princess felt.
The Prince of the Pleasant Island was equally astonished. He hastened to land on the fortunate shore which presented to his view the divine Aimée. She had not the heart to fly from so perfect a prince, though she upbraided fate a thousand times for her own weakness. On such occasions fate generally bears the blame.
It is impossible to express what the young lovers said to each other. Often, indeed, they understood each other without speaking. Lumineuse, who had conducted to this place both the pretty boat and the steps of Aimée, appeared all at once to re-assure the timid Princess, who had at length made up her mind to avoid so charming and dangerous a Prince. She told them that they were destined to love each other, and to be for ever united. "But," added the Fairy, "before this happy time arrives, you must finish the journey commanded by Formidable."
It is impossible to disobey the Fairies; so the beautiful Aimée and the Prince were satisfied with the pleasure of being together, and felt that anything which did not separate them was only too delightful. They continued, therefore, their route, sometimes in the pretty boat, sometimes wandering on foot through a vast, but beautiful wilderness, which the river fertilized with its waters. It was in this tranquil seclusion that the Prince of the Pleasant Island completely lost his peace of mind. He informed the beautiful Princess of all he had felt for her since the happy day when her divine portrait had been brought to his Court, and that one morning as he was walking on the banks of the river, and dreaming of her, Lumineuse had appeared, and, showing him the amethyst boat, commanded him to embark in it, promising him success in his voyage and a favourable issue to his love. Whilst the Prince and the beautiful Aimée obeyed the orders of Formidable, their affection increased each day. They became so happy, that they dreaded arriving at the end of their journey, for fear of being occupied with anything else but their love. Naimée, meanwhile, also continued her painful progress.
The course of the river which the two Princesses followed conducted them insensibly to the Pleasant Island, and they arrived there exactly at the same moment. Lumineuse did not fail to be present also. She informed Aimée that the revenge of Formidable was accomplished, because, in meeting her sister, she had found the only person in the world who could hate her. "And the journey of Naimée is also finished, then," said the beautiful Princess, "for nothing has been able to diminish my regard for her." She then begged the Fairy to mitigate, if possible, the sad fate of her sister; but this favour was useless to Naimée. The moment she saw the Prince of the Pleasant Island, whom she recognised easily as the original of the exquisite portrait which had touched her heart, and heard him tell Lumineuse that the time of his marriage with Aimée approached, she threw herself into that river, the course of which she had followed for twelve months with so much pain, yet without having resorted to self-destruction; but the woes of love affect us more deeply than any other misfortunes.
Lumineuse, who saw the Princess plunge into the water, changed her into a little animal, which evinces still, by its manner of walking, the contrariness of the unhappy Naimée. Her fate followed her even after death, for she was not regretted. It cost Aimée, however, a few tears; but what troubles could not be consoled by the Prince of the Pleasant Island? She was so engrossed by his affection, that she cared but little for the fêtes which they gave to celebrate her arrival in the kingdom, and the Prince himself took but a trifling share in them. When one is really in love, there is no true pleasure but that of being loved in return.
The King and Queen, apprised by Lumineuse of what had occurred, hastened to rejoin their amiable daughter; and in their presence the generous Fairy declared that the lovely Aimée had had the honour of putting an end to the adventure of the Castle of Portraits, because nothing had ever appeared so beautiful as herself in all the world.
The love of the Prince of the Pleasant Island was too violent to endure delay, so he begged the King and Queen to consent to the fulfilment of his happiness. Lumineuse herself honoured with her presence a day so fair and so much desired. The nuptials were celebrated with all the magnificence which might be expected from fairies and kings; but happy as was the day, I will not attempt a description of it, for, however agreeable to the lovers themselves, a wedding is almost always a dull affair to the general company.
While Love in turn upon the tender strings
Of human hearts with hope and fear can play,
Lovers and poets have a thousand things,
More or less sweet and eloquent, to say.
But soon as entered Hymen's happy state
Apollo and the Muses all seem dumb.
Of author and of husband 'tis the fate
To fail in an Epithalamium!