ONCE upon a time there was a King who was very much beloved by his subjects, and who was equally fond of them. This Monarch had a great repugnance to marriage, and what was still more astonishing, love had never made the slightest impression on his heart. His subjects, however, pressed so strongly upon him the necessity of providing for the succession to the throne, that the good King finally consented to their request. But as no woman he had as yet seen, had awakened in him the faintest inclination to marry her, he resolved to seek in foreign lands that which his own had failed to present him with, and despite the severe and satirical remarks of all his countrywomen, both handsome and ugly, he set out on his travels, after having duly provided for the maintenance of order and tranquillity in his dominions. He would take no one with him but a single equerry, a very sensible man, but not particularly brilliant. Such companions are not always the worst upon a journey.
The King roamed in vain through several kingdoms, using all his best endeavours to fall in love; but his time not being come, he retraced his road to his own dominions, after two years' absence and fatigue, in the same state of indifference as he left them.
It happened, however, that in traversing a forest he heard a most fearful squalling of cats. The worthy equerry did not know what to think of such a commencement of an adventure. All the stories of sorcerers that he had ever seen came into his head. As to the King, he was unmoved by it. Courage and curiosity combined to induce him to wait and see what would follow this strange and disagreeable interruption. The noise coming nearer and nearer, they at length saw an hundred Spanish cats rush by them through the Forest. You might have covered them all with a cloak, so well did they run together and so perfectly were they on the scent. They were closely followed by two of the largest monkeys that ever were seen. They were dressed in amaranth-coloured coats. Their boots were the prettiest and best made in the world. They were mounted on two superb English bull-dogs, and rode at full speed, blowing little toy-trumpets. The King, surprised at such a sight, gazed at them with great attention, when a score of tiny dwarfs appeared, some mounted on lynxes and leading relays of them, others on foot with cats in couples. They were dressed in amaranth like the huntsmen, which colour seemed to be the livery of the equipage. A moment afterwards he perceived a young female as remarkable for her beauty as for the proud air with which she rode a large tiger, whose paces were admirable.
She passed the King full gallop, without stopping or even saluting him; but though she hardly looked at him, he was enchanted with her, and his heart was gone like a flash of lightning.
All in agitation, he perceived a dwarf who had lagged behind the rest of the company. He addressed him with all that eagerness which the curiosity of love to obtain some information respecting the object of its admiration would naturally occasion. The dwarf informed him that the lady he had just seen was the Princess Mutine, daughter of King Prudent, in whose dominions they were at that moment. He told him, also, that the Princess was exceedingly fond of the chase, and that the pack he had seen pass was what she hunted rabbits with. The King asked nothing further, except the nearest road to the Court of King Prudent. The dwarf pointed it out to him, and spurred on his lynx to rejoin the hunt, and the King, with the impatience of a new-born passion, gave the spurs to his horse, and in less than two hours found himself in the capital of King Prudent's dominions. He was presented to the King and Queen, who received him with open arms, the more graciously on learning his name and that of his empire.
The beautiful Mutine returned from the chase shortly after this presentation. Hearing that the Princess had killed two rabbits, he ventured to compliment her on so fine a day's sport, but the Princess made no reply. He was rather surprised at her silence, but he was still more so when he observed that during supper she was equally taciturn. He noticed only that there were moments when she appeared about to say something, but that either King Prudent or the Queen (who never drank at the same time) immediately commenced speaking. This silence, however, did not prevent the increase of his passion for Mutine. The King retired to the handsome apartment which had been assigned to him, and his worthy Equerry did not appear overjoyed when he found his royal master so deeply in love. He did not even conceal from him that he was sorry for it. "And why are you sorry?" inquired the King. "The Princess is so beautiful; surely she is all I could desire." "She is beautiful, I admit," replied the Equerry. "But to be happy, something is required besides beauty. Pardon me, sire, but there is something harsh in the expression of her features." "It is pride," said the King, "and very becoming in so beautiful a woman." "Pride or ill-nature, whichever you please; but the taste she exhibits in her amusements, and her choice of so many mischievous animals, are to my mind convincing proofs of a cruel disposition. Moreover, the care that is taken to prevent her speaking is to me a very suspicious circumstance. The King, her father, is not called Prudent for nothing. I don't fancy even her own name of Mutine. It appears to me only a softening down or a diminutive of the appellation which would truly be applied to her from the impression she has made on me. For you know better than I do, that it is too common a practice to gloss over the faults of persons of her rank."
The observations of the worthy Equerry were sensible enough, but as objections only increase love in the hearts of all men, and particularly in those of kings, who dislike being contradicted, this monarch the very next morning demanded the hand of the Princess in marriage. As the previous indifference of the King had become notorious, the triumph of the charms of Mutine was complete. Her hand was accorded to him--but on two conditions. The first, that the marriage should take place the very next morning; the second, that he should not speak to the Princess until she was his wife. On this occasion the pretext for her silence was a solemn vow she had taken in consequence of--the first thing that came into their heads: and the enamoured King only saw in this circumstance the proof of a truly religious feeling. Those great precautions formed a new theme for the arguments of the Equerry, but they made no more impression than the former did. The King, after listening to them, closed the conversation by saying, "It has cost me a great deal of trouble to fall in love. I have done so at last. What the deuce wouldst thou have? I mean to remain in love."
The rest of that day and all the following was passed in dancing and feasting. The Princess was present, and took her part in all the entertainments without uttering a single word, and the first he heard her pronounce was the fatal "Yes," which bound her to him for life. As soon as she was married she threw off all restraint, and the first day did not pass without her having very liberally distributed a volley of abuse and a host of impertinences amongst her maids of honour. In short, the mildest expressions she made use of in return for the most particular services were characterized by rudeness and ill-temper. Even the King, her husband, was not exempted from this sort of language; but as he was very much in love, and, moreover, a good-natured man, he bore it all patiently.
A few days after their marriage the newly-wedded pair took the road to their own kingdom, and Mutine's departure was not regretted by any one in her Father's. The cordial reception King Prudent had always given to foreigners had no other motive than the hope of such a love as his daughter's charms had succeeded in inspiring--a passion which was too strong to pause for a better acquaintance with her mind and character.
The worthy Equerry had had too much reason for his remonstrances, and the King perceived it too late. All the time the new Queen was on the road she filled the hearts of her attendants with grief, anger, and despair. But once arrived in her kingdom, her ill-temper and ill-nature were redoubled. By the time she had been a month on her throne her reputation was perfect. She was acknowledged unanimously as the worst Queen in the world.
One day that she was taking an airing on horseback in a wood near the Palace, she perceived an old woman walking in the high road. She was very simply dressed. This good woman having made her the best curtsey she could, continued her route; but the Queen, who was only waiting for an occasion to give vent to her ill-humour, bade one of her pages run after the old woman, and bring her back. As soon as she was in her presence she said, "Thou art very impertinent to make me no lower a curtsey! Dost thou not know I am the Queen? I am more than half inclined to order my people to give thee an hundred lashes with their stirrup-leathers." "Madam," said the old woman, "I never knew exactly what difference there was in curtseys. It is clear I had no intention of being disrespectful." "How!" exclaimed the Queen; "does she dare to answer me? Tie her instantly to the tail of my horse. I will take her with speed to the best dancing-master in the city, and he shall teach her how to make me a curtsey."
The old woman begged for mercy whilst they tied her, but in vain. She even boasted of the protection of the Fairies. The Queen heeded the warning as little as the prayer. "I care for them as little as I do for thee," she exclaimed, "and wert thou even thyself a Fairy, I would serve thee the same way."
The old woman suffered herself patiently to be fastened to the tail of the horse; but the instant the Queen would have given him the spur, he became motionless. In vain she endeavoured to stick the rowels into his side. He had become a horse of bronze. The cords which fastened the old woman changed at the same moment to garlands of flowers, and the old woman herself suddenly appeared eight feet high. Then fixing on Mutine her fiery and disdainful eyes, she said to her, "Wicked woman! unworthy of the royal title thou bearest, I desired to judge myself if thou didst deserve the bad character they give thee in the world. I am satisfied thou dost, and thou shalt soon see whether the fairies are as little to be feared as thou fanciest." So saying, the Fairy Paisible (for it was she herself) whistled through her fingers, and a chariot was seen advancing, drawn by six of the most beautiful ostriches in the world, and in this chariot they recognised the Fairy Grave, looking more grave even than her name. She was at that time the Elder of the Fairies, and presided in all cases affecting the Fairy community. Her escort was composed of a dozen other Fairies, mounted on crop-tailed dragons. Notwithstanding her astonishment at the appearance of the Fairies, Queen Mutine retained the proud and malevolent expression which was so natural to her.
When this brilliant company had descended and dismounted, the Fairy Paisible related her adventure to them. The Fairy Grave, who was very severe in the execution of her office, approved of Paisible's conduct, and then gave it as her opinion that the Queen should be transformed into the same metal as her horse; but the Fairy Paisible objected to this, and with unequalled generosity, exerted herself to moderate all the rigorous measures that were suggested for the punishment of the Queen.
At length, thanks to the kind Fairy, she was condemned only to be her slave until she was confined, for I had forgotten to tell you that she was expecting to become a mother. This sentence, which was pronounced in full court, decreed that, on her recovery, the Queen should be permitted to return to her husband, and that the infant she had given birth to should remain the slave of the Fairy in her place.
They were polite enough to announce to the King the sentence that had been passed on his wife. He was compelled to give his assent to it. What could the worthy Prince have done, supposing he had objected?
After this act of justice, the Fairies returned each one to her own affairs. Paisible waited an instant the arrival of her equipage, which she had sent for. It was a little car made of various coloured bugles, drawn by six hinds, white as snow, with caparisons of green satin, embroidered with gold. One touch of her wand changed the Queen's dress into the habit of a slave. In this attire she was made to mount an obstinate mule, and to follow, at a hard trot, the car of the Fairy.
After an hour's jolting, the Queen arrived at Paisible's mansion. As you may easily believe, she was in great affliction, but her pride prevented her from shedding a single tear. The Fairy sent her to work in the kitchen, after giving her the name of Furieuse, that of Mutine being too gentle for the wickedness she was inclined to.
"Furieuse," said the Fairy Paisible, "I have saved your life, and perhaps conscience may hereafter reproach me for it. I will not give you any heavy work to do, out of compassion for the unborn infant, who you are aware is to become my slave. I will, therefore, remove you from the kitchen, and set you only the task of sweeping my apartment, and combing my little dog Christine." Furieuse knew there was no opposition to be made to these commands. She took, therefore, the sensible course of doing exactly as she was bid as long as she was able.
After some time, she gave birth to a Princess, as lovely as day; and when her health was re-established, the Fairy lectured her severely respecting her past life, exacted from her a promise to behave better in future, and sent her back to the King her husband. One may imagine, from the kindness shown by the Fairy Paisible to so wicked a woman, what affectionate care she would take of the young Princess who was left in her hands. She soon perfectly doated on her, and determined to have her endowed by two fairies besides herself. She was a long time deciding on the two godmothers she should select, for she feared that the resentment they all felt against the mother might be extended to the child. At length, she thought that the Fairies Divertisante and Eveillée were amongst the best natured of them, and invited them accordingly. They arrived in a Berlin,  made of Italian flowers, drawn by six grey ponies with beautiful flame-coloured manes. Eveillée's robe was composed of parrots' feathers, and her hair was dressed en chien fou.  The Fairy Divertisante had a robe of cameleon's skin, which made her appear alternately in every imaginable colour.
Paisible gave them both a capital reception, and to insure their good offices, I have been confidently informed, that (during the excellent supper they sat down to) she managed to make them just merry enough with wine. Having taken this wise precaution, she had the lovely infant brought to them. It was in a cradle of rock crystal, and swathed in clothes of scarlet embroidered with gold; but its beauty was an hundred times more brilliant than its apparel.
The young Princess smiled at the Fairies, and made little attempts to kiss them, which so pleased them that they determined to place her, as far as it laid in their power, beyond the reach of the anger of their Elders. They began by giving her the name of Galantine.
The Fairy Paisible then said to them, "You know that the punishments we Fairies usually inflict, consist in changing beauty to ugliness, intellect to imbecility, and in many cases resorting to transformation. Now, as it is impossible for us to endow her with more than one gift each, my advice is that one of you should bestow upon her beauty, the other intelligence, and that I, for my part, should render it impossible for any one to change her form."
This advice was adopted, and followed upon the spot. As soon as Galantine was endowed, the two Fairies took their leave, and Paisible gave all her attention to the education of the little Princess. Never was such attention so well rewarded, for at four years of age her grace and beauty had already begun to make a noise in the world. In fact, they made too much noise, for the circumstances of the case having been reported to the Council of Fairies, Paisible, one morning, saw the Fairy Grave enter the court-yard of the Palace, mounted on a lion. She wore a long robe, very full, and consequently very much plaited, of sky-blue colour, and on her head a square cap of gold brocade.
Paisible recognised her with as much anxiety as vexation, for her dress and the animal she rode proved that she came to promulgate some decree: but when she perceived that she was followed by the Fairy Rèveuse, mounted on a unicorn, and dressed in black morocco, faced with changeable taffeta, and wearing also a square cap, she no longer doubted that this visit had some very serious object.
In short, Fairy Grave, opening the business, said to her, "I am much surprised at the conduct you have pursued towards Mutine. It is in the name of the whole body of Fairies, whom she has insulted, that I come to reprimand you. You were at liberty to forgive her offences to yourself, but you had no right to pardon her for those which she had committed against the entire community. Nevertheless, you treated her with mildness and kindness during the time she resided with you. I therefore come to do strict justice, and punish an innocent child for the acts of a guilty mother. You have endowed her with beauty and intelligence, and you have also raised an obstacle against her transformation; but though I cannot deprive her of the gifts you have bestowed upon her, I know how to prevent her deriving any advantage from them as long as she lives. She shall never be able to get out of an enchanted prison which I am about to build for her, until she shall find herself in the arms of a lover who is beloved by her. It is my business to take care that such an event shall never occur."
The enchantment consisted of a tower of great height and size, built of shells of all colours, in the middle of the sea. On the lowest floor there was a great bath-room, into which the water could be admitted at pleasure. The bath was surrounded by steps and slabs, on which you could walk with dry feet. The first floor was devoted to the apartment of the Princess, and it was really a magnificent affair. The second was divided into several rooms. In one you saw a fine library, in another a wardrobe full of beautiful linen and superb dresses for all ages, each more splendid than the other. A third was appropriated to music, a fourth was entirely filled with the most agreeable wines and liqueurs, and in the last (which was the largest of all), nothing was to be seen but wet and dry sweetmeats, and preserves of every description, and all sorts of pies and patties, which by the power of the enchantment were kept always as warm as they were when first taken out of the oven. The tower was terminated by a platform on which there was a garden laid out full of the finest flowers, which were renewed and succeeded each other unceasingly. In this garden was also seen a fruit tree of each sort, on which as fast as you gathered one fruit another appeared in its place. This lovely spot was ornamented by green arbours, rendered delicious by the shade and fragrance of the flowering shrubs that formed them, and the songs of the thousand birds that frequented them.
When the Fairies had placed Galantine in the tower, with a governess named Bonnette, they remounted the whale that had taken them there, and retiring a certain distance from this grand edifice, Fairy Grave, by a tap of her wand on the water, assembled two thousand of the most ferocious sharks  in the ocean, and ordered them to keep strict watch around the tower, and tear in pieces every mortal who should be rash enough to approach it; but as ships are not much afraid of sharks, she also sent for a quantity of remoras,  and commanded them to form an advanced guard, and stop, without exception, every vessel that by design or accident shaped its course in that direction.
Fairy Grave felt so fatigued with having done so much in so short a time, that she requested Fairy Rèveuse to fly to the top of the tower and enchant the air about it so powerfully and completely that not even a bird should be able to go near it. The Fairy obeyed; but as she was an exceedingly absent being, she forgot some of the necessary ceremonies, and made some few mistakes. If the enchantment of the water had not been more perfect than that of the air, the safe keeping of Galantine, which they took so much trouble about, would have been greatly endangered by sea.
The good governess occupied every instant of her time in the proper education of Galantine; and although she looked upon all the accomplishments that the Princess acquired as completely thrown away on one who would never have an opportunity of displaying them to the world, she neglected nothing that could tend to the improvement of her mind and the cultivation of her talents, in all imaginable arts and sciences.
When the Princess had attained the age of twelve she appeared to the governess a perfect prodigy. All the fine qualities she discovered in her caused her deeply to deplore the sad fate imposed on so amiable a person. Galantine, who knew nothing about herself, perceiving her one day more melancholy than usual, entreated to know the reason of it so urgently, that Bonnette related to her all her own history and that of the Queen her mother.
Galantine was thunderstruck at this recital. "I had never before," she exclaimed, "reflected on my position. I fancied that when I was old enough I should leave this retreat: but if I am condemned never to do so, of what value is life to me? Better surely would it be for me to die." The Princess, after this burst of grief, remained silent for some time, then added, "You say, my dear Bonnette, that the spell which is cast upon me cannot be broken until I shall love some one who loves me. Is this so difficult a matter? I don't know what it may be, but I would endure anything that could assist to release me from this prison." Bonnette could not help smiling at the simplicity of Galantine, and then answered, "To love and to be beloved, it is necessary that some young Prince should enter this tower to see and be seen by you, and that he should be one who intends to marry you, otherwise his appearance here would not be correct; now you know that it is not possible for any man to approach these walls. Have I not told you all the precautions that have been taken by sea and by sky. You must, therefore, my dear Galantine, make up your mind to pass your days in this solitude."
This conversation produced a great change in the Princess. No amusements had charms for her any longer. Her melancholy became excessive. She passed her days in weeping and in devising plans to escape from the tower.
One day that the Princess was sitting in her balcony, she saw an extraordinary figure emerge from the water. She called Bonnette immediately to come and observe it. It had the appearance of a man with a bluish countenance, and ill-curled hair of a sea-green colour. He approached the tower, and the sharks made no opposition to his progress. "In my opinion," said the Governess, "it is a Mer-man." "A man do you say," exclaimed Galantine; "let us go down to the gate of the tower, we shall see him better there." As soon as they reached the gate, the Mer-man stopped to gaze on the Princess, and at her sight made several signs of admiration. He said something to her in a very hoarse voice; but as he found his language was not understood, he had recourse again to signs. He had in his hand a little rush-basket filled with the rarest shells. He presented it to the Princess, who took it, and in her turn made signs to thank him; but as night was coming on she retired, and the Mer-man plunged under water.
As soon as Galantine had reached her own apartment, she said to her Governess, sorrowfully, "I think that man frightful. Why did the villainous sharks who guard me allow such an ugly man to pass them, in preference to one who was better looking? for I suppose they are not all like him." "Not any like him, I should say," replied Bonnette; "and as to the sharks allowing him to pass, I presume that, being inhabitants of the same element, they do not harm each other. They may even be his relations, or at least friends."
A few days after this first adventure, Bonnette and Galantine were attracted to one of the windows of the tower by what appeared to them a singular sort of music, and which indeed proved to be so. There was the same Mer-man that they had already seen, who, always up to his waist in the water, and his head covered with reeds, blew with all his might a species of conch-shell, the sound of which was something like that of our ancient goat's horns. The Princess again descended to the gate of the tower, and courteously accepted the coral and other marine curiosities which he presented to her. After this second visit, he came every day under the windows of the Princess, diving and grimacing, or playing on the charming instrument I have described to you. Galantine contented herself with curtseying to him in the balcony; but no longer came down-stairs, notwithstanding the signs by which the Mer-man implored her.
Some days afterwards, the Princess saw him appear in company with another of his species of the other sex. Her hair was dressed with much taste, and her voice was charming.
This addition to the company induced Galantine and Bonnette to descend again to the gate of the tower. They were much surprised when the lady (whom they now saw for the first time) after having tried several languages, spoke to them in their own, and complimented Galantine on her beauty. She perceived that the basement story, or bath-room, of which I have spoken, was open and full of water. "Here," said she, "is a place made expressly for our reception; for it is impossible for us to live entirely out of our element." She immediately entered, and reclined as one does in a bath, and her brother (for she was the sister of the Mer-man) placed himself beside her in a similar attitude. The Princess and her governess sat down on the steps which were continued round the apartment.
"I suspect, madam," said the Syren, "that you have abandoned your residence on the earth in consequence of being beset by crowds of lovers. If that be really the cause of your retirement, you will not obtain your object here; for my brother is already dying for love of you, and when the inhabitants of our great city have perceived you, he will certainly have them all for his rivals."
The brother, who imagined she was speaking of him, at that moment made signs of assent with his head and his hands, and continued to do so when she was not speaking of him at all.
The Syren expressed to her the regret of her brother at not being able to make himself understood. "I am his interpreter," she continued, "thanks to the languages which I was taught by a fairy." "You have fairies, then, also amongst you?" said Galantine, accompanying the question with a heavy sigh. "Yes, madam," replied the Syren, "we have a few; but, if I am not deceived, you have suffered some injuries from those who inhabit the earth? At least the sigh which escaped you would justify me in so believing." The Princess, who had not been enjoined secresy on the subject, recounted to the Syren all that Bonnette had told her.
"You are much to be pitied," said the Syren, when Galantine had finished her story. "Nevertheless your misfortunes may not be without a remedy; but it is time to terminate my first visit." The Princess, delighted at the hope she held out to her, said a thousand kind things to her, and they separated with a promise to see one another frequently.
The Princess appeared charmed with this adventure. Independently of the hope the Syren had inspired her with, it was much to have found some one with whom it was possible to enjoy a little society. "We shall make the acquaintance," said she to her governess, "of several of these Mer-men, and they may not all be as hideous as the first we have seen. At any rate we shall not be always alone." "Good heavens," said Bonnette; "how easily young people do flatter themselves. I tell you I am afraid of those folks. But what say you," continued she, "to the handsome lover of whom you have made a conquest?" "I say that I shall never love him," replied the Princess, "and that he is exceedingly disagreeable to me; but," pursued she, "I would fain discover if he cannot, by means of his relative the Fairy Marine, contrive to do me some service." "I repeat to you," insisted Bonnette, "that those odd-coloured faces and great fish-tails are alarming." But Galantine being younger, was consequently bolder and less prudent.
The Syren came to see her several times, and always talked to her of her brother's affection; the Princess, constantly occupied by her ideas of escaping from prison, encouraged the conversation, and at length induced the Syren to promise she would bring the Fairy Marine to pay her an early visit, and that she would instruct her what to do.
The Fairy came with the Syren the very next morning; the Princess received her as her liberator. Some short time after her arrival she requested Galantine to show her over the Tower, and to take a turn with her in the garden, for (with the assistance of two crutches) she could manage to walk about, and as she was a Fairy, she was able to remain out of the water as long as she pleased, only it was necessary for her to moisten her forehead occasionally, for which purpose she always carried a little silver fountain suspended from her girdle.
Galantine acceded to the request of the Fairy, and Bonnette remained in the hall to entertain the rest of the company. When the Fairy and the Princess had entered the garden, the former said, "Let us lose no time. Let us see if there is anything I can do to serve you." Galantine told her all her history, not omitting the smallest details; and the Fairy then said to her, "I can do nothing for you, my dear Princess, on the land, my power does not extend beyond my own element; but you have a resource, and one in which I can assist you with all the art I possess. If you will do Gluatin the honour to marry him, an honour which he most ardently aspires to, you can come and live with us. I will teach you in a moment to dive and to swim as well as we do. I will harden your skin without blemishing its whiteness, and so prepare it, that the coldness of the water, in lieu of inconveniencing you, shall give you the greatest pleasure. My cousin," added she, "is, as you may suppose, one of the best matches in the ocean, and I will do so much for him in consideration of your alliance that nothing shall have ever equalled your mutual happiness."
The Fairy spoke with so much fervour, that the Princess hesitated to refuse, and requested a few days to consider. As they were about to rejoin the company, they perceived a vessel in the distance. The Princess had never before seen one so distinctly, as none had ever ventured to come so near the Tower. They could easily distinguish on the deck of this ship a young man reclining under a magnificent pavilion, and who appeared to be very attentively surveying the Tower by means of a telescope; but the distance was still too great for them to see anything more.
The vessel beginning to recede, Galantine and the Fairy returned to the company, the latter much pleased at the progress of her negotiation. She told the Princess, on leaving her, that she should shortly come again to know her answer.
As soon as the Fairy was gone, Galantine related to her governess all that had passed between them. She was very sorry to see that her pupil was half inclined to yield to the Fairy's persuasions. She was dreadfully afraid of being compelled in her declining years to become an old Syren herself. To avert all the misfortunes she foresaw, she hit upon the following idea. As she could paint miniatures to perfection, she set to work, and by the next morning produced one of a young man with fair hair, dressed in large curls, the finest complexion in the world, blue eyes, and his nose slightly retroussé; in fact, presenting an assemblage of all the features that could compose a charming portrait, and we shall see in the end that some supernatural power must have assisted her in a work which she had undertaken solely to show Galantine the difference between a man of the world and her marine adorer, and so dissuade her from a marriage which was not at all to her taste.
When she presented her work to her, the Princess was struck with admiration, and asked her if it were possible that any man on earth could resemble that portrait. Bonnette assured her that there were many such, and some even handsomer. "I can scarcely believe it," replied Galantine, "but alas, neither the original of this portrait, nor any one like him, can ever be my husband. They will never see me, nor I them as long as I live. Oh, how miserable is my fate!"
Nevertheless, Galantine passed the whole day in gazing on this miniature. It had the effect Bonnette anticipated. It ruined Gluatin's affairs, which had previously been put in pretty good train; but the governess almost repented having painted so handsome a face, as the Princess gave up eating and drinking in order to have more time to gaze upon it. If ever a portrait was capable of inspiring a real passion, it was assuredly in this case and under the circumstances here related.
The Fairy Marine returned a few days after the visit we have described, to ascertain what were the intentions of Galantine; but this young creature, engrossed by her new passion (for she was positively in love with the portrait), could not control herself as prudence would have suggested. She not only broke off with the Fairy abruptly, but, what was worse, she exhibited so much contempt and aversion for Gluatin, that the Fairy, indignant at the style of her refusal, left the Princess with a determination to be revenged.
In the meanwhile the Princess had made a conquest she was unconscious of. The vessel she had seen so near her residence had on board the handsomest Prince in the world. He had heard of the Enchanted Tower, and determined to go nearer to it than any one had yet done. He possessed such excellent glasses, that in surveying the Tower, simply from a motive of curiosity, he caught sight of the Princess, and the best proof of the goodness of his glass, and that he must have seen her distinctly is, that he fell desperately in love with her.
Like a young man and a new lover, two conditions in which nothing is thought too hazardous, he was eager to cast anchor near the Tower, lower a boat, and encounter all the dangers that the enchantment could threaten him with; but all his crew upon their knees implored him not to venture. His Equerry, who was more frightened than any, or whose knowledge of the circumstances rendered him more competent to form an opinion, was most eloquent. "You would lead us all to certain death, my Lord," said he; "deign to return on shore, and I promise you to go in search of the Fairy Commode. She is a relation of mine, and has always been very fond of me. I will answer for her zeal and her skill. I am perfectly sure she will do you good service." The Prince yielded, but very reluctantly, to so many good arguments. He landed therefore on the nearest point of land, and despatched his Equerry to find his relative, and implore her protection and assistance. In the meanwhile he ordered a tent to be pitched on the sea shore, and, glass in hand, sat incessantly looking either at the Princess or at her prison, and his imagination becoming more and more excited, often presented to him its own creations for realities.
At the end of a few days the Equerry returned with the Fairy Commode. The Prince received her with the greatest demonstrations of affection. The Equerry had informed her during their journey of the state of the case. "In order to lose no time," said she to the Prince, "I will send a white pigeon, in which I place implicit confidence, to examine the enchantment. If he finds a flaw in it anywhere, he shall enter the garden that crowns the Tower, and I will order him to bring back some flowers as a proof that he succeeded in finding an entrance. If he can get in, I will soon find a way to introduce you." "But," said the Prince, "can I not, by means of your pigeon, send a note to the Princess, declaring the passion with which she has inspired me?" "Certainly you can," said Commode, "and I advise you to do so." The Prince immediately wrote the following letter:--
"Prince Blondin to Princess Galantine.
"I adore you, and I am aware of your destiny. If, beautiful Princess, you will deign to accept the homage of my heart, there is nothing I will not undertake to render myself the happiest of men by terminating your misfortunes.--BLONDIN."
When this note was written, they tied it round the neck of the Pigeon, who only awaited his dispatches, for he had already received his instructions. He rose gracefully into the air, and flew off as fast as his wings would carry him; but when he approached the tower there issued from it a furious wind that repelled him violently. He was not, however, to be disheartened by such an obstacle, and after making many circles round and round about the building, he discovered the weak point which the Fairy Rèveuse had left in the enchantment. He slipped through it instantly, and flew down into the garden to wait for the Princess and to rest himself.
The Princess generally took her walk alone; from inclination, because a passion engrossed her heart; from necessity, because the Governess could no longer ascend to that height without great fatigue. As soon as the Pigeon saw her appear, he flew to her in the most flattering manner. Galantine caressed him, and seeing a rose-coloured ribbon round his neck, she wondered what it was put there for. How great was her surprise when she perceived the note! She read it, and this was the answer she returned by the Pigeon:--
"Princess Galantine to Prince Blondin.
"You say that you have seen me, and that you love me. I cannot love you, nor promise to love you, without having seen you. Send me your portrait by the same courier. If I return it to you, hope nothing; but if I keep it, be assured that in working for me you work for yourself.--GALANTINE."
She fastened this letter in the same manner as they had done that which she had just received, and dismissed the Pigeon, who did not forget that he was ordered to bring back a flower from the garden; but as he was well aware of the importance lovers often attach to trifles, he stole one from a bouquet the Princess wore in her bosom, and flew away.
The return of this bird gave the Prince such extreme delight, that, but for the anxiety he was still under, he might perhaps have lost his senses. He wanted to send the Pigeon back instantly with a miniature of himself, which, by the greatest chance in the world, he happened to have amongst his baggage; but the Fairy insisted on an hour's rest for her courier, which the Prince employed in writing verses to send with his portrait.
The Pigeon, duly furnished with miniature and verses, set out once more for the tower. The Princess was not certain he would return so soon, but she was looking out for him, notwithstanding. She was in the garden, and had said nothing of this last adventure to her Governess, for she began to feel that love of mystery and reserve with which a first passion usually inspires one. She eagerly detached the miniature from the Pigeon's neck, and her surprise was infinite when, on opening the case, she discovered that the portrait of Prince Blondin perfectly resembled that which Bonnette had painted from fancy. It was one of those fortunate accidents which it is impossible to account for.
The delight of Galantine was extreme at making this agreeable discovery; and to express in the prettiest possible way her own sentiments, she took the Prince's miniature out of its case, put in its place the one she thought best of the many which Bonnette had painted of her, and immediately sent the Pigeon back with it, who began to be rather fatigued, and would not long have been able to serve two lovers who kept up a correspondence so uncommonly active.
Prince Blondin had kept his eyes constantly turned in the direction of the tower, awaiting the return of his courier. At length he saw the blessed Pigeon approaching; but what were his feelings as soon as he could discern that the bird had fastened round his neck the same case that he had taken away with him! He was nearly dying with grief. The fairy, who had never left him, consoled him as well as she could, and took herself from the Pigeon's neck the case, which he even refused to look at. She opened it, and pointed out to him his error. In an instant he went into a transport of joy that could only be compared for its intensity to that he had just endured of affliction. "We will lose no time," said Commode; "I can only make you happy by changing you into a bird; but I will take care that you shall be re-transformed at the right moment." The Prince, without hesitation, consented to the transformation, and to anything else which could assist him to approach the person he adored. The good Commode thereupon touched him with her wand, and he became in an instant the prettiest little Humming-bird in the world, joining to the attractions which nature has bestowed on that charming bird that of being able to speak in the most agreeable way possible.
The Pigeon received fresh orders to conduct him to the garden. Galantine was astonished to see a bird she had no knowledge of; but his being accompanied by the Pigeon put her heart in a flutter, and the Humming-bird, flying to her, said, "Good morning, beautiful Princess." She had never before heard a bird speak, and this novelty increased the gratification with which she received this one. She took him on her finger, and he immediately said to her "Kiss, kiss Colibri." She did so with great pleasure, over and over again. I leave you to imagine if the Prince was delighted, and if he was not at the same time very much vexed that he was only a Humming-bird, for lovers are the only persons in the world who are happy and miserable at the same time.
Commode, however, knew by her art that this was exactly the moment to restore the Prince to his natural form, which she did so quickly that the Princess, in the twinkling of an eye, found herself pressed to the heart of a lover whom she loved.
The spell was broken. That instant the tower trembled and rocked to his foundations. Its walls even began to open. Bonnette, who was below-stairs, in the greatest alarm ascended to the terrace, at least to perish with the Princess. The rocking of the tower increased as she mounted the staircase, and when she arrived at the top and saw the whole building lean over and on the verge of falling into the sea, she fainted outright.
At the same moment the two fairies, Commode and Paisible, arrived in a chariot of Venetian glass, drawn by six eagles of the largest size. "Save yourselves quickly," they cried to the two lovers. "The tower is falling, and you will perish with it." They leapt into the fairy car, without having had time to say a word to each other; but the Prince managed at the same moment to fling the Governess, still in her swoon, into the bottom of the car. Scarcely had they begun to rise in the air, when the tower toppled over, and, with a horrible noise, fell, a mass of ruins, into the sea. The Fairy Marine, Gluantin, and his friends, in order to be revenged on the Princess, had sapped the foundations.
Marine, perceiving that her designs were foiled by the intervention of the two Fairies, determined to try if she could not by open war obtain possession of Galantine. She suddenly formed an immense chariot out of some exhalations, and, entering it with all her family, filled every available space in it with oysters in their shells, fragments of rock, stones, and other trifles of that description. With this chariot and this ammunition she caused herself to be wafted by a high wind to the sea-shore, to intercept the car of glass. She did even more--she commanded all the wild ducks and sea-fowl of every sort for ten leagues round to come in flocks to darken the air, and oppose the landing of the Fairies. This order was executed with a quacking and squalling that was insupportable.
Our two lovers thought themselves lost; but as they had a taste for the destruction of enchantments, they wished to try what they could do against this. The Fairies, however, did not consider it necessary. Commode produced from the box-seat of the car a great quantity of petards and rockets, which she had provided apparently for the purpose of making a display of fireworks. But whatever might have been her reason for bringing them, she now used them with much effect, for she directed so many against these troublesome fowl, that they were compelled to disperse. The enemy in the chariot then had recourse to their last weapons. Not one of the Marine party doubted that, with the oysters and stones, they should shatter the glass car to fragments in a few moments. It was not a bad idea, and we may even presume that they would have achieved their object if the Fairy Paisible had not taken out of her pocket a burning-glass which she always carried about with her.
It is best to be candid. I frankly admit that I never very clearly understood for what purpose she constantly carried that particular utensil. But she placed it, however, on this occasion, in such a position that it speedily warmed her enemies after a fashion as new as it was disagreeable. They uttered the most fearful shrieks, and the exhalations being dispelled by the power of the sun, all the Marine family, with the Fairy herself, were precipitated pell-mell into the ocean, leaving our two victorious Fairies to continue their journey to the dominions of Queen Mutine.
On arriving in them they found she was dead. She had endeavoured, partly from fear of some new punishment, partly from conviction, to control her temper. In this attempt she had swallowed so many violent expressions, and stifled so many wicked impulses, that these prodigious and continued efforts, after causing her several severe fits of illness, at length terminated fatally.
She had been dead, indeed, some years. The good king who had married her, quietly enjoyed the sweets of his widowhood; and though he had no other children than the daughter whom he never expected to see again, nothing in the world could have induced him to marry a second time. He governed his estates very peacefully, and the good King Prudent, Galantine's grandfather, had just arrived, notwithstanding his great age, to pass the holidays with him.
What joy for these two worthy sovereigns. The whole Court soon participated in it, as the news spread of the arrival of the Fairies with a charming Princess, who was their King's daughter.
The marriage of the two lovers was fixed for the next morning. Couriers were instantly dispatched in all directions, to beg the Fairies generally to honour the nuptials with their presence. You may believe that Fairy Grave was not forgotten. In short, they arrived from all quarters. Festivities, balls, tournaments, grand banquets, succeeded each other for many days. They bantered, and at the same time thanked, Fairy Rèveuse, for the blunder she had made in her enchantments. She defended herself by observing that lovers were always more ingenious than magicians were skilful, and that to prevent their success it would require an enchantment that was impossible.
I forgot to tell you that the Governess recovered from her swoon immediately on her arriving at the Palace. In short, everybody was satisfied, and the Fairies, after sharing in the festivities for several days, departed, each to manage her own affairs, or to enjoy new pleasures. Our lovers were always constant, and became the happiest sovereigns on the face of the earth.