THERE was once an old king who consoled himself for a long widowhood by marrying a beautiful princess he dearly loved. He had a son by his first wife, hunchbacked and squint-eyed, who was extremely annoyed at his father's second marriage. "The position of an only son," he reasoned, "made me feared and loved; but if the young queen has children, my father, who can do as he likes with his kingdom, will not take into account that I am the eldest, and will disinherit me in their favour." He was ambitious, full of malice and dissimulation. But he did not allow his annoyance to be seen, and secretly consulted a fairy said to be the cleverest in the world.
Directly she saw him she divined his name, rank and errand. "Prince Hunchback," she said, for so he was named, "you are too late: the queen will have a son, and I will do nothing to prevent it; but if the boy dies or anything happens to hint, I will take care that she does not have another." This promise comforted Hunchback a little. He implored the fairy not to forget, and deter mined to play his little brother some evil trick as soon as he should be born.
Accordingly after a short time a son was horn to the queen, the handsomest child imaginable. It was noticed as an extraordinary thing that the figure of an arrow was imprinted on his arm. The queen loved her child so dearly that she wished to nurse him herself; at which Prince Hunchback was extremely annoyed, because a mother's vigilance is far greater than that of a nurse, and it is easier to deceive a nurse than a mother.
Hunchback, however, only sought to attain his end, and feigned a love for the queen and all affection for the little prince; at which the king was delighted. "I should never have believed," he said, "that my son possessed such a good disposition, and if it continues I'll leave him a part of my kingdom." Such promises did not satisfy Hunchback, who wanted all or nothing. One evening he gave the queen some preserves which contained Opium. She fell asleep, and the prince, who had hidden behind the tapestry, quietly took the little prince away, and put in his place a big cat well wrapped up so that the nurses might not discover the theft. The cat cried and the nurses rocked the cradle, but at last he made such strange sounds that they thought he was hungry. They awoke the queen, and she, still half asleep, thinking to hold her beloved babe, took him in her arms to feed him. But the wicked cat bit her. She uttered a loud cry, and looking down what must she have felt to see a cat's head instead of that of her son? Her grief was so great that she thought she should die at once. The noise, made by the queen waiting women aroused the whole palace. The king seized his dressing-gown and rushed to her apartments. The first thing he saw was the cat in the same cloth of gold wrappings that his son ordinarily wore. The cat had been thrown on the floor where he lay, uttering the strangest cries. The king, greatly alarmed, asked what it all meant, and was told that no one knew, but the little prince was nowhere to be found. They had searched for him high and low, and the queen was badly wounded. The king entered her room, and found her in indescribable distress, and not wishing to increase hers by his own, forced himself to try and console her.
Meanwhile Hunchback had given his brother to a man who was his confidant and partisan. "Take him to a distant forest," he said, "and leave him naked in the spot most exposed to wild beasts, that they may eat him, and he may never be heard of more. I would take him myself, so much I fear you will not do my commission properly, but I am bound to appear before the king. Go, then, and be sure that when I am king, I shall not prove ungrateful." With his own hands he put the child into a covered basket. As he had been accustomed to caress him, the infant already knew him, and smiled, but hard hearted Hunchback was no more moved than a rock. He then went to the queen's room, half-dressed on account of his haste, as he explained. He rubbed his eyes like a man not yet awake, and when he learned the bad news of his step-mother's wound, and saw the cat, he uttered such sorrowful cries that he took as much consoling as if he had been really distressed. He seized the cat, and, with a ferocity natural to him, twisted its neck, saying he did so on account of the wound it had inflicted on the queen.
No one suspected him, although he was wicked enough; but he concealed his crime under pretended tears. The king and queen were therefore pleased with their infamous son, and commissioned him to send to all the fairies to try and find out what could have become of the child. Anxious to put an end to these inquiries, he brought them many different and mysterious answers, all tending to the same thing: that the prince was not dead, but, for reasons that could not be given, he had been carried off for a short time, and would be restored to them quite unharmed. It was, therefore, useless to search for him. Hunchback thought this would set their minds at rest, and what he hoped took place. The king and queen flattered themselves they would one day see their son again, but the wound became so inflamed that the queen died of it, and the king, overwhelmed with grief, did not stir out of his palace for a whole year: he was always hoping for news of his son, but none came.
The man who carried the child off walked on without stopping the whole night. At dawn he opened the basket, and the pretty child smiled up at him, as had been his wont when the queen took him in her arms. "Oh, poor little prince," he said, "what a wretched fate is yours! Alas I you will serve for food, like a young lamb, to some hungry lion. Why did Hunchback choose me to assist in bringing about your death?" He closed the basket again, in order to hide the pitiable sight, but the child, who had had nothing to eat all night, began to cry with all his strength. The man plucked some figs and put them in the child's mouth. The sweet-tasting fruit quieted him a little, and the man carried him the whole day until the next night, when he came to a vast and gloomy forest. He did not much like entering it, fearing to be eaten up himself; but the next day he ventured in, still carrying the basket.
The forest was so large, that look in what direction he pleased, he could not see the end of it; but in a spot concealed by the trees he espied a rock towering up into many points. "Doubtless," he said, "there lies the den of the most cruel beasts, and since I cannot save the child, I must leave him there." As he drew near the rock an enormous eagle came forth, flying round as if he had left there something very precious; in fact, she kept her little ones there in the depths of a sort of grotto. "You will be the prey of the king of the birds, poor child," said the man. Then he unwrapped the child, and placed him among the three eaglets. The nest was large, and sheltered from the inclemency of the weather. It was no easy matter to put the prince into it, because the side on which it could be approached was very steep, and inclining to a frightful precipice. He went away sighing, and saw the eagle returning with all possible swiftness to her nest. "Ah it's all over," he said, "the child must die." He set off quickly, not wishing to hear his last cries, and, returning to Hunchback, told him that his brother was no more.
The cruel prince embraced his faithful servant, and gave him a diamond ring, assuring him that when lie was king he would appoint him captain of his guards. When the eagle returned to her nest she must have been somewhat surprised at the sight of the new inmate, but whether she was surprised or not, she exercised the laws of hospitality better than most people. She went close to her nursling, stretched out her wings and warmed him, and in fact gave him all her attention. A particular instinct caused her to seek fruits for him; she pecked them, and poured the juice into the prince's little red mouth, and fed him as carefully as if she had been his mother.
When the eaglets were a little older, the eagle took them by turns, on her wings or in her talons, and accustomed them to look at the sun without blinking. Sometimes the eaglets left their mother and flew round her for a while, but the little prince could do nothing of the sort, and when she took him up into the air he ran great risk of falling and killing himself. But fortune favoured him. She procured him this extraordinary nurse, and prevented him from falling.
Four years passed. As soon as the eaglets were old enough, they left their mother, and returned no more to the nest. The prince, who was unable to go far, remained on the rock.
The eagle, prudent and timid on his ac count, and fearful lest the child should fall down the precipice, carried him to the other side, and put him in a safe place, that wild beasts could not reach.
Cupid was scarcely so beautiful as the young prince. The heat of the sun could not spoil the lilies and roses of his complexion. His features were so regular that the most famous painters could imagine nothing more beautiful. His hair was already long enough to cover his shoulders, and his whole appearance so noble, that a more majestic and beautiful child had never been seen. The eagle loved him with the most extraordinary affection. She brought him only fruit for food, understanding the difference between him and her eaglets, to whom she brought raw flesh. She was the despair of all the shepherds of the neighbourhood, mercilessly carrying off their lambs. Nothing was talked about but the eagle's depredations. At length, weary of nourishing her at the expense of their flocks, they resolved to seek out her eyrie. They divided into parties, followed her with their eves, traversed the mountains and valleys, and for a long time could not find her. But one day some of them saw her settle down on the big rock. The most determined among them risked the perils of the ascent. She was at that time carefully nourishing two little eaglets; but much as she loved them, her affection for the prince was even greater, because she had known him longer. When the shepherd discovered her nest, she was not there, and it was easy to destroy it, and take everything it contained. But what was their surprise when they found the prince? It was so extraordinary a thing that their meagre intelligence could scarcely take it in.
The eaglets cried when they were carried off with the child, and the eagle heard them. She hastened to swoop down on the robbers, and they would have felt the full effect of her anger had not one of the shepherds killed her with an arrow. The young prince, greatly distressed, uttered pitiful cries, and wept bitterly to see his nurse fall. The shepherds then walked away in the direction of their village. The next day a barbarous ceremony I will now describe was to take place.
For a long time that country had served as a retreat for the ogres. The people reduced to despair by such dangerous neighbours, sought a means of driving them away, but without success. The terrible ogres, enraged at the hatred shown them, redoubled their cruelties, and devoured, without exception, everything that came in their way.
One day when the shepherds were assembled for the purpose of deliberating on a course of action in regard to the ogres, a man of gigantic stature appeared in their midst. Half his body was that of a stag covered with blue fur. He had goat's feet, a club on his shoulder, and a shield in his hand. He said: "Shepherds, I am the Blue Centaur. If you will give me a child every three years, I promise with the aid of a hundred of my brothers, to make fierce war on the ogres, and drive them away."
The shepherds found it very difficult to pledge themselves to so cruel a thing, but the oldest among them said: "Is it any better, my friends, for the ogres to eat our fathers, children, and wives every day? We shall lose one to save many. Do not let us refuse the centaur's offer." Thus they consented and promised with many oaths to keep their word to the centaur, and give him a child as he asked.
He went away and soon returned with his brothers, who were as gigantic as himself. The ogres were as brave as they were cruel. Many battles were fought, in which the centaurs were victorious, and at last the ogres were forced to flee. The Blue Centaur then demanded his reward, and everybody said he was quite justified in doing so, but when it came to the point of delivering up the child, no family was found willing to part with theirs. Mothers hid their children even in the bosom of the earth. The centaur, however, would stand no nonsense, and after waiting eight and forty hours told the shepherds they would have to give him as many children as he remained days among them. The delay cost them six little boys and six little girls. This settled the matter, and every three years a solemn festival was held, at which the poor, innocent child was delivered up to the centaur.
It happened that the tribute was to he paid on the very day after the finding of the prince in the eagle's nest, and although a child had already been provided, it may easily be believed that the shepherds gladly substituted the prince. The uncertainty about his birth, for they were so simple they sometimes thought the eagle was his mother, and his marvellous beauty decided them to give him to the centaur, who was so fastidious that he would only eat pretty children. The mother of the child that was to have been the centaur's victim suddenly passed from the horrors of death to the sweetness of life. They made her deck out the prince in the garments prepared for her son. She combed his long hair, and placed a wreath of small red and white wild roses on his head; she dressed him in a long robe of fine white linen, with a girdle of flowers. And thus attired, he was told to walk at the head of the children who accompanied him. But how can I describe the look of majesty and nobility that already shone in his eyes? He who had never seen anything but eagles, and who was still so young in years, was neither awkward nor unpolished. He acted as if he thought the shepherds were there only to give him pleasure. "What a pity," they whispered to each other, "that this child should be eaten up. Can we not save him?" Many of them wept, and it was quite impossible to remain unmoved.
It was the centaur's custom to appear on the top of a rock, club in one hand and shield in the other, and there in an awful voice to shout to the shepherds: "Leave me my prey and withdraw”. Directly he saw the child who was being led to him, he became extremely joyful, and shouting so loudly that the mountains trembled, he said: "This is the best breakfast I've ever had. I can eat that little boy without pepper and salt." The shepherds and shepherdesses, looking at the poor child, whispered: "The eagle spared him, but this monster will kill him”. The oldest shepherd took him in his arms, kissed him many times, and said: "My child, my darling child, I know you not at all, and yet am conscious of knowing you only too well. Must I take part in your funeral? What does fortune mean by protecting you from the eagle's sharp talons and crooked beak, and then delivering you to-day to the ravenous appetite of this horrible monster?"
While the shepherd was moistening the prince's rosy cheeks with his tears, the boy played with his grey locks and smiled at him in childish fashion. The greater the pity he inspired, the more slowly the old shepherd advanced. "Hurry yourself," cried the famished centaur; "if you force me to come down and approach you, I shall eat a hundred." He rose up impatiently and was swinging his club when there appeared in the air a big globe of fire, surrounded by an azure cloud. Everybody looked attentively at the extraordinary sight. Gradually the globe and cloud came down and opened. From it issued a diamond chariot in which sat the most beautiful woman imaginable. On her head was a golden helmet adorned with white feathers. The visor was up and her eyes shone like the sun. Her rich cuirass, and the fiery lance in her hand, proclaimed her an amazon.
"Shepherds, how is this?" she exclaimed. "Are you inhuman enough to give such a child to the cruel centaur? It is time to release you from your promise. Justice and reason are opposed to such barbarous customs. Do not fear the return of the ogres. I, the fairy amazon, will prevent it. From this moment I take you under my protection." "Madam," cried the shepherds and shepherdesses, stretching out their hands to her, "this is the greatest piece of good fortune we could have." They could say no more, for the enraged centaur challenged her to combat. He was savage and obstinate, but the fiery lance burned him wherever it touched him, and his horrible shrieks ended only with his life. He fell entirely burnt, and such a noise did his fall make, that it was as if a mountain had been overturned. The terrified shepherds hid themselves, some in a neighbouring forest, others in the depths of hollow rocks whence you could see everything without being seen.
There the shepherd, holding the little prince in his arms, had taken refuge, much more anxious about the fate of the beautiful child than about anything that concerned himself and his family, although such a matter surely deserved consideration. After the centaur's death, the amazon took a trumpet and played on it such melodious notes that the sick who heard it rose up whole, and all were conscious of a secret joy for which they were unable to account.
At the sweet sounds of the trumpet, shepherds and shepherdesses assembled. The fairy amazon, to reassure them, drew nearer, gradually lowering her chariot till it was within three feet of the ground. It rolled along on a cloud so transparent that it seemed made of crystal. The old shepherd, who was called the Sublime, appeared, holding the little prince. "Draw near, Sublime," said the fairy, "there is nothing to fear. I desire that in the future peace should reign here, and that you may enjoy the rest you came to seek. But give me the child whose adventures have already been so remarkable.' The old man, with a low obeisance, put the child into her arms. She caressed him a thousand times, kissed him, seated him on her knees, and spoke to him, although she knew he understood no language and could not speak. He uttered cries of joy and sorrow, gave forth sighs and made inarticulate sounds, for he had never heard any one speak.
He was, however, dazzled by the amazon's shining armour, and stood up on her knees in order to touch her helmet. The fairy smiled at him and told him as if he could understand her: "When you are old enough to bear arms, my son, you shall certainly have them”. After again tenderly caressing him she gave him back to Sublime. "Good old man," she said, "you are not unknown to me; do not disdain to take care of this child. Teach him to despise the vanities of the world, and to rise superior to the blows of fortune. He may be born to a brilliant lot, but I believe it is better to be good than powerful. Man's happiness should not only consist in outward greatness; to be happy you must be virtuous, and to be virtuous you must know yourself. You must be able to restrain your desires, to be as contented in mediocrity as in opulence. You must gain the esteem of men of merit, despise no one, and be ever ready to sacrifice without regret the good things of this unhappy life. But what am I thinking of, venerable shepherd? I am telling you things you know much better than I do, but in truth I repeat them less for you than for the other shepherds who are listening to me. Farewell to you all; summon me when you need me. The same lance and hand that have just killed the centaur will be always at your service."
The confusion and delight of Sublime and all his comrades was so great that they could not reply to the fairy's kind words. In their embarrassment and joy they humbly prostrated themselves before her, and while they were thus occupied the fiery globe, gently rising to the middle region of the air, vanished with the amazon and her chariot.
The timid shepherds dared not at first approach the centaur. Dead as he was they still feared him, but at length they took courage and determined to erect an enormous funeral pile and reduce him to ashes, lest his brethren, hearing what had happened, should come to avenge his death. This advice being found good, they lost no time in ridding themselves of the odious corpse.
Sublime carried the little prince to his hut. His wife was ill, and his two daughters had been unable to leave her to go to the ceremony. "Here, shepherdess," he said, "is a child beloved by the gods, and protected by a fairy amazon; for the future you must look upon him as your own son, and make him very happy.' The shepherdess was charmed with the gift, and took the prince on her bed. "At least," she said, "if I cannot give him the lofty teaching he will receive from you, I can bring him up carefully and love him as my own son." "That is exactly what I ask of you," said the old man, and gave him into her charge. When his two daughters looked at him they were enchanted with his incomparable beauty, and with the gracefulness of his little person. They at once began to teach him their language, and never was there so quick and bright an intellect. He understood the most difficult things with an ease that astonished the shepherd, and he was soon advanced enough to take lessons only from the old man, who was eminently suited to give him valuable teaching, for he had been king of a fine and flourishing land. An usurper, his neighbour and enemy, had secretly carried on successful intrigues and won over to his side some discontented spirits who furnished him with means to surprise the king and hi family: he shut them up in a fortress and there left them to perish miserably.
So remarkable a change did not destroy the virtue of the king and queen, and they endured with courage all the outrages put upon them by the tyrant. Soon after their misfortune the queen gave birth to a daughter. She already had two charming little girls, who when they were old enough shared in their parents' distress. At the end of three years the king gained over one of his gaolers. The man agreed to bring a little boat so that they might cross the lake in whose midst the fortress was situated. He provided them with files for removing the iron bars from the windows, and ropes by which they could descend. They chose a very dark night. The plans were carried out success fully and noiselessly. The gaoler helped them down the walls, which were terribly high; the king descending first, then his two daughters, then the queen. Last of all came the little princess in a big basket. But, alas it had been carelessly fastened to the rope, and they heard it fall to the bottom of the lake. If the queen had not swooned with grief, her cries and laments would have roused the whole garrison. The king, terribly distressed at the accident, made as thorough a search as the darkness of the night allowed. He found the basket, but the princess was no longer in it, and he then began to row in order to save himself and the rest of the family. On the shore of the lake were horses provided by the gaoler to take the king wherever he desired to go.
During their imprisonment the king and queen had had plenty of time for moralising, and they had discovered that the greatest luxuries of life are of little account when rightly valued. That, added to the new misfortune that had be fallen them in the loss of the little princess, determined them not to go to the kings, their neighbours and allies, where most likely they would only be in the way, but to settle in a very fertile and delightful plain. Then the king, exchanging his sceptre for a crook, bought a big flock of sheep and became a shepherd. They built a little rustic cottage, bounded on one side by the mountains and on the other by a brook full of fish. They were happier there than they had been on the throne. No one envied their poverty. They feared neither traitors nor flatterers. The days passed peacefully, and the king often said "Ah I if men could be cured of ambition, how happy would they be! I have been a king and am now a shepherd, and I prefer my hut to my palace."
It was under this wise philosopher that the young prince studied. He did not know his master's rank, and the master was equally ignorant of his pupil's high birth, but he recognised his noble qualities and aspirations, and could not believe he as an common child. He noticed with pleasure how he always put himself at the head of his comrades with an air of superiority that procured him their respect. He was always forming little armies, building forts and attacking them. He went hunting, and, in spite of all the shepherd king might say, ran the greatest risks. All this convinced him that the boy was born to rule. But while he is growing up, let us return to his father's Court.
Prince Hunchback, Seeing that his father was already very old, took scarcely any further heed of him. He grew impatient at waiting so long for the succession, and to console himself demanded an army for the purpose of conquering a neighbouring kingdom whose fickle people had made overtures to him The king was willing, Provided that before his departure he would witness a deed he desired all the nobles of the country to Sign, to the effect that if ever his younger son returned would be easy to make sure it Was he by the arrow on his arm Should be sole heir to the crown. Hunchback was not only present at the ceremony but himself signed the deed, although his father had thought it too cruel a thing to ask of him. But as he felt perfectly certain of his brother's death, he risked nothing, and thought great value would be attached to so amiable an act. The king summoned the estates of the realm harangued them and distressed all who heard him by his tears in speaking of the loss of his son. He made the nobles sign the deed, and commanded that it should be deposited in the royal treasury, and, lest it should be forgotten, ordered several authentic copies to be made.
Prince Hunchback then bade his father farewell, and put himself at the head of a fine army to attempt the conquest of the kingdom to which he was invited. After many battles, he killed his enemy with his own hand, took the capital city, established garrisons and governors everywhere and returned to his father. He presented him with a young princess named Carpillon whom he had brought back as a captive.
She was so exceedingly beautiful that nothing nature had so far formed, or that the imagination could conceive, could be Compared to her. The king was enchanted with her at first sight, and Hunchback, who had known her Some time, was so deeply in love with her that he had not a moment's peace; but as much as he loved her, she hated him. He invariably spoke to her as a master to his slave, and she so much disliked his cruel ways that she did her best to avoid him.
The king gave her apartments in the palace, and women to attend on her, for the misfortunes of so young and beautiful a princess touched him. When Hunchback told him he wished to marry her, the king replied: "I consent on condition she has no objection; but it seems to me that your society always makes her melancholy”. "That is because she loves me," said Hunchback, "and dares not let it be seen. The forced constraint embarrasses her. When she is my wife, you will see her happy." "I should like to think so," said the king; "but are you not making a little too sure?" His father's doubts deeply offended Hunchback. "You, madam," he said to the princess, "are the cause of the king's severity to me, a most unusual thing; perhaps he is in love with you; tell me the truth and choose the one you like best; as long as I see you queen I shall he content." He spoke thus in the hope of discovering her sentiments, for he had no intention of changing his own. Young Carpillon, who did not as yet know that most lovers are cunning and sly, fell into the snare. "I confess, sir," she said, "that if I was my own mistress, I would have nothing to do with either of you, but if my evil fortune compels me to the sad necessity of making a choice, I prefer the king." "And why?" replied Hunchback, forcing himself to keep calm. "Because," she added, "he is gentler than you. He is king now, and will not perhaps live very long." "Ha! Ha! you little wretch," cried Hunchback, "you prefer my father, so that you may shortly be queen-dowager; but let me tell you it will never be, since he does not give you a thought. It is I who am so kind, and very ill-placed kindness it is too, for your ingratitude is intolerable; but if you were ten times more ungrateful, you should still be my wife."
Princess Carpillon learned a little too late that it is sometimes dangerous to say out all you think, and to remedy the mischief remarked: "I should be glad to know your sentiments, and am glad you love me enough to overlook my unkindness. Already I esteem you, sir. Try to make yourself loved." The prince fell headlong into the snare, palpable as it was; but when a man is in love he is usually very stupid, and inclined to tell himself all manner of Battering tales. Carpillon's words made him gentler than a lamb. He smiled and squeezed her hands so tightly that he almost hurt her.
Directly he left her she went to the king's apartments, and throwing herself at his feet, said: Protect me from the greatest of all misfortunes. Prince Hunchback wants to marry me, and I confess to you, I hate him. Do not be as unkind as he is. My rank, my youth, my family's misfortunes deserve the pity of a great king like yourself." "Fair princess," he said, "I am not surprised that my son loves you. It is a thing common to all who see you; but I will never forgive him if he fails in respect to you." "But, sir," she went on, "he regards me as his prisoner, and treats me as a slave." "It was with my army he conquered your father," said the king; "if you are a captive you are mine, and I restore you 'our liberty, happy in that my advanced age and white hairs protect me from becoming your slave." The grateful princess thanked the king a thousand times, and, followed by her attendants, withdrew.
When Hunchback learned what had happened he felt it keenly, and when the king forbade him to think any more of the princess his rage increased. After such signal service, he feared she could not help wishing well to the king. "I shall have to labour all my life, and perhaps in vain," he said; "I am not fond of wasting my time." "I am sorry," replied the king, "because I love you; but it cannot be otherwise." "We shall see," said Hunchback insolently going out of the room; "you dare to carry off my prisoner! I would rather die." "The woman you call your prisoner was mine," added the king angrily, "now she is free; I intend she shall be mistress of her fate, and shall not be dependent on your caprice."
Had not Hunchback withdrawn, the argument might have been carried too far. He now conceived the idea of making himself master of the kingdom and the princess. While he had been in command of the troops he had won their favour, and the seditious spirits among them willingly supported his evil design. The king was informed that his son was plotting to dethrone him, and, as he was the stronger, the king's only course was one of gentleness. He sent for Hunchback and said: "Is it true that you are ungrateful enough to desire to take my throne from me and set yourself on it? You see I am on the brink of the grave; do not hasten my end. Has not my wife's death and the loss of my son been trouble enough? It is true that I am opposed to your designs on the Princess Carpillon; but in that I consider you as much as her. For is it possible to be happy with a woman who does not love you? But, if you are willing to run such a risk, I consent to everything; give me time to speak to her and decide her in favour of the marriage."
Hunchback wanted the princess more than the kingdom; for he possessed the one he had just conquered, and told the king he was less desirous of reigning than was believed; had he not himself signed the deed disinheriting him in case of his brother's return? and he declared he would continue to respect it provided he might marry Carpillon. The king embraced him, and went in search of Carpillon, who was greatly alarmed at the turn affairs had taken. Her governess was never far from her. She made her come into her closet, and, weeping bitterly, said: "Is it possible that after all the promises given me by the king, he can be cruel enough to sacrifice me to Hunchback? Indeed, my clear friend, if I must marry him, my wedding day will be the last of my life, for it is not so much his deformity that repels me as his evil heart." "Alas! princess," replied the governess, "you are not doubtless aware that the inclinations of daughters of great kings are scarcely ever consulted. If they marry a kind-hearted and handsome prince, they may thank chance for it, but no one thinks of anything but the interests of the state." Carpillon was on the point of replying when she was informed that the king was awaiting her in her apartments. She raised her eyes to heaven as if to ask its aid.
There was no necessity for the king to explain his determination. She knew exactly, so admirable was her penetration; the beauty of her mind was even greater than that of her person. "Ah! sire," she exclaimed, "what do you tell me?" "Fair princess," he said, "do not regard your marriage with my son as a misfortune. I implore you to consent with a good grace. The violence he does your feelings sufficiently testifies to the ardour of his own. If he did not love you so passionately, he could find more than one princess who would be enchanted to share with him the kingdom he already possesses, and the one he hopes for on my death. But he desires only you; neither your disdain nor contempt has wearied him, and you may rest assured that he will do everything in his power to please you." "I thought I had found a protector in you," she replied; "but I am mistaken. You forsake me, but the just gods will not desert me." "If you knew all my efforts to prevent the marriage," rejoined the king, "you would be convinced of my affection. Alas Heaven gave me a son I dearly loved; his mother nourished him herself, but one night he was taken out of his cradle, and a cat, that bit the queen so severely she died of the wound, was put in his place. If the beautiful infant had not been snatched from me, he would now be the comfort of my old age; my subjects would respect him, and I should have offered you my kingdom with him. Hunchback, who is now master of the situation, might be thankful if he was suffered to remain at the court. The misfortune of losing my son extends even to you, princess." "It is I alone," she replied, "who am the cause of what has happened; look upon me as guilty, and punish me rather than marry me.' "At that time, fair princess, you were in no position to do either good or ill to anybody. I do not accuse you of my misfortunes, but if you do not wish to add to them, receive my son kindly, for he is the strongest here, and can work you terrible mischief." Her tears formed her only reply, and as Hunchback was impatient to know the result of the interview, the king found him in his room and told him the Princess Carpillon agreed to the marriage, and that he would give the necessary orders for the solemn ceremony. The prince was overcome with joy, and immediately sought out the best lapidaries, merchants, and embroiderers. He bought the most beautiful things imaginable for his mistress, and sent her big gold baskets full of a thousand curiosities. She received them with some appearance of pleasure. Then he visited her in person and said: "Were you not very foolish, Madam Carpillon, to refuse the honour I wished to do you? for, not counting my amiability, I am considered very intelligent; and I shall give you so many gowns, diamonds, and all sorts of beautiful things that no queen in all the world will be able to rival you."
The princess replied coldly that the misfortune of her family made it less suitable for her to deck herself out than for others, and she begged him not to make her such handsome presents. "You would be right," he said, "not to adorn yourself if I did not wish it, but you ought to try and please me. Every thing will be ready for our wedding in four days. Amuse yourself, princess, and give what orders you like, for you are already absolute mistress here."
After his departure, she shut herself up with her governess, and told her that if she did not assist her to escape she should kill herself on her wedding-day. The governess pointed out the impossibility of escape, and the cowardice of committing suicide to avoid the ills of life; and, moreover, tried to persuade her that her virtue would contribute to her tranquillity, and that without loving Hunchback passionately, she would esteem him enough to be happy with him.
Carpillon did not give in; she said that so far she had reckoned on her assistance, but that she knew what to do. If everybody deserted her she should not abandon herself, and to great evils it was necessary to apply strong remedies. She opened the window, and now and again leaned out in perfect silence. The governess, fearing she meant to throw herself out, knelt down, and looking tenderly at her, said: "Madam, what do you want of me? I will obey you even at the risk of my life." The princess embraced her, and asked her to purchase a shepherdess's costume and a cow, and she would escape when she could. She declared that all attempt to dissuade her from her purpose was useless; it would only be wasting time, and she had none too much. To aid her in getting away unnoticed, a doll must be dressed and put into her bed, and it must be given out that she was ill.
"You see, madam," said the poor governess, "to what danger I expose myself. Prince Hunchback will be sure to think I was a party to your plan, and to find out where you are, will put me to the torture, and then have me burned alive: after that, say I do not love you
The princess was much distressed. "I should like you to escape," she said, "two days after me; till then it will be easy to deceive everybody." They plotted so cleverly that the very same night Carpillon had the dress and the cow.
All the goddesses from High Olympus, those who found the shepherd Paris, and a hundred dozen besides, would not have looked so lovely in rustic costume. Carpillon set off alone by the light of the moon, sometimes leading her cow by a cord, sometimes making it carry her; she went at hazard in the greatest trepidation. If the least little breeze stirred in the bushes, if a bird flew out of its nest, or a hare came forth from its hiding-place, she imagined thieves or wolves were coming to kill her.
She walked on all night, and would have walked on all day, had not the cow stopped to feed in a meadow. The princess, fatigued by her heavy wooden clogs, and the weight of her grey frieze gown, lay down on the grass beside a brook, and took off her yellow linen cap, in order to fasten up her fair hair which, escaping on all sides, fell in curls to her feet. She looked about to make sure that no one could see her until she had put it right again; but notwithstanding her precaution, she was surprised by a lady fully armed, except the head, whence she had removed a golden helmet covered with diamonds. "Shepherdess," she said, "I am tired; will you give me some milk from your cow?" "With pleasures madam," replied Carpillon, "if I had something to put it in." "Here is a cup," replied the amazon--for it was she --handing her a very beautiful one of porcelain. But the princess had not the least idea how to milk a cow. "What," said the lady "has your cow no milk, or do you not know how to milk it?" The princess began to weep, ashamed of appearing so awkward in the presence of this extraordinary person. "I confess, madam," she said, "I have not been long a shepherdess. My duty is to lead the cow to pasture, my mother does the rest." "You have a mother then?" continued the lady, "and what does she do?" "She is a farmer's wife." "Near here?" added the lady. "Yes," replied the princess. "I feel a liking for her; I am glad she has such a beautiful daughter, and should like to see her take me to her Carpillon knew not what to reply, she was not accustomed to telling falsehoods, and did not know she was speaking to a fairy. In those days fairies were not so common as they have since become. She lowered her eyes, her face grew crimson, and she said: "When once I am out in the fields, I dare not return till evening. I entreat you, madam, do not force me to vex my mother, who, if I disobey her, will very likely ill-treat me."
"Oh! princess, princess," said the fairy, smiling, "you cannot keep up a falsehood or play the part you've undertaken without my help. Here's a bunch of gillyflowers; be sure that as long as you hold it Hunchback, from whom you are escaping, will never recognise you. When you reach the great forest, ask the shepherds you will find tending their flocks there to show you where Sublime lives. Go to him and tell him you come from the fairy amazon, who begs him to let you live with his wife and daughter. Farewell, beautiful Carpillon; I have been your friend for a long time." "Alas! madam," exclaimed the princess, "since you know me and love me, will you leave me? I need your help so greatly." "The bunch of gillyflowers will never fail you," she replied; "my time is precious; you must fulfil your destiny."
So saying, she vanished from Carpillon's sight, who was frightened almost to death. Recovering a little, she continued her way, having no idea where the big forest was. But she said to herself: "The clever fairy, who appears and disappears, who recognises me in peasants' dress without ever having seen me, will guide me where I ought to go”. She grasped the bunch of flowers tightly, whether she walked or rested, but she made scarcely any progress, for although she was brave enough, she was little accustomed to such hard walking: as soon as she came to stones, she fell down and her feet bled. She was obliged to lie down on the ground under some trees; she feared everything, and often felt very anxious about her governess.
And she did not think of that poor woman without reason; her zeal and fidelity have few examples. She arrayed a big doll in the princess's night-cap, made of fine linen, and adorned with knots of ribbon. She moved about the room very softly for fear, she said, of disturbing her, and scolded when anybody made a noise. The king was informed of the princess's illness; he was not surprised, and ascribed the 'cause to her displeasure and to the constraint she was putting on herself. But when Prince Hunchback learned the bad news, his grief was inconceivable; he wished to see her, and the governess had much ado to prevent him. "At least," he said, "let my physician see her." "Ah! sir," she exclaimed, "only that is wanting to bring about her death; she hates doctors and medicines. But do not alarm yourself; only a few days' rest is needed. It is a nervous attack she will sleep off." She thus prevented him worrying her mistress, and always kept the doll in her bed. But one evening just as she was preparing to flee, because she felt sure the prince would make fresh attempts to enter, she heard him at the door raging like a madman, and without waiting for her to open it, he forced it in.
The cause of his fury was that some of the princess's women had discovered the deceit, and fearing punishment, had at once informed Hunchback. The violence of his anger cannot be described; he hastened to the king, thinking he had a hand in the matter, but the surprise depicted in his face clearly showed his ignorance. Directly he saw the poor governess, he made a rush at her, and taking her by the hair, said: "Restore Carpillon to me, or I'll tear out 'our heart”. Her tears formed her only reply, and kneeling, she vainly implored him to listen to her. He immediately dragged her himself down to a deep dungeon, and would have stabbed her had not the king, who was as good as his son was wicked, forced him to let her live in that horrible prison.
The amorous and angry prince gave orders for the princess to be sought over sea and land; he himself rushed about everywhere like a madman. One day, when dreadful weather--thunder, lightning, and hail--frightened her, Carpillon took shelter with her cow under a big rock. It happened that Prince Hunch back, who, with all his attendants, were wet through, took refuge in the same spot. When she perceived him so close to her, she was much more frightened of him than of the thunder. She held the bunch of gillyflowers with both hands, fearing one would not be enough, and remembering the fairy, said: "Do not for sake me, charming amazon". Hunchback looked at her. "What do you fear, you decrepit old dame?" he said, "If the thunder killed you, what would it matter? Are you not on the brink of the grave?" The young princess was no less astonished than delighted to hear herself called old; she had her doubts that the bunch of flowers worked the miracle, and not to enter into conversation, she pre tended to be deaf. Hunchback, perceiving she could not hear, said to his confidant, who was ever at his side: "If I was feeling a little more cheerful, I would take this old woman to the top of the rock and throw her off just for the pleasure of seeing her break her neck; nothing could be more delightful”. "But, sir," replied the villain, "if it would give you any pleasure, I am quite willing to take her there whether she is agreeable or not, and you shall see her body bound from point to point of the rock like a ball, and the blood flow even to where you stand." "No," said the prince, "I haven't time; I must continue my search for the ungrateful creature who is the cause of all the miseries of my life."
So saying, he put spurs to his horse, and went off at full gallop. The princess's joy may easily be imagined, for certainly the conversation was of an alarming nature. She did not forget to thank the fairy amazon, whose power she had just proved, and continuing her journey, reached the place where the little cottages of the shepherds of that country were situated. They were very pretty; each had its garden and spring. The vale of Tempé and the banks of Lignon were not more delightful. For the most part the shepherdesses were beautiful, and the shepherds omitted no means of pleasing them; the trees were carved with a thousand names and love-ditties. When they saw her, they left their flocks and followed her respectfully, charmed with her beauty and dignified bearing. The meanness of her clothes, however, surprised them, for, although they led a simple, rustic life, they prided themselves on being very richly dressed.
The princess inquired which was the dwelling of the shepherd Sublime, and they eagerly led her there. She found him seated in a dale with his wife and daughters; a rivulet gently murmured at his feet; he was weaving rushes into a basket for holding fruit, and his two daughters were fishing.
When Carpillon approached them, she was conscious of a feeling of respect and affection that greatly surprised her, and when they saw her, they were so moved that they changed colour. "I am," she said, humbly greeting them, "a poor shepherdess, and by the recommendation of the fairy amazon whom you know, I offer you my services; I hope that, out of consideration for her, you will receive me kindly among you." "My daughter," said the king, rising and saluting her in his turn, "the fairy is perfectly right in thinking we hold her in great honour; you are most welcome, and with no other recommendation than your own charms, our house would be open to you." "Approach, fair girl," said the queen, holding out her hand, "come, let me embrace you; I feel very kindly towards you, and you must look upon me as your mother, and my daughters as your sisters." "Alas! my good mother," said the princess, "I do not deserve that honour; it would be enough to be your shepherdess and tend your sheep." "My daughter," replied the king, "we are all equal here; your credentials remove any distinction between you and our children; come, sit by us, and let your cow feed with our sheep." She still made difficulties, obstinately declaring she had come only to assist in the household work. It would have been very awkward for her had they taken her at her word; but, in truth, to look at her was enough to know that she was born rather to command than obey, and it may be also taken for granted that a fairy of Amazon's importance would not have lent her protection to any ordinary being.
The king and queen were conscious of an inexplicable astonishment and admiration. They asked her if she had come far; she said, yes: if she had father and mother; she answered, no: and, as far as was consistent with polite ness, she replied to all their questions in monosyllables. "And what is your name, my child?" said the queen. "I am called Carpillon," she said. "It's a strange name," rejoined the king, "and unless given for some particular reason, is very uncommon." She answered nothing, and took one of the queen's spindles to wind off the thread. When they saw her hands, it was as if she had drawn two moulded snow-balls from the folds of her sleeves, so dazzlingly white were they. The king and queen exchanged a glance of intelligence, and said: "Your gown is very hot, Carpillon, for this time of year, and your clothes very hard for a child like you; you must dress yourself in our fashion." "Mother,' she replied, "we dress like this in my country, but if you desire it, I will dress myself differently." They were glad of her obedience, and greatly admired the modest expression of her beautiful eyes and countenance.
Supper time having arrived, they rose and all entered the house together. The princesses had caught some fish, and there were fresh eggs, milk, and fruit. "I am surprised," said the king, "that my son is not yet returned; his love of the chase leads him further than I like, and I am always dreading some accident." "So am I," said the queen; "if you prepare it, we will wait so that he may sup with us." "No," said the king, "that is precisely what I do not wish; on the contrary, I beg you, when he comes in, not to speak to him, and to treat him very coldly." "You know his good heart," added the queen; "he will be so grieved that he will be ill." "I cannot help it," said the king, "he must be corrected."
They sat down to the table. When the meal was nearly at an end, the young prince entered; he carried a roe on his shoulders, his hair was damp with perspiration, and his face was covered with dust. He leaned on a lance he usually carried, his bow was fastened to one side and his quiver of arrows to the other. Even in this condition there was something so noble in his face and bearing that no one could look at him without attention and respect. "Mother," he said, addressing the queen, "the desire of bringing you this roe led me far and wide over the hills and plains to-day." "My son," said the king, gravely, "you seek rather to give us anxiety than pleasure; you know what I have already said to you about your passion for the chase, but you take no pains to correct it." The prince grew red, and felt the more annoyed to see a stranger there. He replied that another time he would return earlier, or, if his father desired it, would not go hunting at all. "That is enough," said the queen, who loved him dearly. "My son, I thank you for your gift; come, sit by me, and eat, for Tm sure you must be hungry." He was somewhat disconcerted by the serious manner in which the king had spoken to him, and scarcely dared lift his eyes, for if he was rash in danger, he was docile and very diffident with those to whom he owed respect.
However he recovered himself, sat down by the queen and looked at Carpillon, who had scarcely waited as long to look at him. As soon as their eyes met, their hearts were so agitated that neither of them knew to what to ascribe their confusion. The princess blushed and lowered her eyes, but the prince continued to gaze at her; she slowly raised her eyes to his, and held them there a long while; their surprise was mutual, and it seemed to them that nothing in the world could equal what they saw. "Is it possible," said the princess to herself, "that among all the people I saw at court, none came up to this young shepherd?" In his turn he thought: "How comes it that this enchanting girl is a simple shepherdess? Oh! that I were a king to set her on a throne and make her mistress of my realms! How happy I should be then!"
Dreaming thus, he forgot to eat. The queen, thinking this cold reception was the cause, took every care to console him; she brought him, with her own hand, exquisite fruits on which she set a high value. He begged Carpillon to taste them, and she, without thinking who offered them, said sadly: "I do not care for them”. He left them coldly on the table. The queen did not notice it, but the elder of the two princesses, who did not dislike him, and would doubtless have dearly loved him, had it not been for his difference in rank, observed it with some sort of ill-humour.
After supper, the king and queen withdrew; the princesses did all the household work, one milked the cows, the other looked after the cheese. Carpillon was eager to help, but she was not accustomed to such things. She did nothing that was of the least use, so that the two princesses called her, laughingly, the fair blunderer; but the prince, already in love, helped her. He went to the spring with her, carried the pitchers, drew the water, and returned heavily laden, for he would not let her carry anything. "But what do you mean, shepherd?" she said, "am I to play the lady here? I who have worked all my life, have I come to this plain to rest?" "You will do whatever you like, charming shepherdess," he replied; "but do not deny me the pleasure of offering you my slight help on these occasions." 'They returned together and reached the house more quickly than he wished, for although he scarcely dared speak to her, it gave him the greatest delight to be with her.
They both spent a restless night; their inexperience prevented them from guessing the cause, but the prince awaited with impatience the hour of seeing the princess again, and she already dreaded meeting him. The new trouble that the sight of him awakened in her diverted her somewhat from her other over whelming sorrows. She thought so often of him that she thought less of Prince Hunchback. "Why, oh! capricious fortune," she said, "do you bestow grace, good looks and charm on a young shepherd who has merely to tend sheep, and malice, ugliness and deformity on a great prince destined to rule a kingdom?"
Since her metamorphosis into a shepherdess, Carpillon had not troubled to look at herself, but now a certain desire of pleasing sent her in search of a mirror. She found one belonging to the princesses, and when she saw her head-dress and gown she was much confused. "What a figure!" she exclaimed; "what do I look like? I cannot any longer be buried in this thick stuff." She took some water and washed her face and hands. They became whiter than lilies. She then found the queen, and kneeling, presented her with a splendid diamond ring (for she had brought her jewellery with her). "My good mother," she said, "Some time ago I found this ring; I do not know its value, but I think it must be worth some money. I beg you to take it as a proof of gratitude for your kindness to me, and buy me gowns and linen so that I may be like the shepherdesses of this land."
The queen was surprised to see such a beautiful ring in the young girl's possession. "I will keep it for you," she said, "but I will not take it from you. Besides, you will this morning receive all you need." She had in fact procured from a small town hard by the prettiest peasant's dress imaginable. The head dress, the shoes, everything was perfect; attired thus, she looked more beautiful than the dawn. The prince on his part had not been neglectful; he had put a wreath of flowers round his hat, and adorned the belt to which his scrip was fastened and his sheep-hook with them. He brought a bouquet for Carpillon and presented it to her with all a lover's timidity, and intelligent as she was she received it in an embarrassed manner. When they were together she scarcely spoke a word, and was always dreaming, and he, on his part, did much the same. On his hunting expeditions, instead of following the roes and bucks, if he found a spot suitable for communing with himself about Carpillon, he remained in that solitary place, composing verses, singing couplets to his shepherdess, speaking to the rocks, woods and birds. He had quite lost the cheerful disposition that made all the shepherds eagerly seek his society.
But since it is difficult to love much and not to fear what we love, he dreaded offending his shepherdess by declaring his feelings towards her; he dared not speak, and although she saw that he preferred her to all the others, and this preference was enough to assure her of his feelings, yet she was sometimes troubled by his silence and sometimes glad of it. "If he does love me," she said, "how am I to receive such a declaration? If I am angry, it may cause his death; if I treat him kindly, I should die myself of shame and grief. I, born a princess, to listen to a shepherd! Oh! unworthy weakness, I shall never consent. I must not change my heart with my costume, and already I have only too many things to reproach myself with since I have been here."
The prince had a beautiful voice, and even had he sung less well, the princess, already prepossessed in his favour, would doubtless have taken the same pleasure in listening to him. She often made him sing little songs, and they were so tender and pathetic that she could not choose but listen. He continually recited to her the verses he had composed, and she well knew that she herself was their subject. These are they:--
"If there could be
With beauty fair as thine
Who should offer beside
The whole world wide
To make me feel her charms divine,
I'd find it a pleasure
To despise all her treasure
And offer my vows at thy shrine”.
Although she pretended to pay no more heed to that one than to the others, she could not help giving it a preference that delighted the prince, and made him a little bolder. He went on purpose to a spot shaded by willows and horn-beams; he knew that Carpillon led her lambs there every day: with a bodkin he wrote on the bark of a tree:--
"In vain within this spot secluded
Peace and pleasure I espy;
Me long since has rest deluded,
And for very love I sigh".
Just as he had finished, the princess arrived; he pretended to feel confused, and after a short silence: "You see," said he, "an unhappy shepherd who grieves for foolish things, evils of which he should complain only to you”. She made no reply, and lowering her eyes, gave him all the time he could want for declaring his feelings.
While he was speaking, she turned over in her mind what she ought to reply to a man by no means indifferent to her, a fact that led her willingly to excuse him. "He is ignorant of my birth," she mused, "his boldness is excusable, he loves me, and does not imagine that I am above him; when he learns my rank--but do not the high gods desire the hearts of mortals? Are they angry because they are loved?" "Shepherd," she said, when he stopped speaking, "I pity you, and that is all I can do for you, for I do not desire to love--my misfortunes are already too many; alas then, what would be my fate if I added to them the troubles of some love promise?" "Rather say, shepherdess," he exclaimed, "that if you are miserable, nothing could better console you. I should share all your troubles, and my one desire will be to please you; you could give over to me the care of your flock." "Heaven be praised!" she said, "if that were my only care." "Can you have others?" he said, eagerly; "you, so young, so fair, without ambition, knowing nothing of the empty vanities of the court? But doubtless you love some one here; a rival makes you so cruel to me." So saying, he changed colour, and became sad, for the thought tortured him cruelly. "I must tell you," she replied, "that you have a rival I hate and abhor; you would never have seen me had I not been forced to fly from his eager pursuit of me." "May he, shepherdess," he said, "you will fly from me in the same way; for if you hate him because he loves you, in your eyes I must be the most hated of men." "Whether I do not believe him," she replied, "or whether I regard you more favourably, I do not think I should take so much trouble to run away from you as from him." The shepherd was overcome with joy at those kind words, and from that moment took the greatest trouble to please the princess.
Every morning he searched for the most beautiful flowers for his garlands he decked her crook with ribbons of all the colours of the rainbow. He would not allow her to expose herself to the heat of the sun. When she came with the flock along the river side, or into the wood, he bent the branches, fastened them carefully together, and thus made shady arbours where the turf formed natural seats; all the trees bore her name; he carved verses on them that spoke only of Carpillon's beauty, he sang of her alone; the young princess witnessed all these tokens of the shepherd's passion, sometimes with love, sometimes with anxiety. She loved him without acknowledging it, and did not dare to examine herself for fear of discovering too tender sentiments; but does not the possession of such a fear prove what it is we fear?
The young shepherd's love for the shepherdess could not be kept secret; everybody perceived it and approved; who could blame him in a place where all things loved? To see them was to feel sure they were born for each other they were both perfect; surely the gods had entrusted one of their masterpieces to their land, and every effort must be made to keep them there. Carpillon was conscious of a secret joy when she saw how everybody liked a shepherd she found so charming; but when she thought of the difference of rank she was troubled, and determined, in order to leave the heart free, never to make her sentiments known.
The king and queen, who loved her exceedingly, were not sorry to see this dawning passion; they looked upon the prince as their son, and the perfection of the princess charmed them no less. Did not the amazon send them? they said, and did not she fight the centaur for the child? Undoubtedly the wise fairy destines them for each other: we must await her commands.
In this condition things remained; the prince was always lamenting Carpillon's indifference, for she carefully concealed her feelings. One day, however, during the chase, he was unable to escape from an infuriated bear that, springing suddenly out of the depths of a rock, threw itself upon him, and would have destroyed him had not his skill equalled his courage. After struggling for a long time at the top of a mountain, they rolled in a tight embrace to the bottom. Carpillon and her companions happened to be in that place; they could not, of course, see what was happening above them, and great was their horror when a man and bear rolled down. The princess recognised her shepherd at once, and uttered cries of grief and horror. The shepherdesses ran away, but Carpillon remained a spectator of the fight, and, love increasing her strength, was even bold enough to thrust her sheep-hook in the terrible beast's mouth, and enabled her to be of some use to her lover, When he saw her, the fear that she must share his danger increased his courage to such a degree that he thought no more of his own life, but only how he could best save that of the shepherdess. He succeeded in killing the bear at her very feet, but fell down himself half dead from the effects of two wounds he had received. Oh I what feelings were hers when she saw him bleed, and that the blood stained his clothes I She could not speak, the tears streamed down her face, she bowed her head on her knees, and suddenly breaking the silence, said: "Shepherd, if you die I shall die with you; in vain have I hidden my most sacred feelings; learn them flow, and know that my life is bound up with yours." "What greater happiness could I have, fair shepherdess!" he exclaimed; "whatever happens to me, I am happy."
The shepherdesses who had run away returned with some shepherds whom they had informed of what they had seen. They came to the assistance of the prince and princess, for she was as ill as he. While they were cutting branches to make a sort of litter, the fairy amazon suddenly appeared in their midst.
Do not be uneasy," she said; "let me touch the young shepherd." She took his hand, and putting her golden helmet on his head, "I forbid you to be ill, dear shepherd," she said. He immediately rose, and the helmet, of which the visor was up, showed a martial expression on his countenance, and bright shining eyes that well corresponded with the hopes the fairy had conceived of him. He was astonished at the way in which she had cured him, and at the majesty of her bearing. Overcome with admiration, joy, and gratitude, he threw himself at her feet, and said: "Great queen, a single word, a single look from you has cured me; but, alas! I have a wound in my heart, I do not desire to cure; deign to ease it and improve my fortune that I may share it with this beautiful shepherdess." The princess blushed at those words, for she knew the fairy amazon recognised her, and she feared she would be displeased with her for encouraging a lover so far beneath her, she dared not look at her, and her sighs struck pity to the fairy's heart. "Carpillon," she said, "this shepherd is not unworthy of your esteem; and you, shepherd, who desire a change in your condition, rest assured that shortly a very great one will take place." She vanished in her usual fashion directly she had spoken these words. They were led in triumph to the village by the shepherds and shepherdesses who had come to their aid. They placed the lovers in their midst and crowned them with flowers in sign of the victory they had gained over the terrible bear. They took it with them and sang these words about Carpillon's affection for the prince:--
"In these forests everything
Works a charm;
Each day joy to us shalt bring
Free from harm.
A shepherd, famed for beauty rare,
In these groves
Hath captivated e'en the fair
Daughter of Loves."
Thus they reached Sublime's house anti told him what had happened, of the courage with which the shepherd had defended himself against the bear, of the generosity with which the shepherdess had assisted him, and of what the fairy amazon had done for them. The king, delighted with the tale, hastened to impart it to the queen. "Undoubtedly," he said, "the boy and girl are no Common beings; their great perfection and beauty, and the care the fairy amazon takes of them, points to something extraordinary." The queen, suddenly remembering the diamond ring Carpillon had given her, said: "I always forgot to show you a ring the young shepherdess delivered to my keeping with an air of dignity very uncommon, begging me to accept it and provide her with clothes such as were worn in this country." "Is the stone beautiful?" said the king. "I only looked at it for a moment," said the queen, "but here it is." She gave him the ring, and no sooner did he see it than he exclaimed: "O God! What I see? Do you not recognise a present I received from you?" So saying, he pressed a spring of which he knew the secret; the diamond flew back, and the queen saw a portrait of herself she had had painted for the king, and had tied round her little girl's neck for a Plaything when she was an infant in the tower. "Ah, sire," she said, "what strange chance is this? It renews my grief; but let us speak to the shepherd we must know more."
She called her and said: "My daughter, I have waited for your confession until now, and I should have been much pleased had you made it of your own accord. But since you persist in hiding from us who you are, it is only fair to tell you that we know; the ring you gave me has solved the enigma." "Alas mother," replied the princess, kneeling beside her, "it is from no want of confidence that I concealed my rank; I thought you would be distressed to see a princess in my condition, My father was king of the Peaceful Isles; his reign was disturbed by an usurper who imprisoned him and his queen in a tower. After three years of captivity with the help of a gaoler, they escaped. Under cover of the night, they let me down in a basket, but the rope gave way. I fell into the lake, and, without knowing how it happened that I was not drowned, some fishermen found me in the nets they had cast for catching carp, and by my size and weight took me for one of the big carp for which the lake was famous. When they saw me they were disappointed, and thought of throwing me back into the lake as food for the fish; but, in the end, they decided to keep me and take me to the tyrant; he knew at once, through my family's escape, that I was a little unfortunate helpless princess. His wife, who was childless, pitied me, kept me with her, and brought me up under the name of Carpillon. Possibly one wanted to make me forget my family, but my heart always told me who I was, and it is indeed a great misfortune to have feelings not in keeping with one's fate. However, a prince called Hunchback wrested from my father's usurper the kingdom he was so peacefully enjoying.
"The change of government made my fate still worse. Hunchback carried me off as one of the most splendid ornaments of his conquest, and resolved to marry me quite against my inclination in such an extremity I determined to run away, dressed as a shepherdess and leading a cow. Prince Hunchback searched for me everywhere and would doubtless have recognised me had not the fairy amazon kindly given me a bunch of gillyflower as a protection from my enemies. She was equally kind, my dear mother, in sending me to you," continued the princess, "and if I did not tell you of my rank, it was from no want of confidence, but only to spare you pain. I do not, however complain," she went on; "ever since the day you received me among you I have known peace and I confess a country life is so sweet and innocent that it is no great hardship to give up that of the court."
As she spoke with much vehemence, she did not observe that the queen was weeping and that the king's eyes were moist; directly she finished, they eagerly clasped her in their arms, keeping her there some time in silence. She was equally affected, and following their example, began to weep, and it is impossible to describe the pleasant and sorrowful thoughts of these three illustrious and unfortunate beings. At length the queen, with an effort, said: "Is it possible, dear child of my heart, that after grieving so greatly for your loss, the gods restore you to your mother to console her in her misfortune? Yes, my daughter, you behold her who bore you and who nourished you in your earliest infancy, and here is he who is the author of your being. O light of our eyes! O princess I whom heaven in its wrath took from us, with what joy we celebrate your happy return!" "And I, illustrious mother, dearest queen, in what words and by what actions can I express the respect and love I feel for you both? You protected and sheltered me in my misfortunes at a time when I had no hope of ever seeing you again." They redoubled their caresses, and several hours passed. Carpillon then withdrew; her parents forbade her to mention what had happened, fearing the curiosity of the shepherds; for the most part they were very dense, yet they might desire to penetrate a mystery that in no way concerned them.
The princess kept the secret from all to whom she was indifferent, but she could not keep silence to her young shepherd; how can we be silent when we love? She continually reproached herself for concealing her origin, and thought: "Under how great an obligation he would be to me if he knew that born in the purple I stooped to him, but love makes little distinction between the sceptre and the sheep-hook! Can the greatly vaunted chimerical grandeur of a court satisfy our souls? No, only virtue can do that; it places us above thrones and forces us from them. The shepherd who loves me is virtuous, intelligent and amiable; what could a prince be more?"
As she was indulging in these thoughts, she saw him at her feet; he had followed her to the river side, and giving her a garland of the most beautiful and varied flowers, said: "Where have you been, fair shepherdess? I have been seeking you for some hours, and await you impatiently." "Shepherd," she replied, "I have been occupied in a strange affair, and I should be much to blame if I did not tell you of it, but remember that this mark of confidence exacts eternal silence on your part. I am a princess, my father was a king, and I have just found him in the person of Sublime."
This news disturbed the prince to such a degree that he had not strength enough to interrupt her while she related her story with all the kindness imaginable. Indeed he had some cause for fear, because the good shepherd who had brought him up might, since he was a king, refuse him hi daughter, and she herself, reflecting on the difference between a great princess and a poor shepherd, might Withdraw the favour she had shown him. madam," he said, sadly, "I am lost, I must die; you are of royal birth and have found your family, while I am an unfortunate creature who knows neither country nor fatherland: an eagle served me for a mother and her nest for a cradle. If, hitherto, you have deigned to regard me with favour, in the future you will turn from me." The princess considered a moment, and without replying took a pin that fastened her beautiful hair and wrote on the back of a tree:--
"Love you a heart that loves you dearly?"
The prince then carved these words:--
"Passion most ardent my heart inflames".
And the princess put beneath:--
"Enjoy then of loving the happiness great,
And know that thy love is returned".
The prince, overcome with joy, threw himself at her feet. "You flatter my distressed heart, adored princess," he said, "and by your new kindness you preserve my life; remember what you've just written in my favour." "I can not forget it," she replied, graciously; "you may depend on my heart. I care more for your interests than for my own." Their conversation would undoubtedly have been prolonged had there been more time, but it was necessary to lead the flocks home, and they hastened to return.
Meanwhile the king and queen conferred as to their course of action in respect of Carpillon and the young shepherd. As long as she had remained unknown, they had regarded the dawning passion rising in their young hearts with approval; the perfect beauty they possessed, their intelligence, and the grace of all their actions made them desire their union. But when they learned that Carpillon was their daughter, while the shepherd was probably some out cast exposed to the wild beasts in order to save the necessity of rearing him, they took quite a different view of the matter. They resolved to tell Carpillon she must no longer permit him to cherish hope, and must seriously tell him she did not intend to settle in that land.
The queen soon summoned her, and spoke to her very kindly. But of what avail are words in such terrible distress? The young princess tried in vain to console herself; her face now brilliantly red, now deathly pale, her eyes dim with sorrow clearly testified to her condition. Ah! how she repented of her confession! But she assured her mother, with submission, that she would obey her; she had scarcely strength enough to throw herself on her bed, where she lay weeping and moaning.
At length she got up, for she had to lead her flock to pasture; but instead of going towards the river, she went far into the wood, and lying on the moss, she bowed her head and fell a-dreaming. The prince, who could not rest away from her, went in search of her, and suddenly presented himself before her. At sight of him she uttered a loud cry as if surprised, and hastily rising, vent off without looking at him. He, astounded at this strange conduct, followed her, and stopping her, said: "shepherdess, while condemning me to death, do you wish to escape the pleasure of seeing me die before your eyes? You have indeed changed towards your shepherd; you have already forgotten your promise of yesterday." "Alas!" she said, looking at him sadly, "of what crime do you accuse me? I am unhappy: I am obeying orders I cannot avoid; pity me, and keep away from the places I frequent; indeed, it must be so." "I am to shun you, divine princess!" he said, folding his arms with a melancholy air, "and you are yourself capable of pronouncing so cruel and little-deserved a command? What do you suppose will be the effect on me? Can I crush the flattering hope you permitted me to indulge, and continue to live?" Carpillon, as despairing as her lover, fell down lifeless and voiceless; at that sight he was agitated by a thousand different thoughts: his mistress's condition assured him that she had no part in the cruel command, and that in some degree alleviated his distress.
He did not lose a moment in coming to her assistance: a stream that trickled under the grass furnished water to throw in her face, and the doves hidden behind a bush whispered he might steal a kiss. However that might be, she soon opened her eyes, and pushing away her lover, said: "Fly, leave me; if my mother came, would she not have every right to be angry?" "Must I leave you to be eaten by bears and wild boars?" he said, "or during a long swoon in these deserted wilds, to be stung by some asp or snake?" "Everything must be risked," she said, "except the queen's displeasure."
While they were holding a conversation so full of affection and regard, their guardian, the fairy, suddenly appeared in the king's room. She was armed as usual, and the precious stones with which her helmet and cuirass were adorned were scarcely as bright as her eyes. Addressing the queen, she said: "You are scarcely grateful, madam, for the recovery of your daughter, who, without my aid, would have been drowned, since you are about to cause the death of the Shepherd I entrusted to your care. Think no more of the difference between him and Carpillon; it is time to unite them. Make all ready for the wedding; I desire it, and you shall never repent it."
With these words, without awaiting their reply, she left them. She disappeared from view, leaving behind her a long track of light like a Sunbeam
The king and queen were much surprised and felt glad the fairy's orders were so positive. "There can be no doubt," said the king, "that this unknown shepherd's rank is equal to Carpillon's. His protectress is too noble to desire the union of two persons unsuited to each other. It is she, as you perceive, who saved our daughter from drowning in the lake. How have we deserved her protection?" "I have often heard," replied the queen, "that there exist good and bad fairies, who, according to their disposition, have affection or hatred for families; evidently the fairy amazon is favourable to us." They were talking thus when the princess returned, looking sad and ill. The prince, who had only dared to follow her at a distance arrived shortly after, So melancholy that a mere glance at him showed what was passing in his mind. During the meal the poor lovers, who were usually the gayest of all, spoke never a word and hardly dared to raise their eyes.
As soon as they left the table, the king went into his little garden, and asked the shepherd to accompany him. At this command he grew pale, and trembled in all his limbs, and Carpillon thinking her father was going to send him away, was equally frightened. Sublime entered a summerhouse and sat down. Looking at the prince, he said: "My son, you know the love with which I have brought you up. I have considered you a gift of the gods to support and console my old age, and, to prove my affection, I have chosen you to be the husband of my daughter, Carpillon. You have sometimes heard me deplore her loss. Heaven has restored her to me, and desires that she should be yours, and I, too, wish it with all my heart; are you the only one who is not willing?" "Oh my father," exclaimed the prince, kneeling, "dare I believe what I hear? Am I really so fortunate in that your choice has fallen on me, or do you wish to know my sentiments towards this beautiful princess?" "No, my son," said the king, "you have no need to hover between hope and fear; I mean to conclude the marriage in a few days." "You overwhelm me with kindness," replied the prince, kneeling, "and if I express my gratitude awkwardly, the excess of my joy is the cause." Sublime made him get up, and assured him again and again of his regard, and although he did not reveal to him his high rank, he gave him to understand that his birth was far above the condition to which fortune had reduced him.
But Carpillon's anxiety was so great that she could not rest until she had followed her father and her lover into the garden. Hidden behind some trees, she observed them from a distance when she saw the shepherd at the king's feet, she thought he was asking not to be sent away, and not wishing to know snore, she ran into the depths of the forest, speeding along like a fawn pursued by dogs and huntsmen.; she feared nothing, neither the ferocity of wild beasts, nor the thorns that caught her on either side. Echo repeated her sad laments, and she seemed to be seeking death when the shepherd, impatient to tell her the good news, hastened after her, "Where are you, my shepherdess, my beloved Carpillon?" he shouted; "if you hear me, do not flee. We are to be happy."
As he uttered these words, he spied her at the bottom of a deli surrounded by huntsmen who were attempting to put her up behind a little deformed hunch back mounted on a horse. At this sight and at the sound of his mistress's cries for help, he advanced swifter than an arrow shot from the bow, and with no other weapon than his sling, gave the man who was carrying off his shepherdess so unerring and terrible a blow, that he fell from his horse with a dreadful wound in his head.
Carpillon fell also; the prince was beside her directly, trying to defend her against her ravishers. But his resistance was of no avail; they seized him and would have cut his throat on the spot if Prince Hunchback, for it was he, had not signed to his people to spare him, for he said: "I wish him to die of many different tortures”. They contented themselves with binding him in thick ropes, and as the same bonds served for the princess, they were able to talk together.
A litter was made for the wicked Hunchback: directly it was ready they set off before any of the shepherds had discovered the accident that had befallen the young lovers. Sublime knew nothing of what had happened. His anxiety may easily be imagined when night came on and they did not return. The queen was equally alarmed, and several days were spent in searching and weeping for them, but without avail.
Prince Hunchback had not forgotten Princess Carpillon, but time had cooled his ardour; when he was not amusing himself in committing a few murders and cutting the throats of all who displeased him he went hunting, and was often seven or eight days without returning home. It was on one of these occasions that he saw the princess. Her grief was so great and she took so little heed of what might befall her that she had not her bunch of gillyflowers with her, so that as soon as he saw her he recognised her.
"Oh of all misfortunes this is the greatest," said the shepherd, softly, "we had, alas, just reached the happy moment of being united for ever." He told her what had passed between Sublime and himself. Carpillon's regret may be easily understood. "I am then to cost you your life," she said, bursting into tears; "I am myself leading you to torture, you for whom I would give my life. I am the cause of your misfortunes, and by my own carelessness have fallen again into the barbarous hands of my most cruel persecutor."
They conversed thus until they reached the town in which the good old king, wicked Hunchback's father, lived; he was informed that his son was being brought back in a litter, because a young shepherd in defending his shepherdess had dangerously wounded him with a blow of the Stone from his sling. The king, distressed even to tears that his only son should be in such a condition, ordered the shepherd to be thrown into a dungeon. Hunchback gave Secret commands that Carpillon should receive the same treatment: he had fully made up his mind either to marry her or to torture her to death, The two lovers were only separated by a door that was so ill-made that when the sun was at its height they had the sad consolation of seeing each other through the chinks. during the rest of the day and night they could only converse.
What tender and passionate things they said! Everything the heart could feel and the mind conceive they expressed in words so pathetic that they wept bitterly, and may be, if we repeated them, they would draw tears from our readers.
Hunchback's confidants visited the princess every day and threatened a speedy death if she did not purchase her life by consenting with a good grace to their marriage. She received the proposals with a firmness and disdain that made them despair of success. As soon as she could speak to the Prince, she said: "Do not fear, my shepherd, that dread of the most cruel tortures will make me unfaithful; although it has not been granted us to live together, we can at least die together." "Do you intend to console me, fair princess?" he replied. "Alas would I not rather see you in the arms of the monster than in the power of the executioner?" She did not agree with these sentiments, accused him of weakness, and assured him that she would show him how to die courageously.
Hunchback's wound being a little better and his love irritated by the prince obstinate refusals, in his rage he determined to put her to death with the shepherd who had ill-treated him. He appointed the day for this mournful tragedy, and begged the king, with all the senators and nobles of the kingdom, to grace it with his presence. Hunchback was there in an open litter to feast his eyes on the horrid spectacle. As I said before, the king did not know that Carpillon was a prisoner. When he saw her led to the torture in company with the poor governess whom Hunchback condemned with her, and the young shepherd more beautiful than the day, he ordered them to be brought to the terrace where he sat surrounded by all the court.
Without waiting for the princess to speak and complain of her unworthy treatment, he hastened to cut the ropes that bound her, and, looking at the shepherd, was moved with kindness and pity. "Rash young man," he said, forcing himself to speak harshly, "who inspired you with boldness enough to attack a great prince and to bring him to the point of death?" At the sight of the venerable old man dressed in the royal robes, the shepherd was conscious of an impulse of respect and confidence he had never felt before. "Great king," he said, with admirable courage, "the danger of this beautiful princess was the cause of my rashness. I did not know your son, and how was I to recognise him in an action so violent and so unworthy of his rank?"
He emphasised his words with gesture and accent; his arm was bare and the arrow on it too plainly visible for the king not to see it. "Oh ye gods!" he exclaimed, "am I mistaken, or do I see in you my beloved long-lost son?" "No, great king," said the fairy amazon from the upper air, where she appeared mounted on a magnificent white horse, "no, you are not mistaken, this is your son; I protected him while he was in the eagle's nest whither his cruel brother had ordered him to be taken; he must console you for the loss of the other." So saying, she swooped down on guilty Hunchback, and striking her fiery lance to his heart, made short work of him, and he was burned as if by lightning.
She then approached the terrace and presented the prince with arms. "I promised them to you," she said; "they will make you invulnerable and the greatest warrior in the world." At the same moment the warlike sounds of a thousand trumpets and instruments of war were heard, but the noise soon gave way to a sweet symphony that sang melodiously the praises of the prince and princess. Fairy amazon dismounted, approached the king, and begged him to give at once the orders necessary for the wedding: she sent a little fairy, who appeared directly she was summoned, to fetch the shepherd king, the queen and their daughter, and ordered her to return speedily. No soon had she departed than she came back with those illustrious and unfortunate persons. What happiness after their prolonged troubles! The palace resounded with cries of joy never before equalled.
Fairy amazon gave orders everywhere; one of her words did more than a thousand people. The wedding was solemnised with a magnificence previously unknown. King Sublime returned to his realms, and Carpillon had the great happiness of taking with her her beloved husband. The old king, enchanted with a son so worthy of his affection, grew young again--at least his old age was so full of joy that he lived a great while longer.