THERE was once upon a time a king and a queen who lived in great sorrow because they had no children. The queen, though still beautiful, was no longer young, so that she did not dare look forward to having any. This made her very sad. She slept little, and was always sighing and praying to the gods and all the fairies to give her what she wished. One day when she was walking in a little wood, after gathering violets and roses she picked some strawberries too, but no sooner had she eaten them than she became very drowsy, and lying down at the foot of a tree, she fell asleep.
She dreamt while she slept that she saw passing through the air three fairies, who stopped just over her head. The first one looking pityingly at her, said: "Here is a lovely queen to whom we should be doing a real service if we were to give her a child". "Very well," said the second, "do so, since you are the eldest of us." "My gift to her," she went on, "is a son, the handsomest, the most amiable, and the best loved in the world." "And mine," said the other, "is that she may see this son happy in whatever he undertakes, always powerful, full of understanding and of justice." The third fairy, when her turn came to name her gift, burst out laughing, and mumbled some words between her teeth that the queen did not hear.
That was her dream. Waking up after a few minutes, she saw nothing in the air nor in the garden. "Alas" she said, "I am not fortunate enough to justify the hope that my dream may come to pass. What thanks would I not give to the gods and to the good fairies if I had a son!" Gathering some more flowers she returned to the palace more cheerful than usual. The king noticed this, and begged her to tell him the reason. She denied him, but he pressed her. "It is not," she said to him, "a thing deserving of your curiosity; it is nothing but a dream, and you will think me very silly to attach any kind of belief to it." Then she told him that while she was asleep she had seen three fairies in the air, and what two of them had said, and that the third had burst out laughing without her being able to hear what she muttered.
"This dream," said the king, "is gratifying to me as it is to you, but that merry-humoured fairy makes me uneasy, for the most of them are mischievous, and it is not always a good sign when they laugh." "As for me," replied the queen, "I believe that signifies neither good nor ill; my mind is filled with my desire to have a son, and a hundred fancies rise out of that. Besides, what could happen to him, supposing there were anything true in what I have dreamt? Is he not endowed with all that can be most advantageous to him? Heaven grant that I may have this consolation!" Thereupon she fell a-weeping. The king assured her that she was so dear to him that she made up for everything.
When some months had passed the queen knew that she was to have a child. Word went round the whole kingdom to send up prayers for her; the altars smoked only with the sacrifices offered to the gods for the preservation of so dear a treasure. The assembled states sent deputies to compliment their majesties; all the princes of the blood, the princesses, and the ambassadors were at the court when the queen was brought to bed. The layette for the precious child was of wonderful beauty, and the nurse excellent. But how was the public joy changed to sadness when instead of a fine prince there was born--a little wild boar! Everybody shrieked, which frightened the queen very much. She asked what was the matter, but they did not wish to tell her for fear she should die of grief. So, on the contrary, they assured her she was the mother of a fine boy, and that she had cause for rejoicing.
But the king was terribly cast down. He ordered them to put the Marcassin in a sack and to throw him to the bottom of the sea, so that the memory of an event so grievous might be lost entirely. But afterwards he had pity, and thinking it right to consult the queen on the matter, he gave orders for him to be fed, and said not a word to his wife till the danger was past of a great disappointment causing her death. Every day she asked to see her son. They told her he was too, delicate to be brought from his room to her own, and with that explanation she was satisfied.
As for Prince Marcassin, he fed like a wild boar in whom the desire of life is strong. They had to provide six nurses for him, three of them dry nurses, in the English fashion. These would always be giving him Spanish wines and cordials to drink, which taught him early to be a judge of the best wines. The queen, impatient to caress her baby, told the king that she was well enough to go as far as the child's room, and that she could no longer live with out seeing her son. The king heaved a deep sigh, and ordered them to bring hither the heir to the crown. He was swaddled like a child in robes of gold brocade. The queen took him in her arms, and lifting a frill of lace that covered his head . . . Alas! what was her dismay at the fatal sight? That moment seemed as if it must be the last of her life. She looked with sad eyes at the king, not daring to utter a word.
"Do not grieve, my dear queen," he said to her. "I impute no blame to you on account of our misfortune. It is, no doubt, a trick played by some wicked fairy, and if you will give your consent, I shall carry out my first plan, which was to have the little monster drowned." "Ah, sire!" she said, "do not make me your confidant in respect to so cruel a deed. I am the mother of this unfortunate Marcassin. I feel the tenderness within me making appeal for him. Do him no harm, I beg of you. He has already suffered too much in being born a wild boar when he should have been a man."
So deeply did she move the king by her tears and her reasoning that he promised what she desired. The ladies, therefore, who had charge of Marcassin, began to take much more care of him; for till now they had looked on him as an unholy beast soon to serve as food for fishes. It is true that in spite of his ugliness his eyes were seen to be full of intelligence. They had taught him to give his little foot to those who came to salute him as others give their hand. They decked him with diamond bracelets. And in all his ways there was a certain grace.
The queen could not help loving him. She had him often in her arms, at the bottom of her heart thinking him pretty, though she dared not utter this for fear they should think her crazy. But she did say to her friends that her son seemed to be of an amiable disposition. She covered him with endless knots of rose-coloured ribbons, and his ears were pierced. He had a string with which they held him up to teach him to walk on his hind legs. They put shoes on him, and silken stockings fastened over the knee to make his legs look longer. He was beaten when he grunted. In short, in so far as it was possible, they weaned him from his wild-boar habits.
One evening, when the queen was out walking and carrying him in her arms, she passed under the same tree where she had fallen asleep and where she had dreamt all I have already told. The remembrance of that adventure came back to her mind with great vividness. "Here, then," she said, "is the prince so handsome, so perfect, and so happy, that I was going to have! O vain dream! fatal vision! O fairies, what had I done that you should mock me?" She was murmuring those words under her breath, when all of a Sudden she saw an oak spring up; and from it there appeared a lady richly dressed, who looking at her in a kindly manner, said: "Do not grieve, great queen, at having given birth to Marcassin. I assure you there will come a time when he will seem beautiful to you." The queen recognised her as one of the three fairies who passing through the air while she slept, had stopped and had willed she might have a son. "It is difficult for me to believe you, madam," she answered. "No matter what intelligence my son may possess, who can love him with such a face?" Once again the fairy answered: "Do not grieve, great queen, at having given birth to Marcassin. I assure you there will come a time when he will seem beautiful to you." She disappeared immediately into the tree, and the tree into the earth, without its even appearing that there ever had been one in that place.
Much astonished at this new adventure, the queen could not help hoping that the fairies would take some care of the royal beast. Quickly did she return to the palace to let the king know what had occurred; but he thought she had invented this means of making his son seem less hateful to him. "I see quite well," she said, "from the way you are listening to me that you do not believe what I am saying. Yet nothing is truer than what I have just told you." "It is very hard," said the king, "to endure the fairies' mockeries. By what means could they ever make anything else of our child than a wild boar? Never do I think of him without being overwhelmed by grief." The queen went out from him more sorrowful than ever. She had hoped that the fairy's promises would soften the king's sadness; yet he would hardly listen to them. So she with drew, having made up her mind to speak no more to him about her son, and to leave to the gods the task of consoling her husband.
Marcassin began to speak. Like other children he lisped a little; but that did not diminish the queen's pleasure in hearing him, for she had doubted whether he would ever speak at all. He grew very tall, and used often to walk on his hind feet. He wore long garments covering his limbs, and an English cap of black velvet to conceal his head, his ears, and a part of his snout. His tusks, it must be confessed, were terrible; and his bristles stood up in a fearsome way. His look was proud, and his presence betokened a power of absolute command. He ate out of a golden trough, in which truffles, and acorns, and morels, and grass were prepared for him, and no pains were spared to teach him dainty ways and good manners. His mind was naturally superior, and he was of dauntless courage. The king recognising his qualities, began to care more for him than he had done before, and sought out good masters to teach him all they could. Marcassin was not successful with figure dances, but in round dances and the minuet, where speed and lightness are wanted, he did wonderfully. As to musical instruments, he knew well enough that the lute and the the orbo were not suitable to him; he liked the guitar, and played beautifully on the flute. He rode on horseback with astonishing talent and grace. Hardly a day passed that he did not go to the hunt, attacking furiously with his teeth the fiercest and the, most dangerous beasts. His masters perceived in him a quick wit and every possible facility for gaining an accurate knowledge of the sciences. But very bitterly did he feel the ridicule which his wild-boar's face brought upon him, so that he avoided appearing in large assemblies.
His life was passing in happy unconcern, when one day while he was with the queen, he saw a lady enter. She was good-looking, and was followed by three very lovely young girls. Throwing herself at the feet of the queen, she told her she had co to beg her to give them shelter at her court. The death of her husband and great misfortunes had reduced her to extreme poverty, and her birth and her unhappy condition were well enough known to her majesty to justify the hope that she would willingly receive her. The queen was deeply touched at seeing them thus kneeling before her. She embraced them, and said she would gladly receive the three girls; the eldest of whom was called Ismene, the second Zelonide, and the youngest Marthesie. She promised to take care of them, assured the mother she need not be discouraged, that she might remain in the palace where she would be treated with much regard, and might count on the queen's friendship. The mother, charmed with the goodness of the queen, kissed her hand a thousand times, and felt a sudden calm such as she had not known for long.
The fame of Ismene's beauty spread through the court, and very deeply affected a young knight named Coridon, who was no less famous in his own way than she was in hers. Almost at the same time they felt a secret sympathy linking them to each other. The knight was of an amiability untold. He charmed every one, and every one loved him. And as this was an engagement with many advantages for Ismene, the queen saw with pleasure the attentions he paid her, and the favour with which she regarded him. At last their marriage was spoken of; everything seemed pointing that way. They were born for one another, and Coridon neglected nothing in the way of those gay entertainments and all those tender attentions which firmly bind a heart already affected.
But the prince had felt the power of Ismene as soon as he had seen her, without daring to declare his passion. "Ah! Marcassin, Marcassin," he cried, looking at himself in a glass, "could you possibly, with a face so hideous, dare to hope that the fair Ismene would think well of you? I must conquer my passion, for of all misfortunes the greatest is to love without return." He avoided her presence with great care; but as he thought of her none the less he became the prey of a terrible melancholy, and he grew so thin that his bones were sticking through his skin. But his trouble greatly increased when he learnt that Coridon was openly wooing Ismene, that she held him in much esteem, and that ere long the king and the queen would be preparing the wedding feast.
Hearing this, he felt his love growing stronger and his hope fading away, for it seemed easier to please Ismene while she was merely indifferent than now when her heart was given to Coridon. He understood that silence on his part would be fatal to him, so having watched for a favourable opportunity to speak with her, he found one. One day as she was sitting under some pleasant trees singing the words of a song that her lover had made for her, Marcassin approached her, very much overcome, and sitting down beside her, he asked if it were true, as he had been told, that she was going to marry Coridon. She answered that the queen had commanded her to receive his attentions, and naturally that must end as he had suggested. "Ismene," said he, more gently, "you are so young that I did not think they were planning your marriage. Had I known it I should have proposed to you as a husband the only son of a great king who loves you and who would be delighted to make you happy." At these words Ismene grew pale. Already she had remarked that Marcassin, who naturally was rather shy, used to talk to her with evident pleasure, to give her all the truffles which his wild-boar instinct enabled him to find in the forest, and to present her with the flowers with which his cap was generally decked. She was much afraid lest he himself was the prince of whom he spoke, and she answered: "I am very glad, my lord, to have been in ignorance of the sentiments of the son of this great king. It may be that my family, more ambitious than I myself, would have wished to force me to marry him, and in confidence I tell you that my heart is so entirely Coridon's that it can never belong to any one else." "What!" he replied, "you would refuse the crowned head of him who would put his fortune at your disposal?" "There is nothing I would not refuse," she said. "I have more tenderness than ambition; and I beg of you, my lord, seeing that you have dealings with this prince, to make him promise to leave me alone." "Ah, cruel one!" cried the impatient Marcassin, "you know only too well the prince I mean! His face does not please you. You would not like to bear the name of Queen Marcassin. You have sworn eternal faithfulness to your knight, but think, think of the difference between us. I am not an Adonis, I admit, but I am a formidable wild boar; supreme force is surely worth as much as some trivial graces of manner. Ismene, think of this. Do not drive me to despair!" While he was speaking, his eyes seemed to be on fire, and his long tusks clacked one against the other with a noise which set the poor girl all of a tremble.
Marcassin went away. Ismene, in great trouble, was shedding a torrent of tears when Coridon approached her. Till now they had only known the delights of a mutual tenderness. Nothing had come in the way of these, and they had ground for hoping that very soon their love would be happily crowned. What then was this young lover's despair when he saw the grief of his fair mistress? He begged her to tell him the reason of it. She did so; and it is not possible to describe the sorrow which the news caused him. "I cannot," he said, "secure my happiness at the cost of yours. A crown is offered to you--you must accept it." "Accept it, great gods!" she cried; "forget you, and wed a monster! What have I done, alas! that you should give me advice so opposed to our love and our happiness?" Coridon was overcome to such a degree that he could answer nothing, but the tears flowing from his eyes were enough to show the condition of his soul. Ismene, deeply sensible of their common sorrow, said to him hundreds and hundreds of times that she would never change if all the kings of the earth were in question; and touched by this generosity, he told her hundreds and hundreds of times that it would be best to leave him to die of sorrow and ascend the throne that was offered to her.
While they were disputing this, Marcassin was with the queen, to whom he said that the hope of curing his passion for Ismene had forced him to silence, but that he had struggled in vain; that she was on the eve of her marriage; that he felt he had not the strength to bear up under such a misfortune; and that, in short, he wished to marry her or to die. The queen was much astonished to hear that the wild boar was in love. "Who would have you, my son; and what kind of children could you hope for?" "Ismene is so beautiful," said he, "that she could not have ugly children, and even should they take after me, I would face all rather than see her in another's arms." "Have you so little sense of your position," the queen went on, "as to desire a girl whose birth is inferior to your own?" "And what royal lady is there," he replied, "with so little daintiness as to be willing to marry a wretched pig like me?" "My son, you are mistaken," answered the queen; "princesses less than anybody else are free to choose. "We shall have you described as fairer than love itself. When the marriage is accomplished, and we have the lady in our keeping, she will be forced to remain with us." "I am not capable," he said, "of such a piece of trickery. I should he in despair at making my wife unhappy." "Can you believe," cried the queen, "that she whom you desire would not be so with you? Her lover is worthy of her love, and if there is a difference of rank between a sovereign and a subject, there is no less between a wild boar and a most charming man of the world." "So much the worse for me, madam," replied Marcassin, vexed at the reasons she was urging. "It seems to me that you less than any other should insist upon my misfortune. Why did you make me a pig? Is it not unjust to reproach me with a thing which I did not bring about?" "I am not reproaching you," answered the queen, deeply moved. "I only want to show you that if you marry a wife who does not love you, you will be unhappy, and you will bring her sorrow. If you could but understand what suffering those forced marriages are the cause of you would not wish to run the risk of one. Is it not better to live alone in peace?" "To do that would want more indifference than I have, madam," he said. "Ismene has touched my heart. She is gentle, and I flatter myself that a delicate handling of her, together with the crown she must hope for, will make her yield. But, however it turns out, if it is my fate to be loveless I shall have the happiness of possessing a wife whom I love."
The queen found his mind was so firmly fixed that she gave up the thought of turning him away from it. She promised to work for the end he de sired, and without any delay she sent for Ismene's mother. She knew her disposition--that of an ambitious woman, who would have sacrificed her daughters for an advantage even below that of a crown. As soon as the queen told her that it was her will that Marcassin should marry Ismene, she threw herself at her feet, and assured her that the wedding-day was for her to choose. "But," said the queen, "her affections are engaged: we have commanded her to look on Coridon as her destined husband." "Well, madam," answered the old mother, "we shall command her to look on him henceforth as the man she shall not marry." "The heart does not always consult the reason," replied the queen. "once it is really attached, it is difficult to subdue it." "If her heart had other desires than mine," said she, "I should tear them from her without mercy." The queen seeing her so determined, felt that she might safely impose on her the task of rendering her daughter submissive.
And, in truth, she hastened to Ismene's chamber, where the poor girl, knowing that the queen had sent for her mother, was anxiously awaiting the return of the latter. And one may easily imagine how her anxiety increased when she was told in a hard and resolute manner that the queen had chosen her for her daughter-in-law, that she must never speak to Coridon any more, and that if she were lacking in obedience she would be strangled. Ismene did not dare answer this threat, but she wept bitterly, and the report was spread abroad very soon that she was going to wed the royal wild boar; for the queen, who had made the king consent, sent her precious stones with which to deck herself when she should come to the palace.
Coridon, in desperation, in spite of all that had been done to prevent his entrance, sought her and spoke to her. When he reached her own private apartment he found her reclining on a couch, the tears streaming down her face. Falling on his knees by her side, and taking her hand: "Alas," said he, "charming Ismene, you are weeping for my sorrows”. "They are my sorrows too," she replied. "You are aware, dear Coridon, to what I am condemned. Death is the only possible escape from the outrage they mean to subject me to. Yes, I assure you, I could die more easily than I could give myself to any one else." "No," said he, "live: you will be a queen. It may be that you will grow used to this hideous prince." "That I could not do," she said. "I can imagine nothing in the world more terrible than such a husband. His crown does not lessen my sorrows." "The gods preserve you," he continued, "from so fatal a resolution, beloved Ismene--one which only befits my lot. I am about to lose you; you cannot forbid the step my anguish drives me to." "If you die," she answered, "I shall not survive you; and I feel a certain consolation in the thought that death at least will bring us together."
While they were talking thus, Marcassin took them by surprise. The queen having told him what she had done in his favour, he hastened to express his joy to Ismene but the presence of Coridon annoyed him to the last degree. He was in a jealous and impatient humour. In a fashion that strongly suggested the wild boar, he ordered him to be gone and never again appear at the court. "What do you mean, cruel prince?" cried Ismene, stopping her lover as he went away. "Do you think you can banish him from my heart as you do now from my presence? No, he is too well planted there. In bringing sorrow on me do not overlook what you are bringing on yourself. Here is the man whom I can love For you I feel only horror And as for me cruel one said Marcassin, "I am all love for you. It is useless to confess all your hate for me. None the less will you be my wife, and you will only suffer the more."
Coridon, in despair at having brought this fresh unhappiness on his mistress, went away just at the moment when Ismene's mother came to scold her. She assured the prince that her daughter would forget Coridon altogether, and that there was no reason to delay so charming a wedding. Marcassin, no less eager, said he was going to arrange the day with the queen, the king having left the care of this great festivity in her hands, the truth being that he did not want to have anything to do with it, for this marriage seemed displeasing and ridiculous to him, persuaded as he was that the Marcassin race would be perpetuated in the royal house. The blind indulgence with which the queen regarded her son was a grief to him.
Marcassin feared lest the king should repent of the consent he had given to his desires, so all the preparations for the ceremony were hastened. He had knee breeches made for him, with bunches of ribbon at the knee, and a perfumed doublet, for there was always a slight odour about him which it was difficult to endure. His mantle was embroidered with jewels, his wig was fair as a child's curls, and his hat covered with feathers. Perhaps a more extraordinary figure than he presented was never seen, and no one except her who was condemned to the misfortune of marrying him could look at him without laughing. But, alas! young Ismene had little heart to laugh. In vain they promised her magnificence. She despised it, and was only conscious of the unlucky star she had been born under.
Coridon saw her passing on her way to the temple, looking like a beautiful victim about to be slaughtered. Marcassin, transported with delight, prayed her to banish the deep sadness with which she was overcast; for he wished to make her so happy that all the queens of the earth would envy her. "I confess," he said, "that I am not handsome, but it is said that every man is like some animal. Well, I am most like a wild boar. That is my beast. There is no reason to consider me less amiable on that account, for my heart is full of tender ness and possessed by a strong passion for you." Ismene,' without answering, looked at him with a disdainful air, shrugged her shoulders, and let him guess all the horror she felt for him. Her mother was behind her, threatening her in a thousand different ways. "Wretched girl," she said, "do you wish to ruin us along with yourself? Have you no fear lest the prince's love may turn to fury?" But Ismene, occupied with her own trouble, paid not the least attention to these words. Marcassin, who had her hand in his, could not keep from leaping and dancing, whispering in her ears a thousand tender words.
At last the ceremony was over. After the guests had cried three times, "Long live Prince Marcassin! Long live Princess Marcassin," the bridegroom brought his bride to the palace, where all the preparations had been made for a magnificent repast. The king and queen having taken their places, the bride sat down opposite the wild boar, who devoured her with his eyes, so beautiful did he find her; but she was buried in such deep sadness that she saw nothing of what was going on and heard nothing of the loud sounds of the music.
The queen plucked her dress and whispered in her ear: "My child, cast off that cloud of melancholy from you if you wish to please us. You look as if this were your burial rather than your wedding-day." "May the gods but grant that this be the last day of my life!" she answered. "You commanded me to give my heart to Coridon. It was rather from your hand than my choice he received it; but, alas! if you have changed towards him, I have not done so." "Do not speak thus," replied the queen; "it makes me blush for shame and vexation. Think of the honour my son is doing you, and the gratitude you owe him." Ismene answered not a word, but let her head fall gently on her breast as she plunged again into her former reverie.
Marcassin 'as much distressed at seeing the aversion in which his wife held him. There were, indeed, moments when he wished his marriage had not taken place, when he even wished to dissolve it on the spot, but his heart refused consent to any such renunciation. The ball opened. Ismene's sisters shone in splendour. Little did they care for her sorrows in their delight at the brilliant position which the alliance gave them. The bride danced with Marcassin; and really it was frightful to see his face, and still more so to be his wife. The whole court was so sad that it was impossible to counterfeit joy. The ball did not last long. The princess was conducted to her apartment; and after the ceremony of disrobing, the queen withdrew. Marcassin, the impatient lover, retired to bed with much speed. Ismene said she wished to write a letter, and entering her inner chamber she shut the door, though Marcassin cried out to her to write quickly, and that this was hardly an hour at which to begin correspondence.
Alas! on entering this inner chamber, what was the sight that fell suddenly on Ismene's eyes? There was the unhappy Coridon, who had bribed one of her women to open the door of the secret stair by which he entered. In his hand was a dagger. "Think not, my charming princess," he said, "that I am come to reproach you for forsaking me. When we first plighted troth you swore that your heart would never change; nevertheless you have consented to leave me, and I blame the gods more than I do you. But neither you nor the gods can make me bear so great a sorrow. Losing you, princess, there is nothing left me but to die." Hardly had he uttered these words before he plunged the dagger in his heart.
Ismene had no time to answer him. "You die, dear Coridon!" she cried in sore grief. "Then have I nothing left to care for in the world! Its splendours would be hateful to me; the light of day would be insupportable." She said no more, but plunging the same dagger into her bosom which smoked still with the blood of Coridon, she fell lifeless to the ground.
Marcassin was waiting too impatiently for the fair Ismene not to be aware that she delayed her return. He called her as loud as he could, but there came no answer. He became very angry. Rising and putting on his dressing-gown, he ran to the cabinet door and had it forced. He was the first to enter. Alas! what was his astonishment to find Ismene and Coridon in such a terrible condition! He was like to die of grief and rage. Mingled feelings, now of love, now of hate, maddened him. He adored Ismene, but he knew that she had only killed herself in order to put a sudden end to the union they had just contracted. They ran to the king and queen with the news of what had happened in the prince's apartment. The whole palace rang with laments, for Ismene was beloved and Coridon held in high esteem. The king did not rise; he could not enter with such tenderness as the queen into Marcassin's adventures, and left to her the care of consoling him.
She made Marcassin go to bed. She mingled her tears with his, and when he let her have an Opportunity of speaking, and ceased his laments for a moment, she tried to make him see that he was fortunate in being free of one who would never have loved him, and whose heart was already filled with a strong affection that to kill a great passion was well-nigh impossible, and that she was persuaded he ought to think himself fortunate in her loss. "What matter "he cried. "I wished to have her for my own, even had she been unfaithful to me. I cannot say she sought to deceive me by feigned caresses; she always showed her horror for me. It is I that have caused her death, and what have I not to reproach myself with on this head?" The queen saw that he was in such deep trouble that she left him with those persons who pleased him most, and withdrew to her own room.
In bed she called to mind all that had happened since the dream in which she had seen the three fairies. "What harm did I do to them," she said, "to make them send such bitter griefs to afflict me? I was hoping for an amiable and charming son; they made him like a wild boar. He is a monstrosity. Poor Ismene preferred to kill herself rather than live with him. The king has never had a happy moment since this unfortunate prince was born; and as for me, I am overpowered with sadness every time I see him."
While she was speaking thus to herself she saw a great light in her room, and near her bed she recognised the fairy who had come out of the trunk of a tree in the wood. The fairy said to her: "O queen! why will you not believe me? Did I not assure you that your Marcassin would bring you much satisfaction Have you not faith in my sincerity?" "Ah! who could believe?" said the queen. "Nothing have I seen as yet answering in the least degree to your words. Why did you not leave me for the rest of my life without an heir rather than give me one like him?" "We are three sisters," answered the fairy. "Two of us are good; the other one nearly always spoils the good we do. It was she you saw laughing while you slept. Without us your troubles would last even longer, but they will have an end." "Alas! it will be by my death or Marcassin's," said the queen. "I may not tell you," replied the fairy. "I am only allowed to bring you the comfort of some hope." Then she vanished. In the room a pleasant fragrance lingered, and the queen flattered herself that a change for the better was to come.
Marcassin went into deep mourning; he passed many days shut up in his chamber, and covered many a page with the record of his keen regrets for the loss he had sustained. He even desired that these verses should be carved on the tombstone of his wife:--
"O fate unyielding, harsh decree,
That banished Ismene everlastingly!
Veiled are her eyes in the eternal night,
Her eyes that were our light.
O fate unyielding, harsh decree,
That banished Ismene everlastingly!"
Everybody was astonished at his remembering so tenderly one who had shown so much aversion for him. But gradually he began to frequent the society of ladies, and was struck with the charms of Zelonide, Ismene's sister, who was no less charming than she had been, and who bore a great resemblance to her. This resemblance pleased him. When he talked to her he found her full of wit and vivacity. It seemed to him that if anything could console him for the loss of Ismene it would be young Zelonide. She did him many kind nesses, for it never entered her mind that he wished to marry her. Nevertheless he was determined to do so. And one day when the queen was alone in her own apartment, he betook himself there with a livelier air than usual. "Madam,' said he, "I have come to ask a favour of you, and at the same time to beg of you not to dissuade me from what is in my mind; for nothing in the world could quench the desire I feel to marry again. Give me your hand upon it, I pray you. It is Zelonide I wish to marry; speak to the king, so that the matter may be arranged without delay." "Ah! my son," said the queen, "what have you then determined on? Have you already forgotten Ismene's despair and her tragic death? How can you hope that her sister will love you better? Are you more lovable than you were, less of a wild boar, less hideous? Be reasonable, my son; do not expose yourself anew every day. Fashioned as you are, it would become you to be retiring." "I agree with you, madam," replied Marcassin; "that is why I wish for a companion. The owls and the toads and the serpents find mates. Am I then inferior to vile beasts? But you are bent on vexing me. Surely a wild boar is worth more than any of those I have named."
"Alas, dear child," said the queen, "the gods will testify to the love I bear you, and to the sorrow with which I am overwhelmed when I look on you. When I set forth all these reasons it is not because I am bent on vexing you. When you have a wife I hope she may love you as much as I do; but there is a difference between the feelings of a wife and those of a mother."
"My mind is made up," said Marcassin. "I beg you, madam, to speak to day to the king and to Zelonide's mother, so that my marriage may take place as soon as possible." The queen promised, but when she talked to the king of the matter he told her that in respect of her son she was contemptibly weak, and that most certainly still further catastrophes would happen from so unsuitable a marriage. Although the queen was as much persuaded of the truth of this as he was, she did not therefore yield, being desirous of keeping the promise she had given to her son. She accordingly pressed the king so sorely that, wearied of the matter, he told her she might do what she wished, but that if trouble came of it she could only blame her own weakness.
On going back to her own room the queen found Marcassin there awaiting her with the greatest impatience. She told him he might declare his affection to Zelonide, the king having given his consent provided she gave hers, for he did not want the authority with which he was clothed to bring misfortune. "I assure you, madam," said Marcassin, with a swaggering air, "you are the only person that thinks so meanly of me. Every one else praises me, and points to a thousand good qualities which I possess." "Courtiers always do so," said the queen, "and princes are always treated in that fashion. The former do nothing but sing praises, the latter hear nothing but praises sung. How is it possible ever to know one's faults in such a labyrinth? Ah! how happy might the great be if they had friends more attached to their persons than their fortunes." "I am not sure, madam," rejoined Marcassin, "that they would be pleased to hear unpleasant truths. Nobody likes these, no matter to what condition of life they belong. Why, for instance, do you always insist that there is no difference between a wild boar and me, that I inspire terror, and that I should go and hide myself? Have I no obligation towards those who bring me solace, who tell me flattering untruths, and who hide the faults you are so anxious to point out?"
"Oh, well-spring of vanity!" cried the queen, "we find you wherever we turn our eyes! Yes, my son, you are fair and handsome; I advise you to continue your gifts to those who tell you so." "Madam," said Marcassin, "I am well enough aware of my misfortunes. I am perhaps more keenly aware of them than any one else is, but it does not rest in my hands to add an inch to my stature, nor to straighten my figure, nor to exchange my boar's head for a man's with flowing locks. I am willing to be taken to task for ill-temper, impatience, or avarice--in fact, for any defect that can be remedied. But as for my person, you must own, surely, that I am to be pitied and not blamed." Seeing that he was growing angry, the queen told him that since he was so resolved to marry, he might see Zelonide, and come to terms with her.
He was too eager to bring this conversation to an end to stop longer with his mother. Hastening to Zelonide, he entered her room unceremoniously, and finding her in the inner room, he kissed her, saying "Little sister, I bring news which I cannot think will be displeasing to you. I am desirous that you should marry." "My lord," she said, "if I marry by your direction I am content." "The bridegroom in question," he replied, "is one of the greatest princes in the kingdom, but he is not handsome." "What matter?" said she. "My mother is so cruel that I shall only be too glad to change my condition." "He whom I speak of," added the prince, "is very much like me." Zelonide looked at him fixedly, and with astonishment in her eyes. "You do not answer, little sister," he said; "is it joy or grief that makes you silent?" "I do not call to mind, my lord," she replied, "having seen any one at the court like you." "What!" he said, "you cannot guess that I mean myself? Yes, dear child, I love you, and I am come to offer to share my heart and my crown with you." "Ye gods! what do I hear?" cried Zelonide, in grief. "What do you hear, ungrateful one?" said Marcassin. "You hear what should give you more satisfaction than anything else in the world. Can you ever otherwise hope to be a queen? I am gracious enough to cast my eyes on you. Strive to merit my love, and do not imitate the follies of Ismene.' "No," she said, "do not fear that I shall take my life as she did. But, my lord, there are so many persons more amiable and more ambitious than I am. Why do you not choose some one who would appreciate better the honour you destine for me? I confess to you that my only desire is for a quiet and retired life. Let me arrange my own lot." "You hardly deserve that I should raise you to the throne by violence," he cried, "but a fatal impulse which is beyond my understanding urges me to marry you." Zelonide's only answer was her tears.
He left her full of sadness, and went to seek his mother-in-law to tell her of his intentions, in order that she might persuade Zelonide to do what he desired with a good grace. He told her of the interview that he had just had with her, and the repugnance she had shown for this marriage which was to make her for tune and that of all her house. The ambitious mother knew well enough the advantages she might derive from it; and when Ismene had killed herself she was much more distressed on account of her own interest than because of any tenderness she had for her. She was beyond measure delighted that this loath some Marcassin wished to form a new alliance with her family. She threw her self at his feet; she embraced him, and thanked him a thousand times for an honour which affected her so deeply. She assured him that Zelonide would be obedient, or if not she would plunge a dagger in her eyes. "I must confess," said Marcassin, "that it grieves me to do violence to her; but if I wait till hearts are thrust on me I may wait for the rest of my life. All the beauties think me hideous--yet, nevertheless, I have made up my mind to wed a lovely maiden." "You are right, my lord," replied the wicked old woman. "You must have your own way. If they are not pleased, it is only because they do not know what is to their real advantage."
So strongly did she uphold Marcassin that he told her that the matter was now therefore fully arranged, and that he would turn a deaf ear to the weeping and beseeching of Zelonide. Going home he selected his most magnificent possessions and sent them to his mistress. As her mother was by when they brought her the golden baskets full of jewels, she did not dare refuse them, but she showed the utmost indifference to all they brought her except to a dagger with a handle set in diamonds. She took it in her hand several times, and put it in her girdle, for the ladies of that country were in the habit of carrying them.
Then she said: "I am mistaken if this is not the same dagger that pierced the bosom of my poor sister". "We do not know if that be so, madam," said they to whom she spoke, "but if you think it is, you should never look at it." "On the contrary," she answered, "I admire her courage. Happy is she who is brave enough to do likewise!" "Ah my sister," cried Marthesie, "what fatal thoughts are passing through your mind? Do you wish to die?" "No," replied Zelonide, firmly. "The altar is not worthy of such a victim, but I take the gods to witness that . . ."She could say no more, for her tears choked her laments and her words.
The amorous Marcassin, on being told how Zelonide had received his gift, was so very angry that he was on the point of breaking off the marriage, never to see her in his life again. But whether from love or from pride, he could not bring his mind to do so, and determined to follow out his first intention with the greatest possible speed. The king and the queen gave him the charge of arranging for the great feast. He ordered it on a magnificent scale; yet there was always in whatever he did a certain smack of the wild boar, which was very extraordinary. The ceremony took place in a vast forest, where tables were placed loaded with venison for all the fierce and savage beasts that might want to come and eat, so that they might share in the feast.
It was here that Zelonide, being conducted hither by her mother and sister, found the king, the queen, their wild-boar son, and all the court, under the thick dark foliage, and here the newly-wedded pair swore to each other eternal love. Marcassin would not have found it difficult to keep his word. As to Zelonide, it was easy to see she obeyed with the greatest unwillingness, though she was able to control herself and partly hide her displeasure. The prince, who liked to look at the hopeful side, thought she was yielding to the force of necessity, and that she would only think henceforth how to please him. This idea made him quite good-tempered again. And when the ball was about to begin he hastened to disguise himself as an astrologer with a long robe. Two court ladies only were of the masquerade besides. He wished all of them to be so much alike that it would be impossible to distinguish them, and it was no easy task to make such well-favoured ladies resemble a hideous pig like him.
One of these ladies was the confidant of Zelonide, and Marcassin was not ignorant of this. It was only out of curiosity that he planned the disguise. After they had danced a very short "entree de ballet," for nothing was more fatiguing to the prince, he went up to his new bride, and, making certain signs, pointed to one of the masked astrologers, which made Zelonide think it was her friend who was by her side, and that she was pointing to Marcassin. "Alas!" she said, "I know it only too well. There is that monster whom the gods in their anger have given me for a husband; but if you love me, we shall rid the earth of him this night." Marcassin understood from her words that she referred to some plot which very nearly concerned him. He whispered low to Zelonide: "I will dare all to serve you”. "Hold then," she answered. "Here is a dagger he sent me. You must hide it in my room and help me to kill him." Marcassin said little in reply, for fear she should recognise the jargon he talked, which was somewhat extraordinary. He took the dagger quietly and left her for a moment.
Afterwards he returned without a mask, presenting his compliments to her, which she received with rather an embarrassed air, for she was turning over in her mind the plan for his ruin; and at that moment he was hardly less anxious than herself. "Is it possible," said he to himself, "that any one so young and beautiful should be so wicked? What have I done to her that she should kill me? True, I am not handsome. I eat in a barbarous fashion. I have some faults, but who has not? With the face of a beast, I am yet a man! How many beasts are there with human faces! Is not this Zelonide, whom I thought so charming, a tigress, a lioness? Ah! how little trust is to he put in appearances!" All this he was muttering between his teeth when she asked him what was the matter. "You are sad, Marcassin. Are you not regretting the honour you have done me?" "No," said he; "I do not change easily. I was thinking of a means of closing the ball before long. I am sleepy.
The princess was delighted to see him drowsy, thinking that she would have less trouble in carrying out her project. The festival ended, Marcassin and his wife were borne away in a stately chariot. The whole palace was lit with lamps in the shape of little pigs, and there was much ceremony in conducting the wild boar and his bride to their apartment. She had no doubt but that her confidant was behind the tapestry, so she went to bed with a silken cord below her pillow. With this she meant to revenge the death of Ismene and the wrong they had done herself in forcing her to a marriage so distasteful to her. Marcassin, profiting by the deep silence that reigned, made pretence of sleeping, and snored till all the furniture in the room shook. "You are asleep at last, you ugly pig!' said Zelonide. "The time has come to take revenge on you for your fatal affection. You will die in the dark night." Softly she rose, and ran to all the corners calling her friend; but, of course, she was not there, since Zelonide's plan was quite unknown to her.
"Ungrateful friend!" she cried, in a low voice. "You abandon me. After giving me so absolute a promise you do not keep it; but my courage will stand me instead." Having uttered these words, she passed the silken cord softly round Marcassin's neck, who had only waited for that to spring on her. Two blows of his great tusks on her throat, and she died almost immediately.
Such a catastrophe could not take place without a great stir. Everybody ran and beheld with the utmost astonishment the dying Zelonide. They would have come to her assistance, but he placed himself between with a furious air. And when the queen whom they had gone to fetch arrived, he told her what had happened and what had forced him to extreme violence against the unhappy princess.
The queen could not help lamenting her. "I foresaw only too well the trouble inseparable from your alliance. Let it, at least, serve to cure you of this marriage frenzy by which you are possessed. We could not always be having a wedding-day end with a funeral ceremony." Marcassin did not answer. He had fallen into a deep reverie. He went to bed but could not sleep, reflecting continually on his misfortunes. Secretly he reproached himself with the death of two of the loveliest beings in the world, and the passion he had for them would awake again ceaselessly to torment him.
"Unhappy wretch that I am!" he said to a young lord whom he loved. "I have never tasted happiness in the whole course of my life. If the throne I am to occupy is spoken of, every one says what a pity it will be to see so fair a realm in the possession of a monster. If I share my crown with a poor girl, instead of considering herself happy, she seeks the means of killing herself or me. If I seek solace from my father and mother they abhor me, and cast none but angry looks at me. What must I do in this despair that overwhelms me? I want to leave the court. I shall go to the deepest paths of the forest and lead the life which befits a wild boar of might and spirit. I shall never play the gallant any more. The animals will not reproach me for being uglier than they. It will be easy to be king over them, for I have reason to my share, which will serve me as a means of mastering them. I shall live more peacefully with them than I do now in a court over which I am destined to rule, and I shall not suffer the indignity of marrying a mate who stabs herself, or one that wants to strangle me. Ha! let us flee, let us flee to the woods; let us despise the crown they think I am not fit to wear."
His friend at first wished to dissuade him from so extraordinary a resolution but he saw that he was so overpowered by his continual strokes of ill-luck that finally he pressed him no longer to remain; and one night when they had for gotten to keep guard round his palace, he made his escape without being seen, to the depths of the forest, where he began to lead the life of his wild-boar kindred.
The king and the queen could not help being touched by a flight which despair alone had driven him to. They sent out hunters to look for him; but how were they to recognise him? Two or three fierce boars were caught and brought home after much danger, but they made such ravage at the court that it was decided not to run any further risks. A general order was given that no more boars should be killed, for fear of meeting the prince.
Marcassin, when he went away, had promised his friend to write to him sometimes. He had taken writing materials with him; and from time to time they found a very illegible letter at the gate of the town, addressed to the young lord. This was a consolation to the queen, informing her as it did that her son still lived.
The mother of Ismene and Zelonide felt deeply the loss of her two daughters. All her magnificent dreams had vanished when they died. She had to bear the reproach of sacrificing them to her ambition, and the thought that only her threat had forced them to give their consent to marry Marcassin. The queen no longer looked on her so favourably as she had done. So she resolved to live in the country with Marthesie, her only daughter, who was much more beautiful than her sisters had been, and in whose gentle manners there was so much charm that no one could look on her with indifference. One day when this maiden was walking in the forest followed by two waiting women, not far from her mother's house, she saw all at once, about twenty paces off, a boar of an enormous size. Her attendants left her and fled. As for Marthesie, she was so terrified that she remained motionless as a statue unable to escape.
Marcassin, for it was he, knew her at once, and by the way she was trembling he saw that she was nearly dead of fright. He did not wish to terrify her more, so, stopping, he said: "Have no fear, Marthesie. I love you too well to do you any hurt. It rests only with you whether I do not serve you. You know what injuries I suffered at the hands of your sisters; a miserable return for my affection, though I must confess that I had deserved their hatred by my obstinacy in determining to have them against their will. Since I have lived in these forests I have learnt that nothing in the world demands more freedom than the heart. I see that all the animals are happy because they live without constraint. I did not know their maxims before. I know them now, and I feel that I should far rather die than enter on an enforced marriage. If the gods who are angry with me would at last be appeased, if they would make you think favourably of me, I confess, Marthesie, that I should be delighted to unite my fortunes to yours. But, alas! what am I saying? Would you come with a monster like me inside my cavern?"
While Marcassin was speaking Marthesie summoned up strength enough to answer him. "What, my lord!" she cried "is it possible that I see you in a condition so ill-becoming your birth? The queen, your mother, never lets a day pass without weeping for your griefs." "My griefs!" said Marcassin, interrupting her. "Do not speak thus of my present condition. My lot is cast. It has hot been easy to makeup my mind to it, but it is done. Do not think, young Marthesie, that a brilliant court will always ensure our most lasting happiness. There are joys more entrancing, and I say again, you could make me know them if you were inclined to join me in this wild life." "And why," she asked, "will you not come back again to a place where you are still beloved?" "Still beloved?" cried he. "No, no, princes covered with disgrace are not beloved. Just as people look for no end of benefits which the great are not in a position to render, so princes are made responsible when evil fortune happens, and are hated more than other people.
"But why am I trifling in this way?" he cried. "If any of the bears or lions of my neighbourhood were to pass by and to hear me speak, I should be ruined. Make up your mind, therefore, to come without any other thought than that of passing your best days in the narrow retreat of an unfortunate monster, unfortunate no longer if he has you." "Marcassin," she said, "I have had till now no reason to love you. Without you I should still have two sisters who were clear to me. Let me have time before making up my mind to a course so extraordinary." "You may be asking me for time," he said, "only to betray me." "I am not capable of that," she answered; "and I assure you that from this moment no one will know I have seen you." "Will you come back?" he asked. "Certainly," she replied. "Ah! but your mother will forbid it. They will tell her you met a terrible boar. She will not be willing to let you run any further risk. Come then, Marthesie; come with me." "Where will you take me?" she asked. "Into a deep grotto," he answered. "A stream clearer than crystal runs slowly through it, its banks covered with moss and green grasses. A hundred echoes send back the plaints of love-stricken and forsaken shepherds. There shall we live together." "Say rather," she answered, "there shall I be devoured by one of your best friends. They will come to see you and find me, and my last moment will have come. Besides that, my mother, in despair at having lost me, will have me sought for everywhere. These woods are too near her house. I should be discovered."
"Let us go wherever you like," he said. "The preparations of a poor wild boar are soon made ready." "No doubt," she answered, "but mine are more troublesome. I want garments for every season, and ribbons and jewels." "You want loads of trifles and useless things for your toilet! When one has intelligence and reason can one not raise oneself above those petty arrangements? Believe me, Marthesie, they will add nothing to your beauty, and I feel sure they will tarnish its brilliancy. Seek nothing for your complexion but the fresh clear water of the streams. Let your hair, with its curls and its exquisite colour, its texture finer than the spider's web where the silly fly is caught, he your adornment. Your teeth are as white as pearls, and more regular. Be content with their brightness, and leave trinkets to those who are not so fair as you."
"I am well pleased with all you say to me," she answered, "but you will never be able to persuade me to bury myself in the depths of a cavern with only lizards and snails to bear me company. Would it not be better for you to come home with me to your father, the king? I promise you that they 'ill give their consent to our marriage. I shall he delighted. And if you loved me would you not desire to make me happy and to place me in a lofty station?" "I love you, fair mistress," he replied, "but you do not love me. It is ambition that would induce you to take me for a husband, and I have too much delicacy of feeling to reconcile myself to that sort of regard."
"You are naturally inclined to think ill of our sex," replied Marthesie; "but, my lord Marcassin, surely it is yet something that I promise to cherish a sincere friendship for you. Think of this. You will see me again in a few days in this place."
The prince took leave of her and withdrew into his dark grotto, much occupied with what she had said to him. His evil star had made him so hateful to those he loved that till to-day he had never been flattered by a gracious word. This made him much more sensible of Marthesie's kindness. Striving for some means to express his love, the idea occurred to him of preparing a repast for her, and several lambs and roe-bucks felt the force of his carniverous tooth. Then he ranged them in his cavern, waiting for the moment when Marthesie would come to keep her appointment.
She, on her side, did not know how to decide. Had Marcassin been as handsome as he was hideous, had they loved each other as much as Astrea and Celadon did, it would have been all she could do to spend her best days thus in a terrible solitude, and then Marcassin would have had to be Celadon. However, she was not engaged. No one up till now had had the honour of pleasing her; and she was inclined to live with perfect willingness with the prince if he would hut leave the forest. She stole out to come and see him, and found him at the appointed meeting He had never failed to go there several times a-day for fear of missing the moment when she would come. As soon as he saw her he ran to her, crouching at her feet, to let her know that wild boars when they wish have most courteous forms of salutation.
Then they withdrew to a place apart, and Marcassin looking at her with his little eves full of fire and passion, said: "What may I hope from your tenderness?" "You may have great hopes," she replied, "if you are of a mind to return to court, but I own to you that I do not feel capable of passing the rest of my life far away from all society." "Ah," said he, "it is because you do not love me. True, I am not lovable, but I am unhappy, and from pity and generosity you might do for me what for another you would do from inclination." "And how do you know," she answered, "that those feelings have no part in the friendship I have for you? Believe me, Marcassin, I am giving good proof of this in consenting to follow you to your father, the king." "Come to my grotto," said he, "and judge for yourself what you want me to leave for your sake."
At this proposal she hesitated a little, fearing he might keep her against her will. Divining what was in her mind, he said: "Do not be afraid; I shall not seek my happiness by violent means". Marthesie trusted his word. He led her to the farther end of the cavern, where she found all the animals he had slaughtered to regale her. This kind of butchery made her sick. At first she turned away her eyes, and after a moment she would have gone out, but Marcassin, putting on a masterful air and tone, said: "Lovely Marthesie, I am not so indifferent to you as to let you leave me. I take the gods to witness that you will ever reign in my heart. Insuperable difficulties prevent me from going back to my father, the king. Accept here my love and trust. Let this flowing stream, these evergreen vines, this rock, these woods and all that dwell therein, bear witness to our mutual oaths
She was not so desirous as he was of plighting troth; but she was shut into the grotto without any means of getting out. Why had she come in? Should she not have foreseen what would happen? She began to weep and to reproach Marcassin. "How can I trust your promises," she asked, "since you break your first one?" "There must be,' he said to her, with a wild-boar smile, "something human mingled with the animal in me. This breaking of my promise for which you blame me, this little trick by which I gained my end, these show the man in me, for, to speak frankly, there is more honour amongst animals than amongst men." "Alas!" she answered, "you have the worst part of both--the heart of a man, and the face of a beast. Be then either the one or the other, and after that I shall make up my mind to what you desire." "But, fair Marthesie," he said, "would you wish to stay with me without being my wife? for you may take for granted that I shall not allow you to go out of here. Her tears and prayers were redoubled, hut he was not affected by them; and after a long struggle she consented to take him as a bridegroom, and assured him she would love him as fondly as if he were the most comely prince in the world.
He was delighted by her pleasant ways. He kissed her hand a thousand times, and assured her in his turn that she would not be so unhappy as she had reason to think. Then he asked her if she would eat of the animals he had killed. "No," said she, "that is not according to my taste. If you could bring me some fruit I should like it." When he went out he closed the entrance to the cavern so securely that it was impossible for Marthesie to run away. But she had made up her mind as to her lot, and she would not have escaped even had she been able to.
Marcassin loaded three hedgehogs with oranges, sweet limes, citrons, and other fruits. He goaded them by the prickles with which they are covered, and the load reached the grotto quite safely. He entered and begged Marthesie to partake. "Here is your wedding-feast: not like the feasts made for your two sisters, but I hope that the less magnificence there is the more enjoyment there will be." "The gods grant it may be so," she answered. Then taking some water in her hand she drank to the health of the wild boar, which filled him with delight.
The repast was as short as it was frugal. Being over, Marthesie gathered all the moss and grass and flowers that Marcassin brought her and made a bed of it, hard enough to be sure, on which she and the prince lay down. She was most careful to ask him if he liked his pillow high or low, if he had room enough, and on what side he slept best. The good Marcassin thanked her tenderly, and exclaimed from time to time: ''I would not change my lot with that of the greatest men. At last I have found what I sought. I am beloved by her whom I love." A hundred pretty things did he say to her, at which she was not astonished, for he was witty, but she rejoiced all the same that he was none the less so because of the solitude in which he lived.
Both fell asleep; but Marthesie, waking up, had the feeling that her bed was softer than when she lay down. Then touching Marcassin gently she found that his head was fashioned like a man's, that his hair was long, that he had arms and hands. She could not help wondering, but she fell asleep again, and when it was day she found that her husband was as much of a wild boar as ever.
They passed the next clay like the one before. Marthesie said nothing to her husband of what she had suspected during the night. The hour for retiring came. She touched his head while he was asleep, and again found the same change she had found before. Now she was really in trouble. She could hardly sleep at all; she was filled with continual anxiety, and was always sighing. Marcassin saw this with real despair. "You do no love me," he said, "my dear Marthesie. I am an unfortunate wretch whose face disgusts you. I shall die, and yours will be the fault." "Say rather, cruel wretch, that you will be the death of me," she replied. "The wrong you are doing me affects me so deeply that I cannot endure it." "I do you a wrong?" he cried. "I am cruel wretch? What do you mean? You certainly have no reason to complain." "Do you think I am ignorant that every night you give up your place to a man?" "Wild boars," he said, "and especially those like me, are not of such an easy disposition. Do not harbour a thought so offensive to both of us, dear Marthesie, for, be assured, I should be jealous of the gods themselves. But perhaps you imagine this absurdity in your sleep." Marthesie, ashamed at having spoken of a thing so improbable, replied that she had such faith in his words that, though she had reason to think she was awake when she was touching arms and hands and hair, she would refuse to believe her judgment, and would never again speak of the matter to him.
And in truth she cast aside all the suspicious thoughts that came to her. Six months passed away with little enjoyment on Marthesie's side, for she never left the cavern in case she should meet her mother or the servants of her household. Since the poor mother had lost her daughter she never ceased lamenting. She made the woods resound with her griefs and with the name of Marthesie. At the sound of her voice, which fell well-nigh every day on her ears, she sighed in secret to cause so much pain to her mother and to be help less to console her; but Marcassin had given her due warning, and she feared him as much as she loved him.
As she was all gentleness, she continued to show great tenderness to the wild boar, who loved her too, in the most passionate way. Yet when she knew that the Marcassin race was to be perpetuated, her sorrow knew no bounds.
One night as she lay awake, weeping softly, she heard talking so near her that though the voices were low, not a word that was said escaped her. It was the good Marcassin, who was praying some one to be less cruel, and to give hull the permission he had long been asking. And the answer always came: "No, no: I will not". Marthesie was more troubled than ever. "Can I enter this cavern?" she said. "My husband has not revealed this secret to me." She had no desire to fall asleep again: she was too full of curiosity. The conversation ended, she heard the person who had been speaking to the prince go out of the cavern, and shortly afterwards Marcassin was snoring like a pig. Very soon she got up to see if it were easy to take away the stone that closed up the entrance to the grotto, but she could not move it. Coming hack softly, and without a light, she felt something under her feet, and discovered that it was a wild boar's skin. She took it up and hid it, and waited in silence for the outcome of the affair.
The dawn had hardly appeared when Marcassin got up, and she heard him fumbling about on all sides. While he was searching anxiously the clay broke. She saw him so extraordinarily handsome and well made that never was any surprise more delightful than hers. "Ah!" she cried, "do not keep me in ignorance of my happiness any longer. I know it. I feel it deep down in my heart. Dear prince, by what good fortune have you become the handsomest of all men?" At first he was surprised at the discovery she had made, but composing himself, he said: "I am about to explain everything to you, dear Marthesie, and, at the same time, to confess that it is to you I owe this delightful metamorphosis.
"You must know that the queen, my mother, was asleep one day in the shade of some trees, when three fairies passed over her head. They recognised her and they stopped. The eldest one gave her a son who was to be witty and handsome. The second improved on this gift, adding in my favour no end of fine qualities. The youngest, with a burst of laughter, said: 'We must vary this affair somewhat. Spring would not be so pleasant if winter did not come before. In order, therefore, that the prince, whom you desire should be charming, may appear more so, my gift to him is that he be a wild boar until he marry three wives, and till the third one find his wild boar's skin.' At these words the three fairies vanished. The queen had heard what the two first had said very distinctly, but as for the one who was injuring me, she was laughing so much that it was impossible to distinguish her words. It is only since our wedding-day that I have been aware of what I have just now told you. When I was going in search of you, thinking only of my passion, I stopped to drink at a stream that flows near my grotto. Whether it was clearer than usual, or whether I was looking at my reflection more attentively, because of my desire to please you, I felt myself to be so hideous that my eyes filled with tears. Without exaggeration, I shed enough to swell the current of the stream, and I said to myself it was impossible that I should please you.
"Desponding at this thought, I made up my mind to go no further. 'I can not be happy,' I said, 'if I am not beloved, and I can never be loved by any reasonable creature.' I was muttering these words when I saw a lady approach with a boldness that surprised me, for to those who do not know me I have a fearsome look. 'Marcassin,' she said, 'the hour of your happiness draws near, provided that you marry Marthesie, and that she loves you as you are. Be assured that before long you will put off the guise of a wild boar. From your wedding-night even, you will doff that skin that is so hateful to you. But put it on again before daybreak, and say nothing to your wife. Be careful to prevent her knowing anything of it till the time of the great discovery shall arrive.'
"She told me," he continued; "all I have already related to you about my mother, the queen. I thanked her very humbly for the good news she brought me, and went to seek you with feelings of mingled joy and hope such as I had never before experienced. And when I was so happy as to receive proofs of friendship from you my satisfaction increased in every way, and my impatience to share my secret with you was difficult to restrain. The fairy, who knew this, used to come at night and threaten me with the greatest misfortunes if I could not keep silent. 'Ah, madam,' I said to her, 'you surely have never loved, else you would not oblige me to hide anything so delightful from her I love best in the whole world.' She laughed at my distress, and told me not to grieve, for all would turn out well. Yet," he added, "give me back my boar's skin. I must put it on again, in case the fairies are angry." "Whatever happens, dear prince," said Marthesie, "I shall never change towards you. The charming picture of your metamorphosis will always rest with me." "I feel assured," he said, "that the fairies will not make us suffer long. They have charge of us. This bed which seems to you to be of moss is of excellent down and fine wool. It was they who placed all the fine fruits you have eaten at the entrance to the grotto." Marthesie did not neglect to thank the fairies for so many favours.
While she was expressing her gratitude to them Marcassin was making the utmost efforts to get into the skin, but it had grown so small that it would not even cover one of his legs. He pulled it this way and that way with his teeth and his hands, but in vain. He was very sad and was lamenting his misfortune, for he feared with reason lest the fairy who had so effectually turned him into a wild boar should come and clothe him with the skin again for yet a long while. "Alas my dear Marthesie," said he, "why did you hide this fatal skin? Perhaps it is to punish us for that I cannot use it as I did. If the fairies are angry, how can we pacify them?" Marthesie wept also. It was a very strange thing to weep for, that he could no longer be a wild boar.
At that moment the grotto shook; then the roof opened. They saw six distaffs fall, filled with silk, three of them white, and three black, and they all danced together. A voice came from them which said "If Marcassin and Marthesie can guess what these white and black distaffs mean they will be happy”. The prince pondered for a while, and then he said "I guess that the three white distaffs mean the three fairies who gave me gifts at my birth". "And I," said Marthesie, "guess that the three black ones signify my two sisters and Coridon." At that moment the three fairies took the place of the white distaffs. Ismene, Zelonide, and Coridon appeared also. Never was anything so terrifying as this return from the other world. "We do not come from so far away as you think," they said to Marthesie. "The watchful fairies have had the goodness to take care of us; and while you were weeping for our death, we were being led into a castle where no delight was wanting save your company."
"What!" said Marcassin. "Did I not see Ismene and her lover lifeless, and did not Zelonide perish by my hand?" "No," said the fairies. "A charm was on your eyes that we might deceive you as we wished. Every day that kind of thing occurs. Here a husband thinks his wife is at the ball with him, while she is lying asleep in bed; there a lover dotes on his fair mistress, while in truth she is as hideous as an ape; and again, another believes he has killed his enemy, who is living safely in another country." "My mind is in a whirl of doubt," said Prince Marcassin. "It would seem, from what you say', that one must not even believe what one sees." "The rule is not a general one," answered the fairies, "but it cannot be denied that one should suspend one's judgment about many things, and believe that some portion of Faërie may enter into what seems to us most certain."
The prince and his wife thanked the fairies for the lesson they had just received, and for preserving the lives of those who were so dear to them. "But," added Marthesie, throwing herself at their feet, "may I not hope that you will no more make my faithful Marcassin wear that hideous skin?" "We come to assure you of it," they said, "for it is time to return to the court." Immediately the grotto took the form of a magnificent tent, where the prince found several valets to dress him in gorgeous attire. There were attendants for Marthesie too, and a costume of exquisite work. Nothing was lacking for the adornment of her hair, and of her whole person. Then the dinner was served as a repast ordered by the fairies. What need to say more?
Never was there such perfect joy. All the grief Marcassin had suffered did not equal the pleasure of seeing himself not only a man, but a wondrous hand some one. After they had risen from table several magnificent carriages, to which the finest horses in the world were harnessed, came up at full speed. The ladies got into them with the rest of the little company, horse guards marching before and behind. And so did Marcassin return to the palace.
At the court they did not know where this splendid equipage came from. Still less did they know who was in it, till a herald published it in a loud voice, to the sound of trumpets and of kettle-drums. The whole people ran in great delight to meet their prince. Every one was charmed with him, and no one wished to doubt the reality of an event which seemed nevertheless almost incredible. The news was carried to the king and the queen, who came down at once to the courtyard. Prince Marcassin was so much like his father that it would have been difficult to mistake him. And no one did so. And never was there more widespread delight. After some months this was still further increased by the birth of a son, in whose face and character there was not a trace of the wild boar.