ONCE on a time there was a potent Fairy, who endeavoured to resist the power of Love; but the little god was more potent than the Fairy. He touched her heart without even employing all his power. A handsome Knight arrived at the Court of the Fairy in search of adventures. He was amiable, the son of a king, and had acquired renown by a thousand noble achievements. His worth was known to the Fairy. Fame had wafted the report of it even into her dominions.
The person of the young Prince corresponded so entirely with his high reputation, that the Fairy, moved by so many charms, accepted in a very short time the proposals which the handsome Knight made to her. The Fairy was beautiful, and he was sincerely in love with her. She married him, and by that marriage made him the richest and most powerful King in the world. They lived a long time most happily together after their union.
The Fairy grew old, and the King, her husband, although he kept pace with her in years, ceased to love her as soon as her beauty had departed. He attached himself to some young beauties of his Court, and the Fairy was tormented by a jealousy which proved fatal to several of her rivals. She had had but one daughter by her marriage with the handsome Knight. She was the object of all her tenderness, and was worthy of the affection lavished on her.
The Fairies, who were her relations, had endowed her from her birth with the finest intelligence, the sweetest beauty, and with graces still more charming than beauty. Her dancing surpassed anything that had ever been seen, and her voice subdued all hearts.
Her form was perfect symmetry. Without being too tall, her appearance was noble. Her hair was of the most beautiful black in the world. Her mouth small and exquisitely formed, her teeth of surprising whiteness. Her lovely eyes were black, sparkling, and expressive, and never did glances so piercing and yet so tender awaken love in the bosoms of all beholders.
The Fairy had named her Young and Handsome. She had not as yet endowed her herself. She had postponed that favour in order to judge the better in process of time by what sort of benefit she could ensure the happiness of a child that was so dear to her.
The King's inconstancies were an eternal source of affliction to the Fairy. The misfortune of ceasing to be loved induced her to believe that the most desirable of blessings was to be always lovely. And this, after a thousand reflections, was the gift she bestowed on Young and Handsome. She was then just sixteen: and the Fairy employed all her science in the formation of a spell which should enable the Princess to remain for ever exactly as she appeared at that moment. What greater benefit could she bestow on Young and Handsome than the happiness of never ceasing to be like herself? The Fairy lost the King, her husband, and although he had been long unfaithful to her, his death caused her such deep sorrow, that she resolved to abandon her empire, and to retire to a castle which she had built in a country quite a desert, and surrounded by so vast a forest that the Fairy alone could find her way through it.
This resolution sadly afflicted Young and Handsome. She wished not to quit her mother; but the Fairy peremptorily commanded her to remain; and before she returned to her wilderness, she assembled in the most beautiful palace in the world all the pleasures and sports she had long banished, and composed from them a Court for Young and Handsome, who in this agreeable company gradually consoled herself for the absence of the Fairy.
All the Kings and Princes who considered themselves worthy of her (and in those days people flattered themselves much less than they do now) came in crowds to the Court of Young and Handsome, and endeavoured by their attentions and their professions to win the heart of so lovely a Princess.
Never had anything equalled the magnificence and amusements of the palace of Young and Handsome. Each day was distinguished by some new entertainment. Everybody composing it was happy, except her lovers, who adored her without hope. She looked with favour upon none; but they saw her daily, and her most indifferent glances were sufficiently attractive to detain them there for ever.
One day Young and Handsome, content with the prosperity and popularity of her reign, wandered into a pleasant wood, followed only by some of her nymphs, the better to enjoy the charm of solitude. Absorbed by agreeable reflections, (what could she think of that would not be agreeable?) she emerged from the wood unconsciously, and walked towards a charming meadow enamelled with thousands of flowers.
Her beautiful eyes were occupied in contemplating a hundred various and pleasing objects, when they lighted in turn on a flock of sheep which was quietly feeding in the meadow on the bank of a little brook that murmured sweetly as it rippled over the pebbles in its path. It was overshadowed by a tuft of trees. A young shepherd, stretched on the grass beside the rivulet, was calmly sleeping; his crook was leaning against a tree, and a pretty dog, which appeared to be more a favourite of its master than the guardian of his flock, lay close to the shepherd.
Young and Handsome approached the brook, and cast her eyes upon the youth. What a beautiful vision! Cupid himself sleeping in the arms of Psyche did not display such charms.
The young Fairy stood gazing, and could not restrain some gestures of admiration, which were quickly succeeded by more tender emotions. The handsome shepherd appeared to be about eighteen, of a commanding form; his brown hair, naturally curling, fell in wavy locks upon his shoulders, and was in perfect harmony with the most charming face in the world. His eyes, closed in slumber, concealed from the Fairy, beneath their lids, new fires reserved by Love to redouble her passion for the shepherd.
Young and Handsome felt her heart agitated by an emotion to which it had hitherto been a stranger, and it was no longer in her power to stir from the spot.
Fairies possess the same privilege as goddesses. They love a shepherd when he is loveable, just as if he were the greatest monarch in the universe. For all classes of mortals are equally beneath them.
Young and Handsome found too much pleasure in her new sensations to endeavour to combat them. She loved fondly, and from that moment only indulged in the happy idea of being loved in return. She did not dare to wake the handsome shepherd, for fear he should remark her agitation; and pleasing herself with the notion of discovering her love for him in a gallant and agreeable manner. She rendered herself invisible to enjoy the astonishment she was about to cause him.
Immediately arose a strain of enchanting music. What an exquisite symphony! It went straight to the heart. The delicious sound awoke Alidor (such was the name of the handsome shepherd), who for some moments imagined he was in an agreeable dream; but what was his surprise when, on rising from the grass on which he had been lying, he found himself attired in the most tasteful and magnificent fashion. The colours of his dress were yellow and grey, laced with silver. His wallet was embroidered all over with the initials of Young and Handsome, and suspended by a band of flowers. His crook was of the most marvellous workmanship, ornamented with precious stones of different colours set in elegant devices. His hat was composed entirely of jonquils and blue hyacinths most ingeniously woven together.
Delighted and astonished at his new attire, he gazed at himself reflected in the neighbouring stream. Young and Handsome, meanwhile, feared an hundred times for him the fate of the beautiful Narcissus.
The wonder of Alidor was still further increased at seeing his sheep covered with silk whiter than snow, in lieu of their ordinary fleeces, and adorned with a thousand knots of ribbons of various colours.
His favourite ewe was more decorated than any of the others. She came skipping over the grass to him, appearing proud of her ornaments.
The shepherd's pretty dog had a golden collar, on which bands of small emeralds formed these four lines:--
Alas! how many fears and doubts alarm
The maiden who on love her hopes would rest;
A look, a word, her youthful heart may charm,
But constancy alone can make it blest.
The handsome shepherd judged by these verses that he was indebted to Love for his agreeable adventure. The sun, by this time, had set. Alidor, absorbed in a delightful reverie, bent his steps towards his cottage. He did not observe any change in its exterior, but he had scarcely crossed the threshold when a delicious fragrance announced to him some agreeable novelty. He found the walls of his little hut hung with a tissue of jasmine and orange flowers. The curtains of his bed were of the same materials, looped up by garlands of pinks and roses. An agreeable atmosphere kept all these flowers perfectly fresh and beautiful.
The floor was of porcelain, on which were represented the stories of all the goddesses who had been in love with shepherds. Alidor observed this;--he was very intelligent. The shepherds of that country were not ordinary shepherds. Some of them were descended from Kings or great Princes, and Alidor could trace his pedigree up to a Sovereign who had long sat on the throne of those realms before they became a portion of the dominions of the Fairies.
Up to this period the handsome shepherd had been insensible to the charms of Love; but he now began to feel, even without having as yet distinguished the particular object, that his young heart burned to surrender itself a prisoner. He was dying with impatience to become acquainted with the Goddess or Fairy who had bestowed upon him such tasteful and beautiful proofs of her affection. He paced his chamber with a sweet anxiety which he had never before experienced. As night fell, an agreeable illumination appeared to shed a new daylight throughout the cottage. The musings of Alidor were interrupted by the sight of a rich and delicate banquet, which was served up to him by invisible hands. "What!" exclaimed the shepherd, smiling; "still new pleasures, and no one to partake them with me?" His little dog attempted to play with him, but he was too much pre-occupied to encourage his gambols.
Alidor seated himself at the table. A little Cupid appeared and presented him with wine in a cup made of one entire diamond. The shepherd made a tolerable supper for the hero of such adventures. He endeavoured to question the little Cupid; but, instead of answering, the boy shot arrows at him, which, the moment they struck, became drops of exquisitely scented water. Alidor comprehended clearly by this sport that the little Cupid was forbidden to explain the mystery. The table disappeared as soon as Alidor had ceased eating, and the little Cupid flew away.
A charming symphony stole upon the ear, awaking a thousand tender sensations in the heart of the young shepherd. His impatience to learn to whom he was indebted for all these pleasures increased every instant, and it was with great joy he heard a voice sing the following words:--
Under what form, Love, wilt thou cast thy dart
At the young shepherd who enthrals my heart?
Once should he know he is the master there,
Will he my form and face account less fair?
Of my affection he will be too sure,
But that may not his love for me secure.
With greater power to charm, my smiles endue,
I need no aid to make me fond or true.
"Appear, thou charming being!" exclaimed the shepherd; "and by your presence crown my happiness. I believe you to be too beautiful to fear that I should ever be faithless."
No answer was returned to this adjuration. The music ceased shortly afterwards; a profound silence reigned in the cottage and invited the shepherd to sweet repose. He threw himself on his bed, but it was some time before he could sleep, agitated as he was by his curiosity and his new-born passion.
The song of the birds awoke him at daybreak. He quitted his cottage and led his pretty flock to the same spot where the preceding day his good fortune had commenced. Scarcely had he seated himself beside the brook, when a canopy, composed of a most brilliant stuff of flame-colour and gold was attached to the branches of the nearest trees to shelter Alidor from the rays of the sun. Some young shepherds and pretty shepherdesses of the neighbourhood arrived at the spot. They were in search of Alidor. His canopy, his flock, and his dress excited in them great astonishment.
They advanced hastily, and eagerly asked him the origin of all these marvels. Alidor smiled at their surprise, and recounted to them what had occurred to him. More than one shepherd felt jealous, and more than one shepherdess reddened with mortification. There were few of the latter in those parts who had not had designs upon the heart of the handsome shepherd, and a goddess or a fairy appeared to them by far too dangerous a rival.
Young and Handsome, who rarely lost sight of her shepherd, endured with considerable impatience the conversation of the shepherdesses. Some amongst them were very charming, and one so lovely that she might be a formidable rival even to a goddess.
The indifference with which Alidor treated them all re-assured the young Fairy. The shepherdesses quitted Alidor reluctantly, and led their flocks further into the meadow.
Shortly after they had departed, leaving only a few shepherds with Alidor, a delicious banquet appeared, set out upon a marble table. Seats of green turf arose around it, and Alidor invited his friends, the shepherds who had come to join him, to share his repast. On seating themselves at the table, they discovered that they were all attired in handsome dresses, though less magnificent than that of Alidor, which at the same moment became dazzling with jewels.
The neighbouring echoes were suddenly awakened by rustic, but graceful, music, and a voice was heard singing the following words:--
Of Alidor, envy the pleasure supreme,
He only could love to this bosom impart;
Ye shepherds, who beauty and worth can esteem,
Do honour to him as the choice of my heart.
The astonishment of the shepherds increased every moment. A troop of young shepherdesses approached the banks of the rivulet. The melody of the music was not so much the attraction which led them to this spot, as the desire to see Alidor. They began to dance beneath the trees, forming an agreeable little bal-champêtre.
The young Fairy, who was present all the time, but invisible, assumed in an instant, with six of her nymphs, the prettiest shepherdesses' dresses that had ever been seen. Their only ornaments were garlands of flowers. Their crooks were adorned with them, and Young and Handsome, with a simple wreath of jonquils, which produced a charming effect in her beautiful black hair, appeared the most enchanting person in the world. The arrival of these fair shepherdesses surprised the whole company. All the beauties of the district felt mortified. There was not a shepherd who did not eagerly exert himself to do the honours of the fête to the new-comers.
Young and Handsome, though unknown to them as a Fairy, did not receive less respect or attract less attention. The sincerest homage is always paid to beauty. Young and Handsome felt flattered by the effect of her charms unaided by the knowledge of her dignity.
As to Alidor, the instant she appeared amongst them, forgetting that the love which a goddess or a fairy bore to him bound him to avoid anything that might be displeasing to her, he flew towards Young and Handsome, and accosting her with the most graceful air in the world:--"Come, beautiful shepherdess," said he, "come and occupy a place more worthy of you. So exquisite a person is too superior to all other beauties to remain mingled with them." He offered his hand, and Young and Handsome, delighted with the sentiments which the sight of her had begun to awaken in the breast of her shepherd, allowed herself to be led by Alidor beneath the canopy which had been attached to the trees as soon as he had arrived at the spot that morning. A troop of young shepherds brought, by his orders, bundles of flowers and branches, and constructed with them a little throne, on which they seated Young and Handsome. Alidor laid himself at her feet. Her nymphs seated themselves near her, and the rest of the party formed a large circle, in which everybody took their places according to their inclinations.
This spot, adorned with so much beauty, presented the most agreeable spectacle in the world. The murmur of the brook mingled with the music, and it seemed as if all the birds in the neighbourhood had assembled there to take their parts in the concert. A great number of shepherds advanced, in separate groups, to pay their court to Young and Handsome. One amongst them, named Iphis, approaching the young Fairy, said to her, "However distinguished may be the place Alidor has induced you to accept, it is one, perhaps, very dangerous to occupy." "I believe so," answered the Fairy, with a smile that had power to captivate all hearts. "The shepherdesses of this village will find it difficult to forgive me the preference which Alidor appears to have accorded to me amongst so many beauties more deserving of it." "No," rejoined Iphis; "our shepherdesses will be more just; but Alidor is beloved by a goddess." And thereupon Iphis related to Young and Handsome the adventure which had befallen the beautiful shepherd. When he had finished his story, the young Fairy, turning towards Alidor with a gracious air, said to him, "I do not desire to provoke so terrible an enemy as the goddess by whom you are beloved. Evidently she did not intend me to occupy this position, and therefore I resign it to her."
She rose as she said these words, but Alidor, gazing fondly upon her, exclaimed, "Stay, lovely shepherdess; there is no goddess whose love I would not sacrifice for the delight of adoring you; and she of whom Iphis speaks is not over wise, at least in matters of the heart, since she has permitted me to behold you!" Young and Handsome could not make any reply to Alidor. The shepherds at that moment came to request her to dance, and never was more grace displayed than on this occasion. Alidor was her partner, who surpassed himself. Never had the most magnificent fêtes at the Court of Young and Handsome afforded her so much pleasure as this rural entertainment. Love embellishes every spot in which we behold the object of our affections. Alidor felt his passion increasing every instant, and made a thousand vows to sacrifice all the goddesses and fairies in the world to the ardent love with which his shepherdess had inspired him. Young and Handsome was delighted with the evident attachment of the beautiful shepherd; but she wished to make a momentary trial of his affection. Iphis was amiable, and, if Alidor had not been present, would no doubt have been much admired. The young Fairy spoke to him twice or thrice very graciously, and danced several times with him.
Alidor burned with a jealousy as intense as his love. Young and Handsome observed it, and feeling more sure of her shepherd's heart, she ceased paining it, spoke no more to Iphis during the rest of the day, and bestowed on Alidor her most encouraging glances. Heavens! what glances! they would have filled the most insensible hearts with love.
Evening having arrived, the lovely company separated with regret. A thousand sighs followed Young and Handsome, who forbade any of the shepherds to accompany her; but she promised Alidor, in a few brief words, that he should see her again in the meadows the next morning. She departed, followed by her nymphs and watched by the shepherds, who were in hopes that, by following her at a distance, they might discover, without her perceiving them, the village to which these divine beings belonged; but the moment that Young and Handsome had entered a little wood which concealed her from the sight of the shepherds, she rendered herself and her nymphs invisible, and they amused themselves for some time in seeing the shepherds vainly endeavouring to trace the road they had taken. Young and Handsome observed with pleasure that Alidor was amongst the most eager of the party.
Iphis was in despair that he had not followed them closely enough, and several of the shepherds, who had been captivated by the nymphs, passed half of the night in hunting the woods and the neighbourhood. Some authors have asserted that the nymphs, following the example of the young Fairy, thought some of these shepherds more charming than all the kings they had ever seen in their lives.
Young and Handsome returned to her palace, and, although a Fairy, always occupied by a thousand different affairs, might absent herself without causing much surprise, she found all her lovers exceedingly uneasy at not having seen her the whole day, but not one of them ventured to reproach her for it. It was necessary to be a very submissive and respectful suitor in the palace of Young and Handsome, or she would speedily issue an order for him to quit her Court. Her admirers did not even dare to speak to her of their passion. It was only by their attentions, their respect, and their constancy, that they could hope eventually to touch her heart.
Young and Handsome appeared little interested in what was passing around. She ate scarcely any supper, fell into frequent fits of musing, and the princes, her lovers, attentive to all her actions, imagined that they heard her sigh several times. She dismissed all the Court very early, and retired to her apartments.
When one is looking forward to a meeting with those we love, everything that presents itself in the interim appears very poor and very troublesome.
The young Fairy, with the nymphs who had followed her all the day, concealed in a cloud, were transported in an instant to the hut of the handsome shepherd. He had returned to it, very much vexed at not being able to ascertain the road his divine shepherdess had taken. Everything in his cottage was as charming as when he had left it; but as in musing he cast his eyes upon the floor of his little chamber, he perceived a change in it. In lieu of paintings from the stories of goddesses who had been in love with shepherds, he perceived the subjects were composed of terrible examples of unfortunate lovers who had proved unworthy of the affection of those divinities.
"You are right," exclaimed the handsome shepherd, on observing these little pictures; "you are right, Goddess. I deserve your anger; but wherefore did you permit so lovely a shepherdess to present herself to my sight? Alas! what divinity could defend a heart from the effects of such charms!" Young and Handsome had arrived in the cottage when Alidor uttered these words. She felt all the tenderness of them, and her affection was redoubled by them.
As on the previous day, a magnificent repast appeared, but Alidor did not enjoy it as he did the first. He was in love, and even a little jealous; for it often recurred to him that his shepherdess had spoken with some interest to Iphis. The promise, however, that she had made him, that he should see her the next day in the meadow, soothed a little his vexation.
The little Cupid waited on him during his repast, but Alidor, occupied by his new anxiety, spoke not a word to him. The table disappeared, and the child, approaching Alidor, presented him with two magnificent miniature cases, and then flew away.
The handsome shepherd opened one of the cases hastily. It contained the portrait of a young female of such perfect beauty, that imagination can scarcely conceive it. Under this marvellous miniature was written, in letters of gold--
"Thy happiness depends on her affection."
"One must have seen my shepherdess," said Alidor, gazing on this beautiful portrait, "not to be enchanted by so lovely a person." He closed the case, and flung it carelessly on a table.
He then opened the other case which the little Cupid had given to him; but what was his astonishment at the sight of the portrait of his shepherdess, resplendent with all the charms that had made so lively an impression on his heart!
She was painted as he had seen her that very day--her hair dressed with flowers, and the little that appeared of her dress was that of a shepherdess. The handsome shepherd was so transported with his love, that he gazed on it for a long time without perceiving that the following words were written beneath the portrait:--
"Forget her attractions, or thy love will be fatal to thee."
"Alas!" exclaimed Alidor, "without her could there be any happiness?" This ecstasy delighted Young and Handsome. The beautiful face he had contemplated unmoved was only a fancy portrait. The young Fairy was desirous of ascertaining whether her shepherd would prefer her to so beautiful a person, and who appeared to be a goddess or a fairy.
Convinced of the love of Alidor, she returned to her palace, after having assembled her nymphs by a signal that had been agreed upon. It was the illumination of the sky by some harmless lightning, and since that time such is often to be seen on a summer evening, unaccompanied by thunder. The nymphs rejoined her: they had also desired to hear something more of their lovers. Some of them were sufficiently pleased. They had found their swains occupied with recollections of them, and speaking of them with ardour, but others were less satisfied with the effect of their beauty. They found their shepherds fast asleep. A man may sometimes appear very much in love during the day, who is not sufficiently so for his passion to keep him awake all night.
The young Fairy retired to rest as soon as she arrived at her palace, charmed with the sincere affection of her shepherd. She had no other anxiety than the agreeable one arising from her impatience to see him again. As to Alidor, he slept a little, and without alarming himself at the warnings which he had read beneath the two miniatures. He thought only of returning to the meadow: he hoped to see his shepherdess there during the day. It seemed to him that he could not get there soon enough.
He led his charming flock to the fortunate spot where he had seen Young and Handsome; his pretty dog took good care of it. The comely shepherd could think of nothing but his shepherdess.
Young and Handsome was, much against her will, occupied that morning receiving the ambassadors of several neighbouring monarchs. Never were audiences so short; yet, notwithstanding, a considerable portion of the day passed in the performance of these tiresome ceremonies. The young Fairy suffered as much as her shepherd, whose keen impatience caused him a thousand torments.
The sun had set. Alidor had no longer any hope of seeing his shepherdess that day. How great was his grief!
He deplored his fate. He sighed incessantly. He made verses on her absence, and with the ferrule of his crook engraved them on the trunk of a young elm.
You on whom Venus looks with envious eyes,
While round your steps her truant Graces play,--
You on whose glances Cupid so relies
That he has thrown all other darts away;
How wretched in your absence must I be
Who prize you ev'ry earthly bliss above!--
And yet my sorrow has a charm for me,
Its gloom is but the shadow of my love.
As he finished carving these lines, Young and Handsome appeared in the meadow at a distance, with her nymphs all still attired as shepherdesses. Alidor recognised her a long way off. He ran--he flew towards Young and Handsome, who received him with a smile so charming, that it would have increased the felicity of the gods themselves.
He told his love to her with an ardour capable of persuading a heart less tenderly inclined towards him than that of the young Fairy. She desired to see what he had carved on the tree, and was charmed with the talent and affection of her shepherd. He related to her all that happened to him the preceding evening, and offered a thousand times to follow her to the end of the world to fly from the love which a goddess or a fairy had unfortunately conceived for him. "My loss would be too great should you fly from that fairy," replied Young and Handsome, in her sweetest manner. "It is no longer necessary for me to disguise my sentiments from you, as I am convinced of the sincerity of yours. It is I, Alidor!" continued the charming Fairy--"It is I who have given you these proofs of an affection which, if you continue faithful to me, will ensure your happiness and mine for ever!"
The handsome shepherd, transported with love and joy, flung himself at her feet, his silence appeared more eloquent to the young Fairy than the most finished oration. She bade him rise, and he found himself superbly attired. The Fairy then touching the ground with her crook, there appeared a magnificent car, drawn by twelve white horses of surpassing beauty. They were harnessed four abreast. Young and Handsome stepped into the car, and caused the comely shepherd to take his seat beside her. Her nymphs found room in it also, and as soon as they had all taken their places, the beautiful horses, who had no occasion for a driver to intimate to them the intentions of their mistress, swiftly conveyed the whole party to a favourite château belonging to the young Fairy. She had adorned it with everything that her art could furnish her with in the way of wonders. It was called the Castle of Flowers, and was the most charming residence in the world.
The young Fairy and her happy lover arrived with the attendant nymphs in a spacious court-yard, the walls of which were formed out of thick hedges of jasmines and lemon-trees. They were only breast-high. Beneath them ran a lovely river, which encompassed the court-yard; beyond it a charming grove, and then fields stretching as far as the eye could see, through which the said river made a thousand windings, as unwilling to quit so beautiful a home.
The castle was more to be admired for its architecture than for its size. It contained twelve apartments, each of which had its peculiar beauty. They were very spacious; but there was not room enough in them for the residence of Young and Handsome, and all her Court, which was the most numerous and magnificent in the universe. The young Fairy used this castle but as a place of retreat. She was accompanied thither generally by only her most favourite nymphs and the officers of her household.
She led the shepherd into the Myrtle Room. All the furniture was made of myrtles in continual blossom, interlaced with an art that displayed the power and good taste of the young Fairy, even in the most simple things. All the rooms in the castle were furnished in the same manner, with flowers only. The air breathed in them was always fragrant and pure.
Young and Handsome, by her power, had banished for ever from the spot the rigours of winter, and if the heats of summer were ever permitted to penetrate these agreeable bowers, it was only to render more enjoyable the beautiful baths attached to the building, which were delicious.
The apartment was of white and blue porphyry, exquisitely sculptured; the baths being of the most curious and agreeable forms. That in which Young and Handsome bathed, was made out of a single topaz, and placed on a platform in an alcove of porcelain. Four columns, composed of amethysts of the most perfect beauty, supported a canopy of magnificent yellow and silver brocade, embroidered with pearls. Alidor, absorbed by the happiness of beholding the charming Fairy, and remarking her affection for him, scarcely noticed all these marvels.
A delightful and tender conversation detained these happy lovers for a long time in the Myrtle Room. A splendid supper was served in the Jonquil Saloon. An elegant entertainment followed. The nymphs acted to music the loves of Diana and Endymion.
Young and Handsome forgot to return to her palace, and passed the night in the Narcissus Chamber. Alidor, entranced with love, was long before he tasted the sweets of slumber in the Myrtle Room, to which he was conducted by the nymphs, on the termination of the entertainment. Young and Handsome, who forbore to use her power to calm such agreeable emotions, also laid awake till nearly daybreak.
Alidor, impatient to behold again the charming Fairy, awaited the happy moment for some time in the Jonquil Saloon. He had neglected nothing in his attire which could add a grace to his natural attractions. Young and Handsome appeared a thousand times more lovely than Venus. She passed a part of the day with Alidor and the nymphs in the garden of the castle, the beauties of which surpassed the most marvellous description. There was an agreeable little fête champêtre in a delicious grove, wherein Alidor, during a favourable opportunity, had the sweet pleasure of professing his ardent love to Young and Handsome.
She desired, that same evening, to return to her palace; but promised Alidor to come back to him the next day. Never has an absence of a few hours been honoured by so many regrets. The handsome shepherd passionately desired to follow the young Fairy, but she commanded him to remain in the Castle of Flowers. She wished to hide her attachment from the eyes of all her Court. No one entered this castle without her order, and she had no fear that her nymphs would disclose her secret. The secrets of a Fairy are always safe. They are never divulged; the punishment would follow the offence too swiftly.
Young and Handsome asked Alidor for the pretty dog which had always followed him, that she might take it with her. Everything is dear to us that pleases those we love.
After the departure of the young Fairy, the shepherd, to indulge in his anxiety, rather than to dissipate it, plunged deeper into the woods to muse on his adorable mistress. In a little meadow, enamelled with flowers, and watered by an agreeable spring, which arose near the middle of the wood, he perceived his flock gambolling in the grass. It was watched by six young female slaves, with handsome features, dressed in blue and gold, with golden chains and collars. His favourite sheep recognised her master and ran to him. Alidor caressed her, and was deeply touched by the attentions of Young and Handsome to everything which concerned him.
The young slaves showed Alidor their hut. It was not far from the spot, at the end of a beautiful and very shady alley. This little dwelling was built of cedar. The initials of Young and Handsome and Alidor entwined together, appeared in every part of it, formed with the rarest woods. The following inscription was written in letters of gold upon a large turquoise:--
Let the flock of him I love
In these meads for ever rove.
By that Shepherd loved, the lot
Of the Gods I envy not.
The handsome shepherd returned to the Castle of Flowers, enchanted by the kindness of the young Fairy. He declined any entertainment that evening. When absent from those we love, what care we for amusements!
Young and Handsome returned the next day, as she had promised, to her happy lover. What joy was theirs to behold each other again! All the power of the young Fairy had never procured for her so much felicity.
She passed nearly all her time at the Castle of Flowers, and rarely now appeared at Court. In vain did the princes, her suitors, grieve almost to death at her absence, everything was sacrificed to the fortunate Alidor.
But could so sweet a happiness last long untroubled? Another Fairy, besides Young and Handsome, had seen the beautiful shepherd, and felt her heart also touched by his charms.
One evening that Young and Handsome had gone to show herself for a few moments to her Court, Alidor, engrossed by his passion, sat deeply musing in the Jonquil Saloon, when his attention was awakened by a slight noise at one of the windows, and on looking towards it he perceived a brilliant light, and the next moment he saw on a table, near which he was seated, a little creature about half a yard high, very old, with hair whiter than snow, a standing collar, and an old-fashioned farthingale. "I am the Fairy Mordicante," said she to the handsome shepherd; "and I come to announce to thee a much greater happiness than that of being beloved by Young and Handsome." "What can that be?" inquired Alidor, with a contemptuous air. "The gods have none more perfect for themselves!" "It is that of pleasing me," replied the old Fairy, haughtily. "I love thee, and my power is far greater than that of Young and Handsome, and almost equals that of the Gods. Abandon that young Fairy for me. I will revenge thee on thine enemies, and on all whom thou wouldst injure."
"Thy favours are useless to me," answered the young shepherd, with a smile; "I have no enemies, and I would injure no one; I am too well satisfied with my own lot; and if the charming Fairy I adore were but a simple shepherdess, I could be as happy with her in a cottage as I am now in the loveliest palace in the world." At these words the wicked Fairy became suddenly as tall and as large as she had hitherto been diminutive, and disappeared making a horrible noise.
The next morning, Young and Handsome returned to the Castle of Flowers. Alidor related his adventure. They both knew the Fairy Mordicante. She was very aged, had always been ugly, and exceedingly susceptible. Young and Handsome and her happy lover made a thousand jokes upon her passion, and never for a moment felt the least uneasiness as to the consequences of her fury.
Can one be a happy lover and think of future misfortunes?
A week afterwards, Young and Handsome and the lovely shepherd took an excursion in a fine barge, gilt all over, on the beautiful river which encircled the Castle of Flowers, followed by all their little Court in the prettiest boats in the world. The barge of Young and Handsome was shaded by a canopy formed of a light blue and silver tissue. The dresses of the rowers were of the same material. Other small boats, filled with excellent musicians, accompanied the happy lovers, and performed some agreeable airs. Alidor, more enamoured than ever, could gaze on nothing but Young and Handsome, whose beauty appeared that day more charming than can be described.
In the midst of their enjoyment they saw twelve Syrens rise out of the water, and a moment afterwards twelve Tritons appeared, and joining the Syrens, encircled with them the little barque of Young and Handsome. The Tritons played some extraordinary airs on their shells, and the Syrens sang some graceful melodies, which for a while entertained the young Fairy and the beautiful shepherd. Young and Handsome, who was accustomed to wonders, imagined that it was some pageant which had been prepared by those whose duty it was to contribute to her pleasure by inventing new entertainments; but all on a sudden these perfidious Tritons and Syrens, laying hold of the young Fairy's boat, dragged it under water.
The only danger which Alidor feared was that which threatened the young Fairy. He attempted to swim to her, but the Tritons carried him off despite his resistance, and Young and Handsome, borne away by the Syrens in the meanwhile, was transported into her palace.
One Fairy having no power over another, the jealous Mordicante was compelled to limit her vengeance to the making Young and Handsome endure all the misery so cruel a bereavement would necessarily occasion. In the meanwhile Alidor was conveyed by the Tritons to a terrible castle guarded by winged dragons. It was there that Mordicante had determined to make herself beloved by the beautiful shepherd, or to be revenged on him for his disdain. He was placed in a very dark chamber. Mordicante, blazing with the most beautiful jewels in the world, appeared to him, and professed her affection for him. The shepherd, exasperated at being torn from Young and Handsome, treated the wicked Fairy with all the contempt she deserved. What could equal the rage of Mordicante? But her love was still too violent to permit her to destroy the object of it. After detaining Alidor several days in this frightful prison, she resolved to endeavour to conquer the faithful shepherd by new artifices. She transported him suddenly to a magnificent palace. He was served with a sumptuousness which had not been exceeded in the Castle of Flowers. Endeavours were made to dissipate his grief by a thousand agreeable entertainments, and the most beautiful nymphs in the universe, who composed his Court, appeared to dispute with each other the honour of pleasing him. Not a word more was said to him respecting the passion of the wicked Fairy; but the faithful shepherd languished in the midst of luxury, and was in no less despair at his separation from Young and Handsome, when witnessing the gayest entertainments, than he had been whilst immured in his dreadful prison.
Mordicante trusted, however, that the absence of Young and Handsome, the continual round of pleasures provided for Alidor's amusement, and the presence of so many charming women, would at length overcome the fidelity of the shepherd; and her object in surrounding him with so many beautiful nymphs, was but to take herself the figure of the one which might most attract his attention. With this view, she mingled amongst them in disguise, sometimes appearing as the most charming brunette, and at others as the fairest beauty in the universe.
Love, who is all-powerful in human hearts, had subdued for a time her natural cruelty; but desperation at being unable to shake the constancy of Alidor re-awakened her fury so powerfully, that she determined to destroy the charming shepherd, and make him the victim of the faithful love he cherished for Young and Handsome. One day, without being seen, she was watching him in a beautiful gallery, the windows of which opened upon the sea; Alidor, leaning over a balustrade, mused in silence for a considerable time. But, at length, after a heavy sigh, he uttered such tender and touching lamentations, depicting so vividly his passion for the young Fairy, that Mordicante, transported with fury, appeared to him in her natural shape; and, after having loaded him with reproaches, caused him to be carried back to his prison, and announced to him that in three days he should be sacrificed to her hatred, and that the most cruel tortures should avenge her slighted affection.
Alidor regretted not the loss of a life which had become insupportable to him, deprived of Young and Handsome; and satisfied that he had nothing to fear on her account from the wrath of Mordicante, the power of the young Fairy being equal to hers, he calmly awaited the death he had been doomed to.
In the meanwhile, Young and Handsome, as faithful as her shepherd, mourned over his loss. The Syrens who had wafted her back to her palace had disappeared as soon as their task was accomplished, and the young Fairy was convinced that it was the cruel Mordicante who had bereft her of Alidor. The excess of her grief proclaimed at the same time to all her Court, her love for the young shepherd, and her loss of him.
How many monarchs were envious of the misery even into which the wicked Fairy had precipitated Alidor? What vexation for these enamoured princes to learn that they had a beloved rival, and to behold Young and Handsome occupied only in weeping for this fortunate mortal! His loss, however, revived their hopes. They had discovered at last that Young and Handsome could feel as well as inspire affection. They redoubled their attentions. Each flattered himself with the sweet hope to occupy some day the place of that fortunate lover; but Young and Handsome, inconsolable for the absence of Alidor, and worried by the advances of his rivals, abandoned her Court, and retired to the Castle of Flowers. The sight of those charming scenes, where everything recalled to her heart the recollection of the lovely shepherd, increased her melancholy and her affection.
One day, as she was walking in her beautiful gardens, and gazing on the various objects with which they were adorned, she exclaimed aloud, "Alas! ye were formerly my delight; but I am now too much absorbed by my sorrow to take any further interest in your embellishment." As she ceased speaking, she heard the murmur of a gentle breeze that, agitating the flowers of this beautiful garden, arranged them instantaneously in various forms. First, they represented the initials of Young and Handsome; then those of another name, which she was not acquainted with; and a moment afterwards, they formed distinctly entire words, and Young and Handsome, astonished at this novelty, read these verses, written in so singular a fashion:--
Bid fond Zephyr tend thy bowers,
At his breath awake the flowers.
Thus for Flora, every morn,
Doth he mead and grove adorn.
How much more his pride 'twould be,
Fairer Nymph, to sigh for thee!
Young and Handsome was pondering on these verses, when she saw the Deity named in them appear in the air, and hasten to declare his passion to her. He was in a little car of roses, drawn by a hundred white canary birds, harnessed ten and ten, with strings of pearl. The car approached the earth, and Zephyr descended from it close to the young Fairy. He addressed her with all the eloquence of a very charming and very gallant Divinity; but the young Fairy, in lieu of feeling flattered by so brilliant a conquest, replied to him like a faithful lover. Zephyr was not disheartened by the coldness of Young and Handsome. He hoped to soften her by his attentions. He paid his court to her most assiduously, and neglected nothing that he thought could please her.
The glory of Alidor was now complete. He had a God for his rival, and was preferred to him by Young and Handsome.
Nevertheless, this fortunate mortal was on the point of being destroyed by the fury of Mordicante. A year had nearly elapsed since the young Fairy and the beautiful shepherd had been torn from each other, when Zephyr, who had given up all hopes of shaking the constancy of Young and Handsome, and was moved by the tears which he saw her unceasingly shed for the loss of Alidor, exclaimed one day, on finding her more depressed than usual, "Since it is no longer possible for me to flatter myself, charming Fairy, that I shall ever have the good fortune to gain your affections, I am desirous of contributing at least to your felicity. What can I do to make you happy?"
"To make me happy," replied Young and Handsome, with a look so full of tenderness that it was enough to revive all the love of Zephyr, "you must restore to me my Alidor. I am powerless against another Fairy, but you, Zephyr, you are a God, and can destroy all the spells of my cruel rival!" "I will endeavour," rejoined Zephyr, "to subdue the tender sentiments you have inspired me with sufficiently to enable me to render you an agreeable service." So saying, he flew away, leaving Young and Handsome to indulge in a sweet hope. Zephyr did not deceive her. He was not in the habit of loving for any length of time, without the certainty of eventual success; and it was evident to him that the young Fairy was too constant for him to hope that he could ever make her forget Alidor; he therefore flew to the horrible prison where the beautiful shepherd awaited nothing less than death. An impetuous wind, swelled by six northern breezes, that had accompanied Zephyr, blew open in an instant the gates of the dungeon, and the beautiful shepherd, enveloped in a very brilliant cloud, was wafted to the Castle of Flowers.
Zephyr, after he had seen Alidor, was less surprised at the constancy of Young and Handsome; but he did not make himself visible to the shepherd until he had restored him to the charming Fairy.
Who could describe the perfect joy of Alidor and Young and Handsome at seeing each other once more? How lovely each appeared, and how fondly was each beloved! What thanks did not these fortunate lovers render to the Deity who had secured their happiness. He left them shortly afterwards to return to Flora.
Young and Handsome was anxious that all her Court should share in her felicity. They celebrated it by a thousand festivities throughout her empire, despite the vexation of the princes, her less fortunate lovers, who were the spectators of the triumphs of the beautiful shepherd.
In order to have nothing more to fear for Alidor from the wrath of Mordicante, Young and Handsome taught him the Fairy Art, and presented him with the gift of continual youth. Having thus provided for his happiness, she next considered his glory. She gave him the Castle of Flowers, and caused him to be acknowledged king of that beautiful country, over which his ancestors had formerly reigned. Alidor became the greatest monarch in the universe, on the same spot where he had been the most charming shepherd. He loaded all his old friends with favours; and, retaining for ever his charms, as well as Young and Handsome, we are assured that they loved each other eternally, and that Hymen would not disturb a passion which formed the happiness of their existence.