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Prince Featherhead And The Princess Celandine

from The Green Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived a King and Queen, who were the best
creatures in the world, and so kind-hearted that they could not
bear to see their subjects want for anything. The consequence was
that they gradually gave away all their treasures, till they
positively had nothing left to live upon; and this coming to the
ears of their neighbour, King Bruin, he promptly raised a large
army and marched into their country. The poor King, having no
means of defending his kingdom, was forced to disguise himself
with a false beard, and carrying his only son, the little Prince
Featherhead, in his arms, and accompanied only by the Queen, to
make the best of his way into the wild country. They were lucky
enough to escape the soldiers of King Bruin, and at last, after
unheard-of fatigues and adventures, they found themselves in a
charming green valley, through which flowed a stream clear as
crystal and overshadowed by beautiful trees. As they looked round
them with delight, a voice said suddenly: 'Fish, and see what you
will catch.' Now the King had always loved fishing, and never went
anywhere without a fish-hook or two in his pocket, so he drew one
out hastily, and the Queen lent him her girdle to fasten it to,
and it had hardly touched the water before it caught a big fish,
which made them an excellent meal--and not before they needed it,
for they had found nothing until then but a few wild berries and
roots. They thought that for the present they could not do better
than stay in this delightful place, and the King set to work, and
soon built a bower of branches to shelter them; and when it was
finished the Queen was so charmed with it that she declared
nothing was lacking to complete her happiness but a flock of
sheep, which she and the little Prince might tend while the King
fished. They soon found that the fish were not only abundant and
easily caught, but also very beautiful, with glittering scales of
every imaginable hue; and before long the King discovered that he
could teach them to talk and whistle better than any parrot. Then
he determined to carry some to the nearest town and try to sell
them; and as no one had ever before seen any like them the people
flocked about him eagerly and bought all he had caught, so that
presently not a house in the city was considered complete without
a crystal bowl full of fish, and the King's customers were very
particular about having them to match the rest of the furniture,
and gave him a vast amount of trouble in choosing them. However,
the money he obtained in this way enabled him to buy the Queen her
flock of sheep, as well as many of the other things which go to
make life pleasant, so that they never once regretted their lost
kingdom. Now it happened that the Fairy of the Beech-Woods lived
in the lovely valley to which chance had led the poor fugitives,
and it was she who had, in pity for their forlorn condition, sent
the King such good luck to his fishing, and generally taken them
under her protection. This she was all the more inclined to do as
she loved children, and little Prince Featherhead, who never cried
and grew prettier day by day, quite won her heart. She made the
acquaintance of the King and the Queen without at first letting
them know that she was a fairy, and they soon took a great fancy
to her, and even trusted her with the precious Prince, whom she
carried off to her palace, where she regaled him with cakes and
tarts and every other good thing. This was the way she chose of
making him fond of her; but afterwards, as he grew older, she
spared no pains in educating and training him as a prince should
be trained. But unfortunately, in spite of all her care, he grew
so vain and frivolous that he quitted his peaceful country life in
disgust, and rushed eagerly after all the foolish gaieties of the
neighbouring town, where his handsome face and charming manners
speedily made him popular. The King and Queen deeply regretted
this alteration in their son, but did not know how to mend
matters, since the good old Fairy had made him so self-willed.

Just at this time the Fairy of the Beech-Woods received a visit
from an old friend of hers called Saradine, who rushed into her
house so breathless with rage that she could hardly speak.

'Dear, dear! what is the matter?' said the Fairy of the Beech-
Woods soothingly.

'The matter!' cried Saradine. 'You shall soon hear all about it.
You know that, not content with endowing Celandine, Princess of
the Summer Islands, with everything she could desire to make her
charming, I actually took the trouble to bring her up myself; and
now what does she do but come to me with more coaxings and
caresses than usual to beg a favour. And what do you suppose this
favour turns out to be--when I have been cajoled into promising to
grant it? Nothing more nor less than a request that I will take
back all my gifts--"since," says my young madam, "if I have the
good fortune to please you, how am I to know that it is really I,
myself? And that's how it will be all my life long, whenever I
meet anybody. You see what a weariness my life will be to me under
these circumstances, and yet I assure you I am not ungrateful to
you for all your kindness!" I did all I could,' continued
Saradine, 'to make her think better of it, but in vain; so after
going through the usual ceremony for taking back my gifts, I'm
come to you for a little peace and quietness. But, after all, I
have not taken anything of consequence from this provoking
Celandine. Nature had already made her so pretty, and given her
such a ready wit of her own, that she will do perfectly well
without me. However, I thought she deserved a little lesson, so to
begin with I have whisked her off into the desert, and there left

'What! all alone, and without any means of existence?' cried the
kind-hearted old Fairy. 'You had better hand her over to me. I
don't think so very badly of her after all. I'll just cure her
vanity by making her love someone better than herself. Really,
when I come to consider of it, I declare the little minx has shown
more spirit and originality in the matter than one expects of a

Saradine willingly consented to this arrangement, and the old
Fairy's first care was to smooth away all the difficulties which
surrounded the Princess, and lead her by the mossy path overhung
with trees to the bower of the King and Queen, who still pursued
their peaceful life in the valley.

They were immensely surprised at her appearance, but her charming
face, and the deplorably ragged condition to which the thorns and
briers had reduced her once elegant attire, speedily won their
compassion; they recognised her as a companion in misfortune, and
the Queen welcomed her heartily, and begged her to share their
simple repast. Celandine gracefully accepted their hospitality,
and soon told them what had happened to her. The King was charmed
with her spirit, while the Queen thought she had indeed been
daring thus to go against the Fairy's wishes.

'Since it has ended in my meeting you,' said the Princess, 'I
cannot regret the step I have taken, and if you will let me stay
with you, I shall be perfectly happy.'

The King and Queen were only too delighted to have this charming
Princess to supply the place of Prince Featherhead, whom they saw
but seldom, since the Fairy had provided him with a palace in the
neighbouring town, where he lived in the greatest luxury, and did
nothing but amuse himself from morning to night. So Celandine
stayed, and helped the Queen to keep house, and very soon they
loved her dearly. When the Fairy of the Beech-Woods came to them,
they presented the Princess to her, and told her story, little
thinking that the Fairy knew more about Celandine than they did.
The old Fairy was equally delighted with her, and often invited
her to visit her Leafy Palace, which was the most enchanting place
that could be imagined, and full of treasures. Often she would say
to the Princess, when showing her some wonderful thing:

'This will do for a wedding gift some day.' And Celandine could
not help thinking that it was to her that the Fairy meant to give
the two blue wax-torches which burned without ever getting
smaller, or the diamond from which more diamonds were continually
growing, or the boat that sailed under water, or whatever
beautiful or wonderful thing they might happen to be looking at.
It is true that she never said so positively, but she certainly
allowed the Princess to believe it, because she thought a little
disappointment would be good for her. But the person she really
relied upon for curing Celandine of her vanity was Prince
Featherhead. The old Fairy was not at all pleased with the way he
had been going on for some time, but her heart was so soft towards
him that she was unwilling to take him away from the pleasures he
loved, except by offering him something better, which is not the
most effectual mode of correction, though it is without doubt the
most agreeable.

However, she did not even hint to the Princess that Featherhead
was anything but absolutely perfect, and talked of him so much
that when at last she announced that he was coming to visit her,
Celandine made up her mind that this delightful Prince would be
certain to fall in love with her at once, and was quite pleased at
the idea. The old Fairy thought so too, but as this was not at all
what she wished, she took care to throw such an enchantment over
the Princess that she appeared to Featherhead quite ugly and
awkward, though to every one else she looked just as usual. So
when he arrived at the Leafy Palace, more handsome and fascinating
even than ever she had been led to expect, he hardly so much as
glanced at the Princess, but bestowed all his attention upon the
old Fairy, to whom he seemed to have a hundred things to say. The
Princess was immensely astonished at his indifference, and put on
a cold and offended air, which, however, he did not seem to
observe. Then as a last resource she exerted all her wit and
gaiety to amuse him, but with no better success, for he was of an
age to be more attracted by beauty than by anything else, and
though he responded politely enough, it was evident that his
thoughts were elsewhere. Celandine was deeply mortified, since for
her part the Prince pleased her very well, and for the first time
she bitterly regretted the fairy gifts she had been anxious to get
rid of. Prince Featherhead was almost equally puzzled, for he had
heard nothing from the King and Queen but the praises of this
charming Princess, and the fact that they had spoken of her as so
very beautiful only confirmed his opinion that people who live in
the country have no taste. He talked to them of his charming
acquaintances in the town, the beauties he had admired, did
admire, or thought he was going to admire, until Celandine, who
heard it all, was ready to cry with vexation. The Fairy too was
quite shocked at his conceit, and hit upon a plan for curing him
of it. She sent to him by an unknown messenger a portrait of
Princess Celandine as she really was, with this inscription: 'All
this beauty and sweetness, with a loving heart and a great
kingdom, might have been yours but for your well-known

This message made a great impression upon the Prince, but not so
much as the portrait. He positively could not tear his eyes away
from it, and exclaimed aloud that never, never had he seen
anything so lovely and so graceful. Then he began to think that it
was too absurd that he, the fascinating Featherhead, should fall
in love with a portrait; and, to drive away the recollections of
its haunting eyes, he rushed back to the town; but somehow
everything seemed changed. The beauties no longer pleased him,
their witty speeches had ceased to amuse; and indeed, for their
parts, they found the Prince far less amiable than of yore, and
were not sorry when he declared that, after all, a country life
suited him best, and went back to the Leafy Palace. Meanwhile, the
Princess Celandine had been finding the time pass but slowly with
the King and Queen, and was only too pleased when Featherhead
reappeared. She at once noticed the change in him, and was deeply
curious to find the reason of it. Far from avoiding her, he now
sought her company and seemed to take pleasure in talking to her,
and yet the Princess did not for a moment flatter herself with the
idea that he was in love with her, though it did not take her long
to decide that he certainly loved someone. But one day the
Princess, wandering sadly by the river, spied Prince Featherhead
fast asleep in the shade of a tree, and stole nearer to enjoy the
delight of gazing at his dear face unobserved. Judge of her
astonishment when she saw that he was holding in his hand a
portrait of herself! In vain did she puzzle over the apparent
contradictoriness of his behaviour. Why did he cherish her
portrait while he was so fatally indifferent to herself? At last
she found an opportunity of asking him the name of the Princess
whose picture he carried about with him always.

'Alas! how can I tell you?' replied he.

'Why should you not?' said the Princess timidly. 'Surely there is
nothing to prevent you.'

'Nothing to prevent me!' repeated he, 'when my utmost efforts have
failed to discover the lovely original. Should I be so sad if I
could but find her? But I do not even know her name.'

More surprised than ever, the Princess asked to be allowed to see
the portrait, and after examining it for a few minutes returned
it, remarking shyly that at least the original had every cause to
be satisfied with it.

'That means that you consider it flattered,' said the Prince
severely. 'Really, Celandine, I thought better of you, and should
have expected you to be above such contemptible jealousy. But all
women are alike!'

'Indeed, I meant only that it was a good likeness,' said the
Princess meekly.

'Then you know the original,' cried the Prince, throwing himself
on his knees beside her. 'Pray tell me at once who it is, and
don't keep me in suspense!'

'Oh! don't you see that it is meant for me?' cried Celandine.

The Prince sprang to his feet, hardly able to refrain from telling
her that she must be blinded by vanity to suppose she resembled
the lovely portrait even in the slightest degree; and after gazing
at her for an instant with icy surprise, turned and left her
without another word, and in a few hours quitted the Leafy Palace

Now the Princess was indeed unhappy, and could no longer bear to
stay in a place where she had been so cruelly disdained. So,
without even bidding farewell to the King and Queen, she left the
valley behind her, and wandered sadly away, not caring whither.
After walking until she was weary, she saw before her a tiny
house, and turned her slow steps towards it. The nearer she
approached the more miserable it appeared, and at length she saw a
little old woman sitting upon the door-step, who said grimly:

'Here comes one of these fine beggars who are too idle to do
anything but run about the country!'

'Alas! madam,' said Celandine, with tears in her pretty eyes, 'a
sad fate forces me to ask you for shelter.'

'Didn't I tell you what it would be?' growled the old hag. 'From
shelter we shall proceed to demand supper, and from supper money
to take us on our way. Upon my word, if I could be sure of finding
some one every day whose head was as soft as his heart, I wouldn't
wish for a more agreeable life myself! But I have worked hard to
build my house and secure a morsel to eat, and I suppose you think
that I am to give away everything to the first passer-by who
chooses to ask for it. Not at all! I wager that a fine lady like
you has more money than I have. I must search her, and see if it
is not so,' she added, hobbling towards Celandine with the aid of
her stick.

'Alas! madam,' replied the Princess, 'I only wish I had. I would
give it to you with all the pleasure in life.'

'But you are very smartly dressed for the kind of life you lead,'
continued the old woman.

'What!' cried the Princess, 'do you think I am come to beg of

'I don't know about that,' answered she; 'but at any rate you
don't seem to have come to bring me anything. But what is it that
you do want? Shelter? Well, that does not cost much; but after
that comes supper, and that I can't hear of. Oh dear no! Why, at
your age one is always ready to eat; and now you have been
walking, and I suppose you are ravenous?'

'Indeed no, madam,' answered the poor Princess, 'I am too sad to
be hungry.'

'Oh, well! if you will promise to go on being sad, you may stay
for the night,' said the old woman mockingly.

Thereupon she made the Princess sit down beside her, and began
fingering her silken robe, while she muttered 'Lace on top, lace
underneath! This must have cost you a pretty penny! It would have
been better to save enough to feed yourself, and not come begging
to those who want all they have for themselves. Pray, what may you
have paid for these fine clothes?'

'Alas! madam,' answered the Princess, 'I did not buy them, and I
know nothing about money.'

'What do you know, if I may ask?' said the old dame.

'Not much; but indeed I am very unhappy,' cried Celandine,
bursting into tears, 'and if my services are any good to you--'

'Services!' interrupted the hag crossly. 'One has to pay for
services, and I am not above doing my own work.'

'Madam, I will serve you for nothing,' said the poor Princess,
whose spirits were sinking lower and lower. 'I will do anything
you please; all I wish is to live quietly in this lonely spot.'

'Oh! I know you are only trying to take me in,' answered she; 'and
if I do let you serve me, is it fitting that you should be so much
better dressed I am? If I keep you, will you give me your clothes
and wear some that I will provide you with? It is true that I am
getting old and may want someone to take care of me some day.'

'Oh! for pity's sake, do what you please with my clothes,' cried
poor Celandine miserably.

And the old woman hobbled off with great alacrity, and fetched a
little bundle containing a wretched dress, such as the Princess
had never even seen before, and nimbly skipped round, helping her
to put it on instead of her own rich robe, with many exclamations

'Saints!--what a magnificent lining! And the width of it! It will
make me four dresses at least. Why, child, I wonder you could walk
under such a weight, and certainly in my house you would not have
had room to turn round.'

So saying, she folded up the robe, and put it by with great care,
while she remarked to Celandine:

'That dress of mine certainly suits you to a marvel; be sure you
take great care of it.'

When supper-time came she went into the house, declining all the
Princess's offers of assistance, and shortly afterwards brought
out a very small dish, saying:

'Now let us sup.'

Whereupon she handed Celandine a small piece of black bread and
uncovered the dish, which contained two dried plums.

'We will have one between us,' continued the old dame; 'and as you
are the visitor, you shall have the half which contains the stone;
but be very careful that you don't swallow it, for I keep them
against the winter, and you have no idea what a good fire they
make. Now, you take my advice--which won't cost you anything--and
remember that it is always more economical to buy fruit with
stones on this account.'

Celandine, absorbed in her own sad thoughts, did not even hear
this prudent counsel, and quite forgot to eat her share of the
plum, which delighted the old woman, who put it by carefully for
her breakfast, saying:

'I am very much pleased with you, and if you go on as you have
begun, we shall do very well, and I can teach you many useful
things which people don't generally know. For instance, look at my
house! It is built entirely of the seeds of all the pears I have
eaten in my life. Now, most people throw them away, and that only
shows what a number of things are wasted for want of a little
patience and ingenuity.'

But Celandine did not find it possible to be interested in this
and similar pieces of advice. And the old woman soon sent her to
bed, for fear the night air might give her an appetite. She passed
a sleepless night; but in the morning the old dame remarked:

'I heard how well you slept. After such a night you cannot want
any breakfast; so while I do my household tasks you had better
stay in bed, since the more one sleeps the less one need eat; and
as it is market-day I will go to town and buy a pennyworth of
bread for the week's eating.'

And so she chattered on, but poor Celandine did not hear or heed
her; she wandered out into the desolate country to think over her
sad fate. However, the good Fairy of the Beech-Woods did not want
her to be starved, so she sent her an unlooked for relief in the
shape of a beautiful white cow, which followed her back to the
tiny house. When the old woman saw it her joy knew no bounds.

'Now we can have milk and cheese and butter!' cried she. 'Ah! how
good milk is! What a pity it is so ruinously expensive!' So they
made a little shelter of branches for the beautiful creature which
was quite gentle, and followed Celandine about like a dog when she
took it out every day to graze. One morning as she sat by a little
brook, thinking sadly, she suddenly saw a young stranger
approaching, and got up quickly, intending to avoid him. But
Prince Featherhead, for it was he, perceiving her at the same
moment, rushed towards her with every demonstration of joy: for he
had recognised her, not as the Celandine whom he had slighted, but
as the lovely Princess whom he had sought vainly for so long. The
fact was that the Fairy of the Beech-Woods, thinking she had been
punished enough, had withdrawn the enchantment from her, and
transferred it to Featherhead, thereby in an instant depriving him
of the good looks which had done so much towards making him the
fickle creature he was. Throwing himself down at the Princess's
feet, he implored her to stay, and at least speak to him, and she
at last consented, but only because he seemed to wish it so very
much. After that he came every day in the hope of meeting her
again, and often expressed his delight at being with her. But one
day, when he had been begging Celandine to love him, she confided
to him that it was quite impossible, since her heart was already
entirely occupied by another.

'I have,' said she, 'the unhappiness of loving a Prince who is
fickle, frivolous, proud, incapable of caring for anyone but
himself, who has been spoilt by flattery, and, to crown all, who
does not love me.'

'But,' cried Prince Featherhead, 'surely you cannot care for so
contemptible and worthless a creature as that.'

'Alas! but I do care,' answered the Princess, weeping.

'But where can his eyes be,' said the Prince, 'that your beauty
makes no impression upon him? As for me, since I have possessed
your portrait I have wandered over the whole world to find you,
and, now we have met, I see that you are ten times lovelier than I
could have imagined, and I would give all I own to win your love.'

'My portrait?' cried Celandine with sudden interest. 'Is it
possible that Prince Featherhead can have parted with it?'

'He would part with his life sooner, lovely Princess,' answered
he; 'I can assure you of that, for I am Prince Featherhead.'

At the same moment the Fairy of the Beech-Woods took away the
enchantment, and the happy Princess recognised her lover, now
truly hers, for the trials they had both undergone had so changed
and improved them that they were capable of a real love for each
other. You may imagine how perfectly happy they were, and how much
they had to hear and to tell. But at length it was time to go back
to the little house, and as they went along Celandine remembered
for the first time what a ragged old dress she was wearing, and
what an odd appearance she must present. But the Prince declared
that it became her vastly, and that he thought it most
picturesque. When they reached the house the old woman received
them very crossly.

'I declare,' said she, 'that it's perfectly true: wherever there
is a girl you may be sure that a young man will appear before
long! But don't imagine that I'm going to have you here--not a bit
of it, be off with you, my fine fellow!'

Prince Featherhead was inclined to be angry at this uncivil
reception, but he was really too happy to care much, so he only
demanded, on Celandine's behalf, that the old dame should give her
back her own attire, that she might go away suitably dressed.

This request roused her to fury, since she had counted upon the
Princess's fine robes to clothe her for the rest of her life, so
that it was some time before the Prince could make himself heard
to explain that he was willing to pay for them. The sight of a
handful of gold pieces somewhat mollified her, however, and after
making them both promise faithfully that on no consideration would
they ask for the gold back again, she took the Princess into the
house and grudgingly doled out to her just enough of her gay
attire to make her presentable, while the rest she pretended to
have lost. After this they found that they were very hungry, for
one cannot live on love, any more than on air, and then the old
woman's lamentations were louder than before. 'What!' she cried,
'feed people who were as happy as all that! Why, it was simply

But as the Prince began to look angry, she, with many sighs and
mutterings, brought out a morsel of bread, a bowl of milk, and six
plums, with which the lovers were well content: for as long as
they could look at one another they really did not know what they
were eating. It seemed as if they would go on for ever with their
reminiscences, the Prince telling how he had wandered all over the
world from beauty to beauty, always to be disappointed when he
found that no one resembled the portrait; the Princess wondering
how it was he could have been so long with her and yet never have
recognised her, and over and over again pardoning him for his cold
and haughty behaviour to her.

'For,' she said, 'you see, Featherhead, I love you, and love makes
everything right! But we cannot stay here,' she added; 'what are
we to do?'

The Prince thought they had better find their way to the Fairy of
the Beech-Woods and put themselves once more under her protection,
and they had hardly agreed upon this course when two little
chariots wreathed with jasmine and honeysuckle suddenly appeared,
and, stepping into them, they were whirled away to the Leafy
Palace. Just before they lost sight of the little house they heard
loud cries and lamentations from the miserly old dame, and,
looking round, perceived that the beautiful cow was vanishing in
spite of her frantic efforts to hold it fast. And they afterwards
heard that she spent the rest of her life in trying to put the
handful of gold the Prince had thrown to her into her money-bag.
For the Fairy, as a punishment for her avarice, caused it to slip
out again as fast as she dropped it in.

The Fairy of the Beech-Woods ran to welcome the Prince and
Princess with open arms, only too delighted to find them so much
improved that she could, with a clear conscience, begin to spoil
them again. Very soon the Fairy Saradine also arrived, bringing
the King and Queen with her. Princess Celandine implored her
pardon, which she graciously gave; indeed the Princess was so
charming she could refuse her nothing. She also restored to her
the Summer Islands, and promised her protection in all things. The
Fairy of the Beech-Woods then informed the King and Queen that
their subjects had chased King Bruin from the throne, and were
waiting to welcome them back again; but they at once abdicated in
favour of Prince Featherhead, declaring that nothing could induce
them to forsake their peaceful life, and the Fairies undertook to
see the Prince and Princess established in their beautiful
kingdoms. Their marriage took place the next day, and they lived
happily ever afterwards, for Celandine was never vain and
Featherhead was never fickle any more.

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