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Rosanella

from The Green Fairy Book





Everybody knows that though the fairies live hundreds of years
they do sometimes die, and especially as they are obliged to pass
one day in every week under the form of some animal, when of
course they are liable to accident. It was in this way that death
once overtook the Queen of the Fairies, and it became necessary to
call a general assembly to elect a new sovereign. After much
discussion, it appeared that the choice lay between two fairies,
one called Surcantine and the other Paridamie; and their claims
were so equal that it was impossible without injustice to prefer
one to the other. Under these circumstances it was unanimously
decided that whichever of the two could show to the world the
greatest wonder should be Queen; but it was to be a special kind
of wonder, no moving of mountains or any such common fairy tricks
would do. Surcantine, therefore, resolved that she would bring up
a Prince whom nothing could make constant. While Paridamie decided
to display to admiring mortals a Princess so charming that no one
could see her without falling in love with her. They were allowed
to take their own time, and meanwhile the four oldest fairies were
to attend to the affairs of the kingdom.

Now Paridamie had for a long time been very friendly with King
Bardondon, who was a most accomplished Prince, and whose court was
the model of what a court should be. His Queen, Balanice, was also
charming; indeed it is rare to find a husband and wife so
perfectly of one mind about everything. They had one little
daughter, whom they had named 'Rosanella,' because she had a
little pink rose printed upon her white throat. From her earliest
infancy she had shown the most astonishing intelligence, and the
courtiers knew her smart sayings by heart, and repeated them on
all occasions. In the middle of the night following the assembly
of fairies, Queen Balanice woke up with a shriek, and when her
maids of honour ran to see what was the matter, they found she had
had a frightful dream.

'I thought,' said she, 'that my little daughter had changed into a
bouquet of roses, and that as I held it in my hand a bird swooped
down suddenly and snatched it from me and carried it away.'

'Let some one run and see that all is well with the Princess,' she
added.

So they ran; but what was their dismay when they found that the
cradle was empty; and though they sought high and low, not a trace
of Rosanella could they discover. The Queen was inconsolable, and
so, indeed, was the King, only being a man he did not say quite so
much about his feelings. He presently proposed to Balanice that
they should spend a few days at one of their palaces in the
country; and to this she willingly agreed, since her grief made
the gaiety of the capital distasteful to her. One lovely summer
evening, as they sat together on a shady lawn shaped like a star,
from which radiated twelve splendid avenues of trees, the Queen
looked round and saw a charming peasant-girl approaching by each
path, and what was still more singular was that everyone carried
something in a basket which appeared to occupy her whole
attention. As each drew near she laid her basket at Balanice's
feet, saying:

'Charming Queen, may this be some slight consolation to you in
your unhappiness!'

The Queen hastily opened the baskets, and found in each a lovely
baby-girl, about the same age as the little Princess for whom she
sorrowed so deeply. At first the sight of them renewed her grief;
but presently their charms so gained upon her that she forgot her
melancholy in providing them with nursery-maids, cradle-rockers,
and ladies-in-waiting, and in sending hither and thither for
swings and dolls and tops, and bushels of the finest sweetmeats.

Oddly enough, every baby had upon its throat a tiny pink rose. The
Queen found it so difficult to decide on suitable names for all of
them, that until she could settle the matter she chose a special
colour for everyone, by which it was known, so that when they were
all together they looked like nothing so much as a nosegay of gay
flowers. As they grew older it became evident that though they
were all remarkably intelligent, and profited equally by the
education they received, yet they differed one from another in
disposition, so much so that they gradually ceased to be known as
'Pearl,' or 'Primrose,' or whatever might have been their colour,
and the Queen instead would say:

'Where is my Sweet?' or 'my Beautiful,' or 'my Gay.'

Of course, with all these charms they had lovers by the dozen. Not
only in their own court, but princes from afar, who were
constantly arriving, attracted by the reports which were spread
abroad; but these lovely girls, the first Maids of Honour, were as
discreet as they were beautiful, and favoured no one.

But let us return to Surcantine. She had fixed upon the son of a
king who was cousin to Bardondon, to bring up as her fickle
Prince. She had before, at his christening, given him all the
graces of mind and body that a prince could possibly require; but
now she redoubled her efforts, and spared no pains in adding every
imaginable charm and fascination. So that whether he happened to
be cross or amiable, splendidly or simply attired, serious or
frivolous, he was always perfectly irresistible! In truth, he was
a charming young fellow, since the Fairy had given him the best
heart in the world as well as the best head, and had left nothing
to be desired but--constancy. For it cannot be denied that Prince
Mirliflor was a desperate flirt, and as fickle as the wind; so
much so, that by the time he arrived at his eighteenth birthday
there was not a heart left for him to conquer in his father's
kingdom--they were all his own, and he was tired of everyone!
Things were in this state when he was invited to visit the court
of his father's cousin, King Bardondon.

Imagine his feelings when he arrived and was presented at once to
twelve of the loveliest creatures in the world, and his
embarrassment was heightened by the fact that they all liked him
as much as he liked each one of them, so that things came to such
a pass that he was never happy a single instant without them. For
could he not whisper soft speeches to Sweet, and laugh with Joy,
while he looked at Beauty? And in his more serious moments what
could be pleasanter than to talk to Grave upon some shady lawn,
while he held the hand of Loving in his own, and all the others
lingered near in sympathetic silence? For the first time in his
life he really loved, though the object of his devotion was not
one person, but twelve, to whom he was equally attached, and even
Surcantine was deceived into thinking that this was indeed the
height of inconstancy. But Paridamie said not a word.

In vain did Prince Mirliflor's father write commanding him to
return, and proposing for him one good match after another.
Nothing in the world could tear him from his twelve enchantresses.

One day the Queen gave a large garden-party, and just as the
guests were all assembled, and Prince Mirliflor was as usual
dividing his attentions between the twelve beauties, a humming of
bees was heard. The Rose-maidens, fearing their stings, uttered
little shrieks, and fled all together to a distance from the rest
of the company. Immediately, to the horror of all who were looking
on, the bees pursued them, and, growing suddenly to an enormous
size, pounced each upon a maiden and carried her off into the air,
and in an instant they were all lost to view. This amazing
occurrence plunged the whole court into the deepest affliction,
and Prince Mirliflor, after giving way to the most violent grief
at first, fell gradually into a state of such deep dejection that
it was feared if nothing could rouse him he would certainly die.
Surcantine came in all haste to see what she could do for her
darling, but he rejected with scorn all the portraits of lovely
princesses which she offered him for his collection. In short, it
was evident that he was in a bad way, and the Fairy was at her
wits' end. One day, as he wandered about absorbed in melancholy
reflections, he heard sudden shouts and exclamations of amazement,
and if he had taken the trouble to look up he could not have
helped being as astonished as everyone else, for through the air a
chariot of crystal was slowly approaching which glittered in the
sunshine. Six lovely maidens with shining wings drew it by rose-
coloured ribbons, while a whole flight of others, equally
beautiful, were holding long garlands of roses crossed above it,
so as to form a complete canopy. In it sat the Fairy Paridamie,
and by her side a Princess whose beauty positively dazzled all who
saw her. At the foot of the great staircase they descended, and
proceeded to the Queen's apartments, though everyone had run
together to see this marvel, till it was quite difficult to make a
way through the crowd; and exclamations of wonder rose on all
sides at the loveliness of the strange Princess. 'Great Queen,'
said Paridamie, 'permit me to restore to you your daughter
Rosanella, whom I stole out of her cradle.'

After the first transports of joy were over the Queen said to
Paridamie:

'But my twelve lovely ones, are they lost to me for ever? Shall I
never see them again?'

But Paridamie only said:

'Very soon you will cease to miss them!' in a tone that evidently
meant 'Don't ask me any more questions.' And then mounting again
into her chariot she swiftly disappeared.

The news of his beautiful cousin's arrival was soon carried to the
Prince, but he had hardly the heart to go and see her. However, it
became absolutely necessary that he should pay his respects, and
he had scarcely been five minutes in her presence before it seemed
to him that she combined in her own charming person all the gifts
and graces which had so attracted him in the twelve Rose-maidens
whose loss he had so truly mourned; and after all it is really
more satisfactory to make love to one person at a time. So it came
to pass that before he knew where he was he was entreating his
lovely cousin to marry him, and the moment the words had left his
lips, Paridamie appeared, smiling and triumphant, in the chariot
of the Queen of the Fairies, for by that time they had all heard
of her success, and declared her to have earned the kingdom. She
had to give a full account of how she had stolen Rosanella from
her cradle, and divided her character into twelve parts, that each
might charm Prince Mirliflor, and when once more united might cure
him of his inconstancy once and for ever.

And as one more proof of the fascination of the whole Rosanella, I
may tell you that even the defeated Surcantine sent her a wedding
gift, and was present at the ceremony which took place as soon as
the guests could arrive. Prince Mirliflor was constant for the
rest of his life. And indeed who would not have been in his place?
As for Rosanella, she loved him as much as all the twelve beauties
put together, so they reigned in peace and happiness to the end of
their long lives.





Next: Sylvain And Jocosa

Previous: The Enchanted Watch



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