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The Casket

from Old French Fairy Tales - OURSON





Thus passed the entire day. Rosalie suffered cruelly with thirst.

"Ought I not suffer even more than I do?" she said to herself, "in order
to punish me for all I have made my father and my cousin endure? I will
await in this terrible spot the dawning of my fifteenth birthday."

The night was falling when an old woman who was passing by, approached
and said:--

"My beautiful child, will you oblige me by taking care of this casket,
which is very heavy to carry, while I go a short distance to see one of
my relations?"

"Willingly, madam," replied Rosalie, who was very obliging. The old
woman placed the casket in her hands, saying:--

"Many thanks, my beautiful child! I shall not be absent long. But I
entreat you not to look in this casket, for it contains things--things
such as you have never seen--and as you will never have an opportunity
to see again. Do not handle it rudely, for it is of very fragile ware
and would be very easily broken and then you would see what it contains
and no one ought to see what is there concealed."

The old woman went off after saying this. Rosalie placed the casket near
her and reflected on all the events which had just passed. It was now
night and the old woman did not return. Rosalie now threw her eyes on
the casket and saw with surprise that it illuminated the ground all
around her.

"What can there be in this casket which is so brilliant?" said she.

She turned it round and round and regarded it from every side but
nothing could explain this extraordinary light and she placed it
carefully upon the ground, saying:--

"Of what importance is it to me what this casket contains? It is not
mine but belongs to the old woman who confided it to me. I will not
think of it again for fear I may be tempted to open it."

In fact, she no longer looked at it and endeavored not to think of it;
she now closed her eyes, resolved to wait patiently till the dawn.

"In the morning I shall be fifteen years of age. I shall see my father
and Gracious and will have nothing more to fear from the wicked fairy."

"Rosalie! Rosalie!" said suddenly the small voice of the little mouse,
"I am near you once more. I am no longer your enemy and to prove that I
am not, if you wish it, I will show you what this casket contains."

Rosalie did not reply.

"Rosalie, do you not hear what I propose? I am your friend, believe me."

No reply.

Then the little gray mouse, having no time to lose, sprang upon the
casket and began to gnaw the lid.

"Monster!" cried Rosalie, seizing the casket and pressing it against her
bosom, "if you touch this casket again I will wring your neck."

The mouse cast a diabolical glance upon Rosalie but it dared not brave
her anger. While it was meditating some other means of exciting the
curiosity of Rosalie, a clock struck twelve. At the same moment the
mouse uttered a cry of rage and disappointment and said to Rosalie:--

"Rosalie, the hour of your birth has just sounded. You are now fifteen;
you have nothing more to fear from me. You are now beyond my power and
my temptations as are also your odious father and hated prince. As to
myself, I am compelled to keep this ignoble form of a mouse until I can
tempt some young girl beautiful and well born as yourself to fall into
my snares. Adieu, Rosalie! you can now open the casket."

Saying these words, the mouse disappeared.

Rosalie, wisely distrusting these words of her enemy, would not follow
her last counsel, and resolved to guard the casket carefully till the
dawn. Scarcely had she taken this resolution, when an owl, which was
flying above her head, let a stone fall upon the casket, which broke
into a thousand pieces. Rosalie uttered a cry of terror and at the same
moment she saw before her the queen of the fairies, who said:--

"Come Rosalie, you have finally triumphed over the cruel enemy of your
family. I will now restore you to your father but first you must eat and
drink, as you are much exhausted."

The fairy now presented her with a rare fruit, of which a single
mouthful satisfied both hunger and thirst. Then a splendid chariot,
drawn by two dragons, drew up before the fairy. She entered and
commanded Rosalie to do the same. Rosalie, as soon as she recovered from
her surprise, thanked the queen of the fairies with all her heart for
her protection and asked if she was not to see her father and the prince
Gracious.

"Your father awaits you in the palace of the prince."

"But, madam, I thought that the palace of the prince was destroyed and
he himself wounded sadly?"

"That, Rosalie, was only an illusion to fill you with horror and remorse
at the result of your curiosity and to prevent you from falling before
the third temptation. You will soon see the palace of the prince just as
it was before you tore the cloth which covered the precious tree he
destined for you."

As the fairy said this the chariot drew up before the palace steps.
Rosalie's father and the prince were awaiting her with all the court.
Rosalie first threw herself in her father's arms, then in those of the
prince, who seemed to have no remembrance of the fault she had committed
the day before. All was ready for the marriage ceremony which was to be
celebrated immediately. All the good fairies assisted at this festival
which lasted several days.

Rosalie's father lived with his child and she was completely cured of
her curiosity. She was tenderly loved by Prince Gracious whom she loved
fondly all her life. They had beautiful children, for whom they chose
powerful fairies as godmothers in order that they might be protected
against the wicked fairies and genii.





Next: The Lark And The Toad

Previous: The Tree In The Rotunda



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