Prince Featherhead And The Princess Celandine

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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