Prince Vivien And The Princess Placida





Once upon a time there lived a King and Queen who loved one

another dearly. Indeed the Queen, whose name was Santorina, was so

pretty and so kind-hearted that it would have been a wonder if her

husband had not been fond of her, while King Gridelin himself was

a perfect bundle of good qualities, for the Fairy who presided at

his christening had summoned the shades of all his ancestors, and

taken something good from each of them to form his character.

Unfortunately, though, she had given him rather too much kindness

of heart, which is a thing that generally gets its possessor into

trouble, but so far all things had prospered with King Gridelin.

However, it was not to be expected such good fortune could last,

and before very long the Queen had a lovely little daughter who

was named Placida. Now the King, who thought that if she resembled

her mother in face and mind she would need no other gift, never

troubled to ask any of the Fairies to her christening, and this

offended them mortally, so that they resolved to punish him

severely for thus depriving them of their rights. So, to the

despair of King Gridelin, the Queen first of all became very ill,

and then disappeared altogether. If it had not been for the little

Princess there is no saying what would have become of him, he was

so miserable, but there she was to be brought up, and luckily the

good Fairy Lolotte, in spite of all that had passed, was willing

to come and take charge of her, and of her little cousin Prince

Vivien, who was an orphan and had been placed under the care of

his uncle, King Gridelin, when he was quite a baby. Although she

neglected nothing that could possibly have been done for them,

their characters, as they grew up, plainly proved that education

only softens down natural defects, but cannot entirely do away

with them; for Placida, who was perfectly lovely, and with a

capacity and intelligence which enabled her to learn and

understand anything that presented itself, was at the same time as

lazy and indifferent as it is possible for anyone to be, while

Vivien on the contrary was only too lively, and was for ever

taking up some new thing and as promptly tiring of it, and flying

off to something else which held his fickle fancy an equally short

time. As these two children would possibly inherit the kingdom, it

was natural that their people should take a great interest in

them, and it fell out that all the tranquil and peace-loving

citizens desired that Placida should one day be their Queen, while

the rash and quarrelsome hoped great things for Vivien. Such a

division of ideas seemed to promise civil wars and all kinds of

troubles to the State, and even in the Palace the two parties

frequently came into collision. As for the children themselves,

though they were too well brought up to quarrel, still the

difference in all their tastes and feelings made it impossible for

them to like one another, so there seemed no chance of their ever

consenting to be married, which was a pity, since that was the

only thing that would have satisfied both parties. Prince Vivien

was fully aware of the feeling in his favour, but being too

honourable to wish to injure his pretty cousin, and perhaps too

impatient and volatile to care to think seriously about anything,

he suddenly took it into his head that he would go off by himself

in search of adventure. Luckily this idea occurred to him when he

was on horseback, for he would certainly have set out on foot

rather than lose an instant. As it was, he simply turned his

horse's head, without another thought than that of getting out of

the kingdom as soon as possible. This abrupt departure was a great

blow to the State, especially as no one had any idea what had

become of the Prince. Even King Gridelin, who had never cared for

anything since the disappearance of Queen Santorina, was roused by

this new loss, and though he could not so much as look at the

Princess Placida without shedding floods of tears, he resolved to

see for himself what talents and capabilities she showed. He very

soon found out that in addition to her natural indolence, she was

being as much indulged and spoilt day by day as if the Fairy had

been her grandmother, and was obliged to remonstrate very

seriously upon the subject. Lolotte took his reproaches meekly,

and promised faithfully that she would not encourage the Princess

in her idleness and indifference any more. From this moment poor

Placida's troubles began! She was actually expected to choose her

own dresses, to take care of her jewels, and to find her own

amusements; but rather than take so much trouble she wore the same

old frock from morning till night, and never appeared in public if

she could possibly avoid it. However, this was not all, King

Gridelin insisted that the affairs of the kingdom should be

explained to her, and that she should attend all the councils and

give her opinion upon the matter in hand whenever it was asked of

her, and this made her life such a burden to her that she implored

Lolotte to take her away from a country where too much was

required of an unhappy Princess.



The Fairy refused at first with a great show of firmness, but who

could resist the tears and entreaties of anyone so pretty as

Placida? It came to this in the end, that she transported the

Princess just as she was, cosily tucked up upon her favourite

couch, to her own Grotto, and this new disappearance left all the

people in despair, and Gridelin went about looking more distracted

than ever. But now let us return to Prince Vivien, and see what

his restless spirit has brought him to. Though Placida's kingdom

was a large one; his horse had carried him gallantly to the limit

of it, but it could go no further, and the Prince was obliged to

dismount and continue his journey on foot, though this slow mode

of progress tired his patience severely.



After what seemed to him a very long time, he found himself all

alone in a vast forest, so dark and gloomy that he secretly

shuddered; however, he chose the most promising looking path he

could find, and marched along it courageously at his best speed,

but in spite of all his efforts, night fell before he reached the

edge of the wood.



For some time he stumbled along, keeping to the path as well as he

could in the darkness, and just as he was almost wearied out he

saw before him a gleam of light.



This sight revived his drooping spirits, and he made sure that he

was now close to the shelter and supper he needed so much, but the

more he walked towards the light the further away it seemed;

sometimes he even lost sight of it altogether, and you may imagine

how provoked and impatient he was by the time he finally arrived

at the miserable cottage from which the light proceeded. He gave a

loud knock at the door, and an old woman's voice answered from

within, but as she did not seem to be hurrying herself to open it

he redoubled his blows, and demanded to be let in imperiously,

quite forgetting that he was no longer in his own kingdom. But all

this had no effect upon the old woman, who only noticed all the

uproar he was making by saying gently:



'You must have patience.'



He could hear that she really was coming to open the door to him,

only she was so very long about it. First she chased away her cat,

lest it should run away when the door was opened, then he heard

her talking to herself and made out that her lamp wanted trimming,

that she might see better who it was that knocked, and then that

it lacked fresh oil, and she must refill it. So what with one

thing and another she was an immense time trotting to and fro, and

all the while she now and again bade the Prince have patience.

When at last he stood within the little hut he saw with despair

that it was a picture of poverty, and that not a crumb of anything

eatable was to be seen, and when he explained to the old woman

that he was dying of hunger and fatigue she only answered

tranquilly that he must have patience. However, she presently

showed him a bundle of straw on which he could sleep.



'But what can I have to eat?' cried Prince Vivien sharply.



'Wait a little, wait a little,' she replied. 'If you will only

have patience I am just going out into the garden to gather some

peas: we will shell them at our leisure, then I will light a fire

and cook them, and when they are thoroughly done, we can enjoy

them peaceably; there is no hurry.'



'I shall have died of starvation by the time all that is done,'

said the Prince ruefully.



'Patience, patience,' said the old woman looking at him with her

slow gentle smile, 'I can't be hurried. "All things come at last

to him who waits;" you must have heard that often.'



Prince Vivien was wild with aggravation, but there was nothing to

be done.



'Come then,' said the old woman, 'you shall hold the lamp to light

me while I pick the peas.'



The Prince in his haste snatched it up so quickly that it went

out, and it took him a long time to light it again with two little

bits of glowing charcoal which he had to dig out from the pile of

ashes upon the hearth. However, at last the peas were gathered and

shelled, and the fire lighted, but then they had to be carefully

counted, since the old woman declared that she would cook fifty-

four, and no more. In vain did the Prince represent to her that he

was famished--that fifty-four peas would go no way towards

satisfying his hunger--that a few peas, more or less, surely could

not matter. It was quite useless, in the end he had to count out

the fifty-four, and worse than that, because he dropped one or two

in his hurry, he had to begin again from the very first, to be

sure the number was complete. As soon as they were cooked the old

dame took a pair of scales and a morsel of bread from the

cupboard, and was just about to divide it when Prince Vivien, who

really could wait no longer, seized the whole piece and ate it up,

saying in his turn, 'Patience.'



'You mean that for a joke,' said the old woman, as gently as ever,

'but that is really my name, and some day you will know more about

me.'



Then they each ate their twenty-seven peas, and the Prince was

surprised to find that he wanted nothing more, and he slept as

sweetly upon his bed of straw as he had ever done in his palace.



In the morning the old woman gave him milk and bread for his

breakfast, which he ate contentedly, rejoicing that there was

nothing to be gathered, or counted, or cooked, and when he had

finished he begged her to tell him who she was.



'That I will, with pleasure,' she replied. 'But it will be a long

story.'



'Oh! if it's long, I can't listen,' cried the Prince.



'But,' said she, 'at your age, you should attend to what old

people say, and learn to have patience.'



'But, but,' said the Prince, in his most impatient tone, 'old

people should not be so long-winded! Tell me what country I have

got into, and nothing else.'



'With all my heart,' said she. 'You are in the Forest of the Black

Bird; it is here that he utters his oracles.'



'An Oracle,' cried the Prince. 'Oh! I must go and consult him.'

Thereupon he drew a handful of gold from his pocket, and offered

it to the old woman, and when she would not take it, he threw it

down upon the table and was off like a flash of lightning, without

even staying to ask the way. He took the first path that presented

itself and followed it at the top of his speed, often losing his

way, or stumbling over some stone, or running up against a tree,

and leaving behind him without regret the cottage which had been

as little to his taste as the character of its possessor. After

some time he saw in the distance a huge black castle which

commanded a view of the whole forest. The Prince felt certain that

this must be the abode of the Oracle, and just as the sun was

setting he reached its outermost gates. The whole castle was

surrounded by a deep moat, and the drawbridge and the gates, and

even the water in the moat, were all of the same sombre hue as the

walls and towers. Upon the gate hung a huge bell, upon which was

written in red letters:



'Mortal, if thou art curious to know thy fate, strike this bell,

and submit to what shall befall thee.'



The Prince, without the smallest hesitation, snatched up a great

stone, and hammered vigorously upon the bell, which gave forth a

deep and terrible sound, the gate flew open, and closed again with

a thundering clang the moment the Prince had passed through it,

while from every tower and battlement rose a wheeling, screaming

crowd of bats which darkened the whole sky with their multitudes.

Anyone but Prince Vivien would have been terrified by such an

uncanny sight, but he strode stoutly forward till he reached the

second gate, which was opened to him by sixty black slaves covered

from head to foot in long mantles.



He wished to speak to them, but soon discovered that they spoke an

utterly unknown language, and did not seem to understand a word he

said. This was a great aggravation to the Prince, who vas not

accustomed to keep his ideas to himself, and he positively found

himself wishing for his old friend Patience. However, he had to

follow his guides in silence, and they led him into a magnificent

hall; the floor was of ebony, the walls of jet, and all the

hangings were of black velvet, but the Prince looked round it in

vain for something to eat, and then made signs that he was hungry.

In the same manner he was respectfully given to understand that he

must wait, and after several hours the sixty hooded and shrouded

figures re-appeared, and conducted him with great ceremony, and

also very very slowly, to a banqueting hall, where they all placed

themselves at a long table. The dishes were arranged down the

centre of it, and with his usual impetuosity the Prince seized the

one that stood in front of him to draw it nearer, but soon found

that it was firmly fixed in its place. Then he looked at his

solemn and lugubrious neighbours, and saw that each one was

supplied with a long hollow reed through which he slowly sucked up

his portion, and the Prince was obliged to do the same, though he

found it a frightfully tedious process. After supper, they

returned as they had come to the ebony room, where he was

compelled to look on while his companions played interminable

games of chess, and not until he was nearly dying of weariness did

they, slowly and ceremoniously as before, conduct him to his

sleeping apartment. The hope of consulting the Oracle woke him

very early the next morning, and his first demand was to be

allowed to present himself before it, but, without replying, his

attendants conducted him to a huge marble bath, very shallow at

one end, and quite deep at the other, and gave him to understand

that he was to go into it. The Prince, nothing loth, was for

springing at once into deep water, but he was gently but forcibly

held back and only allowed to stand where it was about an inch

deep, and he was nearly wild with impatience when he found that

this process was to be repeated every day in spite of all he could

say or do, the water rising higher and higher by inches, so that

for sixty days he had to live in perpetual silence, ceremoniously

conducted to and fro, supping all his meals through the long reed,

and looking on at innumerable games of chess, the game of all

others which he detested most. But at last the water rose as high

as his chin, and his bath was complete. And that day the slaves in

their black robes, and each having a large bat perched upon his

head, marched in slow procession with the Prince in their midst,

chanting a melancholy song, to the iron gate that led into a kind

of Temple. At the sound of their chanting, another band of slaves

appeared, and took possession of the unhappy Vivien.



They looked to him exactly like the ones he had left, except that

they moved more slowly still, and each one held a raven upon his

wrist, and their harsh croakings re-echoed through the dismal

place. Holding the Prince by the arms, not so much to do him

honour as to restrain his impatience, they proceeded by slow

degrees up the steps of the Temple, and when they at last reached

the top he thought his long waiting must be at an end. But on the

contrary, after slowly enshrouding him in a long black robe like

their own, they led him into the Temple itself, where he was

forced to witness numbers of lengthy rites and ceremonies. By this

time Vivien's active impatience had subsided into passive

weariness, his yawns were continual and scandalous, but nobody

heeded him, he stared hopelessly at the thick black curtain which

hung down straight in front of him, and could hardly believe his

eyes when it presently began to slide back, and he saw before him

the Black Bird. It was of enormous size, and was perched upon a

thick bar of iron which ran across from one side of the Temple to

the other. At the sight of it all the slaves fell upon their knees

and hid their faces, and when it had three times flapped its

mighty wings it uttered distinctly in Prince Vivien's own language

the words:



'Prince, your only chance of happiness depends upon that which is

most opposed to your own nature.'



Then the curtain fell before it once more, and the Prince, after

many ceremonies, was presented with a raven which perched upon his

wrist, and was conducted slowly back to the iron gate. Here the

raven left him and he was handed over once more to the care of the

first band of slaves, while a large bat flickered down and settled

upon his head of its own accord, and so he was taken back to the

marble bath, and had to go through the whole process again, only

this time he began in deep water which receded daily inch by inch.

When this was over the slaves escorted him to the outer gate, and

took leave of him with every mark of esteem and politeness, to

which it is to be feared he responded but indifferently, since the

gate was no sooner opened than he took to his heels, and fled away

with all his might, his one idea being to put as much space as

possible between himself and the dreary place into which he had

ventured so rashly, just to consult a tedious Oracle who after all

had told him nothing. He actually reflected for about five seconds

on his folly, and came to the conclusion that it might sometimes

be advisable to think before one acted.



After wandering about for several days until he was weary and

hungry, he at last succeeded in finding a way out of the forest,

and soon came to a wide and rapid river, which he followed, hoping

to find some means of crossing it, and it happened that as the sun

rose the next morning he saw something of a dazzling whiteness

moored out in the middle of the stream. Upon looking more

attentively at it he found that it was one of the prettiest little

ships he had ever seen, and the boat that belonged to it was made

fast to the bank quite close to him. The Prince was immediately

seized with the most ardent desire to go on board the ship, and

shouted loudly to attract the notice of her crew, but no one

answered. So he sprang into the little boat and rowed away without

finding it at all hard work, for the boat was made all of white

paper and was as light as a rose leaf. The ship was made of white

paper too, as the Prince presently discovered when he reached it.

He found not a soul on board, but there was a very cosy little bed

in the cabin, and an ample supply of all sorts of good things to

eat and drink, which he made up his mind to enjoy until something

new happened. Having been thoroughly well brought up at the court

of King Gridelin, of course he understood the art of navigation,

but when once he had started, the current carried the vessel down

at such a pace that before he knew where he was the Prince found

himself out at sea, and a wind springing up behind him just at

this moment soon drove him out of sight of land. By this time he

was somewhat alarmed, and did his best to put the ship about and

get back to the river, but wind and tide were too strong for him,

and he began to think of the number of times, from his childhood

up, that he had been warned not to meddle with water. But it was

too late now to do anything but wish vainly that he had stayed on

shore, and to grow heartily weary of the boat and the sea and

everything connected with it. These two things, however, he did

most thoroughly. To put the finishing touch to his misfortunes he

presently found himself becalmed in mid-ocean, a state of affairs

which would be considered trying by the most patient of men, so

you may imagine how it affected Prince Vivien! He even came to

wishing himself back at the Castle of the Black Bird, for there at

least he saw some living beings, whereas on board the white-paper

ship he was absolutely alone, and could not imagine how he was

ever to get away from his wearisome prison. However, after a very

long time, he did see land, and his impatience to be on shore was

so great that he at once flung himself over the ship's side that

he might reach it sooner by swimming. But this was quite useless,

for spring as far as he might from the vessel, it was always under

his feet again before he reached the water, and he had to resign

himself to his fate, and wait with what patience he could muster

until the winds and waves carried the ship into a kind of natural

harbour which ran far into the land. After his long imprisonment

at sea the Prince was delighted with the sight of the great trees

which grew down to the very edge of the water, and leaping lightly

on shore he speedily lost himself in the thick forest. When he had

wandered a long way he stopped to rest beside a clear spring of

water, but scarcely had he thrown himself down upon the mossy bank

when there was a great rustling in the bushes close by, and out

sprang a pretty little gazelle panting and exhausted, which fell

at his feet gasping out--



'Oh! Vivien, save me!'



The Prince in great astonishment leapt to his feet, and had just

time to draw his sword before he found himself face to face with a

large green lion which had been hotly pursuing the poor little

gazelle. Prince Vivien attacked it gallantly and a fierce combat

ensued, which, however, ended before long in the Prince's dealing

his adversary a terrific blow which felled him to the earth. As he

fell the lion whistled loudly three times with such force that the

forest rang again, and the sound must have been heard for more

than two leagues round, after which having apparently nothing more

to do in the world he rolled over on his side and died. The Prince

without paying any further heed to him or to his whistling

returned to the pretty gazelle, saying:



'Well! are you satisfied now? Since you can talk, pray tell me

instantly what all this is about, and how you happen to know my

name.'



'Oh, I must rest for a long time before I can talk,' she replied,

'and beside, I very much doubt if you will have leisure to listen,

for the affair is by no means finished. In fact,' she continued in

the same languid tone, 'you had better look behind you now.'



The Prince turned sharply round and to his horror saw a huge Giant

approaching with mighty strides, crying fiercely--



'Who has made my lion whistle I should like to know?'



'I have,' replied Prince Vivien boldly, 'but I can answer for it

that he will not do it again!'



At these words the Giant began to howl and lament.



'Alas, my poor Tiny, my sweet little pet,' he cried, 'but at least

I can avenge thy death.'



Thereupon he rushed at the Prince, brandishing an immense serpent

which was coiled about his wrist. Vivien, without losing his

coolness, aimed a terrific blow at it with his sword, but no

sooner did he touch the snake than it changed into a Giant and the

Giant into a snake, with such rapidity that the Prince felt

perfectly giddy, and this happened at least half-a-dozen times,

until at last with a fortunate stroke he cut the serpent in

halves, and picking up one morsel flung it with all his force at

the nose of the Giant, who fell insensible on top of the lion, and

in an instant a thick black cloud rolled up which hid them from

view, and when it cleared away they had all disappeared.



Then the Prince, without even waiting to sheathe his sword, rushed

back to the gazelle, crying:



'Now you have had plenty of time to recover your wits, and you

have nothing more to fear, so tell me who you are, and what this

horrible Giant, with his lion and his serpent, have to do with you

and for pity's sake be quick about it.'



'I will tell you with pleasure,' she answered, 'but where is the

hurry? I want you to come back with me to the Green Castle, but I

don't want to walk there, it is so far, and walking is so

fatiguing.'



'Let us set out at once then,' replied the Prince severely, 'or

else really I shall have to leave you where you are. Surely a

young and active gazelle like you ought to be ashamed of not being

able to walk a few steps. The further off this castle is the

faster we ought to walk, but as you don't appear to enjoy that, I

will promise that we will go gently, and we can talk by the way.'



'It would be better still if you would carry me,' said she

sweetly, 'but as I don't like to see people giving themselves

trouble, you may carry me, and make that snail carry you.' So

saying, she pointed languidly with one tiny foot at what the

Prince had taken for a block of stone, but now he saw that it was

a huge snail.



'What! I ride a snail!' cried the Prince; 'you are laughing at me,

and beside we should not get there for a year.'



'Oh! well then don't do it,' replied the gazelle, 'I am quite

willing to stay here. The grass is green, and the water clear. But

if I were you I should take the advice that was given me and ride

the snail.'



So, though it did not please him at all, the Prince took the

gazelle in his arms, and mounted upon the back of the snail, which

glided along very peaceably, entirely declining to be hurried by

frequent blows from the Prince's heels. In vain did the gazelle

represent to him that she was enjoying herself very much, and that

this was the easiest mode of conveyance she had ever discovered.

Prince Vivien was wild with impatience, and thought that the Green

Castle would never be reached. However, at last, they did get

there, and everyone who was in it ran to see the Prince dismount

from his singular steed.



But what was his surprise, when having at her request set the

gazelle gently down upon the steps which led up to the castle, he

saw her suddenly change into a charming Princess, and recognized

in her his pretty cousin Placida, who greeted him with her usual

tranquil sweetness. His delight knew no bounds, and he followed

her eagerly up into the castle, impatient to know what strange

events had brought her there. But after all he had to wait for the

Princess's story, for the inhabitants of the Green Lands, hearing

that the Giant was dead, ran to offer the kingdom to his

vanquisher, and Prince Vivien had to listen to various

complimentary harangues, which took a great deal of time, though

he cut them as short as politeness allowed--if not shorter. But at

last he was free to rejoin Placida, who at once began the story of

her adventures.



'After you had gone away,' said she, 'they tried to make me learn

how to govern the kingdom, which wearied me to death, so that I

begged and prayed Lolotte to take me away with her, and this she

presently did, but very reluctantly. However, having been

transported to her grotto upon my favourite couch, I spent several

delicious days, soothed by the soft green light, which was like a

beech wood in the spring, and by the murmuring of bees and the

tinkle of falling water. But alas! Lolotte was forced to go away

to a general assembly of the Fairies, and she came back in great

dismay, telling me that her indulgence to me had cost her dear,

for she had been severely reprimanded and ordered to hand me over

to the Fairy Mirlifiche, who was already taking charge of you, and

who had been much commended for her management of you.'



'Fine management, indeed,' interrupted the Prince, 'if it is to

her I owe all the adventures I have met with! But go on with your

story, my cousin. I can tell you all about my doings afterwards,

and then you can judge for yourself.'



'At first I was grieved to see Lolotte cry,' resumed the Princess,

'but I soon found that grieving was very troublesome, so I thought

it better to be calm, and very soon afterwards I saw the Fairy

Mirlifiche arrive, mounted upon her great unicorn. She stopped

before the grotto and bade Lolotte bring me out to her, at which

she cried worse than ever, and kissed me a dozen times, but she

dared not refuse. I was lifted up on to the unicorn, behind

Mirlifiche, who said to me--



'"Hold on tight, little girl, if you don't want to break your

neck."



'And, indeed, I had to hold on with all my might, for her horrible

steed trotted so violently that it positively took my breath away.

However, at last we stopped at a large farm, and the farmer and

his wife ran out as soon as they saw the Fairy, and helped us to

dismount.



'I knew that they were really a King and Queen, whom the Fairies

were punishing for their ignorance and idleness. You may imagine

that I was by this time half dead with fatigue, but Mirlifiche

insisted upon my feeding her unicorn before I did anything else.

To accomplish this I had to climb up a long ladder into the

hayloft, and bring down, one after another, twenty-four handfuls

of hay. Never, never before, did I have such a wearisome task! It

makes me shudder to think of it now, and that was not all. In the

same way I had to carry the twenty-four handfuls of hay to the

stable, and then it was supper time, and I had to wait upon all

the others. After that I really thought I should be allowed to go

peaceably to my little bed, but, oh dear no! First of all I had to

make it, for it was all in confusion, and then I had to make one

for the Fairy, and tuck her in, and draw the curtains round her,

beside rendering her a dozen little services which I was not at

all accustomed to. Finally, when I was perfectly exhausted by all

this toil, I was free to go to bed myself, but as I had never

before undressed myself, and really did not know how to begin, I

lay down as I was. Unfortunately, the Fairy found this out, and

just as I was falling into a sweet slumber, she made me get up

once more, but even then I managed to escape her vigilance, and

only took off my upper robe. Indeed, I may tell you in confidence,

that I always find disobedience answer very well. One is often

scolded, it is true, but then one has been saved some trouble.



'At the earliest dawn of day Mirlifiche woke me, and made me take

many journeys to the stable to bring her word how her unicorn had

slept, and how much hay he had eaten, and then to find out what

time it was, and if it was a fine day. I was so slow, and did my

errands so badly, that before she left she called the King and

Queen and said to them:



'"I am much more pleased with you this year. Continue to make the

best of your farm, if you wish to get back to your kingdom, and

also take care of this little Princess for me, and teach her to be

useful, that when I come I may find her cured of her faults. If

she is not--"



'Here she broke off with a significant look, and mounting my enemy

the unicorn, speedily disappeared.



'Then the King and Queen, turning to me, asked me what I could do.



'"Nothing at all, I assure you," I replied in a tone which really

ought to have convinced them, but they went on to describe various

employments, and tried to discover which of them would be most to

my taste. However, at last I persuaded them that to do nothing

whatever would be the only thing that would suit me, and that if

they really wanted to be kind to me, they would let me go to bed

and to sleep, and not tease me about doing anything. To my great

joy, they not only permitted this, but actually, when they had

their own meals, the Queen brought my portion up to me. But early

the next morning she appeared at my bedside, saying, with an

apologetic air:



'"My pretty child, I am afraid you must really make up your mind

to get up to-day. I know quite well how delightful it is to be

thoroughly idle, for when my husband and I were King and Queen we

did nothing at all from morning to night, and I sincerely hope

that it will not be long before those happy days will come again

for us. But at present we have not reached them, nor have you, and

you know from what the Fairy said that perhaps worse things may

happen to us if she is not obeyed. Make haste, I beg of you, and

come down to breakfast, for I have put by some delicious cream for

you."



'It was really very tiresome, but as there was no help for it I

went down!



'But the instant breakfast was over they began again their cuckoo-

cry of "What will you do?" In vain did I answer--



'"Nothing at all, if it please you, madam."



'The Queen at last gave me a spindle and about four pounds of hemp

upon a distaff, and sent me out to keep the sheep, assuring me

that there could not be a pleasanter occupation, and that I could

take my ease as much as I pleased. I was forced to set out, very

unwillingly, as you may imagine, but I had not walked far before I

came to a shady bank in what seemed to me a charming place. I

stretched myself cosily upon the soft grass, and with the bundle

of hemp for a pillow slept as tranquilly as if there were no such

things as sheep in the world, while they for their part wandered

hither and thither at their own sweet will, as if there were no

such thing as a shepherdess, invading every field, and browsing

upon every kind of forbidden dainty, until the peasants, alarmed

by the havoc they were making, raised a clamour, which at last

reached the ears of the King and Queen, who ran out, and seeing

the cause of the commotion, hastily collected their flock. And,

indeed, the sooner the better, since they had to pay for all the

damage they had done. As for me I lay still and watched them run,

for I was very comfortable, and there I might be still if they had

not come up, all panting and breathless, and compelled me to get

up and follow them; they also reproached me bitterly, but I need

hardly tell you that they did not again entrust me with the flock.



'But whatever they found for me to do it was always the same

thing, I spoilt and mismanaged it all, and was so successful in

provoking even the most patient people, that one day I ran away

from the farm, for I was really afraid the Queen would be obliged

to beat me. When I came to the little river in which the King used

to fish, I found the boat tied to a tree, and stepping in I

unfastened it, and floated gently down with the current. The

gliding of the boat was so soothing that I did not trouble myself

in the least when the Queen caught sight of me and ran along the

bank, crying--



'"My boat, my boat! Husband, come and catch the little Princess

who is running away with my boat!"



'The current soon carried me out of hearing of her cries, and I

dreamed to the song of the ripples and the whisper of the trees,

until the boat suddenly stopped, and I found it was stuck fast

beside a fresh green meadow, and that the sun was rising. In the

distance I saw some little houses which seemed to be built in a

most singular fashion, but as I was by this time very hungry I set

out towards them, but before I had walked many steps, I saw that

the air was full of shining objects which seemed to be fixed, and

yet I could not see what they hung from.



'I went nearer, and saw a silken cord hanging down to the ground,

and pulled it just because it was so close to my hand. Instantly

the whole meadow resounded to the melodious chiming of a peal of

silver bells, and they sounded so pretty that I sat down to

listen, and to watch them as they swung shining in the sunbeams.

Before they ceased to sound, came a great flight of birds, and

each one perching upon a bell added its charming song to the

concert. As they ended, I looked up and saw a tall and stately

dame advancing towards me, surrounded and followed by a vast flock

of every kind of bird.



'"Who are you, little girl," said she, "who dares to come where I

allow no mortal to live, lest my birds should be disturbed? Still,

if you are clever at anything," she added, "I might be able to put

up with your presence."



'"Madam," I answered, rising, "you may be very sure that I shall

not do anything to alarm your birds. I only beg you, for pity's

sake, to give me something to eat."



'"I will do that," she replied, "before I send you where you

deserve to go."



'And thereupon she despatched six jays, who were her pages, to

fetch me all sorts of biscuits, while some of the other birds

brought ripe fruits. In fact, I had a delicious breakfast, though

I do not like to be waited upon so quickly. It is so disagreeable

to be hurried. I began to think I should like very well to stay in

this pleasant country, and I said so to the stately lady, but she

answered with the greatest disdain:



'"Do you think I would keep you here? You! Why what do you

suppose would be the good of you in this country, where everybody

is wide-awake and busy? No, no, I have shown you all the

hospitality you will get from me."



'With these words she turned and gave a vigorous pull to the

silken rope which I mentioned before, but instead of a melodious

chime, there arose a hideous clanging which quite terrified me,

and in an instant a huge Black Bird appeared, which alighted at

the Fairy's feet, saying in a frightful voice--



'"What do you want of me, my sister?"



'"I wish you to take this little Princess to my cousin, the Giant

of the Green Castle, at once," she replied, "and beg him from me

to make her work day and night upon his beautiful tapestry."



'At these words the great Bird snatched me up, regardless of my

cries, and flew off at a terrific pace--'



'Oh! you are joking, cousin,' interrupted Prince Vivien; 'you mean

as slowly as possible. I know that horrible Black Bird, and the

lengthiness of all his proceedings and surroundings.'



'Have it your own way,' replied Placida, tranquilly. 'I cannot

bear arguing. Perhaps, this was not even the same bird. At any

rate, he carried me off at a prodigious speed, and set me gently

down in this very castle of which you are now the master. We

entered by one of the windows, and when the Bird had handed me

over to the Giant from whom you have been good enough to deliver

me, and given the Fairy's message, it departed.



'Then the Giant turned to me, saying,



'"So you are an idler! Ah! well, we must teach you to work. You

won't be the first we have cured of laziness. See how busy all my

guests are."



'I looked up as he spoke, and saw that an immense gallery ran all

round the hall, in which were tapestry frames, spindles, skeins of

wool, patterns, and all necessary things. Before each frame about

a dozen people were sitting, hard at work, at which terrible sight

I fainted away, and as soon as I recovered they began to ask me

what I could do.



'It was in vain that I replied as before, and with the strongest

desire to be taken at my word, "Nothing at all."



'The Giant only said,



'"Then you must learn to do something; in this world there is

enough work for everybody."



'It appeared that they were working into the tapestry all the

stories the Fairies liked best, and they began to try and teach me

to help them, but from the first class, where they tried me to

begin with, I sank lower and lower, and not even the most simple

stitches could I learn.



'In vain they punished me by all the usual methods. In vain the

Giant showed me his menagerie, which was entirely composed of

children who would not work! Nothing did me any good, and at last

I was reduced to drawing water for the dyeing of the wools, and

even over that I was so slow that this morning the Giant flew into

a rage and changed me into a gazelle. He was just putting me into

the menagerie when I happened to catch sight of a dog, and was

seized with such terror that I fled away at my utmost speed, and

escaped through the outer court of the castle. The Giant, fearing

that I should be lost altogether, sent his green lion after me,

with orders to bring me back, cost what it might, and I should

certainly have let myself be caught, or eaten up, or anything,

rather than run any further, if I had not luckily met you by the

fountain. And oh!' concluded the Princess, 'how delightful it is

once more to be able to sit still in peace. I was so tired of

trying to learn things.'



Prince Vivien said that, for his part, he had been kept a great

deal too still, and had not found it at all amusing, and then he

recounted all his adventures with breathless rapidity. How he had

taken shelter with Dame Patience, and consulted the Oracle, and

voyaged in the paper ship. Then they went hand in hand to release

all the prisoners in the castle, and all the Princes and

Princesses who were in cages in the menagerie, for the instant the

Green Giant was dead they had resumed their natural forms. As you

may imagine, they were all very grateful, and Princess Placida

entreated them never, never to do another stitch of work so long

as they lived, and they promptly made a great bonfire in the

courtyard, and solemnly burnt all the embroidery frames and

spinning wheels. Then the Princess gave them splendid presents, or

rather sat by while Prince Vivien gave them, and there were great

rejoicings in the Green Castle, and everyone did his best to

please the Prince and Princess. But with all their good

intentions, they often made mistakes, for Vivien and Placida were

never of one mind about their plans, so it was very confusing, and

they frequently found themselves obeying the Prince's orders,

very, very slowly, and rushing off with lightning speed to do

something that the Princess did not wish to have done at all,

until, by-and-by, the two cousins took to consulting with, and

consoling one another in all these little vexations, and at last

came to be so fond of each other that for Placida's sake Vivien

became quite patient, and for Vivien's sake Placida made the most

unheard-of exertions. But now the Fairies who had been watching

all these proceedings with interest, thought it was time to

interfere, and ascertain by further trials if this improvement was

likely to continue, and if they really loved one another. So they

caused Placida to seem to have a violent fever, and Vivien to

languish and grow dull, and made each of them very uneasy about

the other, and then, finding a moment when they were apart, the

Fairy Mirlifiche suddenly appeared to Placida, and said--



'I have just seen Prince Vivien, and he seemed to me to be very

ill.'



'Alas! yes, madam,' she answered, 'and if you will but cure him,

you may take me back to the farm, or bring the Green Giant to life

again, and you shall see how obedient I will be.'



'If you really wish him to recover,' said the Fairy, 'you have

only to catch the Trotting Mouse and the Chaffinch-on-the-Wing and

bring them to me. Only remember that time presses!'



She had hardly finished speaking before the Princess was rushing

headlong out of the castle gate, and the Fairy after watching her

till she was lost to sight, gave a little chuckle and went in

search of the Prince, who begged her earnestly to send him back to

the Black Castle, or to the paper boat if she would but save

Placida's life. The Fairy shook her head, and looked very grave.

She quite agreed with him, the Princess was in a bad way--'But,'

said she, 'if you can find the Rosy Mole, and give him to her she

will recover.' So now it was the Prince's turn to set off in a

vast hurry, only as soon as he left the Castle he happened to go

in exactly the opposite direction to the one Placida had taken.

Now you can imagine these two devoted lovers hunting night and

day. The Princess in the woods, always running, always listening,

pursuing hotly after two creatures which seemed to her very hard

to catch, which she yet never ceased from pursuing. The Prince on

the other hand wandering continually across the meadows, his eyes

fixed upon the ground, attentive to every movement among the

moles. He was forced to walk slowly--slowly upon tip-toe, hardly

venturing to breathe. Often he stood for hours motionless as a

statue, and if the desire to succeed could have helped him he

would soon have possessed the Rosy Mole. But alas! all that he

caught were black and ordinary, though strange to say he never

grew impatient, but always seemed ready to begin the tedious hunt

again. But this changing of character is one of the most ordinary

miracles which love works. Neither the Prince nor the Princess

gave a thought to anything but their quest. It never even occurred

to them to wonder what country they had reached. So you may guess

how astonished they were one day, when having at last been

successful after their long and weary chase, they cried aloud at

the same instant: 'At last I have saved my beloved,' and then

recognising each other's voice looked up, and rushed to meet one

another with the wildest joy. Surprise kept them silent while for

one delicious moment they gazed into each other's eyes, and just

then who should come up but King Gridelin, for it was into his

kingdom they had accidentally strayed. He recognized them in his

turn and greeted them joyfully, but when they turned afterwards to

look for the Rosy Mole, the Chaffinch, and the Trotting-Mouse,

they had vanished, and in their places stood a lovely lady whom

they did not know, the Black Bird, and the Green Giant. King

Gridelin had no sooner set eyes upon the lady than with a cry of

joy he clasped her in his arms, for it was no other than his long-

lost wife, Santorina, about whose imprisonment in Fairyland you

may perhaps read some day.



Then the Black Bird and the Green Giant resumed their natural

form, for they were enchanters, and up flew Lolotte and Mirlifiche

in their chariots, and then there was a great kissing and

congratulating, for everybody had regained someone he loved,

including the enchanters, who loved their natural forms dearly.

After this they repaired to the Palace, and the wedding of Prince

Vivien and Princess Placida was held at once with all the

splendour imaginable.



King Gridelin and Queen Santorina, after all their experiences had

no further desire to reign, so they retired happily to a peaceful

place, leaving their kingdom to the Prince and Princess, who were

beloved by all their subjects, and found their greatest happiness

all their lives long in making other people happy.





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