Riquet With The Tuft





Once upon a time a queen had a little son, who was so ugly and

ill-made, that for a long time the poor little baby was thought hardly

human. However, a good fairy, who presided at his birth, assured his

mother that, though ugly, he would have so much sense and wit that he

would never be disagreeable; moreover, she bestowed on him the power

of communicating these gifts to the person he should love best in the

world. At this the queen was a little comforted, and became still more

so, when, as soon as he could speak, the infant began to say such

pretty and clever things that everybody was charmed with him. (I

forgot to mention that his name was Riquet with the Tuft, because he

was born with a curious tuft of hair on the top of his head.)



Seven or eight years after this, the queen of a neighbouring country

had two little daughters, twins, at whose birth the same fairy

presided. The elder twin was more beautiful than the day--the younger

so extremely ugly that the mother's extravagant joy in the first was

all turned to grief about the second. So, in order to calm her

feelings, the fairy told her that the one daughter should be as stupid

as she was pretty, while the other would grow up so clever and

charming that nobody would miss her want of beauty.



Heaven grant it! sighed the queen; but are there no means of giving

a little sense to the one who is so beautiful?



I can do nothing for her, madam, returned the fairy--nothing as

regards her own fortunes; but I grant her the power of making the

person who best pleases her as handsome as herself.



Accordingly, as the young princesses grew up, their perfections grew

with them; and nothing was spoken of but the beauty of the elder and

the wit of the younger. True, their faults increased equally: the one

became uglier, and the other more stupid, day by day. Unlucky fair

one! she never had a word to say for herself, or else it was the

silliest word imaginable, and she was so awkward that she could not

place four teacups in a row without breaking at least one of them, nor

drink a glass of water without spilling half of it over her clothes.

Beauty is a great charm; yet, whenever the sisters went out together,

those who were attracted by the elder's lovely face, in less than half

an hour were sure to be seen at the side of the younger, laughing at

her witty and pleasant sayings, and altogether deserting the poor

beauty, who had just sense enough to find it out, and to feel that she

would have given all her good looks for one half of her sister's

talents.



One day, when she had hid herself in a wood, and was crying over her

hard fate, she saw coming towards her a little man, very ugly, but

magnificently dressed. Who should this be but Prince Riquet with the

Tuft? He had seen her portrait, had fallen desperately in love with

her, and secretly quitted his father's kingdom that he might have the

pleasure of meeting her. Delighted to find her alone, he came forward

with all the respect and politeness imaginable. But he could not help

noticing how very melancholy she was, and that all the elegant

compliments he made her did not seem to affect her in the least.



I cannot comprehend, madam, said he, how so charming and lovely a

lady can be so very sad. Never did I see anyone who could at all

compare with you.



That's all you know, said the princess, and stopped.



Beauty, continued the prince, sighing, is so great an advantage

that, if one possessed it, one would never trouble oneself about

anything else.



I wish I were as ugly as you and had some sense, rather than be as

handsome as I am, and such a fool.



Madam, said Riquet politely, though her speech was not exactly

civil, nothing shows intellect so much as the modesty of believing

one does not possess it.



I don't know that; but I know I am a great fool, and it vexes me so,

that I wish I was dead, cried the princess bitterly.



If that is all, madam, I can easily put an end to your grief, for I

have the power of making the person I love best as clever as I

please. I will do it, provided you consent to marry me.



The princess stood dumb with astonishment. She--to marry that little

frightful creature--scarcely a man at all!



I see, said Riquet, that my proposal offends and grieves you. Well,

I will give you a year to consider it.



Now the young lady was so stupid that she thought a year's end was a

long way off--so long that it seemed as if it might not come at all,

or something might happen between whiles. And she had such a longing

to be clever and admired that she thought at all risks she would

accept the chance of becoming so. Accordingly, she promised Riquet to

marry him that day twelvemonth.



No sooner had she said it than she felt herself quite another being.

She found she could at once say anything she chose, and say it in the

most graceful and brilliant way. She began a lively conversation with

Prince Riquet, and chattered so fast and so wittily, that he began to

be afraid he had given her so much cleverness as to leave himself

none.



When she returned to the palace, all the court were astonished at the

change. She, who had annoyed everybody by the impertinent, tasteless,

or downright foolish things she uttered, now charmed everybody by her

wit, her pleasantness, and her exceeding good sense. The king himself

began to come to her apartment, and ask her advice in state affairs.

Her mother, and indeed the whole kingdom, were delighted; the only

person to be pitied was the poor younger sister, of whom nobody now

took the least notice.



Meantime, princes came in throngs to ask in marriage this wonderful

princess, who was as clever as she was beautiful; but she found none

to suit her, probably because the more sense a lady has, the more

difficult she is to please. As for her promise to Riquet with the

Tuft, being given in the days when she was so dull and stupid, it now

never once came into her head; until one day, being quite perplexed by

her numerous suitors, she went to take a solitary walk and think the

matter over, when by chance she came into the same wood where she had

met the prince. There, all of a sudden, she thought she heard a queer

running about and chattering underground. Fetch me that spit, cried

one; Put some more wood on that fire, said another; and by and by

the earth opened, showing a great kitchen filled with cooks, cooking a

splendid banquet. They were all working merrily at their several

duties, and singing together in the most lively chorus.



What is all this about? asked the amazed princess.



If you please, madam, replied the head-cook, politely, we are

cooking the wedding-dinner of Prince Riquet with the Tuft, who is to

be married to-morrow.



To-morrow! cried the princess, all at once recollecting her promise;

at which she was so frightened that she thought she should have

fallen to the earth. Greater still was her alarm when, at only a few

steps' distance, she beheld Riquet, dressed splendidly like a prince

and a bridegroom.



You see me, princess, exact to my word; and I doubt not you are the

same, come to make me the happiest of mankind.



Prince, said the lady, frankly, I must confess that such was not my

intention, and I fear I shall never be able to do as you desire.



You surprise me, madam.



I can well believe it; and if I had to do with a brute, instead of a

gentleman of sense and feeling, I should be very uneasy, returned

she; but since I speak with the cleverest man in the world, I am sure

he will hear reason, and will not bind me, now a sensible woman, to a

promise I made when I was only a fool.



If I were a fool myself, madam, I might well complain of your broken

promise; and being, as you say, a man of sense, should I not complain

of what takes away all the happiness of my life? Tell me candidly, is

there anything in me, except my ugliness, which displeases you? Do you

object to my birth, my temper, my manners?



No, truly, replied the princess; I like everything in you,

except--and she hesitated courteously--except your appearance.



Then, madam, I need not lose my happiness; for if I have the gift of

making clever whosoever I love best, you also are able to make the

person you prefer as handsome as ever you please. Could you love me

enough to do that?



I think I could, said the princess, and her heart being greatly

softened towards him, she wished that he might become the handsomest

prince in all the world. No sooner had she done so than Riquet with

the Tuft appeared in her eyes the most elegant young man she had ever

seen.



Ill-natured people have said that this was no fairy-gift, but that

love created the change. They declare that the princess, when she

thought over her lover's perseverance, patience, good-humour, and

discretion, and counted his numerous fine qualities of mind and

disposition, saw no longer the deformity of his body or the plainness

of his features; that his hump was merely an exaggerated stoop, and

his awkward movements became only an interesting eccentricity. Nay,

even his eyes, which squinted terribly, seemed always looking on all

sides for her, in token of his violent love, and his great red nose

gave him an air very martial and heroic.



However this may be, it is certain that the princess married him; that

either she retained her good sense, or he never felt the want of it;

and he never again became ugly--or, at least, not in his wife's eyes;

so they both lived very happy until they died.





Rip Van Winkle Robert Barns facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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