The Fair One With Golden Locks





There was once a king's daughter so beautiful that they named her the

Fair One with Golden Locks. These golden locks were the most

remarkable in the world, soft and fine, and falling in long waves down

to her very feet. She wore them always thus, loose and flowing,

surmounted with a wreath of flowers; and though such long hair was

sometimes rather inconvenient, it was so exceedingly beautiful,

shining in the sun like ripples of molten gold, that everybody agreed

she fully deserved her name.



Now there was a young king of a neighbouring country, very handsome,

very rich, and wanting nothing but a wife to make him happy. He heard

so much of the various perfections of the Fair One with Golden Locks,

that at last, without even seeing her, he fell in love with her so

desperately that he could neither eat nor drink, and resolved to send

an ambassador at once to demand her in marriage. So he ordered a

magnificent equipage--more than a hundred horses and a hundred

footmen--in order to bring back to him the Fair One with Golden Locks,

who, he never doubted, would be only too happy to become his queen.

Indeed, he felt so sure of her that he refurnished the whole palace,

and had made, by all the dressmakers of the city, dresses enough to

last a lady for a lifetime. But, alas! when the ambassador arrived and

delivered his message, either the princess was in a bad humor, or the

offer did not appear to be to her taste; for she returned her best

thanks to his majesty, but said she had not the slightest wish or

intention to be married. She also, being a prudent damsel, declined

receiving any of the presents which the king had sent her; except

that, not quite to offend his majesty, she retained a box of English

pins, which were in that country of considerable value.



When the ambassador returned, alone and unsuccessful, all the court

was very much affected, and the king himself began to weep with all

his might. Now, there was in the palace household a young gentleman

named Avenant, beautiful as the sun, besides being at once so amiable

and so wise that the king confided to him all his affairs; and every

one loved him, except those people--to be found in all courts--who

were envious of his good fortune. These malicious folk hearing him say

gaily, If the king had sent me to fetch the Fair One with Golden

Locks, I know she would have come back with me, repeated the saying

in such a manner, that it appeared as if Avenant thought so much of

himself and his beauty, and felt sure the princess would have followed

him all over the world; which when it came to the ears of the king, as

it was meant to do, irritated him so much that he commanded Avenant to

be imprisoned in a high tower, and left to die there of hunger. The

guards accordingly carried off the young man, who had quite forgotten

his idle speech, and had not the least idea what fault he had

committed. They ill-treated him very much, and then left him, with

nothing to eat and only water to drink. This, however, kept him alive

for a few days, during which he did not cease to complain aloud, and

to call upon the king, saying, O king, what harm have I done? You

have no subject more faithful than I. Never have I had a thought which

could offend you.



And it so befell that the king, coming by chance, or else with a sort

of remorse, past the tower, was touched by the voice of the young

Avenant, whom he had once so much regarded. In spite of all the

courtiers could do to prevent him, he stopped to listen, and overheard

these words. The tears rushed into his eyes; he opened the door of the

tower, and called, Avenant! Avenant came, creeping feebly along,

fell at the king's knees, and kissed his feet:



O sire, what have I done that you should treat me so cruelly?



You have mocked me and my ambassador; for you said, if I had sent you

to fetch the Fair One with Golden Locks, you would have been

successful and brought her back.



I did say it, and it was true, replied Avenant fearlessly; for I

should have told her so much about your majesty and your various high

qualities, which no one knows so well as myself, that I am persuaded

she would have returned with me.



I believe it, said the king, with an angry look at those who had

spoken ill of his favourite; he then gave Avenant a free pardon, and

took him back with him to the court.



After having supplied the famished youth with as much supper as he

could eat, the king admitted him to a private audience, and said, I

am as much in love as ever with the Fair One with Golden Locks, so I

will take thee at thy word, and send thee to try and win her for me.



Very well, please your majesty, replied Avenant cheerfully; I will

depart to-morrow.



The king, overjoyed with his willingness and hopefulness, would have

furnished him with a still more magnificent equipage and suite than

the first ambassador; but Avenant refused to take anything except a

good horse to ride, and letters of introduction to the princess's

father. The king embraced him and eagerly saw him depart.



It was on a Monday morning when, without any pomp or show, Avenant

thus started on his mission. He rode slowly and meditatively,

pondering over every possible means of persuading the Fair One with

Golden Locks to marry the king; but, even after several days' journey

towards her country, no clear project had entered into his mind. One

morning, when he had started at break of day, he came to a great

meadow with a stream running through it, along which were planted

willows and poplars. It was such a pleasant, rippling stream that he

dismounted and sat down on its banks. There he perceived, gasping on

the grass, a large golden carp, which, in leaping too far after gnats,

had thrown itself quite out of the water, and now lay dying on the

greensward. Avenant took pity on it, and though he was very hungry,

and the fish was very fat, and he would well enough have liked it for

his breakfast, still he lifted it gently and put it back into the

stream. No sooner had the carp touched the fresh cool water than it

revived and swam away; but shortly returning, it spoke to him from the

water in this wise:--



Avenant, I thank you for your good deed. I was dying, and you have

saved me: I will recompense you for this one day.



After this pretty little speech, the fish popped down to the bottom of

the stream, according to the habit of carp, leaving Avenant very much

astonished, as was natural.



Another day he met with a raven that was in great distress, being

pursued by an eagle, which would have swallowed him up in no time.

See, thought Avenant, how the stronger oppress the weaker! What

right has an eagle to eat up a raven? So taking his bow and arrow,

which he always carried, he shot the eagle dead, and the raven,

delighted, perched in safety on an opposite tree.



Avenant, screeched he, though not in the sweetest voice in the

world; you have generously succoured me, a poor miserable raven. I

am not ungrateful, and I will recompense you one day.



Thank you, said Avenant, and continued his road.



Entering in a thick wood, so dark with the shadows of early morning

that he could scarcely find his way, he heard an owl hooting, like an

owl in great tribulation. She had been caught by the nets spread by

birdcatchers to entrap finches, larks, and other small birds. What a

pity, thought Avenant, that men must always torment poor birds and

beasts who have done them no harm! So he took out his knife, cut the

net, and let the owl go free. She went sailing up into the air, but

immediately returned hovering over his head on her brown wings.



Avenant, said she, at daylight the birdcatchers would have been

here, and I should have been caught and killed. I have a grateful

heart; I will recompense you one day.



These were the three principal adventures that befell Avenant on his

way to the kingdom of the Fair One with Golden Locks. Arrived there,

he dressed himself with the greatest care, in a habit of silver

brocade, and a hat adorned with plumes of scarlet and white. He threw

over all a rich mantle, and carried a little basket, in which was a

lovely little dog, an offering of respect to the princess. With this

he presented himself at the palace-gates, where, even though he came

alone, his mien was so dignified and graceful, so altogether charming,

that every one did him reverence, and was eager to run and tell the

Fair One with Golden Locks, that Avenant another ambassador from the

king her suitor, awaited an audience.



Avenant! repeated the princess, That is a pretty name; perhaps the

youth is pretty too.



So beautiful, said the ladies of honour, that while he stood under

the palace-window we could do nothing but look at him.



How silly of you! sharply said the princess. But she desired them to

bring her robe of blue satin to comb out her long hair, and adorn it

with the freshest garland of flowers; to give her her high-heeled

shoes, and her fan. Also, added she, take care that my

audience-chamber is well swept and my throne well dusted. I wish in

everything to appear as becomes the Fair One with Golden Locks.



This done, she seated herself on her throne of ivory and ebony, and

gave orders for her musicians to play, but softly, so as not to

disturb conversation. Thus, shining in all her beauty, she admitted

Avenant to her presence.



He was so dazzled that at first he could not speak: then he began and

delivered his harangue to perfection.



Gentle Avenant, returned the princess, after listening to all his

reasons for her returning with him, your arguments are very strong,

and I am inclined to listen to them; but you must first find for me a

ring, which I dropped into the river about a month ago. Until I

recover it, I can listen to no propositions of marriage.



Avenant, surprised and disturbed, made her a profound reverence and

retired, taking with him the basket and the little dog Cabriole, which

she refused to accept. All night long he sat sighing to himself, How

can I ever find a ring which she dropped into the river a month ago?

She has set me an impossibility.



My dear master, said Cabriole, nothing is an impossibility to one

so young and charming as you are: let us go at daybreak to the

river-side.



Avenant patted him, but replied nothing: until, worn out with grief,

he slept. Before dawn Cabriole wakened him, saying, Master, dress

yourself and let us go to the river.



There Avenant walked up and down, with his arms folded and his head

bent, but saw nothing. At last he heard a voice, calling from a

distance, Avenant, Avenant!



The little dog ran to the water-side--Never believe me again, master,

if it is not a golden carp with a ring in its mouth!



Yes, Avenant, said the carp, this is the ring which the princess

has lost. You saved my life in the willow meadow, and I have

recompensed you. Farewell!



Avenant took the ring gratefully and returned to the palace with

Cabriole, who scampered about in great glee. Craving an audience, he

presented the princess with her ring, and begged her to accompany him

to his master's kingdom. She took the ring, looked at it, and thought

she was surely dreaming.



Some fairy must have assisted you, fortunate Avenant, said she.



Madam, I am only fortunate in my desire to obey your wishes.



Obey me still, she said graciously. There is a prince named

Galifron, whose suit I have refused. He is a giant as tall as a tower,

who eats a man as a monkey eats a nut: he puts cannons into his

pockets instead of pistols; and when he speaks, his voice is so loud

that every one near him becomes deaf. Go and fight him, and bring me

his head.



Avenant was thunderstruck; but after a time he recovered

himself--Very well, madam. I shall certainly perish, but I will

perish like a brave man. I will depart at once to fight the Giant

Galifron.



The princess, now in her turn surprised and alarmed, tried every

persuasion to induce him not to go, but in vain. Avenant armed himself

and started, carrying his little dog in its basket. Cabriole was the

only creature that gave him consolation: Courage, master! While you

attack the giant, I will bite his legs: he will stoop down to strike

me, and then you can knock him on the head. Avenant smiled at the

little dog's spirit, but he knew it was useless.



Arrived at the castle of Galifron, he found the road all strewn with

bones, and carcases of men. Soon he saw the giant walking. His head

was level with the highest trees, and he sang in a terrific voice--



Bring me babies to devour;

More--more--more--more--

Men and women, tender and tough;

All the world holds not enough.



To which Avenant replied, imitating the tune--



Avenant you here may see,

He is come to punish thee:

Be he tender, be he tough,

To kill thee, giant, he is enough.



Hearing these words, the giant took up his massive club, looked around

for the singer, and, perceiving him, would have slain him on the spot,

had not a raven, sitting on a tree close by, suddenly flown out upon

him and picked out both his eyes. Then Avenant easily killed him and

cut off his head, while the raven, watching him, said--



You shot the eagle who was pursuing me: I promised to recompense you,

and to-day I have done it. We are quits.



No, it is I who am your debtor, Sir Raven, replied Avenant, as,

hanging the frightful head to his saddle-bow, he mounted his horse and

rode back to the city of the Fair One with Golden Locks.



There everybody followed him, shouting, Here is brave Avenant, who

has killed the giant, until the princess, hearing the noise, and

fearing it was Avenant himself who was killed, appeared, all

trembling; and even when he appeared with Galifron's head, she

trembled still, although she had nothing to fear.



Madam, said Avenant, your enemy is dead: so I trust you will accept

the hand of the king my master.



I cannot, replied she thoughtfully, unless you first bring me a

phial of the water in the Grotto of Darkness. It is six leagues in

length, and guarded at the entrance by two fiery dragons. Within it is

a pit, full of scorpions, lizards, and serpents, and at the bottom of

this place flows the Fountain of Beauty and Health. All who wash in it

become, if ugly, beautiful, and if beautiful, beautiful for ever; if

old, young; and if young, young for ever. Judge then, Avenant, if I

can quit my kingdom without carrying with me some of this miraculous

water.



Madam, replied Avenant, you are already so beautiful that you

require it not; but I am an unfortunate ambassador whose death you

desire: I will obey you, though I know I shall never return.



So he departed with his only friends--his horse and his faithful dog

Cabriole; while all who met him looked at him compassionately, pitying

so pretty a youth bound on such a hopeless errand. But, however kindly

they addressed him, Avenant rode on and answered nothing, for he was

too sad at heart.



He reached a mountain-side, where he sat down to rest, leaving his

horse to graze, and Cabriole to run after the flies. He knew that the

Grotto of Darkness was not far off, yet he looked about him like one

who sees nothing. At last he perceived a rock, as black as ink, whence

came a thick smoke; and in a moment appeared one of the two dragons,

breathing out flames. It had a yellow and green body, claws, and a

long tail. When Cabriole saw the monster, the poor little dog hid

himself in terrible fright. But Avenant resolved to die bravely; so,

taking a phial which the princess had given him, he prepared to

descend into the cave.



Cabriole, said he, I shall soon be dead: then fill this phial with

my blood, and carry it to the Fair One with Golden Locks, and

afterwards to the king my master, to show him I have been faithful to

the last.



While he was thus speaking, a voice called, Avenant, Avenant!--and

he saw an owl sitting on a hollow tree. Said the owl: You cut the net

in which I was caught, and I vowed to recompense you. Now is the time.

Give me the phial: I know every corner of the Grotto of Darkness--I

will fetch you the water of beauty.



Delighted beyond words, Avenant delivered up his phial; the owl flew

with it into the grotto, and in less than half-an-hour reappeared,

bringing it quite full and well corked. Avenant thanked her with all

his heart, and joyfully took once more the road to the city.



The Fair One with Golden Locks had no more to say. She consented to

accompany him back, with all her suite, to his master's court. On the

way thither, she saw so much of him, and found him so charming, that

Avenant might have married her himself had he chosen; but he would not

have been false to his master for all the beauties under the sun. At

length they arrived at the king's city, and the Fair One with Golden

Locks became his spouse and queen. But she still loved Avenant in her

heart, and often said to the king her lord--But for Avenant I should

not be here; he has done all sorts of impossible deeds for my sake; he

has fetched me the water of beauty, and I shall never grow old--in

short, I owe him everything.



And she praised him in this sort so much, that at length the king

became jealous; and though Avenant gave him not the slightest cause of

offence, he shut him up in the same high tower once more--but with

irons on his hands and feet, and a cruel jailer besides, who fed him

with bread and water only. His sole companion was his little dog

Cabriole.



When the Fair One with Golden Locks heard of this, she reproached her

husband for his ingratitude, and then, throwing herself at his knees,

implored that Avenant might be set free. But the king only said, She

loves him! and refused her prayer. The queen entreated no more, but

fell into a deep melancholy.



When the king saw it, he thought she did not care for him because he

was not handsome enough; and that if he could wash his face with her

water of beauty, it would make her love him more. He knew that she

kept it in a cabinet in her chamber, where she could find it always.



Now it happened that a waiting-maid, in cleaning out this cabinet,

had, the very day before knocked down the phial, which was broken in a

thousand pieces, and all the contents were lost. Very much alarmed,

she then remembered seeing, in a cabinet belonging to the king, a

similar phial. This she fetched, and put in the place of the other

one, in which was the water of beauty. But the king's phial contained

the water of death. It was a poison, used to destroy great

criminals--that is, noblemen, gentlemen, and such like. Instead of

hanging them or cutting their heads off, like common people, they were

compelled to wash their faces with this water; upon which they fell

asleep, and woke no more. So it happened that the king, taking up this

phial, believing it to be the water of beauty, washed his face with

it, fell asleep, and--died.



Cabriole heard the news, and, gliding in and out among the crowd which

clustered round the young and lovely widow, whispered softly to

her--Madam, do not forget poor Avenant. If she had been disposed to

do so, the sight of his little dog would have been enough to remind

her of him--his many sufferings, and his great fidelity. She rose up,

without speaking to anybody, and went straight to the tower where

Avenant was confined. There, with her own hands, she struck off his

chains, and putting a crown of gold on his head, and a purple mantle

on his shoulders, said to him, Be king--and my husband.



Avenant could not refuse; for in his heart he had loved her all the

time. He threw himself at her feet, and then took the crown and

sceptre, and ruled her kingdom like a king. All the people were

delighted to have him as their sovereign. The marriage was celebrated

in all imaginable pomp, and Avenant and the Fair One with Golden Locks

lived and reigned happily together all their days.





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