The Butterfly

: The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew

In the time of the illustrious Merinous, it was indeed a pleasure to

be a king; the laws were just, the people obedient, and peace was over

the land. This monarch would have been the happiest of men, but for

the continual complaints of his consort, which tore his very heart in

twain. She wept continually for her daughters, nineteen of whom had

perished in the flower of youth. The Fairy of the Fountain had

promised a tw
ntieth; but years passed away in fruitless expectation.

You have neglected to do the fairy sufficient homage, said the king

one day; I shall give orders to conduct you to the foot of the

mountain with pomp and splendour. But when arrived there the mountain

itself must be climbed on foot, with many fatigues: most women would

rather die childless than encounter them.

Courage shall not be wanting on my part, said the queen, and I wish

to set out immediately.

The king kissed her forehead, bade her good-night, and fell asleep.

At early dawn appeared in the grand court of the palace an equipage,

dazzling as the sun itself; the wheels were of massy gold, with

emerald nails, which sparkled in the light. It was drawn by forty-two

horses, white as snow, whose reins were of rose-coloured satin, the

fashion of that period. They snorted impatiently, striking fire from

the pavement beneath their feet; their eyes were inflamed; their bits

covered with foam, and their proud and triumphant air seemed already

to announce the success of the queen's enterprise. Three thousand

chevaliers, armed at all points and mounted on fiery coursers, wheeled

about the chariot, the air resounding with their joyful acclamations

of--Long live King Merinous and his august spouse!

The queen saluted the people with the utmost grace and condescension,

which caused such immoderate joy, that she was almost stifled by the

pressure of the crowd: but the guards gently kept them at a distance,

and the procession passed on.

When her majesty had reached the foot of the mountain, she alighted

from her chariot, and, accompanied by only four maids-of-honour,

proceeded on foot.

This mountain was formed of slippery earth, slightly covered over with

green turf, but giving way at every step. The queen's pretty little

white satin shoes were soon left behind; and her feet next stuck so

fast that she could not withdraw them; her fair hands were in the same

plight; she cried aloud for succour, fearing she should be completely

buried alive.

Turning then round to look for her maids-of-honour, she perceived that

they had fallen flat on their faces (the impression remains till this

day), and were struggling, making the most desperate efforts, less in

consideration of their own danger than that of the queen. In fine,

after four hours and a half's patient perseverance they succeeded in

regaining their feet; and strange to say, no mud or clay attached

itself to their clothes; nothing worse than a slight shade of the

green turf, which assumed the appearance of a gauze veil. The fairy

then, seeing the queen willing to overcome difficulties, would not try

her further, but with one stroke of a wand reduced the mountain two or

three hundred feet; the remaining height was very dry and easy of


The queen was thus conducted to a delicious grove: a coral fountain

rose in the midst; its waters, of the purest rose-colour, wound along

the meadow, murmuring plaintive airs, whose words were perfectly

distinguishable. The fairy there welcomed her majesty, who prepared to

explain the occasion of her journey; but that was quite unnecessary.

The fairy, exacting profound secrecy, presented her with a phial of

water drawn from the fountain, strictly ordering that it should be

broken when she had drank it all. The queen, charmed by this

reception, made presents of inestimable value, and rejoined her

maids-of-honour, who had been thrown into an enchanted sleep. They

then returned to the palace in such high spirits, that all the court

danced and sung for a month afterwards.

In due course her majesty became, for the twentieth time, a joyful


The magnificence and liberality displayed on this occasion exceed

belief. The royal palace was surrounded by three hundred large spouts

which poured forth alternately, night and day the choicest sweetmeats,

confectionery, and money; the streets, in fact, were filled--the

passengers had only to stoop down and be satisfied.

But in the midst of these festivities the Fairy of the Fountain,

uncovering the little princess's cradle, which was of mother-o'-pearl

studded with diamonds, perceived a beautiful butterfly, placed

immediately under the infant's left eye.

The chief cradle-rocker, who dreaded being taxed with negligence, took

a humming-bird's wing, and endeavoured to chase it away, but all in

vain: it remained quite unconcerned in the same spot, extending its

large wings of rose-colour and azure-blue on the face of the princess,

appearing rather to caress than to wish to do her any injury. Ah!

said the fairy, this butterfly is not what you imagine. It is a

powerful fairy, who presides at the birth of the most distinguished

princesses, and endows them with a degree of levity which generally

leads to misfortune. I can lessen the evil, without doubt, but I

cannot entirely avert it. The queen wept bitterly at this sad news,

and the king saw no person during eight days. He then ceased to think

on the subject.

Misfortunes rarely enter into the speculations of kings. Masters of

the destinies of others, mankind flatter them into a belief that their

power can almost control fate itself. Accordingly, the visit of the

butterfly did not produce much permanent inquietude. The

poets-laureate and literati of the court turned it into numerous

sentimental conceits; amongst others, that the insect had fastened on

the princess's cheek mistaking it for a rose. This idea branched out

into a hundred elegies, a thousand madrigals, and fifteen hundred

songs, which were sung in all the principal families, and adapted to

airs, some already known, and others composed for the occasion.

The fairy frequently visited her little charge, but was unable to

conquer her fickle disposition. Ten different nurses had already been

obliged to give her up; she scratched them, bit them, and obstinately

refused to be fed. When she grew older, and began her education, she

was so easily wearied and vexed, that no one dared to contradict her.

The fairy was consulted; who made her smell at a very rare flower.

This produced a degree of intelligence so extraordinary, that in three

days she could read, write, speak all languages, and play on every

instrument after just twenty-three minutes' application.

The queen was now delighted, for the princess's talents were noised

abroad equally with her beauty. She had scarcely attained the age of

fourteen when many kings sought the honour of her hand. The good King

Merinous was well stricken in years, and fondly desired to see

Papillette established. All who seemed worthy of her received a

favourable reception, and amongst this number was the accomplished

Prince Favourite. After he had been presented in due form, the old

monarch asked his daughter what she thought of their new guest.

Sire, replied the maiden, I have been brought up with too much

modesty and reserve to bestow attention on strangers of the other


That is true, returned the monarch; but merely regarding him as a

picture, how has he appeared to you?

Tall and handsome, answered Papillette, his chestnut hair clinging

in close and crisping curls to his ivory brow; his eyes of

violet-blue, filled with soft vivacity; his teeth, of the most

brilliant white, divide lips of coral; his nose is perfect Grecian,

and his limbs like the rarest statuary. I might say more, had I

ventured to look at the prince.

It is enough, said the king; your first glance has shown you

enough. I am delighted that you are so sensible to the merits of

Prince Favourite, as I design him for your husband. Love him


Your majesty's commands are laws to your dutiful daughter, replied


One may easily imagine with what magnificence preparations were made

for the nuptials; the king hastened them, lest his daughter's

fickleness and levity might cause disappointment to their dearest


Papillette one day, while steadily regarding her lover, who was

kneeling before her, appeared struck by something which made an

impression as sudden as disagreeable. She repulsed Prince Favourite,

saying she was seized with a headache, and could not be troubled with


The lover submissively arose and went to seek the queen, beseeching

her to find out what he had done, and to intercede in his favour. Her

majesty accordingly questioned the princess, who, bathed in tears,

threw herself into the arms of her mother, confessing that she had

made a discovery which totally altered her sentiments regarding the

prince. Is it possible, added she, that you have not perceived his

ears, of so unusual a size, and a deep red colour?

Is that all? cried the queen. In truth, I have not observed it; but

to take notice of an imperfection so very trifling, would make us

appear ridiculous indeed.

People cannot help their feelings, replied Papillette; I have quite

a horror of red ears; it is little worth while to be daughter of a

great king, if one must be crossed and thwarted in the most important

arrangement of life.

The queen reasoned long; but this only increased Papillette's

resistance: therefore, being quite defenceless against the tears of a

child so dear, her majesty promised to speak to the king.

Merinous was firm in all his resolutions; he therefore declared, that

his daughter should become the wife of Prince Favourite, whether she

liked it or not.

The queen had not courage to impart this dreadful intelligence; but

she threw herself on the generosity of the prince, beseeching that he

would himself break the engagement--thus shielding Papillette from the

resentment of the king.

The distracted lover was ready to die with grief: but promised to do

all she requested. He asked but three days' grace.

The queen consented; and Prince Favourite then summoned Queseca, chief

barber to the king, Barber, said he, each country has its

particular prejudices--its own ideas of beauty; here I find large ears

are deemed a deformity; therefore, I command thee to cut off mine.

I cannot do it, replied the barber; your royal highness has been

grossly deceived. I have the honour of shaving the first lords of the

court, and I know many of them whose ears are equally red and ten

times as long as those of your royal highness. These very lords are

amongst the most distinguished favourites of the king.

I have summoned thee, replied the prince, to operate and not to

prate; obey my orders, and inflame not my ears still further by thy


Alas! said the barber, since your royal highness means to sacrifice

them to an unreasonable caprice, what signifies it whether they are

inflamed or not?

At these words the prince made a threatening gesture; and Queseca, no

longer daring to resist, took his razor, and with a trembling hand

separated two of the handsomest ears from one of the finest heads in

the world: for be it known, that the princess only made a pretext of

this assertion, because she had taken a fancy for somebody else.

The wound bled profusely: the prince applied healing balm; and when in

a condition to appear before her, enclosed his two ears in a little

box, rare and precious, and presented it to Papillette, his heart once

more filled with hope and love.

The princess eagerly opened the beautiful little casket, then dashed

it with horror to the ground. Prince! she cried, what can have

induced you to mutilate yourself so cruelly? Could you imagine that I

would ever wed a man who submitted to lose his ears?

Madam, said the prince, in consternation, it was by my own order


What a fool you were then! cried Papillette. If you are not willing

to become the ridicule of the court, I advise you to quit it with the

greatest expedition imaginable.

The prince dared not call her cruel and ungrateful: he retired to the

thickest retreats of a forest, and soon after entirely lost his


The princess, once more free, confessed that amongst her numerous

suitors there was one whom she preferred; this was Prince Malabar,

whose martial mien announced the soul of a hero. The queen did not

deny that Malabar had sought her daughter's hand, even before

Favourite aspired to that honour, and King Merinous could now no

longer insist on a marriage with this unfortunate prince, since he was

quite insane, ran naked through the woods, sometimes believing himself

a hind, sometimes a wolf, and never stopping until exhausted by grief

and despair. But in consenting to the marriage of his daughter with

Prince Malabar, the king declared that, should she again change her

mind, he would never forgive her.

The happy day was once more fixed, and Papillette, three days

preceding, invited her lover to meet her in a delightful grove at the

extremity of the gardens. This grove was planted with myrtles, so

thick and high that they afforded a pleasant shade. Beautiful flowers

sprang up on all sides; and, added to the warblings of the birds in

the trees, were the voices of hidden musicians, singing a chorus,

composed by the princess herself. This, however, Malabar, who was a

soldier, and not a musician, and who naturally wished to have his

lady-love's society all to himself, did not sufficiently appreciate.

Princess, said he, I had much rather hear you talk than these

people sing.

Are then those cares despised, replied Papillette, which I have so

assiduously employed to amuse and gratify you by the display of my


Your dearest talent, cried he, is that of pleasing: it comprises

every other. Send away these people, I pray. He added in a tone of

the utmost irritation: I hate--I detest music!

Have I rightly heard? exclaimed the princess angrily; and do you

pretend to love, if your soul is insensible to such transporting


I wish they would transport themselves far enough away, returned

the lover, who, like most other lovers, could be in an ill humour

sometimes. My princess, do order this scraping and squalling to


On the contrary, I order my musicians to remain, answered

Papillette, quite indignant, and never, never will I unite myself to

him whom divine melody hath no power to move. Go, prince, barbarous

alike in taste and science, seek some rustic maid, best suited to your


The musicians, too far distant to hear these words, struck up a lively

tune. Malabar imagined this done in derision, and it required all his

respect for the princess to prevent him from falling on them sword in

hand. He repented much his words, but considered it beneath his

dignity to retract them; the princess also refused to retract hers: so

they parted.

Malabar resolved on instant death. Mounting the noblest courser in his

stable, he rode down to the sea-coast, and plunged him right over a

perpendicular cliff into the waters below.

The tide happened to be coming in, so that the body was soon washed on

shore, and brought before the eyes of the cruel princess, laid on a

litter formed of willow, hung with draperies of black crape.

She was standing at the window when the melancholy procession passed,

and inquired what it was. None dared answer; they only removed the

covering from the face of the corpse. She ottered a loud shriek, and

fainted away.

The king and queen lavished on her the most tender cares, but all in

vain: she declared that she regarded herself as an inconsolable widow,

and insisted upon putting on the deepest weeds.

King Merinous respected this caprice, and ordered twenty thousand

yards of crape for her use. She was just giving orders to have her

apartments festooned with it, and holding a cambric handkerchief to

her eyes, when a little green ape (a drawing-room favourite) dressed

itself in weepers, and disposed one of the widow's caps most

tastefully under its chin.

At this sight the princess burst out laughing so loudly and heartily,

that all the court ladies, who had been trying which could pull the

longest and most sympathetic countenance, were greatly relieved, and

began immediately to smile a little.

Gradually, they removed from her eyes the trappings of woe, and

substituted ribbons of rose-colour and blue of every shade and

variety: trying on these, so diverted Papillette's melancholy, that

the poor drowned prince was soon forgotten. Her tears indeed were

vain; he had already enough of water.

The king was in despair. Alas! said he to the queen, we shall never

have the consolation of marrying Papillette, or beholding our

grandchildren. Of two monarchs so worthy of her, one has lost his

reason, the other has cast himself into the sea; and while we continue

to weep, she, already consoled, thinks only of diverting herself!

Sire, replied the queen, calm your apprehensions. Our daughter is

yet too young to feel true love in all its fervour; let us have

patience, and seek alliance with none but those truly worthy of her


Such is my wish, replied the king, and I begin to turn my views

upon Prince Patipata; he has seen the portrait of Papillette, and is

satisfied; but, though a wise and noble monarch, his personal

qualifications are little in his favor.

How so! rejoined the queen.

Because he is stiff, tall, and spare; his eyes bleared and filmy; his

hair red, and so scanty withal, that it seems like a few stripes of

blasted flax hung around a distaff.

A few days after this conversation, Prince Patipata arrived at court;

and the queen did not conceal from Papillette, that, notwithstanding

his personal disadvantages, he was intended for her spouse.

The princess laughed immoderately, yet, just for amusement, she

displayed towards him all the arts and graces of coquetry to


Prince Patipata having been informed of the deplorable end of his

predecessors, concealed his love as carefully as the others had

proclaimed theirs. He was so reserved and cold, that the princess

longed exceedingly to discover the state of his feelings. Accordingly,

one day, while Patipata was walking with Salmoe, his intimate

confidant, she hid herself in the trunk of an old tree, which had been

hollowed out by lightning, and afforded apparently a secure retreat.

The prince seated himself at the foot of it, but he had observed the

princess; and, making a sign of intelligence to his companion, feigned

to continue a conversation of which she was the subject. Assuredly,

said he, the princess is very handsome; but flatterers, poets, and

painters always overstep the truth. Her portrait has deceived me: its

large blue eyes bear assuredly some resemblance to those of

Papillette, but they bespeak an ardent and feeling heart, while hers

is frivolous, volatile, and incapable of love. Her smile would be

charming, but for its satirical irony. And what is the value of the

loveliest lips in the world, if they open but to deceive and betray!

I am much surprised, replied Salmoe; I believed that your royal

highness was equally loving and beloved.

Far from it, returned Patipata; it would ill become me, plain as I

am, to be confident of pleasing; and I am not dupe enough to yield my

heart without return. Do not you approve of this?

No, answered Salmoe, your royal highness is too modest; I cannot

sufficiently appreciate your humility.

The prince affected to be dissatisfied with this praise, and then

moved onwards in order to liberate Papillette, who was very

inconveniently cramped, and almost suffocated with anger. Disagreeable

truths seldom reach the ear of princesses; her resentment, therefore,

was to be expected. Meanwhile, her heart being equally capricious as

her understanding, she felt ready to pardon, and even, on reflection,

to justify Patipata. But pride soon combated this weakness; and she

determined to send him away. She complained to her father; assured

him, that by mere chance she had heard the most odious calumnies

uttered by a prince who sported with their dignity, by falsely

pretending to the hand of her whom he slighted and despised. The king

was surprised; but, not having entered into any positive engagements

with Patipata, he readily entered into her feelings, and intimated to

the prince that his adieus would be well received. This Patipata

expected; but, although not naturally presumptuous, he had read

sufficiently into the heart of Papillette to feel some degree of


As no decisive explanation of any kind occurred, he was permitted to

take leave of the princess. This he did with much firmness; while she

appeared so much agitated, that it was remarked by all the court. The

men attributed this to hatred; but the ladies, who knew better,

pronounced it love. They were convinced of the fact, when day by day

she began to pine and refused to eat; and had not the chief cook every

day invented some new ragout, she would inevitably have died of


The queen was in despair, and dispatched a billet to the Fairy of the

Fountain, fastening it to the tail of a little white mouse, which

served as a messenger on this occasion; it was perfectly acquainted

with the way, and in a few minutes the fairy arrived at the palace.

The late events were mentioned to her, and the melancholy situation of

the princess.

I understand this case, said the fairy; but it is necessary that

Papillette should give me her confidence.

The fairy was so amiable and so much beloved by the princess, that she

easily yielded; and casting down her eyes, confessed that she loved

one who regarded her with contemptuous indifference; and what rendered

her choice still more degrading was, its object being equally ugly as


I am then to understand, replied the fairy, that you wish to be

cured of this unfortunate passion?

Alas, no! rejoined Papillette, for my only pleasure is in thinking

of him, speaking to him as if he could hear, and persuading myself

that, notwithstanding appearances, he could have loved me, had he

believed my heart capable of steady affections. I shall therefore die,

leaving him alike ignorant of my regrets and my repentance.

I would not advise you to die, said the fairy that is the only evil

in the world without a remedy. But, my dear Papillette, what can I do

to console you?

Let me see the prince once more, under some metamorphose in which it

is impossible for him to recognise me.

Very well, replied the fairy. But since you wish to risk it, and

that a simple butterfly can scarcely compromise her dignity in

following a king, under this form I shall transport you to his court.

So saying, the Fairy of the Fountain placed on her finger a little

emerald ring, and the princess distinctly felt her arms change their

shape--expand--become flexible, and form two light wings, clothed in

the most brilliant colours. Her little feet quitted the earth, and as

the window was open, she flew out, traversing the air, with a degree

of rapidity which at first caused some sensations of fear. But soon

the eager desire of seeing Patipata urged her forward, although

natural instinct so far prevailed, as to cause frequent descents to

earth, where she rested on every tempting flower.

At length, entering the prince's gardens, she beheld him walking on a

terrace watering a beautiful orange-tree. Her heart beat so violently,

that her first emotion was to hide, but, soon recovering

self-possession, she flew forwards and rested on a branch which he had

just gathered.

What a charming butterfly! observed the king to his chief gardener.

Its colours are truly exquisite; I never recollect having seen any

such before.

Some new species, come to do mischief, I suppose, said the gardener,

preparing to brush it rudely away. But it took refuge on the bosom of

the king, with such caressing and tender familiarity, that only a hard

heart could have done it injury.

Ah, little traitor! cried Patipata, thou wishest to win me by thy

fleeting charms, and then escape for ever. I already know too well the

pain of loving fickle beings such as thou. Yet still I must defend

thee, and permit thy return to my orange-tree as often as thou


Papillette easily penetrated the thoughts of the prince, and although

they uttered a reproach for her inconstancy, she fancied they also

breathed the language of love; and returned in better spirits than

usual to her father's palace, where her absence had been unobserved.

From thenceforward she never omitted making use of the emerald ring,

which transported her in a few moments to her royal lover: she

followed him to his palace, saw him give audiences, preside in

council, and everywhere prove himself just, great, generous, and

worthy of all her affection. It is true that his eyes were still

filmy, his body spare, and his hair as red as ever; but what signifies

an outside casket when containing a priceless jewel within?

Patipata was determined against marriage; he therefore adopted as heir

to the crown the son of a cousin, a young orphan, whom he purposed

bringing up beneath his own eye. This prince little resembled his

uncle: he had been much spoiled in infancy, and it was impossible to

improve him. One day, while conversing with Patipata, Sire, said he,

I have a favour to ask your majesty, and I pray you not to refuse


I shall willingly grant you anything reasonable, replied the king.

It is but your beautiful rose-coloured butterfly, which follows you


And if I were to give it to you, what then?

I would run this golden pin through its body, and stick it to a

branch of the orange-tree, to see how long it would live. Oh, nothing

could be more amusing!

Nothing could be more barbarous! answered Patipata indignantly. Go,

you inspire me with horror; I banish you from my presence during three

entire days, and remember, that if my butterfly should receive any

injury, you shall be punished with unexampled severity!

The poor butterfly, who had heard this discourse, knew not how to

express its gratitude and joy; it flapped its wings, and sported

around its benefactor. The king held out his finger, and it rested

there. Thou shalt quit me no more, said he. It is so sweet to be

loved, even by a butterfly, that I would not willingly prove myself

ungrateful: thou shalt feed at my table; I will serve thee with the

finest fruits, the fairest flowers. Ah! if I can only make thee


On the following day, Patipata went out hunting. In vain Papillette

sought him in the park, in the garden, and near the favourite

orange-tree. But his nephew, taking advantage of his absence, began

chasing the pretty butterfly. The courtiers knew that he would one day

be in power, and, eager to gratify his whims, assisted in the wanton

sport: ministers the most pompous, members of council the most

profound, climbed on trees, and capered through the meadows,--one

would have supposed them mad. But the royal insect, so familiar with

the king, was for all others the most capricious of butterflies. It

amused itself in leading the court a long chase, and at length rested

in the private cabinet of the king, where they never once thought of

seeking it.

Papillette, now all alone, could not resist the opportunity afforded

of looking over a great quantity of writing which lay on the bureau.

What was her surprise and joy, on there finding verses, the most

passionate and tender, which Patipata had written in her praise! They

indeed revealed that he was proud, and would not risk a second

refusal; but they vowed to remain faithful to her, and never to wed


The princess was so affected, that two little tiny tears stood in her

butterfly-eyes. Well indeed she might shed them, for at this moment,

the wicked little prince, her enemy, came behind, and seizing her by

her two lovely wings, popped her into his hat.

Now I have you! cried he; and it is impossible to say what would

have happened, had not the king opportunely returned; when, in taking

off his hat to his uncle, he let the butterfly go.

She, recovering from her fright, testified affection by many little

endearments; and Patipata, now accustomed to speak to her, exclaimed:

Beautiful insect, how happy art thou!--thou wanderest from flower to

flower, without giving the preference to any--thou knowest not

love--thou hast not found ingratitude! I, a king, can not boast of

such happiness. I adore the lovely Princess Papillette, and am

dismissed from her court. I am ugly, it is true; but were I ever so

handsome, I should not be more fortunate, for I too well know her


The butterfly here sighed so deeply, that the king started.

Is it possible thou canst feel? said he. Oh, if my princess had but

as much sensibility, I would know no other care! With her I would live

in a hut, far, far from the deceitful splendour of a throne.

The Princess Papillette would willingly accompany you, said a little

voice, in tones of the finest and purest melody: and the butterfly's

rosy wings blushed deep as crimson.

What a prodigy! cried Patipata. Ah! butterfly, what dost thou know

of my Papillette?

Suppose it were herself! said a voice, which seemed to proceed from

a little fountain of rock-crystal which stood between the windows.

The prince turned round; but instead of the butterfly, he beheld the

Fairy of the Fountain, holding the fair Papillette by the hand. They

were both encircled by a light rose-coloured cloud, which shed a

softly brilliant light around the apartment.

Patipata bent one knee to the earth, and kissed the hem of the

princess's garment.

Come, prince, said the fairy, King Merinous is apprised of what

passes here. Papillette has overcome her evil destiny. Her affections

are fixed and sure; and their object is yourself And however ready

you may both be to live in a hut together, I advise you not to do it.

Love is sweeter than royalty, no doubt, but it is not impossible to

unite both.

The lovers, transported with joy, placed their feet on the

rose-colored cloud, which instantly carried them to the palace of the

king. The Fairy of the Fountain, to complete her benefactions,

rendered Patipata as handsome as he was amiable, and the nuptials were

celebrated with suitable pomp and festivity. We are informed that

Papillette had, at first, some slight returns of her natural

disposition; but in one year she became a mother, and from

thenceforward never knew frivolity more.