The Tree In The Rotunda
: The Little Grey Mouse
: Old French Fairy Tales
Rosalie admired all the flowers very much but she waited with some
impatience for the prince to remove the cloth which enveloped this
mysterious tree. He left the green-house, however, without having spoken
"What then, my prince, is this tree which is so carefully concealed?"
"It is the wedding present which I destined for you but you cannot see
it until your fifteenth birthday," said
the prince, gayly.
"But what is it that shines so brilliantly under the cloth?" said she,
"You will know all in a few days, Rosalie, and I flatter myself that you
will not find my present a common affair."
"And can I not see it before my birthday?"
"No, Rosalie; the queen of the fairies has forbidden me, under heavy
penalties, to show it to you until after you become my wife. I do hope
that you love me enough to control your curiosity till that time."
These last words made Rosalie tremble, for they recalled to her the
little gray mouse and the misfortunes which menaced her as well as her
father, if she allowed herself to fall under the temptation, which,
without doubt, her enemy the fairy Detestable had placed before her. She
spoke no more of the mysterious case, and continued her walk with the
prince. The day passed most agreeably. The prince presented her to the
ladies of his court and commanded them to honor and respect in her the
princess Rosalie, whom the queen of the fairies had selected as his
bride. Rosalie was very amiable to every one and they all rejoiced in
the idea of having so charming and lovely a queen.
The following days were passed in every species of festivity. The prince
and Rosalie both saw with joyous hearts the approach of the birth-day
which was to be also that of their marriage:--the prince, because he
tenderly loved his cousin, and Rosalie because she loved the prince,
because she desired strongly to see her father again, and also because
she hoped to see what the case in the rotunda contained. She thought of
this incessantly. She dreamed of it during the night and whenever she
was alone she could with difficulty restrain herself from rushing to
the green-house to try to discover the secret.
Finally, the last day of anticipation and anxiety arrived. In the
morning Rosalie would be fifteen. The prince was much occupied with the
preparations for his marriage; it was to be a very grand affair. All the
good fairies of his acquaintance were to be present as well as the queen
of the fairies. Rosalie found herself alone in the morning and she
resolved to take a walk. While musing upon the happiness of the morrow,
she involuntarily approached the green-house. She entered, smiling
pensively, and found herself face to face with the cloth which covered
"To-morrow," said she, "I shall at last know what this thick cloth
conceals from me. If I wished, indeed I might see it to-day, for I
plainly perceive some little openings in which I might insert my fingers
and by enlarging just a little----. In fact, who would ever know it? I
would sew the cloth after having taken a glimpse. Since to-morrow is so
near, when I am to see all, I may as well take a glance to-day."
Rosalie looked about her and saw no one; and, in her extreme desire to
gratify her curiosity, she forgot the goodness of the prince and the
dangers which menaced them all if she yielded to this temptation.
She passed her fingers through the little apertures and strained them
lightly. The cloth was rent from the top to the bottom with a noise
like thunder and Rosalie saw before her eyes a tree of marvellous
beauty, with a coral trunk and leaves of emeralds. The seeming fruits
which covered the tree were of precious stones of all colors--diamonds,
sapphires, pearls, rubies, opals, topazes, all as large as the fruits
they were intended to represent and of such brilliancy that Rosalie was
completely dazzled by them. But scarcely had she seen this rare and
unparalleled tree, when a noise louder than the first drew her from her
ecstasy. She felt herself lifted up and transported to a vast plain,
from which she saw the palace of the king falling in ruins and heard the
most frightful cries of terror and suffering issue from its walls. Soon
Rosalie saw the prince himself creep from the ruins bleeding and his
clothing almost torn from him. He advanced towards her and said sadly:--
"Rosalie! ungrateful Rosalie! see what you have done to me, not only to
me, but to my whole court. After what you have done, I do not doubt that
you will yield a third time to your curiosity; that you will complete my
misfortunes, those of your unhappy father and your own. Adieu, Rosalie,
adieu! May sincere repentance atone for your ingratitude towards an
unhappy prince who loved you and only sought to make you happy!"
Saying these words, he withdrew slowly.
Rosalie threw herself upon her knees, bathed in tears and called him
tenderly but he disappeared without ever turning to contemplate her
despair. Rosalie was about to faint away, when she heard the little
discordant laugh of the gray mouse and saw it before her.
"Your thanks are due to me, my dear Rosalie, for having assisted you so
well. It was I who sent you those bewitching dreams of the mysterious
tree during the night. It was I who nibbled the cloth, to help you in
your wish to look in. Without this last artifice of mine, I believe I
should have lost you, as well as your father and your prince Gracious.
One more slip, my pet, and you will be my slave for ever!"
The cruel mouse, in her malicious joy, began to dance around Rosalie;
her words, wicked as they were, did not excite the anger of the guilty
"This is all my fault," said she; "had it not been for my fatal
curiosity and my base ingratitude, the gray mouse would not have
succeeded in making me yield so readily to temptation. I must atone for
all this by my sorrow, by my patience and by the firmness with which I
will resist the third proof to which I am subjected, no matter how
difficult it may be. Besides, I have but a few hours to wait and my dear
prince has told me that his happiness and that of my dearly loved father
and my own, depends upon myself."
Before her lay the smouldering ruins of the palace of the Prince
Gracious. So complete had been its destruction that a cloud of dust and
smoke hung over it, and hardly one stone remained upon another. The
cries of those in pain were borne to her ears and added to her
bitterness of feeling.
Rosalie continued to lie prone on the ground. The gray mouse employed
every possible means to induce her to move from the spot. Rosalie, the
poor, unhappy and guilty Rosalie, persisted in remaining in view of the
ruin she had caused.