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Gracieuse and Percinet or Graciosa and Percinet- a fairy tale by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy

 Read "Gracieuse and Percinet" fairy tale for all children. "Graciosa and Percinet" story, is a short bedtime Story for kids written by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy or Countess d'Aulnoy or Madame d'Aulnoy about a princess who was the only daughter of the king and queen, which is why they loved her so much. She was very beautiful and intelligent, and for this reason she was called Gracieuse. An old maid who was very ugly but also very rich named the Duchess Grognon, did not love Gracieuse at all and in order not to hear the praises that were brought to the princess, she moved to a neighboring castle. When the queen died, the princess and the king suffered greatly, but after a year of suffering, the king went for a walk and came across the castle of Duchess Grognon. When the king saw how much wealth the duchess had, he decided to marry her.

"Gracieuse and Percinet or Graciosa and Percinet"
a fairy tale by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy or Countess d'Aulnoy or Madame d'Aulnoy


Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who had an only daughter. Her beauty, her sweet temper, and her wit, which were incomparable, caused them to name her Gracieuse. She was the sole joy of her mother, who sent her every day a beautiful new dress, either of gold brocade, or of velvet, or of satin. She was always magnificently attired, without being in the least proud, or vain of her fine clothes. She passed the morning in the company of learned persons, who taught her all sorts of sciences, and in the afternoon she worked beside the queen. At luncheon time they served up to her basins full of sugar-plums, and more than twenty pots of preserves; so that she was universally considered the happiest princess in the world!

There was in this same court an exceedingly rich old maid, called the Duchess Grognon, and who was horrible in every respect. Her hair was as red as fire, her face of an alarming size, covered with pimples; she had but one blear eye left, and her mouth was so large you would have said she could eat everybody up, only, as she had no teeth, people were not afraid of it; she had a hump before and behind, and limped with both legs. Such monsters envy all handsome persons, and consequently she hated Gracieuse mortally, and retired from Court to avoid hearing her praises. She took up her abode in a neighbouring chateau that belonged to her, and when any one who paid her a visit spoke of the perfections of the princess, she would scream out in a rage, "It is false! it is false! She is not charming! I have more beauty in my little finger than she has in her whole body!"

​Now it happened that the queen fell ill and died. The Princess Gracieuse felt as if she should die also of grief for the loss of so good a mother, and the king deeply regretted his excellent wife. For nearly a twelvemonth he remained shut up in his palace, till at length the physicians, alarmed at the consequence to his health, insisted on his going out and amusing himself.

One day he went hunting, and the heat being very great, he entered a large chateau that he saw near him, for shelter and refreshment. As soon as the Duchess Grognon (for it was her chateau) heard of the king's arrival, she hastened to receive him, and informed him that the coolest place in the mansion was a large vaulted cellar, exceedingly clean, into which she requested he would descend. The king followed her, and entering the cellar he saw two hundred barrels placed in rows one above the other. He asked her whether it was only for herself she kept such a stock. "Yes, Sire," she replied, "for myself alone: but I shall be delighted if your majesty will do me the honour to taste my wines. Here is Canary, Saint Laurent, Champagne, Hermitage, Pivesalte, Rossolis, Persicot, Fenouillet;[1] which do you prefer, Sire?" "Frankly," said the king, "I hold that champagne is worth all the other wines put together." Grognon immediately took a small hammer, struck a cask two or three times, "tap," "tap," and out came a million of pistoles. "What does this mean?" she exclaimed with a smile, and passing to the next cask she hit that, "tap" "tap," and out rolled a bushel of double Louis-d'ors. "I don't understand this at all," she said, smiling still more significantly. On she went to another barrel and rapped "tap" "tap," and out ran so many pearls and diamonds that the floor of the cellar was covered with them. "Ah!" she cried, "I can't comprehend this, Sire. Somebody must have stolen my good wine and put in its place these trifles." "Trifles!" echoed the king, perfectly astonished; "do you call these trifles, Madam? There is treasure enough ​here to buy ten kingdoms, each as big as Paris!"[2] "Well," said the duchess, "know that these barrels are all filled with gold and jewels, and I will make you master of all, provided you will marry me." "Oh," said the king, who loved money beyond anything, "I desire nothing better!—I'll marry you to-morrow if you please." "But," continued she, "I must make one more condition. I must have the same power over your daughter as her mother had. She must obey my will and pleasure, and you shall leave her entirely to my management." "Agreed," said the king, "there is my hand upon it." Grognon placed her hand in his, and leaving the treasure-vault together, she presented him with the key of it.

The king immediately returned to his palace. Gracieuse, hearing her royal father's voice, ran to meet him, embraced him, and inquired if he had had good sport. "I have taken," said he, "a dove, alive." "Ah, Sir," said the princess, "give it to me, I will feed and make a pet of it." "That may not be," replied the king, "for to speak plainly, I must tell you that I have seen the Duchess Grognon, and that I am going to marry her." "Oh, Heavens!" exclaimed Gracieuse, "can you call her a dove? She is more like a screech-owl!" "Hold your tongue," said the king, becoming angry; "I command you to love and respect her as much as if she were your mother. Go and dress yourself immediately, for I intend to return this very day to meet her." The princess, who was very obedient, went immediately to her dressing-room. Her nurse saw tears in her eyes—"What is the matter, my little darling?" she asked, "you are crying?" "Alas! my dear nurse," answered Gracieuse, "who would not weep? The king is going to give me a step-mother, and to complete my misfortune, she is my most cruel enemy,—in one word, the hideous Grognon! How shall I ever bear to see her in the beautiful beds which the queen, my dear mother, so delicately embroidered with her own hands! How can I ever caress a malicious old ape who would have put me to death!" "My dear child," replied the nurse, "you must have a spirit as ​high and noble as your birth. Princesses like you should set the greatest examples to the world; and what finer example can there be, than that of obedience to a father and sacrificing one's-self to please him? Promise me, therefore, that you will not manifest your antipathy to Grognon." The poor princess had much difficulty in summoning up resolution to promise: but the prudent nurse gave her so many excellent reasons, that at length she pledged her word to put a good face on the matter, and behave courteously to her step-mother. She then proceeded to dress herself in a gown of green and gold brocade, her long fair hair falling in wavy folds upon her shoulders, and fanned by the passing breezes, as was the fashion in those days, and crowned with a light wreath of roses and jasmine, the leaves of which were made of emeralds. In this attire, Venus, the mother of the loves, would have looked less beautiful, notwithstanding the air of melancholy which she could not altogether banish from her countenance.

But to return to Grognon. The ugly creature was excessively occupied with her toilette. She had one shoe made half a cubit higher in the heel than the other, in order to appear less lame, a boddice stuffed upon one shoulder to conceal the hump on its fellow. A glass eye, the best she could procure, to replace the one she had lost. She painted her brown skin white, dyed her red hair black, and then put on an open robe of amaranth coloured satin faced with blue, and a yellow petticoat, trimmed with violet ribbon. She determined to make her entrée on horseback, because she had heard it was a custom of the queens of Spain.

Whilst the king was giving his orders, and Gracieuse awaiting the moment of departure to meet Grognon, she descended, alone into the palace gardens and strolled into a little gloomy grove, where she sat down upon the grass. "At length," she said, "I am at liberty, and may cry as much as I please without any one to check me!" and accordingly she sighed and wept so excessively, that her eyes appeared like two fountains in full play. In this sad state she no longer thought of returning to the Palace, when she saw a page approaching, dressed in green satin, with a plume of white feathers in his cap and the handsomest countenance in the world. Bending one knee to the ground, he said, "Princess, the king awaits ​​you." She was struck with surprise at the beauty and grace of the young page, and, as he was a stranger to her, she supposed he was in the service of Grognon. "How long is it," said she, "since the king admitted you into the number of his pages?" "I am not the king's page, madam," he replied; "I am yours, and will be yours only." "Mine!" exclaimed Gracieuse, much astonished, "and I not know you!" "Ah, princess!" said he, "hitherto I have not dared to make myself known to you, but the misfortunes with which you are threatened by this marriage of the king oblige me to speak to you sooner than I should have done. I had resolved to leave time and attention to declare to you my passion." "How! a page!" said the princess: "a page has the assurance to tell me he loves me!—This, indeed, completes my degradation!" "Be not alarmed, beautiful Gracieuse," said he, with the most tender and respectful air; "I am Percinet, a prince sufficiently well known for his wealth and his science, to relieve you from all idea of inequality in birth and station. In merit and person I eagerly admit your superiority. I have loved you long; I have been often near you in these gardens without your perceiving me. The Fairy power bestowed upon me at my birth has been of great service in procuring me the pleasure of beholding you. I will accompany you everywhere to-day in this habit, and, I trust, not altogether without being of service to you." The princess gazed at him while he spoke, in a state of astonishment from which she could not recover. "It is you, then, handsome Percinet!" said she to him. "It is you whom I have so much wished to see, and of whom such surprising things are related! How delighted I am that you desire to be my friend! I no longer fear the wicked Grognon, since you take an interest in my fortunes." A few more words passed between them, and then Gracieuse repaired to the palace, where she found a horse ready saddled and caparisoned, which Percinet had placed in the stables, and which it was supposed must be intended for her. She mounted it, and, as it was a very spirited animal, the page took the bridle and led it, turning every minute towards the princess that he might have the pleasure of beholding her.

When the horse which had been selected for Grognon appeared beside that of Gracieuse, it looked like a drought jade, ​and the housings of the beautiful steed so blazed with jewels that those of the other could not be compared to them. The king, who was occupied with a thousand things, took no notice of it: but the nobles had no eyes but for the princess, whose beauty was their admiration, and for her green page, who was prettier than all the other Court pages put together.

They met Grognon on the road in an open caleche, looking more ugly and ill-shapen than an old gipsy. The king and the princess embraced her. They led forward her horse, that she might mount, but seeing the one Gracieuse was upon she exclaimed, "How! Is this creature to have a finer horse than I? I had rather never be a queen and return to my precious castle, than be treated in this manner!" The king immediately commanded the princess to dismount, and to beg Grognon would do her honour to ride her horse. The princess obeyed without a murmur. Grognon neither looked at her, nor thanked her. She was hoisted up on the beautiful horse, and looked like a bundle of dirty clothes. Eight gentlemen held her for fear she should fall off. Still she was not satisfied, but muttered threats between her teeth. They inquired what was the matter with her. "The matter is," said she, "that, being the mistress, I choose that the green page shall hold the rein of my horse as he did when Gracieuse rode it." The king ordered the green page to lead the queen's horse. Percinet looked at the princess, and she at him, without speaking a word. He obeyed, and all the Court set forward, the drums and trumpets making a desperate noise. Grognon was in raptures. Notwithstanding her flat nose and her wry mouth she would not have changed persons with Gracieuse.

But at the moment when they were least thinking of it, lo, and behold, the fine horse began to bound, to rear, and at length ran away at such a pace that no one could stop him. Off he went with Grognon, who held on by the saddle and by the mane screaming with all her might. At length she was thrown with her foot in the stirrup. She was dragged for some distance over stones and thorns into a heap of mud where she was almost smothered. As everybody had ran after her as fast as they could, they soon came up to her: but her skin was scratched all over, her head cut open in four or five places, and one of her arms broken. Never was a bride in a more miserable plight.

​The king seemed in despair. They picked her up in pieces like a broken glass. Her cap was on one side, her shoes on the other. They carried her into the city, put her to bed, and sent for the best surgeons. Ill as she was, she never ceased storming. "Gracieuse has played me this trick," said she; "I am certain she only chose that fine but vicious horse in order to make me wish to ride it, and that it might kill me. If the king does not give me satisfaction for this injury I will return to my precious chateau and never see him again as long as I live!" The king was informed of the rage of Grognon. As his ruling passion was avarice, the mere idea of losing the thousand barrels of gold and diamonds, made him shudder, and was sufficient to drive him to anything. He ran to the filthy invalid, flung himself at her feet, and protested she had only to name the punishment Gracieuse deserved, and that he abandoned the princess to her resentment. She professed herself satisfied, and said she would send for her.

Accordingly the princess was told Grognon wanted her. She turned pale and trembled, being well assured it was not to caress her. She looked about everywhere for Percinet, but he did not appear, and sadly she proceeded to Grognon's apartment. Scarcely had she entered it when the doors were closed. Four women, who resembled as many furies, threw themselves on her by order of their mistress, and tore all her fine clothes from her back. When her shoulders were bare, these cruel demons could not endure their dazzling whiteness. They shut their eyes as though they had been looking for a long time on snow. "Come, come, courage!" cried the pitiless Grognon from out her bed. "Flay me that girl, and leave her not the least morsel of that white skin she thinks so beautiful." In any other emergency Gracieuse would have wished for the handsome Percinet: but being nearly naked she was too modest to desire his presence, and so prepared herself to suffer everything like a poor innocent lamb. The four furies were each armed with an alarming handful of birchen twigs, and they had besides large brooms out of which they could pull fresh ones, so that they beat her without mercy, and at every blow Grognon called out, "Harder! harder! you spare her!" There is no one who would not suppose, after that, but that the princess was flayed alive from head to foot. They would be mistaken, however: for ​the gallant Percinet had bewitched the eyes of these women. They imagined they had birch-rods in their hands, but they had only bunches of feathers of all sorts of colours, and from the moment they began to flog her, Gracieuse observed the fact and ceased to be afraid, saying to herself, "Ah, Percinet, you have most generously come to my assistance! What should I have done without you?" The flagellants so fatigued themselves, that they could no longer lift their arms. They huddled her into her clothes and turned her out of the room with a thousand abusive epithets. She returned to her own chamber pretending to be very ill, went to bed, and ordered that no one should stay near her but her nurse, to whom she related her adventure. She talked herself to sleep, the nurse left her, and on awaking she saw in a corner of the room the green page whose respect prevented him from approaching her. She assured him she should never forget, as long as she lived, her obligations to him. She conjured him not to abandon her to the fury of her enemy, but begged he would leave the room, as she had always been taught that it was not correct to remain alone with young gentlemen. He replied, that she should see the respect he entertained for her; that it was but just, as she was his mistress, that he should obey her in all things, even at the expense of his own happiness, and thereupon he left her, after advising her to continue feigning indisposition in consequence of the ill usage she had received.

Grognon was so gratified to learn that Gracieuse was in such a condition, that she got well in half the time she would otherwise have done, and the marriage was celebrated with great magnificence. But as the king was aware that Grognon preferred, above everything, to be extolled for her beauty, he had her portrait painted, and commanded a tournament in which six of the best knights in his court should maintain against all comers that Queen Grognon was the loveliest princess in the world.

A great many foreign knights appeared in the lists to maintain the contrary. The baboon herself was present at all the encounters, seated in a grand balcony hung with cloth of gold, and had the pleasure of seeing the skill of her champions successful in her bad cause. Gracieuse, placed behind her, attracted every eye, and Grognon, as silly as she was vain, imagined that no one could look at anybody but her.

​There was scarcely any one left to dispute the beauty of Grognon, when a young knight presented himself bearing a portrait in a diamond box. He declared that he would maintain Grognon was the ugliest of all old women, and that she whose portrait was in the box was the fairest of all young maidens. So saying, he charged the six knights and unhorsed every one of them. Six others presented themselves, and so on to the number of four-and-twenty, all of whom he overthrew. Then opening his box, he told them that, by way of consolation for their defeat, he would show them the beautiful portrait. Every one instantly recognised it to be that of the Princess Gracieuse.

The victorious knight made her a profound obeisance, and retired without making himself known, but she had not the least doubt it was Percinet. Grognon was nearly suffocated with passion; her throat swelled to such a degree that she could not utter a word. She made signs that it was Gracieuse she was enraged at, and as soon as she could speak she began to rave like a mad woman. "How!" she exclaimed. "Dare to dispute with me the palm of beauty! To bring such disgrace upon my knights! No, I cannot endure it, I must have vengeance or death!" "Madam," said the princess, "I protest that I had not the least hand in anything that has happened. I am ready to attest with my blood, if it be your pleasure, that you are the handsomest person in the world, and that I am a monster of ugliness." "Ah, you can joke, can you, my little darling?" replied Grognon, "but I will have my turn before long." The king was informed of the rage of his wife, and that the princess was dying with terror, and implored him to have pity on her, as, should he leave her to the mercy of the queen, she would do her a thousand mischiefs. He was perfectly unmoved by the appeal, and simply answered, "I have given her to her step-mother. She may do as she pleases with her."

The wicked Grognon waited impatiently for night to arrive. As soon as it was dark she ordered the horses to be put to her travelling carriage. Gracieuse was forced into it, and under a strong escort she was conveyed to a large forest a hundred leagues distant, through which nobody dared pass, as it was full of lions, bears, tigers, and wolves. When they had reached the middle of this terrible wood they made the ​Princess alight, and left her there regardless of her piteous supplications. "I do not ask you to spare my life," she cried, "I only request immediate death. Kill me and spare me all the tortures I must suffer here!" They were deaf to her entreaties. They did not even deign to answer her, and, galloping off, left the lovely and unfortunate maiden alone in the forest. She hurried on for some time without knowing whither she was going, now running against some tree, now falling, now entangled in the bushes, till at length overwhelmed with anguish, she threw herself on the ground unable to rise again. "Percinet!" she cried, twice or thrice, "Percinet! Where are you? Is it possible you can have abandoned me?" As she uttered the last words, she suddenly beheld the most surprising thing in the world. It was an illumination so magnificent that there was not a tree in the forest on which there were not several chandeliers filled with wax lights, and at the far end of an avenue she perceived a palace built entirely of crystal, which blazed like the sun. She began to imagine Percinet had some hand in this new enchantment, and felt her joy a little mingled with fear. "I am alone," she said, "the prince is young, amiable, in love, and I owe him my life! Ah! It is too much!—Let me fly from him!—Better for me to die than love him!" So saying, she managed to rise from the ground, notwithstanding her weariness and weakness, and without casting another look towards the splendid palace, she hurried off in an opposite direction, so distressed and so bewildered by the various feelings which agitated her, that she did not know what she was doing.

At that moment she heard a noise behind her. Fear seized her. She thought it was some wild beast who was about to devour her. She looked back, trembling, and beheld Prince Percinet as handsome as they paint the God of Love. "You fly me, my Princess!" said he. "You fear me when I adore you! Is it possible you can know so little of my respect as to suppose me capable of failing in it to you? Come! come, without fear, into the fairy palace. I will not enter it if you forbid me. You will find there the queen, my mother, and my sisters, who already love you tenderly from my account of you." Gracieuse, charmed by the humble and engaging manner in which her young lover addressed her, could not refuse ​to enter with him a little sledge, painted and gilt, and drawn by two stags, at a prodigiously swift pace, so that in a very short time he conducted her to a thousand points in the forest, each of which appeared to her admirable. It was throughout as light as day. There were shepherds and shepherdesses gallantly dressed who danced to the sound of flutes and bag-pipes. In other spots, by the side of fountains, she saw village swains and maidens feasting and singing gaily. "I thought this forest was uninhabited," said she to the prince; "but it seems full of happy people." "From the moment you set foot in it," replied Percinet, "this gloomy solitude became the abode of pleasure and mirth. The loves accompany you and flowers grow beneath your feet." Gracieuse feared to enter into such a conversation: she therefore requested him to conduct her to his mother, the queen. He immediately ordered the stags to proceed to the fairy palace. As she approached it she heard most exquisite music, and the queen with two of her daughters met her, embraced her, and led her into a large saloon, the walls of which were of rock-crystal. She observed, with great astonishment, that all her own history to that very day was engraved upon the walls, even the promenade she had just made with the prince in the sledge, and the execution of the work was so fine that the master-pieces of Phidias and all that Greece ever could boast were not to be compared to it. "You have very diligent artists," said Gracieuse to Percinet, "every action, every gesture of mine is instantly sculptured." "Because I would not lose the recollection of the slightest circumstance relating to you, my princess," replied he. "Alas, in no place am I happy or contented!" She made him no answer; but thanked the queen for the manner in which she had received her. A grand banquet was served up, to which Gracieuse did justice, for she was delighted to have found Percinet in lieu of the bears and lions she had dreaded to meet in the forest. Although she was very tired, the prince persuaded her to pass into a saloon dazzling with gold and painting, in which an opera was performed before her. The subject was the Loves of Cupid and Psyche, and it was interspersed with dances and allusive songs. A young shepherd came forward, and sang the following words:

Gracieuse, beloved thou art,
And by such a loving heart,
Love's own god, were he to woo thee,
Could not give a fonder to thee!
Hast thou one thyself more hard,
Than rugged bear or spotted pard?
None so fierce the forest rove;
But obey the power of love.
All things to his sceptre bow,
Cold and cruel only thou!

Gracieuse blushed at being so directly addressed by name before the queen and the princesses. She told Percinet that it was painful to her to have such a subject publicly alluded to. "It recals to me a maxim," she continued, "which I perfectly approve.

"Be sparing of thy confidence, and know
That silence can a charm on love bestow;
The world's a wayward judge, and oftentimes
The purest pleasures will denounce as crimes."

The prince requested her pardon for having done anything that was displeasing to her, and the opera ended: the two princesses, by order of the queen, conducted Gracieuse to her apartments. Never was anything so magnificent as the furniture, or so elegant as the bed and bed-chamber appropriated to her. She was waited on by four-and-twenty maidens attired as nymphs, the eldest was but eighteen, and each a miracle of beauty. As soon as she was in bed a strain of exquisite music wooed her to sleep; but wonder prevented her closing her eyes. "All I have seen," said she to herself, "is enchantment! How greatly is so amiable and gifted a prince to be feared! I cannot fly these scenes too soon!"—and yet the idea of leaving them caused her considerable pain. To quit so magnificent a palace to place herself in the power of the barbarous Grognon!—The sacrifice was great—one might at least hesitate: on the other hand, she found Percinet so engaging she feared to remain in a palace of which he was the master. As soon as she rose in the morning they brought her dresses of every colour, sets of jewellery of every fashion, laces, ribbons, gloves, silk stockings, all in the most marvellous taste. Nothing was wanting! Her toilet was of chased gold; she had never been so perfectly dressed, and had never ​looked so beautiful. Percinet entered the room in a dress of green and gold, (green was his colour because Gracieuse was fond of it). All those we have heard boasted of as the best-formed and most amiable of men would have lost by comparison with this young prince. Gracieuse told him she had not been able to sleep; that the recollection of her misfortunes tormented her, and that she could not help dreading the consequences. "What can alarm you, madam?" said he; "you are sovereign here—you are here adored—would you abandon me for your cruel enemy?" "If I were my own mistress," she replied, "I would accept your proposal; but I am accountable to the king, my father, for my actions, and it is better to suffer than fail in my duty." Percinet said everything in the world he could think of to persuade her to marry him; but she would not consent, and it was almost in spite of herself that she was induced to remain one week, during which he invented a thousand new pleasures for her entertainment. She often said to the prince, "I should much like to know what is passing in Grognon's Court, and how she has glossed over her conduct to me?" Percinet told her he would send his squire to ascertain, who was an intelligent person. She replied that she was convinced he had no need of any one to inform him of what was going on, and that therefore he could tell her immediately if he chose. "Come then with me," said he, "into the great tower, and you shall see for yourself." Thereupon he led her to the top of an exceedingly high tower which was all of rock-crystal, like the rest of the château. He told her to place her foot on his, and her little finger in his mouth, and then to look in the direction of the city. She immediately perceived that the wicked Grognon was with the king, and that she was saying to him, "That wretched princess has hanged herself in the cellar; I have just seen her, she is a most horrible sight—she must be buried immediately, and you will soon get over so trifling a loss." The king began to weep for the death of his daughter. Grognon turned her back upon him, retired to her apartments, caused a log of wood to be dressed up in a cap, and well wrapped in grave-clothes, put into a coffin, and then by order of the king there was a grand funeral, which was attended by everybody, weeping and cursing the cruel stepmother, whom they accused of having caused the death of the princess. All the people went into deep ​mourning, and she heard the lamentations for her loss, and that they whispered to one another, "What a pity that this lovely young princess should perish through the cruelties of such a wicked creature!—She ought to be cut to pieces and made into a pie!" The king could neither eat nor drink, and cried ready to break his heart!

Gracieuse, seeing her father so afflicted, exclaimed, "Ah, Percinet, I cannot allow my father to believe any longer that I am dead. If you love me, take me back to him." All he could urge was in vain; he was compelled to obey, though with great reluctance. "My princess," said he, "you will regret more than once leaving this fairy palace; for, as to myself, I dare not think you will regret me. You are more unmerciful to me than Grognon is to you." It was of no use talking; she would go. She took leave of the prince's mother and sisters, entered the sledge with him, and the stags started off. As she left the palace she heard a great noise. She looked back; it was the entire building which had fallen and lay broken into a thousand fragments. "What do I see?" she cried; "the palace destroyed!" "My palace," replied Percinet, "shall be amongst the dead. You will never reenter it till after you are buried." "You are angry," said Gracieuse, endeavouring to appease him. "But am I not, in fact, more to be pitied than you?"

On arriving at the city, Percinet caused the princess, himself, and the sledge to be invisible. Gracieuse ascended to the king's apartment and flung herself at his feet. When he saw her, he was frightened and would have run away, taking her for a ghost. She stopped him, and assured him she was not dead; that Grognon had caused her to be carried off into the wilderness; that she had climbed up a tree, where she had lived upon wild fruits; that they had buried a log of wood in her place, and ended, by begging him, for mercy's sake, to send her to one of his castles, where she might no longer be exposed to the fury of her step-mother.

The king, scarcely able to credit her story, had the log of wood taken up, and was astounded at the malice of Grognon. Any other monarch would have ordered Grognon to be buried alive in its place; but he was a poor weak man, who his daughter a good deal, and made her sup with him. When ​Grognon's creatures ran and told her of the return of the princess, and that she was supping with the king, she began to rave like a mad woman, and rushing to him, told him there must be no hesitation about it; he must either abandon that cheat to her, or see her, on the instant, take her departure never to return as long as she lived. That it was mere folly to believe that the girl was the Princess Gracieuse. It was true she resembled her slightly, but that Gracieuse had hanged herself; that she had seen her with her own eyes, and that if any credence was given to the story of that impostor, it would be an unpardonable want of respect to, and confidence in her." The king without another word gave up to her the unfortunate princess, believing, or feigning to believe, that she was not his daughter.

Grognon, transported with joy, dragged her, with the help of her women, into a dungeon, where she had her stripped. They took away her costly garments and threw over her a rag of coarse cloth, putting wooden shoes on her feet and a hood of drugget on her head. They barely gave her straw enough to lie upon, and a little black bread to eat.

In this distress, she began to weep bitterly, and to regret the Fairy Palace; but she dared not call on Percinet for succour, feeling that she had treated him too unkindly, and not being able to believe he loved her enough to come again to her aid. In the meanwhile, the wicked Grognon had sent for a fairy who was little less malicious than herself. "I have here in my power," she said, "a little hussy who has offended me. I want to punish her, by giving her such difficult tasks to execute that she will not be able to perform them, and so that I may break her bones without giving her a right to complain. Help me to find a new torment for her every day." The Fairy told her she would think of it, and that she should see her again the next morning. She kept her word. She brought a skein of thread as big as four grown-up people, so finely spun that it would break if you breathed on it, and so tangled that it was in a bundle without beginning or end. Grognon, delighted, sent for her beautiful prisoner, and said to her—"There, my good little gossip, set your great powers at work to wind off this skin of thread; and rest assured that if you break the least bit of it, you are lost, for I will flay you alive, myself! Begin whenever you please; but it must be ​wound off before sunset." With that she shut her up in a room under three locks.

The Princess was no sooner left alone than, examining the enormous skein and turning it over and over, breaking a thousand threads in trying to find one to begin with, she became so confused that she ceased attempting to unravel it; and, flinging it into the middle of the room, "Go," she cried, "fatal thread, thou wilt be the cause of my death! Ah, Percinet! Percinet! if my cruelty has not completely offended you, I implore you to hasten—not to save me, but only to receive my last farewell." Thereupon she began to weep so bitterly, that even one who was not a tender lover must have been touched by it. Percinet opened the door as easily as if he had had the key in his pocket. "I am here, my Princess," said he to her, "always ready to serve you. I am not capable of deserting you, notwithstanding the poor return you make to my affection." He struck the skein three times with his wand; the broken threads were immediately rejoined, and two more taps unravelled it with most astonishing perfection. He inquired if there was any other service he could render her, and whether she would never call on him but when she was in trouble. "Do not reproach me, handsome Percinet," said she; "I am already sufficiently miserable." "But, my Princess, it is in your own power to liberate yourself from the tyranny of which you are the victim. Come with me. Complete our mutual happiness. What do you fear?" "That you do not love me well enough," replied she. "I would have time to be convinced of your affection." Percinet, exasperated by her suspicions, bowed and disappeared.

The sun was just about to set; Grognon awaited the moment with the greatest impatience. At length she anticipated it, and came with her four furies, who accompanied her everywhere. She put the three keys into the three locks, and said as she opened the door, "I'll wager, now, that this idle beauty hasn't wagged one of her ten fingers. She would much rather have slept to improve her complexion." As soon as she entered, Gracieuse presented her with the ball of thread quite perfect. She had not a word to say, except that Gracieuse had soiled it,—that she was a dirty creature; and for that gave her two such slaps on the face, that the roses and lilies of her cheeks turned blue and yellow. The hapless ​Gracieuse bore patiently an insult she was not in a position to resent. They took her back to her dungeon, and locked her up carefully. Grognon, vexed that she had not succeeded with the skein of thread, sent for the Fairy, and loaded her with reproaches. "Find out something," she said, "so difficult that she cannot possibly accomplish it." The Fairy departed, and the next day returned with a great barrel full of feathers. There were some of all sorts of birds—nightingales, canaries, greenfinches, goldfinches, linnets, redwings, parrots, owls, sparrows, doves, ostriches, bustards, peacocks, larks, partridges;—I should never have finished if I attempted to name them all. These feathers were so mixed together, that the birds themselves could not have recognised their own. "Here," said the Fairy to Grognon, "is what will try the skill and patience of your prisoner. Order her to pick out these feathers, and put the peacock's, the nightingale's, and every other sort, each by themselves in separate heaps. It would be a task for a fairy." Grognon was ready to die with joy, picturing to herself the perplexity of the wretched princess. She sent for her, threatened her as before, and shut her up with the barrel in the chamber under three locks, ordering her to finish her work by sunset.

Gracieuse took out some of the feathers; but finding it impossible to distinguish the different kinds, threw them back again into the barrel;—then took them out again, and made several attempts to sort them, but perceiving the task was impossible, "Let me die," she cried, despairingly. "It is my death they seek, and death will end my misfortunes. I will not again call Percinet to my assistance. If he loved me he would have been already here." "I am here, my princess," exclaimed Percinet, rising out of the barrel in which he had concealed himself. "I am here to extricate you from the difficulty you are in. Can you doubt, after so many proofs of my affection, that I love you more than my life?"—Immediately he gave the barrel three taps with his wand, and the feathers came out by millions and sorted themselves into little heaps all round the room. "What do I not owe you, my lord!" said Gracieuse. "But for you I must have perished. Rest assured of my entire gratitude!" The prince tried everything to persuade her to take a firm resolution in his favour. She still asked for time, and though with ​considerable violence to his own feelings, he granted her request.

Grognon arrived, and was so thunderstruck by what she saw, that she was at her wit's end how further to torment Gracieuse. She did not omit to beat her, however, saying that the feathers were ill arranged. She sent for the Fairy, and flew into a violent passion with her. The Fairy knew not how to answer her; she was perfectly confounded. At length she told Grognon that she would employ all her skill in making a box which should bring her prisoner into great trouble if she ventured to open it; and a few days afterwards she brought a box of a tolerable size. "Here," said she to Grognon, "order your slave to carry this somewhere. Forbid her particularly to open it. She will not be able to resist it, and you will be satisfied." Grognon followed her instructions implicitly. "Carry the box," said she to Gracieuse, "to my fine château, and place it on the table in my closet: but I forbid you, under pain of death, to look at what it contains." Gracieuse set off with her wooden shoes, her cloth dress, and her woollen hood. All who met her exclaimed, "That must be a goddess in disguise!" for nothing could conceal her marvellous beauty. She had not walked far before she felt tired. In passing through a little wood, on the skirt of a pleasant meadow, she sat down to take breath. She placed the box on her knees, and suddenly felt an inclination to open it. "What can happen to me?" said she; "I wont take anything out of it, but only see what there is in it." She thought no more of the consequences, but opened the box, and immediately out came a quantity of little men and women, fiddlers, musical instruments, little tables, little cooks, little dishes,—in fact, the giant of the party was not bigger than one's finger. They skipped about the meadow, divided themselves into several groupes, and began the prettiest ball that ever was seen. Some danced, others cooked, others feasted, the little fiddlers played admirably. Gracieuse, at first, was somewhat amused by so extraordinary a sight; but after she had rested a little, and wanted to get them back into the box, not one of them would obey her. The little gentlemen and ladies ran away. The fiddlers followed their example. The cooks, with their stewpans on their heads and their spits on their shoulders, scampered into the wood when she entered the ​meadow, and into the meadow again when she entered the wood. "O thoughtless curiosity!" said Gracieuse, weeping, "thou wilt be too favourable to my enemy. The only misfortune I could have avoided has been brought on me by my own folly. Oh, I cannot sufficiently blame myself! Percinet!" she cried, "Percinet! If it be possible you can still love such an imprudent princess, come and help me in this, the most unfortunate occurrence in my life!" Percinet did not wait to be called thrice. She saw him appear instantly in his splendid green dress. "If it were not for the wicked Grognon," said he, "beautiful princess, you would never think of me." "Oh, think better of my sentiments," she replied; "I am not so insensible to merit, nor so ungrateful for benefits conferred on me. It is true I try your constancy; but it is to reward it when I am convinced." Percinet, more happy than he had ever been before, tapped the box thrice with his wand, and immediately the little men and women, fiddlers, cooks, and roast-meat, were all packed into it as neatly as if they had never been out of it. Percinet had left his chariot in the wood. He begged the princess to make use of it to go to the rich château. She had much need of the carriage in the state she was in, so making her invisible, he drove her himself and enjoyed the pleasure of her company,—a pleasure which my chronicle asserts she was not indifferent to at the bottom of her heart; but she carefully concealed her sentiments.

She arrived at the rich château, and when she demanded in the name of Grognon to be shown into the queen's closet, the governor burst into a fit of laughter. "What," said he, "do you imagine that you are to leave your sheep to be admitted into so beautiful a place? Be off with you wherever you like; never did wooden shoes tread those floors." Gracieuse begged him to write a line stating his refusal. He did so, and quitting the rich château she found the amiable Percinet awaiting her, who drove her back to the palace. It would be difficult to write down all the tender and respectful things he said to her on the road in the hope of persuading her to put an end to his unhappiness. She promised him that if Grognon played her another wicked trick she would consent.

When her vile stepmother saw her return she flew at the Fairy, whom she had detained, and scratched, and would have ​strangled her, if a fairy could have been strangled. Gracieuse presented her with the governor's letter and the box. She threw both into the fire, without deigning to open either, and if she was to be believed herself, she would have willingly flung the princess into it also; but she did not long postpone her punishment. She had a great hole dug in the garden as deep as a well; over it they placed a large stone. She then went to walk in the garden, and said to Gracieuse and those who accompanied her, "Here is a stone under which I am informed there is a treasure, come, let us lift it quickly." Each lent a helping hand; Gracieuse amongst the rest. This was exactly what Grognon wanted. As soon as the princess was on the brink of the pit, Grognon pushed her violently into it, and the others let the stone fall again on the top of it. This time the case was indeed a hopeless one. How was Percinet to find her in the bowels of the earth? She perfectly comprehended the difficulty of her position, and repented having so long delayed marrying him. "How terrible is my fate!" She cried; "I am buried alive!—the most dreadful of all deaths! You are revenged for my hesitation, Percinet; but I feared you were of the same inconstant nature as other men, who change as soon as they are sure they are beloved. I wished to be convinced of your constancy; my prudent suspicions are the cause of my present condition. If I could still hope you would regret my loss, my fate would be less painful." She was thus giving vent to her anguish when she saw a little door open, which had escaped her attention in the darkness, and through it perceived the light of day, and gardens filled with flowers, fruits, fountains, grottos, statues, bowers, and summer-houses. She did not hesitate to enter it. She advanced up a grand avenue, wondering what would be the end of this adventure. Almost at the same moment she perceived the fairy palace. She had not much difficulty in recognising it, independently of the facts that one rarely finds a building entirely of rock crystal, and that she perceived all her recent adventures were engraved in it. Percinet appeared with the queen his mother, and his sisters. "Refuse no longer, lovely princess," said the queen to Gracieuse; "it is time to make my son happy, and to relieve you from the deplorable life you lead under the tyranny of Grognon." The grateful princess fell on her knees before her, and told her she ​placed her fate in her hands, and that she would obey her in all things. That she had not forgotten the prophecy of Percinet at the time she left the fairy palace, when he said to her that that very palace would be amongst the dead, and that she would never re-enter it till after she had been buried. That she had the greatest admiration for his wisdom, and no less for his worth, and that she accepted him for her husband. The prince in his turn knelt at her feet: and at the same instant the palace rang with shouts and music, and the marriage was celebrated with the greatest magnificence. All the fairies for a thousand leagues round appeared with sumptuous equipages; some came in cars drawn by swans, others by dragons, others on clouds, others in globes of fire. Amongst them appeared the fairy who had assisted Grognon to torment Gracieuse. When she recognised the princess, never was any one so surprised. She conjured her to forget the past, and promised she would take every means of atoning for the misery she had made her suffer. Actually, she would not stay for the banquet; but, re-ascending her car drawn by two terrible serpents, she flew to the king's palace, sought out Grognon, and wrung her neck before the guards or her women could interfere to prevent her.

Envy, thou mean but most malignant foe
Of all on earth, good, beautiful, and great;
'Twas thy foul hand that aim'd each cruel blow
At Gracieuse, and fann'd the fiendish hate
Of hideous Grognon. What had been thy fate,
Sweet princess, if thy fond and faithful guard,
Thy Percinet, had not been ever there!
O, well did he deserve the rich reward
Of constancy,—the crown the Gods prepare
For all-enduring, pure, unselfish Love to wear.

The End

1. Saint Laurent is a wine of Provence, celebrated by Madame de Sevigne, in her letters. Rivesalte, a muscat wine, grown in the vicinity of a small town of that name in Roussillon. Rossolis was a liqueur so called from the plant, Ros Solis, or rosée du soleil (sun dew). It was so great a favourite with Louis XIV. that a particular sort was called Rossolis du Roi. Persicot and Fenouille, were also liqueurs. The first a sort of noyau, and the other brandy flavoured with fennel; the principal manufactory for which was in the Isle de Rhé.

2. "Dix Royaumes grands comme Paris." I am inclined to think that the word royaumes (kingdoms) was used advisedly in lieu of villes (cities), in compliment to the Grand Monarque, and at the expense of the petty princes of Germany and Italy, so continually opposed to him (particularly in the League of Augsburgh, 1687), some of whose entire dominions were not much larger that the metropolis of France.

All the Fairy Tales by Madame d'Aulnoy

Babiole - Also known as Babiola

Belle Belle; or, the Chevalier Fortuné

Finette Cendron - Alternate names for the tale are: The Story of Finetta or The Curious Story of Finetta or The Story of Finetta, or, The Cinder-Girl.

Fortunee - Also known as Felicia and the Pot of Pinks or The Pot of Carnations or The Pinks

Gracieuse and Percinet - Also known as Graciosa and Percinet

Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri

Princess Rosette

The Bee and the Orange - Also known as Tree The Orange-Tree and the Bee

The Benevolent Frog - Also known as The Beneficent Frog or The Friendly Frog

The Blue Bird

The Fair with Golden Hair - Also known as Princess Goldenhair, or The Story of Pretty Goldilocks, or The Fair Maid with Golden Locks, or The Beauty with Golden Hair, or Fair Goldilocks

The Golden Branch - Also known as The Golden Bough

The good little Mouse - Also known as The Little Good Mouse

The Green Serpent - Also known as The Green Dragon

The Imp Prince - Also known as Prince Sprite, or The Hobgoblin Prince, or The Imp Prince, or Prince Ariel, or Prince Elfin, or The Invisible Prince

The Pigeon and the Dove

The Princess Carpillon

The Princess Mayblossom - Also known as Princess Printaniere, or Princess Verenata and Princess Maia

The Ram - Also known as The Wonderful Sheep or Miranda and the Royal Ram, or The Royal Ram, or, The Wishes

The White Cat

The White Doe - Also known as The Doe in the Woods, or The Hind in the Woods, or The Story of the Hind in the Forest, or The Enchanted Hind, or The Hind of the Forest, or The White Fawn

The Yellow Dwarf

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