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Ourson - a fairy tale by Countess of Segur

 Read "Ourson" fairy tale for all children. "Ourson" story, is a short bedtime Story for kids written by Countess of Ségur about the son of the young woman Agnella who was cursed by a bad Fairy turned into an ugly frog, to be born with bear hair all over his body. The boy was also cursed to be called Ourson until a human being loved the boy so much that the person agreed to change Ourson's skin. Fleeing the Cruel King, the dear queen and her son and Passerose moved to a small farm, where they met Violette, a little princess who began to love Ourson with all her heart.

"Ourson"
a fairy tale by Countess of Segur


THE LARK AND THE TOAD

THERE was once a pretty woman named Agnella, who cultivated a farm. She lived alone with a young servant named Passerose. The farm was small but beautiful and in fine order. She had a most charming cow, which gave a quantity of milk, a cat to destroy the mice and an ass to carry her fruit, butter, vegetables, eggs, and cheese to markets every Wednesday.

No one knew up to that time how Agnella and Passerose had arrived at this unknown farm which received in the county the name of the Woodland Farm.

One evening Passerose was busy milking the pretty white cow while Agnella prepared the supper. At the moment she was placing some good soup and a plate of cream upon the table, she saw an enormous toad devouring with avidity some cherries which had been put on the ground in a vine-leaf.

"Ugly toad!" exclaimed Agnella, "I will teach you how to eat my cherries!" At the same moment she lifted the leaves which contained the cherries, and gave the toad a kick which dashed it off about ten steps. She was about to throw it from the door, when the toad uttered a sharp whistle and raised itself upon its hind legs; its great eyes were flashing, and its enormous mouth opening and shutting with rage, its whole ugly body was trembling and from its quivering throat was heard a terrible bellowing.

Agnella paused in amazement; she recoiled, indeed, to avoid the venom of the monstrous and enraged toad. She looked around for a broom to eject this hideous monster, when the toad advanced towards her, made with its fore paws a gesture of authority, and said in a voice trembling with rage:—

"You have dared to touch me with your foot! You have prevented me from satisfying my appetite with the cherries which you had placed within my reach! You have tried to expel me from your house! My vengeance shall reach you and will fall upon that which you hold most dear! You shall know and feel that the fairy Furious is not to be insulted with impunity. You shall have a son, covered with coarse hair like a bear's cub and——"

"Stop, sister," interrupted a small voice, sweet and flute-like, which seemed to come from above. Agnella raised her head and saw a lark perched on the top of the front door. "You revenge yourself too cruelly for an injury inflicted, not upon you in your character of a fairy but upon the ugly and disgusting form in which it has pleased you to disguise yourself. By my power, which is superior to yours, I forbid you to exaggerate the evil which you have already done in your blind rage and which, alas! it is not in my power to undo. And you, poor mother," she continued, turning to Agnella, "do not utterly despair; there is a possible remedy for the deformity of your child. I will accord to him the power of changing his skin with any one whom he may, by his goodness and service rendered, inspire with sufficient gratitude and affection to consent to the change. He will then resume the handsome form which would have been his if my sister, the fairy Furious, had not given you this terrible proof of her malice and cruelty."

Read also

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The Little Grey Mouse by Countess of Segur

The Princess Rosette by Countess of Segur

The Story of a Donkey by Countess of Segur

"Alas! madam Lark," replied Agnella, "all this goodness cannot prevent my poor, unhappy son from being disgusting and like a wild beast. His very playmates will shun him as a monster."

"That is true," replied the fairy Drolette; "and the more so as it is forbidden to yourself or to Passerose to change skins with him. But I will neither abandon you nor your son. You will name him Ourson until the day when he can assume a name worthy of his birth and beauty. He must then be called the prince Marvellous."

Saying these words, the fairy flew lightly through the air and disappeared from sight.

The fairy Furious withdrew, filled with rage, walking slowly and turning every instant to gaze at Agnella with a menacing air. As she moved slowly along, she spat her venom from side to side and the grass, the plants and the bushes perished along her course. This was a venom so subtle that nothing could ever flourish on the spot again and the path is called to this day the Road of the Fairy Furious.

When Agnella found herself alone, she began to sob. Passerose, who had finished her work and saw the hour of supper approaching, entered the dining-room and with great surprise saw her mistress in tears.

"Dear queen, what is the matter? Who can have caused you this great grief? I have seen no one enter the house."

"No one has entered, my dear, except those who enter everywhere. A wicked fairy under the form of a toad and a good fairy under the appearance of a lark."

"And what have these fairies said to you, my queen, to make you weep so piteously? Has not the good fairy interfered to prevent the misfortunes which the wicked fairy wished to bring about?"

"No, my dear friend. She has somewhat lightened them but it was not in her power to set them aside altogether."

Agnella then recounted all that had taken place and that she would have a son with a skin like a bear. At this narrative Passerose wept as bitterly as her mistress.

"What a misfortune!" she exclaimed. "What degradation and shame, that the heir of a great kingdom should be a bear! What will King Ferocious, your husband, say if he should ever discover us?"

"And how will he ever find us, Passerose? You know that after our flight we were swept away by a whirlwind and dashed from cloud to cloud for twelve hours with such astonishing rapidity that we found ourselves more than three thousand leagues from the kingdom of Ferocious. Besides, you know his wickedness. You know how bitterly he hates me since I prevented him from killing his brother Indolent and his sister Nonchalante. You know that I fled because he wished to kill me also. I have no reason to fear that he will pursue me for I am sure that he will wish never to see me again."

Passerose, after having wept and sobbed some time with the Queen Aimee, for that was her true name, now entreated her mistress to be seated at the table.

"If we wept all night, dear queen, we could not prevent your son from being shaggy but we will endeavor to educate him so well, to make him so good, that he will not be a long time in finding some good and grateful soul who will exchange a white skin for this hairy one which the evil fairy Furious has put upon him. A beautiful present indeed! She would have done well to reserve it for herself."

The poor queen, whom we will continue to call Agnella for fear of giving information to King Ferocious, rose slowly, dried her eyes and succeeded in somewhat overcoming her sadness. Little by little the gay and cheering conversation of Passerose dissipated her forebodings. Before the close of the evening, Passerose had convinced her that Ourson would not remain a long time a bear; that he would soon resume a form worthy of a noble prince. That she would herself indeed be most happy to exchange with him, if the fairy would permit it.

Agnella and Passerose now retired to their chambers and slept peacefully.

BIRTH AND INFANCY OF OURSON

THREE months after the appearance of the toad and the cruel sentence of the fairy Furious, Agnella gave birth to a boy whom she named Ourson, as the fairy Drolette had commanded. Neither Agnella nor Passerose could decide if he was ugly or handsome for he was so hairy, so covered with long brown bristles, you could see nothing but his eyes and his mouth, and not even these unless he opened them.

If Agnella had not been his mother and if Passerose had not loved her like a sister, poor Ourson would have died from neglect for he was so frightful no one would have dared to touch—he would have been taken for a little cub and killed with pitchforks. But Agnella was his mother and her first movement was to embrace him lovingly and, bathed in tears, to exclaim:—

"Poor little Ourson! who can ever love you well enough to deliver you from this horrible curse? Alas! why will not the fairy permit me to make this exchange, which is allowed to another who may love you? No one can ever love you as I do."

Ourson did not reply to these endearments; he slept peacefully.

Passerose wept also in sympathy with Agnella but she was not in the habit of afflicting herself for a long time on any occasion so she dried her eyes and said to Agnella:—

"Dear queen, I am very certain that your dear son will be clothed but a short time with this villainous bear-skin and from this day I shall call him Prince Marvellous."

"I beseech you not to do so," said the queen, anxiously; "you know that the fairies love to be obeyed."

Passerose took the child, clothed it in the linen that had been prepared for it and leaned over to embrace it but she pricked her lips against the rough bristles of Ourson and drew back precipitately.

"It will not be I who will embrace you frequently, my boy," said she, in a low voice; "you prick like a real hedgehog."

It was Passerose, however, to whom Agnella gave the charge of the little Ourson. He had nothing of the bear but his skin: he was the sweetest-tempered, the most knowing, the most affectionate child that ever was seen. Passerose soon loved him with all her heart.

As Ourson grew up he was sometimes permitted to leave the farm. He was in no danger for no one knew him in the country. The children always ran away at his approach and the women repulsed him. Men avoided him—they looked upon him as something accursed. Sometimes when Agnella went to market she put him on her donkey and took him with her and on those days she found more difficulty in selling her vegetables and cheese. The mothers fled from her, fearing that Ourson would come too near them.

Agnella wept often and vainly implored the fairy Drolette. Whenever a lark flew near her, hope was born in her breast. But the larks, alas, were real larks, fit only to make pies and not fairies in disguise.

VIOLETTE

OURSON at eight years of age was tall and strong, with magnificent eyes and a sweet voice; his bristles were no longer stiff but his hair was soft as silk, and those who loved him could embrace him without being scratched, as Passerose had been the day of his birth. Ourson loved his mother tenderly and Passerose almost as well but he was often alone and very sad. He saw too well the horror he inspired and he saw also that he was unlike other children.

One day he was walking along a beautiful road which bordered on the farm. He had walked a long time and overcome with heat and fatigue he looked about him for some fresh and quiet spot for repose when he thought he saw a little object, fair and rosy, a few steps from him. Drawing near with precaution he saw a little girl asleep. She seemed to be about three years old and she was beautiful as the Loves and Graces. Her blonde hair partly covered her fair and dimpled shoulders while her soft cheeks were round and fresh and dimpled and a half smile played upon her rosy and parted lips, through which small teeth, white and even as pearls, could be seen. Her charming head was reposing upon a lovely rounded arm and the little hand was beautifully formed and white as snow. The attitude of this little girl was so graceful, so enchanting, that Ourson stood before her immovable with admiration. He watched with as much surprise as pleasure, this child sleeping as soundly and peacefully in the wood as if she had been at home in her own little bed. Ourson looked at her a long time and examined her toilet which was more rich and elegant than anything he had ever seen. Her dress was of white silk embroidered in gold; her boots were of blue satin also embroidered in gold; her stockings were silk and fine as a spider's web; magnificent bracelets were sparkling upon her arms and the clasp seemed to contain her portrait; a string of beautiful pearls encircled her throat.

A lark now commenced its song just above the lovely little girl and awakened her from her profound slumber. She looked about her, called her nurse but finding herself alone in the woods, began to weep bitterly.

Ourson was much affected at her tears and his embarrassment was very great.

"If I show myself," said he to himself, "this poor little one will take me for some wild beast of the forest. If she sees me she will be terrified; she will take to flight and wander still further from her home. If I leave her here, she will die of terror and hunger. What shall I do!"

Whilst Ourson reflected thus, the little girl turned around, saw him, uttered a cry of alarm, tried to flee and fell back in a panic.

"Do not fly from me, dear little one," said Ourson, in his sad, soft voice; "I would not injure you for the whole world; on the contrary, I will assist you to find your father and mother."

The child gazed at him with staring eyes and seemed much alarmed.

"Speak to me, little one," said Ourson; "I am not a bear, as you might suppose, but a poor and most unfortunate little boy, who inspires every one with terror and whom everybody avoids."

The sweet child's eyes became calmer and softer, her fear seemed melting away and she looked undecided.

Ourson took one step towards her but she became greatly frightened, uttered a sharp cry and tried again to rise and run off. Ourson paused and began to weep bitterly.

"Unfortunate wretch that I am," he said; "I cannot even assist this poor lost child. My appearance fills her with terror! She would rather be lost than have help from me!"

So saying, poor Ourson covered his face with his hands and sobbing piteously threw himself on the ground. A few moments afterwards he felt a little hand seeking to take possession of his own. He raised his head and saw the child standing before him, her eyes filled with tears. She caressed and patted the hairy cheeks of poor Ourson.

"Don't cry, little cub, don't cry," said she. "Violette is no longer afraid, she will not run away again. Violette will love poor little cub. Won't little cub give his hand to Violette? And if you cry again, Violette will embrace you, poor little cub."

Tears of happiness and tenderness succeeded those of despair in Ourson. Violette, seeing that he was again weeping, approached her soft rosy lips to Ourson's hairy cheek and gave him several kisses.

"You see, little cub, that Violette is no longer afraid. Violette kisses you! The little cub won't eat Violette—she will follow you!"

If Ourson had followed the dictates of his heart, he would have pressed her to his bosom and covered with kisses the good and charming child who overcame her natural terror in order to assuage the grief and mortification of a poor being whom she saw unfortunate and miserable. But he feared to arouse her terrors.

"She would think that I was about to devour her," he said.

He contented himself, therefore, with clasping her hands softly, and kissing them delicately. Violette permitted this smilingly.

"Now little cub is satisfied. Little cub will love Violette, poor Violette, who is lost!"

Ourson understood well that her name was Violette; but he could not comprehend how this little girl, so richly clad, was left alone in the forest.

"Where do you live, my dear little Violette?"

"Yonder—yonder—with papa and mamma."

"What is the name of your papa?"

"He is the king and dear mamma is the queen."

Ourson was more and more surprised and asked:

"Why are you alone in this forest?"

"Violette doesn't know. Poor Violette rode on a big dog—he ran, oh! so fast—so fast, a long time! Violette was so tired, she fell down and slept!"

"And the dog, where is he?"

Violet turned in every direction and called softly:

"Ami! Ami!"

No dog appeared.

"Alas! Ami has gone! Poor Violette is alone—alone!"

Ourson took Violette's hand and she did not withdraw it but smiled sweetly.

"Shall I go and seek mamma, Violette?"

"No, no! Violette cannot stay all alone in this wood. Violette will go."

"Come, then, with me, dear little girl. I will take you to my mother."

Ourson and Violette now turned their steps towards the farm. Ourson gathered strawberries and cherries for Violette, who would not touch them till Ourson had eaten half. When she found that he still held his half in his hand, she took them, and placed them herself in his mouth, saying:

"Eat—eat, little cub. Violette will not eat unless you eat. Violette cannot have little cub unhappy. Violette will not see you weep."

She looked at him to see if he was content and happy. Ourson was really happy. He saw that his good and pretty little companion not only tolerated him but was interested in him and sought to make herself agreeable. His eyes were sparkling with joy, his voice, always soft and sad, was now tender. After half an hour's walk, he said to her:

"Violette, you are no longer afraid of poor Ourson, are you?"

"Oh! no, no, no!" exclaimed she. "Ourson is good—Violette will not leave him."

"You are willing, then, that I shall embrace you? you are no longer afraid of me?"

Violette, without further reply, threw herself in his arms. Ourson embraced her tenderly and pressed her to his heart.

"Dear Violette, I will always love you. I will never forget that you are the only child who was ever willing to speak to me, touch me or embrace me."

A short time after they arrived at the farm. Agnella and Passerose were seated at the door, talking together. When they saw Ourson arrive holding a little girl richly dressed by the hand, they were so surprised that neither could utter a word.

"Dear mamma, here is a good and charming little girl whom I found sleeping in the forest. She is called Violette. She is very well bred and is not afraid of me. She even embraced me when she saw me weeping."

"And why did you weep, my poor boy?" said Agnella.

"Because the little girl was afraid of me," said Ourson, in a sad and trembling voice, "and hurt herself when trying to run away from me."

"Violette is not afraid now," said she, interrupting him hastily. "Violette gave her hand to poor Ourson, embraced him and fed him with cherries and strawberries."

"But what is all this about?" said Passerose. "Why has our Ourson the charge of this little girl? why was she alone in the wood? who is she? Answer, Ourson, I do not understand this."

"I know nothing more than yourself, dear Passerose," said Ourson. "I saw this little child asleep in the wood all alone. She awoke and began to weep. Suddenly she saw me and cried out in terror. I spoke to her and began to approach her; but she screamed again with fright. I was sorrowful—oh! so very sorrowful! I wept bitterly."

"Hush! hush! poor Ourson," exclaimed Violette, putting her little hand on his mouth; "Violette will certainly never make you cry again."

While saying these words Violette's voice was trembling and her sweet eyes were full of tears.

"Good little girl!" said Agnella, embracing her; "you love our poor Ourson, who is so unhappy!"

"Oh, yes! Violette loves Ourson—will always love Ourson!"

Agnella and Passerose asked Violette many questions about her father, mother and country; but they could learn nothing more from her than she had already told Ourson. Her father was a king, her mother a queen and she did not know how she came to be alone in the forest.

Agnella did not hesitate to take under her protection this poor lost child. She loved her already because of the affection the little one seemed to entertain for Ourson and because of the happiness Ourson's whole manner expressed on seeing himself loved by some one else than his mother and Passerose.

It was now the hour for supper. Passerose laid the cloth and they all took their seats at the table. Violette asked to be put at Ourson's side. She was gay and laughed and talked merrily. Ourson was more happy than he had ever been. Agnella was contented, and Passerose jumped for joy on seeing a little playmate for her dear Ourson. In her transports she spilled a pan of cream which was not lost, however, as a cat came and licked it up to the last drop. After supper, Violette fell asleep in her chair.

"Where shall we lay her?" said Agnella. "I have no bed for her."

"Give her mine, dear mamma," said Ourson; "I can sleep quite as well in the stable."

Agnella and Passerose at first refused but Ourson insisted so much upon being allowed to make this little sacrifice, that they at last consented. Passerose carried Violette still sleeping in her arms, undressed her without awaking her and laid her quietly in Ourson's bed, near that of Agnella. Ourson went to sleep in the stable on the bundles of hay. He slept peacefully with content in his heart.

Passerose rejoined Agnella in the parlor. She found her meditating, with her head resting on her hand.

"Of what are you thinking, dear queen?" said she; "your eyes are sad, your lips do not smile. I am come to show you the bracelets of the little stranger. This medallion ought to open but I have tried in vain to open it. Perhaps we shall find here a portrait or a name."

"Give it to me, my child. These bracelets are beautiful; they may aid us, perhaps, in finding a resemblance which presents itself vaguely to my remembrance and which I am trying in vain to make clear."

Agnella took the bracelets and turned them from side to side and pressed them in every way, trying to open the medallion, but she succeeded no better than Passerose had done.

At the moment when, weary of her vain efforts, she returned them to Passerose, she saw in the middle of the room a woman glittering as the sun; her face was of dazzling whiteness, her hair seemed made of threads of gold and a crown of glittering stars adorned her brow. Her waist was small and her person seemed transparent, it was so delicate and luminous; her floating robe was studded with stars like those which formed her crown. Her glance was soft yet she smiled maliciously but still with goodness.

"Madam," said she to Agnella, "you see in me the fairy Drolette, the protectress of your son and of the little princess whom he brought home this morning from the forest. This princess is nearly related to you for she is your niece—the daughter of your brother-in-law Indolent and sister-in-law Nonchalante. Your husband succeeded after your flight in killing Indolent and Nonchalante, who did not distrust him and who passed all their time in sleeping, eating and lounging. Unfortunately, I could not prevent this crime as I was absent assisting at the birth of a prince whose parents are under my protection, and I forgot myself while playing tricks upon a wicked old maid of honor and an old chamberlain who was cruel and avaricious, both of them friends of my sister, the fairy Furious. But I arrived in time to save the princess Violette, only daughter and heiress of King Indolent and Queen Nonchalante. She was playing in the garden while the king Ferocious was seeking her with his poniard in his hand. I induced her to mount on the back of my dog Ami, who was ordered to leave her in the forest and to that point I directed the steps of the prince your son. Conceal from both of them their birth and your own and do not allow Violette to see these bracelets, which contain the portraits of her father and mother, nor the rich clothing which I have replaced by other articles better suited to the quiet existence she will lead here. I have here," said the fairy, "a casket of precious stones. It contains the happiness of Violette but you must hide them from all eyes and not open the casket until she shall have been lost and found."

"I will execute your orders most faithfully, madam, but I pray you tell me if my unhappy son must long wear his frightful covering."

"Patience! patience!" cried the fairy, "I watch over you, over Violette and over your son. Inform Ourson of the faculty he has of exchanging his skin with any one who loves him well enough to make this sacrifice for his sake. Remember that no one must know the rank of Ourson or of Violette. Passerose, on account of devotion, deserves to be the only one initiated into this mystery and she can always be trusted. Adieu, queen; count always upon my protection. Here is a ring, which you must place upon your little finger. As long as you wear it there you will want for nothing."

Waving her farewell with her hand, the fairy took the form of a lark and flew away singing merrily.

Agnella and Passerose looked at each other. Agnella sighed, Passerose smiled.

"Let us hide this precious casket, dear queen, and the clothing of Violette. I am going now to see what the fairy has prepared for Violette's dress to-morrow morning."

She ran quickly and opened the wardrobe, and found it filled with clothing, linen and hosiery, all plain but good and comfortable. After having looked at all, counted all and approved all and after having assisted Agnella to undress, Passerose went to bed and was soon sound asleep.

THE DREAM

IN the morning Ourson was the first awake, aroused by the lowing of the cow. He rubbed his eyes and looked about him and asked himself why he was in a stable. Then he recalled the events of the day before, sprang up from his bundle of hay and ran quickly to the fountain to wash his face.

While he was washing, Passerose, who had like Ourson risen at a very early hour and had come out to milk the cow, left the house-door open. Ourson entered quietly and proceeded to the chamber of his mother, who was still sleeping. He drew back the curtains from Violette's bed and found her sleeping as peacefully as Agnella.

Ourson watched her for a long time and was happy to see that she smiled in her dreams. Suddenly Violette's brow contracted and she uttered a cry of alarm, half raised herself in the bed, and throwing her little arms around Ourson's neck, she exclaimed:

"Ourson! good Ourson! save poor Violette! poor Violette is in the water and a wicked toad is pulling Violette!"

She now awoke, weeping bitterly, with all the symptoms of great alarm. She clasped Ourson tightly with her little arms: he tried in vain to reassure and control her but she still exclaimed:

"Wicked toad! good Ourson! save Violette!"

Agnella, who had awaked at her first cry, could not yet understand Violette's alarm but she succeeded at last in calming her and the child told her dream.

"Violette was walking with Ourson but he did not give his hand to Violette nor look at her. A wicked toad came and pulled Violette into the water; she fell and called Ourson; he came and saved Violette. She loves good Ourson," she added, in a tender voice; "will never forget him."

Saying these words, Violette threw herself into his arms. He, no longer fearing the effect of his bear-skin, embraced her a thousand times and comforted and encouraged her.

Agnella had no doubt that this dream was a warning sent by the fairy Drolette. She resolved to watch carefully over Violette and to make known to Ourson all that she could reveal to him without disobeying the fairy.

When she had washed and dressed Violette, she called Ourson to breakfast. Passerose brought them a bowl of milk fresh from the cow, some good brown bread and a pot of butter. Violette, who was hungry, shouted for joy when she saw this good breakfast.

"Violette loves good milk, good bread, good butter, loves everything here, with good Ourson and good Mamma Ourson!"

"I am not called Mamma Ourson," said Agnella, laughing; "call me only Mamma."

"Oh no, no! not mamma!" cried Violette, shaking her head sadly. "Mamma! mamma is lost! she was always sleeping, never walking, never taking care of poor Violette, never kissing little Violette, Mamma Ourson speaks, walks, kisses Violette and dresses her. I love Mamma Ourson, oh, so much!" she said, seizing Agnella's hand and pressing it to her heart.

Agnella replied by clasping her tenderly in her arms.

Ourson was much moved—his eyes were moist. Violette perceived this and passing her hand over his eyes, she said, entreatingly:

"I pray you don't cry, Ourson; if you cry, Violette must cry too."

"No, no, dear little girl, I will cry no more. Let us eat our breakfast and then we will take a walk."

They breakfasted with good appetites. Violette clapped her hands frequently and exclaimed:

"Oh how good it is! I love it! I am very glad!"

After breakfast, Ourson and Violette went out to walk while Agnella and Passerose attended to the house. Ourson played with Violette and gathered her flowers and strawberries. She said to him:

"We will always walk with each other. You must always play with Violette."

"I cannot always play, little girl. I have to help mamma and Passerose to work."

"What sort of work, Ourson?"

"To sweep, scour, take care of the cow, cut the grass and bring wood and water."

"Violette will work with Ourson."

"You are too little, dear Violette, but still you can try."

When they returned to the house, Ourson started on his various tasks. Violette followed him everywhere, she did her best and believed that she was helping him but she was really too small to be useful. After some days had passed away, she began to wash the cups and saucers, spread the cloth, fold the linen and wipe the table. She went to the milking with Passerose, helped to strain the milk and skim it and wash the marble flag-stones. She was never out of temper, never disobedient and never answered impatiently or angrily.

Ourson loved her more and more from day to day. Agnella and Passerose were also very fond of her and the more so because they knew that she was Ourson's cousin.

Violette loved them but Ourson most of all. How could she help loving this good boy, who always forgot himself for her, who was constantly seeking to amuse and please her and who would indeed have been willing to die for his little friend?

One day, when Passerose had taken Violette with her to market, Agnella related to Ourson the sad circumstances which had preceded his birth. She revealed to him the possibility of his getting rid of his hairy skin and receiving a smooth white skin in exchange if he could ever find any one who would voluntarily make this sacrifice from affection and gratitude.

"Never," cried Ourson, "never will I propose or accept such a sacrifice. I will never consent to devote a being who loves me to that life of wretchedness which the vengeance of the fairy Furious has condemned me to endure; never, from a wish of mine, shall a heart capable of such a sacrifice suffer all that I have suffered and all that I still suffer from the fear and antipathy of men."

Agnella argued in vain against this firm and noble resolve of Ourson. He declared that she must never again speak to him of this exchange, to which he would most assuredly never give his consent and that it must never be named to Violette or any other person who loved him.

Agnella promised compliance, after a few weak arguments. In reality she approved and admired his sentiments. She could not but hope, however, that the fairy Drolette would recompense the generous and noble character of her little charge and, by some extraordinary exercise of her power, release him from his hairy skin.

THE TOAD AGAIN

SOME years passed away in this peaceful manner without the occurrence of any remarkable event. Ourson and Violette both grew rapidly. Agnella thought no more of Violette's frightful dream; her vigilance had greatly relaxed and she often allowed her to walk alone or under the care of Ourson.

Ourson was now fifteen years of age and he was tall and strong. No one could say whether he was handsome or homely for his long black hair covered his body and face entirely. He was good, generous and loving—always ready to render a service, always contented and cheerful. Since the day when he had found Violette in the wood his melancholy had disappeared; he was utterly indifferent to the general antipathy which he inspired and he no longer walked in uninhabited places but lived happily in the circle of the three beings whom he cherished and who loved him supremely.

Violette was now ten years old and she had not lost a single sweet charm of her beauty in growing up. Her eyes were softer and more angelic, her complexion fresher and purer, her mouth more beautiful and arch in its expression. She had grown much in height—was tall, light and graceful and her rich blonde hair, when unbound, fell to her feet and entirely enveloped her like a veil. Passerose had the care of this superb hair and Agnella never ceased to admire it.

Violette had learned many things during those seven years. Agnella had taught her how to do housework. In other things, Ourson had been her teacher. He had taught her to read, write and keep accounts and he often read aloud to her while she was sewing. Instructive and amusing books were found in her room without any one knowing where they came from. There was also clothing and other necessary objects for Violette, Ourson, Agnella and Passerose. There was no longer any necessity for going to market to sell or the neighboring village to buy. Through the agency of the ring on Agnella's little finger everything they wished for, or had need of, was speedily brought to them.

One day when Ourson was walking with Violette she stumbled against a stone, fell and hurt her foot. Ourson was frightened when he saw his cherished Violette bleeding. He did not know what to do to relieve her; he saw how much she suffered, for, notwithstanding all her efforts, she could not suppress the tears which escaped from her eyes but finally he remembered that a brook flowed not ten paces from them.

"Dear Violette," he said, "lean upon me and we will endeavor to reach the rivulet—the fresh water will relieve you."

Violette tried to walk while Ourson supported her. He succeeded in seating her on the borders of the stream where she took off her shoe and bathed her delicate little foot in the fresh flowing water.

"I will run to the house, dear Violette, and bring some linen to wrap up your foot. Wait for me, I shall not be long absent and take good care not to get nearer the stream for this little brook is deep and if you slip you might drown."

When Ourson was out of sight Violette felt an uneasiness which she attributed to the pain caused by her wound. An unaccountable repulsion made her feel inclined to withdraw her foot from the water in which it was hanging. Before she decided to obey this strange impulse she saw the water troubled and the head of an enormous toad appear upon the surface. The great swollen angry eyes of the loathsome animal were fixed upon Violette, who since her dream had always had a dread of toads. The appearance of this hideous creature, its monstrous swollen body and menacing glance, froze her with such horror that she could neither move nor cry out.

"Ah! ha! you are at last in my domain, little fool!" said the toad. "I am the fairy Furious, the enemy of your family. I have been lying in wait for you a long time and should have had you before if my sister, the fairy Drolette, had not protected you and sent you a dream to warn you against me. Ourson whose hairy skin is a talisman of safety is now absent, my sister is on a journey and you are at last mine."

Saying these words, she seized Violette's foot with her cold and shining paws and tried to draw her down into the water. Violette uttered the most piercing shrieks; she struggled and caught hold of the plants and shrubs growing on the borders of the stream. The first, alas, gave way, and Violette in despair seized hold of others.

"Ourson! oh, Ourson! help! help! dear Ourson, save me, save your poor Violette! I am perishing! save me! help! help!"

The fairy Furious, in the form of a toad, was about to carry her off. The last shrub had given way and Violette's last cry was hushed.

The poor Violette disappeared under the water just as another cry, more despairing, more terrible, answered to her own. But, alas! her hair alone appeared above the water when Ourson reached the spot, breathless and panting with terror. He had heard Violette's cries and had turned back with the rapidity of lightning.

Without a moment's hesitation he sprang into the water and seized Violette by her long hair but he felt instantly that he was sinking with her. The fairy Furious was drawing them to the bottom of the stream. He knew he was sinking but he did not lose his self-possession. Instead of releasing Violette, he seized her both arms and invoked the fairy Drolette. When they reached the bottom, he gave one vigorous stroke with his heel which brought him again to the surface. Holding Violette securely with one arm, he swam sturdily with the other and through some supernatural force he reached the shore where he deposited the unconscious Violette.

Her eyes were closed, her teeth tightly clenched and the pallor of death was on her face. Ourson threw himself on his knees by her side weeping bitterly. Brave Ourson, whom no dangers could intimidate, no privation, no suffering could master, now wept like a child. His sweet sister, so well beloved! his only friend, his consolation, his happiness was lying there motionless, lifeless! Ourson's strength and courage had deserted him and he sank down without consciousness by the side of his beloved Violette.

At this moment a lark flew rapidly up, approached Violette and Ourson, gave one stroke of her little beak to Ourson and another to Violette and disappeared.

Ourson was not the only one who replied to the shrieks of Violette. Passerose had heard them and then the more terrible cry of Ourson which succeeded them. She ran to the house to apprise Agnella and they both ran rapidly toward the stream from which the cries for help seemed to come.

On approaching, they saw with surprise and alarm that Violette and Ourson were lying on the ground in a state of unconsciousness. Passerose placed her hand on Violette's heart and felt it still beating. Agnella ascertained at the same moment that Ourson was still living. She directed Passerose to take Violette home, undress her and put her to bed while she endeavored to restore consciousness to Ourson with salts and other restoratives before conducting him to the farm. Ourson was too tall and heavy to be carried while Violette, on the contrary, was light and it was easy for Passerose to carry her to the house. When she arrived there, she was soon restored to animation. It was some moments before she was conscious. She was still agitated with a vague remembrance of terror but without knowing what had alarmed her.

During this time the tender care of Agnella had restored Ourson to life. He opened his eyes, gazed tenderly at his mother and threw himself weeping upon her neck.

"Mother, dear mother!" he exclaimed, "my Violette, my beloved sister, has perished! Let me die with her!"

"Be composed, my son," replied Agnella; "Violette still lives. Passerose has carried her to the house and will bestow upon her all the attention she requires."

Ourson seemed to revive on hearing these words. He rose and wished to run to the farm but his second thought was consideration for his mother and he restrained his impatience to suit her steps. On their way to the farm he told his mother all that he knew of the events which had almost cost Violette and himself their lives. He added that the slime from the mouth of the fairy Furious had left a strange dulness in his head.

Agnella now told him how Passerose and herself had found them stretched unconscious upon the border of the stream. They soon arrived at the farm, and Ourson, still dripping, rushed into Violette's presence.

On seeing him Violette remembered everything and she sprang towards him. She threw her arms around him and wept upon his bosom. Ourson also wept and Agnella and Passerose were both in tears. It was a concert of emotion, enough to soften all hearts. Passerose put an end to it by crying out:

"Would not one say—ha! ha!—that we were the most—ha! ha!—unfortunate people—ha! ha!—in the universe!—Look at our poor Ourson, wet as a water-reed, bathing himself in his own and Violette's tears. Courage, children, courage and happiness! See, we are all alive, thanks to Ourson."

"Oh, yes!" interrupted Violette; "thanks to Ourson—to my dear, my well-beloved Ourson. How shall I ever repay him for all I owe him? How can I ever testify my profound gratitude, my tender affection?"

"By loving me always as you do now, my dear Violette, my sister. Ah! if it has indeed been in my power to render you some little service, have you not changed my whole existence? Have you not made me gay and happy—me who was so wretched and so miserable before? Are you not every day and every hour of the day the consolation and happiness of my life and of that of my excellent mother?"

Violette was still weeping and she answered only by pressing more tenderly to her heart her Ourson, her adopted brother.

"Dear son," said his mother, "you are dripping wet. Go and change your clothing. Violette has need of some hours' repose. We will meet again at dinner."

Violette consented to go to bed but did not sleep for her heart was melting, overflowing with gratitude and tenderness. She sought in vain for some means of rewarding the devotion of Ourson. She could think of no other way than that of trying to become perfect so as to increase the happiness of Ourson and Agnella.

VIOLETTE'S SACRIFICE

WHEN the dinner hour came, Violette arose, dressed herself and entered the dining-room where Agnella and Passerose were awaiting her. Ourson was not there.

"Ourson is not with you, mother," said Violette.

"I have not seen him," said Agnella.

"Nor I," said Passerose; "I will go and seek him."

She entered his chamber and found him seated upon his bed, his head resting upon his arm.

"Come, Ourson, come quick; we are waiting dinner for you."

"I cannot come," said Ourson, in a weak voice; "I have a strange heaviness in my head."

Passerose flew to inform Agnella and Violette of his illness and they were by his side in an instant. Ourson made an effort to rise in order to reassure them but he fell upon a chair. Agnella found that he had a violent fever and she prevailed upon him to lie down. Violette absolutely refused to leave him.

"I am the cause of his illness," she said, "and I will not leave his side till he is well. I shall die of anxiety if you force me to leave my dear brother."

Agnella and Passerose also installed themselves near their dear invalid but alas! soon poor Ourson did not recognise them. He was delirious! He called his mother and Violette every moment and continued to call them most importunately and to complain of their absence, even while they were holding him in their arms.

Agnella and Violette never left him day nor night during all his sickness. The eighth day, Agnella, exhausted with fatigue, had fallen asleep near the poor sufferer's bed; his difficult respiration and lifeless eye seemed to announce the near approach of death. Violette was on her knees, holding and pressing in her fine white hands the hairy hands of Ourson and covering them with tears and kisses.

In the midst of this scene of desolation, a clear sweet song interrupted the mournful silence of the chamber of the dying boy. Violette started. This soft melody seemed to bring consolation and happiness; she raised her head and saw a lark perched upon the open shutter.

"Violette!" said the lark.

Violette trembled fearfully.

"Violette," repeated the little soft voice of the lark, "do you love Ourson?"

"Do I love him? Ah! love him—I love him more than any one else—more than I love myself."

"Would you purchase his life at the price of your happiness?"

"Yes, gladly would I purchase life for him by the sacrifice of my happiness and of my own life."

"Listen, then, Violette. I am the fairy Drolette. I love Ourson, I love you and I love your family. The venom which my sister the fairy Furious has blown upon the head of Ourson is sufficient to cause his death. Nevertheless, if you are sincere, if you really feel for Ourson the sentiments of gratitude and tenderness which you express, his life is in your hands. You are permitted to redeem it! But remember that you will soon be called upon to give the most terrible proof of your attachment and that if he lives you will pay for his existence by a most horrible sacrifice."

"Oh, madam! quick, quick, tell me what I am to do to save my dear Ourson. Nothing will be terrible to me, all will be joy and happiness if you aid me to save my brother Ourson."

"Well, my child, very well," replied the fairy. "Kiss his left ear three times, saying at each kiss: 'To thee!—For thee!—With thee!' Reflect again, Violette, before undertaking this cure. If you are not prepared for the most difficult sacrifices, the greatest misfortunes will overwhelm you and my sister Furious will be the mistress of your life."

As her only reply, Violette crossed her hands upon her breast, cast upon the fairy, who was about to fly away, a look of tender gratitude, and, throwing herself upon Ourson, she kissed his left ear three times, saying, with an accent loving and penetrating:

"To thee!—For thee!—With thee!"

Scarcely had she said these words, when Ourson uttered a profound sigh, opened his eyes, perceived Violette and seizing her hands carried them to his lips, saying:

"Violette, dear Violette! it seems to me I am awaking from a long dream. Tell me all that has passed. Why am I here? Why are you so pale and thin? Your cheeks are hollow, you seem to have grown old and your beautiful eyes are red with weeping."

"Hush!" said Violette, "do not wake your mother, who is sleeping by your side. She has not slept for a long time and is much fatigued. You have been very ill, Ourson!"

"And you, dear Violette, have you been resting?"

Violette blushed and hesitated.

"How could I sleep, dear Ourson, when I was the cause of all your sufferings?"

Ourson was silent. He looked at her tenderly, kissed her hands and again asked her to tell him what had passed. She told him but she was too modest and too truly devoted to reveal to him the price that the fairy had affixed to his cure. Ourson, therefore, was far from knowing the truth.

Ourson now felt himself restored to health, rose up, proceeded to his mother softly and awakened her by a kiss. Agnella thought he was delirious and called Passerose who was astonished when Violette told them that Ourson had been restored by the good fairy Drolette.

After all this, Ourson and Violette loved each other more tenderly than ever and they never left each other unless their occupations forced them to be apart.

THE WILD BOAR

TWO years passed. One day Ourson had been cutting wood in the forest. Violette was to bring him his dinner and return with him in the evening. At midday Passerose hung on Violette's arm a basket containing wine, bread, a little pot of butter, some ham and some cherries. Violette set off eagerly. The morning had appeared to her very long and she was impatient to be again with Ourson. To shorten the way she went through the forest which was composed of large trees under which she could easily walk. There were neither briars nor thorns in her way and a soft, thick moss covered the earth.

Violette stepped lightly for she was happy to have found a shorter path to her dear Ourson. When she had passed over about half the distance she heard the noise of a heavy and precipitate step but too far off for her to imagine what it could be. After some moments of expectation she saw an enormous wild boar coming towards her. He seemed greatly enraged, ploughed the ground with his tusks and rubbed the bark from the trees as he passed along. His heavy snorting and breathing were as distinctly heard as his step. Violette did not know where to fly or to hide herself. While she was hesitating the wild boar came in sight, saw her, and paused. His eyes were flaming, his whole body bristling, his tusks clashing together. He uttered a ferocious grunt, and sprang towards Violette. Happily she was near a tree whose branches were within her reach. She seized one, sprang up with it, and climbed from branch to branch, until she knew she was beyond his reach. Scarcely was she in safety when the savage animal precipitated himself with all his weight against the tree in which she had taken refuge. Furious at this obstacle, he commenced tearing the bark from the tree and gave it such furious blows with his snout that Violette was terribly frightened. The concussion caused by these violent and repeated blows might at last cause the fall of the tree. She clung tightly and trembling to the tree. The wild boar at last weary of his useless attacks laid himself down at the foot of the tree casting from time to time a menacing look at Violette.

Many hours passed in this painful situation, Violette trembling but holding on steadily and the wild boar, sometimes calm, sometimes in a terrible rage, springing against the tree and tearing it with his tusks.

Violette called on her brother, her dear Ourson, for help. At every new attempt of the wild boar she renewed her cries for aid but alas! Ourson was too far off and he could not hear. No one came to her aid.

Discouragement and despair gained upon her; she began to feel hunger. She had thrown away the basket of provisions when she sprang up the tree, the wild boar had trampled upon it, crushed it and eaten up everything it contained.

Whilst Violette was a prey to these terrors and vainly calling for help Ourson was amazed at not seeing her come with the dinner.

"Can they have forgotten me?" he said to himself. "No, neither my mother nor Violette could have forgotten me. I could not have explained myself well. Without doubt they expected me back to dinner; they are looking for me now and are perhaps uneasy."

At this thought Ourson abandoned his work and commenced walking precipitately towards the house. He also wished to shorten the way and determined to cross the forest. Soon he thought he heard plaintive cries of distress. He paused—he listened, his heart beat violently as he believed he recognized the voice of Violette. But, no—he heard nothing now. He was about to resume his march when he heard a more distinct and piercing cry.

Now he knew that it must be Violette, his Violette, who was in danger and calling upon Ourson for help. He ran in the direction from which the noise seemed to come. Approaching, he heard not only calls for help but roars and growls accompanied by ferocious cries and violent blows. Poor Ourson ran on with the speed of despair. At last he perceived the wild boar shaking with his snout the tree upon which Violette was still crouched in safety though pale and overcome.

This sight gave him new strength. He invoked the protection of the good fairy Drolette and rushed upon the wild boar with his axe in his hand. The wild boar in his rage bellowed furiously. He gnashed his formidable tusks one against the other and sprang towards Ourson, who dodged the attack and jumped to one side. The boar passed beyond him, paused a moment, then turned more furious than ever against Ourson who had now taken breath and with his axe raised in his hand awaited his enemy.

The wild boar sprung on Ourson and received on his head a most violent blow but his bones were so hard he scarcely seemed to feel it. The violence of the attack overthrew Ourson. The wild boar, seeing his enemy on the ground, did not give him time to rise but sprang upon him and with his tusks endeavored to tear him to pieces.

Ourson now thought himself lost, indeed he thought no more of himself, he prayed only for Violette's safety.

Whilst the wild boar was thus trampling and kicking his enemy, a jeering song was heard just above the combatants. The wild boar shuddered, suddenly quitted Ourson, raised his head and saw a lark flying above them. The mocking song continued and the brute, uttering a cry of rage, lowered his head and withdrew slowly without once turning round.

Violette at sight of Ourson's danger had fainted away but had rested supported by the branches of the tree. Ourson, who thought himself torn to pieces, scarcely dared attempt to move but feeling no pain he rose promptly to assist Violette. His heart was full of gratitude to the fairy Drolette to whom he attributed his rescue. At this moment the lark flew towards him, pecked his cheeks and whispered in his ear:

"Ourson, it was the fairy Furious who sent this wild boar. I arrived in time to save you. Profit by the gratitude of Violette and change skins with her. She will consent joyfully."

"Never!" cried Ourson. "I would rather be a bear all my life—rather die. Poor Violette! I should indeed be base if I abused her tenderness towards me in this way."

"Good-bye, obstinate one!" said the lark, flying away singing, "till we meet again. I shall come again—and then——"

"The result will be the same," said Ourson.

He then climbed the tree, took Violette in his arms, and descended. He laid her upon the soft green moss and bathed her forehead with a little wine he found in a broken bottle.

In a few moments Violette was restored to consciousness. She could scarcely believe her senses when she saw Ourson, living and unwounded, kneeling by her side and bathing her forehead and temples.

"Ourson! dear Ourson! again you have saved my life. Tell me, oh! tell me, what can I do to prove my gratitude?"

"Do not speak of gratitude, my cherished Violette. Do I not owe all my happiness to you? In saving your life I save my own and all I value."

"All that you say, dear brother, is sweet and tender but I desire no less to render you some real and signal service, which will show all the gratitude and all the love with which my heart is filled."

"Good! good! we shall see," said Ourson, laughing. "In the mean time let us think of preserving our lives. You have eaten nothing since morning, poor Violette, for I see on the ground the remnants of the provisions you brought, as I suppose, for our dinner. It is late and the day is declining so we must hurry to return to the farm before dark."

Violette now tried to rise but her terror and her long fast had weakened her so much that she fell to the ground.

"I cannot stand, Ourson, I am too weak. What will become of us?"

Ourson was greatly embarrassed. Violette was no longer a child and had grown so large that he could not carry her so far, neither could he leave her exposed to the attacks of the ferocious beasts of the forest and he feared she could not do without food till the morning. In this perplexity he saw a packet fall at his feet. He raised it, opened it and found a pie, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. Ourson knew that this bounty was from the hand of the fairy Drolette and with a heart full of gratitude he put the bottle to Violette's lips. One mouthful of this good wine which was indeed unequalled restored a portion of Violette's strength. The pie and the bread completely restored her as well as Ourson who did full honor to the repast. While eating and drinking they conversed of their past terrors and present happiness.

Now, however, it was night and neither Violette nor Ourson knew which way to turn their steps in order to reach the farm. They were in the midst of a wood. Violette was reclining against the tree which had been her refuge from the wild boar. They dared not quit this spot lest in the obscurity they might not find as comfortable a one.

"Well, dear Violette, do not be alarmed. It is warm, the weather is beautiful and you are reclining upon a bed of soft green moss. Let us pass the night where we are. I will cover you with my coat and I will lie at your feet to protect you from all danger and alarm. Mamma and Passerose will not be very anxious for they are ignorant of the dangers we have encountered and you know that we have often on a lovely evening like this reached home after they had retired."

Violette consented willingly to pass the night in the forest. In the first place, they could not do otherwise; secondly, she was never afraid with Ourson and always thought that what he decided to do was right.

Ourson now arranged Violette's bed of moss in the best possible manner, took off his coat and in spite of her resistance spread it over her. Then, after having seen Violette's eyes close and sleep take possession of all her senses he lay at her feet and soon slept most profoundly.

Violette was the first awake in the morning. She walked around the tree which had sheltered them during the night. Ourson awaked and not seeing Violette he sprang up in an instant and called her name in a voice choking with terror.

"I am here! I am here, dear brother!" she replied, running towards him; "I am seeking the path to the farm. But what is the matter? you tremble!"

"I thought you had been carried away by some wicked fairy, dear Violette, and I reproached myself for having fallen asleep. Let us go now quickly in order to reach home before mamma and Passerose are awake."

Ourson knew the forest well. He soon found the path to the farm and they arrived some moments before Agnella and Passerose awoke. They agreed to conceal from Agnella the dangers to which they had been exposed, to spare her anguish and disquietude for the future. Passerose alone was made the confidant of their dangerous adventures.

THE CONFLAGRATION

OURSON now forbade Violette to go alone in the forest. She was no longer allowed to carry him his dinner so he always returned to the house at midday. Violette never left the farm without Ourson.

Three years after the event in the forest, Ourson saw Violette arise in the morning pale and exhausted. She was seeking him.

"Come, come," she said, drawing him along, "I have something to say—something to relate—Oh, come!"

Ourson was much alarmed and followed her precipitately.

"What is it, dear Violette? For the love of Heaven, speak to me! What can I do for you?"

"Nothing, nothing, dear Ourson; you can do nothing—only listen to me. You remember the dream I had in my childhood, of the toad! the river! the danger! Well, last night I had this same dream again. It is terrible! terrible! Ourson, dear Ourson, your life is menaced! If you die, I will die also!"

"How! By whom is my life threatened?"

"Listen! I was sleeping and a toad—still a toad—always a toad—came to me and said:

"'The moment approaches when your dear Ourson is to resume his natural skin. To you he is to be indebted for this change. I hate him! I hate you! You shall not make each other happy! Ourson shall perish and you cannot accomplish the sacrifice which in your folly you meditate. In a few days, yes, perhaps in a few hours I shall take a signal vengeance upon you both. Good-bye—do you hear?—till we meet again!'

"I awoke, suppressed a cry which was about to issue from my lips and saw, as I saw on that day in which you saved me from the water, the hideous toad creeping upon the shutter and gazing at me menacingly. It disappeared, leaving me more dead than alive. I arose dressed myself and came to find you my brother, my friend to warn you against the vengeance of the fairy Furious and to entreat you to seek the aid of the good fairy Drolette."

Ourson listened in great alarm. He was not frightened by the fate which menaced himself—he was agitated by the sacrifice which Furious announced and which he understood but too well. The thought alone of his dear and lovely Violette being muffled up in his hideous bear's skin through devotion to him made him tremble and he preferred death. Ourson's anguish was pictured in his countenance, and Violette, who was watching him closely, threw herself upon his neck and sobbed violently.

"Alas! my brother, my dear brother, you will soon be torn from me. You, who do not know what it is to fear, now tremble. You who comfort me encourage me and sustain me in all my fears have now no word to utter to restore my failing courage. You who have combated the most terrible dangers now bow your head and are resigned to fate."

"No, Violette, it is not fear which makes me tremble—it is not fear which agitates me. It is a word which the fairy Furious has uttered, of which you do not comprehend the meaning but which I understand perfectly. The threat was addressed to you, my Violette. It is for you I tremble!"

Violette divined from this that the moment of sacrifice had come, that she was about to be called upon to keep the promise she had made to the fairy Drolette. In place of trembling and shrinking, she felt the most lively joy. She could now at last make some return for the devotion, the incessant watchful tenderness of her dear Ourson—could in her turn be useful to him. She made no response to the fears expressed by Ourson but thanked him and spoke to him more tenderly than ever before, thinking that soon perhaps she would be separated from him by death. Ourson had the same thought. They both fervently invoked the protection of the fairy Drolette. Ourson, indeed, called upon her in a loud voice but she did not respond to his appeal.

The day passed away sadly. Neither Ourson nor Violette spoke to Agnella on the subject of their disquiet for fear of aggravating her melancholy which had been constantly increasing as Ourson grew to manhood.

"Already twenty years old!" thought she. "If he persists in living in this solitude and seeing no one and in refusing to change with Violette, who asks nothing better, I am certain, I am convinced, he will wear this bear-skin till his death."

Agnella wept, often wept; but her tears brought her no remedy.

The day Violette had her frightful dream, Agnella also had a dream. The fairy Drolette had appeared to her:

"Courage, queen," she said to her, "in a few days Ourson will lose his bear's skin and you can give him his true name of Prince Marvellous."

Agnella had awaked full of hope and happiness. She redoubled her tenderness to Violette, believing that it was to her she would owe the happiness of her son.

Every one retired at night with different feelings. Violette and Ourson, full of anxiety for the future which appeared so threatening, Agnella's heart bounding with joy at that same future which appeared so near and so replete with happiness, Passerose, astonished at the melancholy of the one and the joy of the other and ignorant of the cause of both.

All slept, however. Violette after weeping profusely. Ourson after having invoked the fairy Drolette; Agnella after smiling and thinking of Ourson handsome and attractive and Passerose after saying to herself a hundred times: "But what is the matter with them all to-day?"

Scarcely an hour after all at the farm were asleep, Violette was aroused by the smell of fire and smoke. Agnella awoke at the same moment.

"Mother," said Violette, "do you not smell something?"

"The house is on fire," said Agnella. "Look what a light is round about us!"

They sprang from their beds and ran to the parlor. The flames had already taken possession of it and of the neighboring chambers.

"Ourson! Passerose!" cried Agnella.

"Ourson! Ourson!" exclaimed Violette.

Passerose sprang half clothed into the parlor.

"We are lost, madam! The flames are all through the house. The doors and windows are firmly closed—it is impossible to open them."

"My son! my son!" cried Agnella.

"My brother! my brother!" exclaimed Violette.

They ran to the doors; all their efforts to open them or the windows were ineffectual.

"Oh! my terrible dream!" murmured Violette. "Dear Ourson, adieu for ever!"

Ourson had also been awakened by the flames and smoke. He slept out of the farm-house, and near the stable. His first impulse was to run to the front of the house but notwithstanding his extraordinary strength he could not open it. One would have thought that the door would break to pieces under his efforts. It was evidently held fast by the fairy Furious.

Ourson sprang upon a ladder and passed across the flames into a granary through an open window, then descended into the room where his mother and Violette were embracing, expecting instant death. Before they had time to recognize him he seized them in his arms and cried to Passerose to follow him. He ran along the granary and descended the ladder with his mother in one arm and Violette in the other and followed by Passerose. The moment after they reached the ground in safety, the ladder and granary became a prey to the flames.

Ourson led Agnella and Violette some distance from the fire. Passerose was self-possessed: she had quite a large package of clothing which she had collected at the commencement of the fire. Agnella and Violette had escaped barefooted and in their night robes, and the clothing brought by Passerose was thus very necessary to protect them from the cold. After having thanked Ourson for saving their lives at the peril of his own they complimented Passerose upon her forethought.

"See," said Passerose, "the advantage of not losing one's senses. Whilst you two were only thinking of your Ourson, I made up this package of necessary things."

"That is true, my good Passerose; but what purpose would your package have served, if my mother and Violette had perished in the flames?"

"Oh, I knew very well that you would not allow them to be burned up alive. Is any one ever in danger when you are present? Is not this the third time you have saved Violette's life?"

Violette pressed Ourson's hands tenderly and carried them to her lips. Agnella embraced her and said:

"Dear Violette, Ourson is happy in your tenderness which fully rewards him for all he has done for you. I feel assured that on your part you would be happy to sacrifice yourself for him if an occasion offered, that only too willingly would you help him."

Before Violette could speak, Ourson said with animation:

"Mother, do not say anything to Violette of sacrificing herself for me. You know the thought alone makes me wretched."

In place of replying to Ourson, Agnella placed her hand on her forehead and cried out anxiously:

"The casket, Passerose! the casket! Have you saved the casket?"

"I forgot it, madam," said Passerose.

The countenance of Agnella expressed such regret and anxiety, that Ourson questioned her as to this precious casket which seemed to trouble her so much.

"The casket was a present of the fairy Drolette. She told me that the happiness of Violette was contained in it. It was in the wardrobe, at the foot of my bed. Alas! by what fatality did I forget it?"

She had scarcely uttered these words when the brave Ourson sprang towards the burning house and notwithstanding the tears and supplications of Agnella, Violette and Passerose, disappeared in the flames exclaiming:

"You shall have the casket, mother, or I will perish with it!"

A horrible silence followed this act of Ourson. Violette fell on her knees with her arms extended towards the burning house, Agnella with her hands clasped looked with straining eyes at the opening through which Ourson had entered while Passerose was motionless, hiding her face with her hands. Some moments passed thus and they appeared ages to the three women who were expecting a sentence of life or death.

Ourson did not reappear. The crackling of the burning wood, the flashing of the flames, increased in violence. Suddenly, a frightful noise made Violette and Agnella utter a cry of despair.

The roof, covered with flames, had fallen in and Ourson was buried under the ruins—crushed by the ruins, consumed by the fire.

The silence of death succeeded this dreadful catastrophe. The flames diminished, then died away—no sound now interrupted the despair of Agnella and Violette.

Violette had fallen into the arms of Agnella and they sobbed thus a long time in silence. Passerose contemplated the smoking ruins and wept. Poor Ourson was buried there a victim of his courage and his devotion! Agnella and Violette still wept bitterly; they appeared neither to hear nor understand what was passing around them.

"Let us leave this place," said Passerose, at last.

Agnella and Violette made no response.

Passerose tried to lead Violette away.

"Come," said she; "come, Violette, let us seek a shelter for the night—the evening fortunately is mild."

"What shelter do I want?" said Violette. "What is the evening to me or the morning? There are no more beautiful days for me! The sun will shine no more but to illumine my despair!"

"But if we remain here weeping we shall die of hunger, Violette, and in spite of the bitterest grief, we must think of the necessities of life."

"Better to die of hunger than of grief! I will not leave this place where I saw my dear Ourson for the last time—where he perished, a victim of his tenderness for us."

Passerose shrugged her shoulders; she remembered that the stable had not been burned so she ran there with all speed, milked the cow, drank a cupful of milk and tried in vain to make Agnella and Violette do the same.

Agnella rose and said to Violette in a solemn tone:

"Your grief is just, my daughter. Never did a more noble or generous heart beat in a human form than Ourson's and he loved you more than he loved himself—to spare your grief he sacrificed his happiness and his life."

Agnella now recounted to Violette the scene which preceded Ourson's birth, the power Violette had to deliver him from his deformity by accepting it for herself and Ourson's constant prayer that Violette should never be informed of the possibility of such a sacrifice.

It is easy to comprehend the feelings of loving tenderness and regret which filled the heart of Violette after this confidence and she wept more bitterly than ever.

"And now, my daughter," continued Agnella, "there remains one duty to fulfil, that is to give burial to my son. We must clear away these ruins and remove the ashes and when we have found the remains of our well-beloved Ourson——"

Sobs interrupted her speech; she could say no more.

THE WELL

AGNELLA, Violette and Passerose walked slowly towards the burned walls of the farmhouse. With the courage of despair they removed the smoking ruins. They worked diligently two days before this work was completed. No vestige of poor Ourson appeared and yet they had removed piece by piece, handful by handful, all that covered the site. On removing the last half-burned planks, Violette perceived an aperture, which she quickly enlarged. It was the orifice of a well. Her heart beat violently—a vague hope inspired it.

"Ourson!" cried she, with a faint voice.

"Violette! dear Violette! I am here; I am saved!"

Violette could reply only by a smothered cry; she lost her consciousness and fell into the well which enclosed her dear Ourson. If the good fairy Drolette had not watched over her fall, she would have broken her head and limbs against the sides of the well. But their kind protectress, who had already rendered them so many services, sustained her and she fell safely at Ourson's feet.

Violette soon returned to consciousness. Their happiness was too great to be believed in—to be trusted. They did not cease to give the most tender assurances of affection. And now they were aroused from their ecstasy by the cries of Passerose, who, losing sight of Violette and seeking her amongst the ruins, discovered the open well. Peering into the darkness she saw Violette's white robe and she imagined that the poor girl had thrown herself intentionally into the well and there found the death she sought. Passerose screamed loud enough to destroy her lungs. Agnella came slowly forward to know the cause of this alarm.

"Be silent, Passerose," cried Ourson in a loud voice; "you are frightening our mother. I am in the well with Violette; we are happy and want for nothing."

"Oh blessed news! blessed news!" cried Passerose; "I see them! I see them! Madam, madam, come quickly, quickly! They are here—they are well—they have need of nothing!"

Agnella, pale, and half dead with emotion, listened to Passerose without comprehending her. She fell on her knees and had not strength to rise. But when she heard the voice of her dear Ourson calling to her: "Mother, mother, your poor son Ourson still lives!" she sprang toward the well, and would have precipitated herself within, had not Passerose seized her by the arms and drawn her back suddenly.

"For the love of Ourson, dear queen, do not throw yourself into this hole; you will kill yourself! I will restore Ourson and Violette to you unharmed."

Agnella, trembling with happiness, comprehended the wisdom of the counsel given by Passerose. She remained rooted to the spot but shuddering with agitation while Passerose ran to seek a ladder.

Passerose was absent a long time which was excusable as she was somewhat confused. First she seized a cord, then a pitchfork, then a chair. For an instant she thought of lowering the cow to the bottom of the well so that poor Ourson might have a drink of fresh warm milk. At last she found the ladder before her eyes, almost in her hands, but she had not seen it.

While Passerose was seeking the ladder, Ourson and Violette talked incessantly of their present happiness and the despair and anguish they had endured.

"I passed uninjured through the flames," said Ourson, "and sought groping about for the wardrobe of my mother. The smoke suffocated and blinded me. Then I felt myself raised by the hair and cast to the bottom of this well where you have come to join me, dear Violette.

"In place of finding water, or even moisture here, I felt at once a sweet, fresh air. A soft carpet was spread on the bottom: you see it is still here. There was from some source sufficient light around me. I found ample provisions at my side. Look at them, Violette, I have not touched them. A few drops of wine was all I could swallow.

"The knowledge of your despair and that of my mother rendered me too unhappy and the fairy Drolette took pity on me. She appeared to me under your form, dear Violette, and I took her for you and sprang forward to seize you in my arms but I embraced only a vague form of air or vapor. I could see her but I could not touch her.

"'Ourson', said the fairy, smiling sweetly upon me, 'I have assumed Violette's form to testify my friendship in the most agreeable way. Be comforted; you shall see her to-morrow. She weeps bitterly, because she believes you to be dead but I will send her to you to-morrow. She will make you a visit at the bottom of this well. She will accompany you when you go forth from this tomb and you shall see your mother and the blue heavens and the dazzling sun which neither your mother nor Violette wish to look upon since your loss, but which appeared beautiful to them while you were with them. You will return once more to this well for it contains your happiness.'

"'My happiness!' I exclaimed to the fairy; 'when I have found my mother and my Violette I shall be in possession of all my happiness.'

"'Believe implicitly what I say. This well contains your happiness and that of Violette.'

"'Violette's happiness, madam, is to live with me and my mother.'"

"Ah! you replied well," interrupted Violette. "But what said the fairy?"

"'I know what I say,' she answered. 'In a few days something will be wanting to complete your happiness. You will find it here. We will meet again, Ourson. Remember what I have said.'

"'Yes, madam; I hope it will be soon.'

"'When you see me again, my poor child, you will be scarcely content and then you will wish that you had never seen me. Silence and farewell.'

"She flew away smiling sweetly, leaving behind her a delicious perfume and an atmosphere so soft and heavenly that it diffused a peaceful calm in my heart. I suffered no more—I expected you."

Violette on her part comprehended better than Ourson why the next return of the fairy would be painful to him. Since Agnella had revealed to her in confidence the nature of the sacrifice that she could impose upon herself, she was resolved to accomplish it, in spite of the opposition of Ourson. She thought only of the delight of giving an immense proof of her affection. This hope tempered her joy at having found him.

When Ourson had completed his narrative, they heard the shrill voice of Passerose crying out to them:

"Look, look, my children! the ladder. I will put it down to you. Take care that it does not fall on your heads. You must have some provisions down there; send them up, if you please; we are somewhat destitute above here. For two days I have only had a little milk to drink and a crust. Your mother and Violette have lived upon the air and their tears. Softly! softly! take care not to break the ladder. Madam! madam! here they are: here are Ourson's and Violette's heads—Good! Step up! There you are!"

Agnella, still pallid and trembling, was immovable as a statue.

After having seen Violette in safety, Ourson sprang from the well and threw himself into his mother's arms. She covered him with tears and kisses and held him a long time clasped to her heart. After having thought him dead during so many painful hours, it seemed a dream to her almost impossible to realize that she was holding him safe once more. Finally Passerose terminated this melting scene by seizing Ourson and saying to him:

"Now it is my turn! I am forgotten, forsooth, because I do not bathe myself in tears; because I keep my head cool and preserve my strength. Was it not Passerose, after all, who got you out of that terrible hole? Speak the truth."

"Yes, yes, my good Passerose! You may believe that I love you and indeed I thank you for drawing me out of it where, however, I was doing very well after my sweet Violette came down to me."

"But now I think of it," said Passerose, "tell me, Violette, how did you get to the bottom of that well without killing yourself?"

"I did not go down purposely. I fell and Ourson received me in his arms."

"All this is not very clear," said Passerose. "The fairy Drolette had something to do with it."

"Yes, the good and amiable fairy," said Ourson. "She is always counteracting the cruelties of her wicked sister."

While thus talking merrily, their stomachs gave indication that they were suffering for dinner. Ourson had left in the well the provisions furnished by the fairy. The rest of the happy family were still embracing and weeping over past remembrances but Passerose without saying a word descended into the well and remounted with the provisions which she placed on a bundle of straw; she then placed around the table four other bundles of straw for seats.

"Dinner is ready," said she; "come and eat; you all need food. The good queen and Violette will soon fall from exhaustion. Ourson has had a little wine but he has eaten nothing. Here is a pie, a ham, bread and wine. Long life to the good fairy!"

Agnella, Violette and Ourson did not require to be told a second time but placed themselves gayly at the table. Their appetites were good and the repast excellent. Happiness illuminated every countenance; they talked, laughed, clasped each other's hands and were in paradise.

When dinner was over, Passerose was surprised that the fairy Drolette had not provided for all their wants.

"Look," said she, "the house is in ruins, we are destitute of everything! The stable is our only shelter, the straw our only bed and the provisions I brought up from the well our only food. Formerly everything was provided before we had the time to ask for it."

Agnella looked suddenly at her hand—the ring was no longer there! They must now gain their bread by the sweat of their brows. Ourson and Violette seeing her air of consternation demanded the cause of it.

"Alas! my children, you will no doubt think me very ungrateful to feel disquieted about the future in the midst of our great happiness but I perceive that during the fire I have lost the ring given me by the good fairy and this ring would have furnished us with all the necessaries of life so long as it was upon my finger. Alas! I have it no longer. What shall we do?"

"Dismiss all anxiety, dear mother," said Ourson. "Am I not tall and strong? I will seek for work and you can all live on my wages."

"And I, too," said Violette, "can I not assist my good mother and Passerose? In seeking work for yourself, Ourson, you can also find something for me to do."

"I will go at once and seek work," said Ourson. "Adieu, mother. We will meet again, Violette."

Kissing their hands, he set off with a light step.

He had no presentiment, poor boy, of the reception which awaited him in the three houses where he sought employment.

THE FARM—THE CASTLE—THE FORGE

OURSON walked more than three hours before he arrived at a large and beautiful farm where he hoped to obtain employment. He saw from a distance the farmer and his family seated before his front door taking their evening meal.

He was but a short way off when one of the children, a little boy about ten years of age, perceived him. He sprang from his seat, uttered a cry of terror and fled into the house.

A second child, a little girl eight years old, hearing the cry of her brother turned towards Ourson and commenced the most piercing shrieks.

All the family now followed the movement of the children and turned around. At the sight of Ourson the women cried out with terror and the children fled in wild alarm. The men seized sticks and pitchforks expecting to be attacked by poor Ourson whom they took for some extraordinary animal escaped from a menagerie.

Ourson, seeing this movement of terror and preparation for attack, spoke to them hoping to dissipate their fears.

"I am not a bear, as you seem to suppose, but a poor boy seeking work and who would be very glad if you should give him employment."

The farmer was greatly amazed to hear a bear speak. He did not know whether to fly or to interrogate him further. He resolved, however, to speak.

"Who are you and from whence do you come?"

"I come from the Woodland Farm and I am the son of Agnella," Ourson replied.

"Ah, then it was you who in your childhood went with your mother to market and frightened all our children to death. You have lived in the woods and done without our help. Why do you seek us now? Go away and live as you have lived heretofore."

"Our farm-house is burned to the ground. I have to work now with my hands to support my mother and sister. For this reason, I pray you to give me work. I will do all you command me."

"Do you suppose, boy, that I will take into my service a villainous animal like you who will frighten my wife and my servants to death and throw my children into convulsions? I am not quite such a fool, my boy; not quite such a fool. Enough of this. Be off, and allow us to finish our dinner."

"Master farmer, be merciful. Only try my work. Place me altogether by myself; then no one will fear me. I will conceal myself so well that your children shall not see me."

"Will you be done talking, wicked bear? Go instantly; if you don't you shall feel the teeth of my pitchfork."

Poor Ourson bowed his head. Tears of humiliation and disappointment glittered in his eyes. He withdrew slowly, followed by the coarse laugh and shouts of the farm hands.

When out of sight he no longer restrained his tears, but in all this shame and despair the thought that Violette could take upon herself his ugly covering did not enter his thoughts.

Ourson walked on till he came in sight of a castle where he saw a crowd of men coming, going and laboring at every kind of work. Some were mowing, some raking, some currying horses, some sweeping, some watering plants, some sowing.

"Here is a house where I shall certainly find work," said Ourson to himself. "I see neither women nor children and I think the men will not be afraid of me."

Ourson drew near without being seen. He took off his hat and stood before a man who seemed to be the superintendent.

"Sir—" said he.

The man looked up, recoiled a step when he saw Ourson and examined him with the greatest surprise.

"Who are you and what do you want?" said he, in a rude voice.

"Sir, I am the son of Agnella, mistress of the Woodland Farm."

"Well! and what has brought you here?"

"Our house is burned down, sir. I am seeking work in order to support my mother and sister. I hope you will be good enough to give me employment."

"Give employment to a bear?"

"Sir, I have only the appearance of a bear. Under this rough outside, which is so repugnant to you, there beats a human heart—a heart capable of gratitude and affection. You shall have no reason to complain either of my work or of my good will."

Whilst Ourson spoke and the superintendent listened with a mocking air, a great noise was heard amongst the horses. They began to kick and prance and the grooms could scarcely hold them. Some of them indeed escaped and fled in terror to the woods.

"It is the bear! It is the bear!" cried the grooms. "It has terrified the horses. Drive it off! Chase it away! We cannot control our horses."

"Off with you!" cried the superintendent.

Ourson was stupefied by his misfortunes and was immovable.

"Ha! you will not go," vociferated the man. "Wait a few moments, you hairy beast. I will give you something to run for. Halloa, men! bring out the dogs, and set them upon this animal. Hurry!—see him scampering off!"

In fact Ourson, more dead than alive at this cruel treatment, precipitately withdrew from the presence of these wicked and inhuman men. This second attempt had failed utterly but he would not allow himself to be discouraged.

"It is still three or four hours before sunset so I have time to continue my search for work."

He directed his steps towards a forge which was some distance from Woodland Farm. The master of the forge employed a great many workmen. He gave work to those who asked it, not in charity, but in view of his own interest. He was feared but he was not loved. He developed the riches of the country but no one thanked him for it because he alone profited by it. By his avidity and his opulence he ground down the poor workmen who could only find employment with this new Marquis of Carabas.

Poor Ourson arrived at the forge. The master was at the door, scolding some, threatening others and terrifying all.

"Sir," said Ourson, drawing near, "have you any work to give me?"

"Certainly. What kind of work——?"

He raised his head at these words for he had replied without looking at Ourson. When his eye fell upon him he did not finish his phrase; his eyes flashed with rage and he stammered out:—

"What foolery is this? Are we in the midst of the Carnival, that a workman ventures upon such a ridiculous masquerade? Throw off your ugly bear's skin instantly or I will crisp your bristles for you in my fire."

"This, sir, is no masquerade," replied Ourson, sadly; "it is, alas! my natural skin but if you will be humane enough to employ me you will see that my strength is equal to my goodwill."

"I give work to you, you vile animal!" cried the master of the forge, foaming with rage: "I will put you into a sack and send you to a menagerie or I will throw you into a den with your brother bears. You will have work enough to defend yourself from their claws. Be off!"

And brandishing his club he would have dealt Ourson a heavy blow if the poor boy had not made a hasty retreat.

THE SACRIFICE

OURSON turned his steps homeward, discouraged and exhausted. He walked slowly and arrived at the farm late. Violette ran to meet him, took him by the hand, and without saying a word led him to his mother. There she fell on her knees and said:—

"My mother, I know what our well-beloved Ourson has suffered to-day. During his absence the fairy Furious has told me all and the good fairy Drolette has confirmed her story. My mother, when our Ourson was, as we believed, lost to us for ever and lost for my sake you revealed to me that which in his nobility and goodness he wished to conceal. I know that by changing skins with him I can restore to him his original beauty. Happy, a hundred times happy in having this opportunity to recompense the tenderness and devotion of my dearly-loved brother Ourson, I demand to make this exchange allowed by the fairy Drolette and I entreat her to complete the transfer immediately."

"Violette! Violette!" exclaimed Ourson, in great agitation, "take back your words! You do not know to what you engage yourself; you are ignorant of the life of anguish and misery unparalleled, the life of solitude and isolation to which you thus condemn yourself; you know not the unceasing desolation you will feel at knowing that you are an object of fear to all mankind. Violette, Violette, in pity to me, withdraw your words!"

"Dear Ourson," said Violette, calmly, but resolutely, "in making what you believe to be so great a sacrifice, I accomplish the dearest wish of my heart; I secure my own happiness; I satisfy an ardent and imperious desire to testify my tenderness and my gratitude. I esteem myself for doing what I propose. I should despise myself if I left it undone."

"Pause, Violette, for one instant longer, I beseech you! Think of my grief, when I no longer see my beautiful Violette, when I think of you exposed to the railleries, the horror of men. Oh! Violette, do not condemn your poor Ourson to this anguish."

The lovely face of Violette was veiled with sadness. The fear that Ourson would feel repugnance towards her made her heart tremble; but this thought, which was wholly personal, was very fleeting—it could not triumph over her devoted tenderness. Her only response was to throw herself in the arms of Agnella, and say:—

"Mother, embrace your fair and pretty Violette for the last time."

Whilst Agnella, Ourson and Passerose embraced her and looked lovingly upon her—whilst Ourson, on his knees, supplicated her to leave him his bear-skin to which he had been accustomed for twenty years—Violette called out again in a loud voice:—

"Fairy Drolette! Fairy Drolette! come and accept the price of the life and health of my dear Ourson."

At this moment the fairy Drolette appeared in all her glory. She was seated in a massive chariot of gold, drawn by a hundred and fifty larks. She was clothed with a robe of butterflies' wings, of the most brilliant colors while from her shoulders fell a mantle of network of diamonds, which trailed ten feet behind her and it was so fine in texture that it was light as gauze. Her hair, glittering like tissue of gold, was ornamented by a crown of carbuncles more brilliant than the sun; each of her slippers was carved from a single ruby and her beautiful face, soft, yet gay, breathed contentment. She fixed upon Violette a most affectionate regard.

"You wish it, then, my daughter?" said she.

"Madam," cried Ourson, falling at her feet, "deign to listen to me. You, who have loaded me with undeserved benefits—you, who have inspired me with boundless gratitude—you, good and just—will you execute the mad wish of my dear Violette? Will you make my whole life wretched by forcing me to accept this sacrifice? No, no, charming and humane fairy, you could not, you will not do it!"

Whilst Ourson was thus supplicating, the fairy gave Violette a light touch with her wand of pearl and Ourson another—then said:—

"Let it be according to the wish of your heart, my daughter. Let it be contrary to your ardent desires, my son."

At the same moment, the face, arms and the whole body of the lovely young girl were covered with the long hair which Ourson had worn, and Ourson appeared with a white smooth skin, which set off his extreme beauty to advantage.

Violette gazed at him with admiration, while he, his eyes cast down and full of tears, dared not look at his poor Violette, so horribly metamorphosed. At last he looked up, threw himself in her arms, and they wept together.

Ourson was marvellously handsome. Violette was, as Ourson had been, without form, without beauty, but not ugly. When Violette raised her head and looked at Agnella, the latter extended her hands towards her, and said:—

"Thanks, my daughter, my noble, generous child."

"Mother," said Violette, in low voice, "do you love me still?"

"Do I love you, my cherished child? Yes, a hundred times, a thousand times more than ever before."

"Violette," said Ourson, "never fear being ugly in our eyes. To my eyes, you are a hundred times more beautiful than when clothed with all your loveliness. To me you are a sister—a friend incomparable. You will always be the companion of my life, the ideal of my heart."

THE COMBAT

VIOLETTE was about to reply, when a kind of roaring was heard in the air, and they saw descend a chariot made of crocodile's skin, drawn by fifty enormous toads. All the toads were hissing and blowing, and would have cast their infectious venom in every direction, if they had not been restrained by the power of the fairy Drolette.

When the chariot reached the ground, the fairy Furious, a huge and heavy creature, issued from it. Her big eyes seemed bursting from their sockets, her large flat nose covered her wrinkled, withered cheeks, her monstrous mouth extended from ear to ear and when it was open a long pointed black tongue was seen licking her horrid teeth.

She was not more than three feet in height and was very corpulent; her grizzly skin was gluey and cold, like a snail's and her thin red hair fell in locks of unequal length around her throat, which was disfigured by a goitre. Her large, flat hands looked like the fins of a shark, her dress was made of snail's skins and her mantle of the skins of toads.

She advanced towards Ourson (who shall hereafter be known by his true name of Prince Marvellous) with a slow step. She paused in front of him and casting a furious glance upon the fairy Drolette and an eye of mocking triumph upon Violette, she folded her great cold arms and said in a sharp yet hoarse voice:—

"My sister has triumphed over me, Prince Marvellous. I have, however, one consolation: you will not be happy, because you have obtained your original beauty at the expense of that little fool, who is now frightful and repugnant and whom you will now never wish to approach. Yes! yes! weep, my handsome Ourson! You will weep a long time, Violette, and you will regret bitterly, if you do not already regret, that you have given your beautiful skin to the prince Marvellous."

"Never, madam, never! My only regret is that I did not know sooner what I could do to testify my gratitude."

The fairy Drolette, whose countenance had assumed an unaccustomed expression of severity and irritation, now waved her wand and said:—

"Silence, sister! You shall not triumph long over the misfortunes of Violette. I will provide a remedy for those misfortunes: her generous devotion merits recompense."

"I defy you to come to her assistance under penalty of my wrath," said Furious.

"I do not doubt your rage, sister, but I disdain to punish you for it," replied Drolette.

"To punish me!—Do you dare to threaten me?" said Furious. And hissing furiously, she called her chariot, mounted it, rose in the air and tried to launch upon Drolette all the venom of her toads in order to suffocate her.

But Drolette knew her sister perfectly. Her faithful larks held the door of her chariot open and she sprang within. The larks rose in the air, hovered above the toads, and then lowered themselves rapidly upon them. The toads, in spite of their weight, escaped the blows by turning adroitly to one side. They however threw their venom on the larks which were nearest to them, who died instantly.

Drolette detached them with the rapidity of a thunder-bolt, rose again in the air and fell so adroitly on the toads, that the larks tore out their eyes with their claws, before Furious had time to come to the rescue of her army.

The outcries of the toads and the hissing of the larks made a deafening noise; and the fairy Drolette called out to her friends, who were regarding the combat with terror:—

"Withdraw immediately and stop your ears!"

Which was done instantly, in obedience to her command.

The fairy Furious made one last effort. She guided her blinded toads in such a way as to meet the larks face to face, and to dart their venom upon them.

But Drolette rose higher and higher in the air and Furious found herself always under her sister's chariot.

At last, unable to contain her rage, Furious cried out:—

"You are assisted by the queen of the fairies, an old fool whom I should gladly see in the lower regions!"

Scarcely had she pronounced these words when her chariot fell heavily to the earth. The toads perished and the chariot disappeared. The fairy Furious only remained, in the form of an enormous toad. She wished to speak but she could only bellow and snuffle. She gazed at Drolette and her larks—at Prince Marvellous, Violette and Agnella, in a transport of rage but her power was destroyed.

The fairy Drolette lowered her chariot, descended to the earth and said:—

"The queen of the fairies has punished you for your audacity, sister. Repent, if you wish to obtain pardon."

The only answer of Furious was to spit forth her poisonous venom, which happily reached no one.

Drolette extended her wand towards her and said:

"I command you to disappear and never to appear again to the prince Marvellous, to Violette or to their mother."

Drolette had scarcely uttered these words when the toad disappeared; there remained no vestige of the chariot or of herself.

Drolette remained some time motionless. She passed her hand over her brow, as if to chase away a sad thought; then approaching Prince Marvellous, she said to him:—

"Prince, the title which I give you indicates your birth. You are the son of King Ferocious and the queen Aimee, concealed till now under the appearance of a modest farmer woman. The name of your father sufficiently indicates his character. Your mother having prevented him from killing his brother Indolent and his sister-in-law Nonchalante, he turned his rage against her. I was her protectress, and carried her off with her faithful Passerose in a cloud.

"And you, Princess Violette, your birth is equal to that of Prince Marvellous. Your father and mother were that same King Indolent and Queen Nonchalante who, saved once by Queen Aimee, became at last the victims of King Ferocious and their own apathy. Since that time King Ferocious has been killed by his subjects who could no longer support his cruel yoke.

"They expect you, prince, to reign over them. I have revealed to them your existence and I have promised them that you will take a wife worthy of you. You can select from the twelve princesses whom your father retained captive after having slain their parents. They are all wise and beautiful and each has a kingdom for her marriage portion."

Surprise had kept Prince Marvellous silent. At the last words of the fairy he turned towards Violette, and seeing that she was weeping, he said:—

"Why do you weep, my Violette? Do you fear that I will blush for you—that I will not dare to testify before my whole court the tenderness with which you inspire me? That I will conceal what you have done for me or forget the bonds which attach me to you for ever? Can you believe that I will be ungrateful enough to seek any other affection than yours and fill your place by any of those princesses held captive by my father? No, dearest Violette! Until this time I have seen in you only a sister but from this moment you are the companion of my life, my sole friend, my wife!"

"Your wife, dear brother? That is impossible! How can you seat upon your throne a creature so repulsive as your poor Violette? How will you dare to brave the raillery of your subjects and of the neighboring kings? And how could I show my deformity in the midst of the festivals given on your return to your kingdom? No, no, my brother! Let me live near you, near to your mother, alone, unknown, covered with a veil. I cannot be your wife! No one shall blame you for having made so sad a choice."

The prince insisted long and firmly. Violette could scarcely control her emotions but she resisted with as much resolution as devotion. Agnella said nothing. She would have been willing that her son should accept even this last sacrifice from poor Violette and simply allow her to live near to them but hidden from the world.

Passerose wept and in a low tone encouraged the prince in his determination.

"Violette," said the prince, at last, "since you absolutely refuse to ascend the throne with me, I abandon it and all royal power in order to live with you as before in solitude and happiness. Without your sweet presence, the sceptre would be a heavy burden; with you at my side, our little farm will be a paradise! Say, dear Violette, shall it be so?"

"Yes, dear brother, you have triumphed; let us live as we have lived so many years: modest in our lives, happy in our affections."

"Noble prince and generous princess," said the fairy, "you shall be recompensed for this rare and devoted tenderness. Prince, in the well to which I carried you during the fire, there is a priceless treasure for Violette and yourself. Descend into the well, seek for it, and when you have found it bring it to me. I will teach you its value."

The prince did not wait to be told a second time; he ran towards the well; the ladder was still there and he descended. On arriving at the bottom, he saw nothing but the carpet which had been there from the first; he searched the walls of the well, but saw no indication of treasure. Finally he raised the carpet, and perceived a black stone with a ring attached; he raised the stone and discovered a casket which glittered like a constellation.

"This must contain the treasure spoken of by the fairy," said he.

The prince seized the casket; it was as light as a nutshell. He ascended the ladder hastily, holding the casket carefully in his arms.

They were awaiting his return with impatience. He handed the casket to the fairy. Agnella exclaimed:—

"This is the same casket you confided to me, madam, and which I supposed I had lost in the fire."

"It is the same," replied the fairy. "Here is the key; open it, prince."

Prince Marvellous hastened to open it. But who can describe the general disappointment, when, in place of some rich treasure which they supposed it contained, they found only the bracelets which Violette had worn when her cousin found her sleeping in the wood, and a vial of perfumed oil!

The fairy looked from one to the other, and enjoyed their surprise and consternation. She took the bracelets and gave them to Violette.

"This is my bridal present, my dear child; every one of these diamonds has the property of guarding from all evil influences the person who wears it, and of endowing its wearer with every virtue, enormous riches and resplendent beauty, with wit, intellect and all desirable happiness. Use them for the children who will be born of your union with Prince Marvellous.

"As to this vial of perfumed oil, it is the wedding gift of the prince your cousin. I know you love perfumes, this has peculiar virtues; use it to-day. To-morrow I will return to seek you and carry you all to your kingdom," she said.

"I renounce my kingdom, madam," said Ourson.

"Who will govern your people?" said Agnella.

"You, my mother, if you are willing," replied Ourson.

The queen was about to refuse, when the fairy interfered.

"We will speak of this to-morrow," said she. "You, madam, I know, desire to accept the crown which you are about to refuse. I forbid you, however, to accept it before my return. And you, dear and amiable prince," added she, in a sweet voice, accompanied with an affectionate glance, "I forbid you to repeat this offer before my return. Adieu till to-morrow. When you are truly happy, my dear children, think kindly of your friend the fairy Drolette."

The fairy ascended her chariot. The larks flew like lightning and she soon disappeared, leaving behind her a delicious perfume.

THE RECOMPENSE

PRINCE Marvellous looked at Violette and sighed heavily; Violette gazed at the prince and smiled sweetly.

"How handsome you are, my dear cousin! I am so happy to have it in my power to restore you your beauty. And now I will pour some of this perfumed oil upon my hands; since I cannot please your eye, I will at least embalm you," said she, laughing.

She uncorked the vial, and entreated Marvellous to sprinkle some drops on her forehead and cheeks. The heart of the prince was too full for words. He took the vial and obeyed the order of his cousin. Their surprise and joy were indescribable on seeing that as soon as the oil touched Violette's forehead the hair disappeared and her skin resumed its original purity and dazzling whiteness.

The prince and Violette, on seeing the virtue of this wonderful oil, uttered loud cries of delight and ran towards the stable where they saw Agnella and Passerose. They called their attention to the happy effect of this perfumed oil given them by the fairy. Both joined in their happiness. The prince could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses. And now nothing could prevent his union with Violette, so good, so devoted, so tender, so lovely, so well constituted to make him supremely happy.

The queen thought of the morrow—of her return to her kingdom, which she had abandoned twenty years ago. She wished that she herself, that Violette, that her son the prince had clothing worthy of so great an occasion but, alas! she had neither the time nor the means to procure them: they would therefore be compelled to wear their coarse clothing, and thus show themselves to their people. Violette and Marvellous laughed at this distress of their mother.

"Do you not think, mamma," said Violette, "that our dear prince is sufficiently adorned with his rare beauty and that a rich and royal robe would not make him more beautiful or more amiable?"

"And do you not agree with me, my dear mother," said Marvellous, "in thinking that our dear Violette is lovely enough in the simplest clothing, that the lustre of her eyes surpasses the most brilliant diamonds, that the clear whiteness of her teeth rivals successfully the rarest pearls, that the richness of her blonde hair surpasses a crown of brilliants?"

"Yes, yes, my children," replied Agnella, "without doubt, you are both of you handsome and attractive but a rich dress spoils nothing, not even beauty. Jewels, embroidery and heavy brocades would detract nothing from your charms. And I who am old——"

"But not ugly, madam," interrupted Passerose, hastily. "You are still amiable and handsome, in spite of your little country cap, your skirts of coarse striped cloth, your waist of red camlet and your stomacher of simple cloth. Besides, when you return to your kingdom, you can buy every kind of dress your heart desires."

The evening passed away gayly and there seemed no anxiety about the future. The fairy had provided their supper; they passed the night on the bundles of hay in the stable and as they were all fatigued by the emotions of the day they slept profoundly. The sun had been shining a long time and the fairy Drolette was with them, before they awoke.

A soft "Hem! hem!" of the fairy aroused them. The prince was the first to open his eyes; he threw himself on his knees before the fairy and thanked her with such warmth and gratitude that her heart was touched.

Violette was on her knees by his side and joining her thanks to those of the prince.

"I do not doubt your gratitude, dear children," said the fairy; "but I have much to do. I am expected in the kingdom of the king Benin where I am to attend at the birth of the third son of the princess Blondine. This prince is to be the husband of your first daughter, Prince Marvellous, and I am resolved to endow him with all the qualities which will obtain for him the warm love of your daughter. And now I must conduct you to your kingdom; I will return in time to be present at your wedding. Queen," she continued, turning to Aimee, who was now just opening her eyes, "we are about to set out immediately for your son's kingdom. Are you and your faithful Passerose ready for the journey?"

"Madam," replied the queen, with a slight embarrassment, "we are ready to follow you but will you not blush for our dress, so little worthy of our rank?"

"It is not I who will blush, queen," said the fairy, smiling, "but rather yourself who have this sensation of shame. But I will remedy this evil also."

Saying this, she described a circle with her wand above the head of the queen, who in the same moment found herself clothed in a robe of gold brocade. Upon her head was a hat with splendid plumes, fastened with a band of superb diamonds and her boots were of velvet, spangled with gold.

Aimee looked at her robe with an air of complaisance.

"And Violette and my son the prince, will you not extend your goodness to them also?"

"Violette and the prince have asked for nothing. I will do as they wish. Speak, Violette, do you desire to change your costume?"

"Madam," replied Violette, casting down her sweet eyes and blushing, "I have been sufficiently happy in this robe of simple cloth. In this costume my brother knew me and loved me. Permit me to continue to wear it as far as regard for my station allows and allow me to preserve it always in remembrance of the happy years of my childhood."

The prince thanked Violette for these sweet words, and pressed her hand tenderly.

The fairy kindly nodded her approval and called for her chariot, which was waiting a few steps from them. She entered and placed the queen next herself, then the prince, Violette and Passerose.

In less than an hour the larks had flown over the three thousand leagues which separated them from the kingdom of Prince Marvellous. All his court and all his subjects, apprised beforehand by the fairy, expected him. The streets and the palaces were filled by the eager, happy crowd.

When the chariot appeared in sight, the people uttered cries of joy which were redoubled when it drew up before the great entrance of the palace, when they saw descend Queen Aimee, a little older, no doubt, but still pretty and gracious, and the Prince Marvellous, whose natural beauty and grace were enhanced by the splendor of his clothing, glittering with gold and precious stones, which were also a present from the fairy.

But the acclamations arose to frenzy when the prince, taking Violette by the hand, presented her to the people.

Her sweet, attractive countenance, her superb and elegant form, were adorned with a dress with which the fairy had clothed her by one stroke of her wand.

Her robe was of gold lace, while her waist, her arms and shoulders shone with innumerable larks formed of diamonds larger than humming-birds. On her graceful head she wore a crown of larks made of precious stones of all colors. Her countenance, soft but gay, her grace, her beauty, won the hearts of all.

For a long time nothing was heard but shouts of "Long live King Marvellous! Long live Queen Violette!" The noise and tumult were so great that many persons became deaf. The good fairy, who desired that only joy and happiness should prevail throughout the kingdom on this auspicious day, cured them instantly at the request of Violette.

There was a magnificent feast spread for the court and the people. A million, three hundred and forty-six thousand, eight hundred and twenty-two persons dined at the expense of the fairy and each guest was permitted to carry away enough for eight days.

During the repast the fairy set off for the kingdom of King Benin, promising to return in time for the wedding of Marvellous and Violette. During the eight days of the fairy's absence Marvellous, who saw that his mother was a little sad at not being queen, entreated her earnestly to accept Violette's kingdom and she consented to reign there on condition that King Marvellous and Queen Violette would come every year and pass three months with her.

Queen Aimee, before parting with her children, wished to witness their marriage. The fairy Drolette and many other fairies of her acquaintance and many genii were invited to the marriage. They all received the most magnificent presents, and were so satisfied with the welcome given them by King Marvellous and Queen Violette that they graciously promised to return whenever they were invited.

Two years afterwards they received an invitation to be present at the birth of the first child of King Marvellous. There came to Queen Violette a daughter, who, like her mother, was a marvel of goodness and beauty.

The king and queen could not fulfil the promise they had made to Queen Aimee. One of the genii who had been invited to the wedding of Marvellous and Violette, found in Queen Aimee so much of goodness, sweetness, and beauty, that he loved her, and, visiting her several times in her new kingdom and being affectionately and graciously received by her, he carried her off one day in a whirlwind. Queen Aimee wept for a while but as she loved the genius she was not inconsolable; indeed, she promptly consented to wed him. The king of the genii granted to her as a wedding present the power of participating in all the privileges of her husband: never to die, never to grow old and the ability to transport herself in the twinkling of an eye wherever she wished to go. Aimee used this power very often to visit her son and his children.

King Marvellous and Queen Violette had eight sons and four daughters and they were all charming. They were happy, without doubt, for they loved each other tenderly and their grandmother, who, it was said spoiled them a little induced their grandfather, the genius Bienveillant, to contribute all in his power to their happiness. Consequently, they received many rich gifts.

Passerose, who was warmly attached to Queen Aimee, had followed her into her new kingdom but when the genius carried her off in a whirlwind, Passerose, seeing herself forgotten and not being able to follow her mistress was so sad in the loneliness caused by the departure of Aimee, that she prayed the fairy Drolette to transport her to the kingdom of King Marvellous and Queen Violette. She remained with them and took care of their children to whom she often recounted the adventures of Ourson and Violette. She still remains, it is said, though the genius and his queen have made her many excuses for not having carried her off in the whirlwind.

"No, no," Passerose replied to all these explanations; "let us remain as we are. You forgot me once—you might forget me another time. Here, my dear Ourson and my sweet Violette never forget their old nurse. I love them and I will remain with them. They loved me and they will take care of me."

The farmer, the superintendent, and the master of the forge who had been so cruel to Ourson were severely punished by the fairy Drolette.

The farmer was devoured by a bear, some hours after he had chased away Ourson.

The superintendent was dismissed by his master for having let loose the dogs, who escaped and never could be found. The same night he was bitten by a venomous serpent and expired some moments afterwards.

The master of the forge having reprimanded his workmen too brutally, they resolved upon vengeance: seized him and cast him into the blazing furnace where he perished miserably.

The End

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