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Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri - a fairy tale by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy

 Read "Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri" fairy tale for all children. "Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri" story, is a bedtime Story for kids written by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy or Countess d'Aulnoy or Madame d'Aulnoy about a Princess who was a widow with three daughters named Roussette, the second, Brunette, and the third, Blondine. The princess became quite poor, but she thought of moving to a country house, and with the few things she still had, to live a quiet life. On the way home they passed through a forest where they were robbed by thieves. Now the Princess had only one gold box of spices left, which she had kept from the time she was still cooking. He found a house where he moved in with his daughters and they started cooking for the people who passed by. One day, an old woman came and after eating she said she had nothing to pay with, but Blondine told her it was no problem and she was glad she could serve it. The old woman said that when Blondine makes a wish and does not think about it, that wish will be fulfilled.

"Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri"
a fairy tale by Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy or Countess d'Aulnoy or Madame d'Aulnoy


Once upon a time there was a Princess, of whose past grandeur nothing remained but her canopy and her cadenas.[1] The one was of velvet, embroidered with pearls, the other of gold, enriched with diamonds. She kept them as long as she could; but the extreme necessity to which she found herself reduced obliged her, every now and then, to take off a pearl, a diamond, or an emerald, and sell it privately for the support of her attendants. She was a widow, left with three daughters very young, and very amiable. She considered, that if she brought them up with the grandeur and magnificence befitting their birth, they would feel the inevitable alteration in their circumstances more keenly; she therefore took the resolution to sell what little property she had left, and to go and settle with her three daughters in some country house a long way off, where they might manage to live within their slender income. In passing through a forest infested with thieves, she was robbed, and left all but destitute. The poor Princess, more afflicted by this last misfortune than by all that she had before experienced, saw plainly that she must either work for her bread, or perish with hunger. She had formerly taken pleasure in keeping a good table, and knew how to make excellent sauces. She never went anywhere without her little golden spice-box,[2] which people came to see from a great distance. That which used to be her amusement now furnished her with the means of subsistence. She settled herself in a very pretty house near a large city, and made wonderful ​ragouts. The people in those parts were fond of good living, so everybody flocked to her establishment. Nothing was talked of but the excellent cook: they scarcely allowed her time to breathe. In the meanwhile her three daughters grew up, and their beauty would have been no less talked of than the Princess's sauces, if she had not kept them in their chamber, out of which they were rarely allowed to go.

On one of the finest days in the year, there came in a little old woman, who seemed very weary. She leaned upon her stick, her body was almost bent double, and her face full of wrinkles. "I come," said she, "to eat one of your good dinners, for I wish, before I go to another world, to be able to boast of something I have enjoyed in this." She took a straw chair, seated herself near the fire, and told the Princess to make haste. As she could not do everything herself, she called her three daughters; the first was named Roussette, the second, Brunette, and the third, Blondine. She had named each after the colour of her hair. They were dressed like country girls, in boddices and petticoats of different colours. The youngest was the handsomest, and the most gentle. Their mother ordered one to fetch some young pigeons out of the dove-cot, another to kill some chickens, and the third to make the pastry. In short, they quickly set before the old woman a nice clean table-cloth, a very white napkin, highly polished earthenware, and a good dinner of several courses. The wine was good, there was no lack of ice, the glasses were rinsed every moment by the fairest hands in the world; all this whetted the appetite of the good little old woman. She got a little merry, and said a thousand things, in which the Princess, who appeared to be taking no notice, discovered considerable wit.

The meal, being finished as gaily as it began, the old woman arose, and said to the Princess, "My very good friend, if I had money I would pay you: but I have been long a beggar. I could have found no such good cheer elsewhere, and all I can promise you is, that I will send you better customers than myself." The Princess smiled, and said to her kindly, "Go, my good mother, do not trouble yourself, I am always paid when I have gratified any one." "We are delighted to have waited on you," said Blondine; "and if you will stay supper, we shall be still more so." "How happy are they," ​said the old woman, "who are born with such benevolent hearts! But do you imagine you will not be rewarded? Be assured," continued she, "that the first wish you make without thinking of me, will be fulfilled." At the same moment she disappeared, and they had not the least doubt of her being a fairy.

They were astonished at this adventure. They had never seen a fairy before. They were frightened, and talked of her constantly for five or six months, so that, whenever they wished for anything she came immediately into their minds. Nothing, therefore, came to pass, which greatly incensed them against the Fairy. But one day, that the King was going out hunting, he called in passing at the celebrated Cook's, to ascertain if she were really as clever as report asserted, and as he approached the garden, in which the three sisters were gathering strawberries, they heard the noise, and Roussette exclaimed, "Ah! if I were fortunate enough to marry my Lord Admiral, I venture to say, that, with my spindle and distaff, I would spin so much thread, and with that thread make so much cloth, that he would never want to purchase any more for the sails of his vessels." "And I," said Brunette, "if Fortune were sufficiently favourable to me to make me the wife of the King's brother; I venture to say, that, with my needle, I would make him so much lace that his palace would be filled with it." "And I," said Blondine, "I venture to say, that if the King married me, I would bring him two handsome boys, and a beautiful girl, whose hair should fall in ringlets, out of which should come fine jewels, and each should have a brilliant star on the forehead, and a rich chain of gold around the neck."

One of the king's favourites who had preceded him to inform the mistress of the house of his majesty's approach, having heard voices in the garden, stopped and listened, quietly, and was greatly surprised at the conversation of these three handsome girls. He went in all haste to amuse the King by its repetition. The King laughed at it, and ordered the girls to be brought before him.

They quickly presented themselves with wonderful grace and good manners. They saluted the King with much respect and modesty, and when he inquired if it were true that they had been holding such a conversation respecting the ​husbands they desired, they blushed and cast down their eyes. He pressed them still further to acknowledge it. They did so, and he immediately exclaimed, "I certainly do not know what power is influencing me, but I will not leave this house until I have married the beautiful Blondine." "Sire," said the King's brother, "I crave your permission to marry this lovely Brunette." "Grant me a similar favour, Sire," said the Admiral, "for this golden-haired girl pleases me greatly."

The King, much gratified at being thus imitated by the chief persons in his dominions, told them he approved of their choice, and asked the mother of the young women if she consented. She replied that it gave her the greatest joy she could ever hope to experience. The King embraced her, and the Prince and the Admiral followed his example.

When the King was ready for dinner, there came down the chimney a table laid for seven with gold plate and everything that could be imagined most delicate to provoke the appetite. The King, however, hesitated to taste anything; he feared the witches had cooked the viands at one of their festivals, and this mode of serving it by the chimney appeared to him rather suspicious. The buffet was also set out. Nothing was to be seen but basins and vases of gold, the workmanship of which surpassed the material. At the same time a swarm of bees appeared in crystal hives, and commenced the most charming music that can possibly be imagined. The whole dining-room was filled with hornets, bees, wasps, gnats, and other insects of that description, which waited on the King with supernatural ability. Three or four thousand flies helped him to wine, without one of them daring to drown itself in it, which evinced a moderation and a discipline perfectly astonishing. The Princess and her daughters saw clearly enough that all this could only be attributed to the little old woman, and they blessed the hour they had known her.

"After the banquet, which lasted so long that night surprised the company at table, (of which his majesty was rather ashamed, for it appeared as if Bacchus had taken the place of Cupid at this marriage,) the King rose and said, "Let us finish this ceremony as we ought to have begun it." He drew his ring from his finger, and placed it on that of ​Blondine: the Prince and the Admiral imitated their sovereign. The bees sang with redoubled vigour as the company danced, and made very merry, and all those who came in the King's train advanced, and saluted the Queen and the Princess her sister. As to the wife of the Admiral they treated her with less ceremony, which annoyed her excessively, for she was the elder sister of Brunette and Blondine, and had made the least brilliant match of the three.

The King sent his grand Equerry to inform the Queen, his mother, of what had taken place, and to order out his most magnificent coaches to fetch Blondine and her two sisters. The Queen-Mother was the most cruel and passionate woman in the world. When she heard that her son had married without consulting her, and moreover a girl of obscure birth, and that the Prince, his brother, had done the same thing, she flew into such a rage that she frightened the whole Court. She asked the Grand Equerry what motive could possibly have induced the King to make so degrading a match. He answered, the hope of becoming the father of two boys and a girl who should be born with long curly hair, stars on their foreheads, and gold chains round their necks, and that the idea of such wonderful things had enchanted him. The Queen-Mother smiled contemptuously at the credulity of her son, and made several offensive observations upon it, which sufficiently evinced the fury she was in.

The coaches had already arrived at the little country house. The King invited his mother-in-law to follow him, and promised that she should be treated with the greatest distinction; but she reflected that the Court was like a sea in constant motion, and said, "Sire, I have had too much experience of the world to quit the quiet retreat it has cost me such trouble to obtain." "What!" said the King, "will you continue to keep an eating-house?" "No," she replied; "you will allow me something to live on." "At least permit me," added the King, "to give you an establishment and officers to attend on you." "I thank you, Sire," said the Princess: "while I live by myself I shall have no enemies to trouble me; but if I had a train of domestics I fear I might find some amongst them." The King admired the sense and discretion of a woman who thought and spoke like a philosopher.

While he was pressing his mother-in-law to accompany ​him, Roussette, the Admiral's lady, contrived to hide in the bottom of her coach all the fine basins and gold vases from the buffet, determined not to lose one of them; but the Fairy, who saw everything though nobody saw her, changed them into earthenware. When Roussette arrived at Court, and would have carried them into her cabinet, she found nothing that was worth the trouble. The King and Queen tenderly embraced the prudent Princess, and assured her that she might command whatever lay in their power. They quitted the rural abode, and repaired to the city, preceded by trumpets, hautbois, kettle and other drums, which made noise enough to be heard a long way off. The confidants of the Queen-Mother had advised her to conceal her displeasure, as it would offend the King, and the consequences might be disagreeable. She constrained herself, therefore, and received her two daughters-in-law with apparent kindness, making them presents of jewels, and praising whatever they did, whether it was good or bad.

The fair Queen and Princess Brunette were united by a strict friendship; but Roussette hated them both mortally—"Only see," said she, "the good luck of my two sisters; one is a Queen, the other wife of a Prince of the blood-royal. Their husbands adore them; and I, who am the eldest, and who consider myself an hundred times handsomer than either of them, I have only married an admiral, who doesn't care for me half as much as he ought." The jealousy she entertained of her sisters soon made her one of the party of the Queen-Mother, for it was well known that the affection she displayed for her daughters-in-law was but feigned, and that nothing would give her more pleasure than an opportunity to do them some mischief. The Queen and the Princess were both approaching the period for their confinement, when unfortunately a serious war broke out, and the King was compelled to depart to place himself at the head of his army. The young Queen and the Princess being obliged to remain behind in the power of the Queen-Mother, beseeched the King to permit them to return to their own mother, and seek consolation with her during the cruel absence of their husbands. The King could not consent to this; he conjured his wife to remain in the palace; he assured her that his mother would use her well, and indeed he implored her most ​earnestly to love and cherish her daughter-in-law, adding that she could not oblige him more than by so doing; that he anticipated being the father of beautiful children, and that he should look with the greatest anxiety for the news of their birth. The wicked old Queen, enchanted that her son confided his wife to her care, promised him she would think of nothing but Blondine's safety, and assured him he might make himself perfectly easy on that score. He therefore took his departure, but with so much desire to return quickly, that he risked his troops in every encounter, and fortune continually favoured his rashness, and crowned all his plans with success. The Queen was confined, however, before the campaign was ended, and the Princess her sister gave birth the same day to a beautiful boy, but died almost immediately after.

Roussette, the admiral's wife, was very busy in forming plans to injure the young Queen. When she saw her the mother of such lovely children, and had none herself, her rage increased. She determined to speak at once to the Queen-Mother, for there was no time to lose. "Madam," said she to her, "I am so deeply sensible of the honour your majesty has done me in looking on me with some little favour, that I would willingly sacrifice my interests to further yours. I can comprehend all the vexation that you must have endured since the King and the Prince formed such degrading alliances. Here are now four children born to perpetuate the errors of their fathers. Our mother is a poor villager, who was in want of bread, when it occurred to her to turn cook and make fricassees. Take my advice, Madam, let us make a fricassee of these little brats, and send them out of the world before they cause you to blush at them." "Ah, my dear lady Admiral," cried the Queen, embracing her; "how I love thee for thy sense of justice, and for sharing as thou dost in my well-founded indignation! I had already resolved to do what thou hast suggested. I am only perplexed as to the mode of operation." "Give yourself no trouble about it, Madam," replied Roussette; "my lap-dog has just had three puppies, two male and one female; they have each a star on their forehead, and a mark round their necks, which has the effect of a chain. We must make the Queen believe that she has been brought to bed of these little brutes, and take the two boys, the girl, and the son of the Princess, and have them ​made away with." "Thy project pleases me vastly," exclaimed the Queen-Mother. "I have already given some orders to Feintise, the Queen's Lady-in-Waiting, on this subject, so that we have only to send for the little dogs." "Here they are," said the Admiral's wife, "I brought them with me;" so saying she opened a large purse which she always carried at her side, and pulled out of it three blind puppies, which the Queen-Mother and she swaddled in fine linen, embroidered with gold, and ornamented with lace, as the royal children should have been. They placed them in a covered basket, and then the wicked old Queen, followed by Roussette, proceeded to the young Queen's apartment. "I come to thank you," said the Queen-Mother, "for the beautiful heirs you have presented to my son. Here are heads well formed to wear a crown. I am not surprised that you promised your husband two sons and a daughter, with stars on their foreheads, flowing locks and chains of gold round their necks. Take them and nurse them yourself, for you will find no woman who will suckle puppies."

The poor Queen, who was well-nigh exhausted with the sufferings she had undergone, was ready to die with grief when she saw the three little beasts of dogs, and the sort of kennel they made of her bed, in which they lay yelping desperately. She began to weep bitterly, then clasping her hands, she said, "Alas! Madam, add not to my affliction by your reproaches; I could scarcely have had a greater one befall me. I should have thought myself too happy if the gods had permitted me to die before I had known the disgrace of being mother to these little monsters. The King will hate me as much as he loved me." Her voice was stifled with sighs and sobs. She had not strength to say more, and the Queen-Mother, continuing to load her with abuses, had the pleasure of passing three hours at the head of her bed as she lay in that wretched condition. At last she left her, and the Queen's sister, who pretended to sympathise with her sorrow, told her that she was not the first who had met with such a misfortune; that it was clearly a trick of the old Fairy who had promised to work such wonders for them; but that as it might be dangerous for her to see the King, she advised her to go to her poor mother with her three little brats of puppies. The Queen answered only with tears, The heart ​must have been hard indeed that was not moved by the state she was reduced to, suckling those filthy whelps under the impression that she was their mother.

The old Queen ordered Feintise to strangle the Queen's three children and the son of the Princess, and bury them so secretly that no one should ever be the wiser. As she was about to execute this order, and held already in her hand the fatal cord, she cast her eyes on the poor infants, and was so struck by their beauty and the extraordinary appearance of the stars that sparkled on their foreheads, that she shrank from dipping her hands in such illustrious blood!

She had a boat brought round to the sea-beach. They put the four babes into the same cradle with some strings of jewels, so that if fortune should cast them into the hands of some one charitable enough to bring them up they would be rewarded for their trouble.

The boat driving before a stiff breeze was soon so far out at sea that Feintise could no longer distinguish it. At the same time the waves began to rise, the sun was shrouded, the clouds broke into torrents of rain, and a thousand claps of thunder woke the echoes all around. She could not doubt that the boat would be swamped, and she felt relieved by the thought that the poor little innocents would perish, for she would otherwise be always haunted by the fear that some extraordinary event would occur in their favour, and betray the share she had had in their preservation.

The King, incessantly occupied with the thoughts of his dear wife, and of the state in which he had left her, having agreed to a short truce, came back post haste to the city. He reached the palace twelve hours after the Queen's confinement. When the Queen-Mother heard of his arrival, she went to meet him with a well put on air of grief. She held him for a long time clasped to her bosom, bathing his face with her tears. It appeared as if her sorrow had deprived her of words. The King, trembling from hand to foot, dreaded to ask what had happened, for he could not doubt that some great disaster had befallen him. At length she made a great effort, and told him that his wife had given birth to three puppies. They were immediately produced by Feintise; and the Admiral's wife, all in tears, flinging herself at the King's feet, implored him not to put the Queen to ​death, but to content himself with sending her back to her mother; that she was already resigned to such a fate, and that she would consider that sentence a great mercy.

The King was so thunderstruck he could scarcely breathe. He gazed on the puppies, and observed with astonishment the star which each had in the middle of its forehead, and the different colour of the hair which formed a ring round each of their necks. He sank into a chair, revolving a thousand fancies in his mind, and unable to come to any resolution; but the Queen-Mother pressed him so strongly that at length he pronounced the sentence of banishment upon the innocent Queen. She was immediately placed in a litter with her three dogs, and carried without the least mark of respect to her mothers house, where she arrived all but dead.

The gods had looked with compassion on the barque in which the three princes and the princess had been sent to sea. The Fairy who protected them caused milk instead of rain to fall into their little mouths. They suffered nothing from the terrible storm which had risen so suddenly, for seven days and seven nights they had floated on a sea as smooth as a canal, when they were met by a Corsair. The Captain having been struck, although at a great distance, by the brilliancy of the stars upon their foreheads, boarded the boat, believing it to be full of jewels. He found some, sure enough; but what moved him still more was the beauty of these four wonderful children. The desire to preserve them induced him to alter his course, and make all sail home in order to give them to his wife who had no children, and had long wished for some.

His speedy return alarmed her, for he had sailed on a very long voyage; but she was transported with joy when he placed in her hands so great a treasure. They admired together the wonderful stars, the chains of gold that could not be taken off their necks, and their long ringlets. Much greater was the woman's astonishment when she combed them, for at every instant there rolled out pearls, rubies, diamonds, and emeralds of various sizes and exceedingly fine. She told her husband of it, who was not less surprised than herself.

"I am very tired," said he, "of a Corsair's life, and if the locks of those little children continue to supply us with such treasures, I will give up roaming the seas, for my wealth will be as great as that of our most celebrated captains. The ​Corsair's wife, whose name was Corsine, was enchanted at the resolution her husband had come to, and loved the four infants so much the more for it. She named the Princess Belle-Etoile, her eldest brother Petit-Soleil, the second Heureux, and the son of the Princess, Cheri. The latter was much handsomer than either of the other two boys, so that, although he had neither star nor chain, Corsine loved him more than she did his cousins.

As she could not bring them all up without the aid of a nurse, she requested her husband, who was exceedingly fond of hunting, to catch her some very young fawns. This he soon found means of doing, as the forest in which they lived was extensive and well stocked with deer. Corsine, having acquired the fawns, tied them up to windward, and the Hinds smelling them, came to suckle them. Corsine then hid the fawns and put the infants in their place, who thrived admirably on the milk of the hinds. Four of them came twice a day to Corsine's dwelling, in search of the Princes and Princess, whom they took for fawns.

Thus passed the early infancy of these royal children. The Corsair and his wife were so passionately fond of them that they lavished upon them every attention. The man had been well educated. It was less from inclination than the caprice of fortune that he had become a Corsair. He had married Corsine when she was in the service of a Princess, in whose court she had happily cultivated her natural talents. She had excellent manners, and though she resided in a sort of wilderness, where she and her husband subsisted only on the plunder he brought home from his cruises, she had not forgotten the usages of polite society. They were highly delighted at being no longer obliged to expose themselves to the peril attending the trade of a Corsair. They had become sufficiently rich to discontinue it, for every three days there dropped, as I have already said, from the beautiful hair of the Princess and her brothers, jewels of great value, which Corsine disposed of in the nearest town, and always brought back from it a thousand pretty things for her four babies.

As they grew older, the Corsair applied himself seriously to the cultivation of the fine natural abilities with which heaven had endowed them, and as he felt convinced there were some great mysteries attached to their birth, and the ​accident by which he had met with them, he desired, by his care of their education, to prove his gratitude to the gods for the present they had made him. So having rendered his dwelling more habitable, he attracted to it persons of talent, who taught the children various sciences, which they acquired with a facility surprising to all their great masters.

The Corsair and his wife had never told the story of the four children. They passed for their own, although they gave evidence by all their actions that they came of more illustrious blood. They were exceedingly united, unaffected, and courteous; but Prince Cheri entertained for Princess Belle-Etoile a more ardent and devoted affection than the other two. The moment she expressed a wish for anything, he would attempt even impossibilities to gratify her; he scarcely ever quitted her side. When she went hunting, he accompanied her: when she stayed at home he always found some excuse for not going out himself. Petit-Soleil and Heureux, who were her brothers, addressed her with less tenderness and less respect. She remarked the difference, and doing justice to Cheri, she loved him better than she did the others. As they grew up, their mutual affection increased with their age. At first it was productive of unalloyed pleasure. "My gentle brother," said Belle-Etoile to him, "if my wishes could render you happy, you should be one of the greatest kings on earth." "Alas, sister!" replied he, "do not begrudge me the happiness I enjoy in your society. I prefer passing one hour where you are to all the grandeur you desire for me." When she made a similar speech to her brothers, they answered frankly that they should be delighted, and when to prove them she added, "Yes, I would that ye sat on the highest thrones in the world, though I should never see ye more." They immediately answered, "You are right, sister, it would be well worth the sacrifice." "You would consent then, in that case," said she, "not to see me again?" "Certainly," they replied, "we should be satisfied with occasionally hearing of you."

When she was alone she reflected on these various modes of loving, and she found her own feelings corresponded exactly to theirs, for though Petit-Soleil and Heureux were dear to her, she had no desire to pass her life continually with them, while with regard to Cheri, she burst into tears whenever she contemplated the probability that their father might ​send him to sea or carry him to the wars. It was then that love, disguised under the specious form of natural affection, established itself in these young hearts. At fourteen, Belle-Etoile began to reproach herself with the injustice she felt she was doing her brothers by not loving them all equally well. She imagined that the attentions and caresses of Cheri were the cause of it. She forbade him to seek more opportunities of pleasing her. "You have already found but too many," said she to him graciously; "and you have succeeded in causing me to make a great difference between our brothers and yourself." What joy did he not feel at hearing her speak thus? Far from relaxing in his assiduities, he redoubled them, and every day paid her some new and gallant attention.

They were as yet ignorant both of the extent and of the nature of their affection, when one day some new books were brought to Belle-Etoile. She took up the first that came to hand. It was the history of two young lovers, whose passion had commenced whilst they considered themselves brother and sister. They had afterwards been discovered by their families, and eventually, after passing through infinite troubles, espoused each other.[3] As Cheri read remarkably well, and not only understood what he read, but had the faculty of conveying the full sense of it to others, the Princess requested him to read to her, while she finished some work in flock-silk which she was anxious to complete. He read, therefore, the above story, and it was not without much emotion that he discovered in it a perfect description of all his feelings. Belle-Etoile was not less surprised. It seemed as though the author had read all that was passing in her soul. The more Cheri read the more he was agitated. The more the Princess listened, the more was she affected. Despite of all her efforts her eyes filled with tears, and they ran down her cheeks. Cheri, also, struggled in vain against his feelings. He turned pale, his voice faltered. Each of them suffered all that can be imagined under such circumstances. "Ah, sister," he exclaimed, gazing on her sadly and dropping the book, "how happy was Hippolyte in not being the brother of Julie!" "We are not so fortunate," replied she; "alas, do we less deserve ​to be so?" As she uttered these words, she felt she had said too much. She stopped in great confusion, and if anything could have crushed the Prince, it was the state in which he saw her.

From that moment, they both fell into a profound melancholy, without further explanation. They partly perceived what was passing in their souls, and studied to conceal from every one the secret which they would willingly have been ignorant of themselves, and which they never spoke of to each other. Still it is so natural to flatter oneself, that the Princess built much upon the fact that Cheri alone had neither a star on his forehead nor a chain round his neck, although he had long ringlets, out of which jewels fell when they were combed, the same as his cousins.

The three Princes having one day gone out hunting together, Belle-Etoile shut herself up in a small cabinet which she was partial to because it was gloomy and she could muse in it at more liberty than elsewhere. She sate there perfectly still and silent. This cabinet was divided from Corsine's chamber only by the wainscot, and she imagined that the Princess was out walking. The latter, therefore, heard her say to the Corsair, "Belle-Etoile is now of an age to be married. If we knew who she was we would endeavour to provide a suitable match for her; or if we could ascertain that those who pass for her brothers were not so, we would give her to one of them, for where could she ever find any so perfectly handsome?"

"When I fell in with them," said the Corsair, "I saw nothing that could give me any idea of their birth. The jewels that were tied to their cradle showed that they belonged to wealthy people. What was most singular, they appeared from their ages to have been all born at the same time, and four at a birth is by no means a common occurrence." "I suspect also," said Corsine, "that Cheri is not their brother, he has neither star nor neck-chain." "That's true," replied her husband; "but diamonds fall from his hair, as they do from that of the others. After all the wealth we have amassed through the means of these dear children, the only wish I have left is to discover their origin." "We must leave it to the gods," said Corsine; "they gave them to us, and in their own good time they will no doubt develop the mystery." ​Belle-Etoile listened attentively to this conversation. It is impossible to describe her delight at the hope she was thereby led to entertain that she was of some illustrious race; for, though she had always respected those whom she had considered her parents, she could not help feeling some pain at being the daughter of a Corsair; but what still more enchanted her was, the thought that Cheri might not be her brother. She was all impatience to talk to him about it, and to relate to the whole party the extrardinary adventure she had become acquainted with.

She mounted an Isabella-coloured horse;[4] the black mane of which was dressed with rows of diamonds; for she had only to pass a comb once through her hair, to obtain jewels enough to decorate an entire hunting equipage. The green velvet housings of her steed were covered with diamonds and embroidered with rubies. She was quickly in the saddle, and away to the forest in search of her brothers. The sound of horns and hounds sufficiently indicated their whereabouts, and she joined them in a few minutes. At the first sight of her, Cheri left the chase and advanced to meet her much quicker than the others. "What an agreeable surprise, Belle-Etoile!" he cried; "you at length out hunting; who could not be diverted for an instant from the pleasure you derive from music, and the sciences, which you make your study."

"I have so much to tell you," replied she, "that wishing to see you alone, I came to seek you." "Alas, sister!" said he sighing, "what would you with me to-day? It appears to me, you long ago determined not to require anything at my hands." She blushed, and casting down her eyes, sat upon her horse, sad and thoughtful, without replying to him. At length her two brothers came up, she roused herself at sight of them, as though she had been in a deep sleep, and jumped to the ground, leading the way; they all followed her, and when she reached the middle of a little piece of mossy ground, shaded by trees, "Sit down here," said she, "and learn what I have just heard." She related to them exactly the conversation the Corsair had with his wife, and how it appeared that they were not their children. Nothing could exceed the surprise of the three Princes; they consulted among ​themselves what they ought to do. One was for setting off without saying anything; the other, was for remaining; and the third, wished to depart, and to say so. The first maintained, that his was the surest way, because the money the Corsair and his wife made by combing them, would induce them to retain them. The other replied, it would be well to quit them, if they knew what place to fix upon to go to, and what would be their condition; but to be called vagrants in the world was not an agreeable thing: the last added, that it would be very ungrateful to abandon their preservers, without their consent; but that it would be equally stupid to wish to remain longer with them in the middle of a forest, where they could not learn who they were; and that, therefore, the best thing would be to speak to them, and make them consent to their departure. They all approved of this advice, and immediately mounted their horses to seek the Corsair and Corsine.

Cheri's heart was flattered by all that hope could suggest most agreeable, to console an afflicted lover; his love enabled him to divine some portion of the future; he did not believe he was Belle-Etoile's brother: his long-constrained passion finding some little vent inspired him with a thousand tender thoughts which charmed him. They accosted the Corsair and Corsine with looks of mingled joy and anxiety. "We do not come," said Petit-Soleil, (for he was spokesman,) to deny the affection, and gratitude, and the respect we owe you: although we are informed of the way in which you found us at sea, and that you are neither our father nor mother, your compassion in saving us, the excellent education you have given us, the care and kindness you have manifested, are such indisputable obligations, that nothing in the world can free us from our duty to you. We come, then, to repeat to you our sincere thanks, to entreat you to relate to us the particulars of so extraordinary an incident, and to counsel us, so that, acting upon your sage advice, we should have nothing wherewith to reproach ourselves."

The Corsair and Corsine were much surprised at the discovery of what they had so carefully concealed. "You have been informed too truly," said the Corsair, "and we cannot hide from you, that you are indeed not our children, and that fortune alone threw you into our hand. We have no insight as to your birth, but the jewels which were in your cradle ​indicated that your parents were either great lords, or very rich people,—as to the rest,—what advice can we give you? If you consult our affection for you, certainly you would remain with us, and console our old age by your charming company. If the mansion we have built here does not please you, or that living in this retirement distresses you, we will go wherever you wish, provided it is not to Court; long experience has given us a distaste to it; and you would be disgusted also, perhaps, if you were made acquainted with the continual troubles, dissimulations, jealousies, caprices, real evils, and imaginary benefits that are to be met with there: we could tell you still more about it; but you would think that our counsels were interested. Indeed, they are so, my children, for we would wish you to remain in this peaceful retreat, although you are your own masters to leave it whenever you like. At the same time remember you are at present in port, and you would venture on a tempestuous ocean; that the troubles of it nearly always surpass the pleasures; that life is short, that it is often quitted in the midst of our career, that the grandeurs of the world are as false brilliants, which by a strange fatality we permit to dazzle us, and that the most sterling happiness is to know how to limit our desires, to love peace, and to seek wisdom."

The Corsair would not have ended his remonstrances so soon, had he not been interrupted by Prince Heureux. "My dear father," said he, "we are too anxious to discover something of our birth, to bury ourselves in the depths of a desert; the moral you teach is excellent, and I wish we were able to profit by it, but some strange fatality calls us elsewhere; allow us to fulfil the course of our destiny—we will come again to see you, and give you an account of our adventures."

At these words the Corsair and his wife shed tears. The Princes were very much affected, and Belle-Etoile particularly so, who was of an admirable disposition, and who would never have thought of quitting the desert if she had been sure that Cheri would have always remained with her.

This resolution having been taken, they thought of nothing else, but preparing for their embarkation; for having been found upon the sea, they had some hope it would enlighten them on the matter they were so anxious about. They had a horse for each of them put on board their little vessel, and ​after combing their heads till they were sore in order to leave as many jewels as they could to Corsine, they begged her to give them in return the strings of diamonds that were in their cradle. She went to fetch them from her cabinet, where she had kept them very carefully, and she fastened them all upon Belle-Etoile's dress, whom she embraced incessantly bathing her face with her tears.

Never was there so sad a separation; the Corsair and his wife thought it would kill them. Their grief did not arise from interested motives, for they had amassed so much treasure, that they did not wish for any more. Petit-Soleil, Heureux, Cheri, and Belle-Etoile, went on board the vessel. The Corsair had had one built for the voyage, and fitted up very magnificently; the mast was of ebony and cedar-wood, the ropes were of green silk mixed with gold, the sails of gold and green cloth, and the paintings were beautiful. As it sailed out of port, Cleopatra, with her Antony, and even the whole crew of Venus's Galley, would have lowered their flag to it. The Princess was seated under a rich canopy near the poop; her two brothers and her cousin stood close by her, looking more brilliant than the planets, and their stars threw out long dazzling rays of light. They determined to sail to the very spot where the Corsair had found them, and accordingly they did so. They made preparations for a grand sacrifice there to the gods and to the fairies, to obtain their protection and guidance to their birth-place. They were about to immolate a turtle-dove, but the compassionate Princess thought it so beautiful that she saved its life, and to preserve it from such a fate in future she let it fly:—"Depart," said she, "little bird of Venus; and if, some day, I should have need of thee, forget not the kindness I have shown thee." The turtle-dove flew away.

The sacrifice ended, they commenced so charming a concert, that it seemed as though all nature kept profound silence to listen to them: the waves were still; there was not a breath of wind; Zephyr alone dallied with the Princess's hair, and disarranged her veil slightly. At this moment a syren issued from the water, who sang so well, that the Princess and her brothers were charmed with her. After singing several airs, she turned towards them, and said. "Cease your anxiety, let your vessel go where it will; land ​where it stops, and let all those who are in love continue to love each other."

Belle-Etoile and Cheri felt an extraordinary delight at what the syren had just told them. They were convinced it was intended for them, and, exchanging signs of intelligence, their hearts conversed in silence, without Petit-Soleil and Heureux perceiving it. The vessel sailed at the pleasure of the wind and the tide; nothing very extraordinary occurred in their navigation, save that the weather was always beautiful, and the sea always calm. They were three whole months on their voyage, during which time the enamoured Prince Cheri and the Princess often conversed together. "What flattering hopes I feel," said he, one day, "charming Etoile! I am not your brother; this heart, which knows your power, and will never acknowledge another, is not born for crimes; and it would be one to love you as I do, if you were my sister, but the charitable syren, who came to counsel us, confirmed me in my opinion upon that subject." "Ah, brother!" replied she, "do not rely on indications which are still too obscure for our comprehension. What would be our fate if we irritated the gods by encouraging feelings which were displeasing to them? The syren spoke so vaguely, that one must have a great fancy for guessing, to apply what she said to ourselves." "You refuse to do so, cruel one," said the afflicted Prince, "much less from the respect you owe the gods, than from your aversion to me!" Belle-Etoile did not answer him, and raising her eyes to heaven, heaved a deep sigh, which he could not help interpreting favourably.

It was at the time of year when the days were long and sultry: towards the evening the Princess and her brothers went upon deck to see the sun set in the bosom of the waters—she sat down; the Princes placed themselves near her, they took their instruments, and commenced their charming concert. In the meantime, the vessel driving before a fresh gale, sailed more quickly, and shortly rounded a small promontory, which concealed a portion of the most beautiful city in the world. Suddenly it came in sight, and its appearance astonished our charming young travellers. All the palaces were of marble, with gilded roofs; and the rest of the houses were of very fine porcelain, several ​ever-green trees mingled the enamel of their leaves with the various colours of the marble, the gold and the porcelain, so that they were anxious their vessel should enter the port—but they doubted whether they should be able to find room; there were so many others, that the masts seemed like a floating forest.

Their wishes were accomplished, they landed, and the shore in a moment was crowded with people, who had observed the magnificence of the ship. That which the Argonauts constructed for the capture of the Golden Fleece, was not more brilliant—the stars, and the beauty of these wonderful children enchanted all who beheld them; they ran and told the King the news; as he could not believe it, and as the grand terrace of the Palace looked out upon the sea-shore, he speedily repaired thither. He saw the Princes, Petit-Soleil and Cheri, take the Princess in their arms and carry her ashore—then get their horses out, their rich harness corresponding perfectly with everything else about the vessel. Petit-Soleil mounted one that was blacker than jet. That which Heureux rode was grey, Cheri's was as white as snow, and the Princess was on her Isabella barb.[5] The King admired them all four seated upon their horses, which curvetted so proudly, that they kept at a distance all who would have pressed too near them. The Princes hearing the people say, "There is the King," looked up, and, struck by his majestic appearance, made a profound obeisance, and passed slowly, fixing their eyes upon him. He also looked earnestly at them, and was as much charmed by the Princess's beauty, as by the handsome mien of the young Princes. He ordered his equerry to offer them his protection, and everything that they might require in a country, where they were evidently strangers. They received the honour the King conferred on them with much respect and gratitude, and said they only required a house, where they could be alone, and that they should be glad, if it were one or two leagues from the city, as they were very fond of walking. The principal equerry immediately gave them one of the most magnificent, wherein they and all their train were commodiously lodged.

The King was so interested about these four children that ​he had just seen, that he immediately went into the chamber of the Queen, his mother, to tell her of the wonderful stars which shone upon their foreheads, and everything that he admired in them. She was thunderstruck at it. She asked him directly, how old they might be—he replied fifteen or sixteen; she showed no signs of uneasiness, but she was terribly afraid that Feintise had betrayed her. In the meantime, the King kept walking to and fro, and said, "How happy a father must be to possess such handsome sons, and such a beautiful daughter! Unfortunate sovereign that I am, for I am the father of three dogs. There are illustrious heirs! The succession to my crown is certainly well secured."

The Queen-Mother listened to these words with dreadful uneasiness. The brilliant stars and the age of these strangers, agreeing so well with the peculiarities and date of birth of the Princes and their sister, that she strongly suspected she had been deceived by Feintise, and that instead of killing the King's children she had saved them. As she had great self-possession, she gave no sign of what was passing in her mind; she would not even send that day to inquire about several things she was anxious to ascertain; but the next morning she desired her secretary to go to the strangers, and under the pretext of giving orders in the house for their accommodation, examine everything, and observe whether they really had stars upon their foreheads.

The secretary departed early in the morning; he arrived as the Princess was at her toilet: in those days they did not purchase their complexions at shops—those who were fair, remained fair, those who were black did not become white, so that he saw her having her hair dressed. They were combing it; her fair tresses, finer than gold thread, fell in ringlets to the ground. There were several baskets round her, to prevent the jewels, which fell from her hair, being lost: the star upon her forehead threw out so much brilliancy they could scarcely bear it, and the gold chain round her neck was as wonderful as the precious diamonds which rolled from the crown of her head. The secretary, with difficulty, believed his eyes; but the Princess, selecting the largest pearl, begged him to accept it, in remembrance of her; it was the one that the kings of Spain esteem so much, and is called ​Peregrina,[6] that is to say, Pilgrim, because it came from a traveller.

The secretary took leave of her, confused by such great liberality, and paid his respects to the three Princes, with whom he remained some time, in order to gain such information as he could about them. He returned to make his report to the Queen-Mother, who was confirmed by it in her suspicions. He told her, that Cheri had no star, but that jewels fell from his hair, as from that of his brothers, and that in his opinion he was the handsomest. That they came from a great distance; that their father and mother had given them only a certain time to see foreign countries. This latter point rather staggered the Queen, and she fancied sometimes, that they were not the King's children. She was thus wavering between fear and hope, when the King, who was very fond of hunting, rode by their house. The grand equerry, who accompanied him, told him in passing, that it was there, by his orders, he had lodged Belle-Etoile and her brothers. "The Queen has advised me," replied the King, "not to see them; she fears that they come from some country where the plague rages, and that they might have brought the infection with them." "The fair young stranger," replied the grand equerry, "is indeed very dangerous; but, Sire, I should fear her eyes more than the plague." "In sooth," said the King, "I agree with you," and immediately putting spurs to his horse, he heard the sound of instruments and of voices; he drew up near a large saloon, the windows of which were open, and after having listened with great pleasure to a sweet symphony, he advanced again.

The sound of horses induced the Princes to look out: as soon as they saw the King, they saluted him respectfully, and hastening to the door, received him with joyful countenances and many marks of reverence, falling at his feet and embracing his knees, while the Princess kissed his hands as though she recognised him as their father. He embraced them fervently, and his heart was so agitated, he could not imagine the cause of it. He told them, that they must come to the Palace, that he wished them to be his guests, and to present ​them to his mother. They thanked him for the honour he had done them, and assured him that as soon as their dresses and their equipages were ready they would not fail to come to the Court.

The King quitted them to finish the chase which he had begun; he kindly sent them half the game, and took the rest to the Queen. "How," said she, "is it possible you have had so little sport? you generally kill three times as much game." "Very true," replied the King, "but I have presented some to the handsome strangers. I feel so much affection for them, that it quite surprises me, and if you had not been so alarmed at the idea of contagion, I should have invited them to the Palace before this." The Queen-Mother was very angry; she accused him of failing in respect to her, and reproached him for having so carelessly exposed himself.

As soon as he had left her, she sent for Feintise to come and speak to her; she shut herself in her closet with her, and seized her by the hair, putting a dagger to her throat: "Wretched woman," said she, "I know not what should prevent my sacrificing thee to my just resentment,—thou hast betrayed me; thou hast not killed the four children I placed in thy hands to make away with. Confess thy crime, and perhaps I may forgive thee." Feintise, half dead with terror, threw herself at her feet, and told her all that had taken place; that she thought it impossible that the children were still alive, for so frightful a tempest had arisen, that she had herself been nearly killed by the hail; but at all events she prayed for time, and she would find means to do away with them, one after the other, without any one suspecting it.

The Queen, who sought but their death, was slightly appeased: she told her not to lose a moment about it; and indeed, old Feintise, who found herself in great danger, did all that depended upon her; she watched for the opportunity when the Princes went hunting, and taking a guitar under her arm, she went and sat down opposite the Princess's windows, and sang the following words:—

"Beauty hath o'er all things sway,
Profit by it while you may;
Youth soon flies,
Beauty dies,
And frosty age blights every flower.

Ah, what woe
It is to know,
That we to please have lost the power!
In despair we rail at Fate,
And strive to charm when all too late.

"Youthful hearts, your time improve,
Yours the season is for love;
Youth soon flies,
Beauty dies,
And frosty age blights every flower.
Ah, what woe
It is to know,
That we to please have lost the power!
In despair we rail at Fate,
And strive to charm, when all too late."

Belle-Etoile thought the words were very pretty; she went to the balcony to see who it was singing. As soon as she appeared, Feintise, who had dressed herself very neatly, made her a low curtsey; the Princess bowed in her turn, and as she was in a lively humour, asked her if the words she had just heard were made upon herself. "Yes, charming young lady," replied Feintise, "they were made upon me; but that such may never be made upon you, I come to give you some advice, that you ought to profit by." "And what is it?" said Belle-Etoile. "If you will permit me to ascend to your chamber," added she, "you shall know." "You can come up," replied the Princess. The old woman immediately presented herself with a certain courtly air that is never lost, when once acquired.

"My fair child," said Feintise, not losing a moment, (for she was afraid some one might come and interrupt her,) "Heaven has made you very lovely—you are endowed with a brilliant star on your forehead; and they tell me many other wonderful things of you; but you yet want one thing which is essentially necessary to you; if you have it not, I pity you." "And what is it I need?" replied she. "The dancing water," added our malicious old woman; "if I had possessed it, you would not have seen a white hair upon my head, nor a wrinkle on my face. I should have had the most beautiful teeth in the world, with the most charming infantile manner. Alas! I knew this secret too late, my charms had already faded; profit by my misfortune, my dear child, it will be a consolation to me, for I feel a most extraordinary ​affection for you." "But where shall I find this dancing water?" replied Belle-Etoile. "It is in the luminous forest," said Feintise; "you have three brothers; does not any one of them love you sufficiently to go and fetch some? truly they must have very little affection for you—in fact, it is a matter of no less consequence to you, than the preservation of your beauty for ever." "My brothers all love me," said the Princess, "but there is one of them who would not refuse me anything. Certainly if this water possesses all the power you describe, I will reward you according to its value." The perfidious old woman retired in haste, enchanted at having been so successful. She told Belle-Etoile that she should be sure to come and see her.

The Princes returned from the chase, one brought a young wild boar, another a hare, and the third a stag; they laid all the spoil at their sister's feet, but she looked upon this homage with a sort of disdain, she was engrossed by the advice of Feintise. Her anxiety about it was even apparent, and Cheri, who had no other occupation than studying her humour, was not a quarter-of-an-hour in her company, without remarking it. "What is the matter, my dear Etoile?" said he; "the country we are in is not perhaps to your liking. If such is the case, let us depart immediately; or perhaps our equipage is not grand enough, the furniture not sufficiently beautiful, or the table as delicately served as you like—speak, I entreat you, that I may have the pleasure of being the first to obey you, and making the others do so likewise."

"The encouragement you give me to tell you what is passing in my mind," replied she; "induces me to declare to you, that I can no longer exist, without the dancing water. It is in the luminous forest—possessing it, I shall have nothing to dread from the ravage of years." "Do not grieve yourself, my charming Etoile," said he; "I will go and bring you some of this water, or you will know by my death that it was impossible to obtain it." "No," said she, "I would rather renounce all the advantages of beauty—I would much rather be frightful, than hazard so precious a life—I entreat you not to think of the dancing water any more, and indeed, if I have any power over you, I forbid you to go."

The Prince pretended to obey her; but as soon as he perceived she was engaged, he mounted his white horse, which ​bounded and curvetted continually. He provided himself with money, and a rich dress; as for diamonds, his hair could furnish him with enough, and passing the comb through it thrice would sometimes produce a million; for the supply was not always the same: they were aware even that the state of their mind, or that of their health, regulated the quantity of the jewels. He took no one with him, that he might feel more at liberty, and that, if the adventure should prove a perilous one, he could hazard its accomplishment, without exposing himself to the remonstrances of a zealous and timid attendant.

When supper time arrived, and the Princess did not see her brother Cheri, she felt so uneasy, she could neither eat nor drink; she desired he might be sought for everywhere. The two Princes, knowing nothing of the dancing water, begged her not to distress herself so much; that he could not be far off, that she knew he was fond of indulging in profound reveries, and that he was no doubt in the forest. She was therefore comparatively easy till midnight, but after that she lost all patience, and, with tears in her eyes, told her brothers that she was the cause of Cheri's absence, that she had expressed a great wish to have some of the dancing water from the luminous forest, and that certainly he had gone there. At this intelligence they determined to send several persons after him, and she charged them, to tell him she implored him to return.

In the meantime, the wicked Feintise was very anxious to know the result of her advice; when she heard that Cheri had already set out, she was delighted, not doubting that he would make more speed than those who followed him, and that some mischief would befal him. She ran to the palace, full of this hope, and reported to the Queen-Mother all that had passed. "I admit, Madam," said she, "that I can no longer doubt that they are the three Princes, and their sister. They have stars upon their foreheads, chains of gold round their necks, their hair is most beautiful, and jewels continually fall from it. I have seen the Princess adorned with some which I put into her cradle, although not so valuable as those that fall from her hair. I no longer therefore doubt their return, notwithstanding the care I had taken to prevent it; but, Madam. I will rid you of them, and as it is the only ​means of repairing my fault, I entreat you to give me but time: one of the Princes is already gone to seek the dancing water; he will no doubt perish in the attempt, and I shall find similar means to do away with all of them." "We shall see," said the Queen, "whether the success will answer your expectations; but rely upon it, by that alone will you escape my just rage." Feintise returned more alarmed than ever, racking her brain to think how she could destroy them.

The plan she had adopted with regard to Prince Cheri, was one of the most certain—for the dancing water was not easily to be obtained; it was so notorious from the misfortunes which occurred to all who sought it, that every one knew the road to it. His white horse went astonishingly fast, and he did not spare it, as he was so anxious to return quickly to Belle-Etoile, and gratify her by the successful result of his journey. He was eight days and nights without taking any repose but in the woods, under the first tree he came to, without eating anything but the wild fruit he found in his road, scarcely allowing his horse time to graze. At the end of this period, he arrived in a country where he began to suffer very much from the heat; but it was not that the sun was more powerful, and he did not know to what cause to attribute it, when from the top of a mountain he perceived the luminous forest; all the trees were burning without being consumed, and casting out flames to such a distance, that the country around was a dry desert. In this forest was to be heard the hissing of serpents, and the roaring of lions, which astonished the Prince excessively, for it appeared to him impossible that any animal but a salamander could live in this sort of furnace.

After contemplating for some time this terrible scene, he descended, ruminating on what was to be done, and more than once gave himself up for lost. As he approached this great fire he was ready to die with thirst; he perceived a spring issuing from a mountain, and falling into a marble basin; he alighted from his horse, approached it, and stooped to take up some water in a little golden vase which he had brought with him, intending to fill it with some of that which the Princess wished for, when he perceived a turtle-dove drowning in the fountain: its feathers were quite wet, it had lost all power, and was sinking to the bottom of the basin. Cheri took pity on it, and saved it. At first, he held it by ​its feet, for it had swallowed so much water, it was quite swollen; he then warmed it in his bosom, dried its wings with a fine handkerchief, and treated it with such skill that the poor dove, in a few minutes, was more gay than she had just been sorrowful.

"My Lord Cheri," she said, in sweet and gentle accents, "you never obliged a more grateful little creature than I am; this is not the first time I have received essential favours from your family. I am enchanted, that, in my turn, I can be of service to you. Think not that I am ignorant of the cause of your journey,—you have undertaken it a little rashly, for it would be impossible to say how many have perished here! The dancing water is the eighth wonder in the world for ladies; it beautifies them, makes them young again, and enriches them; but if I were not to be your guide, you would never arrive at it, for the spring rises in the middle of the forest, and gushing out violently, precipitates itself into a deep chasm, the path down to which is covered by branches of trees, so twined and twisted together, that I scarcely see any way of getting thither but by going underground. Rest yourself here, and do not be uneasy; I will go, and order whatever may be required."

At the same moment the Dove rose up in the air, went away, returned, alighted, and flew backwards and forwards so often, that by the end of the day she was able to inform the Prince that everything was ready. He took the friendly bird, kissed it, caressed it, thanked it, and followed it upon his white horse. He had scarcely gone a hundred yards before he saw two long files of foxes, badgers, moles, snails, ants, and all sorts of creatures that burrow in the earth; there was such an enormous quantity that he could not conceive by what power they were thus assembled. "It is by my order," said the Dove, "you see all these little subterranean people here; they have been working for you with the greatest diligence, and you will do me the favour to thank them." The Prince saluted them, and told them, he would fain see them in a less barren place, where he should be happy to entertain them. Each animal appeared gratified by this compliment.

Cheri got off his horse at the entrance of the subterranean passage they had made for him, and stooping till he was ​nearly double, groped his way after the kind Dove, which safely conducted him to the fountain: it made so much noise, that he would have been deafened, had not the Dove given him two of her white feathers, with which he stopped up his ears. He was wonderfully surprised to see this water dance as correctly as though Favier and Pecourt[7] had taught it. It is true they were but old dances, such as the Bocane, the Mariée, and the Saraband.[8] Several birds, flying about, sang the airs the water wished to dance to. The Prince filled his golden vase; he took two draughts of it, which made him a hundred times handsomer than he was previously, and which refreshed him so much, that he scarcely felt that the luminous forest was the hottest place in the world.

He returned the same way he came. His horse had strayed, but, knowing his voice, returned at full gallop as soon as he called to him. The Prince leapt lightly upon his back, quite proud at possessing the dancing water. "Gentle Dove," said he, as he held her, "I know not by what miracle you have so much authority in this place, but I am very grateful for the benefit I have received from it; and as liberty is the greatest of blessings, I restore you to yours, in return for the favours you have conferred on me." So saying, he let her go. She flew away with an air as fierce as though he had detained her against her will. "How capricious!" exclaimed he, mentally. "Thou resemblest a human being more than a turtle-dove,—the one is inconstant, the other is not." The Dove replied to him, although high in air, "Ah! do you know who I am?"

Cheri was astonished that the Dove had thus answered his thoughts; he was convinced she was very clever, and was sorry he had let her go. "She would have been useful to me," said he; "and I might have learnt from her many things that would have contributed to my happiness." However, he considered within himself that one should never regret doing a good action; and he felt he was much indebted ​to her, when he reflected on the difficulties she had enabled him to surmount in obtaining the dancing water. The mouth of the golden vase was so perfectly secured, that he could not spill the water, nor would it evaporate. He was amusing himself by thinking how delighted Belle-Etoile would be to receive it, and what joy it would be to him to see her again, when he saw coming at full speed several cavaliers, who no sooner perceived him than they uttered loud shouts, pointing him out to one another. He was void of fear—his soul was of that intrepid character, it could not easily be shaken by any danger; still he was annoyed to be stopped by anything. He spurred his horse towards them, and was agreeably surprised to recognise some of his domestics, who presented him with several little notes—or, I should rather say, orders—the Princess had given them for him, to tell him not to expose himself to the dangers of the luminous forest. He kissed Belle-Etoile's writing; he sighed more than once, and hastened to return to her, to relieve her from further anxiety.

On his arrival, he found her seated under some trees, where she had abandoned herself to her sorrow. When she saw him at her feet, she knew not how to welcome him: she wanted to scold him for acting contrary to her orders; she wished to thank him for the charming present he had made her: in fine, her affection prevailed. She embraced her dear brother, and her reproaches were not very severe.

The old Feintise, who was always on the watch, knew by her spies that Cheri had returned, handsomer than he was before he went away; and that the Princess, having washed her face with the dancing water, had become so excessively lovely, one could scarcely look at her without dying half-a-dozen deaths.

Feintise was much astonished and much afflicted, for she had made up her mind that the Prince would perish in so great an enterprise; but it was no time to be discouraged. She watched the moment when the Princess went to a little temple of Diana, with few attendants. She accosted her, and, with an air of great friendship, said: "How delighted I am, Madam, at the happy effect of my advice! One might know, by looking at you, that you at present use the dancing water; but if I dare counsel you further, you ought to make yourself mistress of the singing apple. It is quite a different thing; ​for it embellishes the wit so much, that it enables you to do anything. If you wish to persuade any one you have only to smell the singing apple: would you speak in public, make verses, write prose, be amusing, draw tears, or cause laughter, the apple has all these virtues; and it sings so well and so loud, that one can hear it eight leagues off, without being stunned by it."

"I will have none of it," cried the Princess; "you thought to kill my brother by your dancing water: your advice is too dangerous." "What, Madam!" replied Feintise, "would you be sorry to become the wisest and wittiest person in the world? Truly, you cannot mean that." "Ah! what should I have done," continued Belle-Etoile, "if they had brought me my dear brother, dead or dying?" "He should not go any more," said the old woman; "the others ought to oblige you in their turn, and the enterprise is not so dangerous." "Never mind," said the Princess, "I do not feel inclined to expose them." "Indeed, I pity you," said Feintise, "to lose so advantageous an opportunity; but you will reflect upon it. Adieu, Madam!" She then retired, very anxious about the success of her argument; and Belle-Etoile remained at the feet of the statue of Diana, irresolute what to do. She loved her brothers; she loved herself also: she felt that nothing would give her so much pleasure as to possess the singing apple.

She sighed for some time, and then she began to weep. Petit-Soleil, returning from the chase, heard a noise in the temple; he entered it, and saw the Princess, who covered her face with her veil, for she was ashamed to be seen with tears in her eyes; and, approaching her, he entreated her to tell him instantly why she was crying. She refused to do so, saying she was ashamed of herself; but the more she refused, the more desirous he was to know.

At last she told him, that the same old woman who had advised her to send for the dancing water, had just told her that the singing apple was still more wonderful, as it would give her so much wit, she would become a sort of prodigy, and that she really would almost give her life for such an apple; but she feared there would be too much danger in getting it. "You will have no fear for me, I assure you," said her brother, smiling; "for I am not at all anxious to ​render you this good service! What! have you not wit enough? Come, come, my sister," continued he, "and do not distress yourself about it!"

Belle-Etoile followed him, as much distressed by the manner in which he had received her confidence, as by the impossibility there appeared of her possessing the singing apple. Supper was served; they all four sat down to table: she could not eat. Cheri,—the amiable Cheri,—who had no thought but for her, helped her to the nicest morsels, and pressed her to taste them. Her heart was full—tears came to her eyes—she left the table, weeping. Belle-Etoile weeping! Ye gods, what unhappiness for Cheri! He asked what was the matter with her? Petit-Soleil told him in a jeering manner, which was very offensive to his sister; she was so hurt, that she retired to her room, and would not speak to any one all the evening.

As soon as Petit-Soleil and Heureux were gone to bed, Cheri mounted his excellent horse, without saying a word to any one; he left only a letter for Belle-Etoile, with an order that it might be given to her when she awoke; and, dark as the night was, he rode at random, not in the least knowing where to find the singing apple.

As soon as the Princess arose, they delivered the letter to her—it is easy to imagine all the anxiety and tenderness she felt upon such an occasion. She ran into her brothers' chamber to read the letter to them; they shared her grief, for they were a very united family; and they immediately sent nearly all their people after him to induce him to return, without attempting the adventure which doubtless would be terrible.

In the meanwhile, the King did not forget the lovely children of the forest; his walk was always directed towards their abode, and when he passed by it and saw them, he reproached them for never going to the palace. They excused themselves, by saying, they had not completed their equipage; that their brother's absence prevented them, and assuring him that at his return they should profit by the permission he had given them, of paying their respects to him.

The Prince Cheri was too much urged by his passion not to make all possible speed; at break of day he perceived a handsome young man, who, reclining under some trees, was reading ​a book; he addressed him, very civilly, and said, "Give me leave to interrupt you: to ask you, if you know in what place I shall find the singing apple?" The young man raised his eyes, and smiling graciously, said, "Do you wish to obtain it?" "Yes, if it be possible," replied the Prince. "Ah! my Lord," replied the stranger, "you are not aware, then, of the dangers attending the undertaking; here is a book that mentions it; it makes one tremble to read it." "No matter for that," said Cheri, "the danger will not dismay me,—only inform me where I shall find it." "This book indicates," continued the young man, "that it is in a vast desert in Libya; that one can hear it sing eight leagues off; and that the dragon, which guards it, has already devoured five hundred thousand persons, who have had the temerity to go there." "I shall make the number five hundred thousand and one," replied the Prince smiling; and saluting him, set forward towards the deserts of Libya; his fine horse, which was of the Zepyhrine race, for Zephyr was his grandsire, went like the wind; so that the Prince's progress was incredibly swift. He listened in vain; he could not hear the singing of the apple anywhere; he was distressed at the length of the way and the inutility of his journey, when he perceived a poor turtle-dove fall at his feet; it was not dead, but very nearly so. As he saw no one who could have wounded it, he thought, perhaps, it belonged to Venus, and having escaped from its dovecot, little mischievous Love, to try his arrows, had let fly at it. He had pity on it, and alighted from his horse; he took it and wiped its white wings stained with blood, and taking from his pocket a little gold bottle which contained an admirable balsam for wounds, he had scarcely applied some of it to that of the poor dove, when it opened its eyes, raised its head, stretched out its wings and plumed itself, then looking at the Prince, said, "Good day, handsome Cheri, you are destined to save my life, and I to do you signal service.

"You are come to seek for the singing apple,—the enterprise is difficult and worthy of you, for it is guarded by a terrible dragon which has twelve feet, three heads, six wings, and a brazen body." "Ah! my dear dove," said the Prince, "how happy I am to see you again, and at a time when your assistance is so necessary to me. Do not refuse it to me, my lovely little creature; for I should die of grief, if I should ​have to return without the singing-apple; and as I obtained the dancing water through your means, I hope that you will find some other that will enable me to succeed in my present enterprise." "You touch me nearly," replied the Dove, "follow me—I will fly before you—I hope all will be well."

The Prince let her go. After travelling all day long, they arrived close to a mountain of sand. "You must dig here," said the Dove. The Prince, without any demur, immediately began digging, sometimes with his hands, sometimes with his sword. After working for several hours, he found a helmet, a cuirass, and the rest of a suit of armour, with harness for his horse, all of glass. "Arm yourself, and fear nothing from the dragon," said the Dove: "when he sees himself in all these mirrors, he will be so frightened, that, believing they are monsters like himself, he will take flight."

Cheri very much approved of this expedient. He put on the glass armour, and taking the Dove again, they proceeded all through the night together. At break of day they heard a most enchanting melody. The Prince begged the Dove to tell him what it was. "I am persuaded," said she, "that nothing else but the apple could be so melodious; for it plays all the different parts of music of itself, and without touching any instrument, it appears to perform on them in a most enchanting manner." They approached nearer to it. The Prince thought within himself, how he wished the apple would sing something applicable to his own situation. At the same moment he heard these words:—

"Love can the most rebellious heart subdue,
Then struggle not to drive him from thy breast;
However cruel she whom you pursue,
Love on, still bravely, and you will be blest."

"Ah!" cried he, answering these lines, "what a charming prediction! I may then hope to be one day happier than I am now; I have just been assured so." The Dove made no reply to this; it was not born a prattler, and never spoke but when absolutely necessary. As he advanced, the beauty of the music increased; and notwithstanding the haste the Prince was in, he was sometimes so delighted, that he stopped to listen, not thinking of anything else; but the sight of the terrible dragon, which suddenly appeared, with his twelve ​​feet, and more than a hundred talons, his three heads, and his brazen body, aroused him from this sort of lethargy. He had smelt the Prince from afar off, and expected to devour him, as he had every one who had preceded him, and upon whom he had made some excellent meals. Their bones were piled around the apple-tree, upon which was the beautiful apple, and they were heaped up so high, that it was not possible to see it.

The frightful animal came bounding along, covering the ground with a froth which was very poisonous: out of his infernal throat issued fire and young dragons, which he hurled like darts in the eyes and ears of the knights-errants who wished to carry away the apple. But when he saw his alarming figure multiplied a hundred and a hundred times in the Prince's mirrors, it was he that was frightened in his turn. He stopped, and looking fiercely at the Prince laden with dragons, he took flight. Cheri, perceiving the happy effect of his armour, pursued him to the entrance of a deep chasm, into which the monster precipitated himself to avoid him. The Prince closed up the aperture securely, and returned with all speed to the singing apple. After mounting upon the top of all the bones that surrounded it, he looked with admiration upon the beautiful tree; it was of amber, the apples being topazes, and the most beautiful of all, which he sought so carefully and at so much peril, appeared at the top, composed of a single ruby, with a crown of diamonds upon it. The Prince, transported with joy at being able to give Belle-Etoile so perfect and rare a treasure, quickly broke the amber branch, and, quite proud of his good fortune, mounted his white horse; but he could nowhere see the Dove,—she had flown away as soon as there was no further need of her assistance. Without losing any more time in unavailing regrets, and as he feared the dragon, whose hissings he heard, would find some means of getting back to the apples, he returned with his prize to the Princess.

She had never slept during his absence; she incessantly reproached herself for wishing to possess greater wit than others; she feared for Cheri's life more than her own. "Ah! unfortunate being that I am," cried she, sighing heavily, "why was I so conceited? was it not sufficient that I could think and speak well enough, not to do or say anything ​absurd? I shall be well punished for my pride, if I lose him I love. Alas!" continued she, "the gods, displeased perhaps at my love for Cheri, will take him from me by some tragical end."

There was no evil that her afflicted heart did not imagine would befal him, when in the middle of the night she heard such lovely music, that she could not resist rising and going to the window, to hear it better; she knew not what to think of it. At one time she believed it must be Apollo and the Muses; at another, Venus, the Graces, and the Loves. The symphony approached nearer, and Belle-Etoile continued to listen. At length the Prince arrived. It was beautifully moonlight. He stopped beneath the Princess's balcony, who had retired upon seeing a cavalier in the distance. The apple immediately sang, "Awake, lovely sleeper."[9] The Princess, from curiosity, looked out instantly to see who was singing so well; and, recognising her beloved brother, was ready to throw herself from the window, to be sooner beside him. She spoke so loud, that every body was awakened, and they went to let Cheri in. One may imagine the haste with which he entered. He held in his hand the amber branch, at the end of which was the wonderful fruit; and as he had often smelt it, his wit was increased so much that nothing in the world could compare to him.

Belle-Etoile ran to meet him eagerly. "Do you believe that I thank you, my dear brother?" said she, crying with joy. "No, there is nothing that I do not buy too dearly when I expose you to obtain it for me." "There are no dangers," replied he, "I would not brave to give you the slightest gratification. Accept, Belle-Etoile," he continued, "accept this singular fruit; no one in the world deserves it so much as you do; but what can it bestow on you more than you already possess?" Petit-Soleil and his brother came and interrupted this conversation. They were delighted to see the Prince again. He gave them an account of his journey, which lasted till the morning.

​The wicked Feintise had just returned to her little cottage after discoursing with the Queen-Mother upon her projects. She was too uneasy to sleep quietly. She heard the sweet singing of the apple, that nothing in nature could equal. She felt sure that it had been obtained! She cried, she groaned, she scratched her face, she tore her hair; her grief was excessive, for instead of doing harm to these lovely children, as she intended, she did them good by all her perfidious counsels. As soon as it was day she learned but too truly that the Prince had returned. She went to the Queen-Mother. "Well, Feintise," said this Princess, "dost thou bring me good news? have the children perished?" "No, Madam," said she, throwing herself at her feet; "but let not your Majesty be impatient, I have yet left an infinite number of means by which I may yet get rid of them." "Ah! wretched creature," said the Queen, "thou livest but to betray me; thou sparest them." The old woman protested to the contrary; and when she had appeased her slightly, she returned home, to consider what was to be done.

She allowed some days to pass by without showing herself; and at the end of that time, she watched so well, that she encountered the Princess walking in the forest alone, waiting for her brothers. "Heaven crowns you with blessings, charming Etoile," said this wicked woman, accosting her. "I have heard that you are in possession of the singing apple. I could not have been more delighted had such good fortune happened to myself, for I must own I feel a great interest in all that tends to your advantage; but," continued she, "I must now give you another piece of advice." "Ah! keep your advice to yourself," said the Princess, hurrying away from her, "for whatever good it may bring me, it does not recompense me for the anxiety I suffer in consequence of it."

"Anxiety is not so great an evil," replied Feintise, smiling. "There are sweet and tender anxieties." "Say no more," added Belle-Etoile; "I tremble when I think of it." "Truly," said the old woman, "you are much to be pitied, for being the loveliest and most intellectual girl in the world." "I must entreat your pardon, once for all," replied the Princess. "I know too well the state my brother's absence reduced me to." "I must, notwithstanding, assure you," continued Feintise, "that you still need the little green bird, which tells ​everything: he would inform you of your birth, of your good and ill fortune; there is nothing, however secret, that he will not find out for you; and when the world says, 'Belle-Etoile possesses the dancing water and the singing apple,' it will say at the same time, 'but she has not the little green bird which tells everything, and without that she might almost as well have nothing.'"

Having thus said all she intended, she retired. The Princess, sad and thoughtful, began to sigh bitterly. "This woman is right," said she; "what advantage can arise from my possessing the water and the apple, if I know not who I am, who are my parents, and by what fatality my brothers and I were exposed to the fury of the waves? There must be something very extraordinary in our births that we should have been thus abandoned; and the interposition of Providence alone could have preserved us in such perils. What delight it would be to know my father and mother, to cherish them if they are still living, and to honour their memory if dead!" Upon which tears rolled down her cheeks, like drops of morning dew bathing the lilies and roses.

Cheri, who was always more impatient to see her than either of the others, hurried back as soon as the chase was over. He was on foot; his bow hung negligently by his side; he had some arrows in his hand; his long hair confined by a riband. In this guise he had a martial air, which was infinitely charming. As soon as the Princess saw him she turned into a dark walk, that he might not observe the traces of grief upon her face, which a lover would be sure to detect. The Prince joined her. He scarcely looked at her before he knew she was in some trouble. He was greatly distressed at it. He begged, he implored her to tell him what was the matter. She obstinately refused to do so. At last, he turned the point of one of the arrows to his heart, saying, "You do not love me, Belle-Etoile, and I have nothing to do but to die." The manner in which he spoke alarmed her so desperately, that she could no longer refuse to tell him her secret; but she revealed it only on condition that he would not again risk his life by endeavouring to satisfy her desires. He promised all she exacted of him, and betrayed no intention of undertaking this last journey.

As soon as Belle-Etoile had retired to her room, and the ​Princes to theirs, Cheri descended, took his horse out of the stable, mounted him, and set out without saying a word to any one. This news threw the charming family into great consternation. The King, who could not forget them, sent to beg they would come and dine with him; they replied that their brother had just left them, that they should feel neither happy nor comfortable without him; and that when he returned they would not fail to pay their duty at the palace. The Princess was inconsolable; the dancing water and the singing apple had no longer any charms for her; nothing was amusing to her while Cheri was absent. The Prince went wandering through the world, asking every one he met if they could tell him where he could find the little green bird that told everything: the greater number knew nothing about it, but he met with a venerable old man, who took him home with him and kindly examined a globe, the study of which was part of his profession as well as his amusement. He then told him it was in a frozen climate, situated upon the top of a frightful rock, and showed him the route he must take. The Prince, in gratitude for this information, gave him a little bag, full of large pearls, that had fallen from his hair; and, taking leave of him, continued his journey.

At length, at dawn of day, he perceived the rock, which was very high and very steep, and upon the summit of it was the bird, speaking like an oracle, telling wonderful things. He thought that with a little dexterity it would be easy to catch it, for it seemed very tame. It went and came, hopping lightly from one point of the rock to another. The Prince got off his horse, and climbed up very quietly, notwithstanding the roughness of the ascent, promising himself the pleasure of gratifying extremely his dear Belle-Etoile.

He was so close to the green bird, that he thought he could lay hands on it, when suddenly the rock opened, and he fell into a spacious hall as motionless as a statue; he could neither stir, nor utter a complaint of his deplorable situation. Three hundred knights who had made the same attempt were in the same state. To look at each other was the only thing permitted them.

The time seemed so long to Belle-Etoile, and still no signs of her beloved Cheri, that she fell dangerously ill. The ​physicians saw plainly that she was being destroyed by a deep melancholy; her brothers loved her dearly; they asked her the reason of her illness; she acknowledged that she reproached herself night and day, with being the cause of Cheri's absence, and that she felt she should die if she did not hear some tidings of him. They were affected by her tears; and in the hopes of curing her, Petit-Soleil resolved to seek his brother.

The Prince set out; he ascertained where this famed bird was to be found; he flew there; he saw it—he approached it, with the same hopes as the others had done—at the same moment was swallowed up by the rock; he fell into the great hall; the first person he saw was Cheri, but he could not speak to him.

Belle-Etoile recovered her health a little; each moment she hoped to see her two brothers return, but her hopes disappointed, her distress was renewed—night and day she never ceased lamenting; she accused herself of her brothers' misfortunes; and Prince Heureux, having no less pity for her than anxiety about his brothers, resolved in his turn to go and seek them. He acquainted Belle-Etoile with his intention; at first she opposed it, but he told her it was but just that he should encounter any peril in trying to find those he so dearly loved,—thereupon he departed, having taken the most affectionate farewell of the Princess; she remained alone, a prey to the deepest sorrow.

When Feintise was aware that the third prince was gone, she was exceedingly delighted; she told the Queen-Mother of it, and promised her, more confidently than ever, that she would destroy the whole of this unfortunate family! Heureux shared the same fate as Cheri and Petit-Soleil,—he found the rock, he saw the bird, he fell like a statue into the hall, where he recognised the princes he was seeking without being able to speak to them; they were all arranged in crystal niches; they never slept, they never ate, but remained in a miserable state of enchantment, for they were only at liberty to think upon, and in silence deplore, their fate.

Belle-Etoile, inconsolable at finding not one of her brothers return, reproached herself for having so long delayed to follow them. Without further hesitation she gave orders to all her household to wait for six months, when, if neither ​her brothers nor herself had returned during that time, they were to go and acquaint the corsair and his wife of their death; she then dressed herself in male attire, believing she would be less exposed to danger in travelling thus disguised, than if she roamed the world as an adventurer of her own sex. Feintise saw her depart upon her beautiful horse; she was overjoyed, and ran to the palace, to delight the Queen-Mother with this good news.

The Princess had no other armour than a helmet, the vizor of which she scarcely ever raised, for her beauty was of so delicate and perfect a description that no one would have believed (as she wished they should) that she was a cavalier. It was a very severe winter, and the country in which the talking bird was, never, in any season, felt the happy influence of the sun!

Belle-Etoile was dreadfully cold, but nothing could deter her progress when she saw a turtle-dove, scarcely less white or colder than the snow upon which it lay extended. Notwithstanding her impatience to arrive at the rock, she could not leave it thus to die, and getting off her horse, she took it up, warmed it with her breath, and then put it into her bosom: the poor little thing never moved, Belle-Etoile thought it was dead, which she was very sorry for; she took it out again, and looking at it, said, as though it could understand her, "What shall I do, sweet dove, to save thy life?" "Belle-Etoile," replied the bird, "one sweet kiss from your lips, will complete the charitable work you have begun." "Not only one," said the Princess, "but a hundred, if they are needed." She kissed it, and the dove reviving, gaily said, "I know you, in spite of your disguise; learn that you have undertaken a thing it would be impossible for you to succeed in, without my assistance,—follow, therefore, my advice: as soon as you have arrived at the rock, instead of trying to ascend it, remain at the bottom of it, and begin to sing the best and sweetest song you know; the green bird that tells everything, will listen to you, and observe from whence the voice proceeds; you must then pretend to go to sleep; I will be near you; when it sees me, it will come down from the point of the rock to peck me, at that moment you will be able to seize it."

The Princess, enchanted at this hope, speedily arrived at ​the rock; she recognised her brothers' horses grazing; at sight of them her grief was renewed, she sat down, and cried bitterly for some time; but the little green bird said so many beautiful things, so consolatory to the unfortunate, that there was no afflicted heart it did not relieve. She therefore dried her tears, and began to sing so loud, and so well, that the Princes had the pleasure of hearing her in their enchanted hall.

From that moment they felt there was some hope. The green bird that tells everything listened, and looked about to find where the voice came from; it perceived the Princess, who had taken off her helmet, that she might sleep more comfortably, and the dove, who kept flying around her. At this sight it gently descended, and came to peck it, but it had not torn out three feathers, before it was taken itself.

"Ah! what would you do with me?" it said; "what have I done to you, that you should come from such a distance to render me miserable? Grant me my liberty, I entreat you, and I will do anything you wish in exchange." "I wish," said Belle-Etoile, "that thou wouldst restore my three brothers to me. I know not where they are, but as their horses are feeding near this rock, I am sure thou detainest them somewhere hereabouts." "Under my left wing there is a red feather, pull it out," said the bird, "and touch the rock with it." The Princess hastened to do as it instructed her; at the same instant she saw such lightning, and heard such a roar of thunder and wind together, that she was dreadfully frightened. Notwithstanding her alarm she still kept tight hold of the green bird, thinking it might escape her; she touched the rock again with the red feather, and the third time it split from the top to the bottom: she entered with a victorious air the hall in which stood the three Princes with many others; she ran towards Cheri,—he did not know her in her helmet and male attire, and as the enchantment was not yet ended, he could neither speak nor move. The Princess, seeing this, put fresh questions to the green bird, to which it replied that she must rub the eyes and mouth of all those she wished to disenchant with the red feather, which good office she did to several kings and sovereign personages, and especially to our three Princes.

Grateful for so important a benefit, they all threw ​themselves at her feet, calling her the Liberator of Kings. She then discovered that her brothers, deceived by her dress, did not at all recognise her; she instantly took off her helmet, held out her arms to them, and embraced them a hundred times: she then asked the other princes with much kindness who they were; each of them told her their own adventure, and offered to accompany her wherever she wished to go: she replied, that though the laws of chivalry might give her a right over the liberty she had just restored to them, she should not think of taking advantage of it. She then retired with the Princes, that they might relate to each other what had happened to them since their separation.

The little green bird that tells everything interrupted them, to entreat Belle-Etoile to set him free; she immediately sought the dove to ask her advice, but she could not find her anywhere; she told the bird that she had suffered too much trouble and anxiety on his account to enjoy her conquest for so short a time. All four then mounted their horses, leaving the emperors and kings to walk, for as they had been there between two and three hundred years, their horses had perished.

The Queen-Mother, relieved from all the anxiety that the return of her lovely children had given her, renewed her attempts to persuade the King to marry again, and urged him so strongly, that she at last induced him to make choice of a princess of his own family. As it would be necessary to dissolve his marriage with the poor Queen Blondine, who had lived at her mother's country-house, with the three dogs, which she had named Chagrin, Mouron,[10] and Douleur, in consequence of all the misery they had caused her, the Queen-Mother sent for her; she got into the carriage, taking the whelps with her; she was dressed in black, with a long veil which fell down to her feet.

In this apparel she looked more beautiful than the sun, although she had become pale and thin, for she scarcely ever slept, and never ate but from complaisance, and every one pitied her poor mother; the King was so much affected that ​he dared not look at her, but when he remembered that he ran the risk of having no other heirs but these whelps, he consented to everything.

The marriage-day being fixed, the Queen-Mother, at the suggestion of the admiral's wife, (who always hated her unfortunate sister,) commanded the Queen Blondine to appear at the ceremony. Everything was done to make it grand and sumptuous, and as the King wished the strangers to witness this magnificence, he ordered his principal equerry to go and invite the beautiful children, and commanded him, in case they were not yet come back, to leave strict orders, that they should be informed of his wish on their return.

The principal equerry went to seek them, but did not find them; but knowing the pleasure the King would have in seeing them, he left one of his gentlemen to wait for them, to conduct them to the palace without delay. The happy day—the day of the grand banquet, arrived, Belle-Etoile and the Princes had returned; the gentleman related the King's history to them, that he had married a poor girl who was perfectly beautiful and virtuous, who had the misfortune to bring into the world three dogs; that he had sent her away, never to see her again, but that he loved her dearly; that he had passed fifteen years without listening to any proposition of marriage, but that the Queen-Mother and her subjects having urged him strongly, he had at length determined to marry a princess of the blood-royal, and that it was necessary they should repair immediately to the palace to assist at the ceremony. Belle-Etoile put on a rose-coloured velvet dress, trimmed with brilliants, her hair fell in large curls upon her shoulders, ornamented with knots of ribands; the star upon her forehead shone splendidly, and the chain of gold around her neck, which could not be taken off, seemed to be of a metal more precious even than gold. Nothing to mortal eyes would have appeared more beautiful. Her brothers were attired with equal splendour, particularly Prince Cheri; there was something in his appearance which distinguished him especially. They all four went in a coach made of ebony and ivory; the inside was lined with cloth of gold, the cushions were of the same, embroidered with jewels; it was drawn by twelve white horses, the remainder of their equipage was incomparably beautiful. When Belle-Etoile and her ​brothers arrived, the delighted King went with all his court to receive them, at the top of the stairs. The apple sang wonderfully well, the water danced, and the little bird that told everything spoke better than an oracle. All four knelt to the King, took his hand, and kissed it with as much respect as affection. He embraced them, and said, "I am much obliged to you, lovely strangers, for coming here to-day; your presence gives me great pleasure." With these words he conducted them into a grand saloon, where several musicians were performing, and various tables, splendidly furnished, left nothing to be desired in the way of good cheer.

The Queen-Mother arrived, accompanied by her future daughter-in-law, the admiral's wife, and a great number of ladies, and among them the poor Queen, who had a long strap of leather round her neck, which also linked the three dogs to her. They conducted her into the middle of the saloon, where they had placed a cauldron filled with bones and bad meat, which the Queen had ordered for their dinner.

When Belle-Etoile and the Princes saw this unhappy Princess, though they knew her not, tears rushed into their eyes, either from reflections upon the vicissitudes of this life, which affected them, or that they were touched by an instinct of nature, which will often make itself felt. But what did the wicked Queen think of a return so unexpected, and so contrary to her wishes? She cast so furious a look at Feintise, that she sincerely desired the earth would open and swallow her up.

The King presented the beautiful children to his mother, saying a thousand kind things of them; and in spite of the uneasiness she endured, she received them graciously, and looked upon them as favourably as though she loved them, for dissimulation was in vogue even at that time. The feast passed off very gaily, although the King was very much distressed to see his wife eating with the whelps, as the meanest of all creatures; but having resolved to be as complaisant as possible to his mother, who obliged him to re-marry, he left everything to her orders.

At the end of the repast, the King addressed himself to Belle-Etoile. "I know," said he, "you are in possession of three treasures which are unequalled. I congratulate you, ​and I entreat you to relate to us how you acquired them." "Sire," replied she, "I shall obey you with pleasure; they told me the dancing water would make me beautiful, that the singing apple would give me wit. I wished to possess them, for these two reasons. With respect to the little green bird that tells everything, I had a different one; we know nothing of our fatal birth—we are children who have been abandoned by our relatives—we know of none that exist. I hoped that this wonderful bird would enlighten us upon a matter which we think of night and day." "Judging of your birth by yourself," said the King, "it ought to be most illustrious; but in truth, who are you?" "Sire," she said, "my brothers and myself deferred asking the bird that question till our return; when we arrived we received your commands to come to your wedding; all that I could do was to bring you these three curiosities to amuse you."

"I am very glad of that," said the King; "do not let us defer anything that will be so entertaining." "You amuse yourself with every foolish thing that is proposed to you," said the Queen-Mother angrily. "Here are pleasant marmosets indeed with their rarities! truly the very name is enough to prove that nothing could be more ridiculous. Fye, fye. I do not choose that these petty strangers, apparently the dregs of the people, should have the power of abusing your credulity. The whole of this is but an affair of juggling with sacks and cups, and but for you they would never have had the honour of sitting at my table."

Belle-Etoile and her brothers, hearing this offensive language, knew not what to imagine; their faces flushed with confusion and despair at being thus insulted before all this grand Court. But the King, telling his mother that this proceeding was an outrage to him, begged the beautiful children not to feel hurt at it, and held out his hand in token of friendship. Belle-Etoile took a glass basin, and poured all the dancing water into it; immediately they perceived the water was agitated, it skipped about to and fro, heaving like an angry little sea; it varied its colour, and made the basin move the length of the King's table; then suddenly it spurted out and sprinkled the chief equerry's face, to whom the children were under obligations. He was a man of great merit, but he was very ugly, and he had likewise lost an eye. ​As soon as the water touched him he became so handsome, no one recognised him, and his eye was restored. The King, who loved him dearly, was as much delighted at this occurrence as the Queen-Mother was displeased to hear the applause that was bestowed upon the Princes. After silence was restored, Belle-Etoile placed the singing apple upon the water; it was made out of a single ruby, surrounded by diamonds, with a branch of amber; it commenced so harmonious a concert, that a hundred musicians would have been less effective. This enchanted the King and all his Court, whose admiration increased when Belle-Etoile drew from her muff a little golden cage, of beautiful workmanship, in which was the green bird that told everything; it was fed upon diamond dust, and drank only the water from distilled pearls. She took it very gently and placed it on the apple, which was silent out of respect, and to give the bird the opportunity of talking; its feathers were so beautifully delicate, that they were ruffled by people even shutting and opening their eyes near it. They were of all the shades of green that could be imagined. The bird addressed itself to the King, and asked him what he would like to know? "We should like to learn," said the King, "who this beautiful girl and these three cavaliers are?" "Oh, King," answered the green bird, with a loud and intelligible voice; "she is thy daughter, and two of these princes are thy sons, the third, called Cheri, is thy nephew;" and it then related with wonderful eloquence the whole history, without omitting the least circumstance. The King wept, and the afflicted Queen, who had quitted the cauldron, the bones, and the dogs, approached gently, weeping for joy and love for her husband and her children; for could she doubt the truth of this statement, when she perceived all the tokens by which they could be recognised. The three Princes and Belle-Etoile rose up at the end of their history, they threw themselves at the King's feet—they embraced his knees, they kissed his hands; he stretched out his arms to them, he pressed them to his heart; there was nothing heard but sighs and exclamations of joy. The King arose, and seeing the Queen, his wife, standing timidly close to the wall, in a most humble posture, ran to her, and bestowing on her a thousand caresses, placed a chair for her himself close to his, and made her sit down in it.

​Her children kissed her hands and feet a thousand times; never had there been a more tender and touching sight; every one wept and raised their hands and eyes to heaven, to return thanks for having permitted such important circumstances to be brought to light. The King thanked the princess, who had intended to marry him, and presented her with a large quantity of jewels. But for the Queen-Mother, the admiral's wife, and Feintise, what could he not have done to them, if he had only been counselled by his indignation! The tempest of his rage began to lower, when the generous Queen, his children, and Cheri entreated him to be appeased, and to inflict a judgment upon them more for the sake of example than severity: he imprisoned the Queen-Mother in a tower, but for the admiral's wife and Feintise, they threw them together into a dark loathsome dungeon, where they fed with the three dogs called Chagrin, Mouron, and Douleur; and as they no longer saw their good mistress, they bit those they were with every instant. In this dungeon they ended their days, which were sufficiently protracted to give them time to repent of all their crimes.

As soon as the Queen-Mother, the admiral's wife, and Feintise, were led away to the several places appointed for them by the King, the musicians began to sing and to play. The joy was unequalled; Belle-Etoile and Cheri felt more than everybody besides; they knew they were on the eve of being made happy. In short, the King, who thought his nephew the handsomest and most accomplished man at Court, told him he could not let such a grand day pass without a wedding, and that he presented him with his daughter. The Prince, transported with joy, threw himself at his feet, and Belle-Etoile was equally delighted.

It was but just that the old Princess, who had lived in solitude for so many years, should quit it to partake of the public rejoicing. The same little fairy, who came to dine with her, and whom she received so well, entered suddenly to relate to her all that had passed at Court. "Let us go there," continued she, "I will inform you as we go along of the care I have taken of your family." The grateful Princess ascended the Fairy's chariot, which was brilliant with gold and azure, and preceded by a military band, and followed by a hundred body-guards, consisting of the first noblemen in the kingdom. ​The Fairy related to the Princess the history of her grandchildren, and told her she had never forsaken them; that under the form of a syren, of a turtle-dove, in short, in a thousand various ways, she had protected them. "You see," said she, "a good action always meets return."

The good Princess kept incessantly kissing her hand, to show her gratitude, and knew not in what terms to express the extent of her joy. At length they arrived at the palace. The King received them with a thousand expressions of friendship. The Princess Blondine and the beautiful children were eager (as might be expected) to testify their love for this illustrious lady; and when they knew what the Fairy had done for them, and that she was the kind Dove who had guided them, they could not find words to thank her. To add to the King's satisfaction, she told him, that his mother-in-law, whom he had always considered to be a poor peasant, was born a sovereign princess. It was perhaps the only thing wanting to complete the happiness of this monarch. The fête was finished by the marriage of Belle-Etoile with Prince Cheri. The Corsair and his wife were sent for, that they might be still further rewarded for the admirable education they had given the beautiful children. And, to conclude, after having suffered years of trouble and anxiety, everybody was made perfectly happy.

Love, mighty Love! let not the censor frown,
The origin is often of Renown.
What can like Love the youthful breast inspire,
Danger to scorn, or honour to desire?
'Tis he who fill'd the world with Cheri's name,
And prompted him to deeds of deathless fame.
When once for Woman truly sighs the heart,
E'en her caprices Man must needs obey;
And backward from no precipice will start,
If o'er it Love, to Glory, point the way.

The End

1. A case for knife, fork, spoon, &c.; see note, page 437.

2. "Petite cuisine d'or." Cuisine in this sense signifies "a long box with several compartments, which contain everything requisite for making ragouts, and which can be carried about when travelling."—Landaîs. It has been previously translated, "A small kitchen, furnished with golden plate."

3. The names of Hippolyte and Julie which follow, show that Madame d'Aulnoy here alludes to her own novel, "Histoire d'Hippolyte, Comte de Duglas."

4. Dun-coloured, see note, page 222.

5. See note, page 222.

6. An amusing derivation for this celebrated jewel, which Madame d'Aulnoy saw Marie d'Orleans, queen of Charles the Second of Spain, wear on her entry into Madrid, January 13, 1680. Vide Appendix, page 609.

7. Celebrated dancers of that day. The names of Favier and Pecourt both appear in the lists of the dancers in the tragic ballet of Psyche; and Favier sustained several characters in the magnificent Fête de Versailles, July 18, 1668. There were two Faviers, "l'ainé," and "le cadet;" the senior is most probably the one alluded to.

8. The Bocane was a stately kind of dance, so called from Bocan, the dancing master of Anne of Austria, queen of Louis XIII., who invented it. La Mariée, was a branle or brawl (see p. 457) so called; it is mentioned by Madame d'Aulnoy in her story of "Le Gentilhomme Bourgeois." The Saraband has been described, note, p. 65. It was generally accompanied by the castagnets.

9. "Reveillez-vous, belle endormie." There is an old French song quoted by Dryden, in his comedy, The Assignation, Act ii. Scene 3, which runs thus—

"Eveillez-vous, belles endormies,
Eveillez-vous, car il est jour;
Mettez la tête a la fenestre,
Vous entrendrez parlez d'amour."

10. Mouron is the herb called Pimpernel or Burnet. I have not been able to find any property attributed to it, or superstition attached to it, that would account for Blondine's so naming one of her dogs. It may be simply from its similarity in sound to mourrant.

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