Once upon a time there was a Queen who had nothing on earth to wish for to complete her happiness, except children. She talked of nothing else, and continually said that the Fairy Fanferluche having attended at her birth, and not being contented with the Queen, her mother, had put herself into a passion, and condemned her in consequence to nothing but misfortune.
One day, when she was sitting sadly and alone by the fireside, she saw come down the chimney a little old woman, about the height of your hand, riding on three bits of rushes. She wore on her head a sprig of hawthorn; her dress was composed of flies’ wings; two nut-shells served her for boots; she sailed in the air, and after taking three turns in the room, she stopped before the Queen.
“For a long time,” said the old woman, “you have been complaining of me, accusing me of all your misfortunes, and making me responsible for all that happens to you. You think, Madam, that I am the cause of your having no children. I come now to announce to you that you will have an infant, but I fear she will cost you many tears.”
“Ah! noble Fanferluche,” said the Queen, “do not refuse me your pity and your aid. I will render you all the services in my power, provided the Princess you promise me shall be my comfort and not my affliction.”
“Destiny is more powerful than I,” replied the Fairy. “All I can do, to show my affection for you, is to give you this white hawthorn; fasten it to your child’s head the moment she is born; it will preserve her from many perils.” She gave her the sprig, and vanished like lightning.
The Queen remained sad and thoughtful. “Why should I wish,” she said, “for a daughter who will cost me many tears and sighs? should I not be happier without any children?” The presence of the King, whom she loved dearly, a little dissipated her grief, and when she found that she should soon become a mother, all her care was to desire her friends, the moment the Princess should be born, to lay on her head the hawthorn flower, which she kept in a box of gold covered with diamonds, as the most valuable thing she possessed.
At length the Queen gave birth to the most beautiful creature that had ever been seen; they instantly attached to her head the sprig of hawthorn, when, at the same moment, oh! wondrous! she became a little monkey, jumping, running, and skipping about the room just as a monkey would.
At this metamorphose all the ladies uttered the most horrible cries, and the Queen, who was more frightened than any one, thought she should have died of despair. She called to them to remove the sprig of hawthorn that they had placed behind the ear; but after the greatest trouble in catching the little ape, they found it useless to remove the fatal flowers; she was a monkey still, a confirmed monkey, refusing to be nursed like a child, and would eat nothing but nuts and chestnuts.
“Barbarous Fanferluche,” said the Queen, sadly, “what have I done to thee that thou shouldst use me thus? What will become of me! what a disgrace to me! all my subjects will think I have given birth to a monster. What will be the King’s horror at such a child!” She wept, and prayed the ladies to advise her how to act in such an emergency.
“Madam,” said the oldest of her attendants, “you must persuade the King that the Princess is dead, and then shut up this ape in a box, and sink it to the bottom of the sea; for it would be horrible to preserve any longer a little brute of such a kind.” The Queen found it difficult to agree to this proposal, but as they told her the King was coming to her apartments, she was so confused and agitated, that without further deliberation she told her maid of honour to do what she pleased with the monkey.
They took it into another room, shut it up in a box, and desired one of the valets-de-chambre to throw it into the sea. He instantly departed on his errand.
Behold the Princess exposed to extreme danger! The man, however, thinking the box beautiful, was sorry to deprive himself of it; so he seated himself on the sea-shore, and took out the ape, determining to kill it, (for he did not know it was his sovereign,) but whilst he had hold of it, a great noise which startled him obliged him to turn his head, when he saw an open chariot drawn by six unicorns, resplendent with gold and precious stones. It was preceded by a military band. A Queen crowned, and in a royal mantle, was seated in the chariot on cushions of cloth of gold, and she held in her arms her son, a child of four years old.
The valet recognised this Queen as the sister of his mistress. She had come to see and rejoice with her, but when she found the little Princess was dead, she departed sadly to return to her kingdom. She was lost in thought, when her son cried, “I want that monkey! I will have it.”
The Queen, looking up, beheld the prettiest monkey that ever was seen. The valet endeavoured to escape, but he was prevented. The Queen ordered a large sum to be given him for the monkey; and finding it gentle and playful, she named it Babiole; thus, notwithstanding her hard fate, the Princess fell into the hands of her own aunt.
When the Queen arrived in her own dominions, the little Prince begged her to give him Babiole for a playmate. He desired she should be dressed like a Princess; so every day they made her new dresses, and they taught her to walk only on her feet. It was impossible to find a prettier or more agreeable little monkey; her little face was as black as a jackdaw’s, with a white ruff round her neck, and tufts of flesh colour at her ears. Her little paws were not bigger than butterflies’ wings, and her sparkling eyes indicated so much intelligence, that there was no need for astonishment at anything she did.
The Prince, who loved her very much, petted her unceasingly; she would never bite him, and when he wept, she wept too. She had been already four years with the Queen, when, one day, she began to stammer like a child trying to talk. Every body wondered at her, and they were still more astonished when she began to speak in a voice so clear and distinct that every word was intelligible. Marvellous! Babiole speaking! Babiole a reasoning creature! The Queen would have her again, to amuse her; they therefore carried her to her Majesty’s apartments, greatly to the grief of the Prince. He began to weep; and, to console him, they gave him cats and dogs, birds and squirrels, and even a pony, called Criquetin, which danced a saraband; but all this was to him not worth one word from Babiole.
On her side, she was under greater constraint with the Queen than with the Prince: they required her to answer like a Sibyl to a hundred ingenious and learned questions to which she could not always reply. When an ambassador or a stranger arrived, they made her appear in a robe of velvet or brocade with bodice and collar. If the Court was in mourning, she had to drag after her a long mantle of crape, which fatigued her very much. They did not allow her to eat what she liked, the physician always ordering her dinner, which did not at all please her, as she was as self-willed as an ape born a princess might be expected to be. The Queen gave her masters who tried the powers of her intellect most thoroughly. She excelled in playing on the harpsichord; they had made her a wonderful one in an oyster shell. Painters came from all quarters of the world, and especially from Italy, to take her likeness. Her renown spread from pole to pole, for no one had ever heard of a monkey endued with speech.
The Prince, as beautiful as the picture of the god of love, graceful and witty, was not less a prodigy. He came to see Babiole, and sometimes amused himself with talking to her; their conversation often changed from gay to grave, for Babiole had a heart, and that heart was not metamorphosed like the rest of her little body. She became, therefore, deeply attached to the Prince, and he in return became only too fond of her.
The unfortunate Babiole did not know what to do; she passed her nights on the top of a window shutter, or on a corner of the chimney-piece, without a wish to enter the basket prepared for her, which was soft, and well lined with wadding and feathers. Her governess (for she had one) often heard her sighing, and sometimes complaining; her melancholy became deeper as her reason increased, and she never saw herself in a looking-glass without trying, out of vexation, to break it, so that people constantly said, “A monkey will always be a monkey; Babiole cannot rid herself of the mischief natural to her species.”
The Prince growing up, became fond of hunting, dancing, plays, arms, and books, and no longer even mentioned the poor little ape. Things were very different on her side of the question; she loved him better at twelve years old than she had at six, and sometimes reproached him with his neglect, while he thought that he made up for everything when he gave her a choice apple or some sugared chestnuts.
At last Babiole’s reputation reached even the kingdom of the monkeys, and King Magot conceived a great wish to marry her. With this intention he sent a notable embassy to obtain her from the Queen; his prime minister had no difficulty in understanding his wishes, but would have been at great trouble in expressing them, had it not been for the assistance of the parrots and pies, vulgarly called “mags,” who chattered not a little, while the jackdaws, who followed in the suite, would not suffer themselves to be outdone in noise.
A huge monkey, named Mirlifiche was chief of the embassy; he had a carriage made for him of cardboard, and on it were painted the loves of King Magot and the ape Monette, well known in the empire of the Monkeys; she, poor thing, had met a tragic end from the claws of a wild cat, who was by no means accustomed to her tricks. There was painted the happiness of Magot and Monette during their marriage, and the natural grief he had displayed at her death. Six white rabbits, from a capital warren, drew the carriage called by way of distinction the state coach. After this came a chariot made of straw, painted in different colours, and containing the apes destined to attend on Babiole; it was worth anything to see how they were adorned, in fact they looked as if they were going to a wedding. The rest of the cortège was composed of little spaniels, greyhounds, Spanish cats, Muscovy rats, some hedgehogs, cunning weasels, and dainty foxes; some drew the carriages, others carried the baggage. Above all, Mirlifiche, graver than a Roman dictator, and wiser than Cato himself, bestrode a leveret, that ambled along more easily than any English gelding.
The Queen knew nothing of this magnificent embassy until it arrived at her palace, but the shouts of laughter from the guards and people inducing her to put her head out of window, she beheld the most extraordinary sight she had ever seen in her life. Mirlifiche, followed by a considerable number of monkeys, advanced towards the chariot of the apes, and, giving his paw to the largest, called Gigona, assisted her to descend; then letting fly the little parrot, who was to serve as interpreter, he waited until this beautiful bird had presented itself to the Queen and demanded an audience for him.
Perroquet, raising himself gently in the air, came to the window out of which the Queen was looking, and in a tone of voice the prettiest in the world said,
“Madam, his excellency the Count De Mirlifiche, ambassador from the celebrated Magot, king of the monkeys, demands an audience of your Majesty, to treat of a most important affair.”
“Beautiful parrot,” said the Queen, caressing him, “first take something to eat and to drink, and then I will allow you to go and tell Count Mirlifiche I bid him most welcome to my kingdom, he and all who accompany him. If his journey from Magotia hither has not too much fatigued him, he may shortly enter my audience chamber, where I shall await him on my throne, with all my court.”
At these words Perroquet kissed his claw twice, flapped his pinions, sang a little air, expressive of his delight, and taking wing again perched on the shoulder of Mirlifiche and whispered to him the favourable reply he had received.
Mirlifiche was not insensible of the kindness. He immediately requested one of the Queen’s officers, through the magpie, Margot, who had installed herself as sub-interpreter, to show him into an apartment, where he might repose for a few moments.
They immediately opened a saloon paved with marble, painted and gilded, which was one of the best in the palace. He entered it with part of his suite, but as monkeys are always great ferreters by profession, they found a certain corner in which had been arranged a quantity of jars of preserves. Behold the gluttons at them. One has a crystal cup full of apricots, another a bottle of syrup—this one a patty, that one some almond cakes. The winged gentry who made up the cortège were much annoyed to be spectators of a feast in which there was neither hempseed nor millet-seed, and a jackdaw, who was a great chatterer, flew to the audience chamber, and, respectfully approaching the Queen, said,
“Madam, I am too devoted a servant of your Majesty’s to be a willing accomplice in the havoc which is being made in your very nice sweetmeats. Count Mirlifiche himself has already eaten three boxes full. He was crunching the fourth without any respect to your royal Majesty, when, touched to the heart, I came to inform your Majesty of it.”
“I thank you, my little friend Jackdaw,” said the Queen, smiling, “but I can dispense with your zeal about my sweetmeats; I abandon them in favour of Babiole, whom I love with all my heart.”
The jackdaw, a little ashamed at having made a great noise for nothing, retired without another word. The ambassador with his suite shortly after entered the apartment. He was not dressed precisely in the height of the fashion, for since the return of the famous Fagotin, who had cut such a figure in the world, they had never seen a good model. He had a peaked hat, with a plume of green feathers in it, a shoulder belt of blue paper covered with gold spangles, large canions, and a walking stick.
Perroquet, who passed for a tolerably good poet, having composed a very grave harangue, advanced to the foot of the throne where the Queen was seated, and addressed Babiole thus:
Madam, the wondrous power of your eyesIn great Magot’s fond passion recognise!These apes, these cats, this equipage so rare,—These birds—all, all, his ardent flame declare!When ‘neath a mountain cat’s fierce talons fellMonette, (the beauteous ape he loved so well,And who alone could be compared to you,)When to her spouse she bade a last adieu,The king a hundred times swore by her shade,That love should never more his heart invade.Madam, your charms have from that heart effacedThe tender image his first love had traced.Of you alone he thinks. If you but knewThe state of frenzy he is driven to;To pity surely moved, your gentle breastWould share his pain, and so restore his rest.He whom we saw of late so fat, so gay,Now worn to skin and bone, a constant preyTo a consuming care nought can remove.Madam, he knows too well what ’tis to love!
Olives and nuts, his favourite food of yore,Insipid seem—are relish’d now no more.He dies; your help alone we come to crave,—‘Tis you alone can snatch him from the grave.I scorn to tempt you by the grosser baitOf the choice fare within our happy state,Where grapes and figs are in profusion found,And all the finest fruit the whole year round.
Perroquet had scarcely finished his oration when the Queen turned her eyes on Babiole, who felt more disconcerted than anybody had ever been before. The Queen wished to ascertain her sentiments before she replied. She told the parrot to make his excellency the ambassador understand that she favoured the King’s pretensions as far as it depended on herself. The audience over, she retired, and Babiole followed her into her closet.
“My little ape,” said the Queen to her, “I acknowledge that I shall regret thy absence, but there is no way of refusing Magot, who asks thy hand in marriage, for I have not yet forgotten that his father brought two hundred thousand monkeys into the field against me, and they ate so many of my subjects that we were obliged to agree to a shameful peace.”
“That means, then, Madam,” replied Babiole, impatiently, “that you are resolved to sacrifice me to this horrid monster to avoid his anger; but I supplicate your Majesty at least to grant me a few days to make up my mind finally.”
“That is but just,” said the Queen; “nevertheless, if you will take my advice, decide promptly; consider the honours prepared for thee, the magnificence of the embassy, and what maids of honour he sends thee. I am sure that Magot never did for Monette what he has done for thee.”
“I do not know what he has done for Monette,” said little Babiole, indignantly, “but I know well that I am not greatly touched by the sentiments with which he honours me.”
She rose instantly, and with a graceful curtsey went to search for the Prince, to tell him her troubles. As soon as he saw her, he exclaimed, “Well, Babiole, when are we to dance at your wedding?”
“I do not know, Sir,” said she, sadly; “but the deplorable state I am in renders me incapable of keeping my own secrets, and however my delicacy may suffer, I must own to you that you are the only person I could take for a husband.”
“Me!” said the Prince, bursting into a loud laugh, “for a husband! My little ape, I am charmed at what you tell me, yet I hope you will pardon me if I do not accept your proposal, for, in short, our figures, tastes, and manners are not quite suitable.”
“I agree with you,” she said, “and our hearts also are unlike; you are an ingrate; for a long time I have suspected it, and I am very foolish to feel an affection for a prince who so little deserves it.”
“But, Babiole, think of the misery with which I should see you, perched on the top of a sycamore, holding on to a branch by your tail. Take my advice! laugh at this affair, for your honour and mine. Marry King Magot, and for old friendship’s sake, send me your first little monkey.”
“It is well for you, my Lord,” added Babiole, “that I have not exactly the disposition of an ape; any other than I would have already scratched out your eyes, bitten off your nose, and torn off your ears, but I abandon you to the reflections that you will one day make on your unworthy conduct.”
She could say no more, for her governess came to fetch her; the Ambassador Mirlifiche, having taken to her apartments some magnificent presents. There was a toilette, composed of a spider’s web embroidered with little glowworms; an egg-shell held the combs, and a white-heart cherry served for a pin-cushion, all the linen being trimmed with lace paper. There were besides in a basket several shells neatly arranged; some to serve for earrings, others for bodkins, and all brilliant as diamonds; and what was much better, there were a dozen boxes filled with comfits, and a little glass coffer, containing a nut and an olive, but the key was lost.
Babiole, however, cared little about it. The Ambassador informed her in a grumbling tone, the language used in Magotia, that his King was more touched by her charms than by those of any monkey he had ever seen in his life; that he had had a palace built for her in the top of a fir-tree; that he had sent her these presents and also some excellent sweetmeats, as a mark of his attachment, so that the King, his master, could not better testify his affection.
“But,” continued he, “the strongest proof of his tenderness, and the one of which you ought to be the most sensible, is, Madam, the care he has taken to have his portrait painted as a foretaste of the pleasure you will have in seeing him.” He thereupon displayed the portrait of the King of the Monkeys, seated on a great log of wood, and eating an apple.
Babiole turned her eyes away, that they might not be longer offended by such a disagreeable figure, and grumbling three or four times she made Mirlifiche understand that she was obliged to his master for his esteem, but that she had not yet determined whether she should marry or not.
Meantime the Queen had resolved not to draw on herself the anger of the monkeys, and not thinking it necessary to stand on much ceremony in sending Babiole where she chose her to go, prepared everything for her departure. At this news despair took complete possession of poor Babiole’s heart; the contempt of the Prince on one hand, the indifference of the Queen on the other, and more than all, such a husband, made her resolve to fly. It was not a very difficult matter; since she had spoken they no longer tied her up; she went out and came in and entered her room as often by the window as by the door. She hurried, therefore, away, jumping from tree to tree, from branch to branch, till she came to the banks of a river.
The excess of her despair prevented her from comprehending the peril she should incur by attempting to swim across, and without pausing even to look at it, she flung herself in, and immediately went to the bottom; but as she did not lose her senses, she perceived a magnificent grotto, ornamented with shells. She entered it quickly, and was received by a very old man, whose long white beard descended to his waist: he was reclining on a couch of reeds and flags, and was crowned with poppies and wild lilies, and was leaning against a rock, out of which flowed several fountains which fed the river.
“Ah! what brings thee here, little Babiole?” said he, holding out his hand to her.
“My Lord,” she replied, “I am an unfortunate ape! I am flying from a horrible monkey, whom they want me to marry.”
“I know more of thy history than thou thinkest,” added the wise old man; “it is true thou dost abhor Magot, but it is no less true that thou lovest a young Prince, who treats thee with indifference.”
“Ah, Sir,” cried Babiole, sighing, “do not speak of it; the thought of him augments all my woes.”
“He will not always be a rebel to love,” continued the guest of the fishes; “I know he is reserved for the most beautiful princess in the world.”
“Unfortunate that I am,” continued Babiole, “he then can never be mine.”
The good man smiled, and said to her, “Do not distress thyself, my good Babiole, time is a great master; only take care not to lose the little glass coffer which Magot sent thee, and which by chance thou hast in thy pocket. I cannot say more to thee on the subject: here is a tortoise who goes a very good pace; seat thyself on him, and he will conduct thee whither thou shouldst go.”
“After all the obligations you have conferred on me,” said Babiole, “I cannot leave you without inquiring your name.”
“They call me Biroquoi,” he said, “father of Biroquie—a river, as you see, large enough and famous enough.”
Babiole mounted the tortoise with perfect confidence; they travelled for some time on the water, and at last, after what appeared a long round, the tortoise gained the bank. It would be difficult to find anything more noble looking than the English saddle and the rest of the harness of the tortoise, complete even to the little pistols in the saddle bow, the pockets of which were made of two bodies of crabs.
Babiole travelled on, entirely confiding in the promises of Biroquoi, when on a sudden she heard a rather loud noise; Alas! alas! it was the ambassador Mirlifiche, with all his followers, who were returning to Magotia, sad and afflicted at the flight of Babiole. A monkey of the troop had climbed a walnut-tree at dinner time, to knock down the nuts to feed the Magotins; but he had hardly reached the top of the tree when, looking about him, he saw Babiole on the poor tortoise, who was travelling slowly in the open country. At this sight he began to scream so loud that the assembled monkeys asked him in their language what was the matter; he told them, and they immediately let loose the parrots, pies, and jays, who flew to the spot and identified her, and on their report that it really was Babiole, the Ambassador, the apes and the rest of the party ran after and seized her.
What a misfortune for Babiole! It would be difficult to have met with a greater or more grievous one. They made her enter the state coach, which was immediately surrounded by the most vigilant apes, some foxes, and a cock, the latter of whom mounted on the imperial and stood sentinel day and night. A monkey led the tortoise as a rare animal, and thus the cavalcade continued its journey, to the great distress of Babiole, who had no other companion than Madame Gigona, a sour-tempered and ill-natured ape.
At the end of three days, during which nothing particular occurred, the guides having missed their way, the cavalcade arrived at a large and beautiful city totally unknown to them, but perceiving a beautiful garden, the gate of which was open, they entered and ravaged it as if it was a conquered country. One cracked nuts, another swallowed cherries, a third stripped a plum-tree; in short, down to the smallest monkey in the train, there was not one that did not go plundering and pocketing.
Now, you must know that this city was the capital of the kingdom in which Babiole was born, that the Queen her mother, resided in it, and that ever since she had the misfortune to see her daughter changed into an ape by the sprig of hawthorn, she had never suffered in her dominions any ape, monkey, baboon, or anything in fact that could recal the fatal circumstance to her mind. A monkey was looked upon there as a disturber of the public peace. What, then, was the astonishment of the people at the arrival of a card coach, a chariot of painted straw, and all the rest of the most extraordinary equipage that has ever been seen since stories were stories, and fairies fairies.
The news flew to the palace. The Queen was appalled; she imagined that the monkey people had designs against her throne. She called a council immediately, and the whole of the intruders were pronounced guilty of high treason: determined, therefore, to make such an example of them as should be a warning to all for the future, she sent her guards into the garden with orders to seize all the monkeys. They threw large nets over the trees; the hunt was soon over, and notwithstanding the respect due to the quality of an ambassador, the character was sadly outraged in the person of Mirlifiche, whom they consigned without the least remorse to the depths of a dungeon, in which he was placed under a large empty puncheon with the rest of his comrades, together with the lady apes and miss monkeys who accompanied Babiole.
Babiole herself experienced a secret gratification in this new misfortune. When unhappiness attains a certain point, nothing further alarms us, and even death, perhaps, is looked forward to as a boon. Such was her situation—her heart, tortured by the recollection of the Prince, who had despised her, and her mind by the frightful image of King Magot, whose wife she was about to become.
Now we must not forget to say that her dress was so pretty and her manners so superior that those who had made her prisoner could not help considering her something wonderful, and when she spoke their surprise was still greater. They had often heard mention of the admirable Babiole. The Queen, who had found her, and was ignorant of the transformation of her niece, had frequently written to her sister that she had a wonderful ape, and begged her to come and see it; but the afflicted mother always skipped such passages in her letters. At length the guards, in ecstasies of delight, carried Babiole into a great gallery where they erected a little throne, on which she seated herself with the air of a sovereign more than that of a captive ape, and the Queen happening to pass through the gallery, was so struck with surprise at her pretty mien, and the graceful salutation she made her, that, despite herself, nature spoke in favour of the infant.
The Queen took Babiole in her arms. The little creature, herself agitated by feelings till then unknown to her, threw herself on the Queen’s neck, and said to her such tender and winning things, that all those who heard her were full of admiration.
“No, Madam,” she said, “it is not the fear of approaching death (with which I am told you threaten the unfortunate race of monkeys) that induces me to seek means to please and propitiate you; the termination of my existence is not the greatest misfortune that can befall me, and my feelings are so far above the thing I am, that I should regret the least step that might be taken to save me. It is for yourself alone that I love you, Madam; your crown affects me much less than your merits.”
Now what reply, in your opinion, could anybody make to so polite and respectful a Babiole? The Queen, as mute as a fish, opened her two great eyes, imagined she was dreaming, and felt her heart excessively agitated. She carried Babiole into her cabinet. When they were alone she said to her,
“Delay not a moment the relation to me of thy adventures, for I feel satisfied that of all the animals that stock my menageries, and that I keep in my palace, I shall love thee the best. I promise thee even, that for thy sake I will pardon the monkeys that accompany thee.”
“Ah! Madam,” said Babiole, “I do not intercede for them. It has been my misfortune to be born an ape, and the same cruel fate has given me an understanding which will be my torment as long as I live; for what must I feel when I see myself in a looking glass, a little ugly black creature, with paws covered with hair, a tail, and teeth always ready to bite, and at the same time know that I am not without intelligence, that I possess some taste, refinement, and feeling.”
“Art thou susceptible of love?” asked the Queen.
Babiole sighed without replying.
“Oh!” continued the Queen. “I pray thee tell me if thou lovest a monkey, a rabbit, or a squirrel, for if thou art not positively engaged, I have a goblin who would be the very husband for thee.”
Babiole at this proposition assumed an air of indignation, which made the Queen burst out laughing. “Don’t be angry,” said she; “and tell me by what chance it is that thou hast the power of speech?”
“All that I know of my history,” said Babiole, “is that the Queen your sister, had scarcely left you after the birth and death of the Princess your daughter, than she saw, on the sea-shore, one of your valets-de-chambre, who was about to drown me. I was snatched from his grasp by her orders, and by a miracle which astonished everybody I found myself possessed of the power of speech and reason. Masters were given to me to teach me several languages, and how to play on various instruments; at length, Madam, I became aware of my misfortune, and,—but what is the matter, Madam?” cried she, observing the Queen’s face perfectly pallid, and covered with cold perspiration. “I perceive an extraordinary change in your countenance?”
“I am dying,” said the Queen, in a feeble voice, and scarcely able to articulate. “I am dying, my dear and too unhappy child! Ah! have I then found thee to-day?” As she uttered these words she fainted. Babiole, much alarmed, ran to call for help. The ladies in waiting on the Queen hastened to give her some water, to unlace her, and put her to bed. Babiole smuggled herself into bed with her. No one noticed it, she was so very little.
When the Queen recovered from the long swoon into which the Princess’s account of herself had thrown her, she desired to be left alone with the ladies who knew the secret of the fatal birth of her daughter. She told them what had occurred; at which they were so amazed that they knew not what advice to give her.
She commanded them, however, to say what they thought it would be best to do in so sad a conjuncture. Some suggested that the ape should be smothered, others were for shutting it up in some hole, and a third party proposed sending it again to be drowned in the sea. The Queen wept and sobbed, and said, “She has so much good sense, what a pity to see her reduced by a magic bouquet to this miserable condition. But after all,” she continued, “it is my child. It is I who have drawn down upon her the wrath of the wicked Fanferluche; is it just she should suffer for the hate that fairy bears to me?”
“Yes, Madam,” said her old maid of honour, “you must protect your own fame. What would the world think of you if you declared yourself the mother of a monkey Infanta. It is not natural for one so handsome as you are to have such children.”
The Queen lost all patience at such reasoning, whilst the old lady and the others all insisted with equal warmth that the little monster ought to be exterminated. Finally the Queen determined to have Babiole locked up in a château, where she could be well fed and well treated for the rest of her days.
When the Princess heard the Queen express her resolution to put her in prison, she slipped quietly out at the side of the bed, and leaping from a window on to a tree in the garden, escaped into the great forest, and left everybody wondering what had become of her.
She passed the night in the hollow of an oak, where she had time to moralize on the cruelty of her destiny; but what gave her the most pain was the necessity she was under of quitting the Queen. Still she preferred a voluntary exile which left her the enjoyment of her liberty, to remaining a captive for ever.
As soon as it was light she continued her journey, without knowing where to go, turning in her mind over and over again a thousand times, this strange, this most extraordinary adventure. “What a difference,” she exclaimed, “between that which I am, and that which I ought to have been!” The tears flowed fast from the little eyes of poor Babiole.
Every morning at daybreak she resumed her flight. She feared the Queen would have her pursued, or that some of the monkeys, escaped from the cellar, would seize and carry her against her will to King Magot. She fled so far without following road or track, that at length she came to a great desert, in which was to be found nor house nor tree, nor fruit, nor herb, nor fountain. She entered upon it without reflection, and when she became hungry, she discovered, but too late, how imprudent it was to travel through such a country.
Two nights and two days elapsed without her being able to catch even a worm or a gnat. The fear of death came over her. She was so weak that she felt fainting. She stretched herself on the ground, and recollecting the olive and the nut that were still in the little glass box, she thought she might make on them a slender meal. Encouraged by this ray of hope she took up a stone, broke the box to pieces, and began to eat the olive.
But scarcely had she bitten it when out ran a flood of fragrant oil, which falling on her paws they became the most beautiful hands in the world. Her surprise was extreme. She took some of the oil in her hands and rubbed herself all over with it. A miracle! She made herself so beautiful that nothing in the universe could be compared to her. She felt she had large eyes, a small mouth, a handsome nose—she was dying to see herself in a glass; at last it occurred to her to make one out of the largest piece of her broken box. Oh, when she saw herself, what delight! What an agreeable surprise! Her clothes had enlarged with herself. Her head was well dressed, her hair was in a thousand curls; her complexion was as blooming as the flowers of spring.
The first moments of her surprise over, the cravings of hunger became more urgent, and her distress on that score greatly increased. “Ah,” said she, “so young and handsome, a princess born as I am, must I perish in this sad spot? Oh, cruel fortune that has brought me hither, what hast thou in store for me? Is it to heap more affliction upon me, that thou hast effected this charming and unhoped-for change in my person? And thou, too, venerable river Biroquoi, who so generously saved my life, wilt thou leave me to perish in this frightful desert?”
The Infanta vainly cried for help. Every power was deaf to her voice, and the torments of hunger increased to such a degree that she took the nut and cracked it: but as she flung away the shell, she was greatly astonished to see coming out of it, architects, painters, masons, upholsterers, sculptors, and workmen in a thousand other crafts. Some drew plans of a palace, others built it, others furnished it. These painted the apartments, those laid out the gardens. Blue and gold met the eye in every direction. A magnificent repast was served up: sixty princesses dressed finer than queens, led by squires, and followed by their pages, came and paid her the highest compliments, and invited her to the banquet which awaited her. Babiole immediately, without waiting to be pressed, entered the saloon, and with the air of a Queen ate as a starving person might be expected to eat.
She had scarcely risen from table, when her treasurers placed before her fifteen thousand chests as big as hogsheads, filled with gold and diamonds. They inquired if it was her pleasure that they should pay the workmen who had built her palace. She answered that it was proper to do so; but bargained that they should also build a city, marry, and remain in her service. They all consented, and the city was built in three quarters of an hour, although it was five times larger than Rome. Here was a number of prodigies to come out of a little nut!
The Princess resolved to send a grand embassy to the Queen her mother, and to convey some reproaches to the young Prince her cousin. Whilst the requisite preparations were being made, she amused herself with runnings at the ring, at which she always distributed the prizes; also with cards, plays, hunting, and fishing; for they had brought a river through the palace gardens.
The report of Babble’s beauty spread throughout the universe, and kings came to her court from the four corners of the earth;—giants taller than mountains and pigmies smaller than rats.
It happened one day, during a grand tournament, after several knights had broken their lances, a quarrel arose between them, and they fought in earnest and wounded each other. The Princess, greatly offended by this conduct in her presence, descended from her balcony to ascertain who were the guilty parties; but when they were unhelmed, what were her feelings when she recognised in one of them the Prince her cousin! If not dead, he was so nearly gone, that she was herself ready to die of grief and alarm at the sight. She had him carried into the handsomest room in the palace, where nothing was wanting that could be necessary for his recovery,—physicians from Chodrai, surgeons, ointments, broths, syrups. The Infanta herself made the bandages and prepared the lint. They were watered with her tears; and those tears should alone have been a balsam to the wounded prince. They were so indeed in more ways than one, for not counting half-a-dozen sword-cuts, and as many lance-thrusts, which had pierced him through and through, he had long been at the court, incognito, and had been wounded by the bright eyes of Babiole so desperately, that he was incurable for life. It is easy, therefore, to imagine at present some portion of what he felt, when he was able to read in the countenance of that beautiful princess, that she was in the utmost grief at beholding the condition to which he was reduced.
I shall not stop to repeat all that his heart prompted him to say in thanking her for the kindness she had shown him. Those who heard him were astonished that a man so very ill could express himself with so much warmth and gratitude. The Infanta, who blushed more than once at his words, begged him to be silent, but his agitation and ardour carried him so far, that she saw him suddenly fall into an alarming agony. Up to this time she had evinced great fortitude, but now she lost it so completely that she tore her hair, uttered wild shrieks, and gave her people reason to believe that her heart was vastly susceptible, since she could in so short a time be so desperately in love with an utter stranger,—for little did they know in Babiola (she had so named her kingdom), that the prince was her cousin, and that she had loved him from her earliest infancy.
It was during his travels that he had arrived at this Court, and as there was no one he knew to present him to the Infanta, he thought that nothing could be better than performing five or six heroic actions before her, that is to say, cutting off the arms or legs of some of the knights in the lists; but he found none polite enough to permit him to do so. There was consequently a furious general combat; the strongest overthrew the weakest, and the weakest, as I have before told you, was the Prince.
Babiole, in a state of distraction, ran out on the high road without coach or guards. She plunged into a wood and fainted away at the foot of a tree. The Fairy Fanferluche, who never slept, and was always on the watch for opportunities to do mischief, came and carried her off in a cloud blacker than ink, and which flew faster than the wind.
The Princess remained for some time perfectly unconscious. At length she came to herself. Never was surprise equal to hers, at finding herself so far from the ground and so near to the pole. The floor of a cloud is not solid, so that as she ran here and there it seemed to her that she was treading on feathers; and the cloud opening a little she had a narrow escape of falling through. She found no one to complain to, for the wicked Fanferluche had made herself invisible. Babiole had leisure to think of her dear Prince, and the condition in which she had left him, and she gave herself up to the most poignant grief that could possess a living soul.
“How!” exclaimed she, “am I yet capable of surviving him I love; and can the fear of approaching death find a place in my heart? Oh, if the sun would roast me he would do me a kindness; or if I could drown myself in the rainbow, how happy I should be! but, alas, the whole zodiac is deaf to my voice: the sagittary has no darts, the bull no horns, the lion no teeth. Perhaps the earth will be more obliging, and offer me the sharp point of some rock on which I may kill myself. O Prince, my dear cousin! why are you not here to see me make the most tragic leap that a despairing lover could think of!” As she uttered these words she rushed to the end of the cloud, and sprang from it with the force of an arrow from a bow.
All who saw her thought it was the moon falling; and as it was then in the wane, many who adored it, and who remained for some time without seeing it, went into deep mourning, and were convinced that the sun out of jealousy had played it this wicked trick.
Much as the Infanta desired to kill herself she did not succeed. She fell into the glass-bottle in which the fairies usually keep their ratafia in the sun. But what a bottle! There is not a tower in the world so large. Fortunately it was empty, or she would have been drowned in it like a fly. The bottle was guarded by six giants. They recognised the Infanta immediately. They were the same giants who had been residing at her court and who were in love with her. The malignant Fanferluche, who did nothing without calculation, had transported them thither each on a flying dragon, and these dragons guarded the bottle when the giants slept. Many a day during the time Babiole was in the bottle did she regret her monkey’s skin. She lived like the chameleons on air and dew. The place of her imprisonment was known to none. The young Prince was ignorant of it. He was not dead, and was continually inquiring for Babiole. He saw plainly enough by the melancholy of all his attendants, that a general feeling of sorrow pervaded the Court upon some subject which his natural discretion prevented him from attempting to discover; but as soon as he was convalescent, he entreated them so earnestly to give him some tidings of the Princess, that they had not the courage to conceal her loss from him. Some who had seen her enter the wood, maintained that she had been devoured by the lions; while others believed she had destroyed herself in a fit of despair. Others, again, imagined she had gone out of her mind, and was wandering about the world.
As the last notion was the least dreadful, and kept up in a slight degree the hopes of the Prince, he adopted it, and departed on Criquetin, the horse I have before mentioned, but I omitted to say that he was the eldest son of Bucephalus, and one of the best horses of the age. The Prince let the bridle fall on his neck, and suffered him to take his own road. He called loudly on the Infanta, but the echoes alone replied to him.
At length he came to the banks of a large river; Criquetin was thirsty and went in to drink, and the Prince, as before, shouted, “Babiole, lovely Babiole! where art thou?”
He heard a voice, the sweetness of which seemed to charm the waters. This voice said to him, “Advance, and you shall learn where she is.” At these words the Prince, whose courage was equal to his love, clapped both his spurs into the sides of Criquetin. He plunged into the river and swam till he came to a whirlpool, into which the waves were sucked rapidly. They went down in it, horse and man, and the Prince made sure he should be drowned.
He arrived, however, fortunately, at the abode of the worthy Biroquoi, who was celebrating the marriage of his daughter with one of the richest and deepest rivers in the country. All the aquatic deities were assembled in the Grotto. The Tritons and the Syrens performed the most agreeable music, and the River Biroquie, lightly attired, danced the Hay with the Seine, the Thames, the Euphrates, and the Ganges, who had certainly come a long way to be merry together.
Criquetin, who knew good manners, halted very respectfully at the entrance of the Grotto, and the Prince, who knew better manners even than his horse, making a profound bow, inquired if a mortal like himself might be permitted to make his appearance in so splendid a party.
Biroquoi replied, in an affable tone, that he did them both honour and pleasure. “I have expected you for some days, my lord,” continued he; “I am interested in your fate, and that of the Infanta who is dear to me. You must release her from the fatal spot in which the vindictive Fanferluche has imprisoned her. It is in a bottle.”
“Ah, what do I hear!” cried the Prince; “the Infanta is in a bottle?”
“Yes,” said the sage old man; “she suffers much; but I warn you, my lord, that it is not easy to conquer the giants and the dragons that guard it, unless you follow my counsels. You must leave your good steed here, and mount on a winged dolphin that I have for some time been breaking in for you.” He had the dolphin brought out, saddled and bridled, who vaulted and curveted so cleverly that Criquetin was jealous of him.
Biroquoi and his friends made haste to arm the Prince. They gave him a brilliant cuirass of the scales of golden carps, and placed on his head the shell of a huge snail, which was overshadowed with the tail of a large cod raised in the form of an aigrette; a naiad girt him with an eel, from which depended a tremendous sword made out of a long fish-bone; and lastly they gave him the shell of a great tortoise for a shield; and, thus armed, there was not the smallest gudgeon that did not take him to be the God of Soles, for to speak the truth, this young Prince had a certain air which is rarely met with in mortals.
The hope of soon recovering the charming Princess he adored inspired him with a joy he had not experienced since her loss, and the faithful chronicle of these events asserts that he ate with an excellent appetite whilst he was staying with Biroquoi, and that he thanked him and all the company with extraordinary eloquence. He then bade adieu to Criquetin, and mounted the flying dolphin, who set off with him immediately. The Prince, towards evening, found himself at such a height, that for the sake of a little rest he entered the kingdom of the Moon. The curiosities he saw there would have detained him for some time had he been less anxious to extricate his beloved Infanta from the bottle in which she had been living for several months.
Morning had scarcely dawned when he discovered her surrounded by giants and dragons, which the Fairy, by the power of her little wand, had kept beside her. She so little imagined that any one would have power to rescue the Princess, that she felt perfectly satisfied with the vigilance of her terrible guards, and their ability to prolong the sufferings of Babiole.
That beautiful Princess had raised her mournful eyes to Heaven, and was addressing to it her sad complaints, when she saw the flying dolphin and the knight who came to her deliverance. She had not believed in the possibility of such an event, although her own experience had taught her that the most extraordinary things become familiar to certain persons.
“Is it by the malice of some Fairies,” said she, “that yon knight is borne through the air? Alas! how I pity him if, like me, he is doomed to be imprisoned in some bottle or flagon.”
Whilst she thus ruminated, the Giants, who saw the Prince hovering above their heads, thought it was a boy’s kite, and cried one to the other, “Catch hold, catch hold of the line!—it will amuse us;” but while they were stooping to look for the line, the Prince rushed down upon them, sword in hand, cut them in pieces as you would cut a pack of cards, and scattered them to the winds.
At the noise of this desperate combat the Infanta looked round, and recognised her young Prince. What joy, to be assured he was alive!—but what terror to see the imminent peril he was in amongst those horrible giants and the dragons that were springing upon him. She uttered fearful shrieks, and was ready to die at the sight of his danger.
But the enchanted bone with which Biroquoi had armed the Prince never struck in vain, and the light dolphin flying up or down with him at exactly the right moment, was also of wonderful assistance to him; so that in a very short time the ground was covered with the bodies of these monsters.
The impatient Prince, who saw his Infanta through the glass, would have dashed the bottle to pieces had he not been afraid of wounding her. He decided, therefore, to descend through the neck of it. When he reached the bottom of the bottle, he flung himself at the feet of Babiole, and respectfully kissed her hand.
“My Lord,” said she, “it is necessary, in order to retain your good opinion, that I should give you my reasons for the tender interest I took in your preservation. Know that we are near relations: that I am the daughter of the Queen, your aunt, and that very Babiole whom you found in the form of an ape on the sea-shore, and who afterwards had the weakness to evince an attachment for you which you despised.”
“Ah, Madam,” said the Prince, “can I believe so miraculous a circumstance? You have been an ape,—you have loved me, I have been aware of it, and was capable of rejecting the greatest of all blessings!”
“I should at this moment have a very bad opinion of your taste,” replied the Infanta smiling, “if you could then have felt any affection for me: but let us away, my Lord; I am weary of captivity, and I fear my enemy. Let us seek the Queen, my mother, and tell her all the extraordinary things in which she must be so much interested.”
“Come, Madam, let us go,” said the enamoured Prince, mounting the winged dolphin, and taking Babiole in his arms; “let me hasten to restore to her in your person the most lovely princess that the world ever boasted.”
The dolphin rose gently into the air and took his flight towards the capital, where the Queen passed her melancholy life. The disappearance of Babiole had deprived her of repose. She could not cease thinking of her, of the pretty speeches she had made, and, all ape as she was, the Queen would have given half her kingdom to see her once more. As soon as the Prince arrived he assumed the disguise of an old man, and requested a private audience of her Majesty.
“Madam,” said he to her, “I have studied from my earliest youth the art of Necromancy: you may judge from that fact that I am not ignorant of the hatred Fanferluche bears you, and its terrible consequences; but dry your tears, Madam; that Babiole, whom you have seen so ugly, is now the most beautiful Princess in the world. She will shortly be beside you, if you will forgive the Queen your sister the cruel war she has made upon you, and cement the peace by the marriage of your Infanta with the Prince your nephew.”
“I cannot flatter myself with such hopes,” replied the Queen weeping; “you wish to allay my sorrow, sage old man, but I have lost my dear child, I have no longer a husband, my sister pretends to my kingdom, her son is equally unjust towards me, and I will never seek their alliance.”
“Destiny has ordained otherwise,” said the Prince, “I am commissioned to inform you so.”
“Alas!” added the Queen, “where would be the advantage of my consenting to their marriage? The wicked Fanferluche has too much power and malice. She would oppose it always.”
“Make yourself easy on that score, Madam,” replied the old man; “promise me only that you will not object to the match so much desired.”
“I will promise anything,” said the Queen, “on condition that I once again behold my dear daughter.”
The Prince retired and ran to the spot where the Infanta was awaiting him. She was surprised to see him disguised, and he was, therefore, compelled to explain to her that for some time past there had been a confliction of interests between the two Queens, which had caused considerable bitterness; but that he had at length induced his aunt to consent to his wishes. The Princess was delighted: she repaired to the palace. All who saw her pass, were so struck by her perfect resemblance to her mother, that they hastened after her to ascertain who she could be.
As soon as the Queen saw her, her heart was so greatly agitated that she needed no other proof of the truth of the story. The Princess flung herself at the Queen’s feet, and was raised by her into her arms; where, after remaining for some time without speaking, and kissing away each other’s tears, they gave utterance to all that can be imagined on such an occasion. The Queen then, casting her eyes on her nephew, received him very graciously, and repeated to him the promise she had made to the necromancer. She would have said more, but the noise that she heard in the court-yard of the palace induced her to look out of the window, and she had the agreeable surprise of beholding the arrival of the Queen her sister. The Prince and the Infanta, who were looking out also, perceived in the royal suite the venerable Biroquoi, and even good Criquetin was one of the party. All at the sight of each other uttered shouts of joy; they ran to meet each other with transports which cannot be described, and the magnificent nuptials of the Prince and the Infanta were celebrated upon the spot in spite of the Fairy Fanferluche, whose power and malignity were equally confounded.
The friendship of the wicked we should fear,Their fairest offers prudently declining;E’en while protesting that they hold us dear,In secret oft our peace they’re undermining.
The Princess, whose adventures I’ve related,
Of happiness might ne’er have been bereaved,
If, from the fairy who her mother hated,
The fatal hawthorn had not been received.
Her transformation to an ugly ape
Could not exempt her from the tender passion;
Regardless of her features and her shape,
She dared to love a Prince—”the glass of fashion.”
I know some well, in this our present day,
Ugly as any monkeys in creation,
Who, notwithstanding, venture siege to lay
To the most noble hearts in all the nation.
But I suspect, ere they secure a lover,
They must to some enchanter pay their duty,
Who can inform them where they may discover
The oil which gave to Babiole her beauty.