All story: The Fair One with the Golden Hair
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The Fair One with the Golden Hair

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

THERE was once upon a time a king's daughter, who was so beautiful, that there was nothing else so beautiful in the world. In consequence of her exceeding beauty, she was called the " Fair One with the Golden Hair," for her locks were brighter than the brightest gold, and flowed in admirable curls round her neck and down to her feet. She was always seen with her curling ringlets, a crown of flowers on her head, and she wore clothes embroidered with diamonds and pearls ; so that it was impossible to see her and not to love her.
There was a young king, who governed a neighbouring state, very rich and handsome and as yet unmarried. When report bore to him the beauties of the Fair One with the Golden Hair, for he had never seen her, he fell so violently in love, that he could neither eat nor drink, and resolved to send an ambassador to ask her hand in marriage. He had a magnificent carriage built for his ambassador, he gave him upwards of a hundred horses and lacqueys, and charged him, on his life, to bring back the princess with him.
As soon as the ambassador had paid his respects to the king and had departed, all the court spoke of nothing but the princess ; while the king, who did not doubt that the Fair One with the Golden Hair would consent to his wishes, prepared for her, against her arrival, fine clothes and handsome furniture. While the workmen were still busy at their work, the ambassador arrived at the princess's court, and declared the object of his coming ; but, whether she was not on that day in the best humour or that she did not like the intended compliment, she answered the ambassador that she thanked the king for his offer, but had no wish to marry.
The ambassador left her court, very sorrowful at not taking the princess with him, carrying away all the presents which he had brought from the king ; for she was very wise, and knew that it would not be right to receive his gifts and to refuse himself. She therefore declined to accept even the beautiful diamonds, merely taking, in order not entirely to displease the king, a quarter of a pound of English pins.
When the ambassador arrived at the king's city, where he was so impatiently awaited, every body was afflicted to see him return without the Fair One with the Golden Hair, and the king wept like a child; the courtiers tried to console him, but they could not succeed.
There was at this time at court a youth beautiful as the sun, and who had the handsomest figure in the kingdom : he was so polite and witty, that he was named Graceful. Everybody loved him except the envious, who were vexed that the king treated him so well, and confided to him his most private affairs. Graceful being in company one day with some persons who were talking of the ambassador's return, and hearing it stated, with regret, that nothing had been effected, inadvertently said: " If the king had deputed me to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, I am confident that I could have induced her to return with me." These- people being envious of Graceful, immediately went to the king and said to liim maliciously : " Sire, what does your majesty think your friend Graceful says ? he asserts that if you had sent him to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, he could have brought her back with him. How vain and pre-sumptuous he must'be, Sire; he means that he is more handsome than you, and that she would have been at once so fond of him, that she would have followed him over the world." This, of course, put the king into so violent a passion, that he was quite beside himself. " What," said he, " does this minion dare laugh at our misfortune, and value himself above our royal person? let him be confined immediately in the round tower, and there be starved to death."

The king's guards immediately seized Graceful, who had never given a second thought as to what he had said, and dragged him to prison, making him suffer a thousand indignities. The poor youth had only a little straw for a bed ; and he would certainly have died, but that a little spring flowing through the basement of the tower, he drank a little to refresh himself; for hunger had parched his mouth. One day when he was quite exhausted, he said, sighing deeply : " Of what can the king complain ? He has not in his kingdom a more faithful subject than I am : nor have I, that I know of, ever done any thing to offend him." At this moment the king happened to be passing near the tower ; and hearing the voice of one of whom he had been so fond, stopped to listen, in spite of those who were with him, and who hating Graceful, said to the king : " What are you about, Sire ? does not your majesty know that he is a villain ?" The king answered : "Silence, I wish to hear what he says." Having heafd his complaints, tears came into his eyes; he opened the door of the tower, and called him. Graceful came forth very sorrowfully, and throwing himself before the king, embraced his knees, saying to him : "What have I done, Sire, to deserve such severe treatment ?" " You have mocked me and my ambassador," said the king ; " and have said, that if I had sent you to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, you would certainly have brought her back with you." "It is true, your majesty," answered Graceful; "I would have so well convinced her of your good qualities, that I am persuaded she would not have had it in her power to refuse me ; and in that I said nothing which could be disagree- able to you." The king then found that he had not been wronged by his favorite and giving an angry look to his traducers, he took him in his arms, deeply repenting the injury he had done him.
When he had eaten an excellent supper, the king sent for him into his cabinet, and said : " Graceful, I still love the Fair One with the Golden Hair ; her refusal has not disheartened me ; but I do not know how to persuade her to marry me. I should like to send you to her court, to see whether, indeed, you would be able to succeed." Graceful answered that he desired to obey him in every thing, and would set out the next day. " Hold !" said the king, " I wish to send you with a magnificent equipage." " That is unnecessary," answered Graceful, " I only want a good horse and your instructions." The king embraced him, for he was delighted to see him so easily equipped.
It was on a Monday morning that he took leave of the king and his friends to depart on his mission alone, without pomp or ceremony, His whole thoughts were on the means of inducing the Fair One with the Golden Hair to marry the king ; he carried with him in his pocket a memorandum book, and when a good idea struck him for his speech, he alighted from his horse and seating himself under the trees, made a note of it, so as to forget nothing. One morning when he had resumed his journey very early, as he was crossing a large meadow, a very bright idea occurred to him ; so he alighted, and seated himself by the willows and poplars which grew on the banks of a streamlet that watered one side of the meadow. After he had noted his thoughts, he looked around him, charmed to find himself in so delightful a place. He perceived on the grass a large gilded carp, which was feebly gasping, for it could do no more. In endeavouring to catch some little flies, it had leaped so high out of the water, that it had thrown itself on the grass, and was at the point of death for want of its natural element. Graceful took pity on the poor carp, and although it was a fast day, and he therefore might have kept it for his dinner, he lifted it up very gently and replaced it in the streamlet. As soon as Mistress Carp felt the freshness of the water, she rejoiced greatly and sank to the bottom ; then returning merrily to the bank of the streamlet, " Graceful," said the fish, " I am grateful for the kindness you have just done me : but for you, I should have died ; to your kindness I owe my life and I will reward you for it." After this little compliment she dived to the bottom of the stream again, and left Gracefnl quite astonished at her wit and civility.
Another day as he was continuing his journey, he saw a crow in great distress ; the poor bird was pursued by a large eagle (a notorious devourer of crows) which had just caught it, and would have swallowed it like a lentil, if Graceful had not taken compassion on the unfortunate bird. " Thus," reflected he, " the strong oppress the weak : what right has the eagle to eat the crow ?" He took his bow, which he always carried with him, and an arrow : then taking a steady aim at the eagle, twang, he lodged an arrow in his body, piercing it through and through. Down fell the eagle dead ; and the crow in ecstacies perched it itself on a tree. " Graceful," said the the crow to him, " you are very kind to have succoured me ; I am but a poor bird, but I will not be ungrateful, and will do you
as good a turn."
Graceful admired the crow's intelligence and continued his road. He entered next day into a large wood, so early in the morning that he could hardly see his way, when he heard an owl screeching like an owl in despair. " Hey day," said he, " that owl must be in great sorrow; perhaps it is taken in a snare." He peered all around him, and presently indeed observed a large net, which had been placed there by some bird- catchers in the night to catch small birds. " What a pity," said he, " that men are only made to torment each other or to persecute poor animals, which never do them any wrong." He then drew his sword, and cut the cords which held the net. The owl took flight : but returning after it had stretched its wings, it perched itself on a branch, and said : "Graceful it is unnecessary for me to make you a long harangue in order to enable you to comprehend the obligation that I am under to you ; it speaks for itself. The fowlers were coming, I should have been taken and put to death but for your assistance : I have a grateful heart, and will do you as good a turn."
These are the three most important adventures that befel Graceful on his journey ; he was in such haste to execute his mission that he did not lose a moment on his way to the palace of the Fair one with the Golden Hair. Every thing there was charming ; diamonds were lying about in heaps like common stones ; rich clothes, sweetmeats and silver were there in profusion ; and he thought that if she left all this to marry the king his master, he would have great reason to rejoice in the success of his mission. He dressed himself in a suit of rich brocade, and wore a plume of carnation and white feathers ; he washed his face, combed and powdered his hair, put round his neck a richly embroidered scarf, carrying with him a small basket in which was a pretty little dog that he had purchased as he passed through Boulogne. Graceful was so handsome, so amiable, and did every thing so gracefully, that when he presented himself at the gate of the palace, all the guards made him a respectful salute ; and the Fair One with the Golden Hair was immediately informed that Graceful, the ambassador from the king, her neighbour, requested an audience.
The princess, when she heard Graceful' s name, said : " I like that name, and I dare say that he is pretty and pleases every body." " Yes indeed," said her maids of honour, " we saw him, from the store-room window, while we were dressing your flax ; and, so long as he was in sight, we could do no work." "That's very pretty, indeed," answered the Fair One with the Golden Hair, " to amuse yourselves with looking at a young man. Come, give me my embroidered blue satin gown, and dress my hair very carefully ; let me have some chaplets of fresh flowers, my high shoes and my fan ; let my audience- chamber be swept and my throne dusted; for I wish him to make it known everywhere that I am indeed the Fair One with the Golden Hair."

Then all her women employed themselves in dressing her in a most queenly style : they were in such haste however, that they somewhat hindered each other and made but slow progress. At length she went into her hall of mirrors to see if any thing was wanting ; which done, she ascended her throne, which was made of gold, ivory and ebony, and perfumed with balsam. She then desired her maids of honour to take their instruments, and sing and play very sweetly, but so softly as not to stun the ambassador.
When Graceful was ushered into the hall of audience, he was so transported with admiration, that he many times afterwards said that he could hardly speak, but at length he took courage and made his harangue admirably well, entreating the princess, not to let him be so unfortunate as to re- turn without her. " Gentle Ambassador," answered the Fair One, " all the arguments you have used to me are very good, and I assure you that I should be very happy to favour you in preference to any other ; but you must know that a month ago I was walking by the river-side with all my ladies ; and, as refreshments were handed to me, I pulled off my glove, in doing which I pulled off my finger a ring, which fell unfortunately into the river : that ring I prized more than my kingdom ; so I leave you to judge of my affliction for its loss. I have since taken an oath never to listen to any proposals of marriage, except the ambassador, who makes such proposals, shall recover my ring. Under these circumstances, you see what you have to do ; and though you talk to me a fortnight, without ceasing day or night, you will not induce me to change my resolution." Graceful was astounded at this answer. He made her a low bow, and begged her to accept the little dog, the basket, and the scarf; but she answered that she wanted no presents, and that he knew her mind.
When Graceful reached his lodgings, he went to bed supperless ; and his little dog, named Dolce, would take no supper either, but went and laid himself down near his master. Graceful sighed all night long, repeating : " Where shall I find a ring dropped, more than a month ago, into a large river ? it would be folly to undertake it. The princess but desires me to undertake what she knows is impossible to accomplish." He sighed again, and was very sorrowful. Dolce, who had been listening, said to him : " My dear master, pray do not despair of your good fortune; you are too good to be otherwise than happy : so when daylight appears, let us go to the river side ; I will assist you." Graceful, annoyed, gave him a slight blow with his hand, and made no answer ; but, overwhelmed with sorrow, he soon fell asleep.
When Dolce observed that it was daylight, he awakened Graceful by barking, and said : " Master, dress yourself, and let us go out." Graceful was now willing to go with him ; so he arose, dressed himself, and descended into the garden, and from the garden he wandered insensibly to the river side. He was walking along, with his hat over his eyes, his arms crossed before him, only thinking of his departure, when all at once he heard a voice calling : " Graceful ! Graceful !" He looked all around him, and as he could see no one, thought that he had been mistaken. He was proceeding in his walk, when he heard the voice again calling: " Graceful ! Graceful !" " Who calls me ?" said he. Dolce, who was very little, and was looking very closely into the water, answered : " Never trust me if it be not a gilded carp/' Immediately, the carp rose to the surface and said to Graceful : " You saved my life in the poplar meadow, where I should have perished but for your assistance; I promised to be even with you: here dear Graceful, is the ring that the Fair One with the Golden Hair had lost." Graceful stooped, and took the ring from Mistress Carp's mouth, and thanked her a thousand times.
Instead of returning home, he went directly to the palace with the little Dolce, who was very glad that he had prevailed on his master to go with him to the river side. The princess was in- formed that he demanded a second audience. "Alas !" said she " the poor youth is coming to take his leave of me ; he knows that what I require is impossible, and is about to depart to tell his master so." Graceful was conducted into her presence, when he presented to her, herring, saying : " Behold, your majesty, I have fulfilled your request; and now, I trust, you will receive my royal master for your consort." When she saw her ring safe and sound, she was surprised, so very much surprised that she thought she was dreaming. " Really," said she, " courteous Graceful, you must be favoured by a fairy, for naturally, this is impossible." " Madam, said he, " I am unacquainted with any fairy ; but your commands I was anxious to obey." "Well, then, since you have so good a will," continued she, " you must do me another service, without which I will never marry. There is a prince who does not reside very far from here, called Galifron, who has a great desire to marry me. He declared his mind to me with the most dreadful menaces, stating that, if I would not accept him, he would desolate my kingdom with fire and sword. But judge whether I can mam 7 him, when I inform you that he is a giant as tall as a steeple ; and that he eats a man, as an ape eats a chestnut. When he goes into the country, he carries small cannons in his pockets, which serve him instead of pistols ; and when he speaks very loud, those who are near him become deaf for ever. I informed him that I did not wish to marry, and that he must excuse me ; however, he has not ceased to persecute me, slaying my subjects unmercifully ; you must, therefore, first of all fight him and bring me his head."
Graceful was rather astonished at this proposition ; but having pondered for a few moments, he answered: " Well, your majesty, I will fight Galifron ; I believe that I shall be conquered, but I will die as becomes a brave man." The princess was not a little surprised, and now used a thousand arguments to dissuade him from the enterprise, without effect : he withdrew to seek his arms and other things necessary for the expedition. Being quite ready, he replaced Dolce in his basket, mounted his fine steed, and presently arrived at Galifron's dominions. He enquired about him of every one he met, and was invariably answered that Galifron was a wicked demon, whom no one dared go near. Every time he heard this, he became more and more discouraged. Dolce, however, cheered him, with these words : " My dear master, while you are fighting him, I will bite his legs ; he will stoop to lay hold of me, and then you must kill him." Graceful admired his little dog's wit ; but he was well aware that this help would not be more than sufficient.
 After a while he drew near Galifron's castle ; all the roads leading to it were strewed with the bones and carcases of men whom he had eaten or torn to pieces. He was not long before he saw the giant coming through a wood ; his head was taller than the tallest of the trees, and he sang in a terrible voice :
" ! for a meal of children's flesh, Tender, new-killed, young and fresh,
My teeth are sharp, and half a score Will serve 'till I can get some more."
Graceful immediately sang to the same air :
" Approach, approach for Graceful's near, Who from your jaws your teeth will tear ;
Though not your match in size, you'll find One who to conquer you's inclined."
The metre was not very regular, but it was sung so hastily, that it is a miracle that it was not worse ; besides that he was exceedingly afraid. When Galifron heard these words, he looked all round him, and perceived Graceful, sword in hand, who uttered two or three abusive epithets to irritate him. They were however quite unnecessary ; the giant put himself into a terrible passion ; and taking an immense iron mace, he would, with the first blow, have crushed the gentle ambassador, had not a crow at that moment alighted on his head, and picked at his eyes so adroitly, that he picked them out ; his blood ran down his cheeks and he became desperate, laying about him on all sides. Graceful took care to avoid his blows, and gave him ?o many wounds, thrusting his sword each time up to the hilt, that his blood escaped from a thousand places, and he fell down exhausted. Graceful then cut off his head, transported with joy at his good fortune, and the crow from the branch of a tree said to him : " I do not forget the service you did me, in killing the eagle that had taken me ; I promised you to acquit myself of the obligation, and I think I have done so to day." " I acknowledge your kindness, Master Crow," replied Graceful, "and am your debtor and humble servant." He then mounted his horse, and set off with Galifron's horrible head.
When he arrived at the city, every body followed him crying : “Long live the brave Graceful, who has just slain the monster Galifron." The princess heard the noise very plainly, and was in an agony of fear lest any one should bring her news of GracefuTs death : she was therefore afraid to ask what had happened, when she saw the ambassador enter the room with the giant's head, which made her somewhat afraid, though there was nothing now to be afraid of. " Madam," said Graceful to hr, " your enemy is dead, and I hope that you will no longer refuse the king my master." " Alas ! yes," said the Fair One with the Golden Hair, " I must still refuse him unless you can find means, before my departure, to bring me some water from the gloomy grotto. There is, at a short distance from here, a deep cavern which is eighteen miles in compass ; the entrance into it is guarded by two dragons who allow no one to pass ; if you succeed in obtaining entrance, you will find an exceedingly- deep hole, into which you must descend : it is full of toads, adders and serpents. At the extreme end of this hole is situated a little grotto through which flows the fountain of beauty and health : some of this water I must absolutely hare. Its virtues are truly wonderful ; if the person who uses it be beautiful, she always remains beautiful ; if young, she is perpetually young; if ugly, she becomes handsome ; and if she be old, she becomes young again. Now judge, Graceful, whether I will quit my kingdom without carrying some of this water away with me."
"Madam," answered he, "you are so beautiful that this water will be perfectly useless to you ; but I am an unfortunate ambassador whose life you wish to take away, so I will go and seek what you desire, though with the certainty of never returning." The Fair One with the Golden Hair would not abandon her desire ; and Graceful departed, with little Dolce, for the gloomy grotto to seek the water of beauty. Every body who met him said : " What a pity that so amiable a youth should thus sacrifice his life ; he is going alone to the gloomy grotto, where though she sent a hundred times, she could not obtain her object. Why does the princess only long for impossibilities ?" Graceful heard them, but continued his journey in silence, and very sorrowfully.
After a while he arrived at the top of a mountain, where he sat down to rest himself, allowing his horse to graze, and Dolce to chase the flies. He knew that the gloomy grotto was not very far off, and looked about him to see if he could not discover it ; presently he observed a horribly black rock, whence a dense smoke was issuing, and the next moment he saw one of the dragons who was casting forth fire from his eyes and mouth ; his body was green and yellow, he had immense claws and a long tail disposed in more than a hundred folds : Dolce observed it also, and was so frightened that he did not know where to hide himself.
Graceful prepared to meet his death, drew his sword, and descended with a phial which the Fair One with the Golden Hair had given him to fill with the water of beauty. He said to his little dog: "This will be my end Dolce ! I shall never be able to procure this water ; it is so well guarded by the dragons ; when I am dead, fill the phial with my blood, and carry it to the princess that she may see what her rigour has cost me ; then find the king my master, and relate to him my misfortune." As he was saying these words, he heard a voice call : " Graceful, Graceful ! " He replied : " Who calls me ? " when he saw in the hollow of an old tree an owl, who said to him : " You liberated me from the fowlers' net in which I was taken, and saved my life ; I promised to repay the obligation, and the time has arrived for me to do so. Give me your phial; I am well acquainted with all the entrances to the gloomy grotto, and will fetch you some of the water of beauty." I leave you to imagine how gladly Graceful gave the phial, with which the owl entered, without encountering any obstacle, into the cavern. In less than a quarter of an hour, the owl returned with the phial well filled and closely stopped. Graceful was in ecstacies, and thanked the owl with all his heart ; he then re- ascended the mountain, and joyfully re-took the road leading to the city.

He went straight to the palace, and presented the phial to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, who had no more to say ; she thanked Graceful, gave orders for every thing to be prepared for her departure ; and then, all being ready, she set out with him. The princess who thought he was amiable, said to him : "If you had wished it I would have made you king ; it would not then have been necessary to leave my kingdom ; " but he answered : "I would not have been guilty of so wicked a piece of treachery to my master, for all the kingdoms of the earth, though I confess that your beauty is more dazzling than the sun."
They presently arrived at the king's capital ; and the king knowing that the Fair One with the Golden Hair was coming, went forth to meet her, and made her the handsomest presents in the world. The nuptials between them were celebrated with so many rejoicings that nothing else was spoken of ; but the Fair One with the Golden Hair, who in her heart preferred Graceful to the king, was never easy when he was out of her sight, and was continually praising him. " Had it not been for Graceful," she would say to the king : "I should certainly not have come ; for my sake he performed impossibilities ; you are under infinite obligations to him ; he procured me the water of beauty, so that I shall never grow old, and shall always be beautiful."
GracefuTs old enemies who overheard the queen's words, said to the king: "You are not jealous, and yet you have cause enough to be so : your queen is so violently in love with Graceful, that she can neither eat nor drink ; she speaks incessantly of him and the obligations you owe him, as though another ambassador would not have met with the like success." The king answered : " Indeed I am now sensible enough of the truth of what you tell me ; let him be taken to the round tower and fettered hand and foot." Graceful was seized ; and as a return for all his faithful sen-ices to the king, he was again incarcerated and heavily chained. He saw no one but the gaoler, who threw him a morsel of black bread through a hole in the wall, and left him some water in an earthen porringer. However, his little dog Dolce did not leave him, but consoled his master by informing him of all the news of the day.
When the Fair One with the Golden Hair was informed of Graceful's misfortune, she threw herself at the king's feet, and besought him, all in tears, to release the prisoner from his confinement. But the more she entreated, the more angry the king became, thinking that her affection for Graceful, alone, prompted her supplications. As she could not prevail, she said no more, but became very sad and low-spirited.
The king took it into his head, that perhaps he was not handsome enough for her ; so he determined to wash his face with the water of beauty, with the design of causing the queen to conceive a greater affection for him than she then had. The water was in a phial which stood on the mantel- piece in the queen's bed chamber. She had placed it there that it might never be out of her sight ; but as one of her chamber-maids was killing a spider with a broom, she accidentally overturned the phial, which, falling on the floor, broke into a thousand pieces, and all the water was lost. She swept the pieces quickly away, and not knowing what to do, remembered to have seen in the king's closet, a phial, exactly resembling the one she had broken, full of a clear liquid like the water of beauty ; so without saying a word of what she had done, she removed it dexterously from where it was standing to the queen's mantel-piece.
The liquid which was in the king's closet was a certain poison that he made use of to put to death the great lords and nobles of his court when they were convicted of any great crime. Instead of having their heads cut off or hanging them, their faces were rubbed with this water, which threw them into a profound sleep from which they never awakened. Accordingly one evening the king took the phial from the mantel-piece in the queen's chamber, and rubbing his face over well with the liquid that was in it, fell into a deep sleep, and died. The little Dolce was one of the first who heard of it, and did not fail to inform Graceful of what had taken place, when his master desired him to seek the Fair One with the Golden Hair, and remind her of the poor prisoner.
Dolce slipped quietly through the crowd, for there was a great bustle and confusion about the court, on the king's death. " Madam," said he to the queen, "do not forget the poor Graceful." She but too well remembered the misfortunes he had suffered for her sake, and his great fidelity; so she went out without saying: a word to any one, immediately entered the tower, and herself took off the shackles from his hands and feet ; which done, she placed a golden crown upon his head and the royal mantle over his shoulders, saying to him : " Come amiable Graceful, I will make you a king, and take you for my husband." Graceful threw himself on his knees, and thanked her in the most fervent and respectful manner. All the people were enchanted to have him for their king : the wedding-feast was the most gorgeous that was ever seen ; and the Fair One with the Golden Hair long reigned with the handsome Graceful, each of them happy and contented in the enjoyment of the other.


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