NCE upon a time there was a Queen who had a son, so ugly and misshapen that it was doubted for a long time whether his form was really human. A fairy, who was present at his birth, affirmed, nevertheless, that he would be worthy to be loved, as he would have an excellent wit; she added, moreover, that by virtue of the gift she had bestowed upon him, he would be able to impart equal intelligence to the one whom he loved best. All this was some consolation to the poor Queen, who was much distressed at having brought so ugly a little monkey into the world. It is true that the child was no sooner able to speak than he said a thousand pretty things, and that in all his ways there was a certain air of intelligence, with which everyone was charmed. I had forgotten to say that he was born with a little tuft of hair on his head, and so he came to be called Riquet with the Tuft; for Riquet was the family name.
About seven or eight years later, the Queen of a neighboring kingdom had two daughters. The elder was fairer than the day, and the Queen was so delighted that it was feared some harm might come to her from her great joy. The same fairy who had assisted at the birth of little Riquet was present upon this occasion, and in order to moderate the joy of the Queen she told her that this little Princess would have no gifts of mind at all, and that she would be as stupid as she was beautiful. The Queen was greatly mortified on hearing this, but shortly after, she was even more annoyed when her second little daughter was born and proved to be extremely ugly. "Do not distress yourself, madam," said the fairy to her, "your daughter will find compensation, for she will have so much intelligence that her lack of beauty will scarcely be perceived."
"Heaven send it may be so!" replied the Queen; "but are there no means whereby a little more understanding might be given to the elder, who is so lovely?" "I can do nothing for her in the way of intelligence, madam," said the fairy, "but everything in the way of beauty; as, however, there is nothing in my power I would not do to give you comfort, I will bestow on her the power of conferring beauty on any man or woman who shall please her." As these two Princesses grew up their endowments also became more perfect, and nothing was talked of anywhere but the beauty of the elder and the intelligence of the younger. It is true that their defects also greatly increased with their years. The younger became uglier every moment, and the elder more stupid every day. She either made no answer when she was spoken to, or else said something foolish. With this she was so clumsy that she could not even place four pieces of china on a mantel shelf without breaking one of them, or drink a glass of water without spilling half of it on her dress. Notwithstanding the attraction of beauty, the younger, in whatever society they might be, nearly always bore away the palm from her sister. At first everyone went up to the more beautiful to gaze at and admire her; but they soon left her for the cleverer one, to listen to her many pleasant and amusing sayings; and people were astonished to find that in less than a quarter of an hour the elder had not a soul near her, while all the company had gathered around the younger. The elder, though very stupid, noticed this, and would have given, without regret, all her beauty for half the sense of her sister. Discreet as she was, the Queen could not help often reproaching her with her stupidity, which made the poor Princess ready to die of grief.
One day, when she had gone by herself into a wood to weep over her misfortune, she saw approaching her a little man of very ugly and unpleasant appearance, but magnificently dressed. It was the young Prince Riquet with the Tuft, who, having fallen in love with her from seeing her portraits, which were sent all over the world, had left his father's kingdom that he might have the pleasure of beholding her and speaking to her. Enchanted at meeting her thus alone, he addressed her with all the respect and politeness imaginable. Having remarked, after paying her the usual compliments, that she was very melancholy, he said to her: "I cannot understand, madam, how a person as beautiful as you are can be so unhappy as you appear; for, although I can boast of having seen an infinite number of beautiful people, I can say with truth that I have never seen one whose beauty could be compared with yours."
"You are pleased to say so, sir," replied the Princess, and there she stopped.
"Beauty," continued Riquet, "is so great an advantage that it ought to take the place of every other, and, possessed of it, I see nothing that can have power to afflict one."
"I would rather," said the Princess, "be as ugly as you are and have intelligence, than possess the beauty I do and be as stupid as I am."
"There is no greater proof of intelligence, madam, than the belief that we have it not; it is the nature of that gift, that the more we have, the more we believe ourselves to be without it."
"I do not know how that may be," said the Princess, "but I know well enough that I am very stupid, and this is the cause of the grief that is killing me."
"If that is all that troubles you, madam, I can easily put an end to your sorrow."
"And how would you do so?" said the Princess.
"I have the power, madam," said Riquet with the Tuft, "to give as much intelligence as it is possible to possess to the person whom I love best; as you, madam are that person, it will depend entirely upon yourself whether or not you become gifted with this amount of intelligence—provided that you are willing to marry me."
The Princess was stricken dumb with astonishment, and replied not a word.
"I see," said Riquet with the Tuft, "that this proposal troubles you, I am not surprised, but I will give you a full year to consider it."
The Princess had so little sense, and at the same time was so anxious to have a great deal, that she thought the end of that year would never come; so she at once accepted the offer that was made her. She had no sooner promised Riquet with the Tuft that she would marry him that day twelve months than she felt herself quite another person from what she had previously been. She found she was able to say whatever she pleased, with a readiness past belief, and to say it in a clever, but easy and natural manner. She immediately began a sprightly and well-sustained conversation with Riquet with the Tuft, and was so brilliant in her talk that the Prince began to think he had given her more wit than he had reserved for himself. On her return to the palace, the whole court was puzzled to account for a change so sudden and extraordinary; for instead of the number of foolish things which they had been accustomed to hear from her, she now made as many sensible and exceedingly witty remarks. All the court was in a state of joy not to be described. The younger sister alone was not altogether pleased, for, having lost her superiority over her sister in the way of intelligence, she now appeared by her side merely as a very unpleasing-looking person.
The King now began to be guided by his elder daughter's advice, and at times even held his council in her apartments. The news of the change of affairs was spread abroad, and all the young princes of the neighboring kingdoms exerted themselves to gain her affection, and nearly all of them asked her hand in marriage. She found none of them, however, intelligent enough to please her, and she listened to all of them without engaging herself to one.
At length arrived a prince so rich and powerful, so clever and so handsome, that she could not help listening willingly to his addresses. Her father, having perceived this, told her that he left her at perfect liberty to choose a husband for herself, and that she had only to make known her decision. As the more intelligence we possess, the more difficulty we find in making up our mind on such a matter as this, she begged her father, after having thanked him, to allow her time to think about it.
She went by chance to walk in the same wood in which she had met Riquet with the Tuft, in order to meditate more uninterruptedly over what she had to do. While she was walking, deep in thought, she heard a dull sound beneath her feet, as of many persons running to and fro and busily occupied. Having listened more attentively she heard one say, "Bring me that saucepan"; another, "Give me that kettle"; another, "Put some wood on the fire." At the same moment the ground opened, and she saw beneath her what appeared to be a large kitchen, full of cooks, scullions, and all sorts of servants necessary for the preparation of a magnificent banquet. There came forth a band of about twenty to thirty cooks, who went and established themselves in an avenue of the wood, at a very long table, and who, each with the larding pin in his hand and the tail of his fur cap over his ear, set to work, keeping time to a harmonious song.
The Princess, astonished at this sight, asked the men for whom they were working.
"Madam," replied the chief among them, "for Prince Riquet with the Tuft, whose marriage will take place tomorrow." The Princess, still more surprised than she was before, and suddenly recollecting that it was just a twelve-month from the day on which she had promised to marry Prince Riquet with the Tuft, was overcome with trouble and amazement. The reason of her not having remembered her promise was, that when she made it she had been a very foolish person, and since she became gifted with the new mind that the Prince had given her, she had forgotten all her follies.
She had not taken another thirty steps when Riquet with the Tuft presented himself before her, gaily and splendidly attired, like a prince about to be married. "You see, madam," said he, "I keep my word punctually, and I doubt not that you have come hither to keep yours, and to make me, by the giving of your hand, the happiest of men."
"I confess to you frankly," answered the Princess, "that I have not yet made up my mind on that matter, and that I doubt if I shall ever be able to do so in the way you wish."
"You astonish me, madam," said Riquet with the Tuft.
"I have no doubt that I do," said the Princess; "and assuredly, had I to deal with a stupid person, with a man without intelligence, I should feel greatly perplexed. 'A Princess is bound by her word,' he would say to me, 'and you must marry me, as you have promised to do so.' But as the person to whom I speak is, of all men in the world, the one of greatest sense and understanding, I am certain he will listen to reason. You know that, when I was no better than a fool, I nevertheless could not decide to marry you—how can you expect, now that I have the mind which you have given me, and which renders me much more difficult to please than before, that I should take to-day a resolution which I could not then? If you seriously thought of marrying me you did very wrong to take away my stupidity, and so enable me to see more clearly than I saw then."
"If a man without intelligence," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "who reproached you with your breach of promise, might have a right, as you have just intimated, to be treated with indulgence, why would you, madam, that I should receive less consideration in a matter which affects the entire happiness of my life? Is it reasonable that persons of intellect should be in a worse position than those who have none? Can you assert this—you who have so much, and who so earnestly desired to possess it? But let us come to the point, if you please. Setting aside my ugliness, is there anything in me that displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my birth, my understanding, my temper, or my manners?"
"Not in the least," replied the Princess; "I admire in you everything you have mentioned."
"If that is so," rejoined Riquet with the Tuft, "I shall soon be happy, as you have it in your power to make me the most pleasing-looking of men."
"How can that be done?" asked the Princess.
"It can be done," said Riquet with the Tuft, "if you love me sufficiently to wish that it should be. And in order, madam, that you should have no doubt about it, know that the same fairy who, on the day I was born, endowed me with the power to give intelligence to the person I chose, gave you also the power to render handsome the man you should love, and on whom you should wish to bestow this favor."
"If such be the fact," said the Princess, "I wish, with all my heart, that you should become the handsomest and most lovable Prince in the world, and I bestow the gift on you to the fullest extent in my power."
The Princess had no sooner pronounced these words than Riquet with the Tuft appeared to her eyes, of all men in the world, the handsomest, the best-made, and most attractive she had ever seen.
There are some who assert that it was not the spell of the fairy, but love alone that caused this metamorphosis. They say that the Princess, having reflected on the perseverance of her lover, on his prudence, and on all the good qualities of his heart and mind, no longer saw the deformity of his body, or the ugliness of his features; that his hump appeared to her nothing more than a good-natured shrug of his shoulders, and that instead of noticing, as she had done, how badly he limped, she saw in him only a certain lounging air, which charmed her. They say also that his eyes, which squinted, only seemed to her the more brilliant for this; and that the crookedness of his glance was to her merely expressive of his great love; and, finally, that his great red nose had in it, to her mind, something martial and heroic. However this may be, the Princess promised on the spot to marry him, provided he obtained the consent of the King, her father. The King, having learned that his daughter entertained a great regard for Riquet with the Tuft, whom he also knew to be a very clever and wise Prince, received him with pleasure as his son-in-law. The wedding took place the next morning, as Riquet with the Tuft had foreseen, and according to the orders which he had given a long time before.
No beauty, no talent, has power above
Some indefinite charm discern'd only by love.