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PRINCE FATAL AND PRINCE FORTUNE
HERE was a queen, who had two sweet pretty boys; and a fairy, who was the queen’s intimate friend, was invited to stand godmother to them, and make them some gift. ‘I endow the eldest,’ said she, ‘with all manner of misfortunes till he is five-and-twenty; and I name him Fatal.’ At these words the queen gave a loud cry, and entreated the fairy to change her gift. ‘You do not know what you ask,’ said she to the queen, ‘if he does not meet with misfortunes he will be wicked.’ The queen durst say no more, but begged the fairy to let her choose for the second son. ‘Perhaps you will choose wrong,’ replied the fairy, ‘but no matter, I am willing to grant whatever you ask me for him’ — ‘I wish,’ said the queen, ‘that he may succeed in whatever he undertakes, ‘t is the way for him to be perfect.’ ‘Perhaps you may be mistaken,’ said the fairy, ‘and for that reason I grant him this gift no longer than till he is five-and-twenty.’ Nurses were provided for the young princes; but the third day the nurse of the eldest was taken ill of a fever: he had another, and she fell down and broke her leg: a third lost her milk as soon as prince Fatal was put to the breast: and it being spread abroad that prince Fatal was unfortunate in his nurses, nobody would suckle, or so much as come near him. The poor child was hungry, and cried, but met with no pity: at last a mean homely countrywoman, who was very poor, and had a large family of children which she could scarcely maintain, came and offered to bring him up, provided they would give her a large sum of money; and as the king and queen did not love prince Fatal, they gave her what she asked, and bid her take him home to her village. The youngest prince, who was named Fortune, on the contrary, throve surprisingly; his papa and mama doted upon him, and never thought of the eldest. The wicked woman to whom they had given poor Fatal, no sooner got home, than she took off his fine swaddling clothes to bestow them on a son of her own about Fatal’s age; and having wrapped the poor prince in an old petticoat, she carried him into a wood, and left him to be devoured by the wild beasts: but a lioness, that had three young whelps, brought him into her den and gave him suck; which made him grow so fast and strong, that at six months he could run alone. In the mean time the nurse’s son, whom she passed for the prince, died, and the king and queen were glad they had got rid of him. Fatal remained in the woods till he was two years old; when a nobleman, an officer of the court, as he was hunting, was astonished to find a lovely boy in the midst of wild beasts. He was moved to pity, took him home; and hearing that a child was wanted as a companion to play with prince Fortune, he presented Fatal to the queen.
Fortune had a master to teach him to read; but this master was charged not to make him cry. The young prince heard this, and cried every time he took his book in hand, so that at five years of age he could hardly tell his letters; while Fatal, on the contrary, read perfectly well, and had already made some progress in writing. To frighten the prince, his master was ordered to whip Fatal whenever Fortune neglected his lesson; so that it was in vain for Fatal to be good, and apply himself to his book, he could not escape punishment: besides, Fortune was so ill-natured and wilful, that he used his brother very ill, though indeed he did not know he was his brother. If Fatal had an apple, or plaything, Fortune would snatch it away. He obliged him to be silent when he wanted to speak, and would make him talk when he wished to hold his tongue; in a word, he was a little martyr, and pitied by no one. They lived together in this manner till their eleventh year, when the queen was amazed at her son’s ignorance. ‘Certainly,’ said she, ‘the fairy has deceived me. I imagined my son would be the most learned that ever was: since I wished him to succeed in whatever he undertook.’ Accordingly she went to consult the fairy about the matter, who said to her, ‘Madam, you should have desired a willing mind and virtuous inclinations for your son, rather than great talents; all his endeavors are to be wicked, and your majesty is a witness of the great progress he has made.’ After having said this, she turned from her, and the poor Queen returned to the palace in the utmost affliction.
She hastened to reprove Fortune, in order to make him better; but instead of promising amendment, he told her that if they vexed him he would starve himself. The queen at this, frightened out of her senses, took him upon her knee, kissed him, gave him sweetmeats, and assured him that he should not learn any thing for a whole week, if he would eat his victuals as usual. All this time Fatal improved so much that he was quite a wonder of learning and mildness of temper; he had been so used to be contradicted, that, in a manner, he had no will of his own; and he thought himself happy if he could but prevent the ill effects of Fortune’s capricious humours: but this sad child, enraged to see that Fatal improved more than himself, could not bear the sight of him; and the tutors, to please their young master, beat poor Fatal every moment. At last this wicked boy told the queen, that he would not have Fatal live with him any longer, and that he would not eat a morsel till he was sent away; so that poor Fatal was turned into the street, no one daring to take him in for fear of displeasing the prince. He passed the night under a tree, half dead with cold, (it was winter) with only a bit of bread for his supper, which some good person or other had given him out of charity. As soon as it was daylight, he said to himself, ‘I will not stay here doing nothing, but try if I cannot get my living till I am big enough to be a soldier. I remember to have read, in history, of several common men, who have afterwards been made great generals; and perhaps, if I behave well, I may have the same good fortune: ‘t is true I have neither father nor mother; but God himself is the father of orphans, and he that gave me a lioness for my nurse surely will not forsake me now.’ Having said this, Fatal kneeled down to say his prayers, for he never missed saying them night and morning, and always when he prayed, he fixed his eyes on the ground, with his hands lifted up and joined together, and neither turned his head one way nor the other.
While Fatal was on his knees, a countryman chanced to be going by; and seeing him pray so earnestly, said to himself, ‘I am sure this must be a good child; I have a great mind to have him to take care of my sheep, and God will bless me for his sake;’ so he waited till Fatal had ended his prayer, and then said to him: ‘Little boy, will you come and live with me, and mind my sheep? I will keep you and take care of you.’ — ‘With all my heart,’ said Fatal, ‘and I will do all in my power to serve you honestly.’ This countryman was a wealthy farmer, and had a great many servants, who wronged their master; and, indeed, so did his wife and children. They were mightily pleased when they saw Fatal, ‘for,’ said they, ‘this is but a child, and we can do whatever we will with him.’ One day the farmer’s wife said to him, ‘Child, my husband is a miser, and never gives me any money; let me take a sheep, and you shall tell him the wolf ran away with it.’ — ‘Madam,’ replied Fatal, ‘I would with all my heart do anything to serve you, but I had rather die than be a thief and a liar.’ — ‘You are a fool,’ said she; ‘who will know it?’ — ‘Oh, madam!’ Fatal answered, ‘God will know it; for he sees whatever we do, and punishes those who lie and steal.’ At these words his mistress lost all patience; she flew upon him, beat him, and tore the hair off his head. The farmer, hearing Fatal cry, came and asked his wife what made her beat him in that manner?’ — ‘Why truly,’ said she, ‘because he is a glutton: the little greedy rascal has this morning eaten up a pot of cream which I was going to carry to market.’ — ‘O fie!’ said the farmer, ‘I cannot bear liquorish people;’ and immediately he called one of his servants, and ordered him to whip Fatal; and all that the boy could say to justify himself signified nothing; his mistress insisted that she saw him eat the cream, and she was believed. After this he was sent into the fields to tend the sheep, and his mistress went to him, and said, ‘Well! will you give me one of the sheep now?’ — ‘No indeed,’ replied Fatal, ‘I should be sorry to do any such thing; you may use me as you please, but you shall never make me guilty of an untruth.’ So finding him resolute, this wicked woman, out of revenge, set all the other servants against him; they made him stay out late in the fields, and instead of giving him victuals, like the rest, she only sent him bread and water; and, when he came home, laid to his charge all the mischief that was done in the family.
He staid a year at the farmer’s; and though he lay on the ground, and was but indifferently fed, yet he grew so strong and tall, that at thirteen years of age, any one would have supposed him to be fifteen; besides, he was become so patient, that he bore all their ill usage with the utmost calmness and meekness. One day, while he was at the farm, he heard that a king of a neighbouring country was at war, and wanted soldiers. Fatal went and asked his master to let him go; and having got leave, he travelled on foot to this prince’s territories, where he enlisted himself under a captain, who, though he was a great nobleman, behaved more like a porter or a dray-man than a person of quality: he swore, beat his soldiers, and cheated them of their pay; and with this officer Fatal was more miserable than at the farmer’s. He had engaged for ten years; and though he saw the greatest number of his comrades desert, yet he would never follow their example; ‘for,’ said he, ‘I have received money to serve ten years, and it would be wronging the king to go away before my time is expired.’ Notwithstanding this captain ‘was a bad man, and used Fatal no better than the rest, yet he could not help esteeming him, because he saw that he always did his duty; and he would send him on his messages, and entrust him with money, and give him the key of his room whenever he dined abroad or went into the country: and though he did not love reading, he had a large library, to make people believe he was a man of great sense and learning; for in that country they despised an ignorant officer, and looked upon such as did not know something of books, or at least of history, as unfit for any military action of importance.
When Fatal had done his duty as a soldier, instead of going to game and drink with his comrades, be would lock himself up in the captain’s room, and there endeavour to learn his profession, by reading the lives of great men, till at last he became capable of commanding an army. He had been seven years enlisted, when his regiment was ordered to the field: his captain took him and six others, and went to reconnoitre a wood; and when they were in the midst of it, the soldiers said one to another, ‘Let us kill this wicked fellow, who is always caning us, and cheats us of our pay.’ Fatal represented the baseness of such an action, and dissuaded them from it; but instead of hearkening to him, they said they would kill him and the captain too, and immediately drew their swords. Fatal placed himself before the captain, and fought with so much bravery, that he alone slew four of the soldiers. His captain, seeing he owed his life to Fatal, asked his pardon for all the wrong he had done him; and having informed the king of what had happened, Fatal was made a captain, and the king gave him a considerable pension.
Now none of the soldiers ever wanted to kill Fatal; he loved them as if they were his own children, and they had the same affection for him as for a father: instead of defrauding them of their pay, he gave them money out of his own pocket to encourage them when they behaved well; was careful and tender of them when they were sick or wounded, and never found fault with them out of caprice and ill humour. About that time a great battle was fought, and the commander-in-chief being slain, all the officers and soldiers fled; but Fatal cried out that he had rather die fighting, than fly meanly like a coward; and his soldiers told him they would not forsake him; and their example had so good an effect with the others, that they all came back, arranged themselves round Fatal, and fought with such success, that the son of the king of their enemies was taken prisoner. The other king was greatly rejoiced when he heard he had gained the victory, and told Fatal he made him general of all his armies. Afterwards he presented him to the queen, and to the princess his daughter, who gave him their hands to kiss; but at the sight of the princess, Fatal was struck motionless like a statue; she was so beautiful, that he fell in love with her to distraction; and then he was unhappy indeed, for he thought that such an one as he must have no hopes of marrying a princess; he resolved, for that reason, to conceal his affection, and daily underwent the utmost torture. But it was much worse when he was informed that Fortune was also in love with the princess Graciosa (for that was her name), having seen her picture, and that an ambassador was arrived to ask her in marriage. Fatal was ready to die with grief; but the princess Graciosa, who knew that Fortune was a base and wicked prince, entreated her father with such earnestness not to force her to the match, that the ambassador was told the princess did not choose to marry yet. Fortune, who had never been used to be contradicted, fell into a most violent passion, when they returned with the princess’s answer; and his father, who could not deny him anything, declared war against the father of Graciosa. But he was not much concerned about it; ‘for,’ said he, ‘while Fatal is at the head of my army, I am not at all afraid of being overcome.’ So, having sent for his general, he told him the affair, and bid him prepare for war.
Fatal, at this, threw himself at his feet, and said, ‘that he was born in the dominions of prince Fortune’s father, and could not take up arms against his sovereign.’ But the king was very angry, and threatened to put him to death if he refused to obey him; and, on the contrary, promised to give him his daughter in marriage, if he defeated Fortune. This was a sad temptation to poor Fatal. However, at last, he resolved to do his duty; and therefore, without saying anything to the king, he quitted the court, and forsook all his riches and great expectations. Fortune, soon after, put himself at the head of the army, and took the field; but before five days were at end, he fell ill with fatigue, for he was very delicate and tender; and having never been used to any hardships, or to take any exercise, he could not bear heat or cold; in short, every thing made him sick.
About this time, the ambassador, who had been sent to demand Graciosa for Fortune, in order to make his court to the prince, told him that he saw the little boy that had been turned out of his palace, at the court of Graciosa’s father, and that it was generally reported, he had promised him his daughter in marriage. Fortune, at this piece of intelligence, fell into a most terrible fit of passion; and as soon as he was recovered, he set out fully resolved to dethrone the father of Graciosa, and promised a great reward to whoever should take Fatal either dead or alive. Fortune gained several great victories, though he did not fight himself — for be was afraid of being killed — but he had able and experienced commanders. At last he besieged the capital of the enemy, and was preparing to take it by storm, when, on the eve of the intended assault, Fatal was brought before him, bound in chains, (for great numbers of people had been sent in search of him.) Fortune rejoiced at this opportunity of exercising his revenge, and gave orders for him to be beheaded, before they stormed the town, in sight of the enemy. That very day he gave a grand entertainment to his officers, to celebrate his birthday, being now twenty-five years complete. The besieged, hearing Fatal was taken, and was to have his head struck off in an hour, resolved to deliver him or perish, for they remembered how kind he had been to them while he was their general: they asked the king’s leave to sally out, and were victorious. Fortune’s gift of prosperity was now over, and in his flight from the enemy he was killed. The conquerors ran to unbind Fatal; and at the same moment they saw two glittering chariots appear in the air, in one of which was seated the fairy, and in the other Fatal’s father and mother, who were both fast asleep. They did not awake till just as the chariots touched the ground, and were greatly surprised to find themselves in the midst of an army. The fairy then addressing herself to the queen, and presenting Fatal to her, said, ‘Madam, in this hero behold your eldest son: the misfortunes he has undergone, have corrected the defects of his temper, which was naturally violent and unruly; whereas Fortune, who, on the contrary, was born with excellent inclinations, has been utterly spoiled by indulgence and flattery; and God would not permit him to live any longer, because he would only have grown more wicked every day he lived. He is just now killed; but, to comfort you for his death, know that, impatient of ascending the throne, he was on the point of dethroning his father.’ The king and queen were greatly astonished, and embraced Fatal very affectionately, having heard great commendations of him. Princess Graciosa and her father were delighted with the discovery of prince Fatal’s rank. He married Graciosa, and they lived together to a good old age, perfectly happy and perfectly virtuous.