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HERE was once a king named Alfourite, who was both amiable and powerful; this neighbour, the emperor Matapa, as still more powerful, and in the last battle they fought against each other, had gained a complete victory, leaving the king despoiled of all his treasures: these the emperor conveyed to his own palace, where he was received on his return by the empress with great rejoicings. In the mean time, king Alfourite was in the greatest affliction for the injury he had sustained, and began to think of making some endeavours to regain what he had lost. He accordingly assembled the small remains of his army, and, to increase its numbers, published a decree, that every gentleman and nobleman in his kingdom, must come in person, to assist him in his enterprise, or, in case of failure, to pay a large sum of money. On the frontiers of his kingdom there lived a nobleman who was eighty years of age: he had once been extremely rich, but through misfortunes was now reduced to a scanty provision for himself and three daughters, who lived with him in a happy and contented retirement. When this old nobleman heard of the king’s decree, he called his daughters to him, telling them he knew not what to do; ‘for,’ said he, ‘I am too old to engage in the king’s army, and to pay the tax, would ruin us at once.’ — ‘Do not thus afflict yourself, my father,’ said his daughters: ‘some remedy may surely be thought of.’ — ‘I,’ said the eldest, ‘am young and robust, and we are accustomed to fatigue: why should not I dress myself like a cavalier, and offer my services to king Alfourite?’ The old Lord embraced her tenderly, and, seeing her earnestly bent on the experiment, gave his consent: and as soon as the necessary preparations could be made, she set out. The princess had not proceeded far, before she observed an old shepherdess, all in tears, endeavouring to draw one of her sheep out of a ditch, into which it had fallen. ‘What are you doing, Goody?’ said the cavalier. ‘Alas!’ replied she, ‘I am trying to save my sheep, which is almost drowned; I am too weak to get it out.’ — ‘You are very unfortunate truly,’ answered he, at the same time spurring his horse to ride away. ‘Adieu, disguised lady!’ said the old shepherdess. No astonishment could exceed that of the earl’s daughter on finding herself discovered. ‘If this is the case,’ says she, ‘I had better return at once, since a single glance at me, is sufficient to convince every one that I am not a man.’ She accordingly returned, and related the whole to her father and sisters. The second daughter then said: ‘It would not have been thus, if I had gone instead of you, for I am both taller and more robust, and I would lay any wager I should have succeeded.’ The old lord was prevailed on to let his second daughter go; she, however, met with the same adventure as her sister, and returned in the same sorrow. The youngest daughter, who on account of her amiable disposition was her father’s favourite, entreated she might not be denied the privilege of trying her fortune as well as her sisters; which, at last, after much persuasion, the old lord agreed to: but, as he had expended a good deal of money in equipping his two eldest daughters, he could provide the youngest only with a poor cart horse, and the meanest apparel imaginable. When these were ready, the old gentleman embraced her tenderly, and she bade both him and her sisters farewell.
Passing through the same field, the old shepherdess again presented herself, employed as before. ‘What are you about, my good woman?’ said the amiable cavalier: ‘can I be of any service to you?’ and perceiving as he advanced, the sheep struggling in the water, immediately jumped off his horse, and pulled it out. Upon this, the old shepherdess turned to him, and said: ‘Charming stranger, you shall find me grateful forthe kindness you have done me. I am a fairy, and know well enough who you are, and I will be your friend.’ Accordingly, she touched the ground with her wand, and the most beautiful horse, superbly harnessed, stood before them, and seemed to invite the cavalier to get upon his back. The beauty of this horse,’ continued the fairy, ‘is his least perfection; for he possesses the rare quality of eating only once a week; and the still rarer, of knowing the past, the present, and the future. If you wish at any time to know what you ought to do for the best, you have only to consult him: you should therefore regard him as your best friend.’ The fairy added, that if he stood in need of clothes, money, or jewels, he must stamp with his foot upon the ground, when a morocco trunk, containing the article he desired, would instantly make its appearance. ‘We must next,’ said she, ‘supply you with a proper name; and none, I think, can be more proper than that of Fortunio, since you have had the good fortune to deserve my favor.’ Fortunio assured the fairy of his gratitude: he stamped with his foot that he might procure himself a magnificent suit of clothes; he dressed himself, embraced his bountiful friend, and pursued his way to the palace of the king.
At the end of his first day’s journey, he thought of sending a sum of money to his father, and some jewels to his sisters: he therefore shut himself in his chamber, and stamped loudly with his foot; a trunk immediately appeared, but it was locked, and without a key. Fortunio was at a loss how to remedy this new perplexity; when suddenly recollecting that Comrade (so the horse was called) could most probably afford him some assistance, he paid him a visit in his stable. ‘Comrade,’ said he, ‘where can I find the key of the trunk filled with money and jewels?’ — ‘In my ear,’ says Comrade. Fortunio looked in his ear, and there was the key tied to a piece of green ribband. He then joyfully opened the trunk, and despatched the presents. The next morning he mounted his faithful Comrade, and proceeded on his journey. They had not gone far, when, passing through a thick forest, they saw a man cutting down trees. Comrade stopped, and told his master he had better engage this man, whose name was Strongback, in his service, as a fairy had bestowed on him the gift of carrying what weight he chose upon his back at once. Fortunio approached, and found him extremely willing to accept his offer. When they had proceeded a little further, they saw another man, who was tying his legs together. Comrade again stopped, saying: ‘Master, you cannot do better than to hire this man also; for he has the gift of running ten times faster than any deer; for which reason it is that he is now tying his legs, that he may not run so fast as to leave all the game he is going in pursuit of behind him.’ Fortunio engaged Lightfoot also, without the least hesitation. On the following day they perceived a man who was tying a bandage over his eyes. ‘He, too,’ said Comrade, ‘is gifted, for he can see at the distance of a thousand miles; on which account, as he is going to kill game, he wishes to make his sight less perfect, that he may not kill so many at a time as to leave none for the following day: he cannot fail of being useful to us.’ Fortunio accordingly engaged him without difficulty, and found his name was Marksman.
At a short distance further they saw a man lying on his side, and putting his ear to the ground. Fortunio asked Comrade, if he too was gifted, and if he thought he could be useful to him? ‘nothing is more certain,’ answered Comrade. ‘This man has the gift of hearing in such perfection as none before him ever possessed: his name is Fine-ear, and he is this moment employed in listening, to hear if some herbs he stands in need of are now coming up from the earth.’ Fortunio thought the gift of Fine-ear more curious than even the rest, and accordingly made him such proposals for entering his service as he thought proper to accept. When they were on their last day’s journey, they had the good fortune to meet with another man, who, as well as the rest was gifted in the most extraordinary manner; for Comrade assured him that he could work wind-mills with a single breath. ‘Shall I engage him, too?’ cried Fortunio. ‘You will have reason to be satisfied, if you do so,’ answered comrade. So Boisterer was instantly engaged. Just as they were in sight of the city, in which the palace stood, they observed two men sitting near each other on the ground. ‘Ah!’ cried Comrade, ‘no one was ever so fortunate as you, my master: both these men are also gifted; if we had been one minute later, no doubt we should have missed them. He who sits nearest to us is called Gormand, because he can eat a thousand loaves at a mouthful. The other drinks up whole rivers without once stopping to breathe; his name is Tippler: get them both into your service and your good fortune will be complete.’ Fortunio did not hesitate a moment in doing as he was desired; so he proceeded to the palace, attended by Strongback, Lightfoot, Marksman, Fine-ear, Boisterer, Gormand, and Tippler, who all promised to use their extraordinary talents as he should be pleased to command. Fortunio then stamped with his foot, and a trunk made its appearance, filled with the richest liveries to fit each of them; which they accordingly put on, and proceeded in great pomp to the king’s palace, where Fortunio was most graciously received, and provided with the best apartments it afforded, the king having desired he would rest from his fatigue before he entered into conversation with him. The next day Fortunio was presented to the princess, his sister; who, having been married when young to a neighbouring prince, was now a widow, and was living with her brother, to console him in his misfortunes. She received Fortunio very kindly, thinking he was the handsomest prince she had ever beheld. Fortunio was so much pleased with the king, that she wished she might be made the king’s page. But while she was thus thinking she should like to spend her life with the king, the princess, his sister, was thinking she should like to spend hers with Fortunio; for she had fallen exceedingly in love with his uncommon beauty. She loaded him with presents, always spoke to him in the softest manner imaginable, and was in hopes he would discover how much she wished he should feel for her the same affection.
Fortunio, however, appeared perfectly indifferent, and as the king’s company was so very dear to him, he constantly left the princess to obtain it; so that at length she said to her favourite companion, ‘Florida, he is so young and inexperienced, that he will never understand how much I love him, if he is not told of it.’ ‘Go,’ continued she, ‘and ask him if he should not like to marry such a princess as I am.’ Florida left the princess: but being herself no less in love with Fortunio, ‘whose condition and age,’ says she, ‘are surely more suitable to mine than to the princess,’ she used the opportunity to tell him how very peevish the princess was, and how disagreeable she found her situation. Then returning to her mistress, she told her, that all she said made no impression on Fortunio, who she did not doubt was in love with some lady of his own country. The princess sent Florida from time to time upon the same expedition, without the least success. At length she determined to see him herself in private: accordingly, she ordered Florida to watch when he should be walking alone near a small arbour in the garden. She did not wait long for the opportunity she desired; seeing Fortunio near the arbour, she waited till he had entered it, and then proceeded thither. Fortunio, on seeing her, would have retired; but she desired him to stay and assist her with his arm in walking. The princess at first talked of the fineness of the weather, and the beauty of the gardens and the fountains. At length she said: ‘You cannot, Fortunio, but be sensible of the great affection I bear you: I am therefore surprised that you do not take advantage of your good fortune, by asking me in marriage of the king my brother.’
Fortunio was thrown into the greatest confusion; which the princess interpreted as a proof that he did not dislike what she had proposed; but what was her surprise and indignation, when, a moment after, he said: ‘I feel for you, madam, all the respect due to the sister of so amiable a king; but I am not free to marry you.’ She was red and pale by turns; and after telling him he should repent his coldness, she left him suddenly. The earl’s daughter was now in the greatest perplexity imaginable, and would have found some pretence for absenting herself from the palace till the army should be ready, if she could have left the king without the greatest pain. Her uneasiness every day increased, and she carefully avoided meeting the princess alone. One day, as the king, the princess, and Fortunio were sitting at their dessert, the king looked very melancholy; and his sister asking him the reason: You know,’ said he, ‘what an affliction has happened in my kingdom. A great dragon has devoured several of my subjects, and many flocks of sheep.’ The princess thought she could not have a better opportunity of revenging herself for the indifference of the young cavalier. ‘Brother,’ said she, ‘here is the brave Fortunio, who would esteem it, no doubt, the highest honour to be permitted to kill this monster, and thus reward the kindness your majesty has been pleased to show him.’
Fortunio could not but accept the proffered honour, which the princess was in hopes would be the means of revenging the affront he had offered her, by being the cause of his death. He had no sooner left the room, than he went to his faithful Comrade, to know in what manner he should set about the enterprise. ‘You should go,’ returned Comrade, ‘in pursuit of the dragon, as the king requires, and take with you the seven gifted attendants you lately engaged.’ Fortunio, the next morning, waited accordingly on the king and princess to take a formal leave. The king gave him the kindest assurances imaginable, and bade him adieu with the sincerest sorrow for the danger to which he would soon be exposed. The princess tried to seem extremely sorry also, and expressed her wishes to see him return in safety. After this, Fortunio, mounted on Comrade, and attended by Strongback, Lightfoot, Marksman, Fine-ear, Boisterer, Gormand, and Tippler, set out to find the dragon.
They had not proceeded more than a day’s journey, when they heard the cries of some peasants that the dragon was eating up as fast as he could. Fortunio immediately asked Comrade what he should do. ‘Let Fine-ear find out in what place he is,’ answered Comrade. Fine-ear immediately put his ear to the ground, and informed his master the dragon was seven leagues off. ‘Then,’ continued Comrade, ‘let Tippler drink up all the rivers that are between us, and let Strongback carry wine enough to fill them, and next strew some of the hares and partridges along them.’ Fortunio then entered a house that stood near, to watch the event. In less than an hour the dragon was in sight, and, smelling the hares and partridges, began to eat voraciously; and finding himself at length thirsty, he drank no less eagerly of the wine; so that in a short time, being quite drunk, he threw himself on the ground, and fell fast asleep. ‘Now is your time, my good master,’ said the faithful Comrade. Fortunio immediately approached the dragon, and with a single blow cut off his head, and then commanded Strongback to take him up and carry him to the palace. The king received Fortunio with the liveliest joy and affection; and the princess too, disguising as well as she could her disappointment, returned him thanks for the service he had done to the whole kingdom; ‘at the same time,’ thinks she to herself, ‘it shall not be long before I find some better means of being revenged.’ Soon after, the king being again extremely sorrowful, the princess inquired the cause as before. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘how can I be otherwise, since the emperor has not left me money enough to prepare the army I intended to send against him?’ — ‘Brother,’ answered she, ‘can you suppose that Fortunio, who was able to do more than twenty armies could have done, in killing the dragon, is not able to oblige the emperor to restore your treasures? I am certain you are most unjust if you believe the contrary.’ Fortunio, though he fully understood the malice of the princess, could not but assure his majesty of his earnest desire to make the experiment; upon which the king, after tenderly embracing him, gave him the necessary instructions for his departure. Fortunio lost no time in consulting Comrade, saying, he feared his destruction was now certain. ‘Do not, my dear master, thus afflict yourself,’ said Comrade. ‘You should give to each of your attendants,’ continued he, ‘a new and splendid livery, let them be mounted on handsome horses, and we will set out without delay.’
They arrived in a few hours in the city of the emperor; when, after taking some refreshments, they proceeded to the palace, where Fortunio demanded of him an interview, in which he made a formal claim to all the treasures of king Alfourite. The emperor could not restrain a smile: ‘This is really very extraordinary,’ said he: ‘however, as your demand is ridiculous enough, I will offer you a condition no less ridiculous. If you can find a man that will eat all the bread that has been provided for the inhabitants of this city, for his breakfast, I will grant your request.’ Fortunio could scarce contain himself for joy. He replied that he accepted the condition, and sent instantly for Gormand: when telling him what had passed, he inquired if he was quite sure he could eat the whole. ‘Never fear, my good master,’ answered Gormand: ‘you will see that they will be sooner sorry than I.’ When the emperor. the empress, the princess his daughter, and the whole court, had seated themselves to witness this extraordinary undertaking, Fortunio advanced with Gormand by his side; and seeing six great mountains of loaves that almost reached the skies, he began to fear: but Gormand in less than a minute, had despatched the whole. Never was any astonishment so great as that of the spectators; and the inhabitants of the city, who had all assembled to see so singular a sight, now fell to crying, and said, ‘we shall have no bread to give our children for many days.’ But the emperor’s disappointment was still greater; so commanding Fortunio to approach, he said: ‘young cavalier, you cannot possibly expect that I should give you the treasures of king Alfourite, because you happen to have a servant who is a great eater; however, to show you that I hold you in some consideration, find a man who shall drink up all the rivers, aqueducts, and reservoirs, together with all the wine that is in the cellars of all my subjects, in the space of a minute, and I promise to grant your request.’ Fortunio thought his majesty acted very dishonourably, yet he did not hesitate to accept his new proposal: accordingly Tippler was immediately sent for, and performed his task with equal ease, to the astonishment of the surrounding multitude.
The emperor now looked extremely grave, telling Fortunio, that what he had seen, though extremely singular, was not enough to deserve the costly recompense he claimed: ‘Therefore,’ continued he, ‘if you would obtain it, you must find a person who is as swift in running as my daughter.’ Fortunio, though extremely dissatisfied, was obliged to consent; and, sending for Lightfoot, bade him prepare for a running race with a princess whom no one had ever yet been able to overtake. In the mean time the princess retired to put on the dress and shoes which had been made on purpose for her to run in; and on her return, finding Lightfoot ready for the contest, they prepared to set off at the appointed signal. The princess now called for some of the cordial she was accustomed to drink when she was going to run; upon which Lightfoot observed it would be but just that he should have some too: to this the princess readily consented; and stepping aside, she dexterously threw a few drops of a liquid that had the power to throw him into a profound sleep. The signal being given, the princess set off at full speed; while Lightfoot instead of doing the same, threw himself on the ground, and fell fast asleep. The race was several miles long; and the princess had proceeded more than half way, when Fortunio, seeing her approach to the goal without Lightfoot, turned as pale as death, and cried out, ‘Comrade, I am undone; I see nothing of Lightfoot.’ — ‘My lord,’ answered Comrade, ‘Fine-ear shall tell you in a moment how far he is off.’ Fine-ear listened, and informed Fortunio that Lightfoot was snoring in the place from which the princess began her race. Then Comrade directed Marksman to shoot an arrow into his ear; which he did so completely, that Lightfoot started up, and, seeing the princess nearly arrived at the goal, set off with such rapidity, that he seemed carried by the winds, and, passing the princess, reached it before her. The emperor was now almost frantic with rage; and recollecting that he had some years ago displeased a fairy, he concluded that the miracles he had seen performed were contrived by her to punish him: he therefore thought it would be useless to propose further experiments; and calling for Fortunio, he said to him, ‘It cannot be denied that you have accomplished my conditions, take therefore away with you as much of the treasures of King Alfourite as one of your attendants can carry on his back.’
Fortunio desired nothing better; and being instantly admitted to the store-rooms which contained them, he commanded Strongback to begin to load himself. Strongback accordingly laid hold at first of five-hundred statues of gold, taller than giants, next of ten thousand bags of money, and afterwards of as many filled with precious stones; he then took the chariots and horses: in short, he left not a single article that had formerly belonged to king Alfourite. They then hastened from the palace, and proceeded to king Alfourite’s dominions. No sooner were they on the road than the seven gifted attendants began to ask what recompense they were to have for their services. ‘The recompense belongs to me,’ said Lightfoot, ‘for if I had not outrun the princess, we might have returned as we came.’ — ‘ And, pray,’ says Fine-ear, ‘what would you have done if I had not heard you snore?’ — ‘I think you must both acknowledge,’ says Marksman, ‘that our success was owing to my shooting the arrow exactly into Lightfoot’s ear.’ — ‘I cannot help wondering at your arrogance,’ says Strongback; ‘pray, who brought away the treasures? To whom can you be indebted but to me?’ Thus they were going on, when Fortunio interrupted them with saying: ‘It is true, my friends, you have all performed miracles; but you should leave to the king the care of rewarding you. He sent us to regain his treasures, and not to steal them: but,’ continued he, ‘should his majesty fail to reward you, yet you shall have no reason to complain, for I will take upon myself to gratify your largest expectations.’
Fortunio arrived in
safety with the treasures at the palace of king Alfourite, who beheld him with
amazement, and embraced him in the utmost transport; and his bravery so
increased the attachment the princess had conceived for him, that she that very
day desired to speak with him in private, intending once more to question him
as to his thoughts concerning her: ‘for,’ says she to herself, ‘when I remind
him of the honours I have been the means of his obtaining, how can he do
otherwise than return my affection?’ Fortunio received her summons, but sent
her for answer, that he could not have the pleasure of waiting on her. The
princess, enraged by his disdain, ran to the king all in tears, in the middle
of the night, and declared that Fortunio had sent Strongback to her chamber to
carry her away, that he might marry her. The king’s affliction at hearing this
was greater than can be described; and having passed the night in lamenting the
cruel necessity to which he was reduced of punishing him, he the next morning
ordered him to be taken into custody, and to be tried for the offence. When the
time of trial came, it was in vain that Fortunio pleaded his innocence: no one
believed it possible for a great princess to invent so wicked a falsehood; so
the judges declared him guilty, and condemned him to receive three darts shot
into his heart on that very day. The king left the court shedding many tears;
but the cruel princess staid to see the sentence executed. The officer,
approaching Fortunio, unbuttoned his waistcoat, and then opened his shirt, that
his heart might be bare to receive the darts; but no sooner was this done, than
the snowy whiteness of the bosom that appeared, convinced all the beholders
that the sufferer was a woman. Every eye was turned upon the princess, to
reproach her with the baseness of her conduct in bringing so false an
accusation against an innocent creature, and one, besides, who had shown such
unexampled courage, and done the state such signal service; while she, unable
to bear the shame that awaited her, took out of her pocket a sharp knife, and
plunged it into her heart, saying, ‘Fortunio is revenged of my injustice.’
Fortunio was led in triumph to the palace; and the king, when he had spent some weeks in bewailing the unfortunate end of the princess his sister, made an offer of his hand and crown to Fortunio. Their marriage was celebrated with the greatest pomp. The old earl and his two daughters were sent for on the occasion, and ever after remained at court. The first care of the new queen was to provide a magnificent stable for Comrade, whom she visited daily, and consulted upon all affairs of importance, so that the king never after lost a battle. She settled a handsome pension upon Strongback, Lightfoot, Marksman, Fine-ear, Boisterer, Gormand, and Tippler, who lived altogether in a splendid castle, a few miles in the country; it being agreed between the queen and them, that when her majesty should have occasion for their service, she should say so to some one in the palace, so that Fine-ear might catch the sound, and send the person she desired. The queen sent an express to invite the old shepherdess to court; but she refused, saying, all she wished was the queen’s happiness, and that she should now leave the world with satisfaction.