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RIQUET WITH THE TUFT
HERE was once upon a time a queen who had a little son; he had a hump upon his back, on account of which, he was named Riquet with the Tuft; and was besides so very ugly, that people hardly knew for a long time whether he had the form of a human creature. A fairy, who by chance was present at the prince’s birth, told his parents, that for all his ugliness, he would make himself pleasing to every one by his great wit and talents; and she said too this was not all, for she would also bestow on him the power of giving the very same charms to the person he should love best. All this was some comfort to the queen, who was in great grief at the thought of being the mother of such a frightful little creature. . . . It is true, as soon as he began to talk he said the most charming things that could be; and all that he did was done in so clever and pleasant a manner, as made every body love and admire him. Seven years after this, the queen of another kingdom had twin daughters. . . . The one that was born first was more beautiful than the day ;which caused the queen so much joy, that it was like to put her health in danger. The same fairy, who had been present at the birth of little Riquet of the Tuft, now chanced to be with this queen also at the time; and to lessen the danger of her too great joy, she told her that the new-born princess should have no sense at all, but be as silly and stupid as she was handsome. This grieved the princess very much, but in a few minutes she had still greater sorrow; for the second princess, when born, was the ugliest little thing that was ever beheld. When the fairy saw the queen’s distress at this, she said to her: ‘I entreat your majesty do not thus afflict yourself; your daughter shall possess so much wit, that nobody will perceive her want of beauty.’ — ‘This would be a great comfort to me indeed,’ replied the queen; ‘but cannot you bestow a small share of the same charming talent on the princess who is so beautiful?’ — ‘This is not in my power,’ answered the fairy, ‘I cannot meddle with her mind, but I can do all I please with respect to her beauty; and therefore, as there is nothing that I would not do for your sake, I will bestow on her a gift, that she shall be able to make the person whom she loves as handsome as she pleases.’
As the two young ladies grew up, nothing was talked of but the beauty of the eldest, and the wit and talents of the youngest. It is true, their defects grew in the same degree; for the youngest became every day more ugly, and the eldest more senseless and stupid; she either did not reply at all to the questions that were asked of her, or spoke in as silly a manner as could be. She was so very awkward too, that if she had to place half a dozen tea-cups on the chimney piece, she was sure to break one of them; or if she tried to drink a glass of water, she spilled half of it upon her clothes. Though beauty is a great charm to a young lady, yet the youngest princess was thought more of by every one than the eldest. To be sure, people went first to the eldest to see and admire her; but they soon left her, to hear the clever and pleasing talk of her sister; so that in less than a quarter of an hour, the eldest found herself alone, while all strangers got as near as they could to the youngest. Though the eldest was very stupid, yet she minded all this, and would gladly have parted with her beauty to gain but half the wit of her sister. The queen, for all her good-nature, could not help scolding her now and then for being so stupid, which made the poor princess ready to die of grief. One day having walked to a wood not far off, where she might sit down and cry at her ease, for her hard fate, without being seen, she saw a young man of small size, and very ugly, coming near to her; he was at the same time beautifully dressed. This was the young prince Riquet, who had fallen deeply in love with this princess, from the portraits he had every where seen of her, and had now left his father’s kingdom to have the pleasure of seeing and talking with her.
He was charmed at meeting her alone, and went up to her, and spoke to her with great respect. Finding after the first compliments were over, that she seemed very mournful, he said, ‘I cannot think, madam, how a lady with so much beauty as you have, can be so unhappy; for though I can boast of having seen a great number of handsome ladies, none of them could in the smallest degree compare with you.’ — ‘You are pleased to flatter me,’ replied the princess, without saying a word more. ‘Beauty,’ answered Riquet with the Tuft, ‘is so great a charm, that it supplies the place of every thing else; and she who owns so great a blessing, ought to be careless of every kind of misfortune.’ — ‘I would much rather,’ said the princess, ‘be as ugly as you are, and possess wit, than have the beauty you praise, and be such a fool as I am.’ — ‘Nothing, madam,’ replied the prince, ‘is a surer mark of good sense, than to believe ourselves in want of it; indeed, the more sense we possess, the plainer we see how much we fall short of being perfect.’ ‘I know nothing of what you are talking of,’ answered the princess, ‘I only know that I am very foolish, and that is the cause of my grief.’ — ‘If that is all that makes you unhappy, madam,’ said the prince, ‘I can very soon put an end to your sorrow.’ — ‘By what means, pray?’ asked the princess. ‘I have the power,’ said Riquet with the Tuft, ‘to bestow as much wit as I please on the person I am to love best in the world; and as that person can be no other, ma dam, than yourself, it depends only on your own will to be the wittiest lady upon the earth. I shall ask of you in return but one thing; which is, that you consent to marry me.’
The princess looked at him with great surprise, but did not speak a word. ‘I see,’ added Riquet, ‘that my offer makes you uneasy, and I do not wonder at it; I will therefore give you a whole year to think of what answer you will give me.’ The princess was so very stupid and silly, and at the same time so much wished to be witty, that she resolved to accept the offer made her by prince Riquet with the Tuft; she also thought a whole year a very long time, and would gladly have made it shorter if she could. She therefore told the prince she would marry him on that day twelve-months; and as soon as she had spoken these words, she found herself quite another creature: she said every thing she wished, not only with the greatest ease, but in the most graceful manner. She at once took share in a pleasing discourse with the prince, in which she showed herself so witty, that Riquet began to fear he had given her more of the charming talent, for which she so much longed, than he had kept to himself. When the princess went back to the palace, the whole court was thrown into the utmost surprise at the sudden change they found in her; for every thing she now said was as clever and pleasing, as it had been before stupid and foolish. The joy at this event was the greatest ever known through the court; the youngest princess was the only person who did not share in it; for as her wit no longer served to set her above the beauty of her sister, she now seemed to every one a most ugly and frightful creature.
The news of this great change being every where talked of, soon reached the ears of the princes in other kingdoms, who all hastened to gain her favour, and demand her for a wife. But the princess would hardly listen to all they had to say; not one of them had wit enough to make her think of his offer in earnest for a moment. At last there came a prince so great, so rich, so witty, and so handsome, that she could not help feeling a great liking for him. When the king, her father, saw this, he told her she only had to choose the husband whom she liked best, and that she might be sure of his consent to her marriage. As the most sensible persons are always the most careful how to resolve in such serious matters, the princess, after thanking her father, begged him to allow her time to think of what she should do. Soon after this, the princess chanced in her walk to wander towards the very wood in which she had met Riquet with the Tuft; and wishing to be free from being disturbed while thinking of her lover, she strolled a good way into it. When she had walked about for some time, she heard a great noise under ground, like the sound of many persons running backwards and forwards, and busy on some great affair. After listening for a moment, she heard different voices, one said, ‘bring me that kettle.’ Another said, ‘fetch the great boiler.’ Another, ‘put some coals on the fire.’
At the same moment the ground opened, and the princess saw, with the greatest surprise, a large kitchen filled with vast numbers of cooks, servants, and scullions, with all sorts of things fit for making ready a noble dinner; some had rolling-pins and were making the most dainty sorts of ‘pastry; others were beating the syllabubs, and turning the custards: and at one end of the kitchen she saw at least twenty men-cooks, all busy in trussing different sorts of the finest game and poultry, and singing all the time as merry as could be. The princess, in the utmost surprise at what she beheld, asked them to whom they belonged.
‘To prince Riquet with the Tuft, madam,’ said the head cook; ‘it is his wedding dinner we are making ready.’ The princess was now in still greater surprise than before; but in a moment it came into her mind, that this was just the day twelve-months on which she had promised to marry prince Riquet. When she thought of this, she was ready to sink on the ground. The reason of her not thinking of it before was that when she made the promise to the prince she was quite silly, and the wit which the prince had given to her, had made her forget all that had happened to her before. She tried to walk away from the place; but had not gone twenty steps, when she saw Riquet with the Tuft before her, dressed finely in the grandest wedding suit that ever was seen. ‘You see, madam,’ said he, ‘that I have kept my promise strictly; and I dare say you are come for the same purpose, and to make me the most happy of men.’ — ‘I must confess,’ replied the princess, ‘that I have not yet made up my mind on that subject; and also, that I fear I can never consent to what you desire.’ — ‘You quite surprise me, madam,’ answered prince Riquet. ‘That I can easily believe,’ replied the princess, ‘and to be sure I should be greatly at a loss what to say to you, if I did not know that you possess the best sense in the world. If you were a silly prince you would say, ‘The promise of a princess should not be broken, and therefore you must marry me.” But you, prince Riquet, who have so much more sense than any body else, will, I hope, excuse me for what I have said. You cannot forget that when I was only a silly stupid princess, I would not freely consent to marry you; how therefore now that I am blessed with sense, and for that reason must of course be the more hard to be pleased, can you expect me to choose the prince I then would not accept? If you really wished to marry me, you did very wrong to change me from the most silly creature in the world, to the most witty, so as to make me see more plainly the faults of others.’
‘If, madam,’ replied Riquet with the Tuft, ‘you would think it but right in a prince without sense to blame you for what you have said, why should you deny me the same power in an affair in which the welfare of my whole life is at stake? Is it just that persons of sense should be worse treated than those who have none? Can you, my princess, who are now so very clever, and who so much wished to be so, resolve indeed to treat me in this manner? But let us reason upon it a little. Is there any thing in me besides my being ugly that you dislike? Do you object to my birth, my sense, my temper, manners or rank?’ — ‘No, none of these,’ replied the princess; ‘I dislike nothing in you but your being so very ugly.’ — ‘If that is the case,’ answered Riquet, ‘I shall soon be the most happy man alive; for you, princess, have the power to make me as handsome as you please.’ — ‘How can that be?’ asked the princess. ‘Nothing more is wanting,’ said Riquet, ‘than that you should love me well enough to wish me very handsome. In short, my charming princess, I must inform you that the same fairy who, at my birth, was pleased to bestow upon me the gift of making the lady I loved best as witty as I pleased, was present also at yours, and gave to you the power of making him whom you should love the best as handsome as you pleased.’ — If this be the case,’ said the princess, ‘I wish you with all my heart to be the most handsome prince in all the world; and as much as depends on me I bestow on you the gift of beauty.’
As soon as the princess had done speaking, Riquet with the Tuft seemed to her eyes the most handsome, best shaped, and most pleasing person that she had ever beheld. Some people thought that this great change in the prince, was not brought about by the gift of the fairy, but that the love which the princess felt for him was the only cause of it; and in their minds the princess thought so much of the good faith of her lover, of his prudence, and the goodness of his heart and mind, that she no longer thought of either his being so ugly in his face, or so crooked in his shape. The hump on his back, such people thought, now seemed to her nothing more than the easy gait in which men of rank sometimes indulge themselves; and his lameness seemed a careless freedom, that was very graceful; the squinting of his eyes in those of the princess, did but make them seem more sparkling and more tender; and his thick red nose, in her mind, gave a manly and warlike air to his whole face. Let this be as it may, the princess promised to marry Prince Riquet with the Tuft, directly, if he could obtain the consent of the king her father. When the king was told that his daughter felt a great esteem for Riquet with the Tuft, as he had already heard of the goodness of both the heart and mind of that prince, he agreed with pleasure to have him for a son-in-law so that the next day, as the prince had long hoped for, he was married to the beautiful and no less witty princess.