The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy
Category: Children
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Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d'Aulnoy, also known as Countess d'Aulnoy, was a French writer known for her literary fairy tales. When she termed her works contes de fées (fairy tales), she originated the term that is now generally used for the genre. The Fairy Tales of Madame D'Aulnoy is an 1892 collection of fairy tales.

The Fairy Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy

Madame D’Aulnoy

Illustrated by
Clinton Peters

The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy


I have been asked to write a few lines of preface to the stories which are here once more, after a century or so, presented in a new form to the present generation of children. “To those people of intelligence under the age of fourteen,” as a French editor says, “who are prepared to be pleased and convinced,” just as their fathers, mothers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers have been before them. These special stories have fallen out of circulation, since the days when the French ladies and gentlemen all read fairy tales together, and the order of the Terrace was instituted for little Louis XV. The Knights of the Order were to play at games on the Terraces at Versailles with his youthful majesty, and then assemble together (specially on their feast day, the day of St. Bartholomew) and spell out fairy stories for the rest of the afternoon. It was not only children who liked fairy tales in those days; there was a general fashion for them.

People were tired of the long-winded romances of the Scudéry times of Louis XIV., they had wearied of the fables and society verses once so popular, and which perhaps required more effort and attention than this later generation was disposed to give, even to its play. Perhaps, too, people were not sorry to turn away from the present, from the disasters in which the reign of Louis XIV. came to a close, and to take to stringing marvels and wonders on to old springs and threads that belonged to a world which they could govern and fashion to their fancy. Besides the little chevaliers of the Terrace, a whole society of well-born ladies seems to have been in the habit of meeting and devoting its leisures to the inditing of marvellous histories. The “Cabinet des Fées” numbers its volumes by decades, and the authors and authoresses of this collection, if they had not much invention of their own, were not afraid of drawing largely from other sources.

Charles Perrault was among the first to recount the popular nursery stories of the time, in his Histoire de la Mère l’Oye, published in 1697. Madame d’Aulnoy, who must have been well advanced in years by this time, followed suit, and many other ladies of rank, her friends and contemporaries, seemed to have amused themselves by concocting marvellous and nightmare-like histories. But, as the editor of the French edition of popular tales reminds us, we must not be ungrateful, nor forget that the author of L’oiseau Bleu and the Belle aux Bois was among them, as was also Madame de Beaumont to whom we owe the charming history of Beauty and the Beast.

We are fortunate in possessing portraits of both the chief recounters of fairy lore: that of the Countess D’Aulnoy herself, as well as the engraving of Charles Perrault, deputy-receiver of taxes under Colbert. He in his magnificent wig looks more like a Condé or a Turenne at the head of an invading army than a peaceful knight of the quill, marshalling his figures and his fairy battalions, and prepared to shed his ink for his country; Madame d’Aulnoy (d’Aulnoi or d’Aunoy, as her name is variously spelt), with her hair beautifully curled, is dressed in draperies disposed in dignified folds, and upheld by a jewelled band which crosses from her shoulder to her waist. Her features are marked and somewhat beakish. French people have a different standard of beauty to ours, and the countess seems to have been considered lovely in her day, witty as well as very agreeable.” She was always ready in conversation,” says one of her admirers.” No one knew better how to introduce an anecdote, and her stories were the delight of all.” “Pour raconter simplement quelque chose il ne faut pas un grand talent,” says Madame d’Aulnoy modestly enough in one of her stories. Her readers will appreciate the pleasant simplicity of her style. Occasionally it rises to eloquence, as in the description of the battle between the Yellow Dwarf and the king who tries to rescue the princess from his spells.

Marie Catherine — Le Jumel — de Berneville, the wife of François de la Motte, Comte d’Aulnoy, was born in the middle of the sixteenth century, and she died in January, 1705, when she was between fifty and sixty years of age. Her father was allied to some of the oldest families in Normandy, and had served for many years in the king’s armies. She was the niece of the “celebrated Madame Desloges,” we are told, and the mother of Madame de Heere. Madame Desloges lived in the reign of Louis XIII., and by her wit arid agreeable conversation attracted many of the most interesting men of the time to her house. Madame d’Aulnoy seems to have inherited this pleasant talent, and we hear much of her conversational powers and agreeable wit. Her mother, who was not sixteen when she was born, sent her away to be brought up by a grandmother. It was not the fashion of the times for parents to bring up their children. For some years the little girl was supposed to be an heiress, and received, so she tells us, much adulation in consequence; but when she was eleven a brother was born, and the relations immediately determined to send little Marie Catherine into a nunnery. The child was in despair, and passionately implored her father to rescue her from this fate. He was not the ruling spirit in the home, says Madame d’Aulnoy in her Memoirs, but he did the best he could to help his poor little girl. He advised her to submit quietly, and promised that as soon as she was of an age to be married he would, without telling her mother, find her a suitable husband. These Memoirs of Madame d’Aulnoy are to be seen in the British Museum in a “diverting collection” of her works, published in English by John Nicholson, at the King’s Arms, and Andrew Bell, at the Cross Keys and Bible in Cornhill, in 1707. The Memoirs are diverting perhaps, but they are certainly disappointing too, and it is difficult to tell whether they are a real history or the divagations of a fanciful imagination longing for adventure and excitement. The little girl in the convent seems to have read a great many novels about romantic heroes and “heroesses,” as she is made to call them, and to have tried to pose as a heroess herself a great deal more than the abbeys approved. Her mother also disapproved, and was more than ever set upon making her into a nun: but her father does not forget his promise. He comes with her mother to see her one day, and while her mother sits talking to the abbess in the parlour, her father (so Madame d’Aulnoy tells us) takes her for a walk in the convent garden, where she is immediately carried off by three or four masked cavaliers, put into a carriage and driven rapidly away, while the father goes back to the convent calling for help. One of these masked men turns out to be no less a person than the Comte d’Aulnoy himself, who had planned it all with M. de Berneville. They are immediately married, and Madame d’Aulnoy speaks with cordial dislike of her husband, with whom she seems to have lived very unhappily from the first, and from whom, whenever anything went wrong, she seems to have run away in disguise. She mentions a son casually, and in another book she subsequently mentions a daughter; and she also tells us that at M. d’Aulnoy’s death she married again, M. de St. Albe. Her brother having died young, she eventually succeeded to considerable wealth, but her Memoirs scarcely mention any facts and are chiefly a record of her sentimental emotions. They come to an abrupt end with the death of St. Albe.

In the few records — not her own — which remain to us of Madame d’Aulnoy’s life, there should be quite enough emotions to satisfy a less excitable person, but to none of these events does she make any allusion. On one occasion her husband, Francois de la Motthe, Sieur d’Aulnoy, having been seized, imprisoned, and falsely accused of high treason by two Normans, narrowly escaped losing his head. One of his accusers was the Marquis de Courboyer (who is curiously enough described as a “good-natured man”) and the other was Jaques de Crouville, surnamed Lamière. Lamière at the last moment, touched by remorse, retracted the accusation, confessing that he had received a thousand crowns for his false witness. The count was discharged on the eve of condemnation, and the conspirators suffered in his place. There seem, according to contemporary chroniclers, to have been further complications in Madame d’Aulnoy’s life, connected with “the famous and beautiful Madame Angélique Tiquet”. Madame d’Aulnoy was her friend, and was somewhat compromised during her trial. Madame Tiquet was decapitated in the Place de Grève in 1699. The story is a very sad one. Madame Tiquet was born at Metz. She was left an orphan, rich, extraordinarily beautiful, and agreeable. There were many pretenders to her hand; among them was Councillor Tiquet, from Paris. He was greatly in debt, many years older than she was, and his chief object in courting the young heiress was to secure her fortune. He was clever enough to enlist the sympathy of an aunt of Angélique’s, who persuaded her to accept him. Madame Tiquet came to live in Paris; she had children, but she felt little affection for her husband. Her fortune, her charm, her rare beauty, attracted a large circle of friends to her house. Among the many amiable and brilliant people who came thither was Madame d’Aulnoy. As time went on the differences between Madame Tiquet and her husband grew more and more bitter. She tried in vain to obtain a separation from him; and, at last, finding her married life intolerable, she urged one of her servants to attempt his life. One evening, when Tiquet was coming home, he was fired at and badly wounded. He had himself carried away from the house, sent for the police, and declared that his wife must have instigated the attack. Friends of Madame Tiquet went to her and urged her to fly; but this she refused to do. She was taken to prison and tried; but, notwithstanding all the sympathy which was shown her, and the extra-ordinary interest which the trial excited, she was condemned to be beheaded, and her servant to be hung at the same place. The husband delayed and wasted time in petitioning that her confiscated fortune should be returned to him, and then, finally, went to Versailles to ask for a reprieve. It is said that Angélique was so beautiful that the executioner altogether lost his nerve upon the scaffold. It is impossible to know exactly in what way Madame d’Aulnoy was compromised; probably she was among those friends who attempted to plan the poor lady’s escape. This seems all the more likely because the countess was a spirited and lively person from all accounts, not easily discouraged or frightened (except indeed by ghosts), and she was evidently fond of adventure, as we see in her records of her journeys through Spain and elsewhere.

Madame la Princesse de Conté seems to have been one of Madame d’Aulnoy’s sympathetic readers, for to her are edicated, with many compliments and salutations. The Memoirs of the Court of Spain, which came out at the Hague in 1691. Madame d’Aulnoy may have been about forty years of age when the pretty little brown book, with its old-fashioned type, made its appearance, but it must have been written many years before. It has since been transformed into a handsome annotated volume, with margins, and elaborate and very interesting notes, the work of Madame Carey, who has traced the dates and the facts with admirable patience, and who tells us that Madame d’Aulnoy, although she had excellent opportunities of observing facts, and was in the main accurate, had the singular habit of transcribing entire paragraphs out of the books of other people without any acknowledgment whatever, and also of sometimes adding imaginary adventures when her own struck her as somewhat dull. She is a mysterious person. She gives no hint of the reasons which led her to undertake this long expedition, nor are either of her husbands once mentioned by the widow in the course of the narrative. Madame Carey vouches, however, for the facts which she has been at the trouble of verifying; many of the customs noted still survive in a modified form, others are corroborated by St. Simon and various writers of the time. Madame d’Aulnoy’s pictures of the Court of Spain are singularly vivid; her journeys are a curious mixture of reality and fairy tale, but perhaps not more so than many of the books of travel one has lately come across. The impression left by these volumes (which are, I ought to say, anything but suitable for young people) is that of a lively and spirited woman of a past society visiting in Wonderland. Her first start is not at all unlike a chapter out of Alice’s well-known adventures. On her arrival at Bayonne, Madame d’Aulnoy is hospitably welcomed by various ladies of the neighbourhood, to whom she has brought introductions. These ladies visit the traveller coming in with cheerful hospitality, carrying for the most part little sucking pigs, tied up with ribbons, under their arms, which little pigs are set down upon the floor to frolic during the rest of the visit. Presently the ladies stand up and execute a dance to amuse the travellers, after which entertainment they all retire with their little pigs, leaving presents behind them of sweet-meats, and stockings, and ornaments, to testify their sympathy. The further adventures of the caravan, as it slowly advances across the mountains from Bayonne into Spain, carrying Madame d’Aulnoy in her litter, with her little girl at her side, fill one with wonder and respect for the courage of the ladies of the seventeenth century, who were not deterred by fatigue and horrible discomfort from such long and wearisome expeditions. Madame d’Aulnoy must have been a very healthy, and vigorous woman to survive all the trials she describes — the snows, the floods, the cold, the garlic, and the want of privacy; and also to be able to sit down and write crown octavo letters to her cousin all along the road. Clarissa Harlowe herself would have scarcely equalled her. At Burgos, after a long day’s travel, she arrives in time for supper, after which her suite immediately sits down to cards. When she retires for the night, she tells us she is led into a gallery full of beds, about thirty in a row, just as one sees them in hospitals. She remonstrates, saying she wants but four beds — for her daughter, herself, and her two women attendants; but she is told that this is the only available place in the house. “I was hardly in bed,” she writes, “when some one knocked gently at the door. My women opened, and were greatly surprised to see the host and hostess come in, followed by a dozen wretches half undressed. I opened my curtain, hearing the noise. The hostess came to my bedside, saying these were honest travellers who were going to occupy the empty beds. ‘These people!’ cried I; ‘you must be out of your mind.’ ‘I should be out of my mind, indeed,’ said the hostess, ‘if I left so many beds unoccupied. You, madame, must pay for them, or these gentlemen will remain.’ I cannot express to you my fury. I was tempted to send for Don Fernand and my other chevaliers, who would soon have thrown the honest travellers out of the window; but it was not worth a disturbance. I therefore quieted down, and promised to pay twenty sols for each bed (they are hardly dearer at Fontainebleau when the Court is there). The illustrious Spaniards and vagabonds who had had the insolence to come in now retired with a great many curtseys. I couldn’t help bursting out laughing the next morning, when I found that these travellers were only neighbours, who were accustomed to renew this performance for the benefit of each fresh arrival.” The countess continues her journey in her litter. At last she arrives very early one day in the environs of Madrid, where she is received by a certain Dona Theresa of seventeen, who is married to a man many years older than herself. It was ten o’clock in the morning. Don Augustin was walking in his garden, and presently he invited the countess to visit his wife, who was not yet up. “She wore no cap,” says Madame d’Aulnoy; “her hair, parted in the middle, was wrapt in a piece of red silk tied by a ribbon. She had many little pillows to her bed, ornamented with ribbons and trimmed with lace. Her ample night-dress was buttoned by diamonds; her quilt was trimmed with Spanish point, and gold and silk. Her bed was of gilt copper with ornaments of ivory and ebony. As soon as she was up the young lady took a cupful of rouge, put some on her cheeks, on her ears, on her chin, under her nose, and inside her hands, saying that she did not care for it, but that the use was so universal she could not well give it up. One of her women then perfumed her from head to foot with the smoke of some excellent pastilles.” When they went to breakfast, the host took the countess by the hand, and led her into a saloon paved with marble, ornamented with pictures, and quite without hangings. “The breakfast was served upon the table for the gentlemen, and a cloth was spread on the carpet, with three covers, for Dona Theresa, my daughter and myself,” says the countess. “I was surprised at this; for I am not accustomed to have my dinner on the floor. I said nothing, but never was I more uncomfortable; sometimes I tried leaning on my elbow, sometimes on my hand. My hostess observed nothing, because she thought that the ladies in France always ate as they do in Spain; but at last the gentlemen noticed my uneasiness, and desired absolutely that I should join them at the table. To this I gladly consented, provided that Dona Theresa came too. Her husband called to her to come; but when the poor little lady was installed she was no less embarrassed than I had been on the carpet. She confessed ingenuously that she had never before sat upon a chair; the idea had never occurred to her.” It seems that St. Simon describes a great Court ball given by Philip V. where the ladies all sat upon a vast carpet upon the floor. This habit is supposed to have been derived from the Moors.

Madame d’Aulnoy is quick to catch the impression of the moment; she describes pleasantly and graphically the events as they occur. Her peasants, her courtiers, her kings and her queens, her widows, her romantic ladies and gentlemen, her monks, dukes and duchesses, all appear in turn in their quaint costumes, a whole gallery of Velasquez figures. Here is a sketch of a Spanish widow in the year 1679; she comes up in her litter, seeking for a night’s lodgings: “Her dress appeared to me very singular, only so beautiful a woman as she was could have kept any charm in it. She wore a coiffe of black stuff, her petticoat to match, and above this a sort of surplice of white linen reaching below the knees, the sleeves were long, fitted to the arm, and falling over the hands; this surplice was not pleated in front, and looked like a sort of pinafore. On her head she wore a piece of muslin covering her throat, and falling to the waist — it might have been the gimp of a religious, but it was of lighter texture. All her hair was hidden away. She wore a great mantle of black silk falling to her feet, and besides this a huge hat tied under her chin. This is the dress of widows and duennas, but I am told that they only wear these hats when they are travelling. If one were to meet a woman thus dressed at night, I am persuaded that without cowardice one might be terrified by the apparition. I must, however, confess that this young lady was of admirable beauty, notwithstanding her ugly mourning. It is never given up in Spain, except in the event of re-marriage; and in all things poor widows are constrained to mourn. The first year of their widowhood they spend in a room hung with, black without a single ray of sunshine; they sit cross-legged upon a little mattress. At the end of a year they are allowed grey hangings. They are forbidden pictures, looking-glasses and cabinets, beautiful tables, and all silver ornaments; they dare not wear their jewels or any bright colours. Modest as they may be, they have to live in so retired a fashion that it seems as if their souls were already in the next world. This great constraint is the reason that several very rich ladies, who have beautiful furniture, marry again, in order to have the pleasure of using it.”

As a contrast to this, let us take a Spanish gentleman of fashion. A “guapo,” which word means, says Madame d’Aulnoy, “a Spaniard, brave, gallant, and even dashing. This young man’s hairs were divided in the middle of his head and tied behind with a blue ribbon, four inches wide and two yards long. He had tights of black velvet, buttoned above the knee by five or six buttons, without which it would be impossible to take them off, so closely fitting are they in this country. He had a vest so short that it did not reach the pocket, and a black velvet jacket with long tabs and hanging sleeves. The inner sleeves were of white satin bordered with jet. His shirt was of black silk, greatly puffed. His cloak was of black cloth; and, as he was a ‘guapo,’ he had twisted his cloak round his arm, because that was more gallant. He also carried a ‘broquel’ in his hand; that is to say, a sort of very light shield with a point of steel in the middle. In the other hand he carried a spear longer than a pike. He had also a poignard fastened to his belt at the back. His neck-piece, lined with pasteboard, held his head so stiff that he could neither turn his head or bend it.” A note of Madame Carey’s tells us that this collar, neck-piece, or golille as it was called, had been adopted by King Philip IV., who was so satisfied with this happy idea that he instituted a fête to perpetuate it, and the pious king and his Court went in procession, once a-year, to the chapel on the bridge of the Guardian Angel to render thanks for their stocks. To return to Madame d’Aulnoy, she is not at all of the opinion of Philip IV. She says nothing can be more ridiculous than this stock. It is neither a ruffle, nor a turnover, nor a cravat. A golille resembles nothing at all; is very uncomfortable, and disfiguring. The young man also wore a hat of a prodigious size, lined with black silk, with a great crape all round, like a husband in mourning for his wife. “I am told,” says the countess, “that this crape is the most incontestable sign of the finest breeding. His shoes were of fine morocco, like the kid of which we make gloves, very much cut away, and so tight to the feet that they seemed stuck upon them. He wore no heels. As he came in, he made me a Spanish reverence, crossing his legs and curtseying gravely, as women do when they salute. He was very much perfumed; but his visit was not long. He did not forget to tell me that he often went to Madrid, where he exposed his life in every bull-fight.” Has one not seen this gentleman hanging up on the walls of the National Gallery? I cannot help quoting one more description from the book of Madame d’ Aulnoy’s visit to the queen-dowager, when for the first time she had to put on the Court dress of a Spanish lady. “Nothing can be more uncomfortable,” says she; “the shoulders are so compressed that they ache again, and it is impossible to raise one’s arm. They put me on a stiff petticoat of a fearful size. I knew not what to do with this strange machine; it was impossible to sit down with it. My hair was left floating and tied with narrow ribbon; for this is the indispensable Court head-dress. Finally, I put on the wooden pattens the ladies wore at Court, rather to break my neck with than to walk about in. When we were all dressed, for my cousin and my daughter came too, we were shown into a state-room, where Monsieur le Cardinal came to see us. He remained an hour with us, and then a magnificent breakfast was served; but I could hardly touch anything. There was nothing to choose between the perfumed dishes, or the others flavoured with saffron, onions, pepper, garlic and spices. There was an excellent ham, covered with sugar-plums, of which the sugar was melting in the fat; it was all larded with citron…. We hurried away from table, for it was the hour to visit the queen-dowager. After mounting a magnificent staircase, and crossing a great gallery, and many vast and empty apartments, we reached a saloon, of which all the windows were open upon a plain and upon the river. The carpet, the hangings, the tapestries, were all grey. The queen was standing, leaning against a balcony, and holding in one hand a long chaplet. We had the honour of kissing her hand, which is small, thin, and white. She is very pale, of delicate complexion; her face is long and flat; her eyes are soft; she is of medium size. She was dressed, as are all widows in Spain, like a nun; not a single hair appearing. I observed that there were several tucks round her skirt, so as to let it down in case it should be worn at the bottom. I do not say that this is always done; but it is the fashion. After some conversation about the king’s approaching marriage, and the portrait of the Princess of Orleans, which had been sent to the Queen of Spain, a little dwarf as round as a barrel, and not taller than a watermelon, dressed in gold and brocade, with long hair falling to her feet, entered, and kneeling before the queen, asked her whether she would be pleased to sup. We offered to retire; but she told us that we might follow her. She sat down alone, and we all stood around. The ladies-in-waiting whispered to us they were horribly dull.” Poor ladies! they might well complain. The whole description of the echoing palace — the kneeling, attendants, passing the dishes from hand to hand; the imprisoned women, queens though they might be, gives one a shiver. The story of the poor little princess, from the French Court, whose parrot had its neck wrung because it talked French to its young mistress, is piteous and ludicrous. But there are sadder things still. Madame d’Aulnoy’s terrible description of the auto da at Madrid has been already quoted, and is too painful to be inserted here. Madame d’Aulnoy herself did not stay to witness it; for, at the very beginning, she was taken ill, and had to retire. But the king, she says, “dared not avoid this horrible spectacle, standing with his sword of state upheld beside him, for it was the cause of religion!” The whole Court, indeed, was assembled — the king, the queen, the ladies, the ambassadors. The scaffold was adjoining the royal balcony, and the victims implored the royal mercy in vain. No wonder that, in such an age, amid facts so monstrous and execrable, people turned to imaginary worlds for relief from the devilish superstitions of the time in which they lived. There is cruelty still among us — injustice, and oppressions, and suffering; but these things are called openly by their names, and day by day as the truth grows and spreads from man to man, from generation to generation, the dark demons still surviving from those mediaeval ages dwindle and vanish in the light of day. Is it the press, that crowing chanticleer, which helps dispel the dark deeds of the night?

Madame d’Aulnoy seems to have left Spain in the spring of 1681, after some two years’ residence, for she speaks of her visit to Aranjuez, to take leave of the young queen, now established in Spain, who received her graciously, gave her an enamelled portrait of herself, all set in diamonds, and promised her protection for a young lady, a “demoiselle,” very dear to Madame d’Aulnoy, who remained behind in Spain. She carried her own recommendation, so said the queen, graciously, “for she was a French woman”. Can this have been Madame d’Aulnoy’s daughter? The Memoirs of the Court break off with a promise of further memoirs, and the sad history of the loss of the said enamel, which, however, has never yet been given to the world.

Besides her Fairy Tales and her History of Spain, Madame d’Aulnoy wrote two or three novels which seem to have been very popular; Jean de Bourbon was one, another was called The Adventures of Hypolite, Comte de Duglas, of which there are a great many editions, says the editor of L’ Europe, Illustre. “It is a novel,” so he goes on, “in which fiction is well supported by historic fact, and where that tender softness of style which characterises the pen of a lady is most seductive!” The editor of the Biographie Universelle is not of this opinion; “tous ses personnages parlent le language d’une fade galanterie,” he says. There is an anecdote of a young officer, a friend of the writer in L’ Europe Illustre, who, after reading the History of the Comte de Duglas, immediately went off and proposed to a young lady whom he had known for some time, but whom he had not thought of marrying. “You are the cause of my happiness,” he exclaimed to his friend, the editor;” for you lent me the book which had so fortunate an influence upon my destiny!” “I congratulated him,” says M. Dreux du Radier, “and came to the conclusion that, after all, novels have some use!”

The same writer’s somewhat naive criticism on Madame d’Aulnoy’s Spanish History is, that there are many interesting facts in it which one does not read anywhere else, but that, unfortunately, one is not able to tell whether or not they are true.

Many of Madame d’Aulnoy’s tales have been taken with scarce any variation from the Pentamerone of Basile and the Nights of Straparola, which latter book, as Dunlop tells us in his history, was printed about the middle of the sixteenth century. He also tells us that Straparola himself had borrowed largely from preceding authors. The ladies and gentlemen who contributed to the many volumes of the “Cabinet des Fées” did not, I imagine, pretend to create their fairies, but rather to conjure up the old ones with new dresses and decorations, just as our pantomimes do every Christmas. Any of us in the nineteenth century, who have thrilled to the stirring and beautiful song of “Ché Faro,” as uttered by the sweet voice of Julia Ravogli in “Orfeo,” have witnessed a scene reproduced out of one of Madame d’Aulnoy’s histories, in which Love, crowned with roses, is sent to assist the wandering prince in his search through Hades for her whom he adores. The prettiest of Madame d’Aulnoy’s stories are also the best known, such as L’oiseau Bleu, The White Cat, Le Prince Lutin and a good many others. Le Nain Jaune, Fortunée, La Biche au Bois, are also very charmingly told.

Before ending this very imperfect little sketch, I must not omit to say that as time went on the little girl who had travelled in the litter grew up, and also began to write fairy tales. She became Madame de Heere, and is said to have walked in her mother’s footsteps.

“Prose and verse are there,
Most charming De Heere,
To prove daughter and mother
Equal each to the other.”

Verses to this effect are quoted as written by the President de Ventron and addressed to Madame de Heere. He was evidently a lavish admirer of both ladies. To Madame d’Aulnoy he dedicates a quatrain: —

“Si l’on récompensait tes vers,
Si l’on payait ton éloquence,
Qui brille en mille endroits divers,
Tu pourrais épuiser les trésors de la France”.

The president’s enthusiasm must make up for his metre.


The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy

Gracieuse and Percinet

Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen who had but one daughter. For beauty, and gentleness, and quick wit there was no one to be compared with her, and for this reason they called her Gracieuse. She was her mother’s only joy. Every morning a beautiful dress was brought to her. Sometimes it would be of gold brocade, sometimes of velvet or satin; yet all her fine clothes never made her a whit more vain or boastful. She spent every morning with great scholars, who taught her all kinds of learning, and in the afternoon she worked near the queen. For luncheon they brought her basins full of sweet-meats, and more than twenty pots of jam. And so everybody said she was the happiest princess in all the world.

Now at the same court there lived a very rich old maid, whose name was Duchess Grognon, and who was as ugly as she could be. Her hair was as red as fire, and her huge face was all covered with pimples. She had but one blear-eye left, and her mouth was so big that it looked as if it were going to gobble everybody up, but then as all her teeth were gone there was nothing to fear inthat respect. She had a hump before and behind, and she was lame of both legs. Monsters like her are very jealous of those who are beautiful. She therefore hated Gracieuse with a deadly hatred, and left the court so as not to hear her praises sung, retiring to a castle of her own a little way off. When anyone paid her a visit, and brought her news of all the princess’s charms, she would cry out in great wrath: “It is a lie! it is a lie! She is not beautiful! There is more charm in my little finger than in her whole body.”

Meanwhile the queen fell ill, and died. Princess Gracieuse was like to die too for grief at having lost so good a mother, and the king was in deep distress for the loss of such a wife. For nearly a whole year he shut himself up in his palace, till at last his doctors, fearing lest he too should fall ill, ordered him to go out and to amuse himself. So one day he went hunting. The heat being very great he entered a great castle, which he saw from the roadside, to rest. Now this was the Duchess Grognon’s castle, and as soon as she knew of the king’s arrival she came to receive him, and told him that the coolest place in the house was a great arched cellar. It was quite clean, she said, as she begged him to come down there. The king went along with her, and seeing in the cellar two hundred barrels in rows, one above another, he asked whether all these supplies were for herself alone. “Yes, sire,” she said, “for myself alone; but I shall be delighted to let you taste. Here you find Canary, Saint Laurent, Champagne, Hermitage, Rivesalte, Rossolis, Persicot, Fenouillet. Which do you prefer?” “Well, to tell the truth,” said the king, “I think Champagne is by far the best of all.” So Grognon took a little hammer, and went tap-tapping at the barrel, out of which came a thousand pistoles. “What is the meaning of this?” said Grognon, with a smile. She struck another barrel, tap-tap, and out came abushel of double Louis-d’ors. “I can’t understand this at all,” she said, with a still broader smile. On she passed to a third barrel, and went tap-tapping, when out there poured such a stream of pearls and diamonds that the ground was covered with them. “Ah!” she cried, “I am altogether mystified, your majesty. Someone must have stolen my good wine, and put these trifles there instead.” “Trifles!” said the king, who was filled with wonder. “By my faith, Madam Grognon, call you these trifles? Why, they are enough to buy ten kingdoms as big as Paris!” “Well,” she answered, “I will tell you that all these barrels are full of gold and jewels, and they will be yours if you will marry me.” “Ah!” replied the king, who cared for money more than anything else, “I will do so with the greatest pleasure in the world, and to-morrow if you like.” “But,” she went on, “I have one more condition to make. That is, that I be given authority over your daughter as if I were her mother; that she look to me for everything, and that you leave all control of her to me.” “She will be entirely under your authority,” said the king. “Here is my hand upon it.” Grognon put her hand in his, and together they went out of the treasure-house, the key of which she gave him.

The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy

As soon as he returned to his palace, Gracieuse, hearing his steps, ran to meet him, and, kissing him, asked him if he had had good luck at the hunt. “I caught a dove alive,” he said.” Ah, sire,” said the princess, “give it to me, and I will feed it.” “That is not possible,” he answered, “for, to speak more plainly, I must tell you I met the Duchess Grognon, and I have promised to marry her.” “Oh, heavens!” cried Gracieuse, without thinking what she was saying. “Do you call her a dove? She is more like an owl.” “Hold your tongue,” said the king, angrily. “I insist on your loving her, and respecting her as if she were your own mother. Go away at once and get dressed, for I wish to go back and see her this very day.” The princess was very obedient, and went to her room to get ready. Her nurse saw from her eyes that she was in distress. “What is the matter, dear little one?” she said. “You are crying.” “Alas! dear nurse,” answered Gracieuse, “who would not cry? The king is going to give me a step-mother, and, worst of all, she is my cruellest enemy — in fact, it is that hideous Grognon. How can I look at her in those beautiful beds that my good mother, the queen, embroidered so exquisitely with her own hands? How can I caress a monster who would like to kill me?” “Dear child,” replied the nurse, “your courage should be as great as your birth. Princesses like you must show finer examples than others. And what better can you do than obey your father, and sacrifice yourself to please him? Promise me then that you will not let Grognon see how dismayed you are.” The princess found it difficult to make up her mind to this, but the good nurse reasoned with her so wisely that at last she promised to put a good face on the matter, and to be polite to her step-mother. Then she dressed herself in a green robe with a gold ground. Her fair hair fell over her shoulders, floating in the wind, according to the fashion of those days, and on her head was a light crown of roses and jasmines, all the leaves of which were made of emeralds. When she was ready, Venus, the mother of the loves, would have seemed less fair by her side; yet you could read in her face the sadness which she could not altogether overcome.

But let us go back to Grognon. That ugly creature was much taken up with her attire. That she might seem rather less lame she had one shoe made half-a-cubit higher than the other, and to hide her hump she had her bodice stuffed on one shoulder. She stuck in the best made glass eye that could be found, painted her face to make it white, and dyed her red hair black. Then she put on a dress of amaranth satin lined with blue, a yellow petticoat, and violet ribbons. She meant to make her entrance on horseback, for she had heard that the queens of Spain always did so.

While the king was giving his orders, and Gracieuse was waiting the moment when they should set out to meet Grognon, the princess went by herself into the garden, and, entering a little dark wood, she sat down upon the grass. “At last,” she said, “I am free to weep as much as I want. There is nobody to hinder me.” And with that she began to sigh and weep so much that her eyes looked like two streams of living water. In this condition she felt she could not return to the palace. All at once she saw a page coming towards her, dressed in green satin, with white feathers in his cap, and the comeliest face in the world. Kneeling before her, he said: “Princess, the king awaits you”. She was full of admiration for the beauty of this young page whom she did not know, and who she thought must belong to Grognon’s suite. “How long,” she asked, “have you been amongst the king’s pages?” “I am no page of his, madam,” he answered. “I am yours, and I wish for no other service.” “Mine?” she answered, in astonishment, “but I do not know you.” “Ah, princess!” he replied, “I have not dared till now to make myself known to you, but the evil that threatens you from the marriage of the king forces me to speak sooner than I otherwise should have done. I had determined to leave to time and my services the task of declaring my love to you, and …” “What! a page!” cried the princess, “a page has the audacity to say he loves me! This is the worst of all!” “Fear not, fair Gracieuse,” he said, with respect and tenderness in his looks; “I am Percinet, a prince not unknown for his wealth and his accomplishments, and you may set your mind at rest as to the equality of our stations in life. It is only your birth and your merit which make us unequal. I have loved you long, and I am often near you without your being aware of it. The fairy gift I received at my birth has been of great service in giving me the pleasure of looking upon you. I shall bear you company to-day in this dress, and I hope I may be of use to you.” While he was speaking the princess was looking at him with an astonishment she could not master. “It is you then, fair Percinet,” she said, “you whom I so longed to see, and of whom such wonderful things are told. What joy to have you for a friend! I no longer fear the wicked Grognon, since you will watch over my safety.” They talked still a little while longer, and then Gracieuse returned to the palace, where she found a horse ready harnessed and caparisoned that Percinet had placed in the stable, and which was meant for her it was supposed. She mounted, and, as the horse was very spirited, the page took it by the bridle and led it, turning every moment towards the princess, to have the joy of looking on her face.

When the horse that had been chosen for Grognon appeared near Gracieuse’s it looked but a sorry hack, while the saddle-cloth of the princess’s beautiful steed was so splendid with jewels that the other looked poor and mean in comparison. The king, who had many things to see after, paid no attention to this, and none of his lords had any eyes but for Gracieuse, whose beauty so dazzled them, and for the page in green, who was handsomer than all the court pages put together.

They met Grognon on the road in an open carriage, uglier and more mis-shapen than any old countrywoman. The king and the princess embraced her, and led forwards her horse. But when she saw the one belonging to Gracieuse, she called out: “Why should that creature have a finer horse than I? I would rather not be a queen at all, and go back to my own fine castle, than be treated like this.” The king at once ordered Gracieuse to dismount and beg Grognon to do her the honour of riding on her horse, and the princess obeyed without a word. Grognon neither looked at her nor thanked her, and she was hoisted up on the pretty horse very much like a bundle of dirty linen. Eight gentlemen held her on, in case she should fall; and still she was not pleased, but went on muttering threats under her breath. They asked her what was the matter. “As I am the mistress,” she answered, “I want the page in green to hold the bridle of my horse, as he did when Gracieuse was riding it.” So the king ordered the page in green to lead the queen’s horse. Percinet cast his eyes towards the princess, and she looked at him without saying a single word. He obeyed, and all the court set out amidst the loud din of drums and trumpets. Grognon was delighted; and for all her flat nose and her crooked mouth, she would not have changed places with Gracieuse.

But, just when they were least thinking of it, the beautiful horse began to rear, and to kick, and to run so fast that no one could stop him. Away he went with Grognon holding on to the saddle and the mane, crying as loud as she could. At last her foot caught in the stirrup, and she fell. The horse dragged her for a long way over the stones, through thorns, and through mud in which she was all but buried. They had all followed after, and they soon came up to her, and found her full of scratches, her head broken in four or five places, and one of her arms fractured. Never was a bride in a more woeful plight. The king was in despair. She was picked up like a glass shivered to atoms; hei cap was found lying on one side of the road, her shoes on the other. She was carried to the town, and put to bed, and the best doctors were sent for. But in spite of all her sufferings, she never stopped scolding. “This is one of Gracieuse’s tricks,” she said. “I am sure she only took that beautiful and vicious horse to make me jealous, and so that I might be killed. If the king does not right my wrongs, I shall go back to my own fine castle, and never look on his face again.” The king was told of Grognon’s rage. As his ruling passion was avarice, the mere thought of losing the thousand barrels of gold and diamonds made him shudder, and he would have done anything to prevent it. So he ran to the loathsome sufferer, flung himself at her feet, and swore to herthat she had only to name a punishment fitting for the offence Gracieuse had committed, and that he would give up the princess to her angry will. She said that was enough, and she would send for Gracieuse. So they went to tell the princess that Grognon was asking for her. The princess became pale and trembled, knowing well enough it was not for caresses she was sought. She looked round on every side for Percinet to come, but not seeing him, she made her way in all sadness to Grognon’s chamber. Hardly was she inside when the doors were shut, and four women, like four furies, threw themselves on her by their mistress’s orders, pulled off her pretty clothes, and tore her shift from her back. When her shoulders were bare these merciless furies could not endure to look on their dazzling whiteness, and shut their eyes as if they had been looking on snow for a long time. “Lay on, lay on! courage!” cried the pitiless Grognon from her bed. “Flay her till not a little morsel remains of that white skin she thinks so beautiful.” In the midst of any other trouble Gracieuse would have wished for the handsome Percinet to come to her aid; but being all but naked, she was too modest to desire him for a witness, and she made up her mind to suffer everything as meekly as a lamb. Each of the four furies held in her hand a bunch of horrible-looking rods, and there were also large brooms out of which they could pluck fresh ones. They beat her mercilessly; and at every stroke Grognon would say: “Harder! harder! you are too gentle with her!” After this nobody would believe but that the princess was flayed from head to foot. Yet, it was not so at all; for the gallant Percinet had put a charm on the eyes of those women, and what they took for rods in their hands were only feathers of every possible colour. As soon as the beating began Gracieuse saw how it was, and was no longer afraid. “Ah, Percinet,” she said, under her breath, “how generous of you to come to my aid! What should I have done without you?” At last the floggers were so exhausted that they could not move their arms any longer, so they bustled her into her clothes, and. put her out of the room, calling her all kind of ugly names. She went back to her own room, and pretending to be very ill, she went to bed, giving orders that no one but her nurse should remain with her. To her she told the whole story, till at last she fell asleep. The nurse went away, and when Gracieuse woke up she saw the page in green in a dark corner of the room, not daring to come near, by reason of the respect he felt towards her. She told him she would never forget, during her whole life long, her obligations to him; begged him not to leave her to the fury of her enemy, and, in the meantime, to go away, as she had always been told she should not stay alone with boys. He replied that his respect for her must be evident, but that it was only right that he should obey his mistress in everything, even at the cost of his own happiness. Thereupon he left her, after advising her to pretend to be very ill in consequence of the cruel treatment she had received.

Grognon was so glad to think of Gracieuse in this condition that she got better twice as soon again as she would have otherwise done, and the wedding was celebrated with great splendour. Now, as the king knew that Grognon liked to be called beautiful better than anything else, he had her portrait painted, and ordered a tournament to be arranged, where six of the best knights of the court should sustain in the face of, and against all comers that Queen Grognon was the fairest princess in the whole world. Many foreign knights came to maintain the contrary. The hideous creature was present throughout the whole proceedings, seated on a great balcony covered with gold brocade, and seeing with pleasure how the prowess of her knights was triumphing in Ker wicked cause. Gracieuse was behind her, and every eye sought hers; but vain and foolish Grognon thought she was the object of everybody’s attention.

There was hardly a knight left who dared dispute the beauty of Grognon, when a young man was seen approaching, carrying a portrait in a diamond box. He would maintain, he said, that Grognon was the most hideous of all women, and that she whose portrait was in his box was the fairest of damsels. At the word he charged the six knights, and threw them to the ground. Six others came up. In the end four-and-twenty had presented themselves, but he was victor over all. Then, opening his box, he told them that for their consolation he would show them his beautiful picture. Everyone recognised it as that of Gracieuse, to whom he made a profound reverence, and then retired without telling his name. But she had no doubt of its being Percinet.

Grognon was well nigh choking with anger. Her throat swelled, and she could not get a word out, but she signed that it was Gracieuse she had to deal with, and when she could find words she raged like a madwoman. “How dare you” she said, “dispute with me the prize of beauty? How dare you cause my knights to be insulted in this fashion? I will have my revenge, or I will die for it!” “Madam,” said the princess, “I protest I have no part in what has just happened. If you like, I will attest with my blood that you are the most beautiful lady in the world, and that I am a monster of ugliness.” “Oh, you would laugh at me, little one, would you?” answered Grognon, “but my turn will come soon.” The king was told of the fury of his wife, and how the princess, half dead with fright, begged him to have pity on her, for if he left her to the tender mercies of the queen, all sorts of evil things would happen to her. Still he was quite unmoved, and only answered: “I gave her to her step-mother. Let her do what she likes with her.”

The wicked Grognon waited for night to come with much impatience. As soon as it was dark she had horses harnessed to her carriage. Gracieuse was forced to get into it, and with a strong escort was taken away for a hundred leagues, into a great forest through which no one dared to pass, for it was full of lions, and bears, and tigers, and wolves. When they had reached the middle of the terrible forest they made her get down, and there they left her, in spite of her prayers that they should have mercy. “I do not ask you to spare my life,” she cried; “I only ask a speedy death. Kill me and thus save me from all the ills which I must meet with here.” She spoke to deaf ears. They would not even answer, and fled from her, leaving this poor unhappy beauty all by herself. For some time she walked on without knowing where she was going, now bruising herself against a tree, now falling, now entangled in the bushes. At length, overcome with grief, she threw herself on the ground, with no strength left to get up. “Percinet,” she cried from time to time, “Percinet, where are you? Can you in truth have left me?” At last, just as she had said these words, she suddenly saw the most beautiful and the most astonishing thing in the world. It was an illumination, so magnificent that there was not a tree in the forest from which did not hang several chandeliers filled with candles; while at the other end of an avenue she saw a palace all made of crystal, glistening like the sun. She began to think that Percinet must have something to do with this fresh wonder, and her joy was mingled with fear. “I am alone,” she said. “This prince is young, beautiful, and full of affection for me. I owe my life to him. Ah, I must not think of it! Better to die than to love him!” And so saying, she got up, and spite of her fatigue and her weakness, and without a glance at the beautiful castle, she walked in the opposite direction, so troubled and so confused in her mind with all the different thoughts that crowded there that she did not know what she was doing. At that moment she heard a noise behind her. Fear took hold of her. She thought some wild beast was going to devour her, and looking round in terror, she saw Prince Percinet as beautiful as Love himself. “Are you fleeing from me?” he said. “Do you fear me when I adore you? Can you have so poor an idea of me as to think I could be lacking in respect for you? Come, come away without fear to the Fairy Palace. I shall not enter if you forbid me, but you will find there my mother, the queen, and my sisters, who love you tenderiy already from what I have told them of you.” Gracieuse, delighted at the mild and gentle manner in which her young lover spoke, could not refuse to mount along with him into a little sleigh, painted and gilded, and drawn with marvellous speed by two stags. In this way he took her to see endless beautiful spots in the forest. It was daylight everywhere, and they saw shepherds and shepherdesses gaily dressed, dancing to the sound of flutes and pipes. In other places, by the banks of rivers, there were village lads with their sweethearts feasting and singing merry songs. “I thought this forest was not inhabited,” she said; “but I see life and cheerfulness everywhere.” “Since you have come, my princess,” replied Percinet, “this dark solitude is full of pleasure and gaiety. The loves accompany you, and flowers spring up where’er you tread.” Gracieuse dared not answer. She did not wish to take part in this kind of conversation, and she begged the prince to take her to the queen, his mother. So he told the stags to set out for the Fairy Palace. As they were nearing it, beautiful music sounded in their ears, and the queen with two of her daughters, who were all very lovely, embraced her and led her into a great hall, whose walls were of rock crystal. With much astonishment she saw that the story of her own life, up to that very day, was engraved on them, even her drive with the prince in the sleigh, and all in a style so finished, that the works of Phidias and all the sculpture that ancient Greece could boast of were as nothing in comparison. “You have very watchful craftsmen,” said Gracieuse to Percinet, “for no sooner do I make a sign or a movement but I see it carved there.” “That is because I wish nothing to be lost that relates in any way to you, my princess,” he answered. “But alas! nowhere am I happy or satisfied.” She said nothing in reply, but thanked the queen for the way in which she received her. A greatfeast was served, and Gracieuse ate with a good appetite, so delighted was she to have found Percinet instead of the bears and lions she had feared to meet in the forest. Although she was very tired, he persuaded her to come with him into a saloon all shining with gold and pictures, where an opera was performed. The subject was the Loves of Psyche and Cupid, and it was interspersed with dances and little songs. A young shepherd stepped forward and sang these words: —

The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy

“Why so cruel, lady mine?
Dost thou know the love that’s thine
In my true heart burning?
Even the tigers fierce and wild,
‘Neath the power of love grow mild,
Tame and lamb-like turning.
Only gentle Gracieuse flees
When the looks of love she sees,
All my worship spurning.”

She blushed at hearing her name mentioned in this way before the queen and the princesses, and she told Percinet that it grieved her somewhat that everybody should know their secrets. “That reminds one of a maxim,” she said, “which I agree with entirely: —

“‘Discretion adds a grace and charm to wooing;
Then tell your love not in the world’s ear,
Lest, as a cruel judge your joys pursuing,
It makes their harmlessness as crimes appear’.”

He asked her pardon for having done anything to displease her. When the opera was finished the queen sent the two princesses to take her to her rooms. Nothing so beautiful as the furniture was ever seen, nor so elegant as the bed and the bed-chamber where she was to sleep. She was waited on by twenty-four maidens dressed as nymphs, the eldest eighteen years old, and each of them a wonder of beauty. When she had gone to bed, exquisite music was played to lull her to sleep, but her astonishment was so great that she could not close her eyes. “All I have seen,” she said, “is the work of magic. There is danger in being near a prince so beautiful and so wonderful. I cannot too soon flee away from here.” But the thought of escaping was very painful to her. Were she to leave this splendid palace and fall into the hands of cruel Grognon, what different treatment she would experience! Such a step was not to be taken too suddenly. Yet Percinet seemed to her so charming that she did not wish to remain in a palace where he was master.

When she rose they brought her dresses of every colour, trinkets of precious stones of every shape, lace, ribbons, gloves, silk stockings, and all in exquisite taste. Nothing was lacking. Her costume was of chased gold, and never before had she been so finely dressed, never before had she looked so beautiful. Percinet entered her room clad in cloth of gold and green, for green was his colour, because Gracieuse liked it. The comeliest, the handsomest of menbeside him would have seemed plain. Gracieuse told him she had not been able to sleep, so much did the memory of her misfortunes torment her, and that she could not but fear what was still to come. “What is there to fear, madam?” he said. “You are sovereign here: you are adored. Would you wish to forsake me for your cruel enemy?” “If I were mistress of my fate,” she said, “I should accept your proposal, but I am accountable for my actions to the king, my father, and it is better for me to suffer than to fail in my duty.” Percinet said everything he could think of to persuade her to marry him, but she would not consent, and it was almost in spite of herself that he kept her for eight days, during which time he invented all kinds of pleasures to amuse her.

She would often say to the prince: “I should like to know what is passing at Grognon’s court, and what kind of explanation she has given of her conduct to me”. Percinet said he would send his squire, who was a man of intelligence, to make inquiries. She told him she was sure he did not need anyone to inform him of what was going on, and that he himself could tell her. “Come with me, then,” he said, “to the great tower, and you will see for yourself.” Thereupon he took her to the top of an enormously high tower, made of rock crystal as the rest of the castle was, and told her to put her foot on his and her little finger in his mouth, and to look towards the town. Then she saw the wicked Grognon with the king, and she heard her crying: “That unfortunate princess has hanged herself in the cellar. I have just seen her. She is horrible to look at, and she must be speedily buried, and you must console yourself for so trifling a loss.” But the king began to cry for the death of his daughter. Grognon turned her back on him, and went to her own room. She had a log dressed up with a cap and well wrapped about, and put into a coffin. Then, by order of the king, there was a grand funeral, where everybody wept and cursed the step-mother, who, they said, had killed Gracieuse. They all wore mourning, and the princess on the tower heard the lamentations for her death, and heard them saying to themselves: “How sad that so young and fair a princess should have perished by the cruelty of this wicked wretch! She ought to be hacked to pieces and put into a pie!” And the king, unable to eat or drink, wept bitterly. Gracieuse, seeing her father in such distress, said: “Ah! Percinet, I cannot bear that my father should any longer think I am dead. If you love me, take me back to him. Whatever he says, I must obey him, however distasteful it may be to me.” “My princess,” he said, “you will often regret the Fairy Palace, though I do not dare to think you will regret me. You are more cruel to me than Grognon is to you.” Yet, for all he said, she persisted in setting off, and took leave of the prince’s mother and sisters. He got in with her into the sleigh, and the stags began to run. As she went out of the palace gates she heard a great noise, and looking behind her, she saw the whole building falling in a thousand pieces. “What is this I see?” she said. “The palace has vanished!” “No,” answered Percinet; “my palace will be among the dead. There you will never enter till after you are buried.” “You are angry,” said Gracieuse, trying to soften him. “But, after all, am I not more to be pitied than you?”

When they had reached her home, Percinet made the princess, himself, and the sleigh invisible. Then she went up to the king’s room, and flung herself at his feet. When he saw her he was afraid, and would have fled, for he took her for a ghost. But she held him, and told him she was not dead, that Grognon had sent her into the wild-beast forest, where she had climbed to the top of a tree, and lived on fruits; and that it was a log that had been buried in her stead. She begged, for pity’s sake, that he would send her to one of his other castles, where she would no longer be at the mercy of her step-mother’s fury.

The king, not sure whether she was telling the truth or not, sent and had the log dug up, and much astonished was he at Grognon’s wickedness. Anyone else would have had her buried in its place, but he was a poor, weak man, who had not spirit enough to be really angry. So he petted his daughter a good deal, and had her to sup with him. When Grognon’s minions went and told her that Gracieuse had come back, and that she was supping with the king, she behaved like a madwoman, and running to him, she told him that this was not a timefor shilly-shallying; that either he must give up this good-for-nothing girl, or she herself would this moment depart and never come back any more; and that it was a mere supposition that it was Princess Gracieuse. This girl that had come was somewhat like her, but Gracieuse had hanged herself; she had seen her hanged with her own eyes, and that to put any faith in the impostures of this creature was to show a lack of consideration for and trust in herself. The king without a word abandoned the poor princess, believing, or pretending to believe, she was not his daughter.

Grognon, delighted, dragged her by the help of her women into a dungeon, where she made her undress. They took away her pretty clothes, and put on a poor rag of coarse linen, and wooden shoes on her feet, and a rough hood on her head. They grudged her even a bundle of straw to lie on, and black bread to eat. In her distress she wept bitterly, longing to be back in the Fairy Palace; but she dared not call Percinet to come to her help, thinking she had used him too ill, and not sure whether he loved her enough to help her again. Meanwhile wicked Grognon had sent for a fairy who was hardly less malicious than herself. “I have here,” she said to her, “a wicked little girl whom I have great reason to be angry with. I wish to punish her, and to have always very difficult pieces of work to give her to do, which she will never be able to finish, so that I may beat her as much as I like without her having any reason to complain. Help me to find for her every day a new difficulty.” The fairy said she would think about it, and would come back next day. And so she did, bringing with her a skein of thread as big as any four persons, and so fine that it broke if you but breathed on it, and so tangled that it was all in a bunch, without beginning or end. Grognon was delighted, and sending for the fair prisoner, she said: “There, good gossip, get ready your great fists to wind this thread, and remember that if you break the least little bit of it you are lost, for I shall flay you alive with my own hands. Now begin when you like, but I must have it wound before sunset.” Then she shut her up in a room under three locks.

No sooner was the princess by herself than she began looking at the huge skein, turning it this way and that, breaking the thread in a thousand places for one knot that she disentangled, till she was so confused that she gave up trying any more to wind it. Throwing it into the middle of the room, she said: “Go, fatal thread! You will be the death of me. Ah, Percinet, Percinet, if my harshness has not too much repelled you, I ask, not your aid, but only that you should come and receive my last farewell.” Thereupon she began to cry so bitterly that anyone even less tender than a lover would have been touched. Percinet opened the door as easily as if he kept the key in Jiis pocket. “Here I am, my princess,” he said, “ever ready to serve you. I am not capable of forsaking you, though you ill requite my affection.” Striking the skein three times with his wand, the broken threads were immediately joined, and with two other strokes the whole was wound with wonderful neatness. He asked her if she wished for anything else from him, and if she would never call for him but when she was in distress. “Do not reproach me, fair Percinet,” she said; “I am unhappy enough already.” “But, my princess, it is in your hands to free yourself from the tyranny of which you are the victim. Come with me, and let us be happy together. What are you afraid of? “That you do not love me enough,” she answered. “I want your affection for me to be strengthened by time.” Percinet, enraged by these suspicions, took leave of her and went away.

The sun was just about to set, and Grognon was waiting for the hour in a fever of impatience. At last she came before her time, with the four furies, who went with her everywhere. She put the three keys into the three locks, and said, as she opened the door: “I wager the pretty idle hussy has not kept her fingers going very fast. She will rather have been sleeping to keep her complexion fresh.” When she came in Gracieuse gave her the ball of thread, beautifully wound. Grognon could not say anything except that she had soiled it, that she was a little slut, and for that she gave her two slaps that turned her pink and white cheeks blue and yellow. Poor Gracieuse bore meekly this insult which she was not able to protect herself against, and they took her back to the dungeon, where she was again locked up.

Grognon, deeply disappointed at having failed with the skein of thread, sent for the fairy, and loaded her with reproaches. “Find something much more difficult,” she said, “so that it will be impossible for her to doit.” The fairy went away, and next day she brought a great barrel full of feathers. There were feathers of all kinds of birds: nightingales, canaries, tarins, goldfinches, linnets, redwings, parrots, owls, sparrows, doves, ostriches, bustards, peacocks, larks, partridges — I should never have done if I were to name them all. These feathers were all mixed in such a way that the birds themselves could not have distinguished them. “Here,” said the fairy to Grognon, “here is something that will test the skill and try the patience of your prisoner. Command her to pick out these feathers, and to put those of the peacocks apart, and those of the nightingales, and to do the same with all the others, making a heap of each kind. A fairy even would find herself at a loss with such a task.” Grognon was beside herself with joy as she pictured the despair of the poor princess. She sent for her, threatened her in the same way as before, and shut her up in the triple-locked room with the barrel, telling her that the whole work must be done by sunset.

Gracieuse began to handle some of the feathers, but, as it was impossible for her to distinguish one kind from another, she threw them back again into the barrel. Again she took some out, and several times she made an attempt, but seeing that it was an impossible thing she was trying, she said, in a tone of despair: “Let me die. It is my death they wish for, and it will end my sorrows. I must not call again on Percinet to help me; if he cared for me he would be here already.” “And so I am, my princess,” cried Percinet, appearing from the depths of the barrel, in which he was hidden. “Here I am to get you out of the difficulty in which you are struggling. Doubt if you can, after so many proofs of my affection, that I love you better than my life.” With that, he gave three taps with his wand, and the feathers, coming out by thousands from the barrel, arranged themselves in little heaps all round the room. “What do I not owe you, my lord?” said Gracieuse to him. “Without you I should have given up entirely. Rest assured of my gratitude.” The prince tried every means to persuade her to make up her mind to do as he wished, but she asked for time; and however great his sacrifice, he did according to her desire. When Grognon came she was so astonished at what she saw that she did not know what more she could do to torment Gracieuse. All the same she beat her, saying her feathers were badly arranged. Again she sent for the fairy, and flew into a horrible temper with her. The fairy did not know what to answer; for she was stupefied. At last she said she would employ all her skill in making a box which would give the princess a good deal of trouble if she took it into her head to open it. A few days after this she brought a box of a considerable size. “See,” she said to Grognon; “tell your slave to carry that somewhere. Tell her she must not open it. She will not, however, be able to resist, and then you will be satisfied.” Grognon did exactly as she was told. “Carry this box,” she said, “to my great castle, and put it on the table in the cabinet. But I forbid you, on pain of death, to look what is inside.” Gracieuse put on her sabots, her coarse linen frock, her woollen hood, and set off. Those who met her by the way said: “That must be some goddess in disguise,” for her marvellous beauty could not be hidden. She had not gone far before she felt very tired, And, while she was passing through a little wood skirting a pleasant meadow, she sat down to rest for a little. As she held the box on her knees, she suddenly felt a strong desire to open it. “What could happen to me?” she said. “I shall take nothing out of it, but at least I shall see what is inside.” And, thinking no more of the consequences, she opened it. Immediately there came out such a number of little men and little women, violins, and other musical instruments, little tables, little cooks, little dishes, and last of all the giant of the troop, who was as high as your finger. They leaped about in the meadow, separating into several bands, and began the prettiest ball that ever was seen. While some were dancing, others were cooking, and others eating, the little violins playing beautifully all the time. At first Gracieuse was amused at seeing such an extraordinary thing; but when she was somewhat tired of it, and wanted to put them into the box again, not one of them would go. The little gentlemen and the little ladies ran away, even the very violins; and the cooks, with their saucepans on their heads and their spits on their shoulders, ran oif to the woods as soon as she was in the meadow, and into the meadow when she was in the wood. “O reckless curiosity,” said Gracieuse, weeping, “you have done my enemy but too good a turn! The only misfortune I could have avoided comes from my own fault. No, I cannot reproach myself enough. Percinet! Percinet! “she cried,” if you still can love a princess who is so thoughtless, come and help me in this the most unlucky adventure that has ever befallen me.” She had not to call him thrice before he appeared in his glittering green dress. “Were it not for wicked Grognon,” he said, “fair princess, you would never think of me.” “Ah, do not so misunderstand my feelings towards you. I am neither insensible to worth, nor ungrateful for kindness. It is true that I try your constancy, but only to crown it when I am convinced of it.” Percinet, more pleased than he had ever been before, tapped the box three times with his wand, and immediately the mannikins, the little ladies, the violins, the cooks,the roast meats, everyone of them took their places as if they had never been out of them. Percinet had left his chariot in the wood, and he begged the princess to use it to go to the great castle, and indeed she had much need of this help, so exhausted was she. Making her invisible, he drove her there himself, thus having the pleasure of bearing her company — a pleasure, my chronicle tells me, to which she was not indifferent at the bottom of her hearty though she carefully hid her feelings.

The Fairy Tales of Madame D' Aulnoy

When she reached the fine castle, and asked, in Grognon’s name, to have the door of the cabinet opened for her, the governor burst out laughing. “What!” he said, “do you think when you leave your sheep you can enter without more ado into such a beautiful place? Be off! Return where you came from. We don’t allow wooden shoes on our fine floors.” Gracieuse begged him to write a word stating his refusal, which he did. Then, leaving the great castle, she found kind Percinet waiting outside, who brought her back to the palace. It would be difficult for me to write all the tender and respectful words he said to her by the way, to persuade her to put an end to her unhappiness; and she told him that if Grognon played her another bad turn she would do as he wished.

When her step-mother saw her come back she threw herself on the fairy, whom she had kept by her, and scratched her, and she would have strangled her if a fairy could be strangled. Gracieuse gave Grognon the governor’s note and the box, but she flung both into the fire without even opening them, and, according to her own tale, she would have liked to have thrown Gracieuse in too. But she did not long put off the princess’s punishment. She had a great hole made in the garden as deep as a well, and over it a large stone was placed. Then she went to walk in the garden, and said to Gracieuse and all who were with her: “Here is a stone under which I am told there is a treasure. Come now, lift it speedily.” Everyone lent a hand, Gracieuse amongst the others, which was just what they wanted. As soon as she was at the edge, Grognon pushed her roughly into the pit, and they let fall the stone that closed it. There was nothing to be hoped for in a case like this. How could Percinet ever find her in the middle of the earth? She saw the hopelessness of hersituation, and repented having waited so long to marry him. “How cruel is fete to me!” she cried. “Here I am buried alive, and this kind of death is more terrible than any other. You are revenged for my delays, Precinet, but I feared lest you should be as fickle as other men, who change just as soon as they are certain of being loved. In short, I wished to be sure of your heart; and my natural suspicions have brought me to my present state. Yet,” she went on, “could I hope that you would feel my loss, I think death would be easier to bear.” She was speaking thus to ease her pain, when suddenly a little door opened, which, in the darkness, she had not seen before. The light streamed through and let her see a garden full of flowers, and fruits, and fountains, grottoes, statues, shrubberies, and arbours. Without a moment’s hesitation she entered, and going along a broad walk, wondering to herself what end this adventure would have, she saw the Fairy Castle. She had no difficulty in recognising it, quite apart from the fact that there are not many such made of rock crystal, and that she saw her new adventure engraved on its walls. Percinet appeared with his mother and his sisters. “Do not refuse any longer, fair princess,” said the queen to Gracieuse. “It is time my son were made happy, and it is time you were released from the terrible condition in which you live under the tyranny of Grognon.” The grateful princess threw herself on herknees, and told her she might do with her as she willed; that she would obey her in all things; that she had not forgotten the prophecy of Percinet when she left the Fairy Palace — that this same palace would be among the dead, and that she would not enter it till after she had been buried; that she looked on hisfairy lore with admiration, as she did on his virtue; and that she was willing to marry him. The prince, in his turn, threw himself at her feet, and at that moment the palace resounded with the sound of voices and of instruments.

The wedding feast was of unheard-of splendour. All the fairies from a thousand leagues round came with their magnificent equipages; some in cars drawn by swans, others mounted on dragons, others on clouds, others on fiery globes. Amongst them came the fairy who had helped Grognon to torment Gracieuse, and when she saw the princess never was anyone so surprised. She begged her to forget what was past, and promised she would seek means to repair the wrong she had made her suffer. And in truth she would not stay for the feast; but, mounting again on her car drawn by two terrible serpents, she flew to the king’s palace, where she sought out Grognon, and wrung her neck before the guards or her attendants could hinder her.

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