Short Stories » Princess Rosetta - Page 7 of 9
Meanwhile, the king and his brother, who were prisoners, and knew that it was about the time for their sister to arrive, had put on their finest clothes to receive her. Instead, however, of seeing their prison door opened and themselves set at liberty, as they expected, the jailor came with soldiers, and made them descend into a dark dungeon, full of noxious reptiles, where they were up to their necks in water. No one could be more surprised or sorrowful than they were. "Alas!" said they to each other, " this is a sorrowful wedding for us ! what can have been the cause of such a sad misfortune ?" They did not know what to think, excepting that they were doomed to death.
They passed three days in this miserable plight. At the end of that time, the King of the Peacocks came to an opening that was in the wall, to abuse them. " You have called yourselves king and prince” said he, " to entrap me into a marriage with your sister ; but you are wretches who are not worth the water you drink. I am about to give you judges who will soon decide your fate ; and the rope is twisting with which I will have you hanged." " King of the Peacocks," said our king, filled with indignation, " do not proceed so rashly in this affair, for you may yet repent it. I am, like you, a king, and have a fine kingdom, robes and crowns, and plenty of money ; you seem to think very lightly of hanging us ; have we stolen any thing ?"
When the king heard him speak so resolutely, he knew not what to make of it, and had some thoughts of sparing their lives, and of letting them go with their sister ; but his trusty friend, who was a real parasite, encouraged him ; saying that if he did not revenge himself, all the world would laugh at him, and think him a weak prince indeed. So he swore that he would not forgive them, and ordered their trial to proceed. It did not last long, as to condemn them it was merely necessary to com- pare the portrait of the real princess Rosetta, with the person assuming the name. They were therefore sentenced to be beheaded, for having told the king a lie, in promising to him in marriage a beautiful princess, and only giving him an ugly country girl.
This decree was read very formally to them in prison, when they protested that they had not told a lie, for that their sister was a princess, more beautiful than the day ; but that there was something passing which they could not comprehend. They demanded a respite of seven days, stating that in that time something might occur by which their innocence would be established. The King of the Peacocks, who was very angry, would hardly grant them this favour ; but at last he did so.
While all this was passing at the court, we must relate what happened to the poor princess Rosetta. We have stated that when it was daylight, she was very much surprised, as was Fretillon also, to find herself out at sea without a boat or any assistance. She cried so pitifully that all the fishes were sorry for her: she knew not what to do or what would become of her. " Certainly," said she " the King of the Peacocks has ordered me to be thrown into the sea ; he has repented his design of marrying me, and to get rid of me decently, he would have me drowned. What a silly man !" continued she, "I should have loved him so well ! we should have managed so nicely." Then she cried still more, for she could not help loving him.