Short Stories » Princess Rosetta - Page 8 of 9
She remained two days floating in this manner, from one part of the sea to another, drenched to her skin, ready to die with cold, and nearly frozen ; indeed, had it not been for little Fretillon, who kept up a little warmth near her heart, she would have died a hundred times. She was dreadfully hungry. She saw oysters in their shells, and took as many as she liked and ate them : Fretillon was not fond of oysters; however he was obliged to eat some, in order to keep himself alive. When night came on, Rosetta was very much alarmed, and she said to her dog : " Fretillon ! pray keep barking, for fear the soles should eat us up."
He barked all night long, and towards the morning the princess's bed was not very far from the shore. There happened to be thereabouts a good old man, who lived by himself in a little cottage, into which no one but himself ever entered : he was very poor, but very careless of the things of this world. When he heard Fretillon bark, he was quite surprised, for there were no dogs about there ; it struck him therefore that some travellers had lost their way, and he went out kindly to direct them aright. Suddenly he perceived the princess and Fretillon, who were floating on the sea; the princess seeing him, stretched her arms towards him, and cried : " Good old man, save me, or I shall perish here, where I have been two days languishing."
When he heard her speak so sadly, his heart filled with pity for her misfortunes. He immediately fetched from his house a long boat-hook, with which he walked into the water till it wa* up to his neck, and was once or twice nearly drowned : at last he succeeded in dragging the bed to the land.
Rosetta and Fretillon were, as may be supposed, very glad to be once more on dry ground ; the princess was very thankful to the good old man, and graciously accepted a blanket, which she wrapped around her : then, barefooted, she entered his cottage where he lighted a little fire of dry straw, and took out of his chest a woman's gown, with shoes and stockings, in which Rosetta dressed herself; and clad even thus, as a poor peasant girl, she was as beautiful as the day. Fretillon, enraptured, danced round her for her amusement.
The old man saw very plainly that Rosetta was some grand lady ; for her bed clothes were embroidered with gold and silver, and her mattrass was covered with satin. He begged her to tell him her story, promising that he would not reveal a word of it, without her permission. She told him all from beginning to end, crying bitterly the while; for she still thought that the King of the Peacocks had ordered her to be drowned. " How shall we act, my child ?" said the old man to her. " You are a noble princess, used to good living, while I have only black bread and radishes ; you will fare but poorly with me, and if you will take my advice, will permit me to go and tell the King of the Peacocks that you are here ; for were he to see you, he would certainly be but too happy to marry you." " Ah ! he is a wicked man," said Rosetta, " and would put me to death ; but if you have a little basket, do but tie it round my dog's neck, and it will be very unfortunate, if he do not bring us back something to eat."
The old man gave the princess a basket ; she tied it to Fretillon's neck, and said to him : " Go to the best saucepan in the city, and bring back whatever is therein." Fretillon ran to the city ; and as the king's kitchen was the best, he went into it, sought out the best saucepan, cleverly took out the contents, and returned to his mistress. Rosetta then said to him : " Return to the pantry and fetch me the best thing thence." Fretillon went to the king's pantry, and soon returned with some white bread, muscadine wine, fruits and sweetmeats : he was so laden that he could not carry more.