Short Stories » Septimus

The first thing that the queen did, after she had re- gained her senses, was to consult her looking glass; she there saw, with the utmost pleasure, that her features were charming in the extreme ; but did not remark that these same features were those of a little girl of eight or nine years old ; that her dress hat had taken the shape of a girl's cap, furnished with ringlets of fair hair, and that her gown was changed to a frock with short sleeves and a lace apron ; all this, added to her slender figure, which the charm had not in the least degree diminished, made her a very droll object, however, she observed it not, for, of all the ideas that she had possessed before the enchantment, those only remained which referred to the prince of the Green Isles, and to the love which she felt for him. She was, therefore, quite as contented with herself as her courtiers were astonished at her appearance ; they knew not what to do even, or what part to take, when the prime-minister, on whom all the great depended, extricated them from their embarrassment, and decided that, so far from contradicting the queen, it was necessary to flatter her majesty's tastes and humours ; and he began by ordering his wife and daughters to conform themselves to her will. Soon, to please the minister, the example was followed, and, in a short time, all the court dressed like the queen, and imitated her in all she did. Every one, even the men, spoke childishly ; no one played at any game but puss in the corner, at forfeits, or birds beasts and fishes. The cooks had to dress nothing but custards, tartlets and little puffs. Nothing was done but dressing and undressing dolls, and at all the games and feasts, the only subject of conversation was the king of the Green Isles. The queen spoke of him a hundred times a day, and always called him her little hus- band. She asked for him continually, and was satisfied for some time, with each subterfuge which was used to flatter or deceive her ; but at last gaiety gave way to caprice, and she felt all the humours of a child who has not obtained what it wants and whose nurse dares not oppose its will. After being amused for some time with so singular an event (for the indolence of a court causes it to amuse itself with any thing) , people grew tired of the puerilities of this great child ; and weary of the constraint, as well as of the complaisance which it was necessary to display ; they forsook her court, and it was on the point of being quite abandoned, when it was positively stated in the Court Circular, that the long of the Green Isles, who was travelling over the neighbouring kingdoms, would soon arrive there. At this news their courage revived. The queen became so gay and cheerful, that she did nothing but sing and dance while awaiting the prince's arrival. The happy moment at length arrived ; she ran to meet him; and although she was told that it was contrary to etiquette, she actually determined to receive him at the foot of her staircase ! but as she was hastily descending, she became entangled hi her train, which had been recently lengthened in accordance with the fashion, and fell with considerable violence. Although her hands had saved her head, and her nose was only slightly grazed, she was so frightened that she uttered loud cries, and was carried to her chamber, when her face was bathed with Hungary water, and she was only quieted on being informed that her little husband was come to see her, and in truth the prince appeared, but the sight of so ridiculous a figure made him burst into such violent fits of laughter, that he was obliged to quit the room and even the palace. The queen, who witnessed his departure, began to cry, with all her might, that she wanted her little husband ; he was followed and entreated to return ; but ineffectually ; for he would not consent, but made the best of his way from a court where every body appeared to him to be insane. The queen, as may be supposed, was inconsolable; in vain every means was tried to calm her, her ill humour only became the more insupportable in consequence, and the yoke appeared to press too heavily, on those even who liked her best. The majority, ashamed to be the subjects of such a queen, were of opinion that it would be the best to dethrone her, which was about to be done, when Gangan, who only wished to disgust her with marriage, disenchanted her and restored her original appearance. At the sight of her natural figure ; she thought of stabbing herself in despair ; she had found herself charming under that she had just quitted, and now saw, in its place, but a face of upwards of sixty and an ugliness which she detested. She never conceived that she had been in the least ridiculous under her late metamorphosis, and had certainly lost none of her love, so that the loss of her youth, and of the prince of the Green Isles, threw her into a languor which threatened her life, and inspired her at the same time with an implacable hatred for the fairy Gangan. With regard to her subjects, they began to pity her, and to look on these events as a just punishment for the sacrifice she had made of her maternal tenderness and gratitude, at the shrine of ambition and to her insensate desires.

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