Short Stories » The Fair One with the Golden Hair
THERE was once upon a time a king's daughter, who was so beautiful, that there was nothing else so beautiful in the world. In consequence of her exceeding beauty, she was called the " Fair One with the Golden Hair," for her locks were brighter than the brightest gold, and flowed in admirable curls round her neck and down to her feet. She was always seen with her curling ringlets, a crown of flowers on her head, and she wore clothes embroidered with diamonds and pearls ; so that it was impossible to see her and not to love her.
There was a young king, who governed a neighbouring state, very rich and handsome and as yet unmarried. When report bore to him the beauties of the Fair One with the Golden Hair, for he had never seen her, he fell so violently in love, that he could neither eat nor drink, and resolved to send an ambassador to ask her hand in marriage. He had a magnificent carriage built for his ambassador, he gave him upwards of a hundred horses and lacqueys, and charged him, on his life, to bring back the princess with him.
As soon as the ambassador had paid his respects to the king and had departed, all the court spoke of nothing but the princess ; while the king, who did not doubt that the Fair One with the Golden Hair would consent to his wishes, prepared for her, against her arrival, fine clothes and handsome furniture. While the workmen were still busy at their work, the ambassador arrived at the princess's court, and declared the object of his coming ; but, whether she was not on that day in the best humour or that she did not like the intended compliment, she answered the ambassador that she thanked the king for his offer, but had no wish to marry.
The ambassador left her court, very sorrowful at not taking the princess with him, carrying away all the presents which he had brought from the king ; for she was very wise, and knew that it would not be right to receive his gifts and to refuse himself. She therefore declined to accept even the beautiful diamonds, merely taking, in order not entirely to displease the king, a quarter of a pound of English pins.
When the ambassador arrived at the king's city, where he was so impatiently awaited, every body was afflicted to see him return without the Fair One with the Golden Hair, and the king wept like a child; the courtiers tried to console him, but they could not succeed.
There was at this time at court a youth beautiful as the sun, and who had the handsomest figure in the kingdom : he was so polite and witty, that he was named Graceful. Everybody loved him except the envious, who were vexed that the king treated him so well, and confided to him his most private affairs. Graceful being in company one day with some persons who were talking of the ambassador's return, and hearing it stated, with regret, that nothing had been effected, inadvertently said: " If the king had deputed me to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, I am confident that I could have induced her to return with me." These- people being envious of Graceful, immediately went to the king and said to liim maliciously : " Sire, what does your majesty think your friend Graceful says ? he asserts that if you had sent him to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, he could have brought her back with him. How vain and pre-sumptuous he must'be, Sire; he means that he is more handsome than you, and that she would have been at once so fond of him, that she would have followed him over the world." This, of course, put the king into so violent a passion, that he was quite beside himself. " What," said he, " does this minion dare laugh at our misfortune, and value himself above our royal person? let him be confined immediately in the round tower, and there be starved to death."