Short Stories » The Fair One with the Golden Hair



The king's guards immediately seized Graceful, who had never given a second thought as to what he had said, and dragged him to prison, making him suffer a thousand indignities. The poor youth had only a little straw for a bed ; and he would certainly have died, but that a little spring flowing through the basement of the tower, he drank a little to refresh himself; for hunger had parched his mouth. One day when he was quite exhausted, he said, sighing deeply : " Of what can the king complain ? He has not in his kingdom a more faithful subject than I am : nor have I, that I know of, ever done any thing to offend him." At this moment the king happened to be passing near the tower ; and hearing the voice of one of whom he had been so fond, stopped to listen, in spite of those who were with him, and who hating Graceful, said to the king : " What are you about, Sire ? does not your majesty know that he is a villain ?" The king answered : "Silence, I wish to hear what he says." Having heafd his complaints, tears came into his eyes; he opened the door of the tower, and called him. Graceful came forth very sorrowfully, and throwing himself before the king, embraced his knees, saying to him : "What have I done, Sire, to deserve such severe treatment ?" " You have mocked me and my ambassador," said the king ; " and have said, that if I had sent you to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, you would certainly have brought her back with you." "It is true, your majesty," answered Graceful; "I would have so well convinced her of your good qualities, that I am persuaded she would not have had it in her power to refuse me ; and in that I said nothing which could be disagree- able to you." The king then found that he had not been wronged by his favorite and giving an angry look to his traducers, he took him in his arms, deeply repenting the injury he had done him.

When he had eaten an excellent supper, the king sent for him into his cabinet, and said : " Graceful, I still love the Fair One with the Golden Hair ; her refusal has not disheartened me ; but I do not know how to persuade her to marry me. I should like to send you to her court, to see whether, indeed, you would be able to succeed." Graceful answered that he desired to obey him in every thing, and would set out the next day. " Hold !" said the king, " I wish to send you with a magnificent equipage." " That is unnecessary," answered Graceful, " I only want a good horse and your instructions." The king embraced him, for he was delighted to see him so easily equipped.

It was on a Monday morning that he took leave of the king and his friends to depart on his mission alone, without pomp or ceremony, His whole thoughts were on the means of inducing the Fair One with the Golden Hair to marry the king ; he carried with him in his pocket a memorandum book, and when a good idea struck him for his speech, he alighted from his horse and seating himself under the trees, made a note of it, so as to forget nothing. One morning when he had resumed his journey very early, as he was crossing a large meadow, a very bright idea occurred to him ; so he alighted, and seated himself by the willows and poplars which grew on the banks of a streamlet that watered one side of the meadow. After he had noted his thoughts, he looked around him, charmed to find himself in so delightful a place. He perceived on the grass a large gilded carp, which was feebly gasping, for it could do no more. In endeavouring to catch some little flies, it had leaped so high out of the water, that it had thrown itself on the grass, and was at the point of death for want of its natural element. Graceful took pity on the poor carp, and although it was a fast day, and he therefore might have kept it for his dinner, he lifted it up very gently and replaced it in the streamlet. As soon as Mistress Carp felt the freshness of the water, she rejoiced greatly and sank to the bottom ; then returning merrily to the bank of the streamlet, " Graceful," said the fish, " I am grateful for the kindness you have just done me : but for you, I should have died ; to your kindness I owe my life and I will reward you for it." After this little compliment she dived to the bottom of the stream again, and left Gracefnl quite astonished at her wit and civility.

Another day as he was continuing his journey, he saw a crow in great distress ; the poor bird was pursued by a large eagle (a notorious devourer of crows) which had just caught it, and would have swallowed it like a lentil, if Graceful had not taken compassion on the unfortunate bird. " Thus," reflected he, " the strong oppress the weak : what right has the eagle to eat the crow ?" He took his bow, which he always carried with him, and an arrow : then taking a steady aim at the eagle, twang, he lodged an arrow in his body, piercing it through and through. Down fell the eagle dead ; and the crow in ecstacies perched it itself on a tree. " Graceful," said the the crow to him, " you are very kind to have succoured me ; I am but a poor bird, but I will not be ungrateful, and will do you
as good a turn."

Graceful admired the crow's intelligence and continued his road. He entered next day into a large wood, so early in the morning that he could hardly see his way, when he heard an owl screeching like an owl in despair. " Hey day," said he, " that owl must be in great sorrow; perhaps it is taken in a snare." He peered all around him, and presently indeed observed a large net, which had been placed there by some bird- catchers in the night to catch small birds. " What a pity," said he, " that men are only made to torment each other or to persecute poor animals, which never do them any wrong." He then drew his sword, and cut the cords which held the net. The owl took flight : but returning after it had stretched its wings, it perched itself on a branch, and said : "Graceful it is unnecessary for me to make you a long harangue in order to enable you to comprehend the obligation that I am under to you ; it speaks for itself. The fowlers were coming, I should have been taken and put to death but for your assistance : I have a grateful heart, and will do you as good a turn."

These are the three most important adventures that befel Graceful on his journey ; he was in such haste to execute his mission that he did not lose a moment on his way to the palace of the Fair one with the Golden Hair. Every thing there was charming ; diamonds were lying about in heaps like common stones ; rich clothes, sweetmeats and silver were there in profusion ; and he thought that if she left all this to marry the king his master, he would have great reason to rejoice in the success of his mission. He dressed himself in a suit of rich brocade, and wore a plume of carnation and white feathers ; he washed his face, combed and powdered his hair, put round his neck a richly embroidered scarf, carrying with him a small basket in which was a pretty little dog that he had purchased as he passed through Boulogne. Graceful was so handsome, so amiable, and did every thing so gracefully, that when he presented himself at the gate of the palace, all the guards made him a respectful salute ; and the Fair One with the Golden Hair was immediately informed that Graceful, the ambassador from the king, her neighbour, requested an audience.

The princess, when she heard Graceful' s name, said : " I like that name, and I dare say that he is pretty and pleases every body." " Yes indeed," said her maids of honour, " we saw him, from the store-room window, while we were dressing your flax ; and, so long as he was in sight, we could do no work." "That's very pretty, indeed," answered the Fair One with the Golden Hair, " to amuse yourselves with looking at a young man. Come, give me my embroidered blue satin gown, and dress my hair very carefully ; let me have some chaplets of fresh flowers, my high shoes and my fan ; let my audience- chamber be swept and my throne dusted; for I wish him to make it known everywhere that I am indeed the Fair One with the Golden Hair."


 
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