Short Stories » The Fair One with the Golden Hair

The Fair One with the Golden Hair - Page 3 of 5/h2>

Then all her women employed themselves in dressing her in a most queenly style : they were in such haste however, that they somewhat hindered each other and made but slow progress. At length she went into her hall of mirrors to see if any thing was wanting ; which done, she ascended her throne, which was made of gold, ivory and ebony, and perfumed with balsam. She then desired her maids of honour to take their instruments, and sing and play very sweetly, but so softly as not to stun the ambassador.

When Graceful was ushered into the hall of audience, he was so transported with admiration, that he many times afterwards said that he could hardly speak, but at length he took courage and made his harangue admirably well, entreating the princess, not to let him be so unfortunate as to re- turn without her. " Gentle Ambassador," answered the Fair One, " all the arguments you have used to me are very good, and I assure you that I should be very happy to favour you in preference to any other ; but you must know that a month ago I was walking by the river-side with all my ladies ; and, as refreshments were handed to me, I pulled off my glove, in doing which I pulled off my finger a ring, which fell unfortunately into the river : that ring I prized more than my kingdom ; so I leave you to judge of my affliction for its loss. I have since taken an oath never to listen to any proposals of marriage, except the ambassador, who makes such proposals, shall recover my ring. Under these circumstances, you see what you have to do ; and though you talk to me a fortnight, without ceasing day or night, you will not induce me to change my resolution." Graceful was astounded at this answer. He made her a low bow, and begged her to accept the little dog, the basket, and the scarf; but she answered that she wanted no presents, and that he knew her mind.

When Graceful reached his lodgings, he went to bed supperless ; and his little dog, named Dolce, would take no supper either, but went and laid himself down near his master. Graceful sighed all night long, repeating : " Where shall I find a ring dropped, more than a month ago, into a large river ? it would be folly to undertake it. The princess but desires me to undertake what she knows is impossible to accomplish." He sighed again, and was very sorrowful. Dolce, who had been listening, said to him : " My dear master, pray do not despair of your good fortune; you are too good to be otherwise than happy : so when daylight appears, let us go to the river side ; I will assist you." Graceful, annoyed, gave him a slight blow with his hand, and made no answer ; but, overwhelmed with sorrow, he soon fell asleep.

When Dolce observed that it was daylight, he awakened Graceful by barking, and said : " Master, dress yourself, and let us go out." Graceful was now willing to go with him ; so he arose, dressed himself, and descended into the garden, and from the garden he wandered insensibly to the river side. He was walking along, with his hat over his eyes, his arms crossed before him, only thinking of his departure, when all at once he heard a voice calling : " Graceful ! Graceful !" He looked all around him, and as he could see no one, thought that he had been mistaken. He was proceeding in his walk, when he heard the voice again calling: " Graceful ! Graceful !" " Who calls me ?" said he. Dolce, who was very little, and was looking very closely into the water, answered : " Never trust me if it be not a gilded carp/' Immediately, the carp rose to the surface and said to Graceful : " You saved my life in the poplar meadow, where I should have perished but for your assistance; I promised to be even with you: here dear Graceful, is the ring that the Fair One with the Golden Hair had lost." Graceful stooped, and took the ring from Mistress Carp's mouth, and thanked her a thousand times.

Instead of returning home, he went directly to the palace with the little Dolce, who was very glad that he had prevailed on his master to go with him to the river side. The princess was in- formed that he demanded a second audience. "Alas !" said she " the poor youth is coming to take his leave of me ; he knows that what I require is impossible, and is about to depart to tell his master so." Graceful was conducted into her presence, when he presented to her, herring, saying : " Behold, your majesty, I have fulfilled your request; and now, I trust, you will receive my royal master for your consort." When she saw her ring safe and sound, she was surprised, so very much surprised that she thought she was dreaming. " Really," said she, " courteous Graceful, you must be favoured by a fairy, for naturally, this is impossible." " Madam, said he, " I am unacquainted with any fairy ; but your commands I was anxious to obey." "Well, then, since you have so good a will," continued she, " you must do me another service, without which I will never marry. There is a prince who does not reside very far from here, called Galifron, who has a great desire to marry me. He declared his mind to me with the most dreadful menaces, stating that, if I would not accept him, he would desolate my kingdom with fire and sword. But judge whether I can mam 7 him, when I inform you that he is a giant as tall as a steeple ; and that he eats a man, as an ape eats a chestnut. When he goes into the country, he carries small cannons in his pockets, which serve him instead of pistols ; and when he speaks very loud, those who are near him become deaf for ever. I informed him that I did not wish to marry, and that he must excuse me ; however, he has not ceased to persecute me, slaying my subjects unmercifully ; you must, therefore, first of all fight him and bring me his head."

Graceful was rather astonished at this proposition ; but having pondered for a few moments, he answered: " Well, your majesty, I will fight Galifron ; I believe that I shall be conquered, but I will die as becomes a brave man." The princess was not a little surprised, and now used a thousand arguments to dissuade him from the enterprise, without effect : he withdrew to seek his arms and other things necessary for the expedition. Being quite ready, he replaced Dolce in his basket, mounted his fine steed, and presently arrived at Galifron's dominions. He enquired about him of every one he met, and was invariably answered that Galifron was a wicked demon, whom no one dared go near. Every time he heard this, he became more and more discouraged. Dolce, however, cheered him, with these words : " My dear master, while you are fighting him, I will bite his legs ; he will stoop to lay hold of me, and then you must kill him." Graceful admired his little dog's wit ; but he was well aware that this help would not be more than sufficient.

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