Short Stories » Septimus
Septimus Story - Page 5
His advantageous reputation, together with a portrait of the prince, so turned the head of the queen, that she flattered herself with the idea of making him love her and fixing his inconstancy. There was only one difficulty, which was, that she was neither young nor lovely ; she was tall and thin, had small eyes, a long and crooked nose, and a large mouth, not entirely without a beard on the upper lip. Such a figure might not be without its advantages to a queen, as it would command respect ; but it was little calculated to inspire love. It is difficult to blind one's self to one's defects, when they reach a certain point ; she felt, therefore, in moments of reflection, that, with her person, it would be impossible for her to please the young king of the Green Isles, and that to succeed in so doing, she must possess beauty, or, at least, youth ; but how to come by it ? how to change gray hairs and masculine features, for an amiable figure, infantine graces and an enticing mien? It is true that Gangan, her friend, might have been of great assistance to her in this affair, but as that fairy had several times vainly urged the queen to adopt her niece, and to proclaim her heiress to the crown, she had every thing to fear from exciting her choler by such a proposal. The old queen felt all this, hesitated, and struggled, but looked so frequently at the portrait of the handsome prince of the Green Isles, that love at last conquered her fear of the fairy, to whom she communicated her sentiments, conjuring her, in the most pressing terms to assist her with her art, and not to refuse her this essential proof of her friendship. She even went so far as to shew her the portrait of the young prince, begging her approval of her design. Gangan could not conceal her surprise, but she dissimulated her resentment ; she foresaw the bad con- sequences of protesting openly against this marriage, since the king of the Green Isles, who had nearly ruined his estates in supporting his extravagance, might find it convenient to con- clude the union from interested motives and might oppose her designs by the assistance of a powerful protecting genius of his kingdom : so pretending to give her hand to this affair, she promised the queen to set to work at making her young again ; but she promised herself, at the same time, to deceive the queen, and to put the execution of her will out of her majesty's power.
On the day that the fairy had appointed for the fulfilment of her promises, she appeared dressed in a long flesh coloured and silver satin robe ; her head dress was composed entirely of artificial flowers and tinsel trinkets ; a little dwarf held the end of her robe, arid carried under his left arm a black china box. The queen received her with the greatest marks of respect and gratitude, and begged her, after the usual compliments, not to delay her happiness. The fairy consented, made every body retire, and ordered her dwarf to shut the doors and windows ; then having taken from her box a vellum book, ornamented with large silver clasps, a wand made of three metals, and a phial which contained a very clear but greenish liquid, she seated the queen on a cushion in the middle of the room, and desired the dwarf to place himself opposite her majesty ; then having traced round them three spiral circles, she read in her book, touched the queen and the dwarf three times with her wand, and sprinkled them with the liquid just spoken of. Then the queen's features began to grow gradually less, and the size of the little dwarf to increase in proportion ; so that in less than three minutes, they changed figures without feeling the slightest inconvenience. Although the queen was armed w r ith courage, still she could not witness the dwarf's increasing size without some fear ; which was so augmented by a bluish flame which rose all at once from the three circles, that she suddenly fainted away ; when the fairy, having finished the enchantment, opened a window and disappeared with her page, who, notwithstanding his in- creased height, still held his mistress's robe and carried the china box.