Short Stories » The Fair One with the Golden Hair

The Fair One with the Golden Hair - Page 4 of 5

After a while he drew near Galifron's castle ; all the roads leading to it were strewed with the bones and carcases of men whom he had eaten or torn to pieces. He was not long before he saw the giant coming through a wood ; his head was taller than the tallest of the trees, and he sang in a terrible voice :

" ! for a meal of children's flesh, Tender, new-killed, young and fresh,

My teeth are sharp, and half a score Will serve 'till I can get some more."

Graceful immediately sang to the same air :

" Approach, approach for Graceful's near, Who from your jaws your teeth will tear ;

Though not your match in size, you'll find One who to conquer you's inclined."

The metre was not very regular, but it was sung so hastily, that it is a miracle that it was not worse ; besides that he was exceedingly afraid. When Galifron heard these words, he looked all round him, and perceived Graceful, sword in hand, who uttered two or three abusive epithets to irritate him. They were however quite unnecessary ; the giant put himself into a terrible passion ; and taking an immense iron mace, he would, with the first blow, have crushed the gentle ambassador, had not a crow at that moment alighted on his head, and picked at his eyes so adroitly, that he picked them out ; his blood ran down his cheeks and he became desperate, laying about him on all sides. Graceful took care to avoid his blows, and gave him ?o many wounds, thrusting his sword each time up to the hilt, that his blood escaped from a thousand places, and he fell down exhausted. Graceful then cut off his head, transported with joy at his good fortune, and the crow from the branch of a tree said to him : " I do not forget the service you did me, in killing the eagle that had taken me ; I promised you to acquit myself of the obligation, and I think I have done so to day." " I acknowledge your kindness, Master Crow," replied Graceful, "and am your debtor and humble servant." He then mounted his horse, and set off with Galifron's horrible head.

When he arrived at the city, every body followed him crying : “Long live the brave Graceful, who has just slain the monster Galifron." The princess heard the noise very plainly, and was in an agony of fear lest any one should bring her news of GracefuTs death : she was therefore afraid to ask what had happened, when she saw the ambassador enter the room with the giant's head, which made her somewhat afraid, though there was nothing now to be afraid of. " Madam," said Graceful to hr, " your enemy is dead, and I hope that you will no longer refuse the king my master." " Alas ! yes," said the Fair One with the Golden Hair, " I must still refuse him unless you can find means, before my departure, to bring me some water from the gloomy grotto. There is, at a short distance from here, a deep cavern which is eighteen miles in compass ; the entrance into it is guarded by two dragons who allow no one to pass ; if you succeed in obtaining entrance, you will find an exceedingly- deep hole, into which you must descend : it is full of toads, adders and serpents. At the extreme end of this hole is situated a little grotto through which flows the fountain of beauty and health : some of this water I must absolutely hare. Its virtues are truly wonderful ; if the person who uses it be beautiful, she always remains beautiful ; if young, she is perpetually young; if ugly, she becomes handsome ; and if she be old, she becomes young again. Now judge, Graceful, whether I will quit my kingdom without carrying some of this water away with me."

"Madam," answered he, "you are so beautiful that this water will be perfectly useless to you ; but I am an unfortunate ambassador whose life you wish to take away, so I will go and seek what you desire, though with the certainty of never returning." The Fair One with the Golden Hair would not abandon her desire ; and Graceful departed, with little Dolce, for the gloomy grotto to seek the water of beauty. Every body who met him said : " What a pity that so amiable a youth should thus sacrifice his life ; he is going alone to the gloomy grotto, where though she sent a hundred times, she could not obtain her object. Why does the princess only long for impossibilities ?" Graceful heard them, but continued his journey in silence, and very sorrowfully.

After a while he arrived at the top of a mountain, where he sat down to rest himself, allowing his horse to graze, and Dolce to chase the flies. He knew that the gloomy grotto was not very far off, and looked about him to see if he could not discover it ; presently he observed a horribly black rock, whence a dense smoke was issuing, and the next moment he saw one of the dragons who was casting forth fire from his eyes and mouth ; his body was green and yellow, he had immense claws and a long tail disposed in more than a hundred folds : Dolce observed it also, and was so frightened that he did not know where to hide himself.

Graceful prepared to meet his death, drew his sword, and descended with a phial which the Fair One with the Golden Hair had given him to fill with the water of beauty. He said to his little dog: "This will be my end Dolce ! I shall never be able to procure this water ; it is so well guarded by the dragons ; when I am dead, fill the phial with my blood, and carry it to the princess that she may see what her rigour has cost me ; then find the king my master, and relate to him my misfortune." As he was saying these words, he heard a voice call : " Graceful, Graceful ! " He replied : " Who calls me ? " when he saw in the hollow of an old tree an owl, who said to him : " You liberated me from the fowlers' net in which I was taken, and saved my life ; I promised to repay the obligation, and the time has arrived for me to do so. Give me your phial; I am well acquainted with all the entrances to the gloomy grotto, and will fetch you some of the water of beauty." I leave you to imagine how gladly Graceful gave the phial, with which the owl entered, without encountering any obstacle, into the cavern. In less than a quarter of an hour, the owl returned with the phial well filled and closely stopped. Graceful was in ecstacies, and thanked the owl with all his heart ; he then re- ascended the mountain, and joyfully re-took the road leading to the city.

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