(A French Tale)
THERE was once upon a time a king and a queen who managed their affairs very badly. They were driven out of their kingdom, and had to sell first their crowns, then their clothes, their linen, their laces, their furniture, bit by bit, in order that they might have bread to eat. The pawnbrokers were tired of buying, for every day something new was sold. When at last they were stripped of nearly everything they possessed, the king said to his wife: "Here we are exiled from our kingdom, with nothing left us to live on. We must therefore earn our own and our poor children's bread. Think, then, what we shall do, for till now I have only followed kingcraft, which is very easy." The queen, who was very clever, asked eight days to think about the matter. At the end of that time, she said: "There is no reason why we should be miserable, your majesty. All you have to do is to make nets to catch birds in the woods and fish in the sea. While the lines are wearing out I shall make others for you. As for our three daughters, they are lazy minxes, and no mistake, who think they are still great ladies, and play at being such. They must be sent away, so far away that they will never come back; for it would be impossible for us to give them the fine clothes they would desire."
The king began to weep when he saw he must part from his children, for he was a kind father; but the queen was mistress. He agreed, therefore, to all her proposals, and said: "To-morrow morning rise early, and take your three daughters wherever you think suitable." While they were planning this princess Finette, the youngest girl, was listening through the keyhole. When she had found out the intention of her father and mother, she ran off as fast as ever she could to a large grotto, a long way from home, where the Fairy Merluche, her god-mother lived.
Finette took with her two pounds of fresh butter, some eggs, milk, and some flour to make a nice cake for her god-mother so that she might get a good welcome from her. Very merrily did she set out on her journey, but the farther she went the more tired she grew. The soles of her shoes were quite worn through, and her pretty little feet were so torn that it was pitiful to see them. At last she had to give up, and sitting down on the grassy she began to cry.
A beautiful Spanish jennet passed by, saddled and bridled, with more diamonds on its saddle-cloth than would buy three whole towns. On seeing the princess it began feeding quietly by her side, and bending its knee, it seemed to bow before her. "Pretty one," she said, taking hold of the bridle, "will you carry me to my godmother the fairy? I shall be so grateful if you will, for I am so tired that I am like to die. And if you help me now, I will give you nice oats, and hay, and fresh straw to lie on." The horse bent down almost to the ground before her, and little Finette jumped on its hack, whereupon it set off running as lightly as a bird. At the entrance of the grotto, it stopped as if it had known the way, as indeed it did; for it was Merluche, knowing that her god-daughter was coming to see her, who had sent this beautiful horse.
When she was inside, she made three low bows to her god-mother and taking the hem of her dress, she kissed it, saying: "Good-day, god-mother, how are you? Here is some butter, some milk, some flour, and some eggs, which I have brought to make a nice cake for you, just as we do at home." "Welcome. Finette," said the fairy; "come till I give you a kiss." So saying, she kissed her twice, which made Finette very happy, for Madam Merluche was not a common fairy. "Now, god said she, "I want you to be my little maid. Take down my hair and comb it." The princess undid it, and combed it, in the cleverest possible way. "I k-now quite well," said Merluche, "why you came here. You overheard the king and the queen, who want to lead you away and lose you, and you wish that no such evil thing may happen to you. Well, you have only to take this ball of thread. It will never break. Fasten one end to the door of your house, and keep it in your hand. When the queen has left you, it will be easy to return by following the thread."
The princess thanked her god-mother, who filled a bag for her with beautiful dresses all of gold and silver, and after kissing her, mounted her again on the beautiful horse, and in two or three minutes she was landed at the door of their majesties' hut. "My little friend," said Finette to the horse, "you are very pretty, and very good, and you run faster than the sun. Thank you for your trouble, and now go back to where you came from." She entered the house Very quietly, and hiding her bag under her pillow, went to her bed as if nothing had happened.
As soon as day dawned, the king awoke his wife, saying: "Come madam, come, get ready for the journey". She got up immediately, put on her thick shoes, a short skirt, a white camisole, and took a stick in her hand. Then she called her eldest daughter, whose name was Fleur d'Amour; her second, I and her third, Fine or Finette, as she was usually called. "I learnt in a dream last night," said the queen, "that we must go and see my sister. She will entertain us well, and we can eat and laugh as much as ever we like." Fleur d'Amour, who was miserable at living in this lonely place, said to her mother: "Very well, madam, let us go wherever you please. Provided that I get away from here, it doesn't matter to me." The two others said the same. So after bidding good to the king, all the four set off. They went such a very long way that Fine-Oreille began to be much afraid she would not have thread enough, for they had gone nearly a thousand leagues. She used always to walk behind her sisters, passing the thread deftly through the bushes. When the queen thought that her daughters would not be able to find their way back, she went into a large wood, and said: "My little lambs, go to sleep now. I shall be the shepherdess who watches round her flock, for fear the wolf should eat them." So lying down on the grass they fell asleep, and the queen left them there, thinking she should never see them again. Finette had shut her eyes, but was not asleep. "If I were a wicked girl," she said, "I should go away at once, leaving my sisters here to die, for they beat me and scratch me till the blood comes. But in spite of all their cruelty, I will not leave them." So she awoke them, and told them the whole story. They began to cry, and begged her to take them along with her, and said they would give her lovely dolls, and their little silver dolls' house, and their other toys, and their sugar-plums. "I know well enough that you will do nothing of the kind," said Finette, "but all the same, I will be a kind sister to you." And getting up, she followed her thread, and the princesses did so too, so that they got home almost as soon as the queen.
Stopping at the door, they heard the king saying; "My heart is very sore at seeing you coming back by yourself." "Well, but we didn't know what to do with our daughters," said the queen. "Yet, if you had brought my Finette back,' replied the king, "I should not mind about the others, for they care for nobody." Tap, tap, came their knock. "Who is there?" said the king. Your three daughters," the answered, "Fleur d'Amour, Belle-de-Nuit, and Fine-Oreille." The queen was all of a tremble. "Do not open the door," she said; "it must be their ghosts, for they themselves could not have come back." And the king, who was just as great a coward as his wife, said: "You are deceiving me; you are not my daughters." But Fine-Oreille, who was quick witted, said to him: "Father, I am going to bend down. Look at me through the cat's hole, and if I am not Finette, I'll let you heat me." The king looked as she had told him, and as soon as he recognised her, he opened the door to them. The queen pretended that she was very glad to see them, and told them she had forgotten something, and that she came to fetch it, but assuredly she would have found them again. And they made as if they believed her, and went up to their sleeping-place in a pretty little garret for the night.
"Well, sisters," said Finette, "you promised me a doll; give it me then." "And how can you expect it, you little monkey?" said they. "It is all on account of you that the king does not love us." Thereupon they took their distaffs and beat her without mercy. When they had chastised her well, she went to bed, but with so many scars and swellings that she could not sleep. So she heard the queen saying to the king: "I shall take them in another direction, still further off, and I am sure they will never return." When Finette heard this plan, she got up very quietly meaning to pay another visit to her god-mother. Going into the poultry-house, she took two chickens and a fine cock, and wrung their necks, then two little rabbits that the queen was feeding up with cabbage against the next time they should be having a feast; and putting them all in a basket, she set off. But she had not gone a league, groping all the way, and in terror of her life, when the Spanish jennet galloped up to her, snorting and neighing. She thought it was all up with her, and that soldiers were coming to capture her, but when she saw the pretty horse all by itself, she mounted, delighted to go on her way in this comfortable fashion; and very soon she was at her god-mother's house.
After the usual greetings, she gave her the chickens, the cock, and the rabbits. Then she begged Merluche to help her by good counsel, making known to her how the queen had sworn to take them away to the end of the world. Merluche told her god-daughter not to be miserable, and giving her a sack full of ashes, she said: "You will carry the bag in front of you, and shake it as you go. You will walk on the ashes, and when you want to return, you need only look for your footprints. But do not bring your sisters back. They are too wicked, and if you bring them, I will never see you any more." Finette took leave of her, taking with her by Merluche's orders some thirty or forty millions of diamonds in a little box which she put in her pocket. The horse was quite ready, and carried her off as before.
When day broke the queen called the princesses, and when they came she said to them: "The king is not very well. Last night I dreamt that I must go and gather flowers and herbs in a certain country where they are very good. They will make him young again, therefore let us set out at once." Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit who could not believe their mother was anxious to get rid of them, were very sorry to hear this. However they had to set off; and they went so far that never was such a long journey made before. Finette, who did not say a word all the while, kept behind the others, shaking the ashes very cleverly, not letting the wind or the rain spoil any of them.
The queen, fully persuaded they could never find the way again, noticed one evening that her three daughters were fast asleep, so she took advantage of this to leave them and return home. When daylight came, and Finette knew that her mother was no longer with them, she awoke her sisters. "We are alone," she said; "the queen has gone away." Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit began to cry, to tear their hair, and to beat their faces with their fists. "Alas!" they exclaimed; "what shall we do?" Finette was the kindest girl in the whole world, and again she took pity on her sisters. "Think what risk I am running," she said; "for when my god-mot gave me the means of returning, she forbade me to tell you the way, and said if I disobeyed her she would never see me again." Belle threw herself on Finette's neck, and so did Fleur d'Amour caressing her so tenderly that before long they all three returned together to the king and the queen.
Their majesties were very much astonished at seeing the princesses again, and spoke of it all night long. And the youngest girl, who was not called Fine-Oreille (Note 1) for nothing, heard them making up a fresh plot for the queen on the morrow to take them again into the wilds. She ran and awoke her sisters. "Alas!" she said to them, "we are lost. The queen is determined to take us to some desert and leave us there. It is your fault that my god-mot is angry, and that I dare not go and find her as I always did before." They were very much troubled, and one said to the other: "What shall we do, my Sister, what shall we do?" At last Belle-de-Nuit said to the others: "There is no need to distress ourselves Old Merluche hasn't the whole stock of cleverness in the world, we need only take peas with us and sow them along the road, and by the traces of their growth we can come back." Fleur d'Amour thought this a capital plan, so they took a large quantity of peas, and filled their pockets. But Fine-Oreille, instead of carrying peas, took the bag with the pretty clothes, and the little box of diamonds, and as soon as the queen called them to be off, they were quite ready.
"I dreamt last night," she said to them, "that in a country which I need not name there are three handsome princes waiting to marry you. I am going to take you there to see if my dream is true." The queen walked on in front, and her daughters after her, sowing their peas, and quite easy in their minds, having no doubt but that they would return home again. This time the queen travelled farther than she had ever clone before; but one dark night she left them, and came hack to the king. Very tired was she when she reached home, but very glad not to have the cares of such a large household on her shoulders.
The three princesses, after sleeping till eleven o'clock in the morning, woke up. It was Finette that first perceived the queen's absence, and though she expected it, she could not help crying, having, so far as getting hack was concerned, more confidence in her god-mother's help than in her sisters' cleverness. In a great fright, she told them the queen had gone, and that they must follow her as soon as possible. "Hold your tongue, you little monkey,' said Fleur d'Amour; "be able to find the road whenever we like. We don't want you to interfere unless your opinion is asked." Finette did not dare to answer, but when they tried to find the way, not a mark or a footpath could be found. The pigeons, of which there are a great number in that country, had eaten up the peas, and so the princesses began to cry and howl after being two days without food, Fleur d'Amour said to Belle-de-Nuit: "Sister, have you nothing to eat?" "No," she answered. She asked Finette the same thing. "No more have I," she replied, "but I have just found an acorn." "Ah give it to me," said one. "Give it to me," said the other and each of them wanted to have it. "One acorn would hardly satisfy three of us," said Finette; "let us plant it another will grow out of it for our use," They agreed, though there seemed little likelihood that a tree would grow in a country where there were none, and where only cabbages and lettuces were to be seen. The princesses ate of these, and if they had been very delicate, they would have died a hundred times. Nearly every night they lay down under the stars, and every morning and every evening went in turns to water the acorn, saving: "Grow, grow, pretty acorn!" And it began to grow visibly. When it had grown to some height, Fleur d'Amour wished to climb up on it, hut it was not strong enough to bear her, and feeling it bend under her weight, she got down. The same thing happened to Belle-de-Nuit. Finette, lighter than the others, stopped longer, and they asked her: "Do you see nothing, sister?" "No, I see nothing," she answered. "That is because the oak is not high enough," said Fleur d'Amour; so they went on watering it, and saying: "Grow, grow, pretty acorn!" Finette never failed to climb up twice a day, and one morning when she was there, Belle-de-Nuit said to Fleur d'Amour: "I have found a bag our sister has hidden. What can be in it?" Fleur d'Amour said Finette had told her it was old lace she was mending. "Well, I think there are sugar-plums in it," said Belle-de-Nuit She was greedy, and wanted to see what was in it. She did find the laces of the king and the queen; but they served to hide Finette's beautiful clothes and the box of diamonds. "Well, was there ever such a wicked little creature?" she cried. "Let us take them all and put stones in their place." This they did without delay. When Finette came back, she did not notice what her sisters had done, for she did not think of ornaments in a desert. Her one thought was of the oak, which was growing to be the finest ever seen.
One time when she had climbed up and her sisters as usual asked her if she saw nothing, "I see," she cried, "a large house, so beautiful-so very, very beautiful, that I cannot describe it to you. The walls are of emeralds and rubies, the roof of diamonds and it is all covered with golden bells; the weathercocks turn and turn with the wind." "That is not true," they said; "it is not so beautiful as you say." "Believe me, it is," replied Finette; "I don't tell lies. Come and see for yourselves, for my eyes are quite dazzled." Fleur d'Amour climbed up into the tree, and when she saw the castle, she could speak of nothing else. Belle-de-Nuit, who was very curious, would not be behind-hand, and climbing up, she 'as just as delighted as her sisters. "Certainly," they said, "we must go to that palace; perhaps we shall find handsome princes there who will only he too happy to marry us." All the evening long they spoke of nothing but their plan. Then they lay down on the grass, and when Finette seemed to be asleep, Fleur d'Amour said to Belle-de-Nuit "Do you know what we must do, sister? Get up and let us dress ourselves in the rich dresses Finette has brought." "You are right," said Belle-de-Nuit; so they got up, curled their hair, powdered their faces, stuck on beauty spots, and dressed themselves in gold and silver gowns, all covered with diamonds, Never was seen such a magnificent sight.
Finette, not knowing that her wicked sisters had robbed her, took her hag with the intention of dressing, and she was in great distress at only finding pebbles. At the same time she saw her sisters decked out like suns. She wept, and reproached them with their breach of faith to her, but they only laughed and mocked at her. "Would you really dare," she said, "to take me to the castle without any pretty dresses or ornaments at all?" "We have not too many for ourselves," replied Fleur d'Amour, "and we'll beat you if you talk any more about it." "But," Finette went on, "these dresses are mine. My god-mother gave me them. You have no part in them." "If you speak another word," they said, "we shall kill you, and bury you, and nobody will know anything about it." And poor Finette, afraid to anger them, followed them quietly, walking some steps behind, just as if she were their servant.
The nearer they came to the house, the more wonderful it seemed. "Hi!" said Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, "what a good time we are going to have what good cheer we shall partake of as we sit at the king's table. But as for Finette, she will wash the dishes in the kitchen, for she is just like a scullion, and if any one asks who she is, let us take care not to call her our sister, but rather the little village herd." Finette, who was full of intelligence, and very pretty, was in great distress at such ill-treatment. When they went up to the gate of the castle they knocked, and at once a hideous old woman came to open the door to them. She had only one eve, in the middle of her forehead, but it was bigger than five or six ordinary eves; her nose was flat, her complexion dark, and her mouth was so horrible that it made every one afraid to look at it; she was fifteen feet high, and thirty feet in girth. "Oh, you miserable girls," she said, "what brings you here? Do you not know that this is the ogre's castle, and that all of you together would hardly be enough for his breakfast? But I am better than my husband. Come in, I shall not eat you up all at once. You may have the comfort of living two or three days more." When they heard the ogress speaking in this fashion, they ran away, thinking they could escape, but one of her strides was as good as fifty of theirs, and running after them, she caught them by their hair or by the skin of their necks. Bundling them under her arm, she threw all three of them into the cellar, which was full of toads and adders, and where you walked on the bones of those that had already been eaten.
As she wanted to crunch up Finette on the spot she ran to fetch vinegar and salt to eat her as a salad, but hearing the ogre coming, and' thinking the princesses' skin white and delicate, she made up her mind to eat them all by herself. So she hastily put them into a large tub where they could only see out through a hole.
The ogre was six times as tall as his wife. When he spoke the house shook when he coughed you would have thought it was claps of thunder. He had only one eye, a large, ugly one, his hair stood all on end, and he leant on a log which he used for a stick. In his hand he held a covered basket out of which he drew fifteen little children that he had stolen on the road, and whom he swallowed as if they had been fifteen fresh eggs. When the three princesses saw him, they shook with terror under the tub, and dared no longer cry aloud for fear he should hear them. But low to themselves they said: "He'll eat us all alive; how can we escape?" The ogre said to his wife: "I smell fresh meat, give me some." "Indeed," said the ogress, "you always think you smell fresh meat. It is four sheep that passed by." "Oh, I make no mistake," said the ogre. "I smell fresh meat for certain. I am going to look everywhere for it." "Look for it, then," she said, "but you won't find any." "If I find it," answered the ogre, "and if you are hiding it, I shall cut off your head to make me a ball" In terror at this threat she said to him: "Don't be angry, my little ogre, I am going to tell you the truth. To-day there came here three young maidens whom I kept, but it would he a pity to eat them, for they know how to do everything As I am now old I need rest; our beautiful house, as you see, is in very bad order; our bread is not baked properly; our soup no longer tastes good to you, and I don't look so beautiful in your eyes since I have been killing myself with work. They will, therefore, be my servants, so I beg of you not to eat them just now. If you wish to at some future time you can do as you like."
The ogre found it very hard to promise not to eat them up at once. "Let me have my own way," he said; "I shall only eat two of them." "No, you shall not eat any of them." "Very well; I shall only eat the little one." But she answered: "No, you shall not eat one of them." At last, after quarrelling for a long time, he promised not to eat them; while the ogress thought to herself: "When he goes to the hunt I shall eat them and tell him they have run away
The ogre came out of the cellar and ordered them to be brought before him. The poor girls were nearly dead with fright; hut the ogress reassured them. When he saw them he asked them what they could do, and they told him they could sweep and sew and spin perfectly; that their stews were so delicious that you would like to eat the plate even on which they were served; and as for their bread, cakes, and p people came for them from a thousand miles round. The ogre was greedy, and so he said "Now, then, set these fine cooks to work at once." "But," said he, turning to Finette, "when you have lit the fire, how can you tell if the oven be hot enough?" "My lord," she answered, "I throw butter in, and then I taste it with my tongue.'' "Very well," he said, "light the fire then." The oven was as big as a stable, for the ogre and ogress ate more bread than two armies. The princess made an enormous fire, which blazed like a furnace; and the ogre, who was standing by, ate a hundred lambs and a hundred sucking pigs while waiting for the new bread. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit kneaded the dough. "Well," said the great ogre, "is the oven hot?" "My lord," replied Finette, "you will see presently.' And so saying she threw a thousand pounds of butter into the oven. "I should try it with my tongue," she said, "hut I am too little." "I am big enough," said the ogre, and bending clown he went so far into the oven that he could not draw back again, so that he was burned to the bones. When the ogress came to the oven she was mightily astonished to find a mountain of cinders instead of her husband.
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who saw that she was in great distress, comforted her as they could, but they feared lest her grief should be consoled only too soon, and that regaining her appetite she would put them in a salad, as she had meant to do before. So they said to her: "Take courage, madam; you will find some king or some marquis who will be happy to marry you." At that she smiled a little, showing her teeth, which were longer than your finger. When they saw she was in a good humour, Finette said: "If you would hut leave off wearing those horrible bear-skins, and dress a little more fashionably! We could arrange your hair beautifully, and you would he like a star." "Come then," she said, "let us see what you can do; but be sure that if I find any ladies more beautiful than myself I shall hack you into little bits," Thereupon the three princesses took off her cap, and began to comb and curl her hair, entertaining her all the while with their chatter. Then Finette took a hatchet, and with a great blow from behind, severed her head from her body.
Never was there such joy. They climbed up to the roof of the house to amuse themselves by ringing the golden bells; they ran through all the rooms, which were of pearls and diamonds, and furnished so richly that they nearly died of joy. They laughed, they sang. Nothing was lacking. They had wheat, and sweetmeat, fruits, and dolls, as many as they liked. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de slept in beds hung with brocade and velvet, and they said to each other: "Here we are richer than was our father in his kingdom but we want husbands. No one will come here, for this house is certainly looked on a death-trap, and nobody knows of the death of the ogre and his wife. We must go to the nearest town to show ourselves off in our fine clothes, and it will not be long before we find honest merchants who will be glad enough to wed with princesses," As soon as they were dressed they told Finette that they were going for a walk, and that she must stop at home to look after the house and the washing, so that when they came back everything might be neat and clean; that if it were not they would beat her soundly. Poor Finette, stricken with grief, stopped alone in the house, sweeping, cleaning, washing, without a moment's rest, and always crying. "How unhappy I am," she said "to have disobeyed my god-mother! All kinds of evils happen to me. My sisters have stolen my beautiful clothes to dress themselves in. Without me the ogre and his wife would still be alive and well; and of what benefit is it to me that I killed them? It would have been as good to have been eaten by them as to live as I live now." When she had said this she was almost choked with her tears. Then her sisters came back, loaded with Portuguese oranges, preserves and sugar, saying to her: "Oh, what a fine ball we have been to! And what a crowd was there! The king's son was dancing; we had a great many attentions paid us. But come now, pull off our shoes, and wash us. That's all you are good for." Finette did as she was told, and if by any chance a word of complaint escaped her, they threw themselves on her, beating her till she was senseless.
Next day they went again, and returned to tell of all the wonders they had seen. One evening, when Finette was sitting near the fire on a little heap of cinders, for want of anything else to do, she peered into the crevices of the chimney, and as she looked she found a little key, so old, and so rusty, that it gave her a great deal of trouble to clean it. When it was polished, she found it was gold, and she thought that a golden key must be for opening some beautiful little chest. So she began to run through the whole house, trying the key in all the locks, till at last she found it fit a casket of perfect workmanship. Opening this, she found in it dresses, diamonds, lace, linen, and very costly ribbons. She said nothing about her good fortune to her sisters, but waited impatiently till they should go out next day, and as soon as they had gone out of her sight, she dressed herself in such a way that she was more beautiful than the sun or the moon.
Thus decked out, she went to the same ball where her sisters were dancing, and though she wore no mask, she was so changed for the better that they did not recognise her. As soon as she made her appearance in the assembly a murmur of voices arose, some expressing their admiration, some their jealousy. She was asked to dance, and she excelled all the ladies in that as she did in beauty. The mistress of the house coming up to her and making her a deep bow, begged to know what she was called, so that she might ever keep in remembrance the name of so distinguished a lady. With much courtesy she answered that she was called Cendron. Not a lover was there but forgot his mistress for Cendron: not a poet but made verses to her. Never did a name make such a sensation in such a short time, and the echoes brought nothing back but Cendron's praises. No one had eyes enough to look on her, or voice enough to sing her praises.
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who at first had made a great noise wherever they appeared, now seeing the reception given to the new-corner, were bursting with rage. But Finette kept clear of all their spite with the most perfect grace possible. To look at her you would have said she was born to rule, and Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit who never saw their sister but with soot on her face and grimier-looking than a little dog, had so forgotten all about her beauty that they did not recognise her at all, and paid court to Cendron like the others. As soon as the ball was nearly over she set off quickly, reached home, undressed in haste, and put on her rags again. When her sisters came back they said: "Ah! Finette, we have just been seeing a young princess who is quite charming. She is not an ugly ape like you. She is white as snow, and redder than roses. Her teeth are of pearl and her lips of coral. Her dress must weigh more than a thousand pounds, for it is all of gold and diamonds. Ah, how beautiful! how lovely she is!" And Finette would answer between her teeth: "I was like that, I was like that". "What are you muttering?" they said. And Finette answered still lower: "I was like that." This little entertainment lasted for a long time. Hardly a day passed but Finette put on new clothes, for it was a fairy casket, and the more you took from it, the more there was in it, and the clothes that came out of it were so fashionable that ladies took her for their model.
One evening when Finette had danced more than usual, and had stopped rather late, in her desire to make up for lost time and to get home before her sisters, she walked as fast as ever she could, and let fall one of her slippers which was of red velvet embroidered with pearls. She did all she could to find it again on the road, but the night was so dark that her trouble was in vain, and she had to go in with only one foot shod.
Next day, Prince Chéri, the eldest son of the king, on his way to the chase, found Finette's slipper. He ordered them to pick it up, looked at it, turned j this way and that, kissed it, cherished it, and bore it away with him. From that day he would not eat. He grew thin and changed, was as yellow as a quince, melancholy, and spiritless. The king and queen, who loved him to distraction, sent in all directions for fine game and preserves for him. But to him these seemed less than nothing, and he only looked at them all, and would not answer the queen when she spoke to him. They sent to fetch doctors from all parts, even from Paris and Montpellier (Note 2). When they arrived they were shown the prince, and having watched him three days and three nights without once leaving him, they came to the conclusion that he was in love, and that he would die if a remedy were not provided.
The queen, who loved him tenderly, wept oceans of tears because she could not find out whom he loved and so arrange for his marriage. She brought the most beautiful ladies to his room, but he would not even look at them. At last she said to him one day "My dear son, you will kill us with grief, for you are in love, and you hide your feelings from us. Tell us whom it is you long for, and she shall be yours even were she but a simple shepherdess." The prince, assured by the queen's promises, drew the slipper out from below his pillow, and showed it to her. "Madam," he said, "this is the cause of my ill ness. I found this dear little pretty slipper when I was going to the chase, and I shall never marry any but the lady whom it fits." "Very well, my son," said the queen, "do not grieve, we will send in search of her." And she went to tell the news to the king, who was very much astonished. Without delay he ordered that an announcement should be made with drums and trumpets that all the girls and all the women should come and try on the slipper, and that whosoever it should fit should wed with the prince. When all the ladies had heard the announcement they washed their feet with all sorts of waters, pastes, and pomades. There were some who peeled their feet, so that the skin should be more beautiful, others pared them, or fasted, to make them smaller. In crowds they set out to try on the slipper, but not one would it fit, and the more unavailing attempts were made the greater was the prince's distress.
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit one day dressed themselves so fine that they were a wonder to see. "Where are you going?" said Finette. "We are going to the great city," they answered, "where the king and the queen dwell, to try on the slipper which the king's son found; for if it fits one of us, the prince will marry her and she shall be a queen." "And might I go too?" said Finette. "You, in truth "said they. "You are a silly little goose. Be off and water the cabbages, you good-for-nothing."
Finette at once thought of putting on her finest clothes to go and try her luck with the others, for she had some idea that she would have a good chance. But what troubled her was that she did not know the way, for the ball they had danced at was not in the great town. She dressed in all her splendour, in a gown of blue satin covered with stars of diamonds, a sun made of them on her head, a full moon on her back, and all shining so brilliantly that you could not look at her without flinching. When she opened the door to go out she was very much astonished to find the beautiful Spanish jennet that had carried her to her god-mother. She caressed him, saying: Welcome, little one; for you I am obliged to my god-mother, Merluche." Then it bent down, and she rode on it like a nymph. It was all covered with golden bells and ribbons, and its saddle cloth and bridle were priceless. As for Finette, she was far more beautiful than the fair Helen.
The jennet trotted lightly along to the music of the bells, cling, cling, cling. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit hearing the sound, turned and saw her coming. But what was their surprise at that moment, when they recognised that it was Finette Cendron! They themselves were all draggled, and their fine clothes covered with mud. "Sister," said Fleur d'Amour to Belle-de-Nuit, "I declare to you that that is Finette Cendron." The other said the same; and Finette passing close by at the moment, they were bespattered by her horse's hoofs, and their faces splashed with mud. And Finette laughed as she said: "Your highnesses, Cinderella despises you as much as you deserve"; then riding past them like an arrow she was gone. Belle-de-Nuit and Fleur d'Amour looked at each other. Are we dreaming?" they said. "Who could have given Finette her fine clothes and the horse? What an astonishing thing! She is in luck. She will put the slipper on, and our journey will be in vain."
While they were mourning over their disappointment, Finette reached the palace, and as soon as she came in sight, every one thought she was a queen. The soldiers presented arms, the drums began to beat, the trumpets sounded, and all the doors were flung open. Those who had seen her at the ball ran in front of her, calling out: "Room, make room for the fair Cendron, the wonder of the world!" With such pomp, she entered the dying prince's room, who, casting his eyes on her, was enchanted, and full of desire that her foot might be small enough to fit the slipper. Without delay, she put it on, and showed the other one which she had brought on purpose. "Long live Princess Cheri!" they burst out. "Long live the princess who will be our queen!" The prince rose from his bed, and came forward to kiss her hands, and she thought him handsome and full of wit as he poured his compliments upon her. The king and queen, who had been told the news, hastened to the spot, and the queen taking Finette in her arms, called her her daughter, her darling, her little queen. She gave her beautiful gifts, and the generous king added more. The cannons were fired, there was music of violins, and of pipes, and all kinds of instruments, and nothing was heard but the sounds of dancing and merriment.
The king, the queen, and the prince begged Cendron to give her consent to the marriage. "No," she said, "I must first of all tell you my story," which she did very shortly. When they heard that she was born a princess, they were still more delighted, and almost besides themselves with joy. But when she told them the names of the king and queen, her father and mother, they knew that it was they themselves who had conquered their kingdom, and told her so. Then she swore she would not consent to the marriage till they gave back her father's estates. This they promised, for having more than a hundred kingdoms, one more or less was of very little consequence.
In the meanwhile Belle-de-Nuit and Fleur d'Amour arrived, and the first news they heard was that Cendron had put on the slipper. They did not know what to say or to do, and would have liked to have gone back without seeing her, but when she heard they were come, she ordered them to appear before her, and instead of scowling at them, and of punishing them as they deserved, she rose and came forward to embrace them tenderly. Then presenting them to the queen, she said: "Madam, these are my sisters, who are very amiable; I beg that you will love them." So astounded were they at Finette's goodness, that they could not utter a word. She promised them that they should return to their own kingdom, which the prince wished to restore to their family. At these words they threw themselves on their knees before her weeping for joy.
Never was there such a wedding-feast. Finette wrote to her god-mother, and put her letter along with magnificent gifts on the beautiful jennet. In the letter she begged her to find the king and queen, to tell them of her good fortune, and to say they might return to their kingdom when they liked. Merluche, the fairy, carried out these instructions perfectly, and Finette's father and mother went back to their own estates, and her sisters became queens like herself.
(1) Sharp ear.
Return to place in story.
(2) A famous French School of Medicine.
Return to place in story.
D'Aulnoy, Marie Catherine Baronne.The Fairy Tales of Madame D'Aulnoy. Miss Annie Macdonell and Miss Lee, translators. Cllinton Peters, illustrator. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892.
Amazon.com: Buy the book inpaperback.
Once on a time there was a King and a Queen who had managed their affairs very badly. They were driven out of their kingdom. They sold their crowns to support themselves; then their wardrobes, their linen, their lace, and all their furniture, piece by piece. The brokers were tired of purchasing, for every day something or other was sent for sale. When they had disposed of nearly everything, the King said to the Queen, "We are out of our own country, and have no longer any property. We must do something to get a living for ourselves and our poor children. Consider a little what we can do: for up to this time I have known no trade but a king's, which is a very agreeable one." The Queen had much good sense; she asked for eight days to think the matter over; at the end of that time, she said to the King, "Sire, we must not make ourselves unhappy. You have only to make nets, with which you may catch both fowl and fish. As the lines wear out, I will spin to make new ones. With respect to our three daughters, they are downright idle girls, who still think themselves fine ladies, and would fain live in that style without work. We must take them to such a distance—such a distance, that they can never find their way back again, for it will be impossible for us to keep them as fine as they would like to be."
The King began to weep when he found he must separate himself from his children. He was a kind father; but the Queen was mistress; he therefore agreed to whatever she proposed. He said to her, "Get up early to-morrow morning, and take your three daughters wherever you think fit." Whilst they were thus plotting together, the Princess Finette, who was the youngest daughter, listened at the key-hole, and when she discovered the design of her father and mother, she set off as fast as she could for a great grotto, at a considerable distance from where they lived, and which was the abode of the Fairy Merluche, who was her godmother.
Finette had taken with her two pounds of fresh butter, some eggs, some milk, and some flour, to make a nice cake for her godmother, in order that she might be well received by her. She commenced her journey gaily enough; but the further she went, the more weary she grew. The soles of her shoes were worn completely through, and her pretty little feet became so sore, that it was sad to see them. She was quite exhausted; she sat down on the grass and cried. A beautiful Spanish horse came by, saddled and bridled. There were more diamonds on his housings than would purchase three cities, and when he saw the Princess he stopped and began to graze quietly beside her. Bending his knees he appeared to pay homage to her; upon which, taking him by the bridle, "Gentle Hobby," said she, "wouldst thou kindly bear me to my Fairy godmother's? Thou wouldst do me great service; for I am so weary that I feel ready to die: but if thou wilt assist me on this occasion, I will give thee good oats and good hay, and a litter of fresh straw to lie upon." The horse bent himself almost to the ground, and young Finette jumping upon him, he galloped off with her as lightly as a bird. He stopped at the entrance of the grotto, as if he had known where he was to go to; and, in fact, he knew well enough; for it was Merluche herself who, having foreseen her goddaughter's visit, had sent the fine horse for her.As soon as Finette entered the grotto, she made three profound curtsies to her godmother, and took the hem of her gown and kissed it, and then said to her, "Good day, godmother, how do you do? I have brought you some butter, milk, flour, and eggs, to make a cake with after our country fashion." "You are welcome, Finette," said the Fairy; "come hither that I may embrace you." She kissed her twice, at which Finette was greatly delighted, for Madame Merluche was not one of those fairies you might find by the dozen. "Come, goddaughter," said she, "you shall be my little lady's maid. Take down my hair and comb it." The Princess took her hair down and combed it as cleverly as possible. "I know well enough," said Merluche, "what brought you hither. You overheard the King and Queen consulting how they might lose you, and you would avoid this misfortune. Here, you have only to take this skein of thread; it will never break. Fasten one end of it to the door of your house and keep the other end in your hand; when the Queen leaves you, you will easily find your way back by following the thread."
The Princess thanked her godmother, who gave her a bag full of fine dresses all of gold and silver. She embraced her, placed her again on the pretty horse, and in two or three minutes he carried Finette to the door of their majesties' cottage. "My little friend," said Finette to the horse, "you are very handsome and clever; your speed is as great as the sun's. I thank you for your service. Return to the place you came from." She entered the house softly, and hiding her bag under her bolster went to bed, without appearing to know anything that had taken place. At break of day the King woke his wife: "Come, come, Madam," said he, "make ready for your journey." She got up directly, took her thick shoes, a short petticoat, a white jacket, and a stick. She summoned her eldest daughter, who was named Fleur d'Amour; her second, who was named Belle-de-Nuit, and her third, named Fine-Oreille, whom they familiarly called Finette. "I have been thinking all last night," said the Queen, "that we ought to go and see my sister; she will entertain us capitally. We may feast and laugh as much as we like there." Fleur d'Amour, who was in despair at living in a desert, said to her mother, "Let us go, Madam, wherever you please; provided I may walk somewhere, I don't care." The two others said as much. They took leave of the King and set off all four together. They went so far—so far, that Fine-Oreille was much afraid her thread would not be long enough, for they had gone nearly a thousand leagues. She walked always behind the others, drawing the thread cleverly through the thickets.
When the Queen imagined that her daughters could not find the way back, she entered a thick wood, and said to them, "Sleep, my little lambs, I will be like the shepherdess, who watches over her flock for fear the wolf should devour them." They laid themselves down on the grass and went to sleep. The Queen left them there, believing she should never see them again. Finette had shut her eyes, but not gone to sleep. "If I were an ill-natured girl," said she to herself, "I should go home directly and leave my sisters to die here, for they beat me and scratch me till the blood comes. But notwithstanding all their malice, I will not abandon them." She aroused them, and told them the whole story. They began to cry, and begged her to take them with her, promising that they would give her beautiful dolls, a child's set of silver plate, and all their other toys and sweetmeats. "I am quite sure you will do no such thing," said Finette; "but I will behave as a good sister should, for all that." And so saying she rose, and followed the clue with the two princesses, so that they reached home almost as soon as the Queen. Whilst they were at the door, they heard the King say, "It gives me the heart-ache to see you come back alone." "Pshaw!" said the Queen, "our daughters were too great an incumbrance to us." "But," said the King, "if you had brought back my Finette, I might have consoled myself for the loss of the others, for they loved nothing and nobody." At that moment they knocked at the door—rap, rap. "Who is there?" said the King. "Your three daughters," they replied, "Fleur d'Amour, Belle-de-Nuit, and Fine-Oreille." The Queen began to tremble. "Don't open the door," she exclaimed; "it must be their ghosts, for it is impossible they could find their way back alive." The King, who was as great a coward as his wife, called out, "It is false; you are not my daughters!" but Fine-Oreille, who was a shrewd girl, said to him, "Papa, I will stoop down, and do you look at me through the hole made for the cat to come through, and if I am not Finette, I consent to be whipped." The King looked as she told him to do, and as soon as he recognised her, he opened the door. The Queen pretended to be delighted to see them again, and said, "that she had forgotten something, and had come home to fetch it; but that most assuredly she should have returned to them." They pretended to believe her, and went up to a snug little hay-loft, in which they always slept.
"Now, sisters," said Finette, "you promised me a doll; give it me." "Thou mayst wait for it long enough, little rogue," said they. "Thou art the cause of the King's caring so little for us;" and thereupon, snatching up their distaffs, they beat her as if she had been so much mortar. When they had beaten her as much as they chose, they let her go to bed, but as she was covered with wounds and bruises, she could not sleep, and she heard the Queen say to the King, "I will take them in another direction, much further, and I am confident they will never return." When Finette heard this plot, she rose very softly to go and see her godmother again. She went into the hen-yard and took two hens and a cock, and wrung their necks, also two little rabbits that the Queen was fattening upon cabbages, to make a feast of on the next occasion. She put them all into a basket and set off: but she had not gone a league groping her way and quaking with fear, when the Spanish horse came up at a gallop, snorting and neighing. She thought it was all over with her; that some soldiers were about to seize her. When she saw the beautiful horse all alone, she jumped upon him, delighted to travel so comfortably, and arrived almost immediately at her godmother's.
After the usual ceremonies, she presented her with the hens, the cock, and the rabbits, and begged the assistance of her good advice, the Queen having sworn she would lead them to the end of the world. Merluche told her goddaughter not to afflict herself, and gave her a sack full of ashes. "Carry this sack before you," said she, "and shake it as you go along. You will walk on the ashes, and when you wish to return you will have only to follow your footmarks; but do not bring your sisters back with you. They are too malicious, and if you do bring them back I will never see you again." Finette took leave of her, taking away by her order thirty or forty millions of diamonds in a little box, which she put in her pocket. The horse was ready in waiting, and carried her home as before. At daybreak the Queen called the Princesses. They came to her, and she said to them, "The King is not very well; I dreamed last night that I ought to go and gather for him some flowers and herbs in a certain country where they grow in great perfection. They will completely renovate him, therefore let us go there directly." Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who never thought their mother intended to lose them again, were much grieved at these tidings. Go, however, they must; and so far did they go that never before had any one made so long a journey. Finette, who never said a word, kept behind, and shook her sack of ashes with such wonderful skill that neither the wind nor the rain affected them.
The Queen being perfectly persuaded that they could not find their way back again, and observing one evening that her three daughters were fast asleep, took the opportunity of leaving them, and returned home. As soon as it was light, and Finette found her mother was gone, she awoke her sisters. "We are alone," said she; "the Queen has left us." Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit began to cry; they tore their hair, and beat their own faces with their fists, exclaiming, "Alas! what will become of us!" Finette was the best-hearted girl in the world. She had compassion again on her sisters. "See now to what I expose myself," said she to them; "for when my godmother furnished me with means to return, she forbade me to show you the way, and told me that if I disobeyed her, she would never see me more." Belle-de-Nuit threw herself on Finette's neck, Fleur d'Amour did the same, kissing her so affectionately that it required nothing more to bring them all three back together to the King and the Queen.
Their majesties were greatly surprised at the return of the Princesses. They talked about it all night long, and the youngest, who was not called Fine-Oreille for nothing, heard them concoct a new plot, and arrange that the next morning the Queen should again take them on a journey. She ran to wake her sisters; "Alas!" said she to them, "we are lost! The Queen is determined to lead us into some wilderness, and leave us there. For your sakes I have offended my godmother; I dare not go to her for advice as I used to do." They were in sad trouble, and said one to another, "What shall we do, sister; what shall we do?" At length Belle-de-Nuit said to the two others, "Why should we worry ourselves? old Merluche has not got all the wit in the world—some other folks may have a little. We have only to take plenty of peas with us and drop them all along the road as we go, and we shall be sure to trace our way back." Fleur d'Amour thought the idea admirable; they loaded themselves with peas, filling all their pockets; but Fine-Oreille, instead of peas, took her bag full of fine clothes, and the little box of diamonds, and as soon as the Queen called them they were ready to go. She said to them, "I dreamed last night that in a country which it is unnecessary to name, there are three handsome princes, who are waiting to marry you. I am going to take you there, to see if my dream is true." The Queen went first and her daughters followed her, dropping their peas without any anxiety, for they made sure of being able to find their way home.
This time the Queen went further than ever she had gone before; but during one dark night she left the Princesses, and reached home very weary, but very happy to have got rid of so great a burthen as her three daughters.
The three Princesses having slept till eleven o'clock in the morning, awoke, and Finette was the first to discover the Queen's absence. Although she was perfectly prepared for it, she could not help crying, trusting for her return much more to the power of her fairy godmother than to the cleverness of her sisters. She went to them in a great fright, and said, "The Queen is gone; we must follow her as quickly as possible." "Hold thy tongue, little mischievous animal," replied Fleur d'Amour; "we can find our way well enough when we choose; you are making a great fuss at a wrong season, gossip." Finette durst not make any answer. When, however, they did try to retrace their steps, there were no signs or paths to be found. There are immense flocks of pigeons in that country, and they had eaten up all the peas. The Princesses began to cry and scream with grief and terror. After being two days without food, Fleur d'Amour said to Belle-de-Nuit, "Sister, hast thou nothing to eat?" "Nothing," she replied. She put the same question to Finette. "Nor have I," she answered, "but I have just found an acorn." "Ah! give it to me," said one; "Give it to me," said the other. Each insisted on having it. "An acorn will not go far amongst three of us," said Finette; "let us plant it; there may spring a tree from it which may be useful to us." They consented, although there was little chance of a tree growing in a country where none were to be seen. They could find only cabbages and lettuces, on which the Princesses lived. If they had been very delicate they must have died a hundred times. They slept almost always in the open air, and every morning and evening they took it by turns to water the acorn, saying to it, "Grow, grow, beautiful acorn!" It began to grow so fast that you could see it grow. When it had got to some size, Fleur d'Amour tried to climb it, but it was not strong enough to bear her; she felt it bend under her weight, and so she came down again. Belle-de-Nuit was not more successful. Finette, being lighter, managed to get up and remain a long time. Her sisters called to her, "Canst thou see anything, sister?" She answered, "No, I can see nothing." "Ah, then, the oak is not tall enough," said Fleur d'Amour; so they continued to water it, and say, "Grow, grow, beautiful acorn!" Finette never failed climbing it twice a-day. One morning when she was up in the tree, Belle-de-Nuit said to Fleur d'Amour, "I have found a bag which our sister has hidden from us. What can there be in it?" Fleur d'Amour replied, "She told me it contained some old lace she had got to mend." "I believe it is full of sugar-plums," said Belle-de-Nuit. She had a sweet tooth, and determined to ascertain the fact. She opened the bag, and found in it actually a quantity of old lace belonging to the King and Queen, but hidden beneath it were the fine clothes the Fairy had given to Finette, and the box of diamonds. "Well, now! was there ever such a sly little rogue?" exclaimed Belle-de-Nuit; "we will take out all the things, and put some stones in their place." They did so directly. Finette rejoined them, without observing what they had done, for she never dreamed of decking herself out in a desert; she thought of nothing but the oak, which speedily became the finest oak that ever was seen.
One day that she had climbed up into it, and that her sisters as usual asked her if she could see anything, she exclaimed, "I can see a large mansion, so fine—so fine, that I want words to describe it; the walls are of emeralds and rubies, the roof of diamonds; it is all covered with golden bells and weathercocks that whirl about as the wind blows." "Thou liest," said they; "it cannot be as fine as thou sayest." "Believe me," replied Finette, "I am no story-teller; come and see for yourselves; my eyes are quite dazzled by it." Fleur d'Amour climbed up the tree. When she saw the château, she could talk of nothing else. Belle-de-Nuit, who had a great deal of curiosity, failed not to climb in her turn, and was as much enchanted as her sisters at the sight of the château. "We must certainly go to this palace," they said; "perhaps we shall find in it some handsome princes, who will be only too happy to marry us." They talked the whole evening long on this subject, and lay down to sleep on the grass; but when Finette appeared to them in a sound slumber, Fleur d'Amour said to Belle-de-Nuit, "I'll tell you what we should do, sister; let us get up and dress ourselves in the fine clothes Finette has brought hither." "You are in the right," said Belle-de-Nuit; so they got up, curled their hair, powdered it, put patches on their cheeks, and dressed themselves in the beautiful gold and silver gowns all covered with diamonds. Never was anything so magnificent. Finette, ignorant of the theft her wicked sisters had committed, took up her bag with the intention of dressing herself, but was vastly distressed to find nothing in it but flints. At the same moment she perceived her sisters shining like suns. She wept, and complained of the treachery they had been guilty of towards her, but they only laughed and made a joke of it. "Is it possible," said she to them, "that you will have the effrontery to take me to the château, without dressing and making me as fine as you are?" "We have barely enough for ourselves," replied Fleur d'Amour. "Thou shalt have nothing but blows, an' thou importunest us." "But," continued she, "the clothes you have on are mine; my godmother gave them to me. You have no claim to them." "If thou sayest more about it," said they, "we will knock thee on the head, and bury thee without any one being the wiser!" Poor Finette did not dare provoke them; she followed them slowly, walking some short distance behind them, as if she were only their servant.
The nearer they approached to the mansion the more wonderful it appeared to them. "Oh!" said Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, "how we shall amuse ourselves!—what capital dinners we shall get! We shall dine at the King's table; but Finette will have to wash the dishes in the kitchen, for she looks like a scullion; and if anybody asks who she is, we must take care not to call her our sister; we must say she is the little cowkeeper in the village." The lovely and sensible Finette was in despair at being so ill-treated.
When they reached the castle-gate they knocked at it. It was opened immediately by a terrific old woman. She had but one eye, which was in the middle of her forehead, but it was bigger than five or six ordinary ones. Her nose was flat, her complexion swarthy, and her mouth so horrible that it frightened you to look at it. She was fifteen feet high, and measured thirty round her body. "Unfortunate wretches!" said she to them; "what brought ye hither? Know ye not this is the Ogre's Castle, and that all three of you would scarcely suffice for his breakfast? But I am more good-natured than my husband. Come in; I will not eat you all at once. You shall have the consolation of living two or three days longer." When they heard the Ogress say this, they ran away, hoping to escape; but one of her strides was equal to fifty of theirs. She ran after and caught them, one by the hair, the others by the nape of the neck; and putting them under her arm took them into the castle, and threw them all three into the cellar, which was full of toads and adders, and strewed with the bones of those the Ogres had eaten.
As the Ogress fancied eating Finette immediately, she went to fetch some vinegar, oil, and salt, to make her into a salad, but hearing the Ogre coming, and thinking that the Princesses were so white and delicate that she should like to eat them all herself, she popped them quickly under a large tub, out of which they could only look through a hole.
The Ogre was six times as tall as his wife; when he spoke, the building shook, and when he coughed it was like peals of thunder. He had but one great filthy eye; his hair stood all on end; he leaned on a huge log of wood which he used for a cane. He had a covered basket in his hand, out of which he pulled fifteen little children he had stolen on the road, and swallowed them like fifteen new-laid eggs. When the Princesses saw him they trembled under the tub. They were afraid to cry, lest they should be heard, but they whispered to each other: "He will eat us all alive; is there no way to save ourselves?"
The Ogre said to his wife, "Look ye, I smell fresh meat; give it me." "That's good!" said the Ogress; "thou dost always fancy thou smellest fresh meat; it is thy sheep which have just passed by." "Oh! I am not mistaken," said the Ogre, "I smell fresh meat for certain, and I shall hunt everywhere for it." "Hunt," said she; "thou wilt find nothing." "If I do find it, and thou hast hidden it from me," replied the Ogre, "I will cut thy head off, and make a ball of it." She was frightened at this threat, and said, "Be not angry, my dear little Ogre, I will tell thee the truth. Three young girls came here to-day, and I have got them safe, but it would be a pity to eat them, for they know how to do everything; I am old and want rest; thou seest our fine house is very dirty, that our bread is badly made, and thy soup now rarely pleases thee; that I myself do not appear so handsome in thine eyes since I have worked so hard. These girls will be my servants. I pray thee do not eat them just now; if thou shouldst fancy one of them some other day, they will be always in thy power."
The Ogre was very reluctant to promise that he would not eat them immediately. "Let me alone," said he, "I will only eat two of them." "No, thou shalt not eat them." "Well then, I will only eat the smallest;" and she replied, "No, thou shalt not touch one of them." At last, after much contention, he promised he would not eat them. She thought to herself, "When he goes hunting I will eat them, and tell him they have made their escape."
The Ogre came out of the cellar, and told his wife to bring the girls before him. The poor Princesses were almost dead with fright; the Ogress tried to comfort them. When they were brought before the Ogre, he asked them what they could do. They answered, they could sweep, and sew, and spin, exceedingly well; that they could make ragouts so delicious that you would eat even the plates; and as for bread, cakes, and patties, people had been wont to send to them for a thousand leagues round. The Ogre was dainty. "Aha!" said he, "set these good housewives to work immediately; but," said he to Finette, "after you have lighted the fire, how do you know when the oven is hot enough?" "My Lord," she replied, "I throw some butter into it, and then taste it with my tongue." "Very well," said he; "light the oven fire, then." The oven was as big as a stable, for the Ogre and Ogress ate more bread than would feed two armies. The Princess made a terrific fire. The oven was as hot as a furnace; and the Ogre, who was present, waiting for his new bread, ate in the meanwhile a hundred lambs and a hundred little sucking-pigs. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit were making the dough. "Well," said the great Ogre, "is the oven hot?" "You shall see, my Lord," said Finette. She threw in a thousand pounds of butter, and then said to him, "It should be tasted with the tongue, but I am too short to reach it." "I am tall enough," said the Ogre; and stooping, he thrust his body so far into the oven that he could not recover himself, and so all the flesh was burnt off his bones. When the Ogress came to the oven she was astounded to find her husband a mountain of cinders!
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who saw she was very much distressed, consoled her to the best of their ability, but they feared her grief would too soon subside, and, her appetite returning, she would make a salad of them as she was about to do before. They said to her, "Take comfort, Madam, you will find some king or some marquis who will be delighted to marry you." She smiled a little, showing her teeth longer than one's fingers.
When they saw her in such a good humour, Finette said to her, "If you would throw off these horrible bear-skins in which you wrap yourself, and follow the fashion, we will dress your hair to perfection, and you will look like a star." "Come," said the Ogress, "let us see what thou wouldst do; but assure thyself that if there be any ladies handsomer than me, I will make minced-meat of thee!" Upon this the three Princesses took off her cap, and began combing and curling her hair, amusing her all the while with their chatter. Finette then taking a hatchet, struck her from behind such a blow that her head was taken clean from her shoulders.
Never was there such delight! The three Princesses mounted upon the roof of the mansion to amuse themselves by ringing the golden bells. They ran into all the apartments, which were of pearls and diamonds, and the furniture so costly, that they were ready to die with pleasure. They laughed, they sang, they wanted for nothing. There were corn, sweetmeats, fruit, and dolls, in abundance. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit went to sleep in beds of brocade and velvet, and said to each other, "Behold us richer than our father was when he was in possession of his kingdom; but we want to be married, and nobody will venture here. This mansion no doubt is considered a cut-throat place, for people are not aware of the death of the Ogre and Ogress. We must go to the nearest city, and show ourselves in our fine dresses, and we shall soon find some honest bankers who will be very glad to marry Princesses." As soon as they were dressed, they told Finette they were going to take a walk; that she must stay at home and cook, and wash and clean the house, so that on their return they might find everything as it should be: if not, she should be beaten within an inch of her life! Poor Finette, whose heart was full of grief, remained alone in the house, sweeping, cleaning, washing, without resting, and crying all the time. "How unfortunate," she said, "that I should have disobeyed my godmother! All sorts of evils happen to me; my sisters have stolen my costly dresses, and array themselves in my ornaments. But for me, the Ogre and his wife would be alive and well at this moment. How have I benefited by destroying them?" When she had said this, she sobbed till she was almost choked. Shortly afterwards her sisters returned laden with Portugal oranges, preserves, and sugar. "Ah!" said they to her, "what a splendid ball we have been to! How it was crowded! The King's son was amongst the dancers; we have had a thousand compliments paid to us. Come, take our shoes off and clean them, as it is your business to do." Finette obeyed them, and if by accident she let a word drop in the way of complaint, they flew at her, and beat her almost to death.
The next day they went out again, and returned with an account of new wonders. One evening that Finette was sitting in the chimney corner on a heap of cinders, not knowing what to do, she examined the cracks in the chimney, and found in one of them a little key so old and so dirty that she had the greatest trouble in cleaning it. When she had done so she found it was made of gold, and presuming that a golden key ought to open some beautiful little box, she ran all over the mansion trying it in all the locks, and at length found it fitted that of a casket which was a masterpiece of art. She opened it, and found it full of clothes, diamonds, lace, linen, and ribands, worth immense sums of money. She said not a word of her good luck to her sisters, but waited impatiently for their going out the next day. As soon as they were out of sight she dressed and adorned herself, till she looked more beautiful than the sun and moon together.
Thus arrayed, she went to the ball where her sisters were dancing, and though she had no mask on, she was so changed for the better that they did not know her. As soon as she appeared a murmur arose throughout the assembly; some were full of admiration, others of jealousy. She was asked to dance, and surpassed all the other ladies in grace as much as she did in beauty. The mistress of the mansion came to her, and making her a profound curtsy, requested to know her name, that she might always remember with pleasure the appellation of such a marvellously beautiful person. She replied civilly that her name was Cendron. There was not a lover who did not leave his mistress for Cendron: not a poet who did not make verses on Cendron. Never did a little name make so much noise in so short a time. The echoes repeated nothing but the praises of Cendron. People had not eyes enough to gaze upon her, nor tongues enough to extol her.
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who had previously created a great sensation wherever they appeared, observing the reception accorded to this new comer, were ready to burst with spite: but Finette extricated herself from all ill-consequences with the best grace in the world. Her manners appeared those of one born to command.
Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, who never saw their sister but with her face begrimed with soot from the chimney, and altogether as dirty as a dog, had so completely lost all idea of her beauty that they did not recognise her in the least. They paid their court to Cendron, as well as the rest. As soon as she saw the ball was nearly over, she hastened away, returned home, undressed herself quickly, and put on her old rags. When her sisters arrived, "Ah! Finette," said they to her, "we have just seen a young princess who is perfectly charming. She is not a young ape such as thou art, she is as white as snow, with a richer crimson than the roses; her teeth are pearls, her lips coral; she had a gown on that must have weighed more than a thousand pounds. It was all gold and diamonds. How beautiful! how amiable she is!" Finette said in a low voice, "So was I; so was I." "What dost thou mutter there?" said her sisters. She repeated in a still lower tone, "So was I; so was I." This little game was played for some time. There was scarcely a day that Finette did not appear in a new dress; for the casket was a fairy one, and the more you took out of it the more there came in, and everything so highly fashionable, that all the ladies dressed themselves in imitation of Finette.
One evening that Finette had danced more than usual, and had delayed her departure to a later hour, being anxious to make up for lost time and get home a little before her sisters, she walked so fast that she lost one of her slippers, which was of red velvet, embroidered with pearls. She tried to find it in the road, but the night was so dark, her search was in vain, and she entered the house one foot shod and the other not. The next day, Prince Chéri, the King's eldest son, going out hunting, found Finette's slipper. He had it picked up, examined it, admired its diminutive size and elegance, turned it over and over, kissed it, took care of it and carried it home with him. From that day he would eat nothing, he became thin, and altered visibly; was yellow as a quince, melancholy, depressed. The King and Queen, who loved him to distraction, sent in every direction for the choicest game and the best sweetmeats. They were less than nothing to him. He looked at it all without uttering a word in reply to his mother when she spoke to him. They sent everywhere for the first physicians, even as far as Paris, and Montpellier. When they arrived they saw the Prince, and after watching him for three days and three nights without once losing sight of him, they came to the conclusion that he was in love, and that he would die if they did not find the only remedy for him. The Queen who doted on her son, was nearly dissolved in tears, so great was her grief at not being able to discover the object of his love, that he might marry her. She brought into his apartment the most beautiful ladies she could find. He would not condescend to look at them. At length she said to him, one day, "My dear son, thou wilt kill me with grief, for thou lovest and concealest from us thy passion. Tell us whom thou lovest, and we will give her to thee, though she should only be a simple shepherdess." The Prince taking courage from the promises of the Queen, drew the slipper from under his bolster, and showing it to her, said, "Behold, Madam, the cause of my malady. I found this little, soft delicate, pretty slipper as I went out to hunt, and I will never marry any one but the woman who can wear it." "Well, my son," said the queen, "do not afflict yourself, we will have her sought for." She hastened to the King with this intelligence. He was very much surprised, and ordered immediately that a proclamation should be made with sound of drum and trumpet, that all single women should come and try on the slipper, and that she whom it fitted should marry the Prince. On hearing this every one washed their feet with all sorts of waters, pastes and pommades, some ladies actually had them peeled, and others starved themselves in order to make their feet smaller and prettier.
They went in crowds to try on the slipper, but not one of them could get it on, and the more they came in vain, the greater was the Prince's affliction. Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit dressed themselves one day so superbly, that they were astonishing to look at. "Where can you be going to?" asked Finette. "We are going to the great city," replied they, "where the King and Queen reside, to try on the slipper the King's son has found; for if it should fit either of us, the Prince will marry her, and then my sister or I will be a queen." "And why should not I go?" said Finette. "Thou art a pretty simpleton, truly," said they; "go, go, and water our cabbages; thou art fit for nothing better."
Finette thought directly she would put on her finest clothes, and go and take her chance with the rest, for she had a slight suspicion that she should be successful. What troubled her was, that she did not know her way; for the ball at which she had danced was not given in the great city. She dressed herself magnificently; her gown was of blue satin, covered with stars in diamonds. She had a sun of them in her hair, and a full moon on her back; and all these jewels shone so brightly, that one couldn't look at her without winking. When she opened the door to go out, she was much surprised to see the pretty Spanish horse which had carried her to her godmother's. She patted him, and said, "You are most welcome, my little hobby. I am much obliged to my godmother, Merluche." He knelt down, and she mounted upon him like a nymph: he was all covered with golden bells and ribands. His housings and bridle were priceless, and Finette was thirty times more beautiful than fair Helen of Troy.
The Spanish horse galloped off gaily, his bells went "ting, ting, ting." Fleur d'Amour and Belle-de-Nuit, hearing the sound of them, turned round and saw her coming; but what was their astonishment at that moment? They knew her to be both Finette and Cendron. They were very much splashed, their fine dresses draggled with mud. "Sister!" cried Fleur d'Amour to Belle-de-Nuit, "I protest here is Finette Cendron." The other echoed the cry; and Finette passing close to them, her horse splashed them all over, making them a mass of mud. Finette laughed at them, and said, "Your Highnesses, Cendron despises you as you deserve;" then passing them like a shot, she disappeared. Belle-de-Nuit and Fleur d'Amour looked at each other. "Are we dreaming?" said they; "who could have supplied Finette with clothes and a horse? what miracle is this? Good fortune attends her; she will put on the slipper, and we shall have made a long journey in vain."
Whilst they were distressing themselves, Finette arrived at the palace. The moment she appeared everybody thought she was a Queen. The guards presented arms, the drums beat, and the trumpets sounded a flourish; all the gates were flung open, and those who had seen her at the ball preceded her, crying, "Room! room! for the beautiful Cendron, the wonder of the world!" She entered in this state the apartment of the dying Prince. He cast his eyes on her, and enraptured at her sight, wished fervently that her foot might be small enough for her to wear the slipper. She put it on instantly, and produced its fellow which she had brought with her on purpose. Shouts immediately arose of "Long live the Princess Chérie, long live the Princess who will be our Queen!" The Prince arose from his couch, and advanced to kiss her hand; she found he was handsome and very intelligent. He paid her a thousand delicate attentions. The King and Queen were informed of the event. They came in all haste, and the Queen took Finette in her arms, called her her daughter, her darling, her little Queen! and made her some magnificent presents, to which the liberal King added many more. They fired the guns; violins, bagpipes, every sort of musical instrument was set playing; nothing was talked of but dancing and rejoicing. The King, the Queen, and the Prince, begged Cendron to consent to the marriage taking place immediately. "No," said she, "I must first tell you my history," which she did in a few words. When they found that she was a Princess born, there was another burst of joy, which was almost the death of them; but when she told them the names of the King and Queen, her father and mother, they recognised them as the sovereigns whose dominions they had conquered. They imparted this fact to Finette, and she immediately vowed she would not consent to marry the Prince until they had restored the estates of her father. They promised to do so, for they had upwards of a hundred kingdoms, and one more or less was not worth talking about.
In the meanwhile Belle-de-Nuit and Fleur d'Amour arrived at the palace. The first news that greeted them was that Cendron had put on the slipper. They knew not what to do or to say; they determined to go back again without seeing her; but when she heard they were there, she insisted they should come in, and instead of frowning on them and punishing them as they deserved, she rose and advanced to meet them, embraced them tenderly, and then presented them to the Queen, saying to her, "Madam, these are my sisters; they are very amiable, and I request you will love them." They were so confused at the kindness of Finette, that they could not utter a word. She promised them they should return to their own kingdom, which the Prince would restore to their family. At these words they threw themselves on their knees before her, weeping for joy.
The nuptials were the most splendid that ever were seen. Finette wrote to her godmother and put the letter, accompanied with valuable presents, on the back of the pretty Spanish horse, begging her to seek the King and Queen, to tell them their good fortune, and that they had nothing to do but return to their kingdom. The Fairy Merluche acquitted herself very graciously of this commission. The father and mother of Finette were repossessed of their estates, and her sisters became afterwards queens as well as herself.
Revenged on the ungrateful wouldst thou be,
Of young Finette pursue the policy.
Fresh favours on the undeserving heap;
Each benefit inflicts a wound most deep,
Cutting the conscious bosom to the core.
Finette's proud, selfish sisters suffer'd more,
When by her generous kindness overpower'd,
Than if by Ogres they had been devour'd.
From her example then this lesson learn,
And good for evil nobly still return;
Whate'er the wrong that may thy wrath awake,
No grander vengeance for it could'st thou take.