HERE WAS ONCE a poor Prince, who had a kingdom. His kingdom was very small, but still quite large enough to marry upon; and he wished to marry.
It was certainly rather cool of him to say to the Emperor's daughter, "Will you have me?" But so he did; for his name was renowned far and wide; and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, "Yes!" and "Thank you kindly." We shall see what this princess said.
It happened that where the Prince's father lay buried, there grew a rose tree--a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in every five years, and even then bore only one flower, but that was a rose! It smelt so sweet that all cares and sorrows were forgotten by him who inhaled its fragrance.
And furthermore, the Prince had a nightingale, who could sing in such a manner that it seemed as though all sweet melodies dwelt in her little throat. So the Princess was to have the rose, and the nightingale; and they were accordingly put into large silver caskets, and sent to her.
The Emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the Princess was playing at "Visiting," with the ladies of the court; and when she saw the caskets with the presents, she clapped her hands for joy.
"Ah, if it were but a little pussy-cat!" said she; but the rose tree, with its beautiful rose came to view.
"Oh, how prettily it is made!" said all the court ladies.
"It is more than pretty," said the Emperor, "it is charming!"
But the Princess touched it, and was almost ready to cry.
"Fie, papa!" said she. "It is not made at all, it is natural!"
"Let us see what is in the other casket, before we get into a bad humor," said the Emperor. So the nightingale came forth and sang so delightfully that at first no one could say anything ill-humored of her.
"Superbe! Charmant!" exclaimed the ladies; for they all used to chatter French, each one worse than her neighbor.
"How much the bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to our blessed Empress," said an old knight. "Oh yes! These are the same tones, the same execution."
"Yes! yes!" said the Emperor, and he wept like a child at the remembrance.
"I will still hope that it is not a real bird," said the Princess.
"Yes, it is a real bird," said those who had brought it. "Well then let the bird fly," said the Princess; and she positively refused to see the Prince.