| The Fair One With The Golden Locks |
HERE WAS ONCE a most beautiful and amiable princess who was called "The Fair One with Locks of Gold," for her hair shone brighter than gold, and flowed in curls down to her feet, her head was always encircled by a wreath of beautiful flowers, and pearls and diamonds.
A handsome, rich, young prince, whose territories joined to hers, was deeply in love with the reports he heard of her, and sent to demand her in marriage. The ambassador sent with proposals was most sumptuously attired, and surrounded by lackeys on beautiful horses, as well as charged with every kind of compliment, from the anxious prince, who hoped he would bring the princess back with him; but whether it was that she was not that day in a good humour, or that she did not like the speeches made by the ambassador, I don't know, but she returned thanks to his master for the honour he intended her, and said she had no inclination to marry. When the ambassador arrived at the king's chief city, where he was expected with great impatience, the people were extremely afflicted to see him return without the Fair One with the Locks of Gold; and the king wept like a child. There was a youth at court whose beauty outshone the sun, the gracefulness of whose person was not to be equalled, and for his gracefulness and wit, he was called Avenant: the king loved him, and indeed every body except the envious. Avenant being one day in company with some persons, inconsiderately said, "If the king had sent me to the Fair One with Locks of Gold, I dare say I could have prevailed on her to return with me." These enviers of Avenant's prosperity immediately ran open mouthed to the king, saying, "Sir sir, what does your majesty think Avenant says? He boasts that if you had sent him to the Fair One with the Golden Hair, he could have brought her with him; which shows he is so vain as to think himself handsomer than your majesty and that her love for him would have made her follow him wherever he went." This put the king into a violent rage. "What!" said he, "does this youngster make a jest at my misfortune, and pretend to set himself above me? Go and put him immediately in my great tower, and there let him starve to death." The king's guards went and seized Avenant who thought no more of what he had said, dragged him to prison, and used him in the most cruel manner.
One day when he was almost quite spent, he said to himself, fetching a deep sigh, "Wherein can I have offended the king? He has not a more faithful subject than myself; nor have I ever done any thing to displease him." The king happened at that time to pass by the tower; and stopped to hear him, notwithstanding the persuasions of those that were with him; "Hold your peace," replied the king, "and let me hear him out." Which having done, and being greatly moved by his sufferings, he opened the door of the tower, and called him by his name. Upon which Avenant came forth in a sad condition, and, throwing himself at the king's feet, "What have I done, sir," said he, "that your majesty should use me thus severely?" "Thou hast ridiculed me and my ambassador," replied the king; "and hast said, that if I had sent thee to the Fair One with Locks of Gold, thou couldst have brought her with thee." "It is true, sir," replied Avenant, "for I would have so thoroughly convinced her of your transcending qualities, that it should not have been in her power to have denied me; and this, surely, I said in the name of your majesty." The king found in reality he had done no injury; so, he took him away with him, repenting heartily of the wrong he had done him. After having given him an excellent supper, the king sent for him into his cabinet. "Avenant," said he, "I still love the Fair One with Locks of Gold; I have a mind to send thee to her, to try whether thou canst succeed," Avenant replied, he was ready to obey his majesty in all things, and would depart the very next morning. "Hold," said the king, "I will provide thee first with a most sumptuous equipage." "There is no necessity for that," answered Avenant; "I need only a good horse and your letters of credence." Upon this the king embraced him; being overjoyed to see him so soon ready.
It was upon a Monday morning that he took leave of the king and his friends. Being on his journey by break of day, and entering into a spacious meadow, a fine thought came into his head; he alighted immediately, and seated himself by the bank of a little stream that watered one side of the meadow, and wrote the sentiment down in his pocket book. After he had done writing, he looked about him every way, being charmed with the beauties of the place, and suddenly perceived a large gilded carp, which stirred a little, and that was all it could do, for having attempted to catch some little flies, it had leaped so far out of the water, as to throw itself upon the grass, where it was almost dead, not being able to recover its natural element. Avenant took pity on the poor creature, and though it was a fish-day, and he might have carried it away for his dinner, he took it up, and gently put it again into the river, where the carp, feeling the refreshing coolness of the water, began to rejoice, and sunk to the bottom; but soon rising up again, brisk and gay, to the side of the river; "Avenant," said the carp, "I thank you for the kindness you have done me; had it not been for you, I had died; but you have saved my life, and I will reward you." After this short compliment, the carp darted itself to the bottom of the water, leaving Avenant not a little surprised at its wit and great civility.
Another day, as he was pursuing his journey, he saw a crow in great distress: being pursued by a huge eagle, he took his bow, which he always carried abroad with him, and aiming at the eagle, let fly an arrow, which pierced him through the body, so that he fell down dead; which the crow seeing, came in an ecstasy of joy, and perched upon a tree. "Avenant," said the crow, "you have been extremely generous to succour me, who am but a poor wretched crow; but I am not ungrateful and will do you as good a turn." Avenant admired the wit of the crow, and continuing his journey, he entered into a wood so early one morning, that he could scarcely see his way, where he heard an owl crying out like an owl in despair. So looking about every where, he at length came to a place where certain fowlers had spread their nets in the night-time to catch little birds. "What pity 'tis," said he, "men are only made to torment one another, or else to persecute poor animals who never do them any harm!" So saying, he drew his knife, cut the cords, and set the owl at liberty; who, before he took wing, said, "Avenant, the fowlers are coming, I should have been taken, and must have died, without your assistance: I have a grateful heart, and will remember it."
These were the three most remarkable adventures that befell Avenant in his journey; and when he arrived at the end of it, he washed himself, combed and powdered his hair, and put on a suit of cloth of gold: which having done, he put a rich embroidered scarf about his neck, with a small basket, wherein was a little dog which he was very fond of. And Avenant was so amiable, and did every thing with so good a grace, that when he presented himself at the gate of the palace, all the guards paid him great respect, and every one strove who should first give notice to the Fair One with Locks of Gold, that Avenant, the neighbouring king's ambassador, demanded audience. The princess on hearing the name of Avenant, said, "It has a pleasing sound, and I dare say he is agreeable and pleases every body; and she said to her maids of honour, go fetch me my rich embroidered gown of blue satin, dress my hair, and bring my wreaths of fresh flowers: let me have my high shoes, and my fan, and let my audience chamber and throne be clean, and richly adorned; for I would have him every where with truth say, that I am really the Fair One with Locks of Gold." Thus all her women were employed to dress her as a queen should be. At length, she went to her great gallery of looking-glasses, to see if any thing was wanting; after which she ascended her throne of gold, ivory, and ebony, the fragrant smell of which was superior to the choicest balm. She also commanded her maids of honour to take their instruments, and play to their own singing so sweetly that none should be disgusted.
Avenant was conducted into the chamber of audience, were he stood so transported with admiration, that, as he afterwards said, he had scarcely power to open his lips. At length, however, he took courage, and made his speech wonderfully well; wherein he prayed the princess not to let him be so unfortunate as to return without her. "Gentle Avenant," said she, "all the reasons you have laid before me, are very good, and I assure you, I would rather favour you than any other; but you must know, about a month since, I went to take the air by the side of a river, with my maids of honour; as I was pulling off my glove, I pulled a ring from my finger, which by accident fell into the river. This ring I valued more than my whole kingdom; whence you may judge how much I am afflicted by the loss of it. And I have made a vow never to hearken to any proposals of marriage, unless the ambassador who makes them shall also bring my ring. This is the present which you have to make me; otherwise you may talk your heart out, for months and even years shall never change my resolution." When he returned to his lodgings, he went to bed supperless; and his little dog, who was called Cabriole, made a fasting night of it too, and went and lay down by his master; who did nothing all night but sigh and lament, saying, "How can I find a ring that fell into a great river a month ago? It would be folly to attempt it. The princess enjoined me this task, merely because she knew it was impossible," he continued, greatly afflicted; which Cabriole observing, said, "My dear master, pray do not despair of your good fortune; for you are too good to be unhappy. Therefore, when it is day, let us go to the river side." Avenant made no answer, but gave his dog two little cuffs with his hand, and being overwhelmed with grief, fell asleep.