HEN HE AND the Prince turned towards the town, and the false Princess and the Lady in Waiting, without any ceremony, were mounted each behind a soldier and taken to be shut up in a castle.
Soon after his terrible disappointment, Prince Guerrier, unable to bear any longer the life at court, secretly departed from the palace with his faithful friend Becafigue, leaving a letter for his father saying he would return to him as soon as his mind was in a happier state, and begging him meanwhile to keep the ugly Princess prisoner, and think of some revenge upon the deceitful king, her father.
After three or four days' journeying, the wanderers found themselves in a thick forest. Quite wearied out, the Prince threw himself upon the ground, while Becafigue went on further in search of fruit wherewith to refresh his royal master.
It is a long time since we left the White Fawn, that is to say the charming Princess.
Very desolately she wept when in a stream she saw her figure reflected, and when night came she was in great fear, for she heard wild beasts about her, and sometimes forgetting she was a fawn she would try to climb a tree. But with morning dawn she felt a little safer, and the sun appeared a marvellous sight to her from which she could hardly turn her eyes. But now the Fairy Tulip, who had always loved the Princess guided Giroflee's feet in her direction, and when the White Fawn saw her faithful Maid of Honour her delight was boundless.
It did not take Giroflee long to discover that this was her dearly-loved mistress, and she promised the White Fawn never to forsake her, for she found she could hear all that was said although she could not speak. Towards night the fear of having no shelter made the two friends so dreadfully dismayed that the Fairy Tulip suddenly appeared before them.
"I am not going to scold you," she said, "although it is through not following my advice that you are in this misfortune, for it goes to my heart to see you thus. I cannot release you altogether from this enchantment, but I have power to shorten the time, and also to say that during the night you may regain your rightful form, but by day again must you run through the forest as a Fawn." The fairy also told them where they could find a little hut in which to pass the nights. Then she disappeared. Giroflee and the Fawn walked in the direction the Fairy had pointed out, and arrived at a neat little cottage where an old woman showed them a room which they could occupy.
As soon as it was night Desiree came to her rightful form, but when day appeared she was once more a Fawn and, escaping into the thicket, commenced to run about in the ordinary way.
You have heard how Prince Guerrier rested in the forest while Becafigue searched for fruit; quite late in the evening Becafigue arrived at the cottage of the good woman who had given shelter to Giroflee and the White Fawn. He addressed her politely and asked for the things he required for his master. She hastened to fill a basket, and gave it to him, saying, "I fear that if you pass a night without shelter some harm may come to you. I can offer you a poor one, but at any rate it is secure from the lions."
Becafigue went back to the Prince and together they returned to the cottage, where they were led into the room next to that occupied by the Princess.
Next morning the Prince arose early and went out; he had not long been in the forest when he saw a beautiful little Fawn. Hunting had ever been his favourite pastime, and now he pursued the little creature. All day long hither and thither he chased, but did not succeed in capturing her, and as evening fell the Fawn slipped away and gained the little hut where Giroflee anxiously awaited her, and on hearing her adventure the Maid of Honour told her she must never again venture out, but the Princess replied:
"It is no use talking thus, when I am a Fawn this room is stifling to me and I must depart from it."
The next day the young Prince sought in vain for the White Fawn, and finally tired out threw himself upon the grass and fell asleep.
While he lay there the little Fawn drew near and looking at him quietly, to her astonishment she recognised his features as those of the Prince Guerrier. Coming nearer and nearer she presently touched him and he awoke.
His surprise was great at seeing close by the shy little Fawn, who stayed not an instant longer but fled away, the Prince following.
"Stay, dear little Fawn," he cried, "I would not hurt you for the world." But the wind carried off the words before they reached her ears. Long he chased the poor creature, till at last worn out the Fawn sank down on the ground and the Prince came up to her.
"Beautiful Fawn," said he, "do not fear me, I shall lead you with me everywhere." Then he covered her with roses and fed her with the choicest leaves and grasses.
But as evening drew near the Fawn longed to escape, for what would happen should she suddenly change into a Princess there in the forest. Presently the Prince went to fetch some water for her, and while he was gone she ran homewards. The next day for a long time she hid from the Prince, but at last he found her, and as she dashed off he shot an arrow which wounded her in the leg.
Sad that he should have done so cruel a thing, the Prince took herbs and laid them upon the wound, and at last he went to fetch Becafigue to help him carry her to the house. He tied her to a tree.
Alas! Who would have thought that the most beautiful Princess in the world would be treated thus? While she was straining at the ribbons trying to break them, Giroflee arrived, and was leading her away when the Prince met them and claimed the Fawn as his.
"Sir," politely replied Giroflee, "the Fawn was mine before it was yours," and she spoke to the Fawn, and the Fawn obeyed her in such a way that the Prince could not doubt that what she said was true. Giroflee then went on, and, to the surprise of the Prince and Becafigue, entered the old woman's house where they themselves lodged. Then Becafigue told the Prince that unless he was much mistaken the owner of the Fawn had lived with the Princess Desiree when he went there as ambassador.
"I mean to see her again," said Becafigue, "there is only a partition between her room and ours." And soon he had made a hole large enough to peep through, and through it he saw the charming Princess dressed in a robe of brocaded silver, with flowers embroidered in gold and emeralds, her hair falling in heavy masses on the most beautiful neck in the world. Giroflee was on her knees before her, bandaging up one arm from which the blood was flowing. They both seemed greatly concerned about the wound: "Let me die," the Princess was saying, "death would be better than the life which I lead. To be a Fawn all the day, to hear him speaking, and not to be able to tell him of my sad fate."
One can guess the astonishment of Becafigue and of the Prince. Guerrier would almost have died of pleasure had he not thought that it must be some enchantment, for did he not know that Desiree and her Lady in Waiting were shut up in the castle.
He went softly and knocked at the chamber door, which Giroflee opened, thinking it was the old woman, for she required help for the wounded arm.
The Prince entered, threw himself at Desiree's feet, and found she was indeed his Princess.
Great was their joy thus at last meeting, and while they were talking to each other the night passed, and the day dawned, and daylight came, and the morning sun shone brightly before Desiree had time to notice that she had not again taken the shape of a Fawn, but was her own beautiful self.
Then it was found that it was the Fairy Tulip in disguise of the old woman who had provided that sheltering cottage in the forest.
The joy of the King upon once more seeing his son can well be imagined, and the marriage of the Prince and Desiree, and Becafigue and Giroflee took place on the same day, the Fairies giving their diamond palace as their wedding present to Princess Desiree, and Fairy Tulip presenting four gold mines in the Indies to Giroflee.
And, in accordance with the wish of Princess Desiree, Longue Epine and her mother, the false Lady in Waiting, were set at liberty.