HERE WAS ONCE upon a time a Queen who had the ugliest little baby imaginable, so ugly, indeed, that it was almost impossible to believe he was a little boy at all.
|THE BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS|
A fairy, however, assured his mother that the little baby would be very good and clever, saying that she was also giving him a gift which would enable him to make that person whom he loved the best as clever as himself.
This somewhat consoled the Queen, but still she was very unhappy because her son was so ugly, though no sooner had he begun to speak than he could talk about all sorts of things, and he had such pretty ways that people were charmed with him.
I forgot to say, that, when he was quite a baby, he had a funny little tuft of hair on his head, so he was called Tufty Riquet, for Riquet was the family name.
When Riquet was about seven years old, the Queen of a kingdom near by was given two baby daughters, twins, of which one was so exquisitely beautiful that the Queen nearly died of joy when she saw her, and so the fairy, the same one who had given Riquet his gift of cleverness, to keep the Queen from making herself ill with excitement, told her that this little Princess would not be at all clever, indeed she would be as stupid as she was beautiful.
The Queen was very much grieved at this, and felt still more troubled when she beheld her other daughter, for the second Princess was extremely ugly.
"Do not take it too much to heart, madam," remarked the fairy, "for this second daughter will be so clever that it will scarcely be noticed that she is not beautiful."
"Well, if it must be so, it must," remarked the Queen, "but I should certainly have liked the elder one, who is beautiful, to be just a little bit clever too."
"I can do nothing as to her mind, madam," replied the fairy, "but for her beauty I can, and as there is nothing I would not do to please you, I will give her a gift so that she can make the one who wins her heart beautiful too."
As the Princesses grew up, their gifts likewise grew with them, so that everybody spoke about the beauty of the one and the cleverness of the other; but also their defects grew, so that it could not but be noticed that the younger was daily uglier, and the elder day by day became more stupid, until she either said nothing in reply to a question, or something quite silly, and so clumsy was she that she could not arrange four china ornaments on the chimney piece without breaking one, or drink a glass of water without spilling half of it on her frock.
Although it is a great thing to have beauty, yet the younger generally received more attention in company than her elder sister.
At first, everybody would gather around the beautiful one admiringly, but before long they would leave her for the clever Princess, to listen to her pleasant conversation; and by the end of a quarter of an hour the elder would be left alone, while the other would be the centre of a group.
This the elder sister noticed, in spite of her stupidity, and she would gladly have given all her beauty for half the cleverness of her sister, and sometimes the Queen, although full of kindness, would reproach her daughter for her foolishness, which caused the Princess almost to die of grief.
One day when she had retreated to a wood to brood over her unhappiness, she saw a little man coming towards her. He was uncommonly ugly and unpleasing in appearance, but was very richly dressed.
It was the young Prince Tufty Riquet, who had fallen in love with the pictures he had seen of her, and had left his father's kingdom for the sake of making her acquaintance.
Delighted to meet her alone in this manner, he accosted her as courteously as possible, but soon, noticing that she was melancholy, he said:
"I cannot understand how it is that anyone as beautiful as you are, can be as sad as you appear to be; for I must own, that although I can boast of having seen many beauties, not one have I ever met whose beauty equalled yours."
"It pleases you to say so, sir," replied the Princess, and relapsed into silence.
"Beauty," went on Riquet, "is so delightful that one would give everything for it, and if anyone is beautiful I can't understand anything troubling greatly."
"I would rather be as ugly as you," answered the Princess, "and be clever, than as beautiful as I am, and be stupid."
"To think you are stupid is a sure sign that you have a certain amount of cleverness, madam," replied Riquet.
"I don't think about that," said the Princess, "but I am quite sure that I am very silly, and the grief of that is killing me."
"If that is all that troubles you, I can soon put an end to your grief," said Riquet, "for I have the power of giving cleverness to the person whom I love the best, and if only you will marry me, you shall become as clever as you can wish."
The Princess was greatly astonished, but remained silent.
"I can see," continued Riquet, "that this proposal is not to your taste, and I am not astonished. I will give you a year to think about it."