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THE YELLOW DWARF
NCE upon a time there lived a queen who had been the
mother of a great many children, and of them all only one
daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a thousand.
Her mother, who, since the death of the King, her
father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much as
this little princess, was so terribly afraid of losing her that
she quite spoiled her, and never tried to correct any of her
faults. The consequence was that this little person, who
was as pretty as possible, and was one day to wear a crown,
grew up so proud and so much in love with her own beauty
that she despised everyone else in the world.
The Queen, her mother, by her caresses and flatteries,
helped to make her believe that there was nothing too
good for her. She was dressed almost always in the prettiest
frocks, as a fairy, or as a queen going out to hunt, and
the ladies of the Court followed her dressed as forest-fairies.
And to make her more vain than ever the Queen caused
her portrait to be taken by the cleverest painters and sent
it to several neighbouring kings with whom she was very
When they saw this portrait they fell in love with the
Princess—every one of them, but upon each it had a
different effect. One fell ill, one went quite crazy, and a
few of the luckiest set off to see her as soon as possible;
but these poor princes became her slaves the moment they
set eyes on her.
Never has there been a gayer Court. Twenty delightful
kings did everything they could think of to make
themselves agreeable, and after having spent ever so
much money in giving a single entertainment thought
themselves very lucky if the Princess said "That's pretty."
All this admiration vastly pleased the Queen. Not a
day passed but she received seven or eight thousand
sonnets, and as many
 elegies, madrigals, and songs, which
were sent her by all the poets in the world. All the prose
and the poetry that was written just then was about
Bellissima—for that was the Princess's name—and all the
bonfires that they had were made of these verses, which
crackled and sparkled better than any other sort of wood.
Bellissima was already fifteen years old, and every one
of the Princes wished to marry her, but not one dared to
say so. How could they when they knew that any of
them might have cut off his head five or six times a day
just to please her, and she would have thought it a mere
trifle, so little did she care? You may imagine how
hard-hearted her lovers thought her; and the Queen, who
wished to see her married, did not know how to persuade
her to think of it seriously.
"Bellissima," she said, "I do wish you would not be so
proud. What makes you despise all these nice kings? I
wish you to marry one of them, and you do not try to
"I am so happy," Bellissima answered: "do leave me in
peace, madam. I don't want to care for anyone."
"But you would be very happy with any of these
Princes," said the Queen, "and I shall be very angry if you
fall in love with anyone who is not worthy of you."
But the Princess thought so much of herself that she
did not consider any one of her lovers clever or handsome
enough for her; and her mother, who was getting really
angry at her determination not to be married, began to
wish that she had not allowed her to have her own way so
At last, not knowing what else to do, she resolved to
consult a certain witch who was called "The Fairy of the
Desert." Now this was very difficult to do, as she was
guarded by some terrible lions; but happily the Queen
had heard a long time before that whoever wanted to pass
these lions safely must throw to them a cake made of
millet flour, sugar-candy, and crocodile's eggs. This cake
she prepared with her own hands, and putting it in a
little basket, she set out to seek the Fairy. But as she
was not used to walking far, she soon felt very tired and
sat down at the foot of a tree to rest, and presently fell
fast asleep. When she awoke she was dismayed to find
her basket empty. The cake was all gone! and, to make
matters worse, at that moment she heard the roaring of
the great lions, who had found out that she was near and
were coming to look for her.
"What shall I do?" she cried; "I shall be eaten up," and
 too much frightened to run a single step, she began to cry,
and leant against the tree under which she had been
Just then she heard some one say: "H'm, h'm!"
She looked all round her, and then up at the tree, and
there she saw a little tiny man, who was eating oranges.
"Oh! Queen," said he, "I know you very well, and I
know how much afraid you are of the lions; and you are
quite right too, for
 they have eaten many other people:
and what can you expect, as you have not any cake to
"I must make up my mind to die," said the poor Queen.
"Alas! I should not care so much if only my dear daughter
"Oh! you have a daughter," cried the Yellow Dwarf
(who was so called because he was a dwarf and had such
a yellow face, and lived in the orange tree). "I'm really
glad to hear that, for I've been looking for a wife all over
the world. Now, if you will promise that she shall marry
me, not one of the lions, tigers, or bears shall touch you."
The Queen looked at him and was almost as much
afraid of his ugly little face as she had been of the lions
before, so that she could not speak a word.
"What! you hesitate, madam," cried the Dwarf. "You
must be very fond of being eaten up alive."
And, as he spoke, the Queen saw the lions, which were
running down a hill towards them.
Each one had two heads, eight feet, and four rows of
teeth, and their skins were as hard as turtle shells, and
were bright red.
At this dreadful sight, the poor Queen, who was
trembling like a dove when it sees a hawk, cried out as loud as
she could, "Oh! dear Mr. Dwarf, Bellissima shall marry
"Oh, indeed!" said he disdainfully. "Bellissima is pretty
enough, but I don't particularly want to marry her—you
can keep her."
"Oh! noble sir," said the Queen
in great distress, "do
not refuse her. She is the most charming Princess in the
"Oh! well," he replied, "out of charity I will take her;
but be sure you don't forget that she is mine."
As he spoke a little door opened in the trunk of the
orange tree, in rushed the Queen, only just in time, and
the door shut with a bang in the faces of the lions.
The Queen was so confused that at first she did not
notice another little door in the orange tree, but presently
it opened and she found herself in a field of thistles and
nettles. It was encircled by a muddy ditch, and a little
further on was a tiny thatched cottage, out of which came
the Yellow Dwarf with a very jaunty air. He wore wooden
shoes and a little yellow coat, and as he had no hair and
very long ears he looked altogether a shocking little
"I am delighted," said he to the Queen, "that, as you
are to be my mother-in-law, you should see the little
house in which your
 Bellissima will live with me. With
these thistles and nettles she can feed a donkey which she
can ride whenever she likes; under this humble roof no
weather can hurt her; she will drink the water of this
brook and eat frogs—which grow very fat about here; and
then she will have me always with her, handsome, agreeable,
and gay as you see me now. For if her shadow stays
by her more closely than I do I shall be surprised."
The unhappy Queen, seeing all at once what a miserable
life her daughter would have with this Dwarf
could not bear the idea, and fell down insensible without
saying a word.
When she revived she found to her great surprise that
she was lying in her own bed at home, and, what was
more, that she had on the loveliest lace nightcap that she
had ever seen in her life. At first she thought that all her
adventures, the terrible lions, and her promise to the
Yellow Dwarf that he should marry Bellissima, must
have been a dream, but there was the new cap with its
beautiful ribbon and lace to remind her that it was all
true, which made her so unhappy that she could neither
eat, drink, nor sleep for thinking of it.
The Princess, who, in spite of her wilfulness, really loved
her mother with all her heart, was much grieved when she
saw her looking so sad, and often asked her what was the
matter; but the Queen, who didn't want her to find out
the truth, only said that she was ill, or that one of her
neighbours was threatening to make war against her.
Bellissima knew quite well that something was being
hidden from her—and that neither of these was the real
reason of the Queen's uneasiness. So she made up her
mind that she would go and consult the Fairy of the
Desert about it, especially as she had often heard how
wise she was, and she thought that at the same time she
might ask her advice as to whether it would be as well to
be married, or not.
So, with great care, she made some of the proper cake
to pacify the lions, and one night went up to her room
very early, pretending that she was going to bed; but
instead of that, she wrapped herself in a long white veil,
and went down a secret staircase, and set off, all by herself,
to find the Witch.
 But when she got as far as the same fatal orange tree,
and saw it covered with flowers and fruit, she stopped and
began to gather some of the oranges—and then, putting
down her basket, she sat down to eat them. But when
it was time to go on again the basket had disappeared,
and, though she looked everywhere, not a trace of it
could she find. The more she hunted for it the more
frightened she got, and at last she began to cry. Then all
at once she saw before her the Yellow Dwarf.
"What's the matter with you, my pretty one?" said he.
"What are you crying about?"
"Alas!" she answered; "no wonder that I am crying,
seeing that I have lost the basket of cake that was to
help me to get safely to the cave of the Fairy of the
"And what do you want with her, pretty one?" said the
little monster, "for I am a friend of hers, and, for the
matter of that, I am quite as clever as she is."
"The Queen, my mother," replied the Princess, "has
lately fallen into such deep sadness that I fear that she
will die; and I am afraid that perhaps I am the cause of
it, for she very much wishes me to be married, and I must
tell you truly that as yet I have not found anyone I consider
worthy to be my husband. So for all these reasons
I wished to talk to the Fairy."
"Do not give yourself any further trouble,
Princess," answered the Dwarf.
"I can tell you all you want to
know better than she could. The Queen, your mother,
has promised you in marriage——"
"Has promised me!" interrupted the Princess.
I'm sure she has not. She would have told me if she had.
I am too much interested in the matter for her to promise
anything without my consent—you must be mistaken."
"Beautiful Princess," cried the Dwarf suddenly, throwing
himself on his knees before her, "I flatter myself that
you will not be displeased at her choice when I tell you
that it is to me she has promised the happiness of marrying you."
"You!" cried Bellissima, starting back. "My mother
wishes me to marry you! How can you be so silly as to
think of such a thing?"
"Oh! it isn't that I care much to have that
honour," cried the Dwarf angrily;
"but here are the lions coming;
they'll eat you up in three mouthfuls, and there will be an
end of you and your pride."
And, indeed, at that moment the poor Princess heard
their dreadful howls coming nearer and nearer.
 "What shall I do?" she cried. "Must all my happy days
come to an end like this?"
The malicious Dwarf looked at her and began to laugh
spitefully. "At least," said he, "you have the satisfaction
of dying unmarried. A lovely princess like you must
surely prefer to die rather than be the wife of a poor little
dwarf like myself."
"Oh! don't be angry with me," cried the Princess,
clasping her hands. "I'd rather marry all the dwarfs in
the world than die in this horrible way."
"Look at me well, Princess, before you give me your
word," said he. "I don't want you to promise me in a
"Oh!" cried she, "the lions are coming. I have looked
at you enough. I am so frightened. Save me this minute,
or I shall die of terror."
Indeed, as she spoke she fell down insensible, and when
she recovered she found herself in her own little bed at
home; how she got there she could not tell, but she was
dressed in the most beautiful lace and ribbons, and on her
finger was a little ring, made of a single red hair, which
fitted so tightly that, try as she might, she could not get
When the Princess saw all these things, and remembered
what had happened, she, too, fell into the deepest
sadness, which surprised and alarmed the whole Court,
and the Queen more than anyone else. A hundred times
she asked Bellissima if anything was the matter with her;
but she always said that there was nothing.
At last the chief men of the kingdom, anxious to see
their Princess married, sent to the Queen to beg her to
choose a husband for her as soon as possible. She replied
that nothing would please her better, but that her daughter
seemed so unwilling to marry, and she recommended
them to go and talk to the Princess about it themselves;
so this they at once did. Now Bellissima was much less
proud since her adventure with the Yellow Dwarf, and
she could not think of a better way of getting rid of the
little monster than to marry some powerful king, therefore
she replied to their request much more favourably
than they had hoped, saying that, though she was very
happy as she was, still, to please them, she would consent
to marry the King of the Gold Mines. Now he was a very
handsome and powerful Prince, who had been in love
with the Princess for years, but had not thought that she
would ever care about him at all. You can easily imagine
how delighted he was when he heard the news, and how
angry it made all the other
 kings to lose for ever the hope
of marrying the Princess; but after all Bellissima could
not have married twenty kings—indeed, she had found
it quite difficult enough to choose one, for her vanity
made her believe that there was nobody in the world who
was worthy of her.
Preparations were begun at once for the grandest wedding
that had ever been held at the palace. The King of
the Gold Mines sent such immense sums of money that
the whole sea was covered with the ships that brought it.
Messengers were sent to all the gayest and most refined
Courts, particularly to the Court of France, to seek out
everything rare and precious to adorn the Princess,
although her beauty was so perfect that nothing she wore
could make her look prettier. At least that is what the
King of the Gold Mines thought, and he was never happy
unless he was with her.
As for the Princess, the more she saw of the King the
more she liked him; he was so generous, so handsome and
clever, that at last she was almost as much in love with
him as he was with her. How happy they were as they
wandered about in the beautiful gardens together, sometimes
listening to sweet music! and the King used to write songs
for Bellissima. This is one that she liked very much:
In the forest all is gay
When my Princess walks that way.
All the blossoms then are found
Downward fluttering to the ground,
 Hoping she may tread on them.
And bright flowers on slender stem
Gaze up at her as she passes,
Brushing lightly through the grasses.
Oh! my Princess, birds above
Echo back our songs of love,
As through this enchanted land
Blithe we wander, hand in hand.
They really were as happy as the day was long. All the
King's unsuccessful rivals had gone home in despair.
They said good-bye to the Princess so sadly that she could
not help being sorry for them.
"Ah! madam," the King of the Gold Mines said to her
"how is this? Why do you waste your pity on these
princes, who love you so much that all their trouble would
be well repaid by a single smile from you?"
"I should be sorry," answered Bellissima, "if you had
not noticed how much I pitied these princes who were
leaving me for ever; but for you, sire, it is very different:
you have every reason to be pleased with me, but they are
going sorrowfully away, so you must not grudge them my
The King of the Gold Mines was quite overcome by the
Princess's good-natured way of taking his interference,
and, throwing himself at her feet, he kissed her hand a
thousand times and begged her to forgive him.
At last the happy day came. Everything was ready
for Bellissima's wedding. The trumpets sounded, all the
streets of the town were hung with flags and strewn with
flowers, and the people ran in crowds to the great square
before the palace. The Queen was so over-joyed that she
had hardly been able to sleep at all, and she got up before
it was light to give the necessary orders and to choose the
jewels that the Princess was to wear. These were nothing
less than diamonds, even to her shoes, which were covered
with them, and her dress of silver brocade was embroidered
with a dozen of the sun's rays. You may imagine
how much these had cost; but then nothing could have
been more brilliant, except the beauty of the Princess!
Upon her head she wore a splendid crown, her lovely hair
waved nearly to her feet, and her stately figure could
easily be distinguished among all the ladies who attended
The King of the Gold Mines was not less noble and
 it was easy to see by his face how happy he was,
and everyone who went near him returned loaded with
presents, for all round the great banqueting hall had been
arranged a thousand barrels full of gold, and numberless
bags made of velvet embroidered with pearls and filled
with money, each one containing at least a hundred
thousand gold pieces, which were given away to everyone
who liked to hold out his hand, which numbers of people
hastened to do, you may be sure—indeed, some found
this by far the most amusing part of the wedding festivities.
The Queen and the Princess were just ready to set out
with the King when they saw, advancing toward them
from the end of the long gallery, two great basilisks,
dragging after them a very badly made box; behind them
came a tall old woman, whose ugliness was even more
surprising than her extreme old age. She wore a ruff of
black taffeta, a red velvet hood, and a farthingale all in
rags, and she leaned heavily upon a crutch. This strange
old woman, without saying a single word, hobbled three
times round the gallery, followed by the basilisks, then
stopping in the middle, and brandishing her crutch
threateningly, she cried:
"Ho, ho, Queen! Ho, ho, Princess! Do you think you
are going to break with impunity the promise that you
made to my friend the Yellow Dwarf? I am the Fairy of
the Desert; without the Yellow Dwarf and his orange tree
my great lions would soon have eaten you up, I can tell
you, and in Fairyland we do not suffer ourselves to be
insulted like this. Make up your minds at once what you
will do, for I vow that you shall marry the Yellow Dwarf.
If you don't, may I burn my crutch!"
"Ah! Princess," said the Queen, weeping, "what is this
that I hear? What have you promised?"
"Ah! my mother," replied Bellissima sadly, "what did
you promise, yourself?"
The King of the Gold Mines, indignant at being kept
from his happiness by this wicked old woman, went up to
her, and threatening her with his sword, said:
"Get away out of my country at once, and for ever,
miserable creature, lest I take your life, and so rid myself
of your malice."
He had hardly spoken these words when the lid of the
box fell back on the floor with a terrible noise, and to their
horror out sprang the Yellow Dwarf, mounted upon a
great Spanish cat. "Rash youth!" he cried, rushing between
the Fairy of the Desert and the King. "Dare to
lay a finger upon this illustrious Fairy!
 Your quarrel is
with me only. I am your enemy and your rival. That
faithless Princess who would have married you is promised
to me. See if she has not upon her finger a ring made of
one of my hairs. Just try to take it off, and you will soon
find out that I am more powerful than you are!"
"Wretched little monster!" said the King; "do you dare
to call yourself the Princess's lover, and to lay claim to
such a treasure? Do you know that you are a dwarf—that
you are so ugly that one cannot bear to look at you
—and that I should have killed you myself long before
this if you had been worthy of such a glorious death?"
The Yellow Dwarf, deeply enraged at these words, set
spurs to his cat, which yelled horribly, and leaped hither
and thither—terrifying everybody except the brave King,
who pursued the Dwarf closely, till he, drawing a great
knife with which he was armed, challenged the King to
meet him in single combat, and rushed down into the
courtyard of the palace with a terrible clatter. The King,
quite provoked, followed him hastily, but they had hardly
taken their places facing one another, and the whole
Court had only just had time to rush out upon the
balconies to watch what was going on, when suddenly the
sun became as red as blood, and it was so dark that they
could scarcely see at all. The thunder crashed, and the
lightning seemed as if it must burn up everything; the two
basilisks appeared, one on each side of the bad Dwarf, like
giants, mountains high, and fire flew from their mouths
and ears, until they looked like flaming furnaces. None
of these things could terrify the noble young King, and
the boldness of his looks and actions
 reassured those who
were looking on, and perhaps even embarrassed the Yellow
Dwarf himself; but even his courage gave way when he
saw what was happening to his beloved Princess. For the
Fairy of the Desert, looking more terrible than before,
mounted upon a winged griffin, and with long snakes
coiled round her neck, had given her such a blow with the
lance she carried that Bellissima fell into the Queen's
arms bleeding and senseless. Her fond mother, feeling as
much hurt by the blow as the Princess herself, uttered
such piercing cries and lamentations that the King, hearing
them, entirely lost his courage and presence of mind.
Giving up the combat, he flew toward the Princess, to
rescue or to die with her; but the Yellow Dwarf was too
quick for him. Leaping with his Spanish cat upon the
balcony, he snatched Bellissima from the Queen's arms,
and before any of the ladies of the Court could stop him
he had sprung upon the roof of the palace and disappeared
with his prize.
The King, motionless with horror, looked on despairingly
at this dreadful occurrence, which he was quite
powerless to prevent, and to make matters worse his
sight failed him, everything became dark, and he felt himself
carried along through the air by a strong hand.
This new misfortune was the work of the wicked Fairy
of the Desert, who had come with the Yellow Dwarf to
help him carry off the Princess, and had fallen in love
with the handsome young King of the Gold Mines directly
she saw him. She thought that if she carried him off to
some frightful cavern and chained him to a rock, then the
fear of death would make him forget Bellissima and become
her slave. So, as soon as they reached the place, she
gave him back his sight, but without releasing him from
his chains, and by her magic power she appeared before
him as a young and beautiful fairy, and pretended to have
come there quite by chance.
"What do I see?"
she cried. "Is it you, dear Prince?
What misfortune has brought you to this dismal place?"
The King, who was quite deceived by her altered
"Alas! beautiful Fairy, the fairy who brought me here
first took away my sight, but by her voice I recognised
her as the Fairy of the Desert, though what she should
have carried me off for I cannot tell you."
"Ah!" cried the pretended Fairy, "if you have fallen
into her hands, you won't get away until you have married
her. She has carried off more than one Prince like this,
and she will certainly
 have anything she takes a fancy to." While
she was thus pretending to be sorry for the King,
he suddenly noticed her feet, which were like those of a
griffin, and knew in a moment that this must be the Fairy
of the Desert, for her feet were the one thing she could
not change, however pretty she might make her face.
Without seeming to have noticed anything, he said, in
a confidential way:
"Not that I have any dislike to the Fairy of the Desert,
but I really cannot endure the way in which she protects
the Yellow Dwarf and keeps me chained here like a
criminal. It is true that I love a charming princess, but
if the Fairy should set me free my gratitude would oblige
me to love her only."
"Do you really mean what you say, Prince?" said the
Fairy, quite deceived.
"Surely," replied the Prince; "how could I deceive you?
You see it is so much more flattering to my vanity to be
loved by a fairy than by a simple princess. But, even if
I am dying of love for her, I shall pretend to hate her until
I am set free."
The Fairy of the Desert, quite taken in by these words,
resolved at once to transport the Prince to a pleasanter
place. So, making him mount her chariot, to which she
had harnessed swans instead of the bats which generally
drew it, away she flew with him. But imagine the distress
of the Prince when, from the giddy height at which they
were rushing through the air, he saw his beloved Princess
in a castle built of polished steel, the walls of which
reflected the sun's rays so hotly that no one could approach
it without being burnt to a cinder! Bellissima was sitting
in a little thicket by a brook, leaning her head upon her
hand and weeping bitterly, but just as they passed she
looked up and saw the King and the Fairy of the Desert.
Now, the Fairy was so clever that she could not only seem
beautiful to the King, but even the poor Princess thought
her the most lovely being she had ever seen.
"What!" she cried; "was I not unhappy enough in this
lonely castle to which that frightful Yellow Dwarf
brought me? Must I also be made to know that the King
of the Gold Mines ceased to love me as soon as he lost
sight of me? But who can my rival be, whose fatal beauty
is greater than mine?"
While she was saying this, the King, who really loved
her as much as ever, was feeling terribly sad at being so
rapidly torn away from his beloved Princess, but he knew
too well how powerful the
 Fairy was to have any hope of
escaping from her except by great patience and cunning.
The Fairy of the Desert had also seen Bellissima, and
she tried to read in the King's eyes the effect that this
unexpected sight had had upon him.
"No one can tell you what you wish to know better than
I can," said he. "This chance meeting with an unhappy
princess for whom I once had a passing fancy, before I
was lucky enough to meet you, has affected me a little, I
admit, but you are so much more to me than she is that
I would rather die than leave you."
"Ah, Prince," she said, "can I believe that you really
love me so much?"
"Time will show, madam," replied the King; "but if you
wish to convince me that you have some regard for me, do
not, I beg of you, refuse to aid Bellissima."
"Do you know what you are asking?" said the Fairy of
the Desert, frowning, and looking at him suspiciously.
"Do you want me to employ my art against the Yellow
Dwarf, who is my best friend, and take away from him a
proud princess whom I can but look upon as my rival?"
The King sighed, but made no answer—indeed, what
was there to be said to such a clear-sighted person? At
last they reached a vast meadow, gay with all sorts of
flowers; a deep river surrounded it, and many little brooks
murmured softly under the shady trees, where it was
always cool and fresh. A little way off stood a splendid
palace, the walls of which were of transparent emeralds.
As soon as the swans which drew the Fairy's chariot had
alighted under a porch, which was paved with diamonds
and had arches of rubies, they were greeted on all sides by
thousands of beautiful beings, who came to meet them
joyfully, singing these words:
When Love within a heart would reign,
Useless to strive against him 'tis.
The proud but feel a sharper pain,
And make a greater triumph his.
The Fairy of the Desert was delighted to hear them
sing of her triumphs; she led the King into the most
splendid room that can be imagined, and left him alone
for a little while, just that he might not feel that he was
a prisoner; but he felt sure that she had not really gone
quite away, but was watching him from some
hiding-place. So walking up to a great mirror, he said to it,
"Trusty counsellor, let me see what I can do to make
myself agreeable to the charming Fairy of the Desert; for I
can think of nothing but how to please her."
And he at once set to work to curl his hair, and, seeing
upon a table a grander coat than his own, he put it on
carefully. The Fairy came back so delighted that she
could not conceal her joy.
"I am quite aware of the trouble you have taken to
please me," said she, "and I must tell you that you have
succeeded perfectly already. You see it is not difficult to
do if you really care for me."
The King, who had his own reasons for wishing to keep
the old Fairy in a good humour, did not spare pretty
speeches, and after a time he was allowed to walk by
himself upon the sea-shore. The Fairy of the Desert had
by her enchantments raised such a terrible storm that the
boldest pilot would not venture out in it, so she was not
afraid of her prisoner's being able to escape; and he found
it some relief to think sadly over his terrible situation
without being interrupted by his cruel captor.
Presently, after walking wildly up and down, he wrote
these verses upon the sand with his stick:
At last may I upon this shore
Lighten my sorrow with soft tears.
Alas! alas! I see no more
My Love, who yet my sadness cheers.
And thou, O raging, stormy Sea,
Stirred by wild winds, from depth to height,
Thou hold'st my loved one far from me,
And I am captive to thy might.
My heart is still more wild than thine,
For Fate is cruel unto me.
Why must I thus in exile pine?
Why is my Princess snatched from me?
O! lovely Nymphs, from ocean caves,
Who know how sweet true love may be,
Come up and calm the furious waves
And set a desperate lover free!
While he was still writing he heard a voice which
attracted his attention in spite of himself. Seeing that the
waves were rolling in higher than ever, he looked all
round him, and presently saw a lovely lady floating gently
towards him upon the crest of a huge
 billow, her long hair
spread all about her; in one hand she held a mirror, and in
the other a comb, and instead of feet she had a beautiful
tail like a fish, with which she swam.
The King was struck dumb with astonishment at this
unexpected sight; but as soon as she came within speaking
distance, she said to him, "I know how sad you are at
losing your Princess and being kept a prisoner by the Fairy
of the Desert; if you like I will help you to escape from
this fatal place, where you may otherwise have to drag on
a weary existence for thirty years or more."
The King of the Gold Mines hardly knew what answer
to make to this proposal. Not because he did not wish
very much to escape, but he was afraid that this might
be only another device by which the Fairy of the Desert
was trying to deceive him. As he hesitated the Mermaid,
who guessed his thoughts, said to him:
"You may trust me: I am not trying to entrap you. I
am so angry with the Yellow Dwarf and the Fairy of the
Desert that I am not likely to wish to help them,
especially since I constantly see your poor Princess, whose
beauty and goodness make me pity her so much: and I
tell you that if you will have confidence in me I will help
you to escape."
"I trust you absolutely," cried the King, "and I will do
whatever you tell me; but if you have seen my Princess I
beg of you to tell me how she is and what is happening to
"We must not waste time in talking," said she. "Come
 me and I will carry you to the Castle of Steel, and
we will leave upon this shore a figure so like you that even
the Fairy herself will be deceived by it."
So saying, she quickly collected a bundle of sea-weed,
and, blowing it three times, she said:
"My friendly sea-weeds, I order you to stay here
stretched upon the sand until the Fairy of the Desert
comes to take you away." And at once the sea-weeds became
like the King, who stood looking at them in great
astonishment, for they were even dressed in a coat like
his, but they lay there pale and still as the King himself
might have lain if one of the great waves had overtaken
him and thrown him senseless upon the shore. And then
the Mermaid caught up the King, and away they swam
"Now," said she, "I have time to tell you about the
Princess. In spite of the blow which the Fairy of the
Desert gave her, the Yellow Dwarf compelled her to
mount behind him upon his terrible Spanish cat; but she
soon fainted away with pain and terror, and did not recover
till they were within the walls of his frightful Castle
of Steel. Here she was received by the prettiest girls it
was possible to find, who had been carried there by the
Yellow Dwarf, who hastened to wait upon her and showed
her every possible attention. She was laid upon a couch
covered with cloth of gold, embroidered with pearls as big
"Ah!" interrupted the King of the Gold Mines, "if
Bellissima forgets me, and consents to marry him, I shall
break my heart."
"You need not be afraid of that," answered the
Mermaid; "the Princess thinks of no one but you, and the
frightful Dwarf cannot persuade her to look at him."
"Pray go on with your story," said the King.
"What more is there to tell you?" replied the Mermaid.
"Bellissima was sitting in the wood when you passed, and
saw you with the Fairy of the Desert, who was so cleverly
disguised that the Princess took her to be prettier than
herself; you may imagine her despair, for she thought that
you had fallen in love with her."
"She believes that I love her!" cried the King. "What
a fatal mistake! What is to be done to undeceive her?"
"You know best," answered the Mermaid, smiling
kindly at him. "When people are as much in love with
one another as you two are, they don't need advice from
As she spoke they reached the Castle of Steel, the side
 sea being the only one which the Yellow Dwarf
had left unprotected by the dreadful burning walls.
"I know quite well," said the Mermaid, "that the
Princess is sitting by the brook-side, just where you saw her
as you passed, but as you will have many enemies to fight
with before you can reach her, take this sword; armed with
it you may dare any danger, and overcome the greatest
difficulties, only beware of one thing—that is, never to let
it fall from your hand. Farewell; now I will wait by that
rock, and if you need my help in carrying off your beloved
Princess I will not fail you, for the Queen, her mother, is
my best friend, and it was for her sake that I went to
So saying, she gave to the King a sword made from a
single diamond, which was more brilliant than the sun.
He could not find words to express his gratitude, but he
begged her to believe that he fully appreciated the
importance of her gift, and would never forget her help and
We must now go back to the Fairy of the Desert. When
she found that the King did not return, she hastened out
to look for him, and reached the shore, with a hundred of
the ladies of her train, loaded with splendid presents for
him. Some carried baskets full of diamonds, others
golden cups of wonderful workmanship, and amber, coral,
and pearls, others, again, balanced upon their heads bales
of the richest and most beautiful stuffs, while the rest
brought fruit and flowers, and even birds. But what was
the horror of the Fairy, who followed this gay troop, when
she saw, stretched upon the sands, the image of the King
which the Mermaid had made with the sea-weeds. Struck
with astonishment and sorrow, she uttered a terrible cry,
and threw herself down beside the pretended King, weeping,
and howling, and calling upon her eleven sisters, who
were also fairies, and who came to her assistance. But
they were all taken in by the image of the King, for,
clever as they were, the Mermaid was still cleverer, and
all they could do was to help the Fairy of the Desert to
make a wonderful monument over what they thought was
the grave of the King of the Gold Mines. But while they
were collecting jasper and porphyry, agate and marble,
gold and bronze, statues and devices, to immortalise the
King's memory, he was thanking the good Mermaid and
begging her still to help him, which she graciously promised
to do as she disappeared; and then he set out for the
Castle of Steel. He walked fast, looking anxiously round
him, and longing once more to see his darling Bellissima,
but he had not gone far before he was
sur-  rounded by four
terrible sphinxes who would very soon have torn him to
pieces with their sharp talons if it had not been for the
Mermaid's diamond sword. For, no sooner had he flashed
it before their eyes than down they fell at his feet quite
helpless, and he killed them with one blow. But he had
hardly turned to continue his search when he met six
dragons covered with scales that were harder than iron.
Frightful as this encounter was the King's courage was
unshaken, and by the aid of his wonderful sword he cut
them in pieces one after the other. Now he hoped his
difficulties were over, but at the next turning he was met
by one which he did not know how to overcome.
Four-and-twenty pretty and graceful
nymphs advanced towards
him, holding garlands of flowers, with which they
barred the way.
THE KING OF THE GOLD MINES ENCOUNTERS THE FOUR-AND-TWENTY MAIDENS.
"Where are you going, Prince?" they said; "it is our
duty to guard this place, and if we let you pass great
misfortunes will happen to you and to us. We beg you not
to insist upon going on. Do you want to kill four-and-twenty girls
who have never displeased you in any way?"
The King did not know what to do or to say. It went
against all his ideas as a knight to do anything a lady
begged him not to do; but, as he hesitated, a voice in his
"Strike! strike! and do not spare, or your Princess is lost
So, without reply to the nymphs, he rushed forward
instantly, breaking their garlands, and scattering them in
all directions; and then went on without further hindrance
to the little wood where he had seen Bellissima. She was
seated by the brook looking pale and weary when he
reached her, and he would have thrown himself down at
her feet, but she drew herself away from him with as
much indignation as if he had been the Yellow Dwarf
"Ah! Princess," he cried, "do not be angry with me. Let
me explain everything. I am not faithless or to blame for
what has happened. I am a miserable wretch who has
displeased you without being able to help himself."
"Ah!" cried Bellissima, "did I not see you flying through
the air with the loveliest being imaginable? Was that
against your will?"
"Indeed it was, Princess," he answered; "the wicked
Fairy of the Desert, not content with chaining me to a
rock, carried me off in her chariot to the other end of the
earth, where I should even now be a captive but for the
unexpected help of a friendly
mer-  maid, who brought me
here to rescue you, my Princess, from the unworthy hands
that hold you. Do not refuse the aid of your most faithful
lover." So saying, he threw himself at her feet and
held her by her robe. But, alas! in so doing he let fall the
magic sword, and the Yellow Dwarf, who was crouching
behind a lettuce, no sooner saw it than he sprang out and
seized it, well knowing its wonderful power.
The Princess gave a cry of terror on seeing the Dwarf,
but this only irritated the little monster; muttering a few
magical words he summoned two giants, who bound the
King with great chains of iron.
"Now," said the Dwarf, "I am master of my rival's
fate, but I will give him his life and permission to depart
unharmed if you, Princess, will consent to marry me."
"Let me die a thousand times rather," cried the
"Alas!" cried the Princess, "must you die? Could
anything be more terrible?"
"That you should marry that little wretch would be far
more terrible," answered the King.
"At least," continued she, "let us die together."
"Let me have the satisfaction of dying for you, my
Princess," said he.
"Oh, no, no!" she cried, turning to the Dwarf; "rather
than that I will do as you wish."
"Cruel Princess!" said the King, "would you make my
life horrible to me by marrying another before my eyes?"
"Not so," replied the Yellow Dwarf; "you are a rival
of whom I am too much afraid: you shall not see our
marriage." So saying, in spite of Bellissima's tears and
cries, he stabbed the King to the heart with the diamond
The poor Princess, seeing her lover lying dead at her
feet, could no longer live without him; she sank down by
him and died of a broken heart.
So ended these unfortunate lovers, whom not even the
Mermaid could help, because all the magic power had
been lost with the diamond sword.
As to the wicked Dwarf, he preferred to see the
Princess dead rather than married to the King of the Gold
Mines; and the Fairy of the Desert, when she heard of the
King's adventures, pulled down the grand monument
which she had built, and was so angry at the
 trick that
had been played her that she hated him as much as she
had loved him before.
The kind Mermaid, grieved at the sad fate of the lovers,
caused them to be changed into two tall palm trees, which
stand always side by side, whispering together of their
faithful love and caressing one another with their