|The Fairy Book|
|by Dinah Maria Mulock|
|One of the earliest collections of fairy tales from different countries, first published in 1863. Carefully selected and rendered anew in language close to the oral tradition. Includes old English tales, such as Jack the Giant-killer and Tom Thumb, as well as German stories from Grimm, and French tales of Perrault and Madame d'Aulnoy, and many other delightful and time-honored fairy tales. Numerous black and white illustrations by Louis Rhead complement the text. Ages 6-9 |
GRACIOSA AND PERCINET
NCE upon a time there lived a king and queen, who had an only daughter.
Her incomparable beauty, sweetness, and intelligence caused
her to be named Graciosa. She was all her mother's joy. Every day she had given her a
different dress, of gold brocade, velvet, or satin; yet she was neither conceited nor
boastful. She used to pass her mornings in study,
and in the afternoon she sat sewing by the queen's side. She had,
however, plenty of play-time, and sweetmeats without end, so that
she was altogether the happiest princess alive.
At the same court was an elderly young lady named
Duchess Grognon, who was the very opposite of Graciosa.
Her hair was fiery red, her face fat and spotty, and she had but
one eye. Her mouth was so big that you might have thought she could eat you up,
only she had no teeth to do it with; she was also
humpbacked and lame. Of course she could not help her ugliness, and nobody would
have disliked her for that, if she had not been of such an
unpleasant temper that she hated everything sweet and
beautiful, and especially Graciosa. She had also a
very good opinion of herself, and when any one praised the princess, would
say angrily, "That is a lie! My little finger is worth
her whole body."
 In course of time the queen fell sick and died,
and her daughter was almost broken-hearted. So was
her husband for a year, and then he began to comfort
himself by hunting. One day, after a long chase,
he came to a strange castle, which happened to be
that of the Duchess Grognon. She, informed of his
approach, went out to meet him, and received him
most respectfully. As he was very hot with hunting, she took
him into the coolest place in the palace, which was
a vaulted cave, most elegantly furnished, where there
were two hundred barrels arranged in long rows.
"Madam, are these all yours?" inquired the king.
"Yes, sire, but I shall be most happy if you will
condescend to taste their contents. Which wine do you
prefer—canary, hermitage, champagne?" and she
ran over a long list, out of which his majesty made his
Grognon took a little hammer, and struck "toc, toc,"
on the cask, from which there rolled out a handful of silver
money. "Nay, what is this?" said she, smiling, and passed on
to the next, from which, when she tapped it, out
poured a stream of gold coins. "I never saw the
like—what nonsense!" and she tried the third, out
of which came a heap of pearls and diamonds, so that
the floor of the cave was strewn with them. "Sire,"
she exclaimed, "some one has robbed me of my
good wine, and put this rubbish in its place."
"Rubbish, madam! Why, such rubbish would buy my
"It is yours, sire," replied the duchess, "if you
will make me your queen."
 The king, who was a great lover of money, replied eagerly,
"certainly, madam, I'll marry you to-morrow if
Grognon, highly delighted, made but one other condition—that
she should have the Princess Graciosa entirely in her own rule and power,
just as if she had been her real mother; to which the
foolish king consented, for he thought much more of
riches than he did of his child. So he and Grognon
departed hand in hand out of the cave, very well
When the king returned home, Graciosa ran out with joy to welcome
her father, and asked him if he had had good sport in
"Yes, my child," said he, "for I have taken a dove
"Oh, give it me, and I will nourish and cherish it," cried the
"That is impossible; for it is the Duchess Grognon,
whom I have promised to marry."
"She a dove!—she is rather a hawk," sighed the
princess in despair; but her father bade her hold her tongue, and
promise to love her step-mother, who would have over her all the
authority of a mother, and to whom he wished to
present her that very day.
The obedient princess went to her apartment, where her
nurse soon found out the sorrow in her face, and its cause.
"My child," said the good old woman, "princesses ought
to show a good example to humbler women. Promise me to
do your best to please your father, and to make yourself
 the stepmother he has chosen for you. She may not be so
bad after all."
And the nurse gave so much good advice, that Graciosa
began to smile, and dressed herself in her best attire,
a green robe embroidered with gold, while her fair, loose-falling hair
was adorned, according to the fashion of the day, with
a coronet of jasmine, of which the leaves were made
of large emeralds.
Grognon, on her part, made the best of herself that
was possible. She put on a high-heeled shoe to appear
less lame, she padded her shoulders, dyed her red
hair black, and put in a false eye; then dressed herself
in a hooped petticoat of violet satin trimmed with
blue, and an upper gown of yellow with green ribands.
In this costume, she wished to enter the city on horseback, as she understood the
queens were in the habit of doing.
Meantime, Graciosa waited in fear the moment of
her arrival, and, to pass the time away, she went
all alone into a little wood, where she sobbed and
wept in secret, until suddenly there appeared before
her a young page, whom she had never seen before.
"Who are you?" she inquired; "and when did his
majesty take you into his service?"
"Princess," said the page, bowing, "I am in no
one's service but your own. I am Percinet, a
prince in my own country, so that there is no
inequality of rank between us. I have loved you long, and seen you
often, for I have the fairy gift of making myself
invisible. I might longer have concealed myself
from you, but for your present
 sorrow, in which, however, I hope to be of both
comfort and assistance—a page and yet a prince,
and your faithful lover."
At these words, at once tender and respectful,
the princess, who had long heard of the fairy-prince
Percinet, felt so happy that she feared Grognon no
more. They talked a little while together, and
then returned to the palace, where the page assisted
her to mount her horse; on which she looked so
beautiful, that all the new queen's splendors
faded into nothing in comparison, and not one of the
courtiers had eyes for any except Graciosa.
As soon as Grognon saw it, "What!" cried she, "has
this creature the impudence to be better mounted
than myself! Descend, Miss, and let me try your
horse;—and your page, whom everybody thinks so
much of, bid him come and hold my bridle."
Prince Percinet, who was the page, cast one look
at his fair Graciosa and obeyed; but no sooner
had the duchess mounted, than the horse ran away
with her and dragged her over briers, stones, and
mud, and finally threw her into a deep ditch. Her
head was cut in several places, and her arm
fractured. They picked her up in little pieces, like
a broken wineglass; never was there a poor bride in
worse plight. But in spite of her sufferings her
malice remained. She sent for the king:
"This is all Graciosa's fault; she wished to kill
me. I desire that your majesty will punish her,
or leave me to do it—else I will certainly be
revenged upon you both.
 The king, afraid of losing his casks full of gold
pieces, consented, and Graciosa was commanded to
appear. She came trembling and looking round
vainly for Prince Percinet. The cruel Grognon
ordered four women, ugly as witches, to take her
and strip off her fine clothes, and whip her with rods
till her white shoulders were red with blood. But lo!
as soon as the rods touched her, they turned into
bundles of feathers, and the women tired themselves
to death with whipping, without hurting Graciosa the
least in the world!
"Ah! kind Percinet, what do I not owe you?
What should I do without you!" sighed the princess,
when she was taken back to her own chamber and her
nurse. And then she saw the prince standing before
her, in his green dress and his white plume, the most
charming of pages.
Percinet advised her to pretend illness on account
of the cruel treatment she was supposed to have
received; which so delighted Grognon, that she got
well all the sooner, and the marriage was celebrated
with great splendour.
Soon after, the king, who knew that his wife's
weak point was her vanity, gave a tournament,
at which he ordered the six bravest knights of the court
to proclaim that Queen Grognon was the fairest lady
alive. No knight ventured to dispute this fact,
until there appeared one who carried a little box adorned with
diamonds, and proclaimed aloud that Grognon was the
ugliest woman in the universe, and that the most
beautiful was she whose portrait was in the box.
He opened it, and behold the image of the Princess
 The princess, who sat behind her stepmother, felt
sure that the unknown knight was Percinet; but she
dared say nothing. The contest was fixed for the next
day; but in the meantime, Grognon, wild with anger,
commanded Graciosa to be taken in the middle of the night
to a forest a hundred leagues distant, full of wolves, lions,
tigers, and bears. In vain the poor maiden implored that the
attendants would kill her at once, rather than leave her in that
dreadful place: the queen's orders must be obeyed; no answer
was made to her, but the servants remounted and rode away.
Graciosa, in solitude and darkness, groped through the
forest, sometimes falling against the trunks of trees,
sometimes tearing herself with bushes and briers; at last,
overcome with fear and grief, she sank on the ground, sobbing out,
"Percinet, Percinet, have you forsaken me?"
While she spoke, a bright light dazzled her eyes, the midnight
forest was changed into glittering alleys, at the end of which
appeared a palace of crystal, shining like the sun.
She knew it was the doing of the fairy-prince who loved her,
and felt a joy mingled with fear. She turned to fly, but
saw him standing before her, more handsome and charming than
"Princess," said he, "why are you afraid of me? This is the
palace of the fairy-queen my mother, and the princesses
my sisters, who will take care of you, and love you tenderly.
Enter this chariot, and I will convey you there."
Graciosa entered, and passing through many a lovely forest glad, where
it was clear daylight,
 and shepherds and shepherdesses were dancing to merry music, they
reached the palace, where the queen and her two daughters
received the forlorn princess with great kindness, and led her
through many rooms of rock-crystal, glittering with jewels,
where, to her amazement, Graciosa saw the history of her own
life, even down to this adventure in the forest, painted on the
"How is this?" she said. "Prince, you know everything about me."
"Yes; and I wish to preserve everything concerning you,"
said he tenderly; whereupon Graciosa cast down her eyes.
She was only too happy, and afraid that she should learn to
love the fairy-prince too much.
She spent eight days in his palace—days full of every
enjoyment; and Percinet tried all the arguments he could
think of to induce her to marry him, and remain there for ever.
But the good and gentle Graciosa remembered her father who
was once so kind to her, and she preferred rather to suffer than
to be wanting in duty. She entreated Percinet to use his fairy
power to send her home again, and meantime to tell her what
had become of her father.
"Come with me into the great tower there, and you shall see
Thereupon he took her to the top of a tower, prodigiously
high, put her little finger to his lips, and her foot upon
his foot. Then he bade her look, and she saw as in a picture,
or as in a play upon the stage, the King and Grognon sitting
together on their throne. The latter was telling how Graciosa
had hanged herself in a cave.
 "She will not be much loss, sire; and as, when dead, she was
far too frightful for you to look at, I have given orders to
bury her at once."
She might well say that, for she had had a large faggot put
into a coffin, and sealed up; the king and all the nation
mourned over it; and now, that she was no more, they declared
there never was such a sweet creature as the lost princess.
The sight of her father's grief quite overcame Graciosa.
"Oh, Percinet!" she cried, "my father believes me dead. If
you love me, take me home."
The prince consented, though very sorrowfully, saying that
she was as cruel to him as Grognon was to her, and mounted
with her in his chariot, drawn by four white stags. As they
quitted the courtyard, they heard a great noise, and Graciosa
saw the palace all falling to pieces with a great crash.
"What is this?" she cried, terrified.
"Princess, my palace, which you forsake, is among the things
which are dead and gone. You will enter it no more until
after your burial."
"Prince, you are angry with me," said Graciosa sorrowfully;
only she knew well that she suffered quite as much as he did
in thus departing and quitting him.
Arrived in her father's presence, she had great difficulty
in persuading him that she was not a ghost, until the coffin
with the faggot inside it was taken up, and Grognon's malice
 But even then, the king was so weak a man,
that the queen soon made him believe he had
been cheated, that the princess was really
dead, and that this was a false Graciosa.
Without more ado, he abandoned his daughter
to her stepmother's will.
Grognon, transported with joy, dragged her
to a dark prison, took away her clothes,
made her dress in rags, feed on bread and
water, and sleep upon straw. Forlorn and
hopeless, Graciosa dared not now call upon
Percinet; she doubted if he still loved her
enough to come to her aid.
Meantime, Grognon, had sent for a fairy, who
was scarcely less malicious than herself.
"I have here," said she, "a little wretch of
a girl for whom I wish to find all sorts of
difficult tasks; pray assist me in giving
her a new one every day."
The fairy promised to think of it, and soon
brought a skein as thick as four persons, yet
composed of thread so fine, that it broke if
you only blew upon it, and so tangled that
it had neither beginning nor end. Grognon,
delighted, sent for her poor prisoner.
"There, miss, teach your clumsy fingers to
unwind this skein, and if you break a single
thread I will flay you alive. Begin when you
like, but you must finish at sunset, or it
will be the worse for you." Then she sent her
to her miserable cell, and treble-locked
Graciosa stood dismayed, turning the skein
over and over, and breaking hundreds of
threads each time. "Ah! Percinet," she
cried in despair,
 "come and help me, or
at least receive my last farewell."
Immediately Percinet stood beside her,
having entered the cell as easily as if he
carried the key in his pocket. "Behold me,
princess, ready to serve you, though you
forsook me." He touched the skein with
his wand, and it untangled itself, and
wound itself up in perfect order. "Do you
wish anything more, madam?" asked he coldly.
"Percinet, Percinet, do not reproach me; I
am only too unhappy."
"It is your own fault. Come with me, and
make us both happy." But she said nothing,
and the fairy-prince disappeared.
At sunset, Grognon eagerly came to the
prison-door with her three keys, and found
Graciosa smiling and fair, her task all
done. There was no complaint to make, yet
Grognon exclaimed that the skein was dirty,
and boxed the princess's ears till her
rosy cheeks turned yellow and blue. Then
she left her, and overwhelmed the fairy with
"Find me, by to-morrow, something absolutely
impossible for her to do."
The fairy brought a great basket full of
feathers, plucked from every kind of
bird—nightingales, canaries, linnets, larks, doves,
thrushes, peacocks, ostriches, pheasants,
partridges, magpies, eagles—in fact, if I
told them all over, I should never come to an
end; and all these feathers were so mixed up
together, that they could not be distinguished.
 "See," said the fairy, "even one of ourselves
would find it difficult to separate these,
and arrange them as belonging to each sort of
bird. Command your prisoner to do it; she is
sure to fail."
Grognon jumped for joy, sent for the princess
and ordered her to take her task, and finish
it, as before, by set of sun.
Graciosa tried patiently, but she could see no
difference in the feathers; she threw them all
back again into the basket, and began to weep
bitterly. "Let me die," said she, "for death
only will end my sorrows. Percinet loves me
no longer; if he did, he would already have
"Here I am, my princess," cried a voice from
under the basket; and the fairy-prince
appeared. He gave three taps with his wand—the
feathers flew by millions out of the
basket and arranged themselves in little heaps,
each belonging to a different bird.
"What do I not owe you?" cried Graciosa.
"Love me!" answered the prince, tenderly and
said no more.
When Grognon arrived, she found the task done.
She was furious at the fairy, who was as much
astonished as herself at the result of their
malicious contrivances. But she promise to try
once more; and for several days employed all
her industry in inventing a box, which, she
said, the prisoner must be forbidden on any
account to open. "Then," added the cunning fairy,
"of course, being such a disobedient and
 as you say, she will open it, and
the result will satisfy you to your heart's
Grognon took the box, and commanded Graciosa
to carry it to her castle, and set it on a
certain table, in an apartment she named, but
not, upon any account, to open it or examine
Graciosa departed. She was dressed like any
poor peasant, in a cotton gown, a woollen hood,
and wooden shoes; yet, as she walked along,
people took her for a queen in disguise, so
lovely were her looks and ways. But being weak
with imprisonment, she soon grew weary, and,
sitting down upon the edge of a little wood,
took the box upon her lap. Suddenly a
wonderful desire seized her to open it.
"I will take nothing out, I will touch
nothing," said she to herself, "but I must
see what is inside."
Without reflecting on the consequences, she
lifted up the lid, and instantly there jumped
out a number of little men and little women,
carrying little tables and chairs, little
dishes, and little musical instruments. The
whole company were so small that the biggest
giant among them was scarcely the height of
a finger. They leaped into the green meadow,
separated into various bands, and began
dancing and singing, eating and drinking, to
Graciosa's wonder and delight. But when she
recollected herself, and wished to get them
into the box again, they all scampered
away, played at hide-and-seek in the wood,
and by no means could she catch a single one.
 Again, in her distress, she called upon
Percinet, and again he appeared; and, with
a single touch of his wand, sent all the
little people back into the box. Then, in
his chariot, drawn by stags, he took her to
the castle, where she did all that she had
been commanded, and returned in safety, to
her step-mother, who was more furious than
ever. If a fairy could be strangled,
Grognon certainly would have done it in
her rage. At last, she resolved to ask
help no more, but to work her own wicked
will upon Graciosa.
She caused to be dug a large hole in the
garden, and taking the princess there,
showed her the stone which covered it.
"Underneath this stone lies a great
treasure; lift it up, and you will see."
Graciosa obeyed; and while she was
standing at the edge of the pit, Grognon
pushed her in and let the stone fall
down again upon her, burying her alive.
After this, there seemed no more hope for
the poor princess.
"O Percinet," cried she, "you are avenged.
Why did I not return your love, and marry
you! Still, death will be less bitter, if
only you regret me a little."
While she spoke, she saw through the blank
darkness a glimmer of light; it came through
a little door. She remembered what
Percinet had said; that she would never
return to the fairy palace, until after
she was buried. Perhaps the final cruelty
of Grognon would be the end of her
sorrows. So she took courage, crept
through the little door, and lo! she came
out into a
beauti-  ful garden, with long alleys, fruit-trees,
and flower-beds. Well she knew it, and
well she knew the glitter of the rock-crystal
walls. And there, at the palace-gate, stood
Percinet, and the queen, his mother, and
the princesses, his sisters. "Welcome,
Graciosa!" cried they all; and Graciosa,
after all her sufferings wept for joy.
The marriage was celebrated with great
splendour; and all the fairies, for a
thousand leagues round, attended it. Some
came in chariots drawn by dragons, or swans,
or peacocks; some were mounted upon
floating clouds, or globes of fire. Among
the rest, appeared the very fairy who had
assisted Grognon to torment Graciosa. When
she discovered that Grognon's poor prisoner
was now Prince Percinet's bride, she was
overwhelmed with confusion, and entreated
her to forget all that had passed, because
she really was ignorant who she had been so
"But I will make amends for all the evil
that I have done," said the fairy; and
refusing to stay for the wedding-dinner,
she remounted her chariot, drawn by
two terrible serpents, and flew to the
palace of Graciosa's father. There,
before either king, or courtiers, or
ladies-in-waiting could stop her—even had
they wished to do it, which remains
doubtful—she came behind the wicked
Grognon, and twisted her neck, just as
a cook does a barn-door fowl. So
Grognon died, and was buried, and
nobody was particularly sorry for
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