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The Children's Book by  Horace E. Scudder
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RIQUET WITH THE TUFT

[64] ONCE upon a time there lived a queen who had the misfortune to have a child extremely ill-formed and ill-looking, though a fairy assured her that the child would have great good sense, and would be very amiable; besides, this good fairy then and there gave the little tiling a great gift; he should have the power to give equally good sense to whomever he loved best. But all this hardly comforted the queen, who was distressed at having such a very homely child, and was scarcely pleased when he began, as soon as he could speak, to say the most charming things and to act with the most admirable cleverness. I had forgotten to say that he was born with a little tuft of hair on his head, which got him the name of Riquet with the Tuft, for Riquet was the family name.

About seven or eight years after Riquet with the Tuft was born, the queen of a neighboring kingdom had twin daughters. When the first of the twins came into the world she was so exceedingly fair that the mother was in the greatest excitement of joy, and the good fairy who stood by, and who was the one present when Riquet with the Tuft was born, was forced to tell her that the child, for all she was so fair, would be very, very dull, yes, as stupid as she was beautiful. Then came the second of the twins, and she was just as ugly as the first was lovely, and the fairy again tried to help the queen by the assurance that this child would be so sensible that no one would notice her lack of beauty.

"Heaven send it may be so!" said the poor queen, "but is there no way of giving sense to the other, who is so beautiful?"

"I can do nothing of that sort with her," replied the fairy, "but she shall have the gift of making beautiful the person who shall please her. That is all I can do."

As the two princesses grew up, their perfections grew with them, and nothing was talked of but the beauty of the elder and the good sense of the younger. To be sure their defects grew too. The younger grew uglier, and the elder more stupid.

She either made no answer when she was spoken to, or she said something foolish. Then she was so awkward that she could not place four dishes on the shelf without breaking one, nor drink a glass of water without spilling some on her dress and in spite of her beauty she saw that people began to desert her for her sister. At first they flocked about her because she was so lovely to look upon, but little by little they left her and gathered about her sister, because she was so witty and entertaining. The elder would have given all she possessed for half her sister's good sense. Even the queen could not help reproaching the poor girl for her stupidity, and this made her exceedingly melancholy.

One day the beautiful and stupid princess was walking alone in a wood, bewailing her fate, when she met a little man, dressed very finely, but with a most disagreeable face. It was Riquet with the Tuft, who had seen the princess's portrait, and was so fascinated by it that he had left his father's kingdom to see if he could find this marvelously beautiful girl. He knew her at once and addressed her with the greatest respect and courtesy. He noticed how melancholy she was, and presently said;—

"I cannot imagine how one so beautiful as you are can be sad. In all my life, and I have traveled far and wide, I never have seen so beautiful a woman."

"You are very good to say so," said the princess, and then stopped.

"Beauty," continued Riquet, seriously, "is so great a gift that nothing can be compared with it, and one who has it can surely be distressed by nothing."

"Very fine," said the princess, "but I would rather be as ugly as you are, and have good sense, than be as beautiful as I am and be stupid."

"There is no greater proof of good sense," said [65] Riquet with the Tuft, bowing low, "than the belief that we are without it. It is the nature of that gift that the more we have the more sensible we are of what — we lack."

"I do not know how that may be," cried the princess, "I only know that I am very stupid, and that is what is killing me."

"If that is all that troubles you," said Riquet, "I can easily put an end to your sorrow."

"And how?"

"I have the power to give as much wit as any one can possess to the person I love the most. You are the one I love, princess, and if you will only promise to marry me you shall have the greatest good sense and wit."

The princess stood stock still with astonishment.

"I see," said Riquet, "that my offer pains you. I am not surprised, but do not hurry. I will give you a year to think of it." The princess had so little sense and wanted so much, and a year seemed so very long to wait, that she said in a moment that she would accept him. No sooner had she promised to marry Riquet in a twelvemonth than she felt herself to be quite another person. She heard herself talking with the utmost sprightliness, and saying the most sensible things with the greatest ease. Indeed, she talked with so much brilliancy and good nature, that Riquet began to think he had given her more wit than he had kept for himself.

She returned alone to the palace, and the whole court speedily discovered that she had been singularly changed. Everybody was puzzled to account for her. She said as many bright and sensible things now as before she had said stupid and ridiculous ones. But whatever had caused the change, every one was charmed,—every one, that is, except her younger sister, who had now lost the only advantage she had. People all flocked about the princess who was both witty and handsome. Even the king consulted her judgment, and used to hold his councils of state in her chamber. Her fame spread abroad and the princes in the neighborhood all wished to marry her, but now not one of them seemed to her half wise enough.

At length there came a prince who was rich, witty, and handsome, and she looked upon him with more favor than on any of the others. Her father, seeing this, called her to himself and told her that he had perfect confidence in her judgment, and he should leave her to choose entirely for herself. As the more sense we have the more difficult we find it to make up our minds definitely in such cases, she requested, after thanking her father, that he would give her some time to think it over, and then, wishing to be by herself, she went to walk in the wood. It was the same wood where she had met Riquet with the Tuft, and as she walked, thinking hard, she heard a dull sound beneath her feet as of many people running about busily under ground. She stopped to listen, and heard some one say, "Bring me that saucepan," and again, "Give me that kettle," and "Put some wood on the fire." At that the ground opened, and she saw beneath her what appeared to be a large kitchen, full of cooks, scullions, and all kinds of servants, making ready a great banquet. A band of twenty or thirty cooks came forward and placed themselves at a table, where they set to work preparing dainties, and singing over their work. The princess, very much astonished, inquired of them for whom they were working so merrily.

"Madam," replied one, "for Prince Riquet with the Tuft, who is to be married to-morrow." All at once the princess remembered that to-morrow was the very end of the year when she had promised to marry Riquet. The reason why she had forgotten this before was that when she made the promise she was a fool, and as soon as she became wise she forgot all her follies. She was lost in amazement and was moving forward when Riquet with the Tuft suddenly appeared, gayly dressed, and with all the air of a man about to be married.

"I have kept my word, princess, as you see," he said, "and I doubt not that you have kept yours and will marry me to-morrow."

[66] "Prince," said the princess frankly, "I must confess that I had not intended to marry you, and fear I cannot."

"You surprise me very much."

"No doubt, and I should be disturbed about it if I were dealing with a dull person instead of one with your excellent good sense. You must yourself see that I cannot do what I promised to do when I was a fool. You should not have given me so much sense."

"If I were a fool I might be persuaded by you, princess, but being a man of sense I see that you are taking away all the happiness of my life. Tell me frankly, is there anything in me that you complain of besides my ugliness? I know I am ugly, but do you object to my birth, my temper, my manners or any—my good sense?"

"No, truly," replied the princess, "I like every, thing about you, except-except your looks."

"Then I need not lose my happiness; for if I have the gift of making clever whomever I love best, you are able to make the person you prefer as handsome as ever you please. Could you not love me enough to do that?"

"Oh, I did not know that before!" cried the princess. "With all my heart!" and she wished eagerly that he might become the handsomest man in the world. No sooner had she uttered this wish than Riquet stood before her eyes the finest, most charming man she had ever seen. And so they were married, and Riquet thought the princess the most sensible and agreeable companion in the world, while the princess looked upon Riquet as the noblest and most commanding man.


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