He was so dazzled that at first he could not speak; then he began and delivered his harangue to perfection.
"Gentle Avenant," returned the Princess, after listening to all his reasons for her returning with him, "your arguments are very strong, and I am inclined to listen to them; but you must first find for me a ring, which I dropped into the river about a month ago. Until I recover it, I can listen to no proposition of marriage."
Avenant, surprised and disturbed, made her a profound reverence and retired, taking with him the basket and the little dog Cabriole, which she refused to accept. All night long he sat sighing to himself. "How can I ever find a ring which she dropped into the river a month ago?
She has set me an impossibility."
"My dear master," said Cabriole, "nothing is an impossibility to one so young and charming as you are; let us go at daybreak to the river- side."
Avenant patted him, but replied nothing; until, worn out with grief, he slept. Before dawn Cabriole wakened him, saying: "Master, dress yourself and let us go to the river."
There Avenant walked up and down, with his arms folded and his head bent, but saw nothing. At last he heard a voice, calling from a distance, "Avenant, Avenant!"
The little dog ran to the water-side.- "Never believe me again, master, if it is not a golden Carp with a ring in its mouth!"
"Yes, Avenant," said the Carp, "this is the ring which the Princess has lost. You saved my life in the willow meadow, and I have recompensed you. Farewell!"
Avenant took the ring gratefully and returned to the palace with Cabriole, who scampered about in great glee.
Craving an audience, he presented the Princess with her ring, and begged her to accompany him to his master's kingdom. She took the ring, looked at it, and thought she was surely dreaming.
"Some fairy must have assisted you, fortunate Avenant," said she.
"Madam, I am only fortunate in my desire to obey your wishes."
"Obey me still," she said graciously. "There is a prince named Galifron, whose suit I have refused. He is a giant as tall as a tower, who eats a man as a monkey eats a nut: he puts cannons into his pockets instead of pistols; and when he speaks, his voice is so loud that every one near him becomes deaf. Go and fight him, and bring me his head."
Avenant was thunderstruck; but after a time he recovered himself.
"Very well, madam, I shall certainly perish, but I will perish like a brave man. I will depart at once to fight the Giant Galifron."
The Princess, now in her turn surprised and alarmed, tried every persuasion to induce him not to go, but in vain. Avenant armed himself and started, carrying his little dog in its basket. Cabriole was the only creature that gave him consolation: "Courage, master! While you attack the giant, I will bite his legs: he will stoop down to strike me, and then you can knock him on the head." Avenant smiled at the little dog's spirit, but he knew it was useless.
Arrived at the castle of Galifron, he found the road all strewn with bones, and carcasses of men. Soon he saw the giant walking. His head was level with the highest trees, and he sang in a terrific voice:
"Bring me babies to devour;
Men and women, tender and tough;
All the world holds not enough."
To which Avenant replied, imitating the tune:
"Avenant you here may see,
He is come to punish thee:
Be he tender, be he tough,
To kill thee, giant, he is enough."
Hearing these words, the giant took up his massive club, looked around for the singer, and perceiving him, would have slain him on the spot, had not a Raven, sitting on a tree close by, suddenly flown out upon him and picked out both his eyes. Then Avenant easily killed him and cut off his head, while the Raven, watching him, said:
"You shot the Eagle who was pursuing me: I promised to recompense you, and to-day I have done it. We are quits."
"No, it is I who am your debtor, Sir Raven," replied Avenant, as, hanging the frightful head to his saddle-bow, he mounted his horse and rode back to the city of the Fair One with Golden Locks.
There everybody followed him, shouting: "Here is brave Avenant, who has killed the giant," until the Princess, hearing the noise, and fearing it was Avenant himself who was killed, appeared, all trembling; and even when he appeared with Galifron's head, she trembled still, although she had nothing to fear.
"Madam," said Avenant, "your enemy is dead; so I trust you will accept the hand of the King my master."
"I cannot," replied she thoughtfully, "unless you first bring me a phial of the water in the Grotto of Darkness. It is six leagues in length, and guarded at the entrance by two fiery dragons. Within, it is a pit, full of scorpions, lizards, and serpents, and at the bottom of this place flows the Fountain of Beauty and Health. All who wash in it become, if ugly, beautiful, and if beautiful, beautiful forever; if old, young; and if young, young forever. Judge then, Avenant, if I can quit my kingdom without carrying with me some of this miraculous water."
"Madam," replied Avenant, "you are already so beautiful that you require it not; but I am an unfortunate ambassador whose death you desire; I will obey you, though I know I shall never return."
So he departed with his only friends-his horse and his faithful dog Cabriole; while all who met him looked at him compassionately, pitying so pretty a youth bound on such a hopeless errand. But, however kindly they addressed him, Avenant rode on and answered nothing, for he was too sad at heart.
He reached a mountain-side, where he sat down to rest, leaving his horse to graze, and Cabriole to run after the flies. He knew that the Grotto of Darkness was not far off, yet he looked about him like one who sees nothing. At last he perceived a rock, as black as ink, whence came a thick smoke; and in a moment appeared one of the two dragons, breathing out flames. It had a yellow and green body, claws, and a long tail. When Cabriole saw the monster, the poor little dog hid himself in terrible fright. But Avenant resolved to die bravely; so taking a phial which the Princess had given him, he prepared to descend into the cave.
"Cabriole," said he, "I shall soon be dead; then fill this phial with my blood, and carry it to the Fair One with Golden Locks, and afterward to the King, my master, to show him I have been faithful to the last."
While he was thus speaking a voice called: "Avenant, Avenant!"-and he saw an Owl sitting on a hollow tree. Said the Owl: "You cut the net in which I was caught, and I vow to recompense you. Now is the time.
Give me the phial; I know every corner of the Grotto of Darkness-I will fetch you the water of beauty."
Delighted beyond words, Avenant delivered up his phial; the Owl flew with it into the grotto, and in less than half an hour reappeared, bringing it quite full and well corked. Avenant thanked her with all his heart, and joyfully took once more the road to the city.
The Fair One with Golden Locks had no more to say. She consented to accompany him back, with all her suite, to his master's court. On the way thither she saw so much of him, and found him so charming, that Avenant might have married her himself had he chosen; but he would not have been false to his master for all the beauties under the sun. At length they arrived at the King's city, and the Fair One with Golden Locks became his spouse and Queen. But she still loved Avenant in her heart, and often said to the King her lord: "But for Avenant I should not be here; he has done all sorts of impossible deeds for my sake; he has fetched me the water of beauty, and I shall never grow old-in short, I owe him everything."
And she praised him in this sort so much that at length the King became jealous; and though Ayenant gave him not the slightest cause of offense, he shut him up in the same high tower once more-but with irons on his hands and feet, and a cruel jailer besides, who fed him with bread and water only. His sole companion was his little dog Cabriole.
When the Fair One with Golden Locks heard of this, she reproached her husband for his ingratitude, and then throwing herself at his knees, implored that Avenant might be set free. But the King only said: "She loves him!" and refused her prayer. The Queen entreated no more, but fell into a deep melancholy.
When the King saw it, he thought she did not care for him because he was not handsome enough; and that if he could wash his face with her water of beauty, it would make her love him the more. He knew that she kept it in a cabinet in her chamber, where she could find it always.
Now it happened that a waiting-maid, in cleaning out this cabinet, had, the very day before, knocked down the phial, which was broken in a thousand pieces, and all the contents were lost. Very much alarmed, she then remembered seeing, in a cabinet belonging to the King, a similar phial. This she fetched, and put in the place of the other one, in which was the water of beauty. But the King's phial contained the water of death. It was a poison, used to destroy great criminals- that is, noblemen, gentlemen, and such like. Instead of hanging them or cutting their heads off, like common people, they were compelled to wash their faces with this water; upon which they fell asleep, and woke no more. So it happened that the King, taking up this phial, believing it to be the water of beauty, washed his face with it, fell asleep, and-died.
Cabriole heard the news, and, gliding in and out among the crowd which clustered round the young and lovely widow, whispered softly to her- "Madam, do not forget poor Avenant." If she had been disposed to do so, the sight of his little dog would have been enough to remind her of him-his many sufferings, and his great fidelity. She rose up, without speaking to anybody, and went straight to the tower where Avenant was confined. There, with her own hands, she struck off his chains, and putting a crown of gold on his head, and a purple mantle on his shoulders, said to him, "Be King- and my husband.
Avenant could not refuse: for in his heart he had loved her all the time. He threw himself at her feet, and then took the crown and scepter, and ruled her kingdom like a king. All the people were delighted to have him as their sovereign. The marriage was celebrated in all imaginable pomp, and Avenant and the Fair One with Golden Locks lived and reigned happily together all their days.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
By Mme. d'Aulnoy