There was, once upon a time, a Queen, who was brought to bed of a son, so hideously ugly, that it was long disputed, whether he had human form. A Fairy, who was at his birth, affirmed, he would be very lovable for all that, since he should be indowed with abundance of wit. She even added, that it would be in his power, by virtue of a gift she had just then given him, to bestow on the person he most loved as much wit as he pleased. All this somewhat comforted the poor Queen, who was under a grievous affliction for having brought into the world such an ugly brat. It is true, that this child no sooner began to prattle, but he said a thousand pretty things, and that in all his actions there was something so taking, that he charmed every-body. I forgot to tell you, that he came into the world with a little tuft of hair upon his head, which made them call him Riquet with the Tuft, for Riquet was the family name.
Seven or eight years after this, the Queen of a neighbouring kingdom was delivered of two daughters at a birth. The first-born of these was beautiful beyond compare, whereat the Queen was so very glad, that those present were afraid that her excess of joy would do her harm. The same Fairy, who had assisted at the birth of little Riquet with the Tuft, was here also; and, to moderate the Queen's gladness, she declared, that this little Princess should have no wit at all, but be as stupid as she was pretty. This mortified the Queen extreamly, but some moments afterwards she had far greater sorrow; for, the second daughter she was delivered of, was very ugly.
"Do not afflict yourself so much, Madam," said the Fairy; "your daughter shall have so great a portion of wit, that her want of beauty will scarcely be perceived."
"God grant it," replied the Queen; "but is there no way to make the eldest, who is so pretty, have some little wit?"
"I can do nothing for her, Madam, as to wit," answered the Fairy, "but everything as to beauty; and as there is nothing but what I would do for your satisfaction, I give her for gift, that she shall have the power to make handsome the person who shall best please her."
As these Princesses grew up, their perfections grew up with them; all the public talk was of the beauty of the eldest, and the wit of the youngest. It is true also that their defects increased considerably with their age; the youngest visibly grew uglier and uglier, and the eldest became every day more and more stupid; she either made no answer at all to what was asked her, or said something very silly; she was with all this so unhandy, that she could not place four pieces of china upon the mantlepiece, without breaking one of them, nor drink a glass of water without spilling half of it upon her cloaths. Tho' beauty is a very great advantage in young people, yet here the youngest sister bore away the bell, almost always, in all companies from the eldest; people would indeed, go first to the Beauty to look upon, and admire her, but turn aside soon after to the Wit, to hear a thousand most entertaining and agreeable turns, and it was amazing to see, in less than a quarter of an hour's time, the eldest with not a soul with her and the whole company crowding about the youngest. The eldest, tho' she was unaccountably dull, could not but notice it, and would have given all her beauty to have half the wit of her sister. The Queen, prudent as she was, could not help reproaching her several times, which had like to have made this poor Princess die for grief.
One day, as she retired into the wood to bewail her misfortune, she saw, coming to her, a little man, very disagreeable, but most magnificently dressed. This was the young Prince Riquet with the Tuft, who having fallen in love with her, by seeing her picture, many of which went all the world over, had left his father's kingdom, to have the pleasure of seeing and talking with her.
Overjoyed to find her thus all alone, he addressed himself to her with all imaginable politeness and respect. Having observed, after he had made her the ordinary compliments, that she was extremely melancholy, he said to her:
"I cannot comprehend, Madam, how a person so beautiful as you are, can be so sorrowful as you seem to be; for tho' I can boast of having seen infinite numbers of ladies exquisitely charming, I can say that I never beheld any one whose beauty approaches yours."
"You are pleased to say so," answered the Princess, and here she stopped.
"Beauty," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "is such a great advantage, that it ought to take the place of all things; and since you possess this treasure, I see nothing that can possibly very much afflict you."
"I had far rather," cried the Princess, "be as ugly as you are, and have wit, than have the beauty I possess, and be so stupid as I am."
"There is nothing. Madam," returned he, "shews more that we have wit, than to believe we have none; and it is the nature of that excellent quality, that the more people have of it, the more they believe they want it."
"I do not know that," said the Princess; "but I know, very well, that I am very senseless, and thence proceeds the vexation which almost kills me."
"If that be all, Madam, which troubles you, I can very easily put an end to your affliction."
"And how will you do that?" cried the Princess.
"I have the power. Madam," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "to give to that person whom I shall love best, as much wit as can be had; and as you. Madam, are that very person, it will be your fault only, if you have not as great a share of it as any one living, provided you will be pleased to marry me."
The Princess remained quite astonished, and answered not a word.
"I see," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "that this proposal makes you very uneasy, and I do not wonder at it, but I will give you a whole year to consider of it."
The Princess had so little wit, and, at the same time, so great a longing to have some, that she imagined the end of that year would never be; therefore she accepted the proposal which was made her. She had no sooner promised Riquet with the Tuft that she would marry him on that day twelve-month, than she found herself quite otherwise than she was before; she had an incredible facility of speaking whatever she pleased, after a polite, easy, and natural manner; she began that moment a very gallant conversation with Riquet with the Tuft, wherein she tattled at such a rate, that Riquet with the Tuft believed he had given her more wit than he had reserved for himself.
When she returned to the palace, the whole Court knew not what to think of such a sudden and extraordinary change; for they heard from her now as much sensible discourse, and as many infinitely witty turns, as they had stupid and silly impertinences before. The whole Court was over-joyed at it beyond imagination; it pleased all but her younger sister; because having no longer the advantage of her in respect of wit, she appeared, in comparison of her, a very disagreeable, homely puss. The King governed himself by her advice, and would even sometimes hold a council in her apartment. The noise of this change spreading every where, all the young Princes of the neighbouring kingdoms strove all they could to gain her favour, and almost all of them asked her in marriage; but she found not one of them had wit enough for her, and she gave them all a hearing, but would not engage herself to any.
However, there came one so powerful, rich, witty and handsome, that she could not help having a good inclination for him. Her father perceived it, and told her that she was her own mistress as to the choice of a husband, and that she might declare her intentions. As the more wit we have, the greater difficulty we find to make a firm resolution upon such affairs, this made her desire her father, after having thanked him, to give her time to consider of it.
She went accidentally to walk in the same wood where she met Riquet with the Tuft, to think, the more conveniently, what she ought to do. While she was walking in a profound meditation, she heard a confused noise under her feet, as it were of a great many people who went backwards and forwards, and were very busy. Having listened more attentively, she heard one say:
"Bring me that pot"; another "Give me that kettle"; and a third, "Put some wood upon the fire."
The ground at the same time opened, and she seemingly saw under her feet, a great kitchen full of cooks, scullions, and all sorts of servants necessary for a magnificent entertainment. There came out of it a company of roasters, to the number of twenty, or thirty, who went to plant themselves in a fine alley of wood, about a very long table, with their larding pins in their hands, and skewers in their caps, who began to work, keeping time, to the tune of a very harmonious song.
The Princess, all astonished at this sight, asked them who they worked for.
"For Prince Riquet with the Tuft," said the chief of them, "who is to be married to-morrow."
The Princess was more surprised than ever, and recollecting that it was now that day twelvemonth on which she had promised to marry Riquet with the Tuft, she was like to sink into the ground.
What made her forget this was that, when she made this promise, she was very silly, and having obtained that vast stock of wit which the Prince had bestowed on her, she had intirely forgot her stupidity. She continued walking, but had not taken thirty steps before Riquet with the Tuft presented himself to her, bravely and most magnificently dressed, like a Prince who was going to be married.
"You see, Madam," said he, "I am very exact in keeping my word, and doubt not, in the least, but you are come hither to perform yours, and to make me, by giving me your hand, the happiest of men."
"I shall freely own to you," answered the Princess, "that I have not yet taken any resolution on this affair, and believe I never shall take such a one as you desire."
"You astonish me. Madam," said Riquet with the Tuft.
"I believe it," said the Princess, "and surely if I had to do with a clown, or a man of no wit, I should find myself very much at a loss. 'A Princess always observes her word,' would he say to me, 'and you must marry me, since you promised to do so.' But as he whom I talk to is the man of the world who is master of the greatest sense and judgment, I am sure he will hear reason. You know, that when I was but a fool, I could, notwithstanding, never come to a resolution to marry you; why will you have me, now I have so much judgment as you gave me, and which makes me a more difficult person than I was at that time, to come to such a resolution, which I could not then determine to agree to? If you sincerely thought to make me your wife, you have been greatly in the wrong to deprive me of my dull simplicity, and make me see things much more clearly than I did."
"If a man of no wit and sense," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "would be entitled, as you say, to reproach you for breach of your word, why will you not let me, Madam, do likewise in a matter wherein all the happiness of my life is concerned? Is it reasonable that persons of wit and sense should be in a worse condition than those who have none? Can you pretend this; you who have so great a share, and desired so earnestly to have it? But let us come to fact, if you please. Setting aside my ugliness and deformity, is there any thing in me which displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my birth, my wit, humour, or manners?""Not at all," answered the Princess; "I love you and respect you in all that you mention." "If it be so," said Riquet with the Tuft, "I am like to be happy, since it is in your power to make me the most lovable of men."
"How can that be?" said the Princess.
"It will come about," said Riquet with the Tuft; "if you love me enough to wish it to be so; and that you may no ways doubt, Madam, of what I say, know that the same Fairy, who, on my birth-day, gave me for gift the power of making the person who should please me extremely witty and judicious, has, in like manner, given you for gift the power of making him, whom you love, and would grant that favour to, extremely handsome."
"If it be so," said the Princess, "I wish, with all my heart, that you may be the most lovable Prince in the world, and I bestow it on you, as much as I am able."
The Princess had no sooner pronounced these words, but Riquet with the Tuft appeared to her the finest Prince upon earth; the handsomest and most amiable man she ever saw. Some affirm that it was not the enchantments of the Fairy which worked this change, but that love alone caused the metamorphosis. They say, that the Princess, having made due reflection on the perseverance of her lover, his discretion, and all the good qualities of his mind, his wit and judgment, saw no longer the deformity of his body, nor the ugliness of his face; that his hump seemed to her no more than the homely air of one who has a broad back; and that whereas till then she saw him limp horribly, she found it nothing more than a certain sidling air, which charmed her. They say farther, that his eyes, which were very squinting, seemed to her all the more bright and sparkling; that their irregularity passed in her judgment for a mark of a violent excess of love; and, in short, that his great red nose had, in her opinion, somewhat of the martial and heroic. Howsoever it was, the Princess promised immediately to marry him, on condition he obtained her father's consent. The King being acquainted that his daughter had abundance of esteem for Riquet with the Tuft, whom he knew otherwise for a most sage and judicious Prince, received him for his son-in-law with pleasure; and the next morning their nuptials were celebrated, as Riquet with the Tuft had foreseen, and according to the orders he had a long time before given.
What in this little Tale we find, Is less a fable than real truth. In those we love appear rare gifts of mind, And body too: wit, judgment, beauty, youth.
A countenance whereon, by natures hand. Beauty is trac'd, also the lively stain Of such complexion art can ne'er attain, With all these gifts hath not so much command On hearts, as hath one secret charm alone. Love finds that out, to all besides unknown.