THERE was once a poor Prince, who had a kingdom which was quite small, but still it was large enough that he could marry upon it,and that is what he wanted to do.
Now, it was certainly somewhat bold of him to say to the Emperor's daughter,“Will you have me?”But he did venture it, for his name was famous far and wide: there were hundreds of Princesses who would have been glad to say yes; but did she say so? Well, we shall see.
On the grave of the Prince's father there grew a rose bush,a very beautiful rose bush.It bloomed only every fifth year, and even then it bore only a single rose, but what a rose that was! It was so sweet that whoever smelt at it forgot all sorrow and trouble. And then he had a nightingale, which could sing as if all possible melodies were collected in its little throat. This rose and this nightingale the Princess was to have, and therefore they were put into great silver cases and sent to her.
The Emperor caused the presents to be carried before him into the great hall where the Princess was playing at“visiting”with her maids if honour(they did nothing else), and when she saw the great silver cases with the presents in them, she clapped her hands with joy.
“If it were only a little pussy-cat!”said she.
But then came out the splendid rose.
“Oh, how pretty it is made!”said all the court ladies.
“It is more than pretty,”said the Emperor,“it is charming.”
But the Princess felt it, and then she almost began to cry.
“Fie, papa!”she said,“it is not artificial, it's a natural rose!”
“Fie,”said all the court ladies,“it's a natural one!”
“Let us first see what is in the other case before we get angry,”said the Emperor.And then the nightingale came out;it sang so beautifully that they did not at once know what to say against it.
“Superbe! charmant!”said the maids of honour,for they all spoke French, the one worse than the other.
“How that bird reminds me of the late Empress's musical snuff-box,”said an old cavalier.“Yes, it is the same tone, the same expression.”
“Yes,”said the Emperor;and then he wept like a little child.
“I really hope it is not a natural bird,”said the Princess.
“Yes, it is a natural bird,”said they who had brought it.
“Then let the bird fly away,”said the Princess;and she would by no means allow the Prince to come.
But the Prince was not at all dismayed. He stained his face brown and black, drew his hat down over his brows, and knocked at the door.
“Good day, Emperor,”he said:“could I not be employed here in the castle?”
“Well,”replied the Emperor,“but there are so many who want places;but let me see, I want some one who can keep the pigs,for we have many of them.”
So the Prince was appointed the Emperor's swineherd. He received a miserable small room down by the pig-sty,and here he was obliged to stay;but all day long he sat and worked,and when it was evening he had finished a neat little pot, with bells all round it, and when the pot boiled these bells rang out prettily and played the old melody----
Oh, my darling Augustine,
All is lost, all is lost.
But the cleverest thing about the whole arrangement was,that by holding one's finger in the steam from the pot, one could at once smell what food was being cooked at every hearth in the town. That was quite a different thing from the rose.
Now the Princess came with all her maids of honour,and when she heard the melody she stood still and looked quite pleased;for she, too, could play“Oh, my darling Augustine.”It was the only thing she could play, but then she played it with one finger.
“Why, that is what I play!”she cried.“He must be an educated swineherd!Hark-ye:go down and ask the price of the instrument.”
So one of the maids of honour had to go down; but first she put on a pair of pattens.
“What do you want for the pot?”inquired the lady.
“I want ten kisses from the Princess,”replied the swineherd.
“Heaven preserve us!”exclaimed the maid of honour.
“Well,I won't sell it for less,”said the swineherd.
“Well, what did he say?”asked the Princess.
“I really can't repeat it, it is so shocking,”replied the lady.
“Well, you can whisper it in my ear.”And the lady whispered it to her----
“He is very rude,”declared the Princess; and she went away. But when she had gone a little way, the bells sounded so prettily----
Oh my darling Augustine,
All is lost, all is lost.
“Hark-ye,”said the Princess:“ask him if he will take ten kisses from my maids of honour.”
“No,thanks,”replied the swineherd:“ten kisses from the Princess, or I shall keep my pot.”
“How tiresome that is!”cried the Princess.“But at least you must stand round me, so that nobody sees it.”
And the maids of honour stood round her,and spread out their dresses, and then the swineherd received ten kisses, and she received the pot.
Then there was rejoicing!All the evening and all the day long the pot was kept boiling; there was not a kitchen hearth in the whole town of which they did not know what it had cooked,at the shoemaker's as well as the chamberlain's. The ladies danced with pleasure, and clapped their hands.
“We know who will have sweet soup and pancakes for dinner,and who has hasty pudding and cutlets;how interesting that is!”“Very interesting!”said the head ladysuperintendent.
“Yes, but keep counsel,for I'm the Emperor's daughter.”
“Yes, certainty,”said all.
The swineherd, that is to say, the Prince----but of course they did not know but that he was a real swineherd----let no day pass by without doing something, and so he made a rattle; when any person swung this rattle, he could play all the waltzes, hops,and polkas that have been known since the creation of the world.
“But that is superbe!”cried the Princess, as she went past.“I have never heard a finer composition.Hark-ye: go down and ask what the instrument costs; but I give no more kisses.”
“He demands a hundred kisses from the Princess,”said the maid of honour who had gone down to make the inquiry.
“I think he must be mad,”exclaimed the Princess; and she went away;but when she had gone a little distance she stood still.“One must encourage art,”she observed.“I am the Emperor's daughter!Tell him he shall receive ten kisses, like last time, and he may take the rest from my maids of honour.”
“Ah,but we don't like to do it!”said the maids of honour.
“That's all nonsense!”retorted the Princess,“and if I can allow myself to be kissed, you can too;remember,I give you board and wages.”
And so the maids of honour had to go down to him again.
“A hundred kisses from the Princess,”said he,“or each shall keep his own.”
“Stand round me,”said she then; and all the maids of honour stood round her while he kissed the Princess.
“What is that crowd down by the pig-sty?”asked the Emperor, who had stepped out to the balcony. He rubbed his eyes, and put on his spectacles.“Why, those are the maids of honour, at their tricks, yonder; I shall have to go down to them.”
And he pulled up his slippers behind, for they were shoes that he had trodden down at heel. Gracious mercy,how he hurried!So soon as he came down in the courtyard, he went quite softly, and the maids of honour were too busy counting the kisses, and seeing fair play, to notice the Emperor.Then he stood on tiptoe.
“What's that?”said he, when he saw that there was kissing going on; and he hit them on the head with his slipper, just as the swineherd was taking the eighty-sixth kiss.
“Be off!”said the Emperor, for he was angry.
And the Princess and the swineherd were both expelled from his dominions. So there she stood and cried,the rain streamed down, and the swineherd scolded.
“Oh, miserable wretch that I am!”said the Princess;“if I had only taken the handsome Prince! Oh,how unhappy I am!”
Then the swineherd went behind a tree, washed the stains from his face, threw away the shabby clothes, and stepped forth in his princely attire, so handsome that the Princess was fain to bow before him.
“I have come to this,that I despise you,”said he.“You would not have an honest Prince;you did not value the rose and the nightingale, but for a plaything you kissed the swineherd,and now you have your reward.”
And then he went into his kingdom and shut the door in her face, and put the bar on.So now she might stand outside and sing----
Oh, my darling Augustine,
All is lost,all is lost.