by Walter Crane
ONCE upon a time there were three Princesses, named Roussette, Brunette,
and Blondine, who lived in retirement with their mother, a Princess who
had lost all her former grandeur. One day an old woman called and asked
for a dinner, as this Princess was an excellent cook. After the meal was
over, the old woman, who was a fairy, promised that their kindness
should be rewarded, and immediately disappeared.
Shortly after, the King came that way, with his brother and the
Lord Admiral. They were all so struck with the beauty of the three
Princesses, that the King married the youngest, Blondine, his brother
married Brunette, and the Lord Admiral married Roussette.
The good Fairy, who had brought all this about, also caused the young
Queen Blondine to have three lovely children, two boys and a girl, out
of whose hair fell fine jewels. Each had a brilliant star on the
forehead, and a rich chain of gold around the neck. At the same time
Brunette, her sister, gave birth to a handsome boy. Now the young Queen
and Brunette were much attached to each other, but Roussette was jealous
of both, and the old Queen, the King's mother, hated them. Brunette died
soon after the birth of her son, and the King was absent on a warlike
expedition, so Roussette joined the wicked old Queen in forming plans to
injure Blondine. They ordered Feintise, the old Queen's waiting-woman,
to strangle the Queen's three children and the son of Princess Brunette,
and bury them secretly. But as she was about to execute this wicked
order, she was so struck by their beauty, and the appearance of the
sparkling stars on their foreheads, that she shrank from the deed.
So she had a boat brought round to the beach, and put the four babes,
with some strings of jewels, into a cradle, which she placed in the
boat, and then set it adrift. The boat was soon far out at sea. The
waves rose, the rain poured in torrents, and the thunder roared.
Feintise could not doubt that the boat would be swamped, and felt
relieved by the thought that the poor little innocents would perish,
for she would otherwise always be haunted by the fear that something
would occur to betray the share she had had in their preservation.
But the good Fairy protected them, and after floating at sea for seven
days they were picked up by a Corsair. He was so struck by their beauty
that he altered his course, and took them home to his wife, who had no
children. She was transported with joy when he placed them in her hands.
They admired together the wonderful stars, the chains of gold that could
not be taken off their necks, and their long ringlets. Much greater was
the woman's astonishment when she combed them, for at every instant
there rolled out of their hair pearls, rubies, diamonds, and emeralds.
She told her husband of it, who was not less surprised than herself.
"I am very tired," said he, "of a Corsair's life, and if the locks of
those little children continue to supply us with such treasures, I will
give up roaming the seas." The Corsair's wife, whose name was Corsine,
was enchanted at this, and loved the four infants so much the more for
it. She named the Princess, Belle-Etoile, her eldest brother,
Petit-Soleil, the second, Heureux, and the son of Brunette, Cheri.
As they grew older, the Corsair applied himself seriously to their
education, as he felt convinced there was some great mystery attached
to their birth.
The Corsair and his wife had never told the story of the four children,
who passed for their own. They were exceedingly united, but Prince Cheri
entertained for Princess Belle-Etoile a greater affection than the other
two. The moment she expressed a wish for anything, he would attempt even
impossibilities to gratify her.
One day Belle-Etoile overheard the Corsair and his wife talking. "When I
fell in with them," said the Corsair, "I saw nothing that could give me
any idea of their birth." "I suspect," said Corsine, "that Cheri is not
their brother, he has neither star nor neck-chain." Belle-Etoile
immediately ran and told this to the three Princes, who resolved to
speak to the Corsair and his wife, and ask them to let them set out to
discover the secret of their birth. After some remonstrance they gained
their consent. A beautiful vessel was prepared, and the young Princess
and the three Princes set out. They determined to sail to the very spot
where the Corsair had found them, and made preparations for a grand
sacrifice to the fairies, for their protection and guidance. They were
about to immolate a turtle-dove, but the Princess saved its life, and
let it fly. At this moment a syren issued from the water, and said,
"Cease your anxiety, let your vessel go where it will; land where it
stops." The vessel now sailed more quickly. Suddenly they came in sight
of a city so beautiful that they were anxious their vessel should enter
the port. Their wishes were accomplished; they landed, and the shore in
a moment was crowded with people, who had observed the magnificence of
their ship. They ran and told the King the news, and as the grand
terrace of the Palace looked out upon the sea-shore, he speedily
repaired thither. The Princes, hearing the people say, "There is the
King," looked up, and made a profound obeisance. He looked earnestly
at them, and was as much charmed by the Princess's beauty, as by the
handsome mien of the young Princes. He ordered his equerry to offer
them his protection, and everything that they might require.
The King was so interested about these four children, that he went into
the chamber of the Queen, his mother, to tell her of the wonderful stars
which shone upon their foreheads, and everything that he admired in
them. She was thunderstruck at it, and was terribly afraid that Feintise
had betrayed her, and sent her secretary to enquire about them. What he
told her of their ages confirmed her suspicions. She sent for Feintise,
and threatened to kill her. Feintise, half dead with terror, confessed
all; but promised, if she spared her, that she would still find means to
do away with them. The Queen was appeased; and, indeed, old Feintise did
all she could for her own sake. Taking a guitar, she went and sat down
opposite the Princess's window, and sang a song which Belle-Etoile
thought so pretty that she invited her into her chamber. "My fair
child," said Feintise, "Heaven has made you very lovely, but you yet
want one thing—the dancing-water. If I had possessed it, you would not
have seen a white hair upon my head, nor a wrinkle on my face. Alas! I
knew this secret too late; my charms had already faded." "But where
shall I find this dancing-water?" asked Belle-Etoile. "It is in the
luminous forest," said Feintise. "You have three brothers; does not any
one of them love you sufficiently to go and fetch some?" "My brothers
all love me," said the Princess, "but there is one of them who would not
refuse me anything." The perfidious old woman retired, delighted at
having been so successful. The Princes, returning from the chase, found
Belle-Etoile engrossed by the advice of Feintise. Her anxiety about it
was so apparent, that Cheri, who thought of nothing but pleasing her,
soon found out the cause of it, and, in spite of her entreaties, he
mounted his white horse, and set out in search of the dancing-water.
When supper-time arrived, and the Princess did not see her brother
Cheri, she could neither eat nor drink; and desired he might be sought
for everywhere, and sent messengers to find him and bring him back.
The wicked Feintise was very anxious to know the result of her advice;
and when she heard that Cheri had already set out, she was delighted,
and reported to the Queen-Mother all that had passed. "I admit,
Madam," said she, "that I can no longer doubt that they are the same
four children: but one of the Princes is already gone to seek the
dancing-water, and will no doubt perish in the attempt, and I shall
find similar means to do away with all of them."
The plan she had adopted with regard to Prince Cheri was one of the most
certain, for the dancing-water was not easily to be obtained; it was so
notorious from the misfortunes which occurred to all who sought it, that
every one knew the road to it. He was eight days without taking any
repose but in the woods. At the end of this period he began to suffer
very much from the heat; but it was not the heat of the sun, and he did
not know the cause of it, until from the top of a mountain he perceived
the luminous forest; all the trees were burning without being consumed,
and casting out flames to such a distance that the country around was a
At this terrible scene he descended, and more than once gave himself
up for lost. As he approached this great fire he was ready to die with
thirst; and perceiving a spring falling into a marble basin, he
alighted from his horse, approached it, and stooped to take up some
water in the little golden vase which he had brought with him, when he
saw a turtle-dove drowning in the fountain. Cheri took pity on it, and
saved it. "My Lord Cheri," she said, "I am not ungrateful; I can guide
you to the dancing-water, which, without me, you could never obtain,
as it rises in the middle of the forest, and can only be reached by
going underground." The Dove then flew away, and summoned a number of
foxes, badgers, moles, snails, ants, and all sorts of creatures that
burrow in the earth. Cheri got off his horse at the entrance of the
subterranean passage they made for him, and groped his way after the
kind Dove, which safely conducted him to the fountain. The Prince
filled his golden vase; and returned the same way he came.
He found Belle-Etoile sorrowfully seated under some trees, but when she
saw him she was so pleased that she scarcely knew how to welcome him.
Old Feintise learned from her spies that Cheri had returned, and that
the Princess, having washed her face with the dancing-water, had become
more lovely than ever. Finding this, she lost no time in artfully making
the Princess sigh for the wonderful singing-apple. Prince Cheri again
found her unhappy, and again found out the cause, and once more set out
on his white horse, leaving a letter for Belle-Etoile.
In the meanwhile, the King did not forget the lovely children, and
reproached them for never going to the Palace. They excused themselves
by saying that their brother's absence prevented them.
Prince Cheri at break of day perceived a handsome young man, from whom
he learned where the singing-apple was to be found: but after travelling
some time without seeing any sign of it, he saw a poor turtle-dove fall
at his feet almost dead. He took pity on it, and restored it, when it
said, "Good-day, handsome Cheri, you are destined to save my life, and I
to do you signal service. You are come to seek for the singing-apple: it
is guarded by a terrible dragon." The Dove then led him to a place where
he found a suit of armour, all of glass: and by her advice he put it on,
and boldly went to meet the dragon. The two-headed monster came bounding
along, fire issuing from his throat; but when he saw his alarming figure
multiplied in the Prince's mirrors he was frightened in his turn. He
stopped, and looking fiercely at the Prince, apparently laden with
dragons, he took flight and threw himself into a deep chasm. The Prince
then found the tree, which was surrounded with human bones, and breaking
off an apple, prepared to return to the Princess. She had never slept
during his absence, and ran to meet him eagerly.
When the wicked Feintise heard the sweet singing of the apple, her grief
was excessive, for instead of doing harm to these lovely children, she
only did them good by her perfidious counsels. She allowed some days to
pass by without showing herself; and then once more made the Princess
unhappy by saying that the dancing-water and the singing-apple were
useless without the little green bird that tells everything.
Cheri again set out, and after some trouble learnt that this bird was
to be found on the top of a frightful rock, in a frozen climate. At
length, at dawn of day, he perceived the rock, which was very high and
very steep, and upon the summit of it was the bird, speaking like an
oracle, telling wonderful things. He thought that with a little
dexterity it would be easy to catch it, for it seemed very tame. He
got off his horse, and climbed up very quietly. He was so close to the
green bird that he thought he could lay hands on it, when suddenly the
rock opened and he fell into a spacious hall, and became as motionless
as a statue; he could neither stir, nor utter a complaint at his
deplorable situation. Three hundred knights, who had made the same
attempt, were in the same state. To look at each other was the only
thing permitted them.
The time seemed so long to Belle-Etoile, and still no signs of her
beloved Cheri, that she fell dangerously ill; and in the hopes of
curing her, Petit-Soleil resolved to seek him.
But he too was swallowed up by the rock and fell into the great hall.
The first person he saw was Cheri, but he could not speak to him; and
Prince Heureux, following soon after, met with the same fate as the
When Feintise was aware that the third Prince was gone, she was
exceedingly delighted at the success of her plan; and when Belle-Etoile,
inconsolable at finding not one of her brothers return, reproached
herself for their loss, and resolved to follow them, she was quite
The Princess was disguised as a cavalier, but had no other armour than
her helmet. She was dreadfully cold as she drew near the rock, but
seeing a turtle-dove lying on the snow, she took it up, warmed it, and
restored it to life: and the dove reviving, gaily said, "I know you, in
spite of your disguise; follow my advice: when you arrive at the rock,
remain at the bottom and begin to sing the sweetest song you know; the
green bird will listen to you; you must then pretend to go to sleep;
when it sees me, it will come down to peck me, and at that moment you
will be able to seize it."
All this fell out as the Dove foretold. The green bird begged for
liberty. "First," said Belle-Etoile, "I wish that thou wouldst restore
my three brothers to me."
"Under my left wing there is a red feather," said the bird: "pull it
out, and touch the rock with it."
The Princess hastened to do as she was instructed; the rock split from
the top to the bottom: she entered with a victorious air the hall in
which stood the three Princes with many others; she ran towards Cheri,
who did not know her in her helmet and male attire, and could neither
speak nor move. The green bird then told the Princess she must rub the
eyes and mouth of all those she wished to disenchant with the red
feather, which good office she did to all.
The three Princes and Belle-Etoile hastened to present themselves to
the King; and when Belle-Etoile showed her treasures, the little green
bird told him that the Princes Petit-Soleil and Heureux and the
Princess Belle-Etoile were his children, and that Prince Cheri was his
nephew. Queen Blondine, who had mourned for them all these years,
embraced them, and the wicked Queen-Mother and old Feintise were
justly punished. And the King, who thought his nephew Cheri the
handsomest man at Court, consented to his marriage with Belle-Etoile.
And lastly, to make everyone happy, the King sent for the Corsair and
his wife, who gladly came.