"The Princess Who Despised all Men."
by Charles Smith Cheltnam
THERE was once a King and Queen who, having
everything a King and Queen could reasonably
desire, might have been as happy as the day
was long—if they had only taken the right means for
making the best of their good fortune.
The King was a pattern of amiability, and, as to
wisdom, could have held his own in comparison with
any crowned potentate on earth; but of the Queen not
half as much could be said in praise. As a girl, her
beauty had been renowned, and had brought to her
Princes by the score as wooers; but to their suits she
had, as the phrase is, turned a deaf ear, regarding men
as creatures made wholly of ill qualities, and marriage
with them a debasement of herself in every sense; and
it was not until her father threatened to imprison her
for the rest of her life in a town built of steel and
adamant, that she could be induced to accept a husband.
The amiability of her spouse was often sorely tried
by her constant disparagement of men; but, being founded
upon exceptional goodness of character, he did not allow
it to be overcome, and schooled himself to bear with her
fantastic ideas, rewarding himself for his leniency by
sometimes laughing in his sleeve at the more preposterous
of her pretensions.
A great many years passed without their having any
family until, one day, the Queen had a baby girl, and
consoled herself by reflecting that that, at least, was
better than having a boy, "to grow up into a horrid
man," as she expressed herself.
It happened that, at the moment of the little Princess's
birth, the fairy Gaieia was passing the palace, and, as
she had no particularly pressing business on hand, slipped
in, and, after congratulating the Queen on the beauty
of her offspring, constituted herself the infant's god-mother—as
was the fairy custom at that period—at the
same time laughingly predicting that she would prove
to be "the joy of her parents."
It hardly needs to be recorded that, with her very
peculiar views as to what a woman's conduct in life
ought to be, the Queen did not permit her daughter to
receive instruction of any kind from anybody but herself;
the King, consequently, rarely saw his child, and knew
nothing of the character which had been made for her
by her mother, rather than allowed to come to her and
develop itself in the natural order of things.
In this way the Princess Disdainana—so her mother
had insisted on naming her—was brought up until she
had reached her seventeenth year. If the youthful beauty
of her mother had been renowned, that of the Princess
was celebrated far and near as being nothing less than
marvellous, and a hundred of the richest and handsomest
Kings and Princes in the world vied with each other
in their endeavours to obtain her hand; but to not one
of them would she deign to listen even for a moment,
regarding all men as a sort of natural excrescence, whose
only fitting place in the world was in companionship
with the horses and dogs, or, at most, as ugly and
repulsive creatures necessary for the performance of the
most unpleasant labours. It was on this account that
she had become universally known as "The Princess Who
Despised All Men."
This state of things became, at last, a cause of extreme
uneasiness to the King. By the time she had
arrived at a marriageable age, the fact that he, too,
was year by year growing older began to recur to
his mind with disquieting persistency; for, having no
son to succeed him, he saw that, if his daughter's disinclination
to marry were maintained, his dynasty was
in danger of coming to an end—and that is a prospect
which no King can be expected to contemplate with
One day, therefore, when the subject was worrying him
very much, he sent for his wife and daughter and explained
to them the extreme discomforts of the situation
which had been brought about by the obduracy of the
"My daughter, I am happy to say, knows her duty
to herself," replied the Queen proudly.
The King was about to retort, "But she does not
appear to know anything whatever about her duty to
her father;" but, as it was a rule of conduct with him
never to use that form of contradiction in any discussion
he had with his wife, he held his peace.
"Rather than become the wife of an ugly, coarse,
bearded man, I would die a hundred deaths!" cried
the Princess vehemently.
As the last syllable left her lips, a gay laugh rippled
through the air of the room.
"May I ask what you find to laugh at in what my
daughter has said?" demanded the Queen of her husband,
"Nothing whatever, my dear—and, consequently, I did
not laugh," replied the King mildly.
"What! Perhaps you will say that it was I who
uttered that insolent sound?" cried the Queen.
"Now I come to recall the fact, I don't think I ever
heard you laugh, my dear; but I am sure the voice that
laughed a moment ago was not in the least like yours,"
said the King.
"It was more like my daughter's, perhaps you will
say?" remarked the Queen sarcastically.
"Not in the least—I should imagine, for I never had
the advantage of hearing her laugh any more than yourself,"
replied the King.
Again the gay sound of a musical voice, laughing
lightly, rang through the room.
"Oh! This is too insulting!" cried the Queen. "Come
with me, my love—out of such an unendurable atmosphere
And, without deigning to listen to a word of remonstrance
from the King, she hurried the Princess back to
her own apartment—followed by another silvery peal
The King was equally puzzled and vexed by the abrupt
termination of what he had hoped would have been a
conference resulting in relief to himself from pressing
anxieties. Now—knowing his wife's absolute and unyielding
temper, and the complete control she exercised
over her daughter—he saw no way but one (that of
using his extreme parental authority) to bring the Princess
to obedience; but that measure he was too kind-hearted
to resolve upon applying.
In the utmost perplexity of mind he had paced his
study for several minutes, without noticing that he was
grasping in his right hand a scroll of parchment. On
becoming aware of this fact, he stopped suddenly and
gazed on the document with bewildered astonishment.
It was absolutely certain that he had never seen it before,
that it was not in his hand when the Queen and Princess
quitted his presence, and that nobody else had entered
While he was thinking of all this, the gay laugh,
which had been heard three times before, rang through
the study again, only more gaily than ever—for a moment
angering the King, though he was one of the most
placable of Sovereigns, and causing him to ferret in
every possible hiding-place in his study in search of the
daring jester. But not a trace of an intruder was discoverable.
When he had perfectly assured himself of this,
he unfolded the mysteriously conveyed parchment.
The opening words of the document caused him to
turn pale, and the sight of the signature at the end of
it sent a thrill of terror through his frame. It was
nothing less than a formal demand for the hand of the
Princess Disdainana, on the part of Kloxoxskin the
Ninety-ninth—one of the ugliest and most belligerent
monarchs in the world—the document being drawn in
the form of an ultimatum, calling upon the King to
give his daughter to the said Kloxoxskin in marriage, within two hours of the receipt of this demand, or,
failing compliance therewith, to surrender his throne to
the said Kloxoxskin, who would, at the time specified,
come, supported by his invincible army of one million
nine hundred and ninety-nine veteran warriors, to receive
the said King's answer.
In his moments of worst apprehension, the King had
never thought of anything so terrible as this. He called
his wife and daughter back to him, and made them
clearly understand the crisis that had come to him and
them; but though the Queen was inclined to save her
share of the throne by submission, the Princess declared
that no consideration would induce her to give herself
to any man—to such a human monster as Kloxoxskin
least of all.
From that resolution her father tried to move her,
but she was inflexible against all his arguments and
prayers; and when the two hours' grace was spent, the
King found himself in the presence of the redoubtable
Kloxoxskin the Ninety-ninth, a prisoner in his palace,
and wholly at the mercy of his all-powerful conqueror.
Realising the peril in which she stood, the Queen
did her best to persuade her daughter to submit to the
inevitable; but the Princess quickly silenced her by
giving her back the arguments that had all her life
been used in the cultivation of her detestation of all
But though she had no misgiving as to her moral
strength, the Princess could not but contemplate with
alarm the danger of a personal encounter with King
Kloxoxskin, so she determined to seek safety in flight and, as soon as dusk came, contrived to slip unperceived
from the palace into a dense forest which grew at no
great distance from the walls of her father's capital.
For a long time she pressed farther and farther into
the depths of the forest, growing every moment more
and more relieved from the apprehension that she might
Pausing at length to rest, she noticed that night had
thoroughly set in, and that it would be impossible for
her to go any farther in the darkness. At the same
moment a terrible sound fell upon her ears—the roaring
of wild beasts of some kind, coming rapidly nearer and
nearer. For an instant her heart stood still, but she
was not wanting in courage or resource, and, observing
that she was at the foot of a giant oak tree, she lost not
a moment in climbing to the shelter of its spreading
Choosing the securest position she could find, her
alarm of the moment subsided; but though she was
greatly fatigued, the memory of the peril from which
she was endeavouring to escape, coupled with anxiety
as to the trials which might be awaiting her all night,
prevented her from going to sleep; and, when morning
dawned, she prepared, tired and hungry, to descend to
the ground and continue her undefined journey.
But she found that climbing was a far easier matter
than descending from her place of refuge; for she now
observed that the tree sent out, on nearly all sides of
its gnarled trunk, the remains of huge jagged and lifeless
branches, to avoid which would require a skill which
she did not possess. She had no choice, however, but
to make an attempt to get down, and had nearly succeeded
in reaching the ground when, to her consternation,
the full skirt of her splendid dress caught upon an
enormous splinter, and held her hanging helpless some
feet in the air, all her efforts to free herself proving
Hours passed by. The sunlight pierced some of the
neighbouring tree-tops; but the return of day brought
her neither comfort nor the hope of release, and she
was giving way to the horrible idea that she would
have to endure all the torments of a lingering death,
when she heard the voice of a woodman, whistling on
his way to his work, and called to him.
The man came towards her out of the underwood.
"Assist me down," said the Princess, in her habitual
tone of disdain.
"Not I," replied the woodman. "I recognise you:
you are the Princess Who Despises All Men! Ho!
ho!—I'm a man, remember!"
That said, he went on his way, whistling cheerfully,
leaving the Princess to think, for a moment, that her
rooted antipathy to men was amply justified by the
brutal conduct of this coarse and ugly wretch.
But the distress of her position became every moment
more and more acute, and, seeing that it was hopeless
to anticipate the assistance of any chance passer, she
made one more effort to free herself, and by exerting
all her remaining strength, succeeded in tearing herself
from the offensive bough—at the cost of a great rent
in her beautiful dress and a fall, which left her for a
few minutes lying insensible on the ground at the foot
of the tree.
After returning to consciousness, and sitting for a
while to recover her presence of mind, she rose and
continued her blind way through the forest, always
hungry and many times faint with fatigue, all day
long, until once again she found the shades of evening
closing about her.
Just before night had actually come, she reached a
spot at which a party of charcoal-burners were seated
about a cheerful fire in front of their hut, eating their
supper of bread and potatoes, roasted in the embers at
their feet. The appetising scents of these well-cooked
roots provoked the starving Princess's hunger in an
almost unendurable degree.
"Give me one of your potatoes," she said, still unable
to modify the disdainful tone of her voice.
"Not we!" replied the head charcoal-burner. "I
recognise you: you are the Princess Who Despises All
Men! Ho! ho! We are men, remember!"
More than ever disgusted with men, the Princess
wandered all night through the forest, afraid to lie down,
lest she might fall asleep and become a prey to some
prowling wild beast.
As the dawn of another day was becoming visible,
she found herself on the border of a meadow, and saw
a young farmer drawing water from a well for some
horses which were waiting near him.
"Give me some of that water—I'm thirsty!" she
"Aha," said the young farmer, "I recognise you:
you are the Princess Who Despises All Men! If you
want water, dig a well for yourself, as I have had
"Loathsome creatures, one and all!" the Princess
said to herself, as she turned away from the spot. "My
good mother was right in teaching me to despise
She presently reached a more open part of the country,
though she was still near the forest through which she
had passed, and, towards noon, when she was almost
overcome by the sun's heat, she came upon a rising
ground, whence she beheld, afar off, a great stretch of
water, and, on what seemed its most distant reach, an
Then there suddenly came to her mind a story she
had heard of the existence of an island-kingdom peopled
by women who, like herself, held all men in disdain,
and would never permit one of them to set foot where
they were. And she was overtaken by a burning desire
to reach that island, which she fancied must be hidden
in the midst of the opalesque haze on which she was
So she hurried on and on, sustained wholly by the
intensity of her desire, till she came upon the sea-shore—for
the great water she had looked upon was the
Alongside his boat, and busy with his nets, she found
a fisherman, and at once accosted him.
"Is yonder mist-enveloped island the kingdom of
Diaphanosia?" she asked him.
"Yes," he answered.
"Then row me over to it in your boat," she said
"Not I," he replied. "I recognise you: you are the
Princess Who Despises All men, and I am a man, you
know. If you want a boat, make one for yourself, as
I had to do. Over there, in the forest, you will find
plenty of wood for your purpose, only you will have
to cut it down."
To get out of the sun's burning rays, and to give
herself time for reflection, the Princess retired into the
forest and sat down at the foot of a hollow tree, by
the side of which a rusty axe was lying, as if it had
been left there by some woodman and forgotten.
Strange! A merry laugh came out of the thicket
near to her; but though she searched with her eyes in
every direction she could discover nobody who could
have given it utterance.
Strange again! It flashed upon her mind that the
mere expression of disdain for men was wanting in force
if it were not emphasised by the demonstration of woman's
power to do absolutely without them.
Upon the strength of this reasoning, she at once
seized the axe, and after many days of hard work,
succeeded in felling the hollow tree and giving to it
something of the shape of a boat, in which, by the aid
of a roughly fashioned pair of oars, she rowed herself
across to the island-kingdom, where she hoped to find
the realisation of all her aspirations for a state of existence
in which men were wholly ignored.
Not once or twice, but over and over again, she
succeeded in reaching the border of the opalesque haze
in which the kingdom of Diaphanosia was perpetually
veiled; but she was as often beaten back by an irresistible
current which set towards the shore from which she
On one of these fruitless voyages her strength utterly
left her, and she sank down in the bottom of her boat
insensible, the oars dropping from her nerveless hands
and drifting away; so that, even if she had immediately
returned to consciousness, she would have found herself
helplessly at the mercy of the sea.
When she did recover from her state of insensibility,
it was to discover herself lying upon a mossy bank
on the skirt of the forest, a handsome and superbly
dressed young man tending her with delicately eager
She did not attempt to rise or to speak; she thought
she was sleeping and dreaming—the only thing strange
in her state of feeling being that the near presence of a
man provoked no sense of repugnance or resentment.
"Thank Heaven!" said the young gentleman, in a
tone of intense relief, as he saw her open her eyes.
"For awhile I have been terribly afraid that my efforts
to rescue you had been unavailing."
Still held by the idea that she was dreaming, the
Princess only continued to look into his face without
replying to his words.
"Rest here for a short time, and sleep if you can,
while I watch over you," he continued. "When you
have become strong enough to travel, my horse shall
carry you to my father's palace, which stands not very
far from this spot: once there, my mother will be
delighted to tend upon you as if you were her own
"Take me to your kind mother," she said, rising, the
soft tones of her own voice sounding in her ears as if
they came from the lips of some other person than
The handsome young Prince—for he was no less—blew
a golden whistle suspended to his neck by a
jewelled chain, and in a few moments a splendidly
caparisoned horse came to him from out the forest.
Upon the back of this noble steed the Prince
gallantly lifted his beautiful charge, and taking the
bridle on his hand, led him through the forest openings,
walking by the Princess's side and relating to her how,
while hunting, it had been his blest fortune to see her
helpless condition in her boat, and, by swimming out
to her, rescue her at the moment when her rude vessel
was on the point of sinking with her beneath the
She listened silently to all he said to her, filled with
an inexplicable sense of wonder at herself in finding
that ever the voice of a man could fall sympathetically
on her ears! "I must be dreaming!" she said to herself
again and again.
At last, on reaching an eminence, the Prince pointed
to a noble pile of buildings on the outskirts of a great
city, and said—something of sadness coming into the
tone of his voice:
"Yonder is my father's palace; we shall reach it in
a very little time—and then the happy privilege of these
delightful moments will cease to be mine, never to be
All things about her seemed, at the sound of those
words, to melt into a roseate mist, carrying with them
all sense of herself. Apart from her will, unconsciously,
she held out her hand to her preserver, who pressed it
to his lips with tender gratitude.
Clearly and with wonderful sweetness of intonation,
the gay laugh which had greeted her on so many
eventful moments of her life once more rang in the
"Ah! I recognise it now!" she cried—"the sweet
voice of my fairy god-mother! Oh, wise and kind Gaieia,
still be my guardian, as you have ever been, and make
me in the future all that I have failed to make myself
in the past!"
The laugh that answered her entreaty was as gay
and sweet as ever, but came from afar; for, in fact, the
good fairy had sped away, having a great deal still to
do for her froward godchild, and that without delay:
amongst other things to make King Kloxoxskin immediately
evacuate the palace and dominions of the Princess's
father, under the idea that he was escaping from a great
peril which would certainly have overwhelmed him if
he had persisted in forcing the Princess Disdainana to
More than that—a task much more difficult to accomplish—the
merry fairy had to overcome the prejudice of
the Queen, whose obstinacy had returned in full force
as soon as she was once again able to exercise it on
the side of her anti-matrimonial fancies. But, as everybody
knows, nothing can permanently withstand the
power and strategy of a good fairy; so it came about—really
as a matter of course—that, her daughter having
accepted for her husband the charming Prince who had
saved her life, the Queen consented to receive him as her
son-in-law; and it is a well-attested matter of history,
that nobody ever heard her utter a single word in
dissent from her husband's freely-expressed delight at
the saving of his dynasty from what had, for awhile,
seemed its inevitable extinction.