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The Philopena by Frank R. Stockton

 

There were once a Prince and a Princess who, when quite young, ate a philopena together. They agreed that the one who, at any hour after sunrise the next day, should accept any thing from the other—the giver at the same time saying “Philopena!”—should be the loser, and that the loser should marry the other.

They did not meet as soon as they had expected the next day; and at the time our story begins, many years had elapsed since they had seen each other, and the Prince and the Princess were nearly grown up. They often thought of the philopena they had eaten together, and wondered if they should know each other when they met. He remembered her as a pretty little girl dressed in green silk and playing with a snow-white cat; while she remembered him as a handsome boy, wearing a little sword, the handle of which was covered with jewels. But they knew that each must have changed a great deal in all this time.

Neither of these young people had any parents; the Prince lived with guardians and the Princess with uncles.

The guardians of the Prince were very enterprising and energetic men, and were allowed to govern the country until the Prince came of age. The capital city was a very fine city when the old king died; but the guardians thought it might be much finer, so they set to work with all their might and main to improve it. They tore down old houses and made a great many new streets; they built grand and splendid bridges over the river on which the city stood; they constructed aqueducts to bring water from streams many miles away; and they were at work all the time upon some extensive building enterprise.

The Prince did not take much interest in the works which were going on under direction of his guardians; and when he rode out, he preferred to go into the country or to ride through some of the quaint old streets, where nothing had been changed for hundreds of years.

The uncles of the Princess were very different people from the guardians of the Prince. There were three of them, and they were very quiet and cosey old men, who disliked any kind of bustle or disturbance, and wished that every thing might remain as they had always known it. It even worried them a little to find that the Princess was growing up. They would have much preferred that she should remain exactly as she was when they first took charge of her. Then they never would have been obliged to trouble their minds about any changes in the manner of taking care of her. But they did not worry their minds very much, after all. They wished to make her guardianship as little laborious or exhausting as possible, and so, divided the work; one of them took charge of her education, another of her food and lodging, and the third of her dress. The first sent for teachers, and told them to teach her; the second had handsome apartments prepared for her use, and gave orders that she should have every thing she needed to eat and drink; while the third commanded that she should have a complete outfit of new clothes four times a year. Thus every thing went on very quietly and smoothly; and the three uncles were not obliged to exhaust themselves by hard work. There were never any new houses built in that city, and if any thing had to be repaired, it was done with as little noise and dirt as possible. The city and the whole kingdom were quiet and serene, and the three uncles dozed away most of the day in three great comfortable thrones.

Everybody seemed satisfied with this state of things except the Princess. She often thought to herself that nothing would be more delightful than a little noise and motion, and she wondered if the whole world were as quiet as the city in which she lived. At last, she became unable to bear the dreadful stillness of the place any longer; but she could think of nothing to do but to go and try to find the Prince with whom she had eaten a philopena. If she should win, he must marry her; and then, perhaps, they could settle down in some place where things would be bright and lively. So, early one morning, she put on her white dress, and mounting her prancing black horse, she rode away from the city. Only one person saw her go, for nearly all the people were asleep.

About this time, the Prince made up his mind that he could no longer stand the din and confusion, the everlasting up-setting and setting-up in his native city. He would go away, and see if he could find the Princess with whom he had eaten a philopena. If he should win, she would be obliged to marry him; and then, perhaps, they could settle down in some place where it was quiet and peaceful. So, on the same morning in which the Princess rode away, he put on a handsome suit of black clothes, and mounting a gentle white horse, he rode out of the city. Only one person saw him go; for, even at that early hour, the people were so busy that little attention was paid to his movements.

About half way between these two cities, in a tall tower which stood upon a hill, there lived an Inquisitive Dwarf, whose whole object in life was to find out what people were doing and why they did it. From the top of this tower he generally managed to see all that was going on in the surrounding country; and in each of the two cities that have been mentioned he had an agent, whose duty it was to send him word, by means of carrier pigeons, whenever a new thing happened. Before breakfast, on the morning when the Prince and Princess rode away, a pigeon from the city of the Prince came flying to the tower of the Inquisitive Dwarf.

“Some new building started, I suppose,” said the Dwarf, as he took the little roll of paper from under the pigeon's wing. “But no; it is very different! 'The Prince has ridden away from the city alone, and is travelling to the north.'“

But before he could begin to puzzle his brains about the meaning of this departure, another pigeon came flying in from the city of the Princess.

“Well!” cried the Dwarf, “this is amazing! It is a long time since I have had a message from that city, and my agent has been drawing his salary without doing any work. What possibly can have happened there?”

When he read that the Princess had ridden alone from the city that morning, and was travelling to the south, he was truly amazed.

“What on earth can it mean?” he exclaimed. “If the city of the Prince were to the south of that of the Princess, then I might understand it; for they would be going to see each other, and that would be natural enough. But as his city is to the north of her city, they are travelling in opposite directions. And what is the meaning of this? I most certainly must find out.”

The Inquisitive Dwarf had three servants whom he employed to attend to his most important business. These were a Gryphoness, a Water Sprite, and an Absolute Fool. This last one was very valuable; for there were some things he would do which no one else would think of attempting. The Dwarf called to him the Gryphoness, the oldest and most discreet of the three, and told her of the departure of the Princess.

“Hasten southward,” he said, “as fast as you can, and follow her, and do not return to me until you have found out why she left her city, where she is going, and what she expects to do when she gets there. Your appearance may frighten her; and, therefore, you must take with you the Absolute Fool, to whom she will probably be willing to talk; but you must see that every thing is managed properly.”

Having despatched these two, the Inquisitive Dwarf then called the Water Sprite, who was singing to herself at the edge of a fountain, and telling her of the departure of the Prince, ordered her to follow him, and not to return until she had found out why he left his city, where he was going, and what he intended to do when he got there.

“The road to the north,” he said, “lies along the river bank; therefore, you can easily keep him company.”

The Water Sprite bowed, and dancing over the dewy grass to the river, threw herself into it. Sometimes she swam beneath the clear water; sometimes she rose partly in the air, where she seemed like a little cloud of sparkling mist borne onward by the wind; and sometimes she floated upon the surface, her pale blue robes undulating with the gentle waves, while her white hands and feet shone in the sun like tiny crests of foam. Thus, singing to herself, she went joyously and rapidly on, aided by a full, strong wind from the south. She did not forget to glance every now and then upon the road which ran along the river bank; and, in the course of the morning, she perceived the Prince. He was sitting in the shade of a tree near the water's edge, while his white horse was grazing near by.

The Water Sprite came very gently out of the river, and seating herself upon the edge of the grassy bank, she spoke to him. The Prince looked up in astonishment, but there was nothing in her appearance to frighten him.

“I came,” said the Water Sprite, “at the command of my master, to ask you why you left your city, where you are going, and what you intend to do when you get there.”

The Prince then told her why he had left his city, and what he intended to do when he had found the Princess.

“But where I am going,” he said, “I do not know, myself. I must travel and travel until I succeed in the object of my search.”

The Water Sprite reflected for a moment, and then she said:

“If I were you, I would not travel to the north. It is cold and dreary there, and your Princess would not dwell in such a region. A little above us, on the other side of this river, there is a stream which runs sometimes to the east and sometimes to the south, and which leads to the Land of the Lovely Lakes. This is the most beautiful country in the world, and you will be much more likely to find your Princess there than among the desolate mountains of the north.”

“I dare say you are right,” said the Prince; “and I will go there, if you will show me the way.”

“The road runs along the bank of the river,” said the Water Sprite; “and we shall soon reach the Land of the Lovely Lakes.”

The Prince then mounted his horse, forded the river, and was soon riding along the bank of the stream, while the Water Sprite gayly floated upon its dancing ripples.

       * * * * *

When the Gryphoness started southward, in pursuit of the Princess, she kept out of sight among the bushes by the roadside; but sped swiftly along. The Absolute Fool, however, mounted upon a fine horse, rode boldly along upon the open road. He was a good-looking youth, with rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and a handsome figure. As he cantered gayly along, he felt himself capable of every noble action which the human mind has ever conceived. The Gryphoness kept near him, and in the course of the morning they overtook the Princess, who was allowing her horse to walk in the shade by the roadside. The Absolute Fool dashed up to her, and, taking off his hat, asked her why she had left her city, where she was going, and what she intended to do when she got there.

The Princess looked at him in surprise. “I left my city because I wanted to,” she said. “I am going about my business, and when I get to the proper place, I shall attend to it.”

“Oh,” said the Absolute Fool, “you refuse me your confidence, do you? But allow me to remark that I have a Gryphoness with me who is very frightful to look at, and whom it was my intention to keep in the bushes; but if you will not give fair answers to my questions, she must come out and talk to you, and that is all there is about it.”

“If there is a Gryphoness in the bushes,” said the Princess, “let her come out. No matter how frightful she is, I would rather she should come where I can see her, than to have her hiding near me.”

The Gryphoness, who had heard these words, now came out into the road. The horse of the Princess reared in affright, but his young rider patted him on the neck, and quieted his fears.

“What do you and this young man want?” said the Princess to the Gryphoness, “and why do you question me?”

“It is not of our own will that we do it,” said the Gryphoness, very respectfully; “but our master, the Inquisitive Dwarf, has sent us to obtain information about the points on which the young man questioned you; and until we have found out these things, it is impossible for us to return.”

“I am opposed to answering impertinent questions,” replied the Princess; “but in order to rid myself of you, I will tell you the reason of my journey.” And she then stated briefly the facts of the case.

“Ah, me!” said the Gryphoness. “I am very sorry; but you cannot tell us where you are going, and we cannot return until we know that. But you need not desire to be rid of us, for it may be that we can assist you in the object of your journey. This young man is sometimes very useful, and I shall be glad to do any thing that I can to help you. If you should think that I would injure you, or willingly annoy you by my presence, it would grieve me to the heart.” And as she spoke, a tear bedimmed her eye.

The Princess was touched by the emotion of the Gryphoness.

“You may accompany me,” she said, “and I will trust you both. You must know this country better than I do. Have you any advice to give me in regard to my journey?”

“One thing I would strongly advise,” said the Gryphoness, “and that is, that you do not travel any farther until we know in what direction it will be best to go. There is an inn close by, kept by a worthy woman. If you will stop there until to-morrow, this young man and I will scour the country round about, and try to find some news of your Prince. The young man will return and report to you to-morrow morning. And if you should need help, or escort, he will aid and obey you as your servant. As for me, unless we have found the Prince, I shall continue searching for him. There is a prince in the city to the north of my master's tower, and it is not unlikely that it is he whom you seek.”

“You can find out if it is he,” answered the Princess, “by asking about the philopena.”

“That will I do,” said the Gryphoness, “and I will return hither as speedily as possible.” And, with a respectful salutation, the Gryphoness and the Absolute Fool departed by different ways.

The Princess then repaired to the inn, where she took lodgings.

The next morning, the Absolute Fool came back to the inn, and seeing the Princess, said: “I rode until after night-fall, searching for the Prince, before it occurred to me that, even if I should find him, I would not know him in the dark. As soon as I thought of that, I rode straight to the nearest house, and slept until daybreak, when I remembered that I was to report to you this morning. But as I have heard no news of the Prince, and as this is a beautiful, clear day, I think it would be extremely foolish to remain idly here, where there is nothing of interest going on, and when a single hour's delay may cause you to miss the object of your search. The Prince may be in one place this morning, and there is no knowing where he will be in the afternoon. While the Gryphoness is searching, we should search also. We can return before sunset, and we will leave word here as to the direction we have taken, so that when she returns, she can quickly overtake us. It is my opinion that not a moment should be lost. I will be your guide. I know this country well.”

The Princess thought this sounded like good reasoning, and consented to set out. There were some beautiful mountains to the south-east; and among these, the Absolute Fool declared, a prince of good taste would be very apt to dwell. They, therefore, took this direction. But when they had travelled an hour or more, the mountains began to look bare and bleak, and the Absolute Fool declared that he did not believe any prince would live there. He therefore advised that they turn into a road that led to the north-east. It was a good road; and therefore he thought it led to a good place, where a person of good sense would be likely to reside. Along this road they therefore travelled. They had ridden but a few miles when they met three men, well armed and mounted. These men drew up their horses, and respectfully saluted the Princess.

“High-born Lady,” they said, “for by your aspect we know you to be such, we would inform you that we are the soldiers of the King, the outskirts of whose dominions you have reached. It is our duty to question all travellers, and, if their object in coming to our country is a good one, to give them whatever assistance and information they may require. Will you tell us why you are come?”

“Impertinent vassals!” cried the Absolute Fool, riding up in a great passion. “How dare you interfere with a princess who has left her city because it was so dull and stupid, and is endeavoring to find a prince, with whom she has eaten a philopena, in order that she may marry him. Out of my way, or I will draw my sword and cleave you to the earth, and thus punish your unwarrantable curiosity!”

The soldiers could not repress a smile.

“In order to prevent mischief,” they said to the Absolute Fool, “we shall be obliged to take you into custody.”

This they immediately did, and then requested the Princess to accompany them to the palace of their King, where she would receive hospitality and aid.

The King welcomed the Princess with great cordiality. He had no son, and he much wished he had one; for in that case it might be his Prince for whom the young lady was looking. But there was a prince, he said, who lived in a city to the north, who was probably the very man; and he would send and make inquiries. In the mean time, the Princess would be entertained by himself and his Queen; and, if her servant would make a suitable apology, his violent language would be pardoned. But the Absolute Fool positively refused to do this.

“I never apologize,” he cried. “No man of spirit would do such a thing. What I say, I stand by.”

“Very well,” said the King; “then you shall fight a wild beast.” And he gave orders that the affair should be arranged for the following day.

In a short time, however, some of his officers came to him and told him that there were no wild beasts; those on hand having been kept so long that they had become tame.

“To be sure, there's the old lion, Sardon,” they said; “but he is so dreadfully cross and has had so much experience in these fights, that for a long time it has not been considered fair to allow any one to enter the ring with him.”

“It is a pity,” said the King, “to make the young man fight a tame beast; but, under the circumstances, the best thing to do will be to represent the case to him, just as it is. Tell him we are sorry we have not an ordinary wild beast; but that he can take his choice between a tame one and the lion Sardon, whose disposition and experience you will explain to him.”

When the matter was stated to the Absolute Fool, he refused with great scorn to fight a tame beast.

“I will not be degraded in the eyes of the public,” he said; “I will take the old lion.”

The next day, the court and the public assembled to see the fight; but the Queen and our Princess took a ride into the country, not wishing to witness a combat of this kind, especially one which was so unequal. The King ordered that every advantage should be given to the young man, in order that he might have every possible chance of success in fighting an animal which had been a victor on so many similar occasions. A large iron cage, furnished with a turnstile, into which the Absolute Fool could retire for rest and refreshment, but where the lion could not follow him, was placed in the middle of the arena, and the youth was supplied with all the weapons he desired. When every thing was ready, the Absolute Fool took his stand in the centre of the arena, and the door of the lion's den was opened. The great beast came out, he looked about for an instant, and then, with majestic step, advanced toward the young man. When he was within a few paces of him, he crouched for a spring.

The Absolute Fool had never seen so magnificent a creature, and he could not restrain his admiration. With folded arms and sparkling eyes, he gazed with delight upon the lion's massive head, his long and flowing mane, his magnificent muscles, and his powerful feet and legs. There was an air of grandeur and strength about him which completely enraptured the youth. Approaching the lion, he knelt before him, and gazed with wondering ecstasy into his great, glowing eyes. “What glorious orbs!” he inwardly exclaimed. “What unfathomable expression! What possibilities! What reminiscences! And everywhere, what majesty of curve!”

The lion was a good deal astonished at the conduct of the young man; and he soon began to suppose that this was not the person he was to fight, but probably a keeper, who was examining into his condition. After submitting to this scrutiny a few minutes, he gave a mighty yawn, which startled the spectators, but which delighted the Absolute Fool; for never before had he beheld such a depth of potentiality. He knelt in silent delight at this exhibition of the beauty of strength.

Old Sardon soon became tired of all this, however, and he turned and walked back to his den. “When their man is ready,” he thought to himself, “I will come out and fight him.”

One tremendous shout now arose from the multitude. “The youth has conquered!” they cried. “He has actually frightened the lion back into his den!” Rushing into the arena, they raised the Absolute Fool upon their shoulders and carried him in triumph to the open square in front of the palace, that he might be rewarded for his bravery. Here the King, followed by his court, quickly appeared; for he was as much delighted as any one at the victory of the young man.

“Noble youth,” he exclaimed, “you are the bravest of the brave. You are the only man I know who is worthy of our royal daughter, and you shall marry her forthwith. Long since, I vowed that only with the bravest should she wed.”

At this moment, the Queen and the Princess, returning from their ride, heard with joy the result of the combat; and riding up to the victor, the Queen declared that she would gladly join with her royal husband in giving their daughter to so brave a man.

The Absolute Fool stood for a moment in silent thought; then, addressing the King, he said:

“Was Your Majesty's father a king?”

“He was,” was the answer.

“Was his father of royal blood?”

“No; he was not,” replied the King. “My grandfather was a man of the people; but his pre-eminent virtue, his great ability as a statesman, and the dignity and nobility of his character made him the unanimous choice of the nation as its sovereign.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” said the Absolute Fool; “for it makes it necessary for me to decline the kind offer of your daughter in marriage. If I marry a princess at all, she must be one who can trace back her lineage through a long line of royal ancestors.” And as he spoke, his breast swelled with manly pride.

For a moment, the King was dumb with rage. Then loudly he shouted: “Ho, guards! Annihilate him! Avenge this insult!”

At these words, the sword of every by-stander leaped from its scabbard; but, before any one could take a step forward, the Princess seized the Absolute Fool by his long and flowing locks, and put spurs to her horse. The young man yelled with pain, and shouted to her to let go; but she held firmly to his hair, and as he was extraordinarily active and fleet of foot, he kept pace with the galloping horse. A great crowd of people started in pursuit, but as none of them were mounted, they were soon left behind.

“Let go my hair! Let go my hair!” shouted the Absolute Fool, as he bounded along. “You don't know how it hurts. Let go! Let go!”

But the Princess never relinquished her hold until they were out of the King's domain.

“A little more,” cried the indignant youth, when she let him go, “and you would have pulled out a handful of my hair.”

“A little less,” said the Princess, contemptuously, “and you would have been cut to pieces; for you have not sense enough to take care of yourself. I am sorry I listened to you, and left the inn to which the Gryphoness took me. It would have been far better to wait there for her as she told me to do.”

“Yes,” said the Absolute Fool; “it would have been much better.”

“Now,” said the Princess, “we will go back there, and see if she has returned.”

“If we can find it,” said the other, “which I very much doubt.”

There were several roads at this point and, of course, they took the wrong one. As they went on, the Absolute Fool complained bitterly that he had left his horse behind him, and was obliged to walk. Sometimes he stopped, and said he would go back after it; but this the Princess sternly forbade.

       * * * * *

When the Gryphoness reached the city of the Prince, it was night; but she was not sorry for this. She did not like to show herself much in the daytime, because so many people were frightened by her. After a good deal of trouble, she discovered that the Prince had certainly left the city, although his guardians did not seem to be aware of it. They were so busy with a new palace, in part of which they were living, that they could not be expected to keep a constant eye upon him. In the morning, she met an old man who knew her, and was not afraid of her, and who told her that the day before, when he was up the river, he had seen the Prince on his white horse, riding on the bank of the stream; and that near him, in the water, was something which now looked like a woman, and again like a puff of mist. The Gryphoness reflected.

“If this Prince has gone off in that way,” she said to herself, “I believe that he is the very one whom the Princess is looking for, and that he has set out in search of her; and that creature in the water must be our Water Sprite, whom our master has probably sent out to discover where the Prince is going. If he had told me about this, it would have saved much trouble. From the direction in which they were going, I feel sure that the Water Sprite was taking the Prince to the Land of the Lovely Lakes. She never fails to go there, if she can possibly get an excuse. I will follow them. I suppose the Princess will be tired, waiting at the inn; but I must know where the Prince is, and if he is really her Prince, before I go back to her.”

When the Gryphoness reached the Land of the Lovely Lakes, she wandered all that day and the next night; but she saw nothing of those for whom she was looking.

The Princess and the Absolute Fool journeyed on until near the close of the afternoon, when the sky began to be overcast, and it looked like rain. They were then not far from a large piece of water; and at a little distance, they saw a ship moored near the shore.

“I shall seek shelter on board that ship,” said the Princess.

“It is going to storm,” remarked the Absolute Fool. “I should prefer to be on dry land.”

“As the land is not likely to be very dry when it rains,” said the Princess, “I prefer a shelter, even if it is upon wet water.”

“Women will always have their own way,” muttered the Absolute Fool.

The ship belonged to a crew of Amazon sailors, who gave the Princess a hearty welcome.

“You may go on board if you choose,” said the Absolute Fool to the Princess, “but I shall not risk my life in a ship manned by women.”

“It is well that you are of that opinion,” said the Captain of the Amazons, who had heard this remark; “for you would not be allowed to come on board if you wished to. But we will give you a tent to protect you and the horse in case it should rain, and will send you something to eat.”

“While the Princess was taking tea with the Amazon Captain, she told her about the Prince, and how she was trying to find him.

“Good!” cried the Captain. “I will join in the search, and take you in my ship. Some of my crew told me that yesterday they saw a young man, who looked like a prince, riding along the shore of a lake which adjoins the one we are on. In the morning we will sail after him. We shall keep near the shore, and your servant can mount your horse and ride along the edge of the lake. From what I know of the speed of this vessel, I think he can easily keep up with us.”

Early in the morning, the Amazon Captain called her crew together. “Hurrah, my brave girls!” she said. “We have an object. I never sail without an object, and it lights me to get one. The purpose of our present cruise is to find the Prince of whom this Princess is in search; and we must spare no pains to bring him to her, dead or alive.”

Luckily for her peace of mind, the Princess did not hear this speech. The day was a fine one, and before long the sun became very hot. The ship was sailing quite near the land, when the Absolute Fool rode down to the water's edge, and called out that he had something very important to communicate to the Princess. As he was not allowed to come on board, she was obliged to go on shore, to which she was rowed in a small boat.

“I have been thinking,” said the Absolute Fool, “that it is perfectly ridiculous, and very uncomfortable, to continue this search any longer. I would go back, but my master would not suffer me to return without knowing where you are going. I have, therefore, a plan to propose. Give up your useless search for this Prince, who is probably not nearly so handsome and intellectual as I am, and marry me. We will then return, and I will assume the reins of government in your domain.”

“Follow the vessel,” said the Princess, “as you have been doing; for I wish some one to take care of my horse.” And without another word, she returned to the ship.

“I should like to sail as far as possible from shore during the rest of the trip,” said she to the Captain.

“Put the helm bias!” shouted the Amazon Captain to the steers-woman; “and keep him well out from land.”

When they had sailed through a small stream into the lake adjoining, the out-look, who was swinging in a hammock hung between the tops of the two masts, sang out, “Prince ahead!” Instantly all was activity on board the vessel. Story books were tucked under coils of rope, hem-stitching and embroidery were laid aside, and every woman was at her post.

“The Princess is taking a nap,” said the Captain, “and we will not awaken her. It will be so nice to surprise her by bringing the Prince to her. We will run our vessel ashore, and then steal quietly upon him. But do not let him get away. Cut him down, if he resists!”

The Prince, who was plainly visible only a short distance ahead, was so pleasantly employed that he had not noticed the approach of the ship. He was sitting upon a low, moss-covered rock, close to the water's edge; and with a small hand-net, which he had found on the shore, he was scooping the most beautiful fishes from the lake, holding them up in the sunlight to admire their brilliant colors and graceful forms, and then returning them uninjured to the water. The Water Sprite was swimming near him, and calling to the fish to come up and be caught; for the gentle Prince would not hurt them. It was very delightful and rare sport, and it is not surprising that it entirely engrossed the attention of the Prince. The Amazons silently landed, and softly stole along the shore, a little back from the water. Then, at their Captain's command, they rushed upon the Prince.

It was just about this time that the Gryphoness, who had been searching for the Prince, caught her first sight of him. Perceiving that he was about to be attacked, she rushed to his aid. The Amazon sailors reached him before she did, and seizing upon him they began to pull him away. The Prince resisted stoutly; but seeing that his assailants were women, he would not draw his sword. The Amazon Captain and mate, who were armed with broad knives, now raised their weapons, and called upon the Prince to surrender or die. But at this moment, the Gryphoness reached the spot, and catching the Captain and mate, each by an arm, she dragged them back from the Prince. The other Amazons, however, continued the combat; and the Prince defended himself by pushing them into the shallow water, where the Water Sprite nearly stifled them by throwing over them showers of spray. And now came riding up the Absolute Fool. Seeing a youth engaged in combat with the Amazon sailors, his blood boiled with indignation.

“A man fighting women!” he exclaimed. “What a coward! My arm shall ever assist the weaker sex.”

Jumping from the horse, he drew his sword, and rushed upon the Prince. The Gryphoness saw the danger of the latter, and she would have gone to his assistance, but she was afraid to loosen her hold of the Amazon Captain and mate.

Spreading her wings she flew to the top of a tree where she deposited the two warlike women upon a lofty branch, from which she knew it would take them a long time to get down to the ground. When she descended she found that the Absolute Fool had reached the Prince. The latter, being a brave fellow, although of so gentle a disposition, had been glad to find a man among his assailants, and had drawn his sword to defend himself. The two had just begun to fight when the Gryphoness seized the Absolute Fool by the waist and hurled him backward into some bushes.

“You must not fight him!” she cried to the Prince. “He is beneath your rank! And as you will not draw your sword against these Amazons you must fly from them. If you run fast they cannot overtake you.”

The Prince followed her advice, and sheathing his sword he rapidly ran along the bank, followed by some of the Amazons who had succeeded in getting the water out of their eyes and mouths.

“Run from women!” contemptuously remarked the Absolute Fool. “If you had not interfered with me,” he said to the Gryphoness, “I should soon have put an end to such a coward.”

The Prince had nearly reached the place opposite to which the ship was moored, when the Princess, who had been awakened by the noise of the combat, appeared upon the deck of the vessel. The moment she saw the Prince, she felt convinced that he was certainly the one for whom she was looking. Fearing that the pursuing Amazons might kill him, she sprang from the vessel to his assistance; but her foot caught in a rope, and instead of reaching the shore, she fell into the water, which was here quite deep, and immediately sank out of sight. The Prince, who had noticed her just as she sprang, and who felt equally convinced that she was the one for whom he was searching, stopped his flight and rushed to the edge of the bank. Just as the Princess rose to the surface, he reached out his hand to her, and she took it.

“Philopena!” cried the Prince.

“You have won,” said the Princess, gayly shaking the water from her curls, as he drew her ashore.

At the request of the Princess, the pursuing Amazons forbore to assail the Prince, and when the Captain and the Mate had descended from the tree, every thing was explained.

Within an hour, the Prince and Princess, after taking kind leave of the Gryphoness, and Water Sprite, and of the Amazon sailors, who cheered them loudly, rode away to the city of the Princess; while the three servants of the Inquisitive Dwarf returned to their master to report what had happened.

The Absolute Fool was in a very bad humor; for he was obliged to go back on foot, having left his horse in the kingdom where he had so narrowly escaped being killed; and, besides this, he had had his hair pulled; and had not been treated with proper respect by either the Princess or the Gryphoness. He felt himself deeply injured. When he reached home, he determined that he would not remain in a position where his great abilities were so little appreciated. “I will do something,” he said, “which shall prove to the world that I deserve to stand among the truly great. I will reform my fellow beings, and I will begin by reforming the Inquisitive Dwarf.” Thereupon he went to his master, and said:

“Sir, it is foolish and absurd for you to be meddling thus with the affairs of your neighbors. Give up your inquisitive habits, and learn some useful business. While you are doing this, I will consent to manage your affairs.”

The Inquisitive Dwarf turned to him, and said: “I have a great desire to know the exact appearance of the North Pole. Go and discover it for me.”

The Absolute Fool departed on this mission, and has not yet returned.

When the Princess, with her Prince, reached her city, her uncles were very much amazed; for they had not known she had gone away. “If you are going to get married,” they said, “we are very glad; for then you will not need our care, and we shall be free from the great responsibility which is bearing us down.”

In a short time the wedding took place, and then the question arose in which city should the young couple dwell. The Princess decided it.

“In the winter,” she said to the Prince, “We will live in your city, where all is life and activity; and where the houses are so well built with all the latest improvements. In the summer, we will come to my city, where everything is old, and shady, and serene.” This they did, and were very happy.

The Gryphoness would have been glad to go and live with the Princess, for she had taken a great fancy to her; but she did not think it worth her while to ask permission to do this.

“My impulses, I know, are good,” she said; “but my appearance is against me.”

As for the Water Sprite, she was in a truly disconsolate mood, because she had left so soon the Land of the Lovely Lakes, where she had been so happy. The more she thought about it, the more she grieved; and one morning, unable to bear her sorrow longer, she sprang into the great jet of the fountain. High into the bright air the fountain threw her, scattering her into a thousand drops of glittering water; but not one drop fell back into the basin. The great, warm sun drew them up; and, in a little white cloud, they floated away across the bright blue sky.

 
 
 

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