Riquet of the Tuft
The Princess was quite confused, and answered not a word.
“I see,” replied Riquet with the Tuft, “that this proposal does not please you, and I do not wonder at it; but I will give you a whole year to consider it.”
The Princess had so little sense and, at the same time, so great a longing to have some, that she imagined the end of that year would never come, so 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 twelvemonth than she found herself quite otherwise than she was before: she had an incredible faculty of speaking whatever she had in her mind in a polite, easy, and natural manner.
She began that moment a very gallant conversation with Riquet with the Tuft, which she kept up at such a rate that Riquet with the Tuft believed he had given her more sense 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 phrases as they had heard stupid and silly impertinences before. The whole court was overjoyed beyond imagination at it. It pleased all but her younger sister, because, having no longer the advantage of her in respect of wit, she appeared in comparison with her a very disagreeable, homely girl.
The King governed himself by her advice, and would even sometimes hold a council in her apartment. The news of this change in the Princess spread everywhere; the young princes of the neighboring kingdoms strove all they could to gain her favor, and almost all of them asked her in marriage; but she found not one of them had sense enough for her. She gave them all a hearing, but would not engage herself to any.
However, there came one so powerful, so rich, so witty, and so handsome that she could not help feeling a strong inclination toward 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. She thanked her father, and desired him to give her time to consider it.
She went by chance to walk in the same wood where she met Riquet with the Tuft, the more conveniently to think 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 busily running backward and forward. Listening 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 saw under her feet a great kitchen full of cooks, kitchen helps, and all sorts of officers necessary for a magnificent entertainment. There came out of it a company of cooks, to the number of twenty or thirty, who went to plant themselves about a very long table set up in the forest, with their larding pins in their hands and fox tails in their caps, and began to work, keeping time to a very harmonious tune.
The Princess, all astonished at this sight, asked them for whom they worked.
“For Prince Riquet with the Tuft,” said the chief of them, “who is to be married to-morrow.”
The Princess, more surprised than ever, and recollecting all at once that it was now that day twelvemonth on which she had promised to marry the Prince Riquet with the Tuft, was ready 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 sense which the prince had bestowed upon her, she had entirely forgotten the things she had done in the days of her stupidity. She continued her walk, but had not taken thirty steps before Riquet with the Tuft presented himself to her, gallant and most magnificently dressed, like a prince who was going to be married.
“You see, madam,” said he, “I am exact in keeping my word, and doubt not in the least but you are come hither to perform your promise.”
“I frankly confess,” answered the Princess, “that I have not yet come to a decision in this matter, and I believe I never shall be able to arrive at such a one as you desire.”
“You astonish me, madam,” said Riquet with the Tuft.
From The tales of Mother Goose, by Charles Perrault (Boston: Heath, 1901).