THE FAIRY AMOUREUSE Edit
By Emile Zola Edit
This translation by Barrett H. Clark appeared in Short Stories 1905 Edit
Do you hear the rain, Nanon, beating against the windows? And the wind sighing through the long corridor? It's a horrid night, a night when poor wretches shiver before the gates of the rich, who dance indoors in rooms bright with many gilded chandeliers. Take off those silk slippers of yours, and come sit on my knee before the blazing hearth. Lay aside your gorgeous finery: I'm going to tell you a pretty fairy tale this evening.
Once upon a time, Nanon, there stood on the top of a mountain an ancient castle, somber and forbidding to look upon. It was a mass of turrets and ramparts and portcullises with heavy clanking chains; menat-arms clad in steel from top to toe stood guard night and day on its battlements. Of those who came to the castle only warriors found a welcome at the hands of its master, Count Enguerrand.
If you had seen this old warrior stalking through the long galleries, and heard the sudden outbursts of his dry and menacing voice, you would have trembled with fright, just like his niece Odette, a pious and pretty little lady. Have you ever seen an Easter daisy among the nettles and briars open its petals in the early morning to the first kiss of the sun? Odette was like that, living among the rough knights in attendance on her uncle. Whenever she caught sight of him she would suddenly stop playing, and her eyes fill with tears. She had grown tall and fair, and often sighed with a vague desire for she knew not what; and every time the Lord Enguerrand appeared she was seized with an unspeakable and growing dread.
She had her room in a turret in a distant part of the castle, and spent her time embroidering lovely banners; she found repose in praying to God and in looking out of her window at the emerald landscape and the azure sky. How often, at night, had she risen from her bed and gone to the window to gaze at the stars! How often had the heart of this sixteen-year-old child leaped up toward the vasty spaces of the heavens, asking her radiant sisters of the firmament what it was that so troubled her! And after these sleepless nights, these first stirrings of her yet unconscious love, she would have strange promptings urging her to embrace the rough old knight her uncle. But a short answer or a stern glance would check her impulse, and all atremble she would take up her needle again. You are sorry, Nanon, for the poor child: she was like a freshscented flower whose loveliness and scent are alike spurned.
One day as poor Odette was sitting at her window following with her eyes the flight of two doves, she heard a soft voice far below her at the foot of the castle wall. She leaned out and saw a handsome young man who, with a song on his lips, demanded hospitality of the inmates of the castle. Though she listened intently, she could not understand what he said, but the sweet voice made her heart heavy, and the tears ran slowly down her cheeks, wetting the sprig of marjoram which she held in her hand.
But the castle gates were not opened, and a man-at-arms cried out from the walls:
"Stand back. Only soldiers are admitted here."
Odette continued to look out of the window. She let slip the flower from her hand, still wet with her tears. It fell near the feet of the singer who, raising his eyes and seeing the fair hair of the girl, kissed the sprig and turned away, though he stopped at every step to look back. After he hatt disappeared, Odette went to her prie-dieu and prayed a long time. She gave thanks to heaven, she knew not why; she felt happy, though she did not suspect the reason of her happiness. And that night she dreamed a beautiful dream. She saw again the sprig of marjoram she had thrown to the young man. Slowly, out of the midst of the quivering leaves, there emerged a tiny fairy, with flame-colored wings, a crown of myosotis and a long robe of green, the color of hope.
"Odette," said the fairy in a soothing voice, "I am the Fairy Amoureuse. It was I who sent the young man Lois to you this morning the young man with the enchanting voice. It was I who, seeing your tears, wanted to dry them. I go about the world seeking lonely hearts and bringing together those who sigh in solitude. I visit the peasant's hut as well as the lord's manor, and at times I see fit to unite the shepherd's crook with the king's scepter. I sow flowers under the feet of those I protect. I enthrall them with bonds so precious and sweet that their hearts throb with joy. My home is among the green things that grow, the forest paths, and in winter-time among the glowing logs on the hearth, in the rooms of husbands and wives. Wherever I set my foot there are kisses and tenderness. Cry no more, Odette, I am Amoureuse, the good Fairy, who have come to dry your tears."
Then she disappeared again into her flower, which closed once more and became an ordinary bud.
You know, of course, Nanon, that the Fairy Amoureuse really exists. Watch her dancing in our own home, and pity the poor people who don't believe in her.
When Odette awoke next morning a ray of sunshine lighted up her room, the song of a bird rose to her high tower and the morning breeze, scented with the first kiss of the flowers, caressed her bright tresses. She rose, happy, and spent the whole day singing, hoping that the Fairy's prophecy would come true. Sometimes she would scan the countryside, smiling at each swiftly flying bird, and feeling within her breast something that made her happy and forced her to clap her hands with joy.
When evening came she descended into the great hall. Near the Count Enguerrand was a knight who listened respectfully to what the old man was saying. Odette seated herself before the fireplace, where a cricket was chirping, and busily plied her ivory distaff.
As she worked, she cast glances from time to time at the stranger knight, and once she caught sight of the sprig of marjoram, which he held tight in one hand. By that sign, and by his sweet voice, she recognized Lois. She almost cried aloud for joy, but in order to conceal her blushes she leaned forward toward the glowing logs, and shook the fire with a long iron rod. The flames darted upwards in a^brilliant array, and all at once out of the shower of sparks the Fairy Amoureuse sprang up smiling. Shaking from her green silk robe the bits of burning wood that looked like grains of pure gold, she made off into the great hall where, invisible to the Count, she stood just behind the two young people, while the old warrior went on busily relating the details of a frightful battle with the Infidels. The Fairy spoke in a soothing undertone:
"You must love each other, my children. Leave to the old the memories of youth, and the telling of long tales by the fireside. Let your kisses be the only sound to mingle with the crackling logs. Later will be time enough to mitigate the sorrows of old age by remembering the happy hours long past. When you love at sixteen, words are of no avail: a single look tells more than a lengthy discourse. Love each other, my children, and let old age prate."
Then she covered the two with her wings so completely that the Count, who was explaining how the Giant Buch the Iron-headed was .killed by a great blow from the hand of Giralda of the Heavy Sword, could not see when Lois implanted his first kiss on the brow of the trembling Odette.
Now I must tell you, Nanon, about those beautiful wings of the Fairy Amoureuse. They were as transparent as glass and as delicate as the wings of a fly. But when two lovers are in danger of being seen, they grow and grow and become so thick and so opaque that they shut off the view of anything behind them and prevent anyone's hearing the kisses. And so the old man went on and on with his wondrous tale, while Lois continued to caress the fair Odette, right in the presence of the wicked old lord. .J,
Good heavens, what wonderful wings they were! Young girls, I am told, discover them for themselves, and more than one has succeeded in concealing herself from her grandparents. Isn't that so, Nanon?
Well, when the Count had at last brought to a close his lengthy discourse, the Fairy Amoureuse disappeared again into the fire, and Lois withdrew after thanking his host and throwing a farewell kiss to Odette. The girl was so happy that she dreamed that night of mountains studded with flowers made bright by millions of stars, each of them a thousand times more radiant than the sun.
Next morning she went down into the garden, wandering from arbor to arbor. In one of them she came upon a man-at-arms, bowed to him and was about to pass on, when she noticed a sprig of marjoram in his hand, still wet with tears, and recognized again her Lois. He had come to the castle under a new disguise. He made her sit down on a grassy bank near a fountain, and they gazed into each other's eyes, delighted to be able to see each other's features by the light of day. The warblers sang, and the Jtwo lovers felt that the Fairy Amoureuse must surely be hovering about in the air near them.
I shan't tell you all that the discreet old oak-trees heard that morning. It was pleasant to watch the boy and the girl sitting there chatting hour after hour, so long indeed that one warbler found ample time to build herself a nest in a nearby bush.
Suddenly the heavy footsteps of Count Enguerrand were heard in the garden walk. The lovers trembled, but the water of the fountain rippled more sweetly than ever, and Amoureuse rose out of the crystal stream, a smile on her face. She covered the lovers with her wings, and quickly slipped between them and the Count, who was greatly surprised to hear voices and yet see no one at all.
Holding her friends in her embrace, she repeated to them in a soft undertone:
"I am she who protects love, who closes the eyes and ears of those who no longer love. Fear nothing, dear lovers: love each other in this beautiful clear sunlight, in these garden walks, by the side of these fountains, wherever you happen to be. I am with you, [watching over you. God has sent me among men, and they who scoff at sacred things shall never interrupt you. God gave me these beautiful wings, telling me, 'Go, and let the hearts of the young rejoice!' Love each other, while I keep guard over you."
Then she darted off, gathering dew off the foliage (her only nourishment), and taking with her in her joyous round Odette and Lois, whose arms were ever interlaced.
You will ask me what the lovers did next? Really, my dear, I hardly dare tell you. Fm afraid you would not believe me, or be jealous of their happiness, and refuse to return my kisses. Naughty girl, you are curious, aren't you? I see I shall have to satisfy your curiosity.
Know then, that the Fairy flew hither and thither until nightfall, and when she tried to separate her lovers, she found them so reluctant that she had to give them a good talking-to. It seems (for her voice was low) that she said things so beautiful that their faces lighted up and their eyes opened wide from happiness. And after she had done speaking and they consented to her proposal, she touched their foreheads with her magic wand.
Suddenly oh, Nanon, how big your eyes are! And how you would tap your little foot if I were to refuse to tell you the sequel! Suddenly, Lois and Odette were changed into stalks of marjorrtn, so large and magnificent that only a fairy could have made them so. There they were, side by side, so close that their leaves were entwined. Marvelous flowers they were; they would bloom forever, and eternally mingle their perfumes and their dew.
As for the Count Enguerrand, they say he consoled himself by relating every single night the story of the Giant Buch the Iron-Headed and how he was killed by a great blow from the hand of Giralda of the Heavy Sword.
And now, Nanon, when we go to the country, we shall look for the ' two magic marjorams and ask them in which flower we may find the Fairy Amoureuse. Perhaps, my dear, there is a little moral hidden in this tale. However, I have told it to you here, as we sit stretched out before the hearth, just in order to make you forget the December rain beating against our windows, and in the hope that it will inspire you to love a little more the young man who told it to you.