ONCE upon a time there lived a poor prince; his kingdom was very small, but it was large enough to enable him to marry, and marry he would. It was rather bold of him that he went and asked the emperor’s daughter: «Will you marry me?” but he dared to do so, for his name was known far and wide, and there were hundreds of princesses who would have gladly accepted him, but would she do so? Now we shall see.
On the grave of the prince’s father grew a rose-tree, the most beautiful of its kind. It bloomed only once in five years, and then it had only one single rose upon it, but what a rose! It had such a sweet scent that anyone who smelt it instantly forgot all sorrow and grief. He had also a nightingale, which could sing as if every sweet melody was in its throat. He wanted to give this rose and the nightingale to the princess; and therefore both were put into big silver cases and sent to her.
The emperor ordered them to be carried into the great hall where the princess was just playing «Visitors are coming” with her ladies-in-waiting; when she saw the large cases with the presents inside, she clapped her hands for joy.
‘If only it were a little pussy cat!’ she said. But the rose-tree with the beautiful rose came out.
«Oh, how nicely it is made,” exclaimed the ladies.
«It is more than nice,” said the emperor, «it is charming.”
The princess touched it and nearly began to cry.
‘Ugh! Papa,’ she said, ‘it is not artificial, it is REAL!’
‘Ugh!’ said all the ladies-in-waiting, ‘it is real!’
«Let us first see what the other case contains before we are angry,” said the emperor; then the nightingale was taken out, and it sang so beautifully that no one could possibly say anything unkind about it.
«Superbe, charmant,” said the ladies of the court, for they all prattled French, one worse than the other.
«How much the bird reminds me of the musical box of the late lamented empress,” said an old courtier, «it has exactly the same tone, the same execution.”
«You are right,” said the emperor, and began to cry like a little child.
«I hope it is not real,” said the princess.
«Yes, certainly it is real,” replied those who had brought the presents.
«Then let it fly,” said the princess, and refused to see the prince.
But the prince was not discouraged. He painted his face, put on common clothes, pulled his cap over his forehead, and came back.
«Good day, emperor,” he said, «could you not give me a job at the court?”
‘Yes,’ said the Emperor, ‘but there are so many who ask for a place that I don’t know whether there will be one for you; but, still, I will remember you. But wait a moment, it has just occurred to me that I need someone to look after my pigs, for I have so very many of them.’
Thus the prince was appointed imperial swineherd, and he lived in a wretchedly small room near the pigsty; there he worked all day long, and when it was night he made a pretty little pot. There were little bells round the rim, and when the water began to boil in it, the bells began to play the old tune:
«Ah Dear Augustine!
All is Gone, gone gone !”
But there was something even more wonderful than that. When you put a finger into the steam rising from the pot, you could at once smell what meals were cooking on every fire in the whole town. That was indeed much more remarkable than the rose. When the princess with her ladies passed by and heard the tune, she stopped and looked quite pleased, for she also could play it—in fact, it was the only tune she could play on the piano, and she played it with one finger.
«That is the tune I know,” she exclaimed. «He must be a well-educated swineherd. Go and ask him how much the instrument is.”
One of the ladies had to go and ask. Before she went into the muddy field, she put wooden clogs on her feet.
«What will you take for your pot?” asked the lady.
«I will have ten kisses from the princess,” said the swineherd.
«God forbid,” said the lady.
«Well, I cannot sell it for less,” replied the swineherd.
«What did he say?” said the princess.
«I really cannot tell you,” replied the lady.
«You can whisper it into my ear.”
«It is very naughty,” said the princess, and walked off.
But when she had gone a little distance, the bells rang again so sweetly:
«Ah! Dear Augstine !
All is gone, gone, Gone!”
«Ask him,” said the princess, «if he will be satisfied with ten kisses from one of my ladies.”
«No, thank you,” said the swineherd: «ten kisses from the princess, or I keep my pot.”
«That is tiresome,” said the princess. «But you must stand before me, so that nobody can see it.”
The ladies placed themselves in front of her and spread out their dresses, and she gave the swineherd ten kisses and received the pot.
That was a pleasure! Day and night the water in the pot was boiling; there was not a single fire in the whole town of which they did not know what was preparing on it, the chamberlain’s as well as the shoemaker’s. The ladies danced and clapped their hands for joy.
«We know who will eat soup and pancakes; we know who will eat porridge and cutlets; oh, how interesting!”
«Very interesting, indeed,” said the mistress of the household. «But you must not betray me, for I am the emperor’s daughter.”
«Of course not,” they all said.
The swineherd—that is to say, the prince—but they believed that he was a real swineherd—did not waste a single day without doing something; he made a rattle, which, when turned quickly round, played all the dance tunes known since the creation of the world.
«But that is superb,” said the princess passing by. «I have never heard a more beautiful sound. Go down and ask him what the musical instrument costs; but I shall not kiss him again.”
«He will have a hundred kisses from the princess,” said the lady, who had gone down to ask him.
«I believe he is mad,” said the princess, and walked off, but soon she stopped. «One must encourage art,” she said. «I am the emperor’s daughter! Tell him I will give him ten kisses, as I did the other day; the remainder one of my ladies can give him.”
«But we do not like to kiss him” said the ladies.
«That is nonsense,” said the princess; «if I can kiss him, you can also do it. Remember that I give you food and employment.” And the lady had to go down once more.
«A hundred kisses from the princess,” said the swineherd, «or everybody keeps his own.”
«Place yourselves before me,” said the princess then. They did as they were ordered, and the princess kissed him.
«I wonder what that crowd near the pigsty means!” said the emperor, who had just come out on his balcony. He rubbed his eyes and put his spectacles on.
«The ladies of the court are up to some mischief, I think. I shall have to go down and see.” He pulled up his shoes, for they were down at the heels, and he was very quick about it. When he had come down into the courtyard he walked quite softly, and the ladies were so busily engaged in counting the kisses, that all should be fair, that they did not notice the emperor. He raised himself on tiptoe.
«What does this mean?” he said, when he saw that his daughter was kissing the swineherd, and then hit their heads with his shoe just as the swineherd received the sixty-eighth kiss.
«Go out of my sight,” said the emperor, for he was very angry; and both the princess and the swineherd were banished from the empire. There she stood and cried, the swineherd scolded her, and the rain came down in torrents.
«Alas, unfortunate creature that I am!” said the princess, «I wish I had accepted the prince. Oh, how wretched I am!”
The swineherd went behind a tree, wiped his face, threw off his poor attire and stepped forth in his princely clothes; he looked so beautiful that the princess could not help bowing to him.
«I have now learnt
to look down on you,” he said. «You refused an honest prince; you did not appreciate the rose and the nightingale; but you did not mind kissing a swineherd for his toys; you have no one but yourself to blame!”
And then he returned into his kingdom and left her behind. She could now sing at her leisure:
«Ah Dear Augustine!
All is Gone, gone gone !”