THE GOLDEN BRANCH
' Rise, Prince,' said the Fairy, touching him with the Golden Branch. ' Be as accomplished as you are handsome, and take the name of Prince Peerless, since that is the only title which will suit you now.'
Silent from joy, the Prince kissed her hand to express his thanks, and when he rose and saw his new reflection in the mirrors which surrounded him, he understood that Curlicue was indeed gone for ever.
' How I wish,' said the Fairy, ' that I dared to tell you what is in store for you, and warn you of the traps which lie in your path, out I must not. Fly from the tower, Prince, and remember that the Fairy Douceline will be your friend always.'
"When she had finished speaking, the Prince, to his great astonishment, found himself no longer in the tower, but set down in a thick forest at least a hundred leagues away from it. And there we must leave him for the present, and see what was happening elsewhere.
When the guards found that the Prince did not ask for his supper as usual, they went into his room, and not finding him there, were very much alarmed, and searched the tower from turret to dungeon, but without success. Knowing that the King would certainly have their heads cut off for allowing the Prince to escape, they then agreed to say that he was ill, and after making the smallest among them look as much like Prince Curlicue as possible, they put him into his bed and sent to inform the King.
King Grumpy was quite delighted to hear that his son was ill, for he thought that he would all the sooner be brought to do as he wished, and marry the Princess. So he sent back to the guards to say that the Prince was to be treated as severely as before, which was just what they had hoped he would say. In the meantime the Princess Cabbage-Stalk had reached the palace, travelling in a litter.
King Grumpy went out to meet her, but when he saw her, with a skin like a tortoise's, her thick eyebrows meeting above her large nose, and her mouth from ear to ear, he could not help crying out:
'Well, I must say Curlicue is ugly enough, but I don't think you need have thought twice before consenting to marry him.'
' Sire,' she replied, ' I know too well what I am like to be hurt by what you say, but I assure you that I have no wish to marry your son I had rather be called Princess Cabbage-Stalk than Queen Curlicue.'
Th's made King Grumpy very angry.