GRACIOSA AND PERCINET
advised her still to pretend to be ill for a few days, and after promising to come to her aid whenever she needed him, he disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
The Duchess was so delighted at the idea that Graciosa was really ill, that she herself recovered twice as fast as she would have done otherwise, and the wedding was held with great magnificence. Now as the King knew that, above all other things, the Queen loved to be told that she was beautiful, he ordered that her portrait should be painted, and that a tournament should be held, at which all the bravest knights of his court should maintain against all comers that Grumbly was the most beautiful princess in the world.
Numbers of knights came from far and wide to accept the challenge, and the hideous Queen sat in great state in a balcony hung with cloth of gold to watch the contests, and Graciosa had to stand up behind her, where her loveliness was so conspicuous that the combatants could not keep their eyes off her. But the Queen was so vain that she thought all their admiring glances were for herself, especially as, in spite of the badness of their cause, the King's knights were so brave that they were the victors in every combat.
However, when nearly all the strangers had been defeated, a young unknown knight presented himself. He carried a portrait, enclosed in a box encrusted with diamonds, and he declared himself willing to maintain against them all that the Queen was the ugliest creature in the world, and that the Princess whose portrait he carried was the most beautiful.
So one by one the knights came out against him, and one by one he vanquished them all, and then he opened the box, and said that, to console them, he would show them the portrait of his Queen of Beauty, and when he did so everyone recognised the Princess Graciosa. The unknown knight then saluted her gracefully and retired, without telling his name to anybody. But Graciosa had no difficulty in guessing that it was Percinet.
As to the Queen, she was so furiously angry that she could hardly speak ; but she soon recovered her voice, and overwhelmed Graciosa with a torrent of reproaches.
' What 1' she said, ' do you dare to dispute with me for the prize of beauty, and expect me to endure this insult to my knights ? But I will not bear it, proud Princess. I will have my revenge.'
' I assure you, Madam,' said the Princess,' that I had nothing to do with it and am quite willing that you shall be declared Queen of Beauty