This was the Good Fairy who had given him the flying-frog carriage, so again she resolved to help him if she could. Away she went to the fairy Soussio and asked her to release the spell on Prince Charming. Soussio agreed to do so if he would marry Truitonne. Then the Good Fairy conducted Prince Charming back to his castle, where, on his arrival, the ugly Truitonne was awaiting his return, dressed in lovely clothes, and more ugly than ever.

Now the old King died, and the people, who hated the Queen and her ugly daughter, said that they would have no other Queen but Florine, and they went to her in her little room and begged her for their sake to be their Queen. But she said she had not the heart for anything because she had lost her lover, Prince Charming. They asked her again to become their Queen and then to go out and look for him, and they were sure she would find him.

So she became their Queen, and then dressed herself as a poor peasant, and went out into strange lands and travelled in many strange places, thinking to find her beloved Prince. But it was all of no avail. One day she stopped, out of sheer fatigue, to rest by a fountain, and, while she was there, the Good Fairy, disguised, came by and asked her what she was crying for. Florine told her all about the Prince whom she loved and was seeking. Then the Good Fairy told her that Prince Charming was at his own castle and that the spell had been removed, and she gave Florine four little eggs, and said that whenever she was in trouble she was to throw one of them down, and at the same time ask what she wanted, and it would be granted. With these words she disappeared.

Florine turned her face towards the castle of the Prince, and, after many trials and sufferings, she found herself at the feet of her ugly sister Truitonne. Florine, disguised as a poor peasant, was not recognised, so she offered her lovely jewels for sale, and Truitonne, who loved jewellery, resolved to buy them. But Florine would not sell for money: all she asked was to spend a night in the castle. Truitonne was only too glad to get them at such a price, and agreed.

Feeling that the poor peasant girl was giving her something for nothing, and imagining that she did not really know the value of the jewels, Truitonne allowed her sister every liberty in the palace. She could go where she would, unquestioned, and do what she pleased.

Florine took every advantage of this, and, mixing freely among the attendants, she soon learned many things about Prince Charming. Among other pieces of news was this important item: the Prince, being unable to sleep, was in the habit of taking a sleeping-draught every night.

On hearing this she sought the Prince's head valet, and made herself so charming to him that he lost his head altogether, and was more than willing to fulfil her lightest wish.

'Tell me,' said she at last, 'why does the Prince take sleeping-draughts?'

'Ah!' replied he, looking very wise,' it is because the Princess is so ugly.'

'Because she is so ugly? I - I don't understand.'

'What! From the very first the Prince's waking hours have been one long, frightful dream; and he can only banish it by night by taking the sleeping-draught. The Prince is deeply in love with the Princess's sister, but no one but myself knows that. Every night, when he sinks to sleep under the draught, he smiles, and his face looks so very happy, and he whispers one name again and again: "Florinel Florine!"'

The peasant girl's heart beat hard, and a plan shot like lightning through her mind. She would tell this man everything and he would help her. She knew he would, and she knew also that he would not be blind to his own advantage. Her mind was quickly made up. The four little eggs the Good Fairy had given her were packed in a little box. Taking this from the folds of her dress she took one of them and threw it on the floor.

'I am Florine!' she said. 'And I want your willing help.'

The head valet stared at her in dismay. Then his face changed. He bowed to her with the utmost respect, and said: 'Princess, I am your faithful slave; command me and I will obey.'

'First, then,' said Florine, 'do not give the Prince the draught to-night; and find me an apartment next to his.'

'It shall be done,' replied the valet, and with a low bow he withdrew to make the arrangement.

'Stay!' cried Florine as he was going. 'I forbid you to tell the Prince a word of this. You understand?'

'And obey,' he replied, bowing again and again as he left her presence, walking backwards in respect to high royalty.

That night the Prince, impatient to forget the face of Truitonne, called for his sleeping-draught. The head valet appeared, bearing a flavoured mixture in a crystal goblet on a golden tray. The Prince drank it. By its taste it was the draught, but, by its effect, it was not. No sleep came to him, and the face of Truitonne grew uglier and uglier in his mind. Presently he started up.

'What sound was that?'

It came from the next apartment - the sound of a woman weeping. He listened, and in the stillness of the palace the sound came clearly. He knew that voice: it was the voice of his dear Princess Florine, just as he used to hear it when, as a Blue Bird, he spoke with her at her window.

In a moment he arose and dressed himself in his royal robes.

While he was doing this, Florine in the next room took another egg from the box, and, throwing it upon the floor, cried: 'I wish that, by storm and lightning, all that is evil and ugly in this palace shall be destroyed, and all that is good and beautiful left.'

As she spoke the rising wind wailed about the palace and died away; dull thunder reverberated in the distance. The air grew Stirling, and the night flowers paid their perfumes out like threatened debtors. Another rush of wind, then silence broken only by a peal of thunder nearer than before. The splash of heavy drops was heard on the flagstones of the courtyard below. The lightning was seen to flash through the windows, and the thunder shook the castle to its foundations.

Nearer and nearer loomed the storm, growing more terrific every moment. Every one was up and running about in panic. Those with ugly souls and bodies, if their consciences were also wicked, went mad in the panic, and fled in a body from the palace, thinking the end of the world had come. But those whose consciences were clear, whose hearts were true - those who could never be called ugly, no matter what they looked like - they sought the Prince and gathered round him, while the palace shuddered as all the storm gods poured out their wrath.

As the panic-stricken ones fled towards the hills, Florine looked out at the window and saw them, a rushing group with terror in their heels. There came a vivid flash of lightning, and the thunder split and rolled and crashed. When Florine looked again she saw no fugitives: they had disappeared for ever. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the storm abated. The thunder rolled away into the distance, and the moon came out and rode from cloud to cloud triumphant.

There was a knock upon the door. It was the Prince, and behind him were gathered his own, the good and true, according to her wish. How could she meet him in her peasant's garb? A quick thought came to her. She took the third egg and smashed it on the floor, saying: 'I wish that I may come face to face with my Prince in all the dazzling splendour that befits a princess.'

Instantly there was a flash as if a fairy wand had cleft the air. And there stood Florine, the most splendidly royal figure you could imagine. She was beautiful beyond words - so beautiful that the wonderful jewels in her hair and on her lovely dress, on her neck and arms and tiny shoes, could never have got their beauty from any one but her.

She opened the door, and stepped back with a cry of delight. As she did so, she placed her hand to her breast where she felt the frail little box that contained the fourth and last egg.

In another moment she was in the Prince's arms, and the pressure of that embrace crushed the box and broke the egg.

'I wish,' she cried on the instant, raising her lips to his, 'I wish that you will love me for ever!'

The Blue Bird A French Fairy Tale Part 4 19