There was once a poor prince who had a kingdom, but it was a very small one. Still it was quite large enough to admit of his marrying, and he wished to marry.
It was certainly rather bold of him to say, as he did, to the emperor’s daughter, “Will you have me?” But he was renowned far and wide, and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, “Yes,” and, “Thank you kindly.” We shall see what this princess said. Listen!
It happened that where the prince’s father lay buried there grew a rose tree, a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in five years, and even then bore only one flower. Ah, but that was a rose! It smelled so sweet that all cares and sorrows were forgotten by those who inhaled its fragrance!
Moreover, the prince had a nightingale that could sing in such a manner that it seemed as if all sweet melodies dwelt in her little throat. Now the princess was to have the rose and the nightingale; and they were accordingly put into large silver caskets and sent to her.
The emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the princess and the ladies of the court were playing at “Visiting.” When she saw the caskets with the presents, the princess clapped her hands for joy.
“Ah, if it should be a little pussy cat,” exclaimed she. Instead, the rose tree, with its beautiful rose, came to view.
“Oh, how prettily it is made!” said all the court ladies.
“It is more than pretty,” said the emperor; “it is charming.”
The princess touched it and was ready to cry. “Fie, papa,” said she, “it is not made at all. It is natural!”
“Fie,” said all the court ladies; “it is natural!”
“Let us see what the other casket contains before we get into bad humor,” proposed the emperor. So the nightingale came forth, and sang so delightfully that at first no one could say anything ill-humored of her.
“Superbe! charmant!” exclaimed the ladies, for they all used to chatter French, and each worse than her neighbor.
“How much the bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to our blessed empress!” remarked an old knight. “Oh! yes, these are the same tunes, the same execution.”
“Yes, yes!” said the emperor, and at the remembrance he wept like a child.
“I still hope it is not a real bird,” said the princess.
“Yes, it is a real bird,” said those who had brought it.
“Well, then, let the bird fly,” returned the princess. And she positively refused to see the prince.
However, he was not to be discouraged. He stained his face brown and black, pulled his cap over his ears, and knocked at the door of the castle.
“Good day to my lord the emperor,” said he. “Can I have employment here at the palace?”
“Why, yes,” said the emperor. “It just occurs to me that I want some one to take care of the pigs, there are so many of them.”
So the prince came to be the imperial swineherd.
He had a miserable little room, close by the pigsty, and here he was obliged to stay; and he sat the whole day long and worked. By evening he had made a pretty little saucepan. Little bells were hung all around it; and when the pot was boiling, the bells tinkled in the most charming manner, and played the old melody,
“Ach, du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg.”
But what was still more curious, whoever held his finger in the smoke of this saucepan, at once smelled all the dishes that were cooking on every hearth of the city. This, you see, was something quite different from the rose.
Now the princess happened to walk that way with her court ladies, and when she heard the tune she stood quite still and seemed pleased, for she could play “Dearest Augustine.” It was the only piece she knew, and she played it with one finger.
“Why, that is the piece that I play on the piano!” said the princess. “That swineherd must certainly have been well educated. Go in and ask him the price of the instrument.”
So one of the court ladies had to go in, but she drew on wooden slippers first.
“What will you take for the saucepan?” inquired the lady.
“I must have ten kisses from the princess,” said the swineherd.
“Heaven preserve us!” exclaimed the maid of honor.
“I cannot sell it for less,” answered the swineherd.
“Well, what does he say?” asked the princess.
“I cannot tell you, really,” replied the lady. “It is too dreadful.”
“Then you may whisper it.” So the lady whispered it.
“He is an impudent fellow,” said the princess, and she walked on. But when she had gone a little way, the bells again tinkled prettily,
“Ah! thou dearest Augustine,
All is gone, gone, gone.”
“Stay!” said the princess. “Ask him if he will have ten kisses from the ladies of my court.”
“No, thank you!” answered the swineherd. “Ten kisses from the princess, or I keep the saucepan myself.”
“How tiresome! That must not be either!” said the princess; “but do you all stand before me, that no one may see us.”
The court ladies placed themselves in front of her, and spread out their dresses. So the swineherd got ten kisses, and the princess got the saucepan.
That was delightful! The saucepan was kept boiling all the evening and the whole of the following day. They knew perfectly well what was cooking on every hearth in the city, from the chamberlain’s to the cobbler’s. The court ladies danced and clapped their hands.
“We know who has soup, and who has pancakes for dinner to-day; who has cutlets, and who has eggs. How interesting!”
“Yes, but keep my secret, for I am an emperor’s daughter.”
The prince—that is, the swineherd, for no one knew that he was other than an ill-favored swineherd—let not a day pass without working at something. At last he constructed a rattle, which, when it was swung round and round, played all the waltzes and jig tunes which have been heard since the creation of the world.
“Ah, that is superbe!” said the princess, when she passed by. “I have never heard prettier compositions. Go in and ask him the price of the instrument. But mind, he shall have no more kisses.”
“He will have a hundred kisses from the princess,” said the lady who had been to ask.
“He is not in his right senses,” said the princess, and walked on. But when she had gone a little way she stopped again. “One must encourage art,” said she; “I am the emperor’s daughter. Tell him he shall, as on yesterday, have ten kisses from me, and may take the rest from the ladies of the court.”
“Oh, but we should not like that at all,” said the ladies.
“What are you muttering?” asked the princess. “If I can kiss him, surely you can! Remember I give you food and wages.”
“A hundred kisses from the princess,” said he, “or else let every one keep his own.”
“Stand round,” said she, and all the ladies stood round as before.
“What can be the reason for such a crowd close by the pigsty?” asked the emperor, who happened just then to step out on the balcony. He rubbed his eyes and put on his spectacles.
“They are the ladies of the court. I must go and see what they are about.” So he pulled up his slippers at the heel, for he had trodden them down.
As soon as he had got into the courtyard he moved very softly, and the ladies were so much engrossed with counting the kisses that they did not perceive the emperor. He rose on his tiptoes.
“What is all this?” said he, when he saw what was going on, and he boxed the princess’s ear with his slipper, just as the swineherd was taking the eighty-sixth kiss.
“Be off with you! March out!” cried the emperor, for he was very angry. Both princess and swineherd were thrust out of the city, and the princess stood and wept, while the swineherd scolded, and the rain poured down.
“Alas, unhappy creature that I am!” said the princess. “If I had but married the handsome young prince! Ah, how unfortunate I am!”
The swineherd went behind a tree, washed the black and brown from his face, threw off his dirty clothing, and stepped forth in his princely robes. He looked so noble that the princess could not help bowing before him.
“I have come to despise thee,” said he. “Thou wouldst not have an honorable prince! Thou couldst not prize the rose and the nightingale, but thou wast ready to kiss the swineherd for the sake of a trumpery plaything. Thou art rightly served.”
He then went back to his own little kingdom, where he shut the door of his palace before her very eyes. Now she might well sing,
“Ah! thou dearest Augustine,
All is gone, gone, gone.”