The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

XVIII.

How They All Journeyed Back to the Capital.

The Fairy Blackstick, by whose means this young King and Queen had certainly won their respective crowns back, would come not unfrequently, to pay them a little visit — as they were riding in their triumphal progress towards Giglio’s capital — change her wand into a pony, and travel by their Majesties’ side, giving them the very best advice. I am not sure that King Giglio did not think the Fairy and her advice rather a bore, fancying it was his own valor and merits which had put him on his throne, and conquered Padella: and, in fine, I fear he rather gave himself airs towards his best friend and patroness. She exhorted him to deal justly by his subjects, to draw mildly on the taxes, never to break his promise when he had once given it — and in all respects to be a good King.

“A good King, my dear Fairy!” cries Rosalba. “Of course he will. Break his promise! can you fancy my Giglio would ever do anything so improper, so unlike him? No! never!” And she looked fondly towards Giglio, whom she thought a pattern of perfection.

“Why is Fairy Blackstick always advising me, and telling me how to manage my government, and warning me to keep my word? Does she suppose that I am not a man of sense, and a man of honor?” asks Giglio testily. “Methinks she rather presumes upon her position.”

“Hush! dear Giglio,” says Rosalba. “You know Blackstick has been very kind to us, and we must not offend her.” But the Fairy was not listening to Giglio’s testy observations, she had fallen back, and was trotting on her pony now, by Master Bulbo’s side, who rode a donkey, and made himself generally beloved in the army by his cheerfulness, kindness, and good-humor to everybody. He was eager to see his darling Angelica. He thought there never was such a charming being. Blackstick did not tell him it was the possession of the magic rose that made Angelica so lovely in his eyes. She brought him the very best accounts of his little wife, whose misfortunes and humiliations had indeed very greatly improved her; and, you see, she could whisk off on her wand a hundred miles in a minute, and be back in no time, and so carry polite messages from Bulbo to Angelica, and from Angelica to Bulbo, and comfort that young man upon his journey.

When the Royal party arrived at the last stage before you reach Blombodinga, who should be in waiting, in her carriage there with her lady of honor by her side, but the Princess Angelica? She rushed into her husband’s arms, scarcely stopping to make a passing curtsey to the King and Queen. She had no eyes but for Bulbo, who appeared perfectly lovely to her on account of the fairy ring which he wore; whilst she herself, wearing the magic rose in her bonnet, seemed entirely beautiful to the enraptured Bulbo.

A splendid luncheon was served to the Royal party, of which the Archbishop, the Chancellor, Duke Hedzoff, Countess Gruffanuff, and all our friends partook, the Fairy Blackstick being seated on the left of King Giglio, with Bulbo and Angelica beside her. You could hear the joy-bells ringing in the capital, and the guns which the citizens were firing off in honor of their Majesties.

“What can have induced that hideous old Gruffanuff to dress herself up in such an absurd way? Did you ask her to be your bridesmaid, my dear?” says Giglio to Rosalba. “What a figure of fun Gruffy is!”

Gruffy was seated opposite their Majesties, between the Archbishop and the Lord Chancellor, and a figure of fun she certainly was, for she was dressed in a low white silk dress, with lace over, a wreath of white roses on her wig, a splendid lace veil, and her yellow old neck was covered with diamonds. She ogled the King in such a manner that his Majesty burst out laughing.

“Eleven o’clock!” cries Giglio, as the great Cathedral bell of Blombodinga tolled that hour. “Gentlemen and ladies, we must be starting. Archbishop, you must be at church, I think, before twelve?”

“We must be at church before twelve,” sighs out Gruffanuff in a languishing voice, hiding her old face behind her fan.

“And then I shall be the happiest man in my dominions,” cries Giglio, with an elegant bow to the blushing Rosalba.

“Oh, my Giglio! Oh, my dear Majesty!” exclaims Gruffanuff; “and can it be that this happy moment at length has arrived —”

“Of course it has arrived,” says the King.

“— and that I am about to become the enraptured bride of my adored Giglio!” continues Gruffanuff. “Lend me a smelling-bottle, somebody. I certainly shall faint with joy.”

“YOU my bride?” roars out Giglio.

“YOU marry my Prince?” cried poor little Rosalba.

“Pooh! Nonsense! The woman’s mad!” exclaims the King. And all the courtiers exhibited by their countenances and expressions, marks of surprise, or ridicule, or incredulity, or wonder.

“I should like to know who else is going to be married, if I am not?” shrieks out Gruffanuff. “I should like to know if King Giglio is a gentleman, and if there is such a thing as justice in Paflagonia? Lord Chancellor! my Lord Archbishop! will your Lordships sit by and see a poor, fond, confiding, tender creature put upon? Has not Prince Giglio promised to marry his Barbara? Is not this Giglio’s signature? Does not this paper declare that he is mine, and only mine?” And she handed to his Grace the Archbishop the document which the Prince signed that evening when she wore the magic ring, and Giglio drank so much champagne. And the old Archbishop, taking out his eyeglasses, read —“This is to give notice, that I, Giglio, only son of Savio, King of Paflagonia, hereby promise to marry the charming Barbara Griselda Countess Gruffanuff, and widow of the late Jenkins Gruffanuff, Esq.”

“H’m,” says the Archbishop, “the document is certainly a — a document.”

“Phoo!” says the Lord Chancellor, “the signature is not in his Majesty’s handwriting.” Indeed, since his studies at Bosforo, Giglio had made an immense improvement in caligraphy.

“Is it your handwriting, Giglio?” cries the Fairy Blackstick, with an awful severity of countenance.

“Y— y — y — es,” poor Giglio gasps out, “I had quite forgotten the confounded paper: she can’t mean to hold me by it. You old wretch, what will you take to let me off? Help the Queen, some one — her Majesty has fainted.”

“Chop her head off!” } exclaim the impetuous Hedzoff,

“Smother the old witch!” } the ardent Smith, and the

“Pitch her into the river!”} faithful Jones.

But Gruffanuff flung her arms round the Archbishop’s neck, and bellowed out, “Justice, justice, my Lord Chancellor!” so loudly, that her piercing shrieks caused everybody to pause. As for Rosalba, she was borne away lifeless by her ladies; and you may imagine the look of agony which Giglio cast towards that lovely being, as his hope, his joy, his darling, his all in all, was thus removed, and in her place the horrid old Gruffanuff rushed up to his side, and once more shrieked out, “Justice, justice!”

“Won’t you take that sum of money which Glumboso hid?” says Giglio; “two hundred and eighteen thousand millions, or thereabouts. It’s a handsome sum.”

“I will have that and you too!” says Gruffanuff.

“Let us throw the crown jewels into the bargain,” gasps out Giglio.

“I will wear them by my Giglio’s side!” says Gruffanuff.

“Will half, three-quarters, five-sixths, nineteen-twentieths, of my kingdom do, Countess?” asks the trembling monarch.

“What were all Europe to me without YOU, my Giglio?” cries Gruff, kissing his hand.

“I won’t, I can’t, I shan’t — I’ll resign the crown first,” shouts Giglio, tearing away his hand; but Gruff clung to it.

“I have a competency, my love,” she says, “and with thee and a cottage thy Barbara will be happy.”

Giglio was half mad with rage by this time. “I will not marry her,” says he. “Oh, Fairy, Fairy, give me counsel?” And as he spoke he looked wildly round at the severe face of the Fairy Blackstick.

“‘Why is Fairy Blackstick always advising me, and warning me to keep my word? Does she suppose that I am not a man of honor?’” said the Fairy, quoting Giglio’s own haughty words. He quailed under the brightness of her eyes; he felt that there was no escape for him from that awful inquisition.

“Well, Archbishop,” said he in a dreadful voice, that made his Grace start, “since this Fairy has led me to the height of happiness but to dash me down into the depths of despair, since I am to lose Rosalba, let me at least keep my honor. Get up, Countess, and let us be married; I can keep my word, but I can die afterwards.”

“Oh, dear Giglio,” cries Gruffanuff, skipping up, “I knew, I knew I could trust thee — I knew that my Prince was the soul of honor. Jump into your carriages, ladies and gentlemen, and let us go to church at once; and as for dying, dear Giglio, no, no:— thou wilt forget that insignificant little chambermaid of a Queen — thou wilt live to be consoled by thy Barbara! She wishes to be a Queen, and not a Queen Dowager, my gracious Lord!” And hanging upon poor Giglio’s arm, and leering and grinning in his face in the most disgusting manner, this old wretch tripped off in her white satin shoes, and jumped into the very carriage which had been got ready to convey Giglio and Rosalba to church. The cannons roared again, the bells pealed triple-bobmajors, the people came out flinging flowers upon the path of the royal bride and bridegroom, and Gruff looked out of the gilt coach window and bowed and grinned to them. Phoo! the horrid old wretch!

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07