The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

XIX.

And Now We Come to the Last Scene in the Pantomime.

The many ups and downs of her life had given the Princess Rosalba prodigious strength of mind, and that highly principled young woman presently recovered from her fainting-fit, out of which Fairy Blackstick, by a precious essence which the Fairy always carried in her pocket, awakened her. Instead of tearing her hair, crying, and bemoaning herself, and fainting again, as many young women would have done, Rosalba remembered that she owed an example of firmness to her subjects; and though she loved Giglio more than her life, was determined, as she told the Fairy, not to interfere between him and justice, or to cause him to break his royal word.

“I cannot marry him, but I shall love him always,” says she to Blackstick; “I will go and be present at his marriage with the Countess, and sign the book, and wish them happy with all my heart. I will see, when I get home, whether I cannot make the new Queen some handsome presents. The Crim Tartary crown diamonds are uncommonly fine, and I shall never have any use for them. I will live and die unmarried like Queen Elizabeth, and, of course, I shall leave my crown to Giglio when I quit this world. Let us go and see them married, my dear Fairy, let me say one last farewell to him; and then, if you please, I will return to my own dominions.”

So the Fairy kissed Rosalba with peculiar tenderness, and at once changed her wand into a very comfortable coach-and-four, with a steady coachman, and two respectable footmen behind, and the Fairy and Rosalba got into the coach, which Angelica and Bulbo entered after them. As for honest Bulbo, he was blubbering in the most pathetic manner, quite overcome by Rosalba’s misfortune. She was touched by the honest fellow’s sympathy, promised to restore to him the confiscated estates of Duke Padella his father, and created him, as he sat there in the coach, Prince, Highness, and First Grandee of the Crim Tartar Empire. The coach moved on, and, being a fairy coach, soon came up with the bridal procession.

Before the ceremony at church it was the custom in Paflagonia, as it is in other countries, for the bride and bridegroom to sign the Contract of Marriage, which was to be witnessed by the Chancellor, Minister, Lord Mayor, and principal officers of state. Now, as the royal palace was being painted and furnished anew, it was not ready for the reception of the King and his bride, who proposed at first to take up their residence at the Prince’s palace, that one which Valoroso occupied when Angelica was born, and before he usurped the throne.

So the marriage party drove up to the palace: the dignitaries got out of their carriages and stood aside: poor Rosalba stepped out of her coach, supported by Bulbo, and stood almost fainting up against the railings so as to have a last look of her dear Giglio. As for Blackstick, she, according to her custom, had flown out of the coach window in some inscrutable manner, and was now standing at the palace door.

Giglio came up the steps with his horrible bride on his arm, looking as pale as if he was going to execution. He only frowned at the Fairy Blackstick — he was angry with her, and thought she came to insult his misery.

“Get out of the way, pray,” says Gruffanuff haughtily. “I wonder why you are always poking your nose into other people’s affairs?”

“Are you determined to make this poor young man unhappy?” says Blackstick.

“To marry him, yes! What business is it of yours? Pray, madam, don’t say ‘you’ to a Queen,” cries Gruffanuff.

“You won’t take the money he offered you?”

“No.”

“You won’t let him off his bargain, though you know you cheated him when you made him sign the paper?”

“Impudence! Policemen, remove this woman!” cries Gruffanuff. And the policemen were rushing forward, but with a wave of her wand the Fairy struck them all like so many statues in their places.

“You won’t take anything in exchange for your bond, Mrs. Gruffanuff,” cries the Fairy, with awful severity. “I speak for the last time.”

“No!” shrieks Gruffanuff, stamping with her foot. “I’ll have my husband, my husband, my husband!”

“YOU SHALL HAVE YOUR HUSBAND!” the Fairy Blackstick cried; and advancing a step, laid her hand upon the nose of the KNOCKER.

As she touched it, the brass nose seemed to elongate, the open mouth opened still wider, and uttered a roar which made everybody start. The eyes rolled wildly; the arms and legs uncurled themselves, writhed about, and seemed to lengthen with each twist; the knocker expanded into a figure in yellow livery, six feet high; the screws by which it was fixed to the door unloosed themselves, and JENKINS GRUFFANUFF once more trod the threshold off which he had been lifted more than twenty years ago!

“Master’s not at home,” says Jenkins, just in his old voice; and Mrs. Jenkins, giving a dreadful YOUP, fell down in a fit, in which nobody minded her.

For everybody was shouting, “Huzzay! huzzay!” “Hip, hip, hurray!” “Long live the King and Queen!” “Were such things ever seen?” “No, never, never, never!” “The Fairy Blackstick for ever!”

The bells were ringing double peals, the guns roaring and banging most prodigiously. Bulbo was embracing everybody; the Lord Chancellor was flinging up his wig and shouting like a madman; Hedzoff had got the Archbishop round the waist, and they were dancing a jig for joy; and as for Giglio, I leave you to imagine what HE was doing, and if he kissed Rosalba once, twice — twenty thousand times, I’m sure I don’t think he was wrong.

So Gruffanuff opened the hall door with a low bow, just as he had been accustomed to do, and they all went in and signed the book, and then they went to church and were married, and the Fairy Blackstick sailed away on her cane, and was never more heard of in Paflagonia.

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