The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

VI.

How Prince Giglio Behaved Himself.

And now let us speak about Prince Giglio, the nephew of the reigning monarch of Paflagonia. It has already been stated, in page seven, that as long as he had a smart coat to wear, a good horse to ride, and money in his pocket, or rather to take out of his pocket, for he was very good-natured, my young Prince did not care for the loss of his crown and sceptre, being a thoughtless youth, not much inclined to politics or any kind of learning. So his tutor had a sinecure. Giglio would not learn classics or mathematics, and the Lord Chancellor of Paflagonia, SQUARETOSO, pulled a very long face because the Prince could not be got to study the Paflagonian laws and constitution; but, on the other hand, the King’s gamekeepers and huntsmen found the Prince an apt pupil; the dancing-master pronounced that he was a most elegant and assiduous scholar; the First Lord of the Billiard Table gave the most flattering reports of the Prince’s skill; so did the Groom of the Tennis Court; and as for the Captain of the Guard and Fencing-master, the VALIANT and VETERAN Count KUTASOFF HEDZOFF, he avowed that since he ran the General of Crim Tartary, the dreadful Grumbuskin, through the body, he never had encountered so expert a swordsman as Prince Giglio.

I hope you do not imagine that there was any impropriety in the Prince and Princess walking together in the palace garden, and because Giglio kissed Angelica’s hand in a polite manner. In the first place they are cousins; next, the Queen is walking in the garden too (you cannot see her, for she happens to be behind that tree), and her Majesty always wished that Angelica and Giglio should marry: so did Giglio: so did Angelica sometimes, for she thought her cousin very handsome, brave, and good-natured: but then you know she was so clever and knew so many things, and poor Giglio knew nothing, and had no conversation. When they looked at the stars, what did Giglio know of the heavenly bodies? Once, when on a sweet night in a balcony where they were standing, Angelica said, “There is the Bear.” “Where?” says Giglio. “Don’t be afraid, Angelica! if a dozen bears come, I will kill them rather than they shall hurt you.” “Oh, you silly creature!” says she; “you are very good, but you are not very wise.” When they looked at the flowers, Giglio was utterly unacquainted with botany, and had never heard of Linnaeus. When the butterflies passed, Giglio knew nothing about them, being as ignorant of entomology as I am of algebra. So you see, Angelica, though she liked Giglio pretty well, despised him on account of his ignorance. I think she probably valued HER OWN LEARNING rather too much; but to think too well of one’s self is the fault of people of all ages and both sexes. Finally, when nobody else was there, Angelica liked her cousin well enough.

King Valoroso was very delicate in health, and withal so fond of good dinners (which were prepared for him by his French cook Marmitonio), that it was supposed he could not live long. Now the idea of anything happening to the King struck the artful Prime Minister and the designing old lady-inwaiting with terror. For, thought Glumboso and the Countess, “when Prince Giglio marries his cousin and comes to the throne, what a pretty position we shall be in, whom he dislikes, and who have always been unkind to him. We shall lose our places in a trice; Mrs. Gruffanuff will have to give up all the jewels, laces, snuff-boxes, rings, and watches which belonged to the Queen, Giglio’s mother; and Glumboso will be forced to refund two hundred and seventeen thousand millions nine hundred and eighty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-nine pounds, thirteen shillings, and sixpence halfpenny, money left to Prince Giglio by his poor dear father.”

So the Lady of Honor and the Prime Minister hated Giglio because they had done him a wrong; and these unprincipled people invented a hundred cruel stories about poor Giglio, in order to influence the King, Queen, and Princess against him; how he was so ignorant that he could not spell the commonest words, and actually wrote Valoroso Valloroso, and spelt Angelica with two l’s; how he drank a great deal too much wine at dinner, and was always idling in the stables with the grooms; how he owed ever so much money at the pastry-cook’s and the haberdasher’s; how he used to go to sleep at church; how he was fond of playing cards with the pages. So did the Queen like playing cards; so did the King go to sleep at church, and eat and drink too much; and, if Giglio owed a trifle for tarts, who owed him two hundred and seventeen thousand millions nine hundred and eighty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-nine pounds, thirteen shillings, and sixpence halfpenny, I should like to know? Detractors and tale-bearers (in my humble opinion) had much better look at HOME. All this backbiting and slandering had effect upon Princess Angelica, who began to look coldly on her cousin, then to laugh at him and scorn him for being so stupid, then to sneer at him for having vulgar associates; and at Court balls, dinners, and so forth, to treat him so unkindly that poor Giglio became quite ill, took to his bed, and sent for the doctor.

His Majesty King Valoroso, as we have seen, had his own reasons for disliking his nephew; and as for those innocent readers who ask why? — I beg (with the permission of their dear parents) to refer them to Shakespeare’s pages, where they will read why King John disliked Prince Arthur. With the Queen, his royal but weak-minded aunt, when Giglio was out of sight he was out of mind. While she had her whist and her evening parties, she cared for little else.

I dare say TWO VILLAINS, who shall be nameless, wished Doctor Pildrafto, the Court Physician, had killed Giglio right out, but he only bled and physicked him so severely that the Prince was kept to his room for several months, and grew as thin as a post.

Whilst he was lying sick in this way, there came to the Court of Paflagonia a famous painter, whose name was Tomaso Lorenzo, and who was Painter in Ordinary to the King of Crim Tartary, Paflagonia’s neighbor. Tomaso Lorenzo painted all the Court, who were delighted with his works; for even Countess Gruffanuff looked young and Glumboso good-humored in his pictures. “He flatters very much,” some people said. “Nay!” says Princess Angelica, “I am above flattery, and I think he did not make my picture handsome enough. I can’t bear to hear a man of genius unjustly cried down, and I hope my dear papa will make Lorenzo a knight of his Order of the Cucumber.”

The Princess Angelica, although the courtiers vowed Her Royal Highness could draw so BEAUTIFULLY that the idea of her taking lessons was absurd, yet chose to have Lorenzo for a teacher, and it was wonderful, AS LONG AS SHE PAINTED IN HIS STUDIO, what beautiful pictures she made! Some of the performances were engraved for the “Book of Beauty:” others were sold for enormous sums at Charity Bazaars. She wrote the SIGNATURES under the drawings, no doubt, but I think I know who did the pictures — this artful painter, who had come with other designs on Angelica than merely to teach her to draw.

One day, Lorenzo showed the Princess a portrait of a young man in armor, with fair hair and the loveliest blue eyes, and an expression at once melancholy and interesting.

“Dear Signor Lorenzo, who is this?” asked the Princess. “I never saw anyone so handsome,” says Countess Gruffanuff (the old humbug).

“That,” said the painter, “that, Madam, is the portrait of my august young master, his Royal Highness Bulbo, Crown Prince of Crim Tartary, Duke of Acroceraunia, Marquis of Poluphloisboio, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Pumpkin. That is the Order of the Pumpkin glittering on his manly breast, and received by His Royal Highness from his august father, his Majesty King PADELLA I., for his gallantry at the battle of Rimbombamento, when he slew with his own princely hand the King of Ograria and two hundred and eleven giants of the two hundred and eighteen who formed the King’s bodyguard. The remainder were destroyed by the brave Crim Tartar army after an obstinate combat, in which the Crim Tartars suffered severely.”

“What a Prince!” thought Angelica: “so brave — so calm-looking — so young — what a hero!”

“He is as accomplished as he is brave,” continued the Court Painter. “He knows all languages perfectly: sings deliciously: plays every instrument: composes operas which have been acted a thousand nights running at the Imperial Theatre of Crim Tartary, and danced in a ballet there before the King and Queen; in which he looked so beautiful, that his cousin, the lovely daughter of the King of Circassia, died for love of him.”

“Why did he not marry the poor Princess?” asked Angelica, with a sigh.

“Because they were FIRST COUSINS, Madam, and the clergy forbid these unions,” said the Painter. “And, besides, the young Prince had given his royal heart ELSEWHERE.”

“And to whom?” asked Her Royal Highness.

“I am not at liberty to mention the Princess’s name,” answered the Painter.

“But you may tell me the first letter of it,” gasped out the Princess.

“That Your Royal Highness is at liberty to guess,” said Lorenzo.

“Does it begin with a Z?” asked Angelica.

The Painter said it wasn’t a Z; then she tried a Y; then an X; then a W, and went so backwards through almost the whole alphabet.

When she came to D, and it wasn’t D, she grew very excited; when she came to C, and it wasn’t C, she was still more nervous; when she came to B, AND IT WASN’T B, “Oh dearest Gruffanuff,” she said, “lend me your smelling-bottle!” and, hiding her head in the Countess’s shoulder, she faintly whispered, “Ah, Signor, can it be A?”

“It was A; and though I may not, by my Royal Master’s orders, tell Your Royal Highness the Princess’s name, whom he fondly, madly, devotedly, rapturously loves, I may show you her portrait,” says this slyboots: and leading the Princess up to a gilt frame, he drew a curtain which was before it.

O goodness! the frame contained A LOOKING-GLASS! and Angelica saw her own face!

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