The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

VIII.

How Gruffanuff Picked the Fairy Ring Up, and Prince Bulbo CAME TO
Court.

Prince Bulbo’s arrival had set all the court in a flutter: everybody was ordered to put his or her best clothes on: the footmen had their gala liveries; the Lord Chancellor his new wig; the Guards their last new tunics; and Countess Gruffanuff, you may be sure, was glad of an opportunity of decorating HER old person with her finest things. She was walking through the court of the Palace on her way to wait upon their Majesties, when she espied something glittering on the pavement, and bade the boy in buttons who was holding up her train, to go and pick up the article shining yonder. He was an ugly little wretch, in some of the late groom-porter’s old clothes cut down, and much too tight for him; and yet, when he had taken up the ring (as it turned out to be), and was carrying it to his mistress, she thought he looked like a little cupid. He gave the ring to her; it was a trumpery little thing enough, but too small for any of her old knuckles, so she put it into her pocket.

“Oh, mum!” says the boy, looking at her “how — how beyoutiful you do look, mum, today, mum!”

“And you, too, Jacky,” she was going to say; but, looking down at him — no, he was no longer good-looking at all — but only the carroty-haired little Jacky of the morning. However, praise is welcome from the ugliest of men or boys, and Gruffanuff, bidding the boy hold up her train, walked on in high good-humor. The Guards saluted her with peculiar respect. Captain Hedzoff, in the anteroom, said, “My dear madam, you look like an angel today.” And so, bowing and smirking, Gruffanuff went in and took her place behind her Royal Master and Mistress, who were in the throne-room, awaiting the Prince of Crim Tartary. Princess Angelica sat at their feet, and behind the King’s chair stood Prince Giglio, looking very savage.

The Prince of Crim Tartary made his appearance, attended by Baron Sleibootz, his chamberlain, and followed by a black page carrying the most beautiful crown you ever saw! He was dressed in his travelling costume, and his hair, as you see, was a little in disorder. “I have ridden three hundred miles since breakfast,” said he, “so eager was I to behold the Prin — the Court and august family of Paflagonia, and I could not wait one minute before appearing in Your Majesties’ presences.”

Giglio, from behind the throne, burst out into a roar of contemptuous laughter; but all the Royal party, in fact, were so flurried, that they did not hear this little outbreak. “Your R. H. is welcome in any dress,” says the King. “Glumboso, a chair for His Royal Highness.”

“Any dress His Royal Highness wears IS a Court-dress,” says Princess Angelica, smiling graciously.

“Ah! but you should see my other clothes,” said the Prince. “I should have had them on, but that stupid carrier has not brought them. Who’s that laughing?”

It was Giglio laughing. “I was laughing,” he said, “because you said just now that you were in such a hurry to see the Princess, that you could not wait to change your dress; and now you say you come in those clothes because you have no others.”

“And who are you?” says Prince Bulbo, very fiercely.

“My father was King of this country, and I am his only son, Prince!” replies Giglio, with equal haughtiness.

“Ha!” said the King and Glumboso, looking very flurried; but the former, collecting himself, said, “Dear Prince Bulbo, I forgot to introduce to Your Royal Highness my dear nephew, His Royal Highness Prince Giglio! Know each other! Embrace each other! Giglio, give His Royal Highness your hand!” and Giglio, giving his hand, squeezed poor Bulbo’s until the tears ran out of his eyes. Glumboso now brought a chair for the Royal visitor, and placed it on the platform on which the King, Queen, and Prince were seated; but the chair was on the edge of the platform, and as Bulbo sat down, it toppled over, and he with it, rolling over and over, and bellowing like a bull. Giglio roared still louder at this disaster, but it was with laughter; so did all the Court when Prince Bulbo got up; for though when he entered the room he appeared not very ridiculous, as he stood up from his fall for a moment he looked so exceedingly plain and foolish, that nobody could help laughing at him. When he had entered the room, he was observed to carry a rose in his hand, which fell out of it as he tumbled.

“My rose! my rose!” cried Bulbo; and his chamberlain dashed forwards and picked it up, and gave it to the Prince, who put it in his waistcoat. Then people wondered why they had laughed; there was nothing particularly ridiculous in him. He was rather short, rather stout, rather red-haired, but, in fine, for a Prince, not so bad.

So they sat and talked, the Royal personages together, the Crim Tartar officers with those of Paflagonia — Giglio very comfortable with Gruffanuff behind the throne. He looked at her with such tender eyes, that her heart was all in a flutter. “Oh, dear Prince,” she said, “how could you speak so haughtily in presence of Their Majesties? I protest I thought I should have fainted.”

“I should have caught you in my arms,” said Giglio, looking raptures.

“Why were you so cruel to Prince Bulbo, dear Prince?” says Gruff.

“Because I hate him,” says Gil.

“You are jealous of him, and still love poor Angelica,” cries Gruffanuff, putting her handkerchief to her eyes.

“I did, but I love her no more!” Giglio cried. “I despise her! Were she heiress to twenty thousand thrones, I would despise her and scorn her. But why speak of thrones? I have lost mine. I am too weak to recover it — I am alone, and have no friend.”

“Oh, say not so, dear Prince!” says Gruffanuff.

“Besides,” says he, “I am so happy here BEHIND THE THRONE, that I would not change my place, no, not for the throne of the world!”

“What are you two people chattering about there?” says the Queen, who was rather good-natured, though not over-burthened with wisdom. “It is time to dress for dinner. Giglio, show Prince Bulbo to his room. Prince, if your clothes have not come, we shall be very happy to see you as you are.” But when Prince Bulbo got to his bedroom, his luggage was there and unpacked; and the hairdresser coming in, cut and curled him entirely to his own satisfaction; and when the dinner-bell rang, the Royal company had not to wait above five-and-twenty minutes until Bulbo appeared, during which time the King, who could not bear to wait, grew as sulky as possible. As for Giglio, he never left Madam Gruffanuff all this time, but stood with her in the embrasure of a window, paying her compliments. At length the Groom of the Chambers announced His Royal Highness the Prince of Crim Tartary! and the noble company went into the royal dining-room. It was quite a small party; only the King and Queen, the Princess, whom Bulbo took out, the two Princes, Countess Gruffanuff, Glumboso the Prime Minister, and Prince Bulbo’s chamberlain. You may be sure they had a very good dinner — let every boy or girl think of what he or she likes best, and fancy it on the table.2

2 Here a very pretty game may be played by all the children saying what they like best for dinner.

The Princess talked incessantly all dinner-time to the Prince of Crimea, who ate an immense deal too much, and never took his eyes off his plate, except when Giglio, who was carving a goose, sent a quantity of stuffing and onion sauce into one of them. Giglio only burst out a-laughing as the Crimean Prince wiped his shirt-front and face with his scented pocket-handkerchief. He did not make Prince Bulbo any apology. When the Prince looked at him, Giglio would not look that way. When Prince Bulbo said, “Prince Giglio, may I have the honor of taking a glass of wine with you?” Giglio WOULDN’T answer. All his talk and his eyes were for Countess Gruffanuff, who you may be sure was pleased with Giglio’s attentions — the vain old creature! When he was not complimenting her, he was making fun of Prince Bulbo, so loud that Gruffanuff was always tapping him with her fan, and saying, “Oh, you satirical Prince! Oh, fie, the Prince will hear!” “Well, I don’t mind,” says Giglio, louder still. The King and Queen luckily did not hear; for her Majesty was a little deaf, and the King thought so much about his own dinner, and, besides, made such a dreadful noise, hob-gobbling in eating it, that he heard nothing else. After dinner, his Majesty and the Queen went to sleep in their arm-chairs.

This was the time when Giglio began his tricks with Prince Bulbo, plying that young gentleman with port, sherry, madeira, champagne, marsala, cherry-brandy, and pale ale, of all of which Master Bulbo drank without stint. But in plying his guest, Giglio was obliged to drink himself, and, I am sorry to say, took more than was good for him, so that the young men were very noisy, rude, and foolish when they joined the ladies after dinner; and dearly did they pay for that imprudence, as now, my darlings, you shall hear!

Bulbo went and sat by the piano, where Angelica was playing and singing, and he sang out of tune, and he upset the coffee when the footman brought it, and he laughed out of place, and talked absurdly, and fell asleep and snored horridly. Booh, the nasty pig! But as he lay there stretched on the pink satin sofa, Angelica still persisted in thinking him the most beautiful of human beings. No doubt the magic rose which Bulbo wore caused this infatuation on Angelica’s part; but is she the first young woman who has thought a silly fellow charming?

Giglio must go and sit by Gruffanuff, whose old face he, too, every moment began to find more lovely. He paid the most outrageous compliments to her:— There never was such a darling. Older than he was? — Fiddle-de-dee! He would marry her — he would, have nothing but her!

To marry the heir to the throne! Here was a chance! The artful hussy actually got a sheet of paper, and wrote upon it, “This is to give notice that I, Giglio, only son of Savio, King of Paflagonia, hereby promise to marry the charming and virtuous Barbara Griselda Countess Gruffanuff, and widow of the late Jenkins Gruffanuff, Esq.”

“What is it you are writing, you charming Gruffy?” says Giglio, who was lolling on the sofa, by the writing-table.

“Only an order for you to sign, dear Prince, for giving coals and blankets to the poor, this cold weather. Look! the King and Queen are both asleep, and your Royal Highness’s order will do.”

So Giglio, who was very good-natured, as Gruffy well knew, signed the order immediately; and, when she had it in her pocket, you may fancy what airs she gave herself. She was ready to flounce out of the room before the Queen herself, as now she was the wife of the RIGHTFUL King of Paflagonia! She would not speak to Glumboso, whom she thought a brute, for depriving her DEAR HUSBAND of the crown! And when candles came, and she had helped to undress the Queen and Princess, she went into her own room, and actually practiced on a sheet of paper, “Griselda Paflagonia,” “Barbara Regina,” “Griselda Barbara, Paf. Reg.,” and I don’t know what signatures besides, against the day when she should be Queen forsooth!

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