Little Betsinda came in to put Gruffanuff’s hair in papers; and the Countess was so pleased, that, for a wonder, she complimented Betsinda. “Betsinda!” she said, “you dressed my hair very nicely today; I promised you a little present. Here are five sh — no, here is a pretty little ring, that I picked — that I have had some time.” And she gave Betsinda the ring she had picked up in the court. It fitted Betsinda exactly.
“It’s like the ring the Princess used to wear,” says the maid.
“No such thing,” says Gruffanuff, “I have had it this ever so long. There, tuck me up quite comfortable; and now, as it’s a very cold night (the snow was beating in at the window), you may go and warm dear Prince Giglio’s bed, like a good girl, and then you may unrip my green silk, and then you can just do me up a little cap for the morning, and then you can mend that hole in my silk stocking, and then you can go to bed, Betsinda. Mind I shall want my cup of tea at five o’clock in the morning.”
“I suppose I had best warm both the young gentlemen’s beds, Ma’am,” says Betsinda.
Gruffanuff, for reply, said, “Hau-au-ho! — Grau-haw-hoo! — Hong-hrho!” In fact, she was snoring sound asleep.
Her room, you know, is next to the King and Queen, and the Princess is next to them. So pretty Betsinda went away for the coals to the kitchen, and filled the royal warming-pan.
Now, she was a very kind, merry, civil, pretty girl; but there must have been something very captivating about her this evening, for all the women in the servants’ hall began to scold and abuse her. The housekeeper said she was a pert, stuck-up thing: the upper-housemaid asked, how dare she wear such ringlets and ribbons, it was quite improper! The cook (for there was a woman-cook as well as a man-cook) said to the kitchen-maid that SHE never could see anything in that creetur: but as for the men, every one of them, Coachman, John, Buttons, the page, and Monsieur, the Prince of Crim Tartary’s valet, started up, and said —
“My eyes! }
“O mussey! } what a pretty girl Betsinda is!”
“O jemmany! }
“O ciel! }
“Hands off; none of your impertinence, you vulgar, low people!” says Betsinda, walking off with her pan of coals. She heard the young gentlemen playing at billiards as she went upstairs: first to Prince Giglio’s bed, which she warmed, and then to Prince Bulbo’s room.
He came in just as she had done; and as soon as he saw her, “O! O! O! O! O! O! what a beyou — oo — ootiful creature you are! You angel — you Peri — you rosebud, let me be thy bulbul — thy Bulbo, too! Fly to the desert, fly with me! I never saw a young gazelle to glad me with its dark blue eye that had eyes like thine. Thou nymph of beauty, take, take this young heart. A truer never did itself sustain within a soldier’s waistcoat. Be mine! Be mine! Be Princess of Crim Tartary! My Royal father will approve our union; and, as for that little carroty-haired Angelica, I do not care a fig for her any more.”
“Go away, Your Royal Highness, and go to bed, please,” said Betsinda, with the warming-pan.
But Bulbo said, “No, never, till thou swearest to be mine, thou lovely, blushing chambermaid divine! Here, at thy feet, the Royal Bulbo lies, the trembling captive of Betsinda’s eyes.”
And he went on, making himself SO ABSURD AND RIDICULOUS, that Betsinda, who was full of fun, gave him a touch with the warming-pan, which, I promise you, made him cry “O-o-o-o!” in a very different manner.
Prince Bulbo made such a noise that Prince Giglio, who heard him from the next room, came in to see what was the matter. As soon as he saw what was taking place, Giglio, in a fury, rushed on Bulbo, kicked him in the rudest manner up to the ceiling, and went on kicking him till his hair was quite out of curl.
Poor Betsinda did not know whether to laugh or to cry; the kicking certainly must hurt the Prince, but then he looked so droll! When Giglio had done knocking him up and down to the ground, and whilst he went into a corner rubbing himself, what do you think Giglio does? He goes down on his own knees to Betsinda, takes her hand, begs her to accept his heart, and offers to marry her that moment. Fancy Betsinda’s condition, who had been in love with the Prince ever since she first saw him in the palace garden, when she was quite a little child.
“Oh, divine Betsinda!” says the Prince, “how have I lived fifteen years in thy company without seeing thy perfections? What woman in all Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, nay, in Australia, only it is not yet discovered, can presume to be thy equal? Angelica? Pish! Gruffanuff? Phoo! The Queen? Ha, ha! Thou art my Queen. Thou art the real Angelica, because thou art really angelic.”
“Oh, Prince! I am but a poor chambermaid,” says Betsinda, looking, however, very much pleased.
“Didst thou not tend me in my sickness, when all forsook me?” continues Giglio. “Did not thy gentle hand smooth my pillow, and bring me jelly and roast chicken?”
“Yes, dear Prince, I did,” says Betsinda, “and I sewed Your Royal Highness’s shirt-buttons on too, if you please, Your Royal Highness,” cries this artless maiden.
When poor Prince Bulbo, who was now madly in love with Betsinda, heard this declaration, when he saw the unmistakable glances which she flung upon Giglio, Bulbo began to cry bitterly, and tore quantities of hair out of his head, till it all covered the room like so much tow.
Betsinda had left the warming-pan on the floor while the princes were going on with their conversation, and as they began now to quarrel and be very fierce with one another, she thought proper to run away.
“You great big blubbering booby, tearing your hair in the corner there; of course you will give me satisfaction for insulting Betsinda. YOU dare to kneel down at Princess Giglio’s knees and kiss her hand!”
“She’s not Princess Giglio!” roars out Bulbo. “She shall be Princess Bulbo, no other shall be Princess Bulbo.”
“You are engaged to my cousin!” bellows out Giglio.
“I hate your cousin,” says Bulbo.
“You shall give me satisfaction for insulting her!” cries Giglio in a fury.
“I’ll have your life.”
“I’ll run you through.”
“I’ll cut your throat.”
“I’ll blow your brains out.”
“I’ll knock your head off.”
“I’ll send a friend to you in the morning.”
“I’ll send a bullet into you in the afternoon.”
“We’ll meet again,” says Giglio, shaking his fist in Bulbo’s face; and seizing up the warming-pan, he kissed it, because, forsooth, Betsinda had carried it, and rushed downstairs. What should he see on the landing but his Majesty talking to Betsinda, whom he called by all sorts of fond names. His Majesty had heard a row in the building, so he stated, and smelling something burning, had come out to see what the matter was.
“It’s the young gentlemen smoking, perhaps, sir,” says Betsinda.
“Charming chambermaid,” says the King (like all the rest of them), “never mind the young men! Turn thy eyes on a middle-aged autocrat, who has been considered not ill-looking in his time.”
“Oh, sir! what will her Majesty say?” cries Betsinda.
“Her Majesty!” laughs the monarch. “Her Majesty be hanged. Am I not Autocrat of Paflagonia? Have I not blocks, ropes, axes, hangmen — ha? Runs not a river by my palace wall? Have I not sacks to sew up wives withal? Say but the word, that thou wilt be mine own — your mistress straightway in a sack is sewn, and thou the sharer of my heart and throne.”
When Giglio heard these atrocious sentiments, he forgot the respect usually paid to Royalty, lifted up the warming-pan, and knocked down the King as flat as a pancake; after which, Master Giglio took to his heels and ran away, and Betsinda went off screaming, and the Queen, Gruffanuff, and the Princess, all came out of their rooms. Fancy their feelings on beholding their husband, father, sovereign, in this posture!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00