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BLANCH AND ROSALINDA
N a pleasant village, some miles from the metropolis, there lived a very good sort of woman, who was much beloved by all her neighbours, because she was always ready to assist every one who was in need. She had received in her youth a better education than the inhabitants of the little village in which she dwelt, and for this reason the poor people looked up to her with a degree of respect. She was the widow of a very good man, who, when he died, left her with two children. They were very pretty girls. The eldest, on account of the fairness of her complexion, was named Blanch, and the other Rosalinda, because her cheeks were like roses, and her lips like coral. One day, while Good Hearty sat spinning at the door, she saw a poor old woman going by, leaning on a stick, who had much ado to hobble along. ‘You seem very much tired, dame,’ said she to the old woman, ‘sit down here and rest yourself a little; ‘at the same time, she bid her daughters fetch a chair they both went, but Rosalinda ran fastest, and brought one. ‘Will you please to drink?’ said Good Hearty. ‘Thank you,’ answered the old woman, ‘I don’t care if I do; and methinks if you had any thing nice that I liked, I could eat a bit.’ — ‘You are welcome to the best I have in my house,’ said Good Hearty; ‘but as I am poor, it is homely fare.’
She then ordered her daughters to spread a clean cloth on the table, while she went to the cupboard, from whence she took some brown bread and cheese, to which she added a mug of cider. As soon as the old woman was seated at the table, Good Hearty desired her eldest daughter to go and gather some plums off her own plum-tree, which she had planted herself, and took great delight in.
Blanch, instead of obeying her mother readily, grumbled and muttered as she went. ‘Surely,’ said she to herself, ‘I did not take all this care and pains with my plum-tree for that old greedy creature.’ However, she durst not refuse gathering a few plums; but she gave them with a very ill‑will, and very ungraciously. As for you, Rosalinda,’ said her mother, you have no fruit to offer this good dame, for your grapes are not ripe.’ — ‘That’s true,’ said Rosalinda, ‘but my hen has just laid, for I hear her cackle, and if the gentlewoman likes a new-laid egg, ‘t is very much at her service;’ and, without staying for an answer, she ran to the hen-roost, and brought the egg; but just as she was presenting it to the old woman, she turned into a fine beautiful lady! Good woman,’ said the old dame to Good Hearty, ‘I have long seen your industry, perseverance, and pious resignation, and I will reward your daughters according to their merits: — the eldest shall be a great queen; the other shall have a country farm: ‘with this she struck the house with her stick, which immediately disappeared, and in its room up came a pretty little snug farm. ‘This, Rosalinda,’ said she, ‘is your lot. I know I have given each of you what you like best.’
Having said this, the fairy went away, leaving both mother and daughters greatly astonished. They went into the farm-house, and were quite charmed with the neatness of the furniture: the chairs were only wood, but so bright, you might see your face in them. The beds were of linen-cloth, as white as snow. There were forty sheep in the sheep-pen; four oxen and four cows in their stalls; and in the yard all sorts of poultry — hens, ducks, pigeons, &c. There was also a pretty garden, well stocked with flowers, fruit, and vegetables. Blanch saw the fairy’s gift to her sister, without being jealous, and was wholly taken up with the thoughts of being a queen; when, all of a sudden, she heard some hunters riding by, and going to the gate to see them, she appeared so charming in the king’s eyes, that he resolved to marry her. When Blanch was a queen, she said to her sister Rosalinda, ‘I do not care you should be a farmer. Come with me, sister, and I will match you to some great lord.’ — ‘I am very much obliged to you, sister,’ replied Rosalinda, ‘but I am used to a country life, and I choose to stay where I am.’ Queen Blanch arrived at her palace, and was so delighted with her new dignity, that she could not sleep for several nights: the first three months, her thoughts were wholly engrossed by dress, balls, and plays, so that she thought of nothing else. She was soon accustomed to all this, and nothing now diverted her; on the contrary, she found a great deal of trouble. The ladies of the court were all very respectful in her presence, but she knew very well that they did not love her; and, when out of her sight, would often say to one another, ‘See, what airs this little country girl gives herself; sure his Majesty must have a very mean fancy, to make choice of such a consort.’ These discourses soon reached the king’s ears, and made him reflect on what he had done: he began to think he was wrong, and repented his marriage. The courtiers saw this, and accordingly paid her little or no respect: she was very unhappy, for she had not a single friend to whom she could declare her griefs; she saw it was the fashion at court to betray the dearest friend for interest; to caress and smile upon those they most hated; and to lie every instant. She was obliged to be always serious, because they told her, a queen ought to look grave and majestic. She had several children, and all the time there was a physician to inspect whatever she eat or drank, and to order every thing she liked off the table: not a grain of salt was allowed to be put in her soup, nor was she permitted to take a walk, though she had ever so much a mind to it. Governesses were appointed to her children, who brought them up contrary to her wishes; yet, she had not the liberty to find fault. Poor queen Blanch was dying with grief, and grew so thin, that it was a pity to see her. She had not seen her sister for three years, because she imagined it would disgrace for a person of her rank and dignity to visit a farmer’s wife. Her extreme melancholy made her very ill, and her physicians ordered change of air. She therefore resolved to spend a few days in the country, to divert her uneasiness, and improve her health.
Accordingly she asked the king leave to go, who very readily granted it, because he thought he should be rid of her for some time. She set out, and soon arrived at the village. As she drew near Rosalinda’s house, she beheld, at a little distance from the door, a company of shepherds and shepherdesses, who were dancing and making merry. ‘Alas!’ said the queen, sighing, ‘there was once a time, when I used to divert myself like those poor people, and no one found fault with me.’ The moment Rosalinda perceived her sister, she ran to embrace her. The queen ordered her carriage to stop, and, alighting, rushed into her sister’s arms: but Rosalinda had grown so plump, and had such an air of content, that the queen, as she looked on her, could not forbear bursting into tears.
Rosalinda was married to a farmer’s son, who had no fortune of his own, — but then he ever remembered, that he was indebted to his wife for every thing he had; and he strove to show his gratitude by his obliging behaviour. Rosalinda had not many servants; but those she had, loved her as though she had been their mother, because she used them kindly. She was beloved by all her neighbours, and they all endeavoured to show it. She neither had, nor wanted, much money: corn, wine, and oil, were the growth of her farm: her cows supplied her with milk, butter, and cheese. The wool of her sheep was spun to clothe herself, her husband, and two children she had. They enjoyed perfect health; and when the work of the day was over, they spent the evening in all sorts of pastimes. ‘Alas!’ cried the queen, the fairy made me a sad present in giving me a crown. Content is not found in magnificent palaces, but in an innocent country life.’ Scarce had she done speaking, before the fairy appeared. ‘In making you a queen,’ said the fairy, ‘I did not intend to reward, but punish you, for giving me your plums with an ill-will. To be contented and happy, you must, like your sister, possess only what is necessary, and wish for nothing else.’ — ‘Ah! madam,’ cried Blanch, ‘you are sufficiently revenged: pray, put an end to my distress.’ — ‘It is at an end,’ said the fairy; ‘the king, who loves you no longer, has just married another wife, and tomorrow his officers will come to forbid you returning any more to the palace.’ — It happened just as the fairy had foretold; and Blanch passed the remainder of her days with her sister Rosalinda, in all manner of happiness and content: never thought again of court, unless it was to thank the fairy for having brought her back to her native village.