6.Blondine’s Second Awakening
Blondine slept deeply, and on awaking she found herself completely changed. Indeed, it seemed to her she could not be the same person. She was much taller, her mind was developed, her knowledge greater. She remembered a number of books she thought she had read during her sleep. She was sure she had been writing, drawing, singing and playing on the piano and harp.
She looked around, however, and knew that the room was the same one Bonne-Biche had brought her to and in which she had gone to sleep.
Disturbed, she rose and ran to the mirror. She saw that she had grown much taller and she found herself, a hundred times more beautiful than when she went to sleep the night before. Her fair ringlets fell to her feet, her complexion was like the lily and the rose, her eyes sky blue, her nose beautifully formed, her cheeks rosy as the morning, and her figure was erect and graceful. In short, Blondine thought herself the most beautiful person she had ever seen.
Trembling, almost frightened, she dressed herself hastily and ran to seek Bonne-Biche whom she found in the apartment where she had first seen her.
“Bonne-Biche, Bonne-Biche!” she exclaimed, “I beg you to explain to me the change which I see and feel in myself. Last night I went to sleep a child—I awoke this morning, and found myself a young lady. Is this a dream or have I indeed grown and developed during the night?”
“Yes, my dear Blondine, you are fourteen years old today. But you have slept peacefully for seven years. My son Beau-Minon and I wished to spare you the weariness of all early studies. When you first entered the castle you knew nothing; not even how to read. I put you to sleep for seven years, and Beau-Minon and I have passed this time in instructing you during your sleep. I see by the wonder expressed in your eyes, sweet princess, that you doubt all this. Come into your study and see for yourself.”
Blondine followed Bonne-Biche to the little room. She ran first to the piano, commenced playing and found that she played remarkably well. She then tried the harp and drew from it the most beautiful sounds, and she sang enchantingly.
She took her pencil and brushes and drew and painted with true talent. She wrote and found her handwriting clear and elegant. She looked at the countless books which were ranged round the room and knew that she had read them all.
Surprised, delighted, she threw her arms around the neck of Bonne-Biche, embraced Beau-Minon tenderly and said to them, “Oh! My dear true good friends, what a debt of gratitude I owe you for having watched over my childhood and developed my intellect and my heart. I feel how much I am improved in every respect and I owe it all to you.”
Bonne-Biche returned her hug and Beau-Minon patted her hand delicately. After the first few happy moments had passed, Blondine cast down her eyes and said timidly, “Do not think me ungrateful, my dear good friends, if I wish you to add one more to the benefits you have already given me. Tell me something of my father. Does he still weep my absence? Is he happy since he lost me?”
“Dear Blondine, we understand your concern. Look in this mirror, Blondine, and you shall see the king your father and all that has happened since you left the palace.”
Blondine raised her eyes to the mirror and looked into the palace of her father. The king seemed much bothered and was walking backwards and forwards. He appeared to be expecting some one. The queen, Fourbette, entered and told him that, despite being told not to, by Gourmandinet, Blondine had herself seized the reins and guided the ostriches who becoming frightened dashed off in the direction of the Forest of Lilacs and overturned the carriage. Blondine was thrown over the fence which bordered the forest. She stated that Gourmandinet had become insane from terror and grief and she had sent him home to his parents. The king was in wild despair at this news. He ran to the Forest of Lilacs and he had to be stopped from throwing himself across the boundary in order to search for his beloved Blondine. They carried him to the palace where he fell into the most frightful sorrow and despair, calling unceasingly for his dear Blondine, his beloved child. At last, overcome by grief, he slept and saw in a dream Blondine in the castle of Bonne-Biche and Beau-Minon. Bonne-Biche gave him the sweet assurance that Blondine should one day be returned to him and that her childhood should be calm and happy.
The mirror now became misty and everything disappeared, then again clear as crystal and Blondine saw her father a second time. He had become old, his hair was white as snow and his face was sad. He held in his hand a little portrait of Blondine, his tears fell upon it and he pressed it often to his lips. The king was alone. Blondine saw neither the Queen nor Brunette.
Poor Blondine wept bitterly.
“Alas!” she said, “why is my dear father alone? Where is the queen? Where is Brunette?”
“The queen,” said Bonne-Biche, “showed so little grief at your death, my princess, that your father’s heart was filled with hatred and suspicion towards her and he sent her back to the king Turbulent, her father, who confined her in a tower, where she soon died of rage and anger. All the world supposed you to be dead. As to your sister Brunette, she became so wicked, so horrible, that the king quickly gave her in marriage last year to Prince Violent, who gave himself the duty of reforming the character of the cruel and envious princess Brunette. The prince was stern and harsh. Brunette saw that her wicked heart prevented her from being happy and she commenced trying to correct her faults. You will see her again someday, dear Blondine and your example may complete her reformation.”
Blondine thanked Bonne-Biche tenderly for all these details. Her heart urged her to ask, “But when shall I see my father and sister?” But she feared to appear ungrateful and too anxious to leave the castle of her good friends. She decided then to wait for another more suitable opportunity to ask this question.
The days passed away quietly and pleasantly. Blondine was kept busy, but was sometimes sad. She had no one to talk with but Bonne-Biche and she was only with her during the hours of lessons and meals. Beau-Minon could not talk and could only make himself understood by signs. The gazelles served Blondine with enthusiasm and kindness but they did not have the gift of speech.
Blondine walked every day, always accompanied by Beau-Minon, who pointed out to her the loveliest paths and the rarest and richest flowers.
Bonne-Biche had made Blondine promise solemnly never to leave the enclosure of the park and never to enter the forest. Many times Blondine had asked Bonne-Biche the reason for this. Sighing deeply, she had replied, “Ah, Blondine! Do not attempt to enter the forest. It is a fatal spot. I hope you never enter there.”
Sometimes Blondine climbed to a pavilion which was built on a hillock near the boundary of the forest. She looked admiringly and longingly at the magnificent trees, the lovely and fragrant flowers, the thousand graceful birds flying and singing and seeming to call her name.
“Alas!” she said, “why won’t Bonne-Biche allow me to walk in this beautiful forest? What possible danger can I encounter in that lovely place and under her protection?”
Whenever she was lost in these reflections, Beau-Minon, who seemed to understand what she was thinking, mewed sadly, pulled her robe and tried to draw her away from the pavilion.
Blondine smiled sweetly, followed her gentle companion and recommenced her walk in the solitary park.