The Adventures Of Florian
: The Firelight Fairy Book
[Illustration: Boy walking through forest following a small ball.]
Once upon a time there lived in an old and ruinous house by the shore of
the wild sea, a widowed nobleman and his only child, a daughter named
Isabella. They were very poor in spite of their high birth, so poor that
one by one the fields and woods of their little domain had been sold in
order to buy the bare necessities of life. Knowing t
at his death would
leave Isabella quite alone in the world and practically penniless, her
father brought her up more like a boy than a girl; she could ride a
horse as gracefully as an Amazon, she could swim like a born mermaid,
and even outdo her father in his favorite sport of fencing. Yet so sweet
was the gentle nature which the girl had inherited from her mother, that
this strange upbringing never spoiled her in the least.
Late one October evening, when the fierce gusts of wind from the sea
shook the old house to its very foundation and set the ragged tapestries
swaying on the walls, Isabella's father died, leaving her only the
ruinous house, a handful of copper pence, and a single golden florin.
The sum of money was enough to keep body and soul together for a few
weeks, but what was Isabella to do when the little pittance was gone?
Her father had once counseled her to go to the King and ask for his
protection; but the King's castle was hundreds of miles distant, and
Isabella shrank from begging or the highway.
At last the brave girl resolved to make her own way in the world. Taking
the golden florin with her, she went to a neighboring town, and
purchased a suit of clothes such as pages and squires wear who are in
the service of noblemen. She then caused her black hair to be cut short,
boy-fashion, put on the boy's clothes she had purchased, and went into
the market-place to see if she could not find a situation in the service
of some great family.
Now, it was the custom in those days for masters and servants to meet by
a fountain in the market-place, the masters who were in need of servants
standing on one side of the fountain, the servants who were in search of
masters on the other.
When Isabella came into the market-place, there was no one standing on
the masters' side of the fountain, but on the other side, ready for the
first master who should appear, was a little group of noisy and impudent
squires and pages. Isabella, or, as she now called herself, Florian,
strode boldly over and joined this group, her heart beating high with
the thrill of the great adventure.
Suddenly a black knight, mounted on a black horse and leading another
horse by the bridle, clattered over the cobble-stones of the square, and
taking his place by the fountain, called on the pages to come to him. In
spite of the horseman's summons, however, the pages paid no attention to
him at all. Curious to know the reason of this disdain, Florian
questioned a fellow page, and was told that the knight was no other than
the Enchanter of the Black Rock, and that no page or squire would take
service with him because his castle was haunted by goblins, ghosts, and
all manner of terrifying spirits.
Now, Florian was no coward, and, as the saying is, beggars cannot be
choosers. So, much to the astonishment of the pages, Florian walked over
to the Enchanter, who sat fuming with anger and impatience, and offered
to go with him. The Knight bade Florian mount the horse which he was
holding; and amid the cat-calls and hooting of the pages, master and boy
All day long they rode, and when it was near the end of the afternoon
Florian found himself at the edge of a wild and desolate moor. Within
the great circle of the horizon, under the pale sky, not a tree, not a
house, not a shepherd's hut even was to be seen--nothing but the great
barren waste rolling, rising and falling to the very edge of the world.
Lower and lower sank the sun; it grew cold, and a blue mist fell.
Twilight came, a green, mysterious twilight.
Suddenly, from a hillock of the moor, Florian beheld afar the enchanted
dwelling. A great sunken marsh lay before him, beginning at the foot of
the little hill and stretching away, league after league, till its
farther shore was hidden in the gathering darkness. The autumn wind
stirred the dead sedges at its brim, and though the dying twilight was
still gleaming in the sky, the great bog had caught little of its glow,
and lay full of coiling blue mists, pale quagmires, and islands of
mysterious darkness. A dreadful moaning cry, uttered by some demon of
the moor, sounded through the mist, chilling the blood in Florian's
veins; and as if in answer to the cry, thousands upon thousands of
will-o'-the-wisps appeared, darting and dancing. In the very heart of this
terrible marsh a great black rock uprose, and on this rock, its turrets
and battlements outlined against the burning face of the moon, stood the
castle. Ghostly lights, now green, now blue, flickered in its windows.
The Enchanter reined up his horse at the brink of the mire, and cried,--
Lend me your light."
Scarcely had the last word fallen from the Enchanter's mouth, when the
dancing witch-fires hurried toward him from all sides of the marsh. Soon
a pale road leading across the bog to the castle stood revealed, an
enchanted road which melted away behind the riders as smoke melts into
the winter air. To the very gates of his castle did the ghost-fires
accompany the Enchanter; then, rising swiftly high into the air, they
fled like startled birds, in every direction.
Doors opened of their own will, strange goblins and ghostly creatures
passed, and bright, whirling globes of fire fled hissing across the
castle courtyard. Just as they were about to enter the castle itself,
the Enchanter turned, and fastened his burning eyes on Florian.
"Boy," said he, "let nothing that you hear or see make you afraid. Be
assured that no power or spirit can harm you. There is only one demon in
the world whose power is greater than mine, and that is Fear himself. Be
brave, keep the doors of your heart locked against Fear; be faithful,
and you shall never have cause to regret your coming."
So Florian, who was by nature brave, felt ashamed of having allowed the
demon Fear to knock at the door of his heart, and resolved never to let
his courage fail, no matter what might happen. And true to this resolve
the lad remained during the years he spent in the service of the
Enchanter. At first, to be sure, he had to struggle to conquer his fear
of some of the goblins; but as time passed and no ghost or goblin ever
ventured to annoy him, he grew accustomed to their presences and ended
by paying no more attention to them than he paid to the great ravens who
flew croaking over the mire. So faithful and courageous was the little
page that, when his year was up, the Enchanter begged him to remain yet
another year, promising him rich rewards if he stayed. When this second
year was up, however, Florian felt a longing to see the world again, and
told the Enchanter that he must be going.
"Very well," said the Enchanter, who respected the courage of the brave
page, "thou shalt do as thou desirest. Thou art a brave and faithful
lad. Here is a purse of gold for thy wages, and here are three gifts to
reward thy courage and good-will." He opened a copper casket and took
forth a little golden bird with outstretched wings hanging from a fine
golden chain, a golden key, and a scarlet sphere marked with a band of
white. "This little bird," continued the Enchanter, "will protect you
from the spells of any sorcerer whose power is less than mine, and will
sing when you fare into hidden danger; this key will open every door in
the world; and should you ever lose your way, you have but to put this
sphere on the ground, and it will roll home of its own accord. Moreover,
if you are ever yourself in deadly peril, call upon me, and I will come
and help you."
So Florian thanked the Enchanter, and taking his gifts, went back into
the world again. But so gentle and kind was he that he soon gave away to
the unfortunate all the gold he had earned, and was forced to go in
search of another situation. At length he entered the service of the
King and Queen of the Twelve Towers.
This royal couple, who were renowned in Fairyland as much for their
goodness and generosity as for their wealth and magnificence, had but
one son, Prince Florizel. No braver or more gallant prince ever drew
breath. He had driven the dragon of the blue cavern out of his father's
kingdom; he had fought three wicked ogres one after the other, and
finished each one; he had delivered the diamond castle of a terrible
spell which lay upon it.
When Florian entered the service of the King and Queen, these excellent
parents were sending their son on a visit to his uncle, the Emperor of
the Plain, and Florian was ordered to join the gay company of lords and
ladies, knights and soldiers, who were to make the journey. According to
the gossip of the company, Prince Florizel was being sent to his uncle's
in the hope that he would fall in love with his uncle's ward, the
beautiful Princess Rosamond.
Now in some way or other, after the company had been a few days on the
road, Prince Florizel, who watched over the company as carefully as a
good captain does over his soldiers, became aware of the bravery,
trustworthiness, and modest bearing of Florian, the little page, and
promoted him to be his own personal squire. Alas! no sooner had he been
advanced, than Florian the little page, though remaining outwardly a
page, became at heart the runaway girl, Isabella. Though she fought as
hard as she could against her own heart, it was of little use, and she
knew herself to be deeply in love with the gallant Florizel. Yet she
suffered no word or sign of her affection to escape her, for Prince
Florizel thought her only a little page, and to speak would be to betray
the secret she had so long and successfully guarded.
One morning, as the cavalcade was riding through a charming country,
Florian, for so we must still continue to call Isabella, was following
close behind his master, when the Prince caught sight of a wonderful
scarlet flower, something like a scarlet lily, blooming by the roadside.
At the same moment, the little golden bird that Florian wore round his
neck sang a few clear notes as if it were alive.
"What a pretty flower!" said the Prince. "I must have it."
And he was about to dismount and pick the flower, when Florian spurred
on ahead of him, grasped the enchanted flower, and tossed it into a
"Fie, what a naughty page!" cried the lords and ladies.
The company rode on a few miles more, and suddenly the Prince caught
sight of a beautiful jeweled dagger lying in the highway. At the same
moment the little golden bird sang a few clear notes of warning.
"What a fine dagger!" cried the Prince, "I must have it."
And he was about to dismount and pick up the dagger, when Florian
spurred on ahead of him, seized the dagger, and tossed it into a ditch.
"Fie, what a naughty page!" cried the lords and ladies.
The company now rode on for a few miles more, and the Prince saw by the
roadside a beautiful enchanted garden. Birds of many colors sang in the
branches of the trees, fountains sparkled and danced in the sunlight,
and the sweetest of music was heard. At the same moment the golden bird
sang louder and longer than ever.
"What a beautiful garden!" cried the Prince. "Let us ride in and look
So Florian hurried to the Prince's side, and implored him not to enter,
saying that the garden was enchanted and that some harm would certainly
At this, all the lords and ladies, who were a little jealous, perhaps,
that a page should know more than they, laughed at poor Florian, and
even Florizel smiled at him and said, "All that is only fancy, little
Florian," and dashed in through the garden gate. For a minute or so
nothing happened, and the first to enter mocked at Florian again; but
when the whole company had entered the garden, there was a clap of
thunder, and everybody except the Prince and Florian, who was protected
by the Enchanter's charm, was turned into stone. The echoes of the
thunder had hardly ceased rolling when two frightful demons with lions'
heads rushed towards them through the garden, seized the Prince, and
hurried him away. Florian was left alone in the garden. Night was fast
Now, the owner of the enchanted garden was a witch, who had a daughter
so frightfully ugly that even her mother's powerful magic could not make
her beautiful. In spite of her ugliness, however, the witch's daughter
considered herself quite beautiful, and was always importuning her
mother to invite to the castle princes whom she considered worthy of her
hand. So the old witch gave wonderful dances and parties, to which all
the eligible young kings and princes of the neighborhood were invited;
but just as soon as the witch's daughter appeared with a horrid smirk on
her ugly face, the young men were sure to make their excuses and ride
At length the old witch, who had just had a severe tongue-lashing from
her daughter for not punishing the Prince of Zagabondiga after that
prince had failed to ask her for a dance, could endure her daughter's
scolding no longer, and resolved to catch the first prince who came past
her garden, and force him, willy nilly, to accept her ugly daughter.
Into her trap poor Florizel had walked, and the witch, hoping to bend
him to her will by terrifying him, had thrown him into a deep dungeon.
The ugly daughter had immediately peeked through the key-hole of the
prison, and fallen in love with Florizel at first sight.
The witch was just considering what to do next, when her lion-headed
servitors informed her that one of the company had resisted her
enchantment, and was wandering about the garden. So the witch put on her
cloak of invisibility, and going down to the garden, found poor Florian
wandering disconsolately under the trees. She saw at once that it was
the little golden bird which had protected him from her magic; and being
afraid of the charm and yet unable to work the poor lad any harm while
the bird was in his possession, she decided to rid herself of Florian by
transporting her castle, gardens and all, over to the other side of the
world. So she uttered a spell, and everything disappeared.
When Florian woke the next morning, and found that the castle was gone,
his heart sank. Nevertheless, he did not despair, but taking from his
pocket the little scarlet ball which his master the Enchanter had given
him, he put it on the ground, and bade it guide him back to the
The little ball immediately began rolling ahead at Florian's own pace;
at night it glowed with a scarlet fire. Day after day, month after
month, the scarlet ball rolled on; it led Florian over hill and down
dale, through the land of the men who have only one eye, through the
country of the dwarfs, and the valley of the talking trees, never
stopping till it reached the gate of the witch's garden.
A year, meanwhile, had gone by, and during that year the witch had done
everything she could to induce Prince Florizel to accept her ugly
daughter. First she had tried frightening him, then she had tried to win
him by giving splendid fetes, then she had tried terrifying him again;
but as the Prince was neither to be terrified nor cajoled, she came to
her wits' end. Finally she told the Prince that, if he were not willing
to accept her daughter in marriage on the very next day, she would turn
him into a hare and set her dogs upon him. The Prince made no answer to
her terrible threat, and the witch went ahead and made preparation for
the grandest of weddings. On that night, Florian arrived at the garden.
When it was very late, and the moon, which was a quarter full, had
disappeared behind a bank of clouds, Florian crept unobserved to the
door of Florizel's prison; for the witch had locked him up so securely
that she had not taken the trouble to find a watchman. Alas! the poor
Prince lay at the top of a high tower, and twenty different doors, each
one opened by a different key, stood between him and the ground.
But Florian was not to be daunted, and drawing from his bosom the key
which the Enchanter had given him, he opened one door after the other
till he arrived in the cell occupied by the Prince.
The poor Prince lay chained on a bed of straw, trying to read a book by
the light of a single candle. He was very unhappy, for he had resolved
to let himself be torn in pieces rather than marry the ugly witch
maiden. You may be sure he was glad to see Florian.
"Dear Florian," said the unhappy Prince, "if I had only obeyed your
counsel, all would have been well." And he begged Florian to tell him
where he had been all the long year.
So Florian told the Prince of his adventures.
Now, the chains which the Prince wore were riveted cruelly upon him, and
since there was no lock to them, the magic key was of no avail. At
length, however, Florizel managed to work them off; but in doing so, he
injured his foot, and found to his dismay that he could only limp along.
Little by little the freshened air and the stir of leaves began to
foretell the coming of the dawn. Finally, just as the dawn-star began to
pale, Florizel and Florian hurried out of the prison through the twenty
doors, and fled to the highroad.
But they had traveled only a few miles, when the wicked witch discovered
Florizel's flight, and, dreadfully enraged, commanded that her dragon
car be got ready in order that she might go in pursuit of him. So the
car was brought forth, and into it the witch leaped, and mounted into
the sky. Hearing the hissing and roaring of the dragons in the air,
Florian and Florizel tried to hide under some trees; but the witch
instantly saw them, and pronounced a spell to turn them into hares. But
though the hate of the witch was quick, the woman's heart of Isabella
was quicker, and sacrificing herself for the man she loved, she threw
the chain and the golden bird over the Prince's head. An instant later
she had turned into a little gray hare crouching at Florizel's feet. At
the same moment, the cruel witch, who had arrived at her castle, let
loose her pack of fierce hunting dogs, who soon took up the trail of the
hare and came bounding toward her in full cry.
The poor Prince picked up the hare and hobbled forward as fast as he
could go, forgetting the dreadful pain it caused him; but the dogs were
running a hundred times faster than he. Nearer and nearer came the pack,
their red tongues lolling from their black throats. By good fortune,
just as the leader of the pack was not more than fifty feet away,
Isabella had wit enough to remember the promise which the Enchanter had
made her, and called upon him. Immediately a strong glass wall, as high
as a castle tower, shot up from the ground behind Isabella and the
Prince; and the pack, hurrying forward, found themselves baulked of
their prey. Snarling and yelling, they threw themselves against the
magic wall; but in vain.
In another instant, the Enchanter himself stood before them, and
touching the hare with his wand, restored Isabella to her human form.
She still wore the garments of Florian, however, and the Prince still
thought her a boy.
Suddenly a shadow fell on the ground near them, and looking up, all
beheld the wicked witch and her ugly daughter, who had ridden out in the
dragon car to enjoy Florizel's cruel death. The Enchanter immediately
caused the dragon car to vanish, and the witch and her daughter fell
tumbling through the air into a pond, and were changed into ugly little
fishes. Then the Enchanter carried Florizel and Florian back to the
witch's castle, where they found the tables spread and the dinner being
prepared which was to celebrate the wedding of Florizel and the witch's
daughter. Last of all, he released Florizel's company from the witch's
Now, one of the ladies, when she heard how the witch had tried to match
Florizel with her daughter, and saw the preparations for the wedding,
told the Prince that it was a pity that the Princess Rosamond were not
at hand, so that there might be a wedding after all.
"A wedding? No," said Florizel, "not till I have found a wife who shall
have proved herself as faithful and true as little Florian."
"She is already here," said the Enchanter. And he touched Florian with
Immediately there was a flash of flame, and out of it, Florian no
longer, but her own self, appeared Isabella. Her hair had grown long
again, and the Enchanter had clad her in the most magnificent of gowns.
Never was there a lovelier girl to be seen on earth. You may be sure
that the Prince stepped forward, took her by the hand, and claimed her
for his bride.
Soon the parents of Florizel, who had been summoned by the Enchanter,
arrived, and there was a wedding after all. When the merrymaking was
over, the Enchanter went back to his castle on the Black Rock, while
Florizel and Isabella returned to their own country, and lived there
happily to a good old age.