NCE upon a time there was a beautiful Princess named Fleurette, who lived in a white marble palace on the top of a high hill. The Princess Fleurette was very fond of flowers, and all around the palace, from the very gates thereof, a fair garden, full of all kinds of wonderful plants, sloped down to the foot of the hill, where it was snugly inclosed with a high marble wall. Thus the hill was like a great nosegay rising up in the midst of the land, sending out sweet odors to perfume the air for miles, bright with color in the sunshine, and musical with the chorus of birds and the hum of millions of bees.
One part of the garden was laid out in walks and avenues, with little vine-clad bowers here and there, where the Princess could sit and read, or lie and dream. There were fountains and statues among the trees, and everything grand and stately to make a garden beautiful. Another part of the garden was left wild and tangled, like a forest. Here all the shyest flowers grew in their own wild way; and here ran a little brook, gurgling over the pebbles in a race to the foot of the hill. There never was seen a more complete and beautiful garden than this of the Princess Fleurette.
Now the fame of the Princess's beauty, like the fragrance of her garden, had been wafted a long way, and many persons came to prove it. A continual procession of princes from lands near and far traveled the long road that wound from the foot of the hill up and up and up to the entrance of the palace. They came upon their noble steeds, with gold and jeweled harness most gorgeous to see, riding curiously up amid the flowers, whose perfume filled their hearts with happiness and hope. The further they rode the more they longed to tarry forever in this fair place. And when each one at last dismounted at the palace gate, and, going into the great hall, saw the Princess herself, more fair than any flower, sitting on her golden throne, he invariably fell upon his knees without delay, and begged her to let him be her very ownest Prince.
But the Princess always smiled mischievously and shook her head, saying,—
"I have no mind to exchange hearts, save with him who can find mine, where it is hidden among my flowers. Guess me my favorite flower, dear Prince, and I am yours."
This she said to every prince in turn. She did not greatly care to have any prince for her very ownest own, for she was happy enough among her flowers without one. But the Prince, whoever he might be, when he heard her strange words, would go out eagerly into the garden and wander, wander long among the flowers, searching to find the sweetest and most beautiful, which must be his lady's favorite. And, of course, he selected his own favorite, whatever that was. It might be that he would choose a great, wonderful rose. At the proper time he would kneel and present it to the Princess, saying confidently,—
"O fair Princess, surely I have found the flower of your heart. See the beautiful rose! Give it then to me to wear always, as your very ownest Prince."
But the Princess, glancing at the rose, would shake her head and say,—
"Nay! I love the roses, too. But my heart is not there, O Prince. You are not to be my lord, or you would have chosen better."
Then she would retire into her chamber, to be no more seen while that Prince remained in the palace. Presently he would depart, riding sorrowfully down the hill on his gorgeous steed, amid the laughing flowers. And the Princess would be left to enjoy her garden in peace until the next prince should arrive.
It might be that this one would guess the glorious nodding poppy to be his lady's choice....