Two years passed. One day Ourson had been cutting wood in the forest. Violette was to bring him his dinner and return with him in the evening. At midday Passerose hung on Violette's arm a basket containing wine, bread, a little pot of butter, some ham and some cherries. Violette set off eagerly. The morning had appeared to her very long and she was impatient to be again with Ourson. To shorten the way she went through the forest which was composed of large trees under which she could easily walk. There were neither briars nor thorns in her way and a soft, thick moss covered the earth.
Violette stepped lightly for she was happy to have found a shorter path to her dear Ourson. When she had passed over about half the distance she heard the noise of a heavy and precipitate step but too far off for her to imagine what it could be. After some moments of expectation she saw an enormous wild boar coming towards her. He seemed greatly enraged, ploughed the ground with his tusks and rubbed the bark from the trees as he passed along. His heavy snorting and breathing were as distinctly heard as his step. Violette did not know where to fly or to hide herself. While she was hesitating the wild boar came in sight, saw her, and paused. His eyes were flaming, his whole body bristling, his tusks clashing together. He uttered a ferocious grunt, and sprang towards Violette. Happily she was near a tree whose branches were within her reach. She seized one, sprang up with it, and climbed from branch to branch, until she knew she was beyond his reach. Scarcely was she in safety when the savage animal precipitated himself with all his weight against the tree in which she had taken refuge. Furious at this obstacle, he commenced tearing the bark from the tree and gave it such furious blows with his snout that Violette was terribly frightened. The concussion caused by these violent and repeated blows might at last cause the fall of the tree. She clung tightly and trembling to the tree. The wild boar at last weary of his useless attacks laid himself down at the foot of the tree casting from time to time a menacing look at Violette.
Many hours passed in this painful situation, Violette trembling but holding on steadily and the wild boar, sometimes calm, sometimes in a terrible rage, springing against the tree and tearing it with his tusks.
Violette called on her brother, her dear Ourson, for help. At every new attempt of the wild boar she renewed her cries for aid but alas! Ourson was too far off and he could not hear. No one came to her aid.
Discouragement and despair gained upon her; she began to feel hunger. She had thrown away the basket of provisions when she sprang up the tree, the wild boar had trampled upon it, crushed it and eaten up everything it contained.
Whilst Violette was a prey to these terrors and vainly calling for help Ourson was amazed at not seeing her come with the dinner.
"Can they have forgotten me?" he said to himself. "No, neither my mother nor Violette could have forgotten me. I could not have explained myself well. Without doubt they expected me back to dinner; they are looking for me now and are perhaps uneasy."
At this thought Ourson abandoned his work and commenced walking precipitately towards the house. He also wished to shorten the way and determined to cross the forest. Soon he thought he heard plaintive cries of distress. He paused—he listened, his heart beat violently as he believed he recognized the voice of Violette. But, no—he heard nothing now. He was about to resume his march when he heard a more distinct and piercing cry.
Now he knew that it must be Violette, his Violette, who was in danger and calling upon Ourson for help. He ran in the direction from which the noise seemed to come. Approaching, he heard not only calls for help but roars and growls accompanied by ferocious cries and violent blows. Poor Ourson ran on with the speed of despair. At last he perceived the wild boar shaking with his snout the tree upon which Violette was still crouched in safety though pale and overcome.
This sight gave him new strength. He invoked the protection of the good fairy Drolette and rushed upon the wild boar with his axe in his hand. The wild boar in his rage bellowed furiously. He gnashed his formidable tusks one against the other and sprang towards Ourson, who dodged the attack and jumped to one side. The boar passed beyond him, paused a moment, then turned more furious than ever against Ourson who had now taken breath and with his axe raised in his hand awaited his enemy.
The wild boar sprung on Ourson and received on his head a most violent blow but his bones were so hard he scarcely seemed to feel it. The violence of the attack overthrew Ourson. The wild boar, seeing his enemy on the ground, did not give him time to rise but sprang upon him and with his tusks endeavored to tear him to pieces.
Ourson now thought himself lost, indeed he thought no more of himself, he prayed only for Violette's safety.
Whilst the wild boar was thus trampling and kicking his enemy, a jeering song was heard just above the combatants. The wild boar shuddered, suddenly quitted Ourson, raised his head and saw a lark flying above them. The mocking song continued and the brute, uttering a cry of rage, lowered his head and withdrew slowly without once turning round.
Violette at sight of Ourson's danger had fainted away but had rested supported by the branches of the tree. Ourson, who thought himself torn to pieces, scarcely dared attempt to move but feeling no pain he rose promptly to assist Violette. His heart was full of gratitude to the fairy Drolette to whom he attributed his rescue. At this moment the lark flew towards him, pecked his cheeks and whispered in his ear:
"Ourson, it was the fairy Furious who sent this wild boar. I arrived in time to save you. Profit by the gratitude of Violette and change skins with her. She will consent joyfully."
"Never!" cried Ourson. "I would rather be a bear all my life—rather die. Poor Violette! I should indeed be base if I abused her tenderness towards me in this way."
"Good-bye, obstinate one!" said the lark, flying away singing, "till we meet again. I shall come again—and then——"
"The result will be the same," said Ourson.
He then climbed the tree, took Violette in his arms, and descended. He laid her upon the soft green moss and bathed her forehead with a little wine he found in a broken bottle.
In a few moments Violette was restored to consciousness. She could scarcely believe her senses when she saw Ourson, living and unwounded, kneeling by her side and bathing her forehead and temples.
"Ourson! dear Ourson! again you have saved my life. Tell me, oh! tell me, what can I do to prove my gratitude?"
"Do not speak of gratitude, my cherished Violette. Do I not owe all my happiness to you? In saving your life I save my own and all I value."
"All that you say, dear brother, is sweet and tender but I desire no less to render you some real and signal service, which will show all the gratitude and all the love with which my heart is filled."
"Good! good! we shall see," said Ourson, laughing. "In the mean time let us think of preserving our lives. You have eaten nothing since morning, poor Violette, for I see on the ground the remnants of the provisions you brought, as I suppose, for our dinner. It is late and the day is declining so we must hurry to return to the farm before dark."
Violette now tried to rise but her terror and her long fast had weakened her so much that she fell to the ground.
"I cannot stand, Ourson, I am too weak. What will become of us?"
Ourson was greatly embarrassed. Violette was no longer a child and had grown so large that he could not carry her so far, neither could he leave her exposed to the attacks of the ferocious beasts of the forest and he feared she could not do without food till the morning. In this perplexity he saw a packet fall at his feet. He raised it, opened it and found a pie, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. Ourson knew that this bounty was from the hand of the fairy Drolette and with a heart full of gratitude he put the bottle to Violette's lips. One mouthful of this good wine which was indeed unequalled restored a portion of Violette's strength. The pie and the bread completely restored her as well as Ourson who did full honor to the repast. While eating and drinking they conversed of their past terrors and present happiness.
Now, however, it was night and neither Violette nor Ourson knew which way to turn their steps in order to reach the farm. They were in the midst of a wood. Violette was reclining against the tree which had been her refuge from the wild boar. They dared not quit this spot lest in the obscurity they might not find as comfortable a one.
"Well, dear Violette, do not be alarmed. It is warm, the weather is beautiful and you are reclining upon a bed of soft green moss. Let us pass the night where we are. I will cover you with my coat and I will lie at your feet to protect you from all danger and alarm. Mamma and Passerose will not be very anxious for they are ignorant of the dangers we have encountered and you know that we have often on a lovely evening like this reached home after they had retired."
Violette consented willingly to pass the night in the forest. In the first place, they could not do otherwise; secondly, she was never afraid with Ourson and always thought that what he decided to do was right.
Ourson now arranged Violette's bed of moss in the best possible manner, took off his coat and in spite of her resistance spread it over her. Then, after having seen Violette's eyes close and sleep take possession of all her senses he lay at her feet and soon slept most profoundly.
Violette was the first awake in the morning. She walked around the tree which had sheltered them during the night. Ourson awaked and not seeing Violette he sprang up in an instant and called her name in a voice choking with terror.
"I am here! I am here, dear brother!" she replied, running towards him; "I am seeking the path to the farm. But what is the matter? you tremble!"
"I thought you had been carried away by some wicked fairy, dear Violette, and I reproached myself for having fallen asleep. Let us go now quickly in order to reach home before mamma and Passerose are awake."
Ourson knew the forest well. He soon found the path to the farm and they arrived some moments before Agnella and Passerose awoke. They agreed to conceal from Agnella the dangers to which they had been exposed, to spare her anguish and disquietude for the future. Passerose alone was made the confidant of their dangerous adventures.
Notes: The book contains 5 long French folktales. Each story has several chapters.
Author: Comtesse de Ségur
Publisher: The Penn Publishing Company, Philadelphia