There were a prince and a princess sitting by a stream in a wooded valley. Their seven servants had set up a scarlet canopy beneath a tree, and the royal young couple ate a box lunch to the accompaniment of lutes and theorbos. They hardly spoke a word to one another until they had finished the meal, and then the princess sighed and said, “Well, I suppose I’d best get the silly business over with.” The prince began to read a magazine.
“You might at least –” said the princess, but the prince kept on reading. The princess made a sign to two of the servants, who began to play an older music on their lutes. Then she took a few steps on the grass, held up a bridle bright as butter, and called, “Here, unicorn, here! Here, my pretty, here to me! Comecomecomecomecome!”
The prince snickered. “It’s not your chickens you’re calling, you know,” he remarked without looking up. “Why don’t you sing something, instead of clucking like that?”
“Well, I’m doing the best I can,” the princess cried. “I’ve never called one of these things before.” But after a little silence, she began to sing.
I am a king’s daughter,
And if I cared to care,
The moon that has no mistress
Would flutter in my hair.
No one dares to cherish
What I choose to crave.
Never have I hungered,
That I did not have.
I am a king’s daughter,
And I grow old within
The prison of my person,
The shackles of my skin.
And I would run away
And beg from door to door,
Just to see your shadow
Once, and never more.
So she sang, and sang again, and then she called, “Nice unicorn, pretty, pretty, pretty,” for a little longer, and then she said angrily, “Well, I’ve done as much as I’ll do. I’m going home.”
The prince yawned and folded his magazine. “You satisfied custom well enough,” he told her, “and no one expected more than that. It was just a formality. Now we can be married.”
“Yes,” the princess said, “now we can be married.” The servants began to pack everything away again, while the two with the lutes played joyous wedding music. The princess’s voice was a little sad and defiant as she said, “If there really were such things as unicorns, one would have come to me. I called as sweetly as anyone could, and I had the golden bridle. And of course I am pure and untouched.”
“For all of me, you are,” the prince answered indifferently. “As I say, you satisfy custom. You don’t satisfy my father, but then neither do I. That would take a unicorn.” He was tall, and his face was as soft and pleasant as a marshmallow.
When they and their retinue were gone, the unicorn came out of the wood, followed by Molly and the magician, and took up her journey again. A long time later, wandering in another country where there were no streams and nothing green, Molly asked her why she had not gone to the princess’s song. Schmendrick drew near to listen to the answer, though he stayed on his side of the unicorn. He never walked on Molly’s side.
The unicorn said, “That king’s daughter would never have run away to see my shadow. If I had shown myself, and she had known me, she would have been more frightened than if she had seen a dragon, for no one makes promises to a dragon. I remember that once it never mattered to me whether or not princesses meant what they sang. I went to them all and laid my head in their laps, and a few of them rode on my back, though most were afraid. But I have no time for them now, princesses or kitchenmaids. I have no time.”
A matter of formality: lilac musk, sandalwood, sweet pea, watermelon accord, pale woods, elemi, and oakmoss.