The first Belles-de-nuit were three young girls, the nieces of King Grallon, whose heiress Ahès committed enough crimes to attract on the city of Is the divine anger which annihilated it like Sodom and Gomorrah.
The three nieces of the king were pure as much as the princess Ahes was guilty and, as it often happens, their holiness passed for a crime in the eyes of the favorites of Ahes.
Good King Grallon was too weak to defend his nieces against his daughter. Apart from his weakness, he was a very worthy king.
You have to tell you that the city of Is, which perhaps you have never heard of, was, in the time of King Grallon, Saint Guénolé and Saint Corentin, the first city in the world. It is from her that Paris took its name. Paris being indeed the most beautiful capital after the city of Is, was called Par-Is, that is to say: similar to the city of Is.
The fact is absolutely certain, although most historians have failed to mention it.
The city of Is was built by the sea and occupied an immense area. Its steeples were so numerous that one did not know the count, its palaces dazzled the eye with their multitude as well as with their magnificence.
In one of these palaces, which was devoted to the fine arts, a thousand young people were brought up at the expense of the State and received lessons from a hundred professors, all men of genius. The French came to see the city of Is as the Bas-Bretons now encumber Paris; the town of Is laughed at their accent and their manners.
At chariot races, concerts and walks, when one encountered a clumsy clumsy in his ways and naively baying at the wonders of the splendid capital, everyone said to himself: It is surely a clumsy from Paris!
Above all these miracles of grandeur, the city of Is had an ornament which will always be lacking in Paris: it had the sea, the vast sea, the love of God and of men, the mirror where the sky contemplates in turn. the azure star of its firmament and the gold of its radiant sun.
The world wants its metropolis to have its feet in the sea, which is wealth and power. Also, some day, the sea will come to Paris, or Paris will go to the sea.
The city of Is was within reach, it had the sea. From the windows of its palaces, she could see this bed of purple and gold where the evening sun lulls its dazzling fatigue. A forest of masts, longer and wider than the forest of Broceliande, swung around its quays the pavilions of all the countries of the universe. It was London, the gloomy, gloomy city, but above all opulent, which received this portion of King Grallon's inheritance.
Thus, each of the two races has had its share according to its genius; to the French the glory of the arts, to the English the wealth which arises from navigation and traffic.
Too much prosperity brings evil. The saints who then abounded in the convents and hermitages of Brittany met once, and the city of Is saw with astonishment this army of the soldiers of Christ who bore no arms; she saw those long white beards, those humiliated foreheads crowned with halos.
It is said that the saints had come to tell King Grallon the fall of Babylon.
King Grallon was afraid. He would have liked to drive corruption out of his city, but corruption was called Ahès and King Grallon had all the tenderness of fathers.
Who, moreover, ever listened to the saints?
The city of Is was defended against the sea by a marble rampart which had twelve gates, so that the tide could flood its basins. The king kept the keys to the twelve doors under the pillow of his bed, for a treacherous or reckless hand could use them to introduce death.
One morning the princess Ahès came to the king's rising; she offered her kisses to her forehead, where the curls of her black hair were played, bathed in exquisite anointings; she called her smile to her lips, which was intoxicating like a fiery drink, and said:
- Lord, the three princesses, your nieces, Ysol, Ellé and Milla, have insulted your daughter.
- And how, beloved, asked the king, the three holy recluses could they insult the queen of my heart?
Ahès could not answer that it was their very holiness which blamed his disturbances. She called out tears for her help. When Grallon saw her cry, he gave her his nieces Ellé, Ysol and Milla.
He would have given her his soul.
Ahès regained her smile to thank her father, but before leaving she stole the keys to the locks that were under the pillow.
There was an oriental vessel at anchor, mounted by a powerful prince who had promised Princess Ahes the three most beautiful diamonds in Golconda if she wanted to bring it into the city. She loved diamonds; the evil cost nothing to his lost soul. It was to introduce the foreign prince that she had stolen the keys from her father's bedside.
A great feast was prepared in his palace to celebrate the Prince of the East. For dessert, Ahès counted on calling his three cousins and delivering them as slaves to the Orientals, so that they could be taken to the unfaithful countries.
However, that same morning, a tonsured walked through the streets of the city, mounted on a gray donkey marked with a white cross.
The tonsurer did not speak to people, but sang with a loud and deep voice, all along his way, the Latin verses of the Dies irae.
He blessed as he passed the churches, all the windows of which opened to his voice the high frames of their ribs to give passage to the statues of the saints and to the figures of the pictures of piety which soared towards the sky.
It was an extraordinary thing that had never been seen before. The people of the city of Is wondered: What does this mean? What does that mean ?
But neither of them knew how to answer.
Princess Ahes, informed of the fact, gave the order to seize the tonsured and his donkey.
She said, laughing, for she had a cheerful character:
- Since the stone saints are giving way to us, we will take the churches to put our horses.
Others have said it and even have done it since then, for man without God descends below the bullies on all fours.
The tonsured was thrown off his mount. However, he reached the king's palace and called three times:
- Grallon! Grallon! Grallon!
Then he added:
- Renowned Grallon, you are losing your city, save your soul!
He stopped in front of the prison where the three young sisters Milla, Ellé and Ysol were. He made the sign of the cross on the door, saying:
- Soul of the earth, soul of the sea, soul of the air!
And at the moment when the guards of the princess Ahès rushed forward to seize him, he vanished like a vapor and pronounced the name of Saint Guénolé.
The donkey escaped those who had stolen it, and took refuge in the palace of King Grallon.
Here comes the night. In the midst of darkness, the palace of Princess Ahès began to shine like a great crystal chandelier. The feast began and the Prince of the Orient himself placed the three diamonds, the size of eggs and throwing fire in a thousand facets, in the black hair of the beautiful Ahes.
Outside there was a storm. The sea cried out and the tormented ships, on their anchors, groaned. Ahès heard the storm. She raised the cup and, defying the ocean, she cried:
- To your health, storm!
The dike was high, thick, solid as a mountain. One could rejoice in the city of Is, in spite of the threats of the sea. The rampart had proved its worth against the strongest storms and the highest tides.
However, the good King Grallon had gone to bed at nine o'clock, as was his custom, for he was of orderly life. At midnight he was awakened by a voice telling him:
- Get up, famous Grallon!
He looked around, rubbing his eyes, and saw the donkey staring at him with its eyes of fire. The sea howled so high that he thought the English were in the city.
- Who spoke? he asked. Donkey, is that you?
It was the donkey, for the donkey answered:
- You lose your city, save your soul.
King Grallon was not yet wide awake. He straddled the donkey's back, just in case, and the donkey descended the stairs four by four. When we were in the street, the king said:
- If there is any danger, let's go tell my daughter Ahès.
- Save your soul, replied his mount.
The king saw clearly that the donkey had prejudices against the princess Ahes. To appease her he spoke of the three saints.
- Come on, he went on, look for my three nieces, Ysol, Ellé and Milla.
- Save your soul!
The good King Grallon might well tighten the bridle, the donkey went faster than the wind; he was going east, where the mountains are. Impossible to stop it.
Behind him the king heard a strange noise which no longer resembled the distant crash of the storm.
- What is this? he asked again.
The donkey answered him for the fourth time:
- Save your soul.
It was already a lot for a donkey. Few men spoke so well.
- Hello ! cried Ahès at this moment in his palace, that my three dear cousins, Ellé, Ysol and Milla are brought to me!
The wine of France had set his cheeks on fire. The Prince of the Orient paid him compliments from Golconda, sparkling like his diamonds.
They brought the three little saints: three angels of God! Their soft blue eyes fixed on Ahes, and all three at the same time murmured:
- Repent, king's daughter!
Ahès burst out laughing. At that moment, the strange noise that Grallon had heard entered the feast room, and the princess also asked:
- What is this?
- It is the wrath of the Lord, replied the three virgins.
"It is the ocean which is also a feast," said the Prince of the Orient, whose eyes laughed a terrible laugh.
- So much the better ! cried the princess; if the ocean comes, we will drink it!
The princesses of that time should not be judged by the beautiful Ahes. It is because of her that some young ladies today are still called "princesses", by which we mean that they drank all the shame and threw their headdresses over all the mills.
The fact is that the other princesses are not in the habit of behaving like that Ahès who supped too well, and that evening she had supped even better than the other evenings.
In her cheerfulness, she ordered her officers to padlock the three saints in the dungeon. Ysol, Ellé and Milla, hearing this order, joined their children's hands and asked God for the forgiveness of their persecutor.
But the Ocean had heard the insane challenge of Princess Ahès. A voice heartbreaking like the cry of thunderstorms and which came from no one knew where, pronounced these words:
- King's daughter, drink me!
And a huge wave came in through the broken windows.
There was a single cry in the banquet hall, made up of a thousand blasphemies. Above this cry, the voice of the three virgins arose, which said:
- Hosannah! in the highest of heavens!
The Prince of the Orient had seized Ahes in his gnarled arms. His eyes shone like two coals. Smoke was coming out of his mouth.
The sea rose in the room as on a beach. The sea, as it rose, could not drown his eyes. It takes something other than the water of the sea to extinguish the apple of the devil.
But where did the sea come from? Had she broken the dike, strong and high as a mountain?
The sea came through the doors that Ahes herself had opened for it with the keys stolen from King Grallon's bedside. The princess had found the diamonds so beautiful that she had forgotten to close the lock through which, at low tide, she had introduced the Prince of the East.
And the ocean had entered at high tide, and the princess Ahès, as she had said out of bravado, drank the ocean.
All the guests were under the water which was already stifling their last rattle. The three virgins floated above the waves and praised God.
However, when the good King Grallon, mounted on his donkey, was at the top of the mountain, he turned to look at his capital city, the most beautiful, the greatest, the noblest of cities lit by the sun. He saw nothing more, good King Grallon: no towers, no bell towers, no terraces, no golden domes, no ramparts jagged like festoons. Instead, it was the sea, calm and silent; for the storm had suddenly subsided, and the ocean unfolded an immense shroud over the dead city.
There was nothing left, nothing, do you hear, Georgette, dear girl? nothing, except three white shapes floating.
King Grallon knelt down and slapped his chest. The donkey had disappeared: but when King Grallon rose to his feet, he found Saint Guénolé near him, with the halo around his bald forehead and the long gray beard which fell on his chest.
They both approached the shore, to see those white objects floating over the disaster.
It was a star from the sky, a flower from the earth and a vapor of water.
The little star, which appears in the morning, and which the diligent perceive as a sign of hope; the candid flower, which wreaths our hedges, hanging its silver bells on the greenery of the wild plum trees, the virgin's bell; the vapor, finally, the dear little cloud which rises from the damp tomb, barely closed, and shows us once again, vaguely, as in a dream, the earthly form of the angel who has ascended to heaven.
Les Belles-de-nuit, the three Belle-de-nuit: the star, the flower, the wandering spirit; the soul of the water, the soul of the earth, the soul of the air; Ysol, Ellé, Milla.