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Title: Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen
Author: Chodzko, Alexander, 1804-1891
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



SLAV TALES

[Illustration]

[Illustration: _From "The Plentiful Tablecloth," p. 351._]



Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen

From the French of Alex. Chodsko

Translated and Illustrated by Emily J. Harding


London: George Allen
156 Charing Cross Road

1896


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press



NOTE BY THE PUBLISHER


Very few of the twenty fairy tales included in this volume have been
presented before in an English dress; this will doubtless enhance
their value in the eyes of the young folk, for whom, principally, they
are intended. It is hoped that older readers will find some additional
interest in tracing throughout the many evidences of kinship between
these stories and those of more pronounced Eastern origin.

The translation has been carefully revised by a well-known writer, who
has interfered as little as possible with the original text, except in
those instances where slight alterations were necessary.

The illustrations speak for themselves, and are what might have been
expected from the artist who designed those for the "Lullabies of Many
Lands," issued last Christmas.

_November 1895._



CONTENTS


  THE ABODE OF THE GODS--
      I. THE TWO BROTHERS
     II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
    III. THE TWELVE MONTHS

  THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE

  KOVLAD--
      I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM
     II. THE LOST CHILD

  THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD

  THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON

  THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD

  THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING,
        AND THE SMITING CLUB

  THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME

  THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT

  THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES

  THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND

  IMPERISHABLE

  OHNIVAK

  TEARS OF PEARLS

  THE SLUGGARD

  KINKACH MARTINKO

  THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND,
        THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  FRONTISPIECE

  THE ABODE OF THE GODS--
      I. THE TWO BROTHERS.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
     II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
    III. THE TWELVE MONTHS.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_

  THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  KOVLAD--
      I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
     II. THE LOST CHILD.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_

  THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING,
        AND THE SMITING CLUB.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_

  THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_
  IMPERISHABLE.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_
          _Half-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  OHNIVAK.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  TEARS OF PEARLS.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_
          _Full-page design_

  THE SLUGGARD.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_

  KINKACH MARTINKO.
          _Heading_
          _Full-page design_

  THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND,
        THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET.
          _Heading_
          _Half-page design_



THE ABODE OF THE GODS

    I. THE TWO BROTHERS
   II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
  III. THE TWELVE MONTHS



[Illustration: The Two Brothers]

Once upon a time there were two brothers whose father had left them
but a small fortune. The eldest grew very rich, but at the same time
cruel and wicked, whereas there was nowhere a more honest or kinder
man than the younger. But he remained poor, and had many children, so
that at times they could scarcely get bread to eat. At last, one day
there was not even this in the house, so he went to his rich brother
and asked him for a loaf of bread. Waste of time! His rich brother
only called him beggar and vagabond, and slammed the door in his face.

The poor fellow, after this brutal reception, did not know which way
to turn. Hungry, scantily clad, shivering with cold, his legs could
scarcely carry him along. He had not the heart to go home, with
nothing for the children, so he went towards the mountain forest. But
all he found there were some wild pears that had fallen to the ground.
He had to content himself with eating these, though they set his teeth
on edge. But what was he to do to warm himself, for the east wind with
its chill blast pierced him through and through. "Where shall I go?"
he said; "what will become of us in the cottage? There is neither food
nor fire, and my brother has driven me from his door." It was just
then he remembered having heard that the top of the mountain in front
of him was made of crystal, and had a fire for ever burning upon it.
"I will try and find it," he said, "and then I may be able to warm
myself a little." So he went on climbing higher and higher till he
reached the top, when he was startled to see twelve strange beings
sitting round a huge fire. He stopped for a moment, but then said to
himself, "What have I to lose? Why should I fear? God is with me.
Courage!"

So he advanced towards the fire, and bowing respectfully, said: "Good
people, take pity on my distress. I am very poor, no one cares for me,
I have not even a fire in my cottage; will you let me warm myself at
yours?" They all looked kindly at him, and one of them said: "My son,
come sit down with us and warm yourself."

[Illustration]

So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near them. But he dared
not speak while they were silent. What astonished him most was that
they changed seats one after another, and in such a way that each one
passed round the fire and came back to his own place. When he drew
near the fire an old man with long white beard and bald head arose
from the flames and spoke to him thus:

"Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage, work, and live
honestly. Take as many embers as thou wilt, we have more than we
need."

And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve filled a large
sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor man's shoulders, advised
him to hasten home.

Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he wondered why the
embers did not feel hot, and why they should weigh no more than a sack
of paper. He was thankful that he should be able to have a fire, but
imagine his astonishment when on arriving home he found the sack to
contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers; he almost went
out of his mind with joy at the possession of so much money. With all
his heart he thanked those who had been so ready to help him in his
need.

He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for his family.
Being curious to find out how many gold pieces there were, and not
knowing how to count, he sent his wife to his rich brother for the
loan of a quart measure.

This time the brother was in a better temper, so he lent what was
asked of him, but said mockingly, "What can such beggars as you have
to measure?"

The wife replied, "Our neighbour owes us some wheat; we want to be
sure he returns us the right quantity."

The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something he, unknown to
his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the measure. The trick
succeeded, for on getting it back he found a piece of gold sticking to
it. Filled with astonishment, he could only suppose his brother had
joined a band of robbers: so he hurried to his brother's cottage, and
threatened to bring him before the Justice of the Peace if he did not
confess where the gold came from. The poor man was troubled, and,
dreading to offend his brother, told the story of his journey to the
Crystal Mountain.

Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself, yet he was
envious of the brother's good fortune, and became greatly displeased
when he found that his brother won every one's esteem by the good use
he made of his wealth. At last he determined to visit the Crystal
Mountain himself.

"I may meet with as good luck as my brother," said he to himself.

Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve seated round
the fire as before, and thus addressed them:

"I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for it is bitterly
cold, and I am poor and homeless."

But one of them replied, "My son, the hour of thy birth was
favourable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked, for thou hast
dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy punishment."

Amazed and terrified he stood silent, not daring to speak. Meanwhile
the twelve changed places one after another, each at last returning to
his own seat. Then from the midst of the flames arose the
white-bearded old man and spoke thus sternly to the rich man:

"Woe unto the wilful! Thy brother is virtuous, therefore have I
blessed him. As for thee, thou art wicked, and so shalt not escape our
vengeance."

At these words the twelve arose. The first seized the unfortunate man,
struck him, and passed him on to the second; the second also struck
him and passed him on to the third; and so did they all in their turn,
until he was given up to the old man, who disappeared with him into
the fire.

Days, weeks, months went by, but the rich man never returned, and none
knew what had become of him. I think, between you and me, the younger
brother had his suspicions but he very wisely kept them to himself.



[Illustration]

II

TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS


There was once a married pair who loved each other tenderly. The
husband would not have given up his wife for all the riches in the
world, while her first thought was how best to please him. So they
were very happy, and lived like two grains in one ear of corn.

One day while working in the fields, a great longing came over him to
see her: so without waiting for the hour of sunset he ran home. Alas!
she was not there. He looked high and low, he ran here, there, and
everywhere, he wept, he called to her; in vain! his dear wife was not
to be found.

So heartbroken was he that he no longer cared to live. He could think
of nothing but the loss of his dear wife and how to find her again. At
last he determined to travel all over the world in search of her. So
he began to walk straight on, trusting God to direct his steps. Sad
and thoughtful, he wandered for many days, until he reached a cottage
close by the shores of a large lake. Here he stopped, hoping to find
out news. On entering the cottage he was met by a woman, who tried to
prevent him entering.

"What do you want here, unlucky wretch?" said she. "If my husband sees
you, he will kill you instantly."

"Who is your husband then?" asked the traveller.

"What! you do not know him? My husband is the Water-King; everything
under water obeys him. Depart quickly, for if he finds you here he
will certainly devour you."

"Perhaps after all he would take pity on me. But hide me somewhere,
for I am worn and weary, and without shelter for the night."

So the Water-Queen was persuaded, and hid him behind the stove. Almost
immediately after the Water-King entered. He had barely crossed the
threshold when he called out, "Wife, I smell human flesh; give it me
quickly, for I am hungry." She dared not disobey him, and so she had
to tell him of the traveller's hiding-place. The poor man became
terribly frightened, and trembled in every limb, and began to stammer
out excuses.

"I assure you I have done no harm. I came here in search of news of my
poor wife. Oh, do help me to find her; I cannot live without her."

"Well," replied the Water-King, "as you love your wife so tenderly I
will forgive you for coming here, but I cannot help you to find her,
for I do not know where she is. Yet I remember seeing two ducks on the
lake yesterday, perchance she is one of them. But I should advise you
to ask my brother the Fire-King; he may be able to tell you more."

Happy to have escaped so easily, he thanked the Water-King and set out
to find the Fire-King. But the latter was unable to help him, and
could only advise him to consult his other brother, the Air-King. But
the Air-King, though he had travelled all over the earth, could only
say he thought he had seen a woman at the foot of the Crystal
Mountain.

But the traveller was cheered at the news, and went to seek his wife
at the foot of the Crystal Mountain, which was close to their cottage.
On reaching it he began at once to climb the mountain by making his
way up the bed of the torrent that came rushing down there. Several
ducks that were in the pools near the waterfall called out, "My good
man, don't go up there; you'll be killed."

But he walked fearlessly on till he came to some thatched cottages, at
the largest of which he stopped. Here a crowd of wizards and witches
surrounded him, screaming at the top of their voices, "What are you
looking for?"

"My wife," said he.

"She is here," they cried, "but you cannot take her away unless you
recognise her among two hundred women all exactly like her."

[Illustration]

"What! Not know my own wife? Why, here she is," said he, as he clasped
her in his arms. And she, delighted to be with him again, kissed him
fondly. Then she whispered:

"Dearest, though you knew me to-day I doubt whether you will
to-morrow, for there will be so many of us all alike. Now I will tell
you what to do. At nightfall go to the top of the Crystal Mountain,
where live the King of Time and his court. Ask him how you may know
me. If you are good and honest he will help you; if not, he will
devour you whole at one mouthful."

"I will do what you advise, dear one," he replied, "but tell me, why
did you leave me so suddenly? If you only knew what I have suffered! I
have sought you all over the world."

"I did not leave you willingly," said she. "A countryman asked me to
come and look at the mountain torrent. When we got there he sprinkled
some water over himself, and at once I saw wings growing out of his
shoulders, and he soon changed his shape entirely into that of a
drake; and I too became a duck at the same time, and whether I would
or no I was obliged to follow him. Here I was allowed to resume my own
form; and now there is but the one difficulty of being recognised by
you."

So they parted, she to join the other women, he to continue his way to
the Crystal Mountain. At the top he found twelve strange beings
sitting round a large fire: they were the attendants of the King of
Time. He saluted them respectfully.

"What dost thou want?" said they.

"I have lost my dear wife. Can you tell me how to recognise her among
two hundred other women all exactly alike?"

"No," said they, "but perhaps our King can."

Then arose from the midst of the flames an old man with bald head and
long white beard, who, on hearing his request, replied: "Though all
these women be exactly alike, thy wife will have a black thread in the
shoe of her right foot."

So saying he vanished, and the traveller, thanking the twelve,
descended the mountain.

Sure it is that without the black thread he would never have
recognised her. And though the Magician tried to hide her, the spell
was broken; and the two returned rejoicing to their home, where they
lived happily ever after.



[Illustration]

III

THE TWELVE MONTHS


There was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen, her own child by
her dead husband, and Marouckla, his daughter by his first wife. She
loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan, because she was far prettier
than her own daughter. Marouckla did not think about her good looks,
and could not understand why her stepmother should be angry at the
sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share; she cleaned out the
rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove, brought in the hay, milked
the cow, and all this without any help. Helen, meanwhile, did nothing
but dress herself in her best clothes and go to one amusement after
another. But Marouckla never complained; she bore the scoldings and
bad temper of mother and sister with a smile on her lips, and the
patience of a lamb. But this angelic behaviour did not soften them.
They became even more tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily
more beautiful, while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother
determined to get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that while she
remained her own daughter would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of
privation, abuse, every means was used to make the girl's life
miserable. The most wicked of men could not have been more mercilessly
cruel than these two vixens. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew
ever sweeter and more charming.

One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some wood-violets.

"Listen," cried she to Marouckla; "you must go up the mountain and
find me some violets, I want some to put in my gown; they must be
fresh and sweet-scented--do you hear?"

"But, my dear sister, who ever heard of violets blooming in the snow?"
said the poor orphan.

"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey me?" said Helen. "Not
another word; off with you. If you do not bring me some violets from
the mountain forest, I will kill you."

The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and with
vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door upon
her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow lay deep,
and there was no trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither
and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and
shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw a light in the
distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached the top of the
mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large fire, surrounded by
twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve strange beings. Of these
the first three had white hair, three were not quite so old, three
were young and handsome, and the rest still younger.

There they all sate silently looking at the fire. They were the twelve
months of the year. The great Setchène (January) was placed higher
than the others; his hair and moustache were white as snow, and in his
hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while
her courage returned, and drawing near she said:

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the
winter cold."

The great Setchène raised his head and answered:

"What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?"

"I am looking for violets," replied the maiden.

"This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see the snow
everywhere?" said Setchène.

"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother have ordered me to
bring them violets from your mountain: if I return without them they
will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where they may be
found?"

Here the great Setchène arose and went over to the youngest of the
months, and placing his wand in his hand, said:

"Brother Brezène (March), do thou take the highest place."

Brezène obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire.
Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the snow began to melt
and the trees and shrubs to bud; the grass became green, and from
between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was Spring, and the
meadows were blue with violets.

"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Brezène.

Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a large
bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were
amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled the
house.

"Where did you find them?" asked Helen.

"Under the trees on the mountain slope," said Marouckla.

Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she did not even
thank her step-sister for the trouble she had taken. The next day she
desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.

"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the mountain: they
must be very sweet and ripe."

"But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?" exclaimed
Marouckla.

"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me; if I don't have my
strawberries I will kill you."

Then the stepmother pushed her into the yard and bolted the door. The
unhappy girl made her way towards the mountain and to the large fire
round which sat the twelve months. The great Setchène occupied the
highest place.

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills
me," said she, drawing near.

The great Setchène raised his head and asked:

"Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?"

"I am looking for strawberries," said she.

"We are in the midst of winter," replied Setchène; "strawberries do
not grow in the snow."

"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and stepmother have
ordered me to bring them strawberries; if I do not they will kill me.
Pray, good shepherds, tell me where to find them."

The great Setchène arose, crossed over to the month opposite him, and
putting the wand into his hand, said:

"Brother Tchervène (June), do thou take the highest place."

Tchervène obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the fire the flames
leapt towards the sky. Instantly the snow melted, the earth was
covered with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds began to
sing, and various flowers blossomed in the forest. It was summer.
Under the bushes masses of star-shaped flowers changed into ripening
strawberries. Before Marouckla had time to cross herself they covered
the glade, making it look like a sea of blood.

"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Tchervène.

Joyfully she thanked the months, and having filled her apron ran
happily home. Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the
strawberries, which filled the house with their delicious fragrance.

"Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly.

"Right up among the mountains; those from under the beech trees are
not bad."

Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself; not one did
she offer to her step-sister. Being tired of strawberries, on the
third day she took a fancy for some fresh red apples.

"Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh red apples from the
mountain."

"Apples in winter, sister? why, the trees have neither leaves nor
fruit."

"Idle slut, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you bring back apples
we will kill you."

As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned her out of the
house. The poor girl went weeping up the mountain, across the deep
snow upon which lay no human footprint, and on towards the fire round
which were the twelve months. Motionless sat they, and on the highest
stone was the great Setchène.

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills
me," said she, drawing near.

The great Setchène raised his head.

"Why com'st thou here? What dost thou seek?" asked he.

"I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla.

"But this is winter, and not the season for red apples," observed the
great Setchène.

[Illustration]

"I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and stepmother sent me to
fetch red apples from the mountain; if I return without them they will
kill me."

Thereupon the great Setchène arose and went over to one of the elderly
months, to whom he handed the wand, saying:

"Brother Zaré (September), do thou take the highest place."

Zaré moved to the highest stone and waved his wand over the fire.
There was a flare of red flames, the snow disappeared, but the fading
leaves which trembled on the trees were sent by a cold north-east wind
in yellow masses to the glade. Only a few flowers of autumn were
visible, such as the fleabane and red gillyflower, autumn colchicums
in the ravine, and under the beeches bracken and tufts of northern
heather. At first Marouckla looked in vain for red apples. Then she
espied a tree which grew at a great height, and from the branches of
this hung the bright red fruit. Zaré ordered her to gather some
quickly. The girl was delighted and shook the tree. First one apple
fell, then another.

"That is enough," said Zaré, "hurry home."

Thanking the months, she returned joyfully. Helen marvelled and the
stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit.

"Where did you gather them?" asked the step-sister.

"There are more on the mountain top," answered Marouckla.

"Then why did you not bring more?" said Helen angrily; "you must have
eaten them on your way back, you wicked girl."

"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them," said Marouckla. "I
shook the tree twice; one apple fell each time. I was not allowed to
shake it again, but was told to return home."

"May Perum smite you with his thunderbolt," said Helen, striking her.

Marouckla prayed to die rather than suffer such ill-treatment. Weeping
bitterly, she took refuge in the kitchen. Helen and her mother found
the apples more delicious than any they had ever tasted, and when they
had eaten both longed for more.

"Listen, mother," said Helen. "Give me my cloak; I will fetch some
more apples myself, or else that good-for-nothing wretch will eat them
all on the way. I shall be able to find the mountain and the tree. The
shepherds may cry 'Stop,' but I shall not leave go till I have shaken
down all the apples."

In spite of her mother's advice she put on her pelisse, covered her
head with a warm hood, and took the road to the mountain. The mother
stood and watched her till she was lost in the distance.

Snow covered everything, not a human footprint was to be seen on its
surface. Helen lost herself and wandered hither and thither. After a
while she saw a light above her, and following in its direction
reached the mountain top. There was the flaming fire, the twelve
blocks of stone, and the twelve months. At first she was frightened
and hesitated; then she came nearer and warmed her hands. She did not
ask permission, nor did she speak one polite word.

"What has brought thee here? What dost thou seek?" said the great
Setchène severely.

"I am not obliged to tell you, old greybeard; what business is it of
yours?" she replied disdainfully, turning her back on the fire and
going towards the forest.

The great Setchène frowned, and waved his wand over his head.
Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the fire went down, snow
fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the mountain. Amid the
fury of the storm Helen added curses against her step-sister. The
pelisse failed to warm her benumbed limbs. The mother kept on waiting
for her; she looked from the window, she watched from the doorstep,
but her daughter came not. The hours passed slowly, but Helen did not
return.

"Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her home?" thought
the mother. Then she clad herself in hood and pelisse and went in
search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses; it covered all
things, it lay untouched by human footsteps. For long she wandered
hither and thither; the icy north-east wind whistled in the mountain,
but no voice answered her cries.

Day after day Marouckla worked and prayed, and waited; but neither
stepmother nor sister returned, they had been frozen to death on the
mountain. The inheritance of a small house, a field, and a cow fell to
Marouckla. In course of time an honest farmer came to share them with
her, and their lives were happy and peaceful.



THE SUN OR THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE



[Illustration]

THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE


Can this be a true story? It is said that once there was a king who
was exceedingly fond of hunting the wild beasts in his forests. One
day he followed a stag so far and so long that he lost his way. Alone
and overtaken by night, he was glad to find himself near a small
thatched cottage in which lived a charcoal-burner.

"Will you kindly show me the way to the high-road? You shall be
handsomely rewarded."

"I would willingly," said the charcoal-burner, "but God is going to
send my wife a little child, and I cannot leave her alone. Will you
pass the night under our roof? There is a truss of sweet hay in the
loft where you may rest, and to-morrow morning I will be your guide."

The king accepted the invitation and went to bed in the loft. Shortly
after a son was born to the charcoal-burner's wife. But the king could
not sleep. At midnight he heard noises in the house, and looking
through a crack in the flooring he saw the charcoal-burner asleep, his
wife almost in a faint, and by the side of the newly-born babe three
old women dressed in white, each holding a lighted taper in her hand,
and all talking together. Now these were the three Soudiché or Fates,
you must know.

The first said, "On this boy I bestow the gift of confronting great
dangers."

The second said, "I bestow the power of happily escaping all these
dangers, and of living to a good old age."

The third said, "I bestow upon him for wife the princess born at the
selfsame hour as he, and daughter of the very king sleeping above in
the loft."

At these words the lights went out and silence reigned around.

Now the king was greatly troubled, and wondered exceedingly; he felt
as if he had received a sword-thrust in the chest. He lay awake all
night thinking how to prevent the words of the Fates from coming true.

With the first glimmer of morning light the baby began to cry. The
charcoal-burner, on going over to it, found that his wife was dead.

"Poor little orphan," he said sadly, "what will become of thee without
a mother's care?"

"Confide this child to me," said the king, "I will look after it. He
shall be well provided for. You shall be given a sum of money large
enough to keep you without having to burn charcoal."

The poor man gladly agreed, and the king went away promising to send
some one for the child. The queen and courtiers thought it would be an
agreeable surprise for the king to hear that a charming little
princess had been born on the night he was away. But instead of being
pleased he frowned, and calling one of his servants, said to him, "Go
to the charcoal-burner's cottage in the forest, and give the man this
purse in exchange for a new-born infant. On your way back drown the
child. See well that he is drowned, for if he should in any way
escape, you yourself shall suffer in his place."

The servant was given the child in a basket, and on reaching the
centre of a narrow bridge that stretched across a wide and deep river,
he threw both basket and baby into the water.

"A prosperous journey to you, Mr. Son-in-Law," said the king, on
hearing the servant's story: for he fully believed the child was
drowned. But it was far from being the case; the little one was
floating happily along in its basket cradle, and slumbering as sweetly
as if his mother had sung him to sleep. Now it happened that a
fisherman, who was mending his nets before his cottage door, saw the
basket floating down the river. He jumped at once into his boat,
picked it up, and ran to tell his wife the good news.

"Look," said he, "you have always longed for a son; here is a
beautiful little boy the river has sent us."

The woman was delighted, and took the infant and loved it as her own
child. They named him _Plavacek_ (the floater), because he had come to
them floating on the water.

The river flowed on. Years passed away. The little baby grew into a
handsome youth; in all the villages round there were none to compare
with him. Now it happened that one summer day the king was riding
unattended. And the heat being very great he reined in his horse
before the fisherman's door to ask for a drink of water. Plavacek
brought the water. The king looked at him attentively, then turning to
the fisherman, said, "That is a good-looking lad; is he your son?"

"He is and he isn't," replied the fisherman. "I found him, when he was
quite a tiny baby, floating down the stream in a basket. So we adopted
him and brought him up as our own son."

The king turned as pale as death, for he guessed that he was the same
child he had ordered to be drowned. Then recovering himself he got
down from his horse and said: "I want a trusty messenger to take a
letter to the palace, could you send him with it?"

"With pleasure! Your majesty may be sure of its safe delivery."

Thereupon the king wrote to the queen as follows--

    "The man who brings you this letter is the most dangerous of all
    my enemies. Have his head cut off at once; no delay, no pity, he
    must be executed before my return. Such is my will and
    pleasure."

[Illustration]

This he carefully folded and sealed with the royal seal.

Plavacek took the letter and set off immediately. But the forest
through which he had to pass was so large, and the trees so thick,
that he missed the path and was overtaken by the darkness before the
journey was nearly over. In the midst of his trouble he met an old
woman who said, "Where are you going, Plavacek? Where are you going?"

"I am the bearer of a letter from the king to the queen, but have
missed the path to the palace. Could you, good mother, put me on the
right road?"

"Impossible to-day, my child; it is getting dark, and you would not
have time to get there. Stay with me to-night. You will not be with
strangers, for I am your godmother."

Plavacek agreed. Thereupon they entered a pretty little cottage that
seemed suddenly to sink into the earth. Now while he slept the old
woman changed his letter for another, which ran thus:--

    "Immediately upon the receipt of this letter introduce the
    bearer to the princess our daughter. I have chosen this young
    man for my son-in-law, and it is my wish they should be married
    before my return to the palace. Such is my pleasure."

The letter was duly delivered, and when the queen had read it, she
ordered everything to be prepared for the wedding. Both she and her
daughter greatly enjoyed Plavacek's society, and nothing disturbed the
happiness of the newly married pair.

Within a few days the king returned, and on hearing what had taken
place was very angry with the queen.

"But you expressly bade me have the wedding before your return. Come,
read your letter again, here it is," said she.

He closely examined the letter; the paper, handwriting, seal--all were
undoubtedly his. He then called his son-in-law, and questioned him
about his journey. Plavacek hid nothing: he told how he had lost his
way, and how he had passed the night in a cottage in the forest.

"What was the old woman like?" asked the king.

From Plavacek's description the king knew it was the very same who,
twenty years before, had foretold the marriage of the princess with
the charcoal-burner's son. After some moments' thought the king said,
"What is done is done. But you will not become my son-in-law so
easily. No, i' faith! As a wedding present you must bring me three
golden hairs from the head of Dède-Vsévède."

In this way he thought to get rid of his son-in-law, whose very
presence was distasteful to him. The young fellow took leave of his
wife and set off. "I know not which way to go," said he to himself,
"but my godmother the witch will surely help me."

But he found the way easily enough. He walked on and on and on for a
long time over mountain, valley, and river, until he reached the
shores of the Black Sea. There he found a boat and boatman.

"May God bless you, old boatman," said he.

"And you, too, my young traveller. Where are you going?"

"To Dède-Vsévède's castle for three of his golden hairs."

"Ah, then you are very welcome. For a long weary while I have been
waiting for such a messenger as you. I have been ferrying passengers
across for these twenty years, and not one of them has done anything
to help me. If you will promise to ask Dède-Vsévède when I shall be
released from my toil I will row you across."

Plavacek promised, and was rowed to the opposite bank. He continued
his journey on foot until he came in sight of a large town half in
ruins, near which was passing a funeral procession. The king of that
country was following his father's coffin, and with the tears running
down his cheeks.

"May God comfort you in your distress," said Plavacek.

"Thank you, good traveller. Where are you going?"

"To the house of Dède-Vsévède in quest of three of his golden hairs."

"To the house of Dède-Vsévède? indeed! What a pity you did not come
sooner, we have long been expecting such a messenger as you. Come and
see me by and bye."

When Plavacek presented himself at court the king said to him:

"We understand you are on your way to the house of Dède-Vsévède? Now
we have an apple-tree here that bears the fruit of everlasting youth.
One of these apples eaten by a man, even though he be dying, will cure
him and make him young again. For the last twenty years neither fruit
nor flower has been found on this tree. Will you ask Dède-Vsévède the
cause of it?"

"That I will, with pleasure."

Then Plavacek continued his journey, and as he went he came to a large
and beautiful city where all was sad and silent. Near the gate was an
old man who leant on a stick and walked with difficulty.

"May God bless you, good old man."

"And you, too, my handsome young traveller. Where are you going?"

"To Dède-Vsévède's palace in search of three of his golden hairs."

"Ah, you are the very messenger I have so long waited for. Allow me to
take you to my master the king."

On their arrival at the palace, the king said, "I hear you are an
ambassador to Dède-Vsévède. We have here a well, the water of which
renews itself. So wonderful are its effects that invalids are
immediately cured on drinking it, while a few drops sprinkled on a
corpse will bring it to life again. For the past twenty years this
well has remained dry: if you will ask old Dède-Vsévède how the flow
of water may be restored I will reward you royally."

Plavacek promised to do so, and was dismissed with good wishes. He
then travelled through deep dark forests, in the midst of which might
be seen a large meadow; out of it grew lovely flowers, and in the
centre stood a castle built of gold. It was the home of Dède-Vsévède.
So brilliant with light was it that it seemed to be built of fire.
When he entered there was no one there but an old woman spinning.

"Greeting, Plavacek, I am well pleased to see you."

She was his godmother, who had given him shelter in her cottage when
he was the bearer of the king's letter.

"Tell me what brings you here from such a distance," she went on.

"The king would not have me for his son-in-law, unless I first got him
three golden hairs from the head of Dède-Vsévède. So he sent me here
to fetch them."

The Fate laughed. "Dède-Vsévède indeed! Why, I am his mother, it is
the shining sun himself. He is a child at morning time, a grown man at
midday, a decrepit old man, looking as if he had lived a hundred
years, at eventide. But I will see that you have the three hairs from
his head; I am not your godmother for nothing. All the same you must
not remain here. My son is a good lad, but when he comes home he is
hungry, and would very probably order you to be roasted for his
supper. Now I will turn this empty bucket upside down, and you shall
hide underneath it."

Plavacek begged the Fate to obtain from Dède-Vsévède the answers to
the three questions he had been asked.

"I will do so certainly, but you must listen to what he says."

Suddenly a blast of wind howled round the palace, and the Sun entered
by a western window. He was an old man with golden hair.

"I smell human flesh," cried he, "I am sure of it. Mother, you have
some one here."

"Star of day," she replied, "whom could I have here that you would not
see sooner than I? The fact is that in your daily journeys the scent
of human flesh is always with you, so when you come home at evening it
clings to you still."

The old man said nothing, and sat down to supper. When he had finished
he laid his golden head on the Fate's lap and went to sleep. Then she
pulled out a hair and threw it on the ground. It fell with a metallic
sound like the vibration of a guitar string.

"What do you want, mother?" asked he.

"Nothing, my son; I was sleeping, and had a strange dream."

"What was it, mother?"

"I thought I was in a place where there was a well, and the well was
fed from a spring, the water of which cured all diseases. Even the
dying were restored to health on drinking that water, and the dead who
were sprinkled with it came to life again. For the last twenty years
the well has run dry. What must be done to restore the flow of water?"

"That is very simple. A frog has lodged itself in the opening of the
spring, this prevents the flow of water. Kill the frog, and the water
will return to the well."

He slept again, and the old woman pulled out another golden hair, and
threw it on the ground.

"Mother, what do you want?"

"Nothing, my son, nothing; I was dreaming. In my dream I saw a large
town, the name of which I have forgotten. And there grew an apple-tree
the fruit of which had the power to make the old young again. A single
apple eaten by an old man would restore to him the vigour and
freshness of youth. For twenty years this tree has not borne fruit.
What can be done to make it fruitful?"

"The means are not difficult. A snake hidden among the roots destroys
the sap. Kill the snake, transplant the tree, and the fruit will grow
as before."

[Illustration]

He again fell asleep, and the old woman pulled out another golden
hair.

"Now look here, mother, why will you not let me sleep?" said the old
man, really vexed; and he would have got up.

"Lie down, my darling son, do not disturb yourself. I am sorry I awoke
you, but I have had a very strange dream. It seemed that I saw a
boatman on the shores of the Black Sea, and he complained that he had
been toiling at the ferry for twenty years without any one having come
to take his place. For how much longer must this poor old man continue
to row?"

"He is a silly fellow. He has but to place his oars in the hands of
the first comer and jump ashore. Whoever receives the oars will
replace him as ferryman. But leave me in peace now, mother, and do not
wake me again. I have to rise very early, and must first dry the eyes
of a princess. The poor thing spends all night weeping for her husband
who has been sent by the king to get three of my golden hairs."

Next morning the wind whistled round Dède-Vsévède's palace, and
instead of an old man, a beautiful child with golden hair awoke on the
old woman's lap. It was the glorious sun. He bade her good-bye, and
flew out of the eastern window. The old woman turned up the bucket and
said to Plavacek, "Look, here are the three golden hairs. You now know
the answers to your questions. May God direct you and send you a
prosperous journey. You will not see me again, for you will have no
further need of me."

He thanked her gratefully and left her. On arriving at the town with
the dried-up well, he was questioned by the king as to what news he
had brought.

"Have the well carefully cleaned out," said he, "kill the frog that
obstructs the spring, and the wonderful water will flow again."

The king did as he was advised, and rejoiced to see the water return.
He gave Plavacek twelve swan-white horses, and as much gold and silver
as they could carry.

On reaching the second town and being asked by the king what news he
had brought, he replied, "Excellent; one could not wish for better.
Dig up your apple-tree, kill the snake that lies among the roots,
transplant the tree, and it will produce apples like those of former
times."

And all turned out as he had said, for no sooner was the tree
replanted than it was covered with blossoms that gave it the
appearance of a sea of roses. The delighted king gave him twelve
raven-black horses, laden with as much wealth as they could carry. He
then journeyed to the shores of the Black Sea. There the boatman
questioned him as to what news he had brought respecting his release.
Plavacek first crossed with his twenty-four horses to the opposite
bank, and then replied that the boatman might gain his freedom by
placing the oars in the hands of the first traveller who wished to be
ferried over.

Plavacek's royal father-in-law could not believe his eyes when he saw
Dède-Vsévède's three golden hairs. As for the princess, his young
wife, she wept tears, but of joy, not sadness, to see her dear one
again, and she said to him, "How did you get such splendid horses and
so much wealth, dear husband?"

And he answered her, "All this represents the price paid for the
weariness of spirit I have felt; it is the ready money for hardships
endured and services given. Thus, I showed one king how to regain
possession of the Apples of Youth: to another I told the secret of
reopening the spring of water that gives health and life."

"Apples of Youth! Water of Life!" interrupted the king. "I will
certainly go and find these treasures for myself. Ah, what joy! having
eaten of these apples I shall become young again; having drunk of the
Water of Immortality, I shall live for ever."

And he started off in search of these treasures. But he has not yet
returned from his search.



KOVLAD

    I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM
   II. THE LOST CHILD



[Illustration]

I

THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM


Once upon a time, and a long long time ago it was, there lived a widow
who had a very pretty daughter. The mother, good honest woman, was
quite content with her station in life. But with the daughter it was
otherwise; she, like a spoilt beauty, looked contemptuously upon her
many admirers, her mind was full of proud and ambitious thoughts, and
the more lovers she had, the prouder she became.

One beautiful moonlight night the mother awoke, and being unable to
sleep, began to pray God for the happiness of her only child, though
she often made her mother's life miserable. The fond woman looked
lovingly at the beautiful daughter sleeping by her side, and she
wondered, as she saw her smile, what happy dream had visited her. Then
she finished her prayer, and laying her head on the girl's pillow,
fell asleep. Next day she said, "Come, darling child, tell me what you
were dreaming about last night, you looked so happy smiling in your
sleep."

"Oh yes, mother, I remember. I had a very beautiful dream. I thought a
rich nobleman came to our house, in a splendid carriage of brass, and
gave me a ring set with stones, that sparkled like the stars of
heaven. When I entered the church with him, it was full of people, and
they all thought me divine and adorable, like the Blessed Virgin."

"Ah! my child, what sin! May God keep you from such dreams."

But the daughter ran away singing, and busied herself about the house.
The same day a handsome young farmer drove into the village in his
cart and begged them to come and share his country bread. He was a
kind fellow, and the mother liked him much. But the daughter refused
his invitation, and insulted him into the bargain.

"Even if you had driven in a carriage of brass," she said, "and had
offered me a ring set with stones shining as the stars in heaven, I
would never have married you--you, a mere peasant!"

The young farmer was terribly upset at her words, and with a prayer
for her soul, returned home a saddened man. But her mother scolded and
reproached her.

The next night the woman again awoke, and taking her rosary prayed
with still greater fervour, that God would bless her child. This time
the girl laughed as she slept.

"What can the poor child be dreaming about?" she said to herself: and
sighing she prayed for her again. Then she laid her head upon her
pillow and tried in vain to sleep. In the morning, when her daughter
was dressing, she said: "Well, my dear, you were dreaming again last
night, and laughing like a maniac."

"Was I? Listen, I dreamt a nobleman came for me in a silver carriage,
and gave me a golden diadem. When I entered the church with him, the
people admired and worshipped me more than the Blessed Virgin."

"Ay me, what a terrible dream! what a wicked dream! Pray God not to
lead you into temptation."

Then she scolded her daughter severely and went out, slamming the door
after her. That same day a carriage drove into the village, and some
gentlemen invited mother and daughter to share the bread of the lord
of the manor. The mother considered such an offer a great honour, but
the daughter refused it and replied to the gentlemen scornfully: "Even
if you had come to fetch me in a carriage of solid silver and had
presented me with a golden diadem, I would never have consented to be
the wife of your lord."

The gentlemen turned away in disgust and returned home; the mother
rebuked her severely for so much pride.

"Miserable, foolish girl!" she cried, "pride is a breath from hell. It
is your duty to be humble, honest, and sweet-tempered."

The daughter replied by a laugh.

The third night she slept soundly, but the poor woman at her side
could not close her eyes. Tormented with dark forebodings, she feared
some misfortune was about to happen, and counted her beads, praying
fervently. All at once the young sleeper began to sneer and laugh.

"Merciful God! ah me!" cried the poor woman, "what are these dreams
that worry her poor brain!"

In the morning she said, "What made you sneer so frightfully last
night? You must have had bad dreams again, my poor child."

"Now, mother, you look as if you were going to preach again."

"No, no; but I want to know what you were dreaming about."

"Well, I dreamt some one drove up in a golden carriage and asked me to
marry him, and he brought me a mantle of cloth of pure gold. When we
came into church, the crowd pressed forward to kneel before me."

The mother wrung her hands piteously, and the girl left the room to
avoid hearing her lamentations. That same day three carriages entered
the yard, one of brass, one of silver, and one of gold. The first was
drawn by two, the second by three, the third by four magnificent
horses. Gentlemen wearing scarlet gloves and green mantles got out of
the brass and silver carriages, while from the golden carriage
alighted a prince who, as the sun shone on him, looked as if he were
dressed in gold. They all made their way to the widow and asked for
her daughter's hand.

"I fear we are not worthy of so much honour," replied the widow
meekly, but when the daughter's eyes fell upon her suitor she
recognised in him the lover of her dreams, and withdrew to weave an
aigrette of many-coloured feathers. In exchange for this aigrette
which she offered her bridegroom, he placed upon her finger a ring set
with stones that shone like the stars in heaven, and over her
shoulders a mantle of cloth of gold. The young bride, beside herself
with joy, retired to complete her toilette. Meanwhile the anxious
mother, a prey to the blackest forebodings, said to her son-in-law,
"My daughter has consented to share your bread, tell me of what sort
of flour it is made?"

[Illustration]

"In our house we have bread of brass, of silver, and of gold; my wife
will be free to choose."

Such a reply astonished her more than ever, and made her still more
unhappy. The daughter asked no questions, was in fact content to know
nothing, not even what her mother suffered. She looked magnificent in
her bridal attire and golden mantle, but she left her home with the
prince without saying good-bye either to her mother or to her youthful
companions. Neither did she ask her mother's blessing, though the
latter wept and prayed for her safety.

After the marriage ceremony they mounted the golden carriage and set
off, followed by the attendants of silver and brass. The procession
moved slowly along the road without stopping until it reached the foot
of a high rock. Here, instead of a carriage entrance, was a large
cavern which led out into a steep slope down which the horses went
lower and lower. The giant _Zémo-tras_ (he who makes the earthquakes)
closed the opening with a huge stone. They made their way in darkness
for some time, the terrified bride being reassured by her husband.

"Fear nothing," said he, "in a little while it will be clear and
beautiful."

Grotesque dwarfs, carrying lighted torches, appeared on all sides,
saluted and welcomed their King Kovlad as they illumined the road for
him and his attendants. Then for the first time the girl knew she had
married Kovlad, but this mattered little to her. On coming out from
these gloomy passages into the open they found themselves surrounded
by large forests and mountains, mountains that seemed to touch the
sky. And, strange to relate, all the trees of whatsoever kind, and
even the mountains that seemed to touch the sky, were of solid lead.
When they had crossed these marvellous mountains the giant Zémo-tras
closed all the openings in the road they had passed. They then drove
out upon vast and beautiful plains, in the centre of which was a
golden palace covered with precious stones. The bride was weary with
looking at so many wonders, and gladly sat down to the feast prepared
by the dwarfs. Meats of many kinds were served, roast and boiled, but
lo! they were of metal--brass, silver, and gold. Every one ate
heartily and enjoyed the food, but the young wife, with tears in her
eyes, begged for a piece of bread.

"Certainly, madam, with pleasure," answered Kovlad. But she could not
eat the bread which was brought, for it was of brass. Then the king
sent for a piece of silver bread, still she could not eat it; and
again for a slice of golden bread, that too she was unable to bite.
The servants did all they could to get something to their mistress's
taste, but she found it impossible to eat anything.

"I should be most happy to gratify you," said Kovlad "but we have no
other kind of food."

Then she realised for the first time in whose power she had placed
herself, and she began to weep bitterly and wish she had taken her
mother's advice.

"It is of no use to weep and regret," said Kovlad, "you must have
known the kind of bread you would have to break here; your wish has
been fulfilled."

And so it was, for nothing can recall the past. The wretched girl was
obliged henceforth to live underground with her husband Kovlad, the
God of Metals, in his golden palace. And this because she had set her
heart upon nothing but the possession of gold, and had never wished
for anything better.



[Illustration]

II

THE LOST CHILD


Long long ago there lived a very rich nobleman. But though he was so
rich he was not happy, for he had no children to whom he could leave
his wealth. He was, besides, no longer young. Every day he and his
wife went to church to pray for a son. At last, after long waiting,
God sent them what they desired. Now the evening before its arrival
the father dreamed that its chance of living would depend upon one
condition, namely, that its feet never touched the earth until it was
twelve years old. Great care was taken that this should be avoided,
and when the little stranger came, only trustworthy nurses were
employed to look after him. As the years passed on the child was
diligently guarded, sometimes he was carried in his nurses' arms,
sometimes rocked in his golden cradle, but his feet never touched the
ground.

Now when the end of the time drew near the father began preparations
for a magnificent feast which should be given to celebrate his son's
release. One day while these were in progress a frightful noise,
followed by most unearthly yells, shook the castle. The nurse dropped
the child in her terror and ran to the window: that instant the noises
ceased. On turning to take up the boy, imagine her dismay when she
found him no longer there, and remembered that she had disobeyed her
master's orders.

Hearing her screams and lamentations, all the servants of the castle
ran to her. The father soon followed, asking, "What is the matter?
What has happened? Where is my child?" The nurse, trembling and
weeping, told of the disappearance of his son, his only child. No
words can tell the anguish of the father's heart. He sent servants in
every direction to hunt for his boy, he gave orders, he begged and
prayed, he threw away money right and left, he promised everything if
only his son might be restored to him. Search was made without loss of
time, but no trace of him could be discovered; he had vanished as
completely as if he had never existed.

Many years later the unhappy nobleman learnt that in one of the most
beautiful rooms of the castle, footsteps, as of some one walking up
and down, and dismal groans, were heard every midnight. Anxious to
follow the matter up, for he thought it might in some way concern his
lost son, he made known that a reward of three hundred gold pieces
would be given to any one who would watch for one whole night in the
haunted room. Many were willing, but had not the courage to stay till
the end; for at midnight, when the dismal groans were heard, they
would run away rather than risk their lives for three hundred gold
pieces. The poor father was in despair, and knew not how to discover
the truth of this dark mystery.

Now close to the castle dwelt a widow, a miller by trade, who had
three daughters. They were very poor, and hardly earned enough for
their daily needs. When they heard of the midnight noises in the
castle and the promised reward, the eldest daughter said, "As we are
so very poor we have nothing to lose; surely we might try to earn
these three hundred gold pieces by remaining in the room one night. I
should like to try, mother, if you will let me."

The mother shrugged her shoulders, she hardly knew what to say; but
when she thought of their poverty and the difficulty they had to earn
a living she gave permission for her eldest daughter to remain one
night in the haunted room. Then the daughter went to ask the
nobleman's consent.

"Have you really the courage to watch for a whole night in a room
haunted by ghosts? Are you sure you are not afraid, my good girl?"

"I am willing to try this very night," she replied. "I would only ask
you to give me some food to cook for my supper, for I am very hungry."

Orders were given that she should be supplied with everything she
wanted, and indeed enough food was given her, not for one supper only,
but for three. With the food, some dry firewood and a candle, she
entered the room. Like a good housewife, she first lit the fire and
put on her saucepans, then she laid the table and made the bed. This
filled up the early part of the evening. The time passed so quickly
that she was surprised to hear the clock strike twelve, while at the
last stroke, footsteps, as of some one walking, shook the room, and
dismal groans filled the air. The frightened girl ran from one corner
to the other, but could not see any one. But the footsteps and the
groans did not cease. Suddenly a young man approached her and asked,
"For whom is this food cooked?"

"For myself," she said.

The gentle face of the stranger saddened, and after a short silence he
asked again, "And this table, for whom is it laid?"

"For myself," she replied.

The brow of the young man clouded over, and the beautiful blue eyes
filled with tears as he asked once more, "And this bed, for whom have
you made it?"

"For myself," replied she in the same selfish and indifferent tone.

Tears fell from his eyes as he waved his arms and vanished.

Next morning she told the nobleman all that had happened, but without
mentioning the painful impression her answers had made upon the
stranger. The three hundred golden crowns were paid, and the father
was thankful to have at last heard something that might possibly lead
to the discovery of his son.

On the following day the second daughter, having been told by her
sister what to do and how to answer the stranger, went to the castle
to offer her services. The nobleman willingly agreed, and orders were
given that she should be provided with everything she might want.
Without loss of time she entered the room, lit the fire, put on the
saucepans, spread a white cloth upon the table, made the bed, and
awaited the hour of midnight. When the young stranger appeared and
asked, "For whom is this food prepared? for whom is the table laid?
for whom is the bed made?" she answered as her sister had bidden her,
"For me, for myself only."

As on the night before, he burst into tears, waved his arms, and
suddenly disappeared.

Next morning she told the nobleman all that had happened except the
sad impression her answers had made upon the stranger. The three
hundred gold pieces were given her, and she went home.

On the third day the youngest daughter wanted to try her fortune.

"Sisters," said she, "as you have succeeded in earning three hundred
gold crowns each, and so helping our dear mother, I too should like to
do my part and remain a night in the haunted room."

[Illustration]

Now the widow loved her youngest daughter more dearly than the others,
and dreaded to expose her to any danger; but as the elder ones had
been successful, she allowed her to take her chance. So with the
instructions from her sisters as to what she should do and say, and
with the nobleman's consent and abundant provisions, she entered the
haunted room. Having lit the fire, put on the saucepans, laid the
table and made the bed, she awaited with hope and fear the hour of
midnight.

As twelve o'clock struck, the room was shaken by the footsteps of some
one who walked up and down, and the air was filled with cries and
groans. The girl looked everywhere, but no living being could she see.
Suddenly there stood before her a young man who asked in a sweet
voice, "For whom have you prepared this food?"

Now her sisters had told her how to answer and how to act, but when
she looked into the sad eyes of the stranger she resolved to treat him
more kindly.

"Well, you do not answer me; for whom is the food prepared?" he asked
again impatiently, as she made no reply. Somewhat confused, she said,
"I prepared it for myself, but you too are welcome to it."

At these words his brow grew more serene.

"And this table, for whom is it spread?"

"For myself, unless you will honour me by being my guest."

A bright smile illumined his face.

"And this bed, for whom have you made it?"

"For myself, but if you have need of rest it is for you."

He clapped his hands for joy and replied, "Ah, that's right; I accept
the invitation with pleasure, and all that you have been so kind as to
offer me. But wait, I pray you wait for me; I must first thank my kind
friends for the care they have taken of me."

A fresh warm breath of spring filled the air, while at the same moment
a deep precipice opened in the middle of the floor. He descended
lightly, and she, anxious to see what would happen, followed him,
holding on to his mantle. Thus they both reached the bottom of the
precipice. Down there a new world opened itself before her eyes. To
the right flowed a river of liquid gold, to the left rose high
mountains of solid gold, in the centre lay a large meadow covered with
millions of flowers. The stranger went on, the girl followed
unnoticed. And as he went he saluted the field flowers as old friends,
caressing them and leaving them with regret. Then they came to a
forest where the trees were of gold. Many birds of different kinds
began to sing, and flying round the young stranger perched familiarly
on his head and shoulders. He spoke to and petted each one. While thus
engaged, the girl broke off a branch from one of the golden trees and
hid it in remembrance of this strange land.

Leaving the forest of gold, they reached a wood where all the trees
were of silver. Their arrival was greeted by an immense number of
animals of various kinds. These crowded together and pushed one
against another to get close to their friend. He spoke to each one and
stroked and petted them. Meanwhile the girl broke off a branch of
silver from one of the trees, saying to herself, "These will serve me
as tokens of this wonderful land, for my sisters would not believe me
if I only told them of it."

[Illustration]

When the young stranger had taken leave of all his friends he returned
by the paths he had come, and the girl followed without being seen.
Arrived at the foot of the precipice, he began to ascend, she coming
silently after, holding on to his mantle. Up they went higher and
higher, until they reached the room in the castle. The floor closed up
without trace of the opening. The girl returned to her place by the
fire, where she was standing when the young man approached.

"All my farewells have been spoken," said he, "now we can have
supper."

She hastened to place upon the table the food so hurriedly prepared,
and sitting side by side they supped together. When they had made a
good meal he said, "Now it is time to rest."

He lay down on the carefully-made bed, and the girl placed by his side
the gold and silver branches she had picked in the Mineral Land. In a
few moments he was sleeping peacefully.

Next day the sun was already high in the sky, and yet the girl had not
come to give an account of herself. The nobleman became impatient; he
waited and waited, becoming more and more uneasy. At last he
determined to go and see for himself what had happened. Picture to
yourself his surprise and joy, when on entering the haunted chamber he
saw his long-lost son sleeping on the bed, while beside him sat the
widow's beautiful daughter. At that moment the son awoke. The father,
overwhelmed with joy, summoned the attendants of the castle to rejoice
with him in his new-found happiness.

Then the young man saw the two branches of metal, and said with
astonishment, "What do I see? Did you then follow me down there? Know
that by this act you have broken the spell and released me from the
enchantment. These two branches will make two palaces for our future
dwelling."

Thereupon he took the branches and threw them out of the window.
Immediately there were seen two magnificent palaces, one of gold, the
other of silver. And there they lived happily as man and wife, the
nobleman's son and the miller's daughter. And if not dead they live
there still.



THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD



[Illustration]

THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD


There was once a king so wise and clever that he understood the
language of all animals. You shall hear how he gained this power.

One day an old woman came to the palace and said, "I wish to speak to
his majesty, for I have something of great importance to tell him."
When admitted to his presence she presented him with a curious fish,
saying, "Have it cooked for yourself, and when you have eaten it you
will understand all that is said by the birds of the air, the animals
that walk the earth, and the fishes that live under the waters."

The king was delighted to know that which every one else was ignorant
of, so he rewarded the old woman generously, and told a servant to
cook the fish very carefully.

"But take care," said the monarch, "that you do not taste it yourself,
for if you do you will be killed."

George, the servant, was astonished at such a threat, and wondered why
his master was so anxious that no one else should eat any of the fish.
Then examining it curiously he said, "Never in all my life have I seen
such an odd-looking fish; it seems more like a reptile. Now where
would be the harm if I did take some? Every cook tastes of the dishes
he prepares."

When it was fried he tasted a small piece, and while taking some of
the sauce heard a buzzing in the air and a voice speaking in his ear.

"Let us taste a crumb: let us taste a little," it said.

He looked round to see where the words came from, but there were only
a few flies buzzing about in the kitchen. At the same moment some one
out in the yard said in a harsh jerky voice, "Where are we going to
settle? Where?"

And another answered, "In the miller's barley-field; ho! for the
miller's field of barley."

When George looked towards where this strange talk came he saw a
gander flying at the head of a flock of geese.

"How lucky," thought he; "now I know why my master set so much value
on this fish and wished to eat it all himself."

George had now no doubt that by tasting the fish he had learnt the
language of animals, so after having taken a little more he served the
king with the remainder as if nothing had happened.

When his majesty had dined he ordered George to saddle two horses and
accompany him for a ride. They were soon off, the master in front, the
servant behind.

While crossing a meadow George's horse began to prance and caper,
neighing out these words, "I say, brother, I feel so light and in such
good spirits to-day that in one single bound I could leap over those
mountains yonder."

"I could do the same," answered the king's horse, "but I carry a
feeble old man on my back; he would fall like a log and break his
skull."

"What does that matter to you? So much the better if he should break
his head, for then, instead of being ridden by an old man you would
probably be mounted by a young one."

The servant laughed a good deal upon hearing this conversation between
the horses, but he took care to do so on the quiet, lest the king
should hear him. At that moment his majesty turned round, and, seeing
a smile on the man's face, asked the cause of it.

"Oh nothing, your majesty, only some nonsense that came into my head."

The king said nothing, and asked no more questions, but he was
suspicious, and distrusted both servant and horses; so he hastened
back to the palace.

When there he said to George, "Give me some wine, but mind you only
pour out enough to fill the glass, for if you put in one drop too
much, so that it overflows, I shall certainly order my executioner to
cut off your head."

While he was speaking two birds flew near the window, one chasing the
other, who carried three golden hairs in his beak.

"Give them me," said one, "you know they are mine."

"Not at all, I picked them up myself."

"No matter, I saw them fall while the Maid with Locks of Gold was
combing out her hair. At least, give me two, then you can keep the
third for yourself."

"No, not a single one."

Thereupon one of the birds succeeded in seizing the hairs from the
other bird's beak, but in the struggle he let one fall, and it made a
sound as if a piece of metal had struck the ground. As for George, he
was completely taken off his guard, and the wine overflowed the glass.

The king was furious, and feeling convinced that his servant had
disobeyed him and had learnt the language of animals, he said, "You
scoundrel, you deserve death for having failed to do my bidding,
nevertheless, I will show you mercy upon one condition, that you bring
me the Maid with the Golden Locks, for I intend to marry her."

Alas, what was to be done? Poor fellow, he was willing to do anything
to save his life, even run the risk of losing it on a long journey. He
therefore promised to search for the Maid with the Golden Locks: but
he knew not where or how to find her.

When he had saddled and mounted his horse he allowed it to go its own
way, and it carried him to the outskirts of a dark forest, where some
shepherds had left a bush burning. The sparks of fire from the bush
endangered the lives of a large number of ants which had built their
nest close by, and the poor little things were hurrying away in all
directions, carrying their small white eggs with them.

"Help us in our distress, good George," they cried in a plaintive
voice; "do not leave us to perish, together with our children whom we
carry in these eggs."

George immediately dismounted, cut down the bush, and put out the
fire.

"Thank you, brave man: and remember, when you are in trouble you have
only to call upon us, and we will help you in our turn." The young
fellow went on his way far into the forest until he came to a very
tall fir tree. At the top of the tree was a raven's nest, while at the
foot, on the ground, lay two young ones who were calling out to their
parents and saying, "Alas, father and mother, where have you gone? You
have flown away, and we have to seek our food, weak and helpless as we
are. Our wings are as yet without feathers, how then shall we be able
to get anything to eat? Good George," said they, turning to the young
man, "do not leave us to starve."

Without stopping to think, the young man dismounted, and with his
sword slew his horse to provide food for the young birds. They thanked
him heartily, and said, "If ever you should be in distress, call to us
and we will help you at once."

After this George was obliged to travel on foot, and he walked on for
a long time, ever getting further and further into the forest. On
reaching the end of it, he saw stretching before him an immense sea
that seemed to mingle with the horizon. Close by stood two men
disputing the possession of a large fish with golden scales that had
fallen into their net.

"The net belongs to me," said one, "therefore the fish must be mine."

"Your net would not have been of the slightest use, for it would have
been lost in the sea, had I not come with my boat just in the nick of
time."

"Well, you shall have the next haul I make."

"And suppose you should catch nothing? No; give me this one and keep
the next haul for yourself."

"I am going to put an end to your quarrel," said George, addressing
them. "Sell me the fish: I will pay you well, and you can divide the
money between you."

Thereupon he put into their hands all the money the king had given him
for the journey, without keeping a single coin for himself. The
fishermen rejoiced at the good fortune which had befallen them, but
George put the fish back into the water. The fish, thankful for this
unexpected freedom, dived and disappeared, but returning to the
surface, said, "Whenever you may need my help you have but to call me,
I shall not fail to show my gratitude."

"Where are you going?" asked the fisherman.

"I am in search of a wife for my old master; she is known as the Maid
with the Golden Locks: but I am at a loss where to find her."

[Illustration]

"If that be all, we can easily give you information," answered they.
"She is Princess Zlato Vlaska, and daughter of the king whose crystal
palace is built on that island yonder. The golden light from the
princess's hair is reflected on sea and sky every morning when she
combs it. If you would like to go to the island we will take you there
for nothing, in return for the clever and generous way by which you
made us stop quarrelling. But beware of one thing: when in the palace
do not make a mistake as to which is the princess, for there are
twelve of them, but only Zlato Vlaska has hair of gold."

When George reached the island he lost no time in making his way to
the palace, and demanded from the king the hand of his daughter,
Princess Zlato Vlaska, in marriage to the king his master.

"I will grant the request with pleasure," said his majesty, "but only
on one condition, namely, that you perform certain tasks which I will
set you. These will be three in number, and must be done in three
days, just as I order you. For the present you had better rest and
refresh yourself after your journey."

On the next day the king said, "My daughter, the Maid with the Golden
Hair, had a string of fine pearls, and the thread having broken, the
pearls were scattered far and wide among the long grass of this field.
Go and pick up every one of the pearls, for they must all be found."

George went into the meadow, which was of great length and stretched
away far out of sight. He went down on his knees and hunted between
the tufts of grass and bramble from morning until noon, but not a
single pearl could he find.

"Ah, if I only had my good little ants here," he cried, "they would be
able to help me."

"Here we are, young man, at your service," answered the ants, suddenly
appearing. Then they all ran round him, crying out, "What is the
matter? What do you want?"

"I have to find all the pearls lost in this field, and cannot see a
single one: can you help me?"

"Wait a little, we will soon get them for you."

He had not to wait very long, for they brought him a heap of pearls,
and all he had to do was to thread them on the string. Just as he was
about to make a knot he saw a lame ant coming slowly towards him, for
one of her feet had been burned in the bush fire.

"Wait a moment, George," she called out; "do not tie the knot before
threading this last pearl I am bringing you."

When George took his pearls to the king, his majesty first counted
them to make sure they were all there, and then said, "You have done
very well in this test, to-morrow I will give you another."

Early next morning the king summoned George to him and said, "My
daughter, the Princess with the Golden Hair, dropped her gold ring
into the sea while bathing. You must find the jewel and bring it me
to-day."

The young fellow walked thoughtfully up and down the beach. The water
was pure and transparent, but he could not see beyond a certain
distance into its depths, and therefore could not tell where the ring
was lying beneath the water.

"Ah, my golden fishling, why are you not here now? You would surely be
able to help me," he said to himself, speaking aloud.

"Here I am," answered the fish's voice from the sea, "what can I do
for you?"

"I have to find a gold ring which has been dropped in the sea, but as
I cannot see to the bottom there is no use looking."

The fish said, "Fortunately I have just met a pike, wearing a gold
ring on his fin. Just wait a moment, will you?"

In a very short time he reappeared with the pike and the ring. The
pike willingly gave up the jewel.

The king thanked George for his cleverness, and then told him the
third task. "If you really wish me to give the hand of my daughter
with the golden hair to the monarch who has sent you here, you must
bring me two things that I want above everything: the Water of Death
and the Water of Life."

George had not the least idea where to find these waters, so he
determined to trust to chance and "follow his nose," as the saying is.
He went first in one direction and then in another, until he reached a
dark forest.

"Ah, if my little ravens were but here, perhaps they would help me,"
he said aloud.

Suddenly there was heard a rushing noise, as of wings overhead, and
then down came the ravens calling "Krâk, krâk, here we are, ready and
willing to help you. What are you looking for?"

"I want some of the Water of Death and the Water of Life: it is
impossible for me to find them, for I don't know where to look."

"Krâk, krâk, we know very well where to find some. Wait a moment."

Off they went immediately, but soon returned, each with a small gourd
in his beak. One gourd contained the Water of Life, the other the
Water of Death.

George was delighted with his success, and went back on his way to the
palace. When nearly out of the forest, he saw a spider's web hanging
between two fir trees, while in the centre was a large spider
devouring a fly he had just killed. George sprinkled a few drops of
the Water of Death on the spider; it immediately left the fly, which
rolled to the ground like a ripe cherry, but on being touched with the
Water of Life she began to move, and stretching out first one limb and
then another, gradually freed herself from the spider's web. Then she
spread her wings and took flight, having first buzzed these words in
the ears of her deliverer: "George, you have assured your own
happiness by restoring mine, for without my help you would never have
succeeded in recognising the Princess with the Golden Hair when you
choose her to-morrow from among her twelve sisters."

And the fly was right, for though the king, on finding that George had
accomplished the third task, agreed to give him his daughter Zlato
Vlaska, he yet added that he would have to find her himself.

He then led him to a large room and bade him choose from among the
twelve charming girls who sat at a round table. Each wore a kind of
linen head-dress that completely hid the upper part of the head, and
in such a way that the keenest eye could not discover the colour of
the hair.

"Here are my daughters," said the king, "but only one among them has
golden hair. If you find her you may take her with you; but if you
make a mistake she will remain with us, and you will have to return
empty-handed."

George felt much embarrassed, not knowing what course to take.

"Buzz, Buzz, come walk round these young girls, and I will tell you
which is yours."

Thus spoke the fly whose life George had saved.

Thus reassured he walked boldly round, pointing at them one after the
other and saying, "This one has not the golden hair, nor this one
either, nor this...."

Suddenly, having been told by the fly, he cried, "Here we are: this is
Zlato Vlaska, even she herself. I take her for my own, she whom I have
won, and for whom I have paid the price with many cares. You will not
refuse her me this time."

"Indeed, you have guessed aright," replied the king.

The princess rose from her seat, and letting fall her head-dress,
exposed to full view all the splendour of her wonderful hair, which
seemed like a waterfall of golden rays, and covered her from head to
foot. The glorious light that shone from it dazzled the young man's
eyes, and he immediately fell in love with her.

The king provided his daughter with gifts worthy of a queen, and she
left her father's palace in a manner befitting a royal bride. The
journey back was accomplished without any mishaps.

On their arrival the old king was delighted at the sight of Zlato
Vlaska, and danced with joy. Splendid and costly preparations were
made for the wedding. His majesty then said to George, "You robbed me
of the secret of animal language. For this I intended to have your
head cut off and your body thrown to birds of prey. But as you have
served me so faithfully and won the princess for my bride I will
lessen the punishment--that is, although you will be executed, yet you
shall be buried with all the honours worthy of a superior officer."

So the sentence was carried out, cruelly and unjustly. After the
execution the Princess with the Golden Hair begged the king to make
her a present of George's body, and the monarch was so much in love
that he could not refuse his intended bride anything.

Zlato Vlaska with her own hands replaced the head on the body, and
sprinkled it with the Water of Death. Immediately the separated parts
became one again. Upon this she poured the Water of Life, and George
returned to life, fresh as a young roebuck, his face radiant with
health and youth.

"Ah me! How well I have slept," said he, rubbing his eyes.

"Yes; no one could have slept better," answered the princess, smiling,
"but without me you would have slept through eternity."

[Illustration]

When the old king saw George restored to life, and looking younger,
handsomer, and more vigorous than ever, he too wanted to be made young
again. He therefore ordered his servants to cut off his head and
sprinkle it with the Life-Giving Water. They cut it off, but he did
not come to life again, although they sprinkled his body with all the
water that was left. Perhaps they made some mistake in using the wrong
water, for the head and body were joined, but life itself never
returned, there being no Water of Life left for that purpose. No one
knew where to get any, and none understood the language of animals.

So, to make a long story short, George was proclaimed king, and the
Princess with Hair of Gold, who really loved him, became his queen.



THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON



[Illustration]

THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON


There were once two young people who loved each other dearly. The
young man was called Jean, the girl, Annette. In her sweetness she was
like unto a dove, in her strength and bravery she resembled an eagle.

Her father was a rich farmer, and owned a large estate, but Jean's
father was only a poor mountain shepherd. Annette did not in the least
mind her lover being poor, for he was rich in goodness: nor did she
think her father would object to their marrying.

One day Jean put on his best clothes, and went to ask the farmer for
his daughter's hand. The farmer listened without interrupting him, and
then replied, "If you would marry Annette, go and ask of the Sun why
he does not warm the night as well as the day. Then inquire of the
Moon why she does not shine by day as well as by night. When you
return with these answers you shall not only have my daughter but all
my wealth."

These conditions in no way daunted Jean, who placed his hat on the
side of his head, and taking a loving farewell of Annette, set out in
search of the Sun. On reaching a small town at the close of day, he
looked about for a place wherein to pass the night. Some kind people
offered him shelter and invited him to sup with them, inquiring as to
the object of his journey. When they heard that he was on his way to
visit the Sun and Moon, the master of the house begged him to ask the
Sun why the finest pear-tree they had in the town had, for several
years, ceased to bear fruit, for it used to produce the most delicious
pears in the world.

Jean willingly promised to make this inquiry, and the next day
continued his journey.

He walked on and on, over mountain and moor, through valley and dense
forest, until he came to a land where there was no drinking water. The
inhabitants, when they heard the object of Jean's journey, begged him
to ask the Sun and Moon why a well, that was the chief water supply of
the district, no longer gave good water. Jean promised to do so, and
resumed his journey.

After long and weary wanderings he reached the Sun's abode, and found
him about to start on his travels.

"O Sun," said he, "stop one moment, do not depart without first
answering a few questions."

"Be quick then and speak, for I have to go all round the world
to-day."

"Pray tell me why you do not warm or light the earth by night as well
as day?"

"For this simple reason, that if I did, the world and everything upon
it would be very soon burnt up."

Jean then put his questions concerning the pear-tree and the well. But
the Sun replied that his sister, the Moon, would be able to answer him
on those points.

Hardly had the Sun finished speaking before he was obliged to hurry
off, and Jean travelled far and fast to meet the Moon. On coming up to
her he said, "Would you kindly stop one moment? there are a few
questions I should like to ask you."

"Very well, be quick, for the earth is waiting for me," answered she,
and stood still at once.

"Tell me, dear Moon, why you do not light the world by day as well as
by night? And why you never warm it?"

"Because if I lit up the world by day as well as by night the plants
would produce neither fruit nor flower. And though I do not warm the
earth, I supply it with dew, which makes it fertile and fruitful."

She was then about to continue her course, but Jean, begging her to
stop one moment longer, questioned her about the pear-tree which had
ceased to bear fruit.

And she answered him thus: "While the king's eldest daughter remained
unmarried the tree bore fruit every year. After her wedding she had a
little child who died and was buried under this tree. Since then there
has been neither fruit nor flower on its branches: if the child be
given Christian burial the tree will produce blossom and fruit as in
the past."

The Moon was just moving off when Jean begged her to stop and answer
one more question, which was, why the inhabitants of a certain land
were unable to obtain from their well the clear and wholesome water it
had formerly poured forth.

She replied: "Under the mouth of the well, just where the water should
flow, lies an enormous toad which poisons it continually: the brim of
the well must be broken and the toad killed, then the water will be as
pure and wholesome as formerly."

The Moon then resumed her journey, for Jean had no more questions to
ask her.

He joyfully went back to claim his Annette, but forgot not to stop on
coming to the land where they were short of water. The inhabitants ran
out to meet him, anxious to know what he had found out.

[Illustration]

Jean led them to the well and there explained the instructions he had
received from the Moon, at the same time showing them what to do. Sure
enough, right underneath the brim of the well they found a horrible
toad which poisoned everything. When they had killed it, the water
immediately became pure and transparent, and sweet to the taste as
before.

All the people brought Jean presents, and thus laden with riches he
again set out. On arriving at the town where grew the unfruitful
pear-tree, he was warmly welcomed by the prince, who at once asked if
he had forgotten to question the stars about the tree.

"I never forget a promise once made," replied Jean, "but I doubt
whether it will be agreeable to your majesty to know the cause of the
evil."

He then related all the Moon had said, and when his directions had
been carried out they were rewarded by seeing the tree blossom
immediately. Jean was loaded with rich gifts, and the king presented
him with a most valuable horse, by means of which he reached home very
quickly.

Little Annette was wild with joy on hearing of her lover's safe
return, for she had wept and suffered much during his absence. But her
father's feelings were very different; he wished never to see Jean
again, and had, indeed, sent him in search of the Sun with the hope
that he might be burnt up by the heat. True it is that "Man proposes
and God disposes." Our young shepherd returned, not only safe and
sound, but with more knowledge than any of his evil-wishers. For he
had learnt why the Sun neither lights nor warms the earth by night as
in the day; also why the Moon does not give warmth, and only lights up
during the night. Besides all this he had brought with him riches
which far exceeded those of his father-in-law, and a steed full of
fire and vigour.

So Annette's father could find no fault, and the wedding was
celebrated with joy and feasting. Large quantities of roasted crane
were eaten, and glasses overflowing with mead were emptied. So
beautiful, too, was the music, that for long, long after it was heard
to echo among the mountains, and even now its sweet sounds are heard
at times by travellers among those regions.



THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD



[Illustration: THE DWARF.]

THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD


In a far distant land there reigned a king, and he had an only
daughter who was so very beautiful that no one in the whole kingdom
could be compared to her. She was known as Princess Pietnotka, and the
fame of her beauty spread far and wide. There were many princes among
her suitors, but her choice fell upon Prince Dobrotek. She obtained
her father's consent to their marriage, and then, attended by a
numerous suite, set off with her lover for the church, having first,
as was the custom, received her royal parent's blessing. Most of the
princes who had been unsuccessful in their wooing of Pietnotka
returned disappointed to their own kingdoms: but one of them, a dwarf
only seven inches high, with an enormous hump on his back and a beard
seven feet long, who was a powerful prince and magician, was so
enraged that he determined to have his revenge. So he changed himself
into a whirlwind and lay in wait to receive the princess. When the
wedding procession was about to enter the church the air was suddenly
filled with a blinding cloud of dust, and Pietnotka was borne up high
as the highest clouds, and then right down to an underground palace.
There the dwarf, for it was he who had worked this spell, disappeared,
leaving her in a lifeless condition.

When she opened her eyes she found herself in such a magnificent
apartment that she imagined some king must have run away with her. She
got up and began to walk about, when lo! as if by some unseen hand the
table was laden with gold and silver dishes, filled with cakes of
every kind. They looked so tempting, that in spite of her grief she
could not resist tasting, and she continued to eat until she was more
than satisfied. She returned to the sofa and lay down to rest, but
being unable to sleep, she looked first at the door, and then at the
lamp burning on the table, then at the door again, and then back to
the lamp. Suddenly the door opened of itself, giving entrance to four
negroes fully armed, and bearing a golden throne, upon which was
seated the Dwarf with the Long Beard. He came close up to the sofa and
attempted to kiss the princess, but she struck him such a blow in the
face that a thousand stars swam before his eyes, and a thousand bells
rang in his ears; upon which he gave such a shout, that the palace
walls trembled. Yet his love for her was so great that he did his best
not to show his anger, and turned away as if to leave her. But his
feet became entangled in his long beard, and he fell down, dropping a
cap he was carrying in his hand. Now this cap had the power of making
its wearer invisible. The negroes hastened up to their master, and
placing him on his throne bore him out.

Directly the princess found herself alone she jumped off the sofa,
locked the door, and picking up the cap ran to a mirror to try it on
and see how it suited her. Imagine her amazement when looking in the
glass she saw--nothing at all! She took off the cap, and behold, she
was there again as large as life. She soon found out what sort of cap
it was, and rejoicing in the possession of such a marvel, put it on
her head again and began to walk about the room. Soon the door was
burst violently open, and the dwarf entered with his beard tied up.
But he found neither the princess nor the cap, and so came to the
conclusion that she had taken it. In a great rage he began to search
high and low; he looked under all the furniture, behind the curtains,
and even beneath the carpets, but it was all in vain. Meanwhile the
princess, still invisible, had left the palace and run into the
garden, which was very large and beautiful. There she lived at her
ease, eating the delicious fruit, drinking water from the fountain,
and enjoying the helpless fury of the dwarf, who sought her
untiringly. Sometimes she would throw the fruit-stones in his face, or
take off the cap and show herself for an instant: then she would put
it on again, and laugh merrily at his rage.

One day, while playing this game, the cap caught in the branches of a
gooseberry bush. The dwarf seeing this at once ran up, seized the
princess in one hand and the cap in the other, and was about to carry
both off when the sound of a war-trumpet was heard.

The dwarf trembled with rage and muttered a thousand curses. He
breathed on the princess to send her to sleep, covered her with the
invisible cap, and seizing a double-bladed sword, rose up in the air
as high as the clouds, so that he might fall upon his assailant and
kill him at one stroke. We shall now see with whom he had to deal.

After the hurricane had upset the wedding procession and carried off
the princess, there arose a great tumult among those at court. The
king, the princess's attendants, and Prince Dobrotek sought her in
every direction, calling her by name, and making inquiries of every
one they met. At last, the king in despair declared that if Prince
Dobrotek did not bring back his daughter, he would destroy his kingdom
and have him killed. And to the other princes present he promised that
whosoever among them should bring Pietnotka back to him should have
her for his wife and receive half of the kingdom. Whereupon they all
mounted their horses without loss of time and dispersed in every
direction.

Prince Dobrotek, overpowered with grief and dismay, travelled three
days without eating, drinking, or sleeping. On the evening of the
third day he was quite worn-out with fatigue, and stopping his horse
in a field, got down to rest for a short time. Suddenly he heard
cries, as of something in pain, and looking round saw an enormous owl
tearing a hare with its claws. The prince laid hold of the first hard
thing that came to his hand; he imagined it to be a stone, but it was
really a skull, and aiming it at the owl, killed the bird with the
first blow. The rescued hare ran up to him and gratefully licked his
hands, after which it ran away: but the human skull spoke to him and
said, "Prince Dobrotek, accept my grateful thanks for the good turn
you have done me. I belonged to an unhappy man who took his own life,
and for this crime of suicide I have been condemned to roll in the mud
until I was the means of saving the life of one of God's creatures. I
have been kicked about for seven hundred and seventy years, crumbling
miserably on the earth, and without exciting the compassion of a
single individual. You have been the means of setting me free by
making use of me to save the life of that poor hare. In return for
this kindness I will teach you how to call to your aid a most
marvellous horse, who during my life belonged to me. He will be able
to help you in a thousand ways, and when in need of him you have only
to walk out on the moorland without once looking behind you, and to
say:

  'Dappled Horse with Mane of Gold,
  Horse of Wonder! Come to me.
  Walk not the earth, for I am told
  You fly like birds o'er land and sea.'

Finish your work of mercy by burying me here, so that I may be at rest
until the day of judgment. Then depart in peace and be of good cheer."

The prince dug a hole at the foot of a tree, and reverently buried the
skull, repeating over it the prayers for the dead. Just as he finished
he saw a small blue flame come out of the skull and fly towards
heaven: it was the soul of the dead man on its way to the angels.

The prince made the sign of the cross and resumed his journey. When he
had gone some way along the moorland he stopped, and without looking
back tried the effect of the magic words, saying:

  "Dappled Horse with Mane of Gold,
  Horse of Wonder! Come to me.
  Walk not the earth, for I am told
  You fly like birds o'er land and sea."

Then amid flash of lightning and roll of thunder appeared the horse. A
horse, do I say? Why, he was a miracle of wonder. He was light as air,
with dappled coat and golden mane. Flames came from his nostrils and
sparks from his eyes. Volumes of steam rolled from his mouth and
clouds of smoke issued from his ears. He stopped before the prince,
and said in a human voice, "What are your orders, Prince Dobrotek?"

"I am in great trouble," answered the prince, "and shall be glad if
you can help me." Then he told all that had happened.

And the horse said, "Enter in at my left ear, and come out at my
right."

The prince obeyed, and came out at the right ear clad in a suit of
splendid armour. His gilded cuirass, his steel helmet inlaid with
gold, and his sword and club made of him a complete warrior. Still
more, he felt himself endowed with superhuman strength and bravery.
When he stamped his foot and shouted the earth trembled and gave forth
a sound like thunder, the very leaves fell from the trees.

[Illustration]

"What must we do? Where are we to go?" he asked.

The horse replied, "Your bride, Princess Pietnotka, has been carried
off by the Dwarf with the Long Beard, whose hump weighs two hundred
and eighty pounds. This powerful magician must be defeated, but he
lives a long way from here, and nothing can touch or wound him except
the sharp smiting sword that belongs to his own brother, a monster
with the head and eyes of a basilisk. We must first attack the
brother."

Prince Dobrotek leaped on to the dappled horse, which was covered with
golden trappings, and they set off immediately, clearing mountains,
penetrating forests, crossing rivers; and so light was the steed's
step that he galloped over the grass without bending a single blade,
and along sandy roads without raising a grain of dust. At last they
reached a vast plain, strewn with human bones. They stopped in front
of a huge moving mountain, and the horse said:

"Prince, this moving mountain that you see before you is the head of
the Monster with Basilisk Eyes, and the bones that whiten the ground
are the skeletons of his victims, so beware of the eyes that deal
death. The heat of the midday sun has made the giant sleep, and the
sword with the never-failing blade lies there before him. Bend down
and lie along my neck until we are near enough, then seize the sword
and you have nothing more to fear. For, without the sword, not only
will the monster be unable to harm you, but he himself will be
completely at your mercy."

The horse then noiselessly approached the huge creature, upon which
the prince bent down, and quickly picked up the sword. Then, raising
himself on his steed's back, he gave a "Hurrah!" loud enough to wake
the dead. The giant lifted his head, yawned, and turned his
bloodthirsty eyes upon the prince; but seeing the sword in his hand he
became quiet, and said, "Knight, is it weariness of life that brings
you here?"

"Boast not," replied the prince, "you are in my power. Your glance has
already lost its magic charm, and you will soon have to die by this
sword. But first tell me who you are."

"It is true, prince, I am in your hands, but be generous, I deserve
your pity. I am a knight of the race of giants, and if it were not for
the wickedness of my brother I should have lived in peace. He is the
horrible dwarf with the great hump and the beard seven feet long. He
was jealous of my fine figure, and tried to do me an injury. You must
know that all his strength, which is extraordinary, lies in his beard,
and it can only be cut off by the sword you hold in your hand. One day
he came to me and said, 'Dear brother, I pray you help me to discover
the sharp smiting sword that has been hidden in the earth by a
magician. He is our enemy, and he alone can destroy us both.' Fool
that I was, I believed him, and by means of a large oak tree, raked up
the mountain and found the sword. Then we disputed as to which of us
should have it, and at last my brother suggested that we should cease
quarrelling and decide by lot. 'Let us each put an ear to the ground,
and the sword shall belong to him who first hears the bells of yonder
church,' said he. I placed my ear to the ground at once, and my
brother treacherously cut off my head with the sword. My body, left
unburied, became a great mountain, which is now overgrown with
forests. As for my head, it is full of a life and strength proof
against all dangers, and has remained here ever since to frighten all
who attempt to take away the sword. Now, prince, I beg of you, use the
sword to cut off the beard of my wicked brother; kill him, and return
here to put an end to me: I shall die happy if I die avenged."

"That you shall be, and very soon, I promise you," replied his
listener.

The prince bade the Dappled Horse with Golden Mane carry him to the
kingdom of the Dwarf with the Long Beard. They reached the garden gate
at the very moment when the dwarf had caught sight of Princess
Pietnotka and was running after her. The war-trumpet, challenging him
to fight, had obliged him to leave her, which he did, having first put
on her head the invisible cap.

While the prince was awaiting the answer to his challenge he heard a
great noise in the clouds, and looking up saw the dwarf preparing to
aim at him from a great height. But he missed his aim and fell to the
ground so heavily that his body was half buried in the earth. The
prince seized him by the beard, which he at once cut off with the
sharp smiting sword.

Then he fastened the dwarf to the saddle, put the beard in his helmet,
and entered the palace. When the servants saw that he had really got
possession of the terrible beard, they opened all the doors to give
him entrance. Without losing a moment he began his search for Princess
Pietnotka. For a long time he was unsuccessful, and was almost in
despair when he came across her accidentally, and, without knowing it,
knocked off the invisible cap. He saw his lovely bride sound asleep,
and being unable to wake her he put the cap in his pocket, took her in
his arms, and, mounting his steed, set off to return to the Monster
with the Basilisk Eyes. The giant swallowed the dwarf at one mouthful,
and the prince cut the monster's head up into a thousand pieces, which
he scattered all over the plain.

He then resumed his journey, and on coming to the moorland the dappled
horse stopped short and said, "Prince, here for the present we must
take leave of each other. You are not far from home, your own horse
awaits you; but before leaving, enter in at my right ear and come out
at my left."

The prince did so, and came out without his armour, and clad as when
Pietnotka left him.

The dappled horse vanished, and Dobrotek whistled to his own horse,
who ran up, quite pleased to see him again. They immediately set off
for the king's palace.

But night came on before they reached the end of their journey.

The prince laid the sleeping maiden on the grass, and, covering her up
carefully to keep her warm, he himself fell fast asleep. By chance, a
knight, one of her suitors, passed that way. Seeing Dobrotek asleep he
drew his sword and stabbed him; then he lifted the princess on his
horse and soon reached the king's palace, where he addressed
Pietnotka's father in these words: "Here is your daughter, whom I now
claim as my wife, for it is I who have restored her to you. She was
carried off by a terrible sorcerer who fought with me three days and
three nights. But I conquered him, and I have brought you the princess
safely back."

[Illustration]

The king was overjoyed at seeing her again, but finding that his
tenderest efforts were powerless to awake her, he wanted to know the
reason of it.

"That I cannot tell you," replied the impostor; "you see her as I
found her myself."

Meanwhile, poor Prince Dobrotek, seriously wounded, was slowly
recovering consciousness, but he felt so weak that he could hardly
utter these words:

  "Come, Magic Horse with Mane of Gold,
  Come, Dappled Horse, O come to me.
  Fly like the birds as you did of old,
  As flashes of lightning o'er land and sea."

Instantly a bright cloud appeared, and from the midst thereof stepped
the magic horse. As he already knew all that had happened, he dashed
off immediately to the Mountain of Eternal Life. Thence he drew the
three kinds of water: the Water that gives Life, the Water that Cures,
and the Water that Strengthens. Returning to the prince, he sprinkled
him first with the Life-giving Water, and instantly the body, which
had become cold, was warm again and the blood began to circulate. The
Water that Cures healed the wound, and the Strength-giving Water had
such an effect upon him that he opened his eyes and cried out, "Oh,
how well I have slept."

"You were already sleeping the eternal sleep," replied the dappled
horse. "One of your rivals stabbed you mortally, and carried off
Pietnotka, whom he pretends to have rescued. But do not worry
yourself, she still sleeps, and none can arouse her but you, and this
you must do by touching her with the dwarf's beard. Go now, and be
happy."

The brave steed disappeared in a whirlwind, and Prince Dobrotek
proceeded on his way. On drawing near the capital he saw it surrounded
by a large foreign army; part of it was already taken, and the
inhabitants seemed to be begging for mercy. The prince put on his
invisible cap, and began to strike right and left with the sharp
smiting sword. With such fury did he attack the enemy that they fell
dead on all sides, like felled trees. When he had thus destroyed the
whole army he went, still invisible, into the palace, where he heard
the king express the utmost astonishment that the enemy had retired
without fighting.

"Where then is the brave warrior who has saved us?" said his majesty
aloud.

Every one was silent, when Dobrotek took off his magic cap, and
falling on his knees before the monarch, said: "It is I, my king and
father, who have routed and destroyed the enemy. It is I who saved the
princess, my bride. While on my way back with her I was treacherously
killed by my rival, who has represented himself to you as her rescuer,
but he has deceived you. Lead me to the princess, that I may awaken
her."

On hearing these words the impostor ran away as quickly as possible,
and Dobrotek approached the sleeping maiden. He just touched her brow
with the dwarf's beard, upon which she opened her eyes, smiled, and
seemed to ask where she was.

The king, overcome with joy, kissed her fondly, and the same evening
she was married to the devoted Prince Dobrotek. The king himself led
her to the altar, and to his son-in-law he gave half his kingdom. So
splendid was the wedding banquet, that eye has never seen, nor ear
ever heard of its equal.



THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING, AND THE
SMITING CLUB



[Illustration]

THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING, AND THE
SMITING CLUB


In a cottage near the high-road, and close to the shores of a large
lake, there once lived a widow, poor and old. She was very very poor,
but her mother's heart was rich in pride in her son, who was the joy
of her life. He was a handsome lad with an honest soul. He earned his
living by fishing in the lake, and succeeded so well that neither he
nor his mother were ever in want of their daily bread. Every one
called him "the fisherman."

One evening at dusk he went down to the lake to throw in his nets, and
standing on the shore with a new bucket in his hand, waited to put
into it whatever fish it might please God to send him. In about a
quarter of an hour or so he drew in his nets and took out two bream.
These he threw into the bucket, and humming a merry song turned to go
home. At that moment a traveller, poorly clad, with hair and beard
white as the wings of a dove, spoke to him, saying, "Have pity on a
feeble old man, obliged to lean on his stick, hungry and ragged. I beg
you, in Heaven's name, to give me either money or bread. The sun will
soon set, and I who have eaten nothing to-day shall have to pass the
night fasting, with the bare earth for a bed."

"My good old friend, I am sorry I have nothing about me to give you,
but you see the black smoke curling up in the distance? That is our
cottage, where my old mother is waiting for me to bring her some fish
to cook for our supper. Now take these two bream to her, meanwhile I
will return to the lake and throw in my nets again to see if I can
catch something more. Thus, with God's help, we shall all three have
enough for supper to-night and breakfast to-morrow morning."

While speaking the fisherman handed the fish to the old man, when,
marvel of marvels! he melted into the rays of the setting sun and
vanished, both he and the fish.

The fisherman, much astonished, rubbed his eyes and looked about on
all sides. For a moment he felt afraid, but when he had crossed
himself all terror left him and he went to draw in his nets by the
light of the moon. And what do you think he found in them? It was
neither a pike nor a trout, but a small fish with eyes of diamonds,
fins of rainbow colour, and golden scales that shone and flashed like
lightning.

When he had spread his nets on the beach the fish began to talk to him
in the language of men.

"Do not kill me, young fisherman," it said, "but accept in exchange
for my life this golden ring. Every time you put it on your finger
repeat these words:

  'I conjure thee, O ring, who gold can give,
  In the name of the little fishling of gold,
  For the good of man, that man may live,
  And the honour of heaven, send, new or old,
  Little or much, as may be my need,
  Coins of the realm, let them fall like seed.'

After uttering each of these words, a shower of gold pieces will
fall."

The fisherman gladly accepted the ring, and freeing the miraculous
fish from the net he threw it back into the water. As it fell, it
shone in the air like a shooting star and then disappeared beneath the
waves.

On his way back he said to himself, "My mother and I will go to bed
hungry to-night, without our fried fish, but to-morrow, when I have
made the golden coins gleam in our humble cottage, all sorts of good
things will find their way there, and we shall live like lords."

But things turned out very differently, for the first thing he saw on
opening the door was the table covered with a white cloth, and upon it
a china soup-tureen in which lay the two bream freshly cooked.

"Where did you get those fish from, dear mother?"

"I do not know myself," replied she, "for I have neither cleaned them
nor cooked them. Our table spread itself, the fish placed themselves
upon it, and although they have been there an hour they do not get
cold; any one might think they had just been taken off the fire. Come,
let us eat them."

The widow and her son sat down, said grace, and after eating as much
as they wanted went to bed.

Next morning, at breakfast time, the fisherman made the sign of the
cross, and then put on the gold ring, at the same time repeating the
words the fish had taught him:

  "I conjure thee, O ring, who gold can give,
  In the name of the little fishling of gold,
  For the good of man, that man may live,
  And the honour of heaven, send, new or old,
  Little or much, as may be my need,
  Coins of the realm, let them fall like seed."

When he had ceased speaking the room was filled with a blast of wind
followed by flashes of lightning, then a hailstorm of gold pieces
showered down and quite covered the table.

The chink of the money aroused his mother, who sat up in bed perfectly
amazed.

"What is the meaning of this, my son? Am I awake or dreaming? or is it
the work of the Evil One? Where did all that money come from?"

[Illustration]

"Fear not, mother, I wear a cross that charms away evil spirits. I
have my work, so that you shall never want, and I have your heart,
where for me there will ever be love to sweeten the disappointments
and troubles of life. This gold that you see will drive poverty far
away, and enable us to help others. Take these pieces, lock them up
safely, and use them when in need. As for me, kiss me, and wish me
good luck on my journey."

"What! Is it possible that you want to leave me already? Why? and
whither are you going?"

"I want to go, mother mine, to see the great city. When there, I mean
to enrol myself in the national army. Thus the fisherman turned
soldier will become the defender of his king, for the glory of his
country and his mother."

"Of a truth, my son, I have heard some talk about the king being in
danger, and that our enemies are trying to take his crown from him.
But why should you go? Stay at home rather, for alone and unnoticed
among so many troops you will neither be able to help nor to hinder."

"You are right, one man alone is a small thing, but by adding one
grain to another the measure overflows. If all those who are capable
of bearing arms will help the king, there is no doubt that he will
soon overcome his enemies."

"But a harmless fisherman like you! Of what use can you be in a
battle?"

"The fisherman has, doubtless, a peaceable disposition, and he never
boasts of his strength. But when the right moment comes he knows how
to handle a sword, and how to water the land with the enemy's blood.
And the victorious king will, perhaps, reward me for my bravery by
giving me some splendid castle, or a few acres of forest land, a suit
of armour and a horse, or even the hand of his daughter in marriage."

"If you feel like this," answered she, "go, and may God bless you. May
He cover you, dear child, with His grace as with a buckler, so that
neither guns nor sabres shall do you harm. May He take you under His
protection, so that you may return safe and sound to be a comfort to
me; and at the end of my days may I rejoice in your happiness, and
live near you as long as God in His wisdom shall allow."

Then she gave him her blessing and kissed him tenderly, making the
sign of the cross in the direction he was about to take.

So he departed, and after a few days' march reached the capital,
thinking within himself how he might help the king most effectually.

The town was surrounded by a countless host who threatened to utterly
destroy it unless the king would agree to pay a very large ransom.

The people crowded into the square, and stood before the palace gates
listening to the herald's proclamation.

"Hear the king's will," said the herald; "listen, all ye faithful
subjects, to the words he speaks to you by my mouth. Here are our
deadly enemies, who have scattered our troops, and have come to
besiege the capital of our kingdom. If we do not send them, by
daybreak to-morrow, twenty-four waggons, each drawn by six horses and
loaded with gold, they threaten to take the town and destroy it by
fire and sword, and to deliver our land to the soldiers. It is certain
that we cannot hold out any longer, and our royal treasure-house does
not contain one-half the amount demanded. Therefore, through me our
sovereign announces, that whosoever among you shall succeed, either in
defeating our foes, or in providing the money needed for the ransom,
him will he appoint his heir to the crown, and to him will he give his
only daughter in marriage, a princess of marvellous beauty. Further,
he shall receive half the kingdom in his own right."

When the fisherman heard these words he went to the king and said, "My
sovereign and father, command that twenty-four waggons, each harnessed
with twenty-four horses and provided with leathern bags, be brought
into the courtyard; I will engage to fill them with gold, and that at
once, before your eyes."

Then he left the palace, and standing in the middle of the large
square, recited the words the fish had taught him.

These were followed by rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning,
and then by a perfect hurricane which sent down masses and showers of
gold. In a few minutes the square was covered with a layer of gold so
thick that, after loading the twenty-four waggons and filling a large
half of the royal treasure-house, there was enough left to make
handsome presents to all the king's officers and servants.

Next day the enemy returned to their own country laden with the heavy
ransom they had demanded.

The king sent for the fisherman, and inviting him to partake of
hydromel wine and sweetmeats, said, "You have to-day been the means of
saving our capital from a great calamity, and shall, therefore,
receive the reward which you have earned. My only daughter, a princess
of great beauty, shall be your wife, and I will give you the half of
my kingdom for a wedding present. I also appoint you my heir to the
throne. But tell me, to whom am I indebted? What kingdom or land
belongs to you? How is it that by a mere movement of the hand you were
able to supply my enemies with such a quantity of gold?"

And the fisherman, simple-hearted and straightforward as a child,
ignorant of the deceptions practised in court, answered frankly,
"Sire, I belong to no royal or princely family, I am a simple
fisherman and your loyal subject. I procure my gold by means of this
magic ring, and at any time I can have as much as I want."

Then he told how his good fortune had come to him.

The king made no answer, but it hurt his royal dignity to think that
he owed his safety to one of his own peasants, and that he had
promised to make him his son-in-law.

That evening, after a luxurious supper, the fisherman, having taken a
little more wine than usual, ventured to ask the king to present him
to his bride. The king whispered a few words in the ear of the
chamberlain of the court, and then went out.

The chamberlain took the fisherman to the top of the castle tower, and
there said to him, "According to the customs of the court you should,
before being introduced to the princess, send her by my hands some
valuable jewel as a wedding gift."

"But I have nothing of value or beauty about me," replied he, "unless
you offer the princess this golden ring, to which I owe all my good
fortune, the princess herself, and the safety of her father."

The chamberlain took the ring, and opening the window of the tower,
asked, "Fisherman, do you see the moon in the heavens?"

"I do."

"Very well, she shall be the witness of your betrothal. Now look down;
do you see that precipice, and the deep river shining in its depths."

"I do."

"Very well, it shall be your bridal couch."

So saying the chamberlain threw him into the deep abyss, shut the
window, and ran to tell the king that there was no longer a suitor for
the hand of his daughter.

The fisherman, stunned by the force of his fall, reached the water
quite senseless. When he came to himself and opened his eyes, he lay
in a boat which at that moment was leaving the mouth of the river and
entering the open sea.

The very old man, to whom he had given the bream, was guiding the
vessel with an oar.

"My good old man, is it you? How did you manage to save me?" asked the
astonished fisherman.

"I came to your assistance," replied the old man, "because he who
shows pity to others deserves their help when in need of it. But take
the oar and row to whatever place you wish."

And having thus spoken the mysterious old man disappeared. The
fisherman crossed himself, and having looked round upon the royal
palace sparkling with light he sighed deeply, and chanting the hymn
"Under Thy Help," put out to sea.

When the sun rose he saw some nets in the boat, and throwing them into
the water caught some pike, which he sold in a town near the shore,
and then continued his journey on foot.

Two or three months later, when crossing some open country, he heard
cries for help which came from a hill near the forest. There he saw
two little demons pulling each other's hair. By the cut of their short
waistcoats, by their tight pantaloons and three-cornered hats, he knew
that they were inhabitants of the nether world, from which they must
have escaped. He had no doubt about it, but being a good Christian he
was not afraid, and accosted them boldly, saying, "Why do you
ill-treat each other in this way? What is the meaning of it?"

"It means, that for many a long year we have both been working hard to
entice a silly fellow down below. He was first tempted by the desire
to learn something of sorcery, and he ended by becoming an
accomplished scoundrel. After giving him time to commit a great many
crimes and thus forfeit his soul, we handed him over to safe keeping.
Now we want to divide his property between us. He has left three
things, which by every right belong to us. The first is a wonderful
carpet. Whoever sits down upon it, and pronounces certain magic words,
will be carried off at once, over forests and under clouds, never
stopping until his destination is reached. The magic words are as
follows:

  'Carpet, that of thyself through space takes flight,
  O travel, thou airy car, both day and night
  Till my desired haven comes in sight.'

The second piece of property is that club lying on the grass. After
uttering some magic words, the club will immediately begin to hit so
vigorously that a whole army may be crushed to pieces or dispersed.
The words run thus:

  'Club, thou marvellous club, who knows
  How to strike and smite my foes,
  By thine own strength and in God's name
  O strike well home and strike again.'

The third piece of property is a cap that renders its wearer
invisible. Now, my good man, you see our difficulty: there are but two
of us, and we are fighting to decide how these three lots may be
divided into two equal parts."

"I can help you," said the fisherman, "provided you will do as I tell
you. Leave the three lots here just as they are--the carpet, the club,
and the magic cap. I will roll a stone from the top of this hill to
the bottom--whoever catches it first shall have two lots for his
share. What do you say?"

"Agreed!" cried the demons, racing after the stone that rolled and
bounded on its way down.

In the meantime the fisherman hastily put on the cap, seized the club,
and sitting down on the carpet, repeated the magic formula without
forgetting a single word.

He was already high up in the air when the demons returned carrying
the stone and calling out to him to come and reward the winner.

"Come down and divide those things between us," they cried after him.

The fisherman's only answer was the magic address to his club. This
enchanted weapon then fell upon them and struck so hard that the
country round echoed to the sound thereof. In the midst of screams and
cries and clouds of dust they escaped at last, and the club, of its
own accord, came back and placed itself at the fisherman's orders. He,
in spite of the rapid motion, sat comfortably on the carpet with the
cap under his arm and the club in his hand. Thus they flew over
forests, under clouds, and so high that seen from the earth they
looked like a tiny white cloud.

Within two or three days they stopped at the king's capital. The
fisherman, with his cap on, descended into the middle of the
courtyard.

The whole place was in confusion and trouble, for the commander of the
foreign army, encouraged by having so easily received such a large sum
of money, had returned to the attack and again held the town in siege,
declaring that he would destroy every house and slay all the
inhabitants, not sparing even the king himself, unless he agreed to
give him his only daughter in marriage.

The terrified citizens crowded to the palace and besought his majesty
to do as they asked him, and so save them from such a fate. The king,
standing on the balcony, addressed them thus: "Faithful and devoted
people, listen to me. Nothing but a miracle can save us from this
fearful calamity; yet it has happened that the most powerful
assailants have been forced to ask mercy of the most feeble. I will
never consent to the marriage of my only daughter with my most hated
and cruel foe. Within a few moments my guards will be ready for
combat, and I myself will lead them against the enemy. If there be any
among you who can win the victory, to him will I give my only daughter
in marriage, the half of my kingdom for her dowry, and the heirship to
the throne."

When he had finished speaking the fisherman ordered his club to fall
on the foe, while the country round echoed and re-echoed to the blows
by means of which it destroyed the besieging army. It was in vain that
the brave commander shouted to his soldiers not to run away, for when
he himself received three blows from the club he was obliged to make
off as fast as possible.

[Illustration]

When the club had destroyed or driven away into the desert all the
troops it came back to its master; he, still wearing the magic cap,
and with his carpet folded up under his arm and his club in his hand,
made his way to the king's apartment.

In the palace shouts of joy had succeeded the cries of fear which had
been heard but a short while ago. Every one was happy, and every one
congratulated the king upon his victory, as sudden and complete as it
was unexpected. But the monarch, turning to his warriors, addressed
them thus: "Victory! Let us rather return thanks to God. He who has
won for us the victory has but to present himself and receive the
reward he so richly deserves, that is, my beautiful daughter in
marriage, the half of my kingdom, and the right of succession to my
throne. These are the gifts that await this victorious hero. Where is
he?"

They all stood silent and looked from one to the other. Then the
fisherman, who had taken off his cap, appeared before the assembly and
said, "Behold, it was I who destroyed your enemies, O king. This is
the second time that I have been promised the hand of the princess in
marriage, the half of the kingdom, and the right of succession to the
throne."

The king, struck dumb with amazement, looked inquiringly at his
chamberlain, then recovering his presence of mind he shook hands with
the fisherman.

"Your good health, my friend. By what happy fortune do you return safe
and sound to my court? The chamberlain told me that through your own
carelessness you had fallen out of the tower window; in truth, we
mourned you as dead."

"I should not have fallen out of the window if I had not been thrown
down by your chamberlain; there is the traitor. I only escaped death
through God's help, and I have just come to the palace in my air-car."

The king made a pretence of being angry with the guilty chamberlain,
and ordered his guards to take him away to the donjon cell; then, with
pretended friendship, he embraced the fisherman and led him to his own
apartments. All the while he was thinking and thinking what he could
do to get rid of him. The idea of having him, a mere peasant and one
of his own subjects, for a son-in-law was most repugnant to him, and
hurt his kingly pride. At last he said, "The chamberlain will most
certainly be punished for his crime. As for you, who have twice been
my saviour, you shall be my son-in-law. Now the customs observed at
court demand that you should send your bride a wedding gift, a jewel,
or some other trifle of value. When this has been observed I promise
to give my blessing on the marriage, and may you both be happy and
live long."

"I have no jewel worthy of the princess's acceptance. I might have
given her as much gold as she wished, but your chamberlain took my
magic golden ring from me."

"Before insisting upon its return something else might be done. I
thoroughly appreciate the value of your marvellous flying carpet--why
should not we both sit on it and make an excursion to the Valley of
Diamonds? There we can obtain stones of the finest water, such as no
one in the world has ever possessed. Afterwards we will return here
with your wedding present for my daughter."

The king then opened the window, and the fisherman, spreading out his
carpet, repeated the magic words.

Thus they took flight into the air, and after travelling one or two
hours began to descend at their destination. It was a valley
surrounded on all sides by rocks so steep and so difficult of access,
that, except by God's special grace, no mortal man imprisoned there
could possibly escape. The ground was strewn with diamonds of the
finest quality. The king and fisherman found it easy to make a large
collection, picking and choosing, gathering and arranging them upon
the carpet. When they had put together all there was room for, the
king sat down, and pointing to a large diamond shining at a little
distance, said to the fisherman, "There is yet a more splendid one by
the stream yonder; run, my son-in-law, and bring it here, it would be
a pity to leave it."

The man went for it, while the king, taking advantage of his absence
to pronounce the magic words, seated himself on the carpet, which
lifted itself up, and floating like an air-car above the forest and
under the clouds, descended by one of the palace windows.

His joy knew no bounds, for he now found himself not only free from
his enemies and rid of the embarrassing presence of the fisherman, but
also the possessor of the richest and most beautiful collection of
diamonds in the world;--by his orders they were put away in the caves
of the royal treasure-house, and with them the magic ring and the
flying carpet.

Meantime the fisherman had returned with the diamond, and had stood
aghast to see the carpet vanishing away in the distance.

Wounded at the ingratitude and indignant at the perversity of a prince
for whom he had done so much, he burst into tears.

And, indeed, he had good reason to weep. For he had but to look at the
enormous height of the polished rocks to be convinced of the
impossibility of climbing them. The vegetation, too, was so scanty
that it could only provide him with food for a very short time. He saw
but two courses open to him: either to die from starvation, or to be
devoured by the monstrous serpents that crawled about in great
numbers. Night was now coming on, and the poor fellow was obliged to
plan some way of escaping the frightful reptiles which were leaving
their hiding-places. At last he climbed up a tree, the highest he
could find, and there, with his magic cap on and his club in his hand,
passed the night without even closing his eyes.

Next morning when the sun rose the serpents went back to their holes,
and the fisherman got down from his tree feeling stiff with cold and
very hungry. For some time he walked about the valley in search of
food, turning over the diamonds now so useless to him. There he found
a few worthless mushrooms, and with such poor food as berries and
sorrel leaves, and the water of the valley stream for drink, he lived
for some days.

One night when he went to sleep it happened that his cap came off and
fell to the ground, whereupon all the reptiles of the place
immediately gathered round him. Aroused by their hisses, he awoke to
find himself surrounded on all sides and almost in reach of their
stings. He immediately seized his club, and had scarcely begun to
repeat the magic formula before the weapon set to work to destroy the
snakes, while the rocks resounded right and left with the blows. It
was as if the monsters were being covered with boiling water, and the
noise they made was like that produced by a flock of birds overtaken
by a storm. They roared and hissed and twisted themselves into a
thousand knots, gradually disappearing one by one. Then the club
returned of its own accord to the fisherman's hands, while he returned
thanks to God for having delivered him from such a horrible death. At
that moment there appeared upon the top of a steep rock his friend,
the old man. Overcome with joy at the sight of him, the fisherman
called out, "Save me! come to me, my divine protector."

The old man spread out his arms towards him, and having blessed him
drew him up, saying, "Now you are free again, hasten to save your
king, his daughter your bride, and their kingdom. After he had left
you in the valley as food for serpents he was punished for his great
crimes by the return of the enemy, who again laid siege to the
capital. This happened at the very moment when he was surrounded by
his guests, and was boasting of his possession of the air-car, the
magic golden ring, and the rest of his evilly acquired riches.

"His foes had consulted Yaga, a wicked sorceress; she advised them to
obtain the help of Kostey the magician, who promised his aid in
carrying off the princess. When he came he fell in love with the
beautiful maiden at first sight, and determined to marry her himself.
In order to bring this about he threw the king, the courtiers, and all
the inhabitants of the land into a heavy sleep. Then he bore off the
princess to his own palace, where she has been shut up and ill-treated
because she refuses to have anything to do with him. His castle is
situated at the very end of the world, to the west. There is nothing
to hinder you from taking possession of your carpet and ring, they are
hidden in the king's treasure-house. Then go with your cap and club
and conquer Kostey, rescue the princess, and deliver the king and his
subjects."

The fisherman would have thrown himself at the old man's feet to pour
out his gratitude, but he suddenly vanished. So he thanked God for all
His mercies, put on his invisible cap, and taking his club, made his
way towards the capital.

At the end of three days he entered the royal city. All the
inhabitants were sleeping the enchanted sleep, from which they were
powerless to rouse themselves. The fisherman went straight to the
royal treasure-house, took the magic ring and carpet, then seating
himself upon the latter and repeating the magic words, away he went
like a bird, over rustling forests and under clouds, floating across
the blue sky.

After some days of travel he alighted in Kostey's courtyard. Without a
moment's delay he folded up his carpet, put the magic cap on his head,
and with club in hand entered Kostey's room. There, to his
astonishment, stood the magician himself, admiring the wondrous beauty
of the princess. For she was perfectly beautiful; eye had never seen
nor ear heard of such loveliness. With a low bow full of pride and an
ironical smile he was saying to her: "Beauteous princess, you have
sworn a most solemn oath to marry none but that man who can solve your
six riddles. It is in vain that I strive to guess them. Now there are
only two courses open to you: either to release yourself from your
vow, putting the riddles aside and consenting to be my wife; or to
persist in your vow and thus deliver yourself up to my anger, which
you will bitterly regret. I give you three minutes to decide."

[Illustration]

Upon hearing these threats the fisherman trembled with rage, and in a
low voice whispered the magic words to his club.

This good weapon did not wait for the order to be repeated, but with
one bound came down full upon Kostey's forehead. Stunned for a moment
by the violence of the blow, the terrible creature rolled upon the
ground. Sparks like fireworks sprang from his eyes, and the noise as
of a hundred mills seemed to go through his head. Any ordinary mortal
would never have opened his eyes again, but Kostey was immortal.

Getting on his feet he pulled himself together, and tried to find out
who had thus attacked him. Then the club began to hit him again, and
the sound thereof was like unto blows on an empty vault. It seemed to
the magician as if showers of boiling water were being poured upon
him. He twisted himself about in awful convulsions, and would have
liked to bury himself in his palace walls and be turned to stone.

At last, crippled with wounds, he began to hiss like a serpent, and
springing forwards breathed upon the princess, filling the air with
the poisonous blast.

The maiden tottered and fell, as if dead. Kostey changed himself into
a wreath of smoke, and floating out of the window, disappeared in a
hurricane.

The fisherman, still invisible, carried the princess into the
courtyard of the castle, hoping that the fresh air might restore her
to consciousness. He laid her upon the grass, his heart throbbing with
hope and fear, and waited anxiously. Suddenly a raven and his
nestlings, attracted by the sight of a dead body, and not being able
to see the fisherman, came by croaking. The parent bird said to his
young ones:

  "Come, children, sharpen claws and beak, krâk, krâk,
  For here's a feast not far to seek, krâk, krâk,
  This young girl's corse so white and sleek, krâk, krâk."

One small bird at once settled down on the princess, but the fisherman
seized it and took off his cap, so that he could be seen.

"Fisherman," said the father raven, "let go my dear birdling and I
will give you anything you want."

"Then bring me some of the Life-Giving Water."

The raven flew away and returned in about an hour, carrying in his
beak a tiny bottle of the water. Then he again begged to have his
nestling back.

"You shall have it as soon as I have proved that the water is of the
right sort."

So saying, he sprinkled the pale face of the princess. She sighed,
opened her eyes, and blushing at the sight of a stranger, got up and
said, "Where am I? Why, how soundly I have slept!"

"Lovely princess, your sleep might have lasted for ever."

Then he told her his story, how he had been thrown into the river,
abandoned in the Valley of Diamonds, and so on, relating at full
length all the marvellous events that had taken place.

She listened attentively, then, thanking him for all he had done for
her, placed her hand in his and said, "In the garden behind the palace
is an apple-tree that bears golden fruit. A guzla that plays of its
own accord hangs on its branches, and is guarded day and night by four
negroes. Now the music from this guzla has the wonderful power of
restoring health to invalids who listen to it, and happiness to those
who are sad. That which is ugly becomes beautiful, and charms and
enchantments of all kinds are broken and destroyed for ever."

The fisherman put on his invisible cap and went into the garden in
search of the negroes. Before going up to them he addressed the magic
words to his golden ring, and after a short thunderstorm a shower of
gold covered the ground. The negroes, greedy of wealth, threw
themselves upon it, snatching from each other handfuls of the golden
rain. While thus engaged the fisherman unhooked the guzla from the
branches and hurried off into the courtyard with it. There he unfolded
his carpet, and sitting down upon it with the princess at his side,
flew high up into the air. He had not forgotten to bring with him the
cap, the club, and the ring; the princess took care of the guzla.

They floated across the blue sky, above the rustling forests and under
the clouds, and in a few days arrived at the palace. There they
descended, but the people still lay wrapped in the enchanted sleep,
from which they seemed to have no power of awakening.

The silence of the tomb reigned around. Some of the officers were
sitting, others standing, all motionless and rigid, and each one in
the position he occupied when last awake. The king held a goblet
filled with wine, for he had been giving a toast. The chamberlain had
his throat half filled with a lying tale, which there had been no time
to finish. One had the end of a joke upon his lips, another a dainty
morsel between his teeth, or a tale ready cooked upon his tongue.

And it was the same in all the villages throughout the length and
breadth of the land. All the inhabitants lay under the enchanted
spell. The labourer held his whip in the air, for he had been about to
strike his oxen. The harvesters with their sickles had stopped short
in their work. The shepherds slept by their sheep in the middle of the
road. The huntsman stood with the powder still alight on the pan of
his gun. The birds, arrested in their flight, hung in mid-air. The
animals in the woods were motionless. The water in the streams was
still. Even the wind slept. Everywhere men had been overtaken in their
occupations or amusements. It was a soundless land, without voice or
movement; on all sides calm, death, sleep.

The fisherman stood with the princess at his side in the
banqueting-hall where slept the king and his guests. Taking the magic
guzla from the maid, he pronounced these words:

  "O guzla, play, and let thy sweetest harmonies resound
  Through hall and cot, o'er hill and dale, and all the country round;
  That by the power and beauty of thy heavenly tones and song
  Awakened may these sleepers be who sleep too well, too long."

When the first tones of music burst forth everything began to move and
live again. The king finished proposing his toast. The chamberlain
ended his tale. The guests continued to feast and enjoy themselves.
The servants waited at their posts. In short, everything went on just
as before, and as if nothing had happened to interrupt it.

And it was just the same in all the country round. Everything suddenly
awoke to life. The labourer finished ploughing his furrow. The
haymakers built up the hay in ricks. The reapers cut down the golden
grain. The hunter's gun went off and shot the duck. The trees rustled.
The gardener went on with his work and his song. The rich, who thought
only of enjoyment, entertained one another in luxury and splendour.

Now when the king caught sight of his daughter leaning on the
fisherman's arm he could hardly believe his own eyes, and it made him
very angry. But the princess ran to him, and throwing herself in his
arms, related all that he had accomplished. The monarch's heart was
softened, and he felt ashamed. With tears in his eyes he drew the
fisherman towards him, and before the assembled company thanked him
for having the third time saved his life.

"God has punished me for my ill-treatment of you," said he. "Yet He is
generous and forgives; I will fulfil all your wishes."

He then added that the wedding feast should be held that very day, and
that his only daughter would be married to the fisherman.

The princess was filled with gladness, and standing with her father's
arms round her, said, "I cannot, however, break my word. When in
Kostey's palace I made a vow to bestow my hand only on that man who
should guess the six riddles I put to him. I am sure the heroic man,
who has done so much, will not refuse to submit to this last trial for
my sake."

To this the fisherman bowed a willing assent.

The first riddle was: "Without legs it walks. Without arms it strikes.
Without life it moves continually."

"A clock," he answered promptly, and to the great satisfaction of the
princess, to whom this good beginning seemed to presage a happy
ending.

The second riddle ran thus: "Without being either bird, reptile,
insect, or any animal whatsoever, it ensures the safety of the whole
house."

"A bolt," said her lover.

"Good! Now this is the third: 'Who is that pedestrian who walks fully
armed, seasons dishes, and in his sides has two darts? He swims across
the water without the help of a boatman.'"

"A lobster."

The princess clapped her hands and begged him to guess the fourth.

"It runs, it moves along on two sides, it has but one eye, an overcoat
of polished steel, and a tail of thread."

"A needle."

"Well guessed. Now listen to the fifth: 'It walks without feet,
beckons without hands, and moves without a body.'"

"It must be a shadow."

"Exactly," said she, well pleased. "Now you have succeeded so well
with these five you will soon guess the sixth: 'It has four feet, but
is not an animal. It is provided with feathers and down, but is no
bird. It has a body, and gives warmth, but is not alive.'"

"It is certainly a bed," exclaimed the fisherman.

The princess gave him her hand. They both knelt at the king's feet and
received his fatherly blessing, after which he with a large wedding
party accompanied them to the church. At the same time messengers were
sent to bring the fisherman's mother to the palace.

The marvellous guzla played the sweetest music at the marriage feast,
while the old king ate and drank and enjoyed himself, and danced like
a madman. He treated his guests with so much kindness and generosity
that to this very hour the happiness of those who were present is a
thing to be talked about and envied.

Now you see what it is to love virtue and pursue it with energy and
courage. For by so doing a mere peasant, a poor simple fisherman,
married the most lovely and enchanting princess in the whole world. He
received, besides, half the kingdom on his wedding day, and the right
of succession to the throne after the old king's death.



THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME



[Illustration]

THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME


It was in those days when cats wore shoes, when frogs croaked in
grandmothers' chairs, when donkeys clanked their spurs on the
pavements like brave knights, and when hares chased dogs. So you see
it must have been a very very long time ago.

In those days the king of a certain country had a daughter, who was
not only exceedingly beautiful but also remarkably clever. Many kings
and princes travelled from far distant lands, each one with the hope
of making her his wife. But she would have nothing to do with any one
of them. Finally, it was proclaimed that she would marry that man who
for three successive nights should keep such strict watch upon her
that she could not escape unnoticed. Those who failed were to have
their heads cut off.

The news of this offer was noised about in all parts of the world. A
great many kings and princes hastened to make the trial, taking their
turn and keeping watch. But each one lost his life in the attempt, for
they could not prevent, indeed they were not even able to see, the
princess take her flight.

Now it happened that Matthias, prince of a royal city, heard of what
was going on and resolved to watch through the three nights. He was
young, handsome as a deer, and brave as a falcon. His father did all
he could to turn him from his purpose: he used entreaties, prayers,
threats, in fact he forbade him to go, but in vain, nothing could
prevent him. What could the poor father do? Worn-out with contention,
he was at last obliged to consent. Matthias filled his purse with
gold, girded a well-tried sword to his side, and quite alone started
off to seek the fortune of the brave.

Walking along next day, he met a man who seemed hardly able to drag
one leg after the other.

"Whither are you going?" asked Matthias.

"I am travelling all over the world in search of happiness."

"What is your profession?"

"I have no profession, but I can do what no one else can. I am called
_Broad_, because I have the power of swelling myself out to such a
size that there is room for a whole regiment of soldiers inside me."

So saying he puffed himself out till he formed a barricade from one
side of the road to the other.

"Bravo!" cried Matthias, delighted at this proof of his capacities.
"By the way, would you mind coming with me? I, too, am travelling
across the world in search of happiness."

"If there is nothing bad in it I am quite willing," answered Broad.
And they continued their journey together.

A little further on they met a very slender man, frightfully thin, and
tall and straight as a portico.

"Whither are you going, good man?" asked Matthias, filled with
curiosity at his strange appearance.

"I am travelling about the world."

"To what profession do you belong?"

"To no profession, but I know something every one else is ignorant of.
I am called _Tall_, and with good reason. For without leaving the
earth I can stretch out and reach up to the clouds. When I walk I
clear a mile at each step."

Without more ado he lengthened himself out until his head was lost in
the clouds, while he really cleared a mile at each step.

"I like that, my fine fellow," said Matthias. "Come, would you not
like to travel with us?"'

"Why not?" replied he. "I'll come."

So they proceeded on their way together. While passing through a
forest they saw a man placing trunks of trees one upon another.

"What are you trying to do there?" asked Matthias, addressing him.

"I have _Eyes of Flame_," said he, "and I am building a pile here." So
saying he fixed his flaming eyes upon the wood, and the whole was
instantly set alight.

"You are a very clever and powerful man," said Matthias, "would you
like to join our party?"

"All right, I am willing."

So the four travelled along together. Matthias was overjoyed to have
met with such gifted companions, and paid their expenses generously,
without complaining of the enormous sum of money he had to spend on
the amount of food Broad consumed.

After some days they reached the princess's palace. Matthias had told
them the object of his journey, and had promised each a large reward
if he was successful. They gave him their word to work with a will at
the task which every one up till then had failed to accomplish. The
prince bought them each a handsome suit of clothes, and when they were
all presentable sent them to tell the king, the princess's father,
that he had come with his attendants to watch three nights in the
lady's boudoir. But he took very good care not to say who he was, nor
whence he had come.

The king received them kindly, and after hearing their request said:
"Reflect well before engaging yourselves in this, for if the princess
should escape you will have to die."

"We very much doubt her escaping from us," they replied, "but come
what will, we intend to make the attempt and to begin at once."

"My duty was to warn you," replied the monarch, smiling, "but if you
still persist in your resolution I myself will take you to the lady's
apartments."

[Illustration]

Matthias was dazzled at the loveliness of the royal maiden, while she,
on her side, received the brilliant and handsome young man most
graciously, not trying to hide how much she liked his good looks and
gentle manner. Hardly had the king retired when Broad lay down across
the threshold; Tall and the Man with Eyes of Flame placed themselves
near the window; while Matthias talked with the princess, and watched
her every movement attentively.

Suddenly she ceased to speak, then after a few moments said, "I feel
as if a shower of poppies were falling on my eyelids."

And she lay down on the couch, pretending to sleep.

Matthias did not breathe a word. Seeing her asleep he sat down at a
table near the sofa, leaned his elbows upon it, and rested his chin in
the hollow of his hands. Gradually he felt drowsy and his eyes closed,
as did those of his companions.

Now this was the moment the princess was waiting for. Quickly changing
herself into a dove, she flew towards the window. If it had not
happened that one of her wings touched Tall's hair he would not have
awakened, and he would certainly never have succeeded in catching her
if it had not been for the Man with Eyes of Flame, for he, as soon as
he knew which direction she had taken, sent such a glance after her,
that is, a flame of fire, that in the twinkling of an eye her wings
were burnt, and having been thus stopped, she was obliged to perch on
the top of a tree. From thence Tall reached her easily, and placed her
in Matthias' hands, where she became a princess again. Matthias had
hardly awakened out of his sleep.

Next morning and the morning after the king was greatly astonished to
find his daughter sitting by the prince's side, but he was obliged to
keep silent and accept facts as they were, at the same time
entertaining his guests royally. At the approach of the third night he
spoke with his daughter, and begged her to practise all the magic of
which she was capable, and to act in such a way as to free him from
the presence of intruders of whom he knew neither the rank nor the
fortune.

As for Matthias, he used every means in his power to bring about a
happy ending to such a hitherto successful undertaking. Before
entering the princess's apartments he took his comrades aside and
said, "There is but one more stroke of luck, dear friends, and then we
have succeeded. If we fail, do not forget that our four heads will
roll on the scaffold."

"Come along," replied the three; "never fear, we shall be able to keep
good watch."

When they came into the princess's room they hastened to take up their
positions, and Matthias sat down facing the lady. He would have much
preferred to remain with her without being obliged to keep watch all
the time for fear of losing her for ever. Resolving not to sleep this
time, he said to himself, "Now I will keep watch upon you, but when
you are my wife I will rest."

At midnight, when sleep was beginning to overpower her watchers, the
princess kept silence, and, stretching herself on the couch, shut her
beautiful eyes as if she were really asleep.

Matthias, his elbows on the table, his chin in the palms of his hand,
his eyes fixed upon her, admired her silently. But as sleep closes
even the eyes of the eagle, so it shut those of the prince and his
companions.

The princess, who all this time had been watching them narrowly and
only waiting for this moment, got up from her seat, and changing
herself into a little fly, flew out of the window. Once free, she
again changed herself into a fish, and falling into the palace well,
plunged and hid herself in the depths of the water.

She would certainly have made her escape if, as a fly, she had not
just touched the tip of the nose of the Man with Eyes of Flame. He
sneezed, and opened his eyes in time to notice the direction in which
she had disappeared. Without losing an instant he gave the alarm, and
all four ran into the courtyard. The well was very deep, but that did
not matter. Tall soon stretched himself to the required depth, and
searched in all the corners: but he was unable to find the little
fish, and it seemed impossible that it could ever have been there.

"Now then, get out of that, I will take your place," said Broad.

And getting in at the top by the rim, he filled up all the inside of
the well, stopping it so completely with his huge body that the water
sprang out: but nothing was seen of the little fish.

"Now it is my turn," said the Man with Eyes of Flame, "I warrant I'll
dislodge this clever magician."

When Broad had cleared the well of his enormous person the water
returned to its place, but it soon began to boil from the heat of the
eyes of flame. It boiled and boiled, till it boiled over the rim;
then, as it went on boiling and rising ever higher and higher, a
little fish was seen to throw itself out on the grass half cooked. As
it touched the ground it again took the form of the princess.

Matthias went to her and kissed her tenderly.

"You have conquered, my master and husband," she said, "you have
succeeded in preventing my escape. Henceforth I am yours, both by
right of conquest and of my own free will."

The young man's courtesy, strength, and gentleness, as well as his
beauty, were very pleasing to the princess; but her father, the king,
was not so ready to approve of her choice, and he resolved not to let
her go with them. But this did not trouble Matthias, who determined to
carry her off, aided by his three comrades. They soon all left the
palace.

The king was furious, and ordered his guards to follow them and bring
them back under pain of death. Meanwhile Matthias, the princess, and
the three comrades had already travelled a distance of some miles.
When she heard the steps of the pursuers she begged the Man with Eyes
of Flame to see who they were. Having turned to look, he told her that
a large army of men on horseback were advancing at a gallop.

"They are my father's guards," said she, "we shall have some
difficulty in escaping them."

Then, seeing the horsemen draw nearer she took the veil from her face,
and throwing it behind her in the direction of the wind, said, "I
command as many trees to spring up as there are threads in this veil."

Instantly, in the twinkling of an eye, a high thick forest rose up
between them. Before the soldiers had time to clear for themselves a
pathway through this dense mass, Matthias and his party had been able
to get far ahead, and even to take a little rest.

"Look," said the princess, "and see if they are still coming after
us."

The Man with Eyes of Flame looked back, and replied that the king's
guards were out of the forest and coming towards them with all speed.

"They will not be able to reach us," cried she. And she let fall a
tear from her eyes, saying as she did so, "Tear, become a river."

At the same moment a wide river flowed between them and their
pursuers, and before the latter had found means of crossing it,
Matthias and his party were far on in front.

"Man with Eyes of Flame," said the princess, "look behind and tell me
how closely we are followed."

"They are quite near to us again," he replied, "they are almost upon
our heels."

"Darkness, cover them," said she.

At these words Tall drew himself up. He stretched and stretched and
stretched until he reached the clouds, and there, with his hat he half
covered the face of the sun. The side towards the soldiers was black
as night, while Matthias and his party, lit up by the shining half,
went a good way without hindrance.

When they had travelled some distance, Tall uncovered the sun, and
soon joined his companions by taking a mile at each step. They were
already in sight of Matthias' home, when they noticed that the royal
guards were again following them closely.

"Now it is my turn," said Broad; "go on your way in safety, I will
remain here. I shall be ready for them."

He quietly awaited their arrival, standing motionless, with his large
mouth open from ear to ear. The royal army, who were determined not to
turn back without having taken the princess, advanced towards the town
at a gallop. They had decided among themselves that if it resisted
they would lay siege to it.

Mistaking Broad's open mouth for one of the city gates, they all
dashed through and disappeared.

Broad closed his mouth, and having swallowed them, ran to rejoin his
comrades in the palace of Matthias' father. He felt somewhat disturbed
with a whole army inside him, and the earth groaned and trembled
beneath him as he ran. He could hear the shouts of the people
assembled round Matthias, as they rejoiced at his safe return.

"Ah, here you are at last, brother Broad," cried Matthias, directly he
caught sight of him. "But what have you done with the army? Where have
you left it?"

"The army is here, quite safe," answered he, patting his enormous
person. "I shall be very pleased to return them as they are, for the
morsel is not very easy to digest."

"Come then, let them out of their prison," said Matthias, enjoying the
joke, and at the same time calling all the inhabitants to assist at
the entertainment.

Broad, who looked upon it as a common occurrence, stood in the middle
of the palace square, and putting his hands to his sides, began to
cough. Then--it was really a sight worth seeing--at each cough
horsemen and horses fell out of his mouth, one over the other,
plunging, hopping, jumping, trying who could get out of the way the
quickest. The last one had a little difficulty in getting free, for he
somehow got into one of Broad's nostrils and was unable to move. It
was only by giving a good sneeze that Broad could release him, the
last of the royal cavaliers, and he lost no time in following his
companions at the top of his speed.

[Illustration]

A few days later a splendid feast was given at the wedding of Prince
Matthias and the princess. The king, her father, was also present.
Tall had been sent to invite him. Owing to his knowledge of the road
and the length of his limbs, he accomplished the journey so quickly
that he was there before the royal horsemen had time to get back. It
was well for them that it was so, for, had he not pleaded that their
lives might be saved, their heads would certainly have been cut off
for returning empty-handed.

Everything was now arranged to everybody's satisfaction. The
princess's father was delighted to know that his daughter was married
to a rich and noble prince, and Matthias generously rewarded his brave
travelling companions, who remained with him to the end of their days.



THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL OR THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT



[Illustration]

THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT


There was once a king who had an only son, called Prince Slugobyl. Now
this young prince loved nothing better than travelling; so fond of it
was he that when he was twenty years old he gave his father no rest
until he allowed him to go on a long journey, in short, to travel all
over the world. Thus he hoped to see many beautiful and strange
things, to meet with marvellous adventures, to gain happiness,
knowledge, and wisdom, and to return a better man in every way than
when he left. Fearing his youth and want of experience might lead him
astray, his father sent with him a valued and faithful servant. When
all was ready, Slugobyl bade the king adieu and set off to visit the
land of his dreams.

As he was jogging along, allowing his horse to go at its own pace, he
saw a beautiful white swan pursued by an eagle about to pounce down
upon it. Seizing his crossbow, he took such good aim that the eagle
fell dead at his feet. The rescued swan stopped in its flight, and
turning round said to him, "Valiant Prince Slugobyl, it is not a mere
swan who thanks you for your most timely help, but the daughter of the
Invisible Knight, who, to escape the pursuit of the giant Kostey, has
changed herself into a swan. My father will gladly be of service to
you in return for this kindness to me. When in need of his help, you
only have to say three times, 'Invisible Knight, come to me.'"

Having thus spoken the swan flew away. The prince looked after her for
a long time, and then continued his journey. He travelled on and on
and on, over high mountains, through dark forests, across barren
deserts, and so to the middle of a vast plain where every green thing
had been burnt up by the rays of the sun. Not a single tree, not even
a bush or a plant of any kind was to be seen. No bird was heard to
sing, no insect to hum, no breath of air to stir the stillness of this
land of desolation. Having ridden for some hours, the prince began to
suffer terribly from thirst; so, sending his servant in one direction,
he himself went in another, in search of some well or spring. They
soon found a well full of cool fresh water, but unluckily without
either rope or bucket to draw it up. After a few moments' thought the
prince said to his servant, "Take the leathern strap used for
tethering our horses, put it round your body, and I will then let you
down into the well; I cannot endure this thirst any longer."

"Your highness," answered the servant, "I am heavier than you, and you
are not as strong as I, so you will not be able to pull me out of the
water. If you, therefore, will go down first, I shall be able to pull
you up when you have quenched your thirst."

The prince took his advice, and fastening an end of the strap under
his arms, was lowered into the well. When he had enjoyed a deep
draught of the clear water and filled a bottle of the same for his
servant, he gave the signal that he wished to be pulled up. But
instead of obeying the servant said, "Listen, prince; from the day you
were born up to the present moment you have never known anything but
luxury, pleasure, and happiness, while I have suffered poverty and
slaved all my life. Now we will change places, and you shall be my
servant. If you refuse you had better make your peace with God, for I
shall drown you."

"Stop, faithful servant," cried the prince, "you will not be so wicked
as to do that. What good will it do you? You will never be so happy as
you have been with me, and you know what dreadful tortures are in
store for murderers in the other world; their hands are plunged into
boiling pitch, their shoulders bruised with blows from red-hot iron
clubs, and their necks sawn with wooden saws."

"You may cut and saw me as much as you like in the other world," said
the servant, "but I shall drown you in this." And he began to let the
strap slide through his fingers.

"Very well," said the prince, "I agree to accept your terms. You shall
be the prince and I will be your servant, I give you my word."

"I have no faith in words that are carried away by the first wind that
blows. Swear to confirm your promise in writing."

"I swear."

The servant then let down paper and pencil, and dictated
the following:

    "I hereby declare that I renounce my name and rights in
    favour of the bearer of this writing, and that I acknowledge
    him to be my prince, and that I am his servant. Written in
    the well.
                                        (Signed) PRINCE SLUGOBYL."

The man having taken this document, which he was quite unable to read,
drew out the prince, took off the clothes in which he was dressed, and
made him wear those he himself had just taken off. Thus disguised they
travelled for a week, and arriving at a large city, went straight to
the king's palace. There the false prince dismissed his pretended
servant to the stables, and presenting himself before the king,
addressed him thus in a very haughty manner:

"King, I am come to demand the hand of your wise and beautiful
daughter, whose fame has reached my father's court. In exchange I
offer our alliance, and in case of refusal, war."

[Illustration]

"Prayers and threats are equally out of place," answered the king;
"nevertheless, prince, as proof of the esteem in which I hold the
king, your father, I grant your request: but only on one condition,
that you deliver us from a large army that now besets our town. Do
this, and my daughter shall be yours."

"Certainly," said the impostor, "I can soon get rid of them, however
near they may be. I undertake by to-morrow morning to have freed the
land entirely of them."

In the evening he went to the stables, and calling his pretended
servant, saluted him respectfully and said, "Listen, my dear friend, I
want you to go immediately outside the town and destroy the besieging
army that surrounds it. But do it in such a way that every one will
believe that I have done it. In exchange for this favour I promise to
return the writing in which you renounced your title of prince and
engaged to serve me."

The prince put on his armour, mounted his horse, and rode outside the
city gates. There he stopped and called three times to the Invisible
Knight.

"Behold me, prince, at your service," said a voice close to him. "I
will do anything you wish, for you saved my only daughter from the
hands of the giant Kostey; I shall always be grateful."

Slugobyl showed him the army he had to destroy before morning, and the
Invisible Knight whistled and sang:

  "Magu, Horse with Golden Mane,
  I want your help yet once again,
  Walk not the earth but fly through space
  As lightnings flash or thunders race.
  Swift as the arrow from the bow,
  Come quick, yet so that none can know."

At that instant a magnificent grey horse appeared out of a whirlwind
of smoke, and from his head there hung a golden mane. Swift as the
wind was he, flames of fire blazed forth from his nostrils, lightnings
flashed from his eyes, and volumes of smoke came from his ears. The
Invisible Knight leapt upon his back, saying to the prince, "Take my
sword and destroy the left wing of the army, while I attack the right
wing and the centre."

The two heroes rushed forward and attacked the invaders with such fury
that on all sides men fell like chopped wood or dried grass. A
frightful massacre followed, but it was in vain that the enemy fled,
for the two knights seemed to be everywhere. Within a short time only
the dead and dying remained on the battle-field, and the two
conquerors quietly returned to the town. On reaching the palace steps,
the Invisible Knight melted into the morning mist, and the serving-man
prince returned to the stables.

That same night it happened that the king's daughter, not being able
to sleep, had remained on her balcony and seen and heard all that had
taken place. She had overheard the conversation between the impostor
and the real prince, had seen the latter call to his assistance the
Invisible Knight, and then doff his royal armour in favour of the
false prince; she had seen and understood everything, but she
determined to keep silence for a little longer.

But when on the next day the king, her father, celebrated the victory
of the false prince with great rejoicings, loaded him with honours and
presents, and calling his daughter expressed a wish that she should
marry him--the princess could be silent no longer. She walked up to
the real prince, who was waiting at table with the other servants,
took his arm, and leading him to the king, said:

"Father, and all good people, this is the man who has saved our
country from the enemy, and whom God has destined to be my husband. He
to whom you pay these honours is but a vile impostor, who has robbed
his master of name and rights. Last night I witnessed such deeds as
eye has never seen nor ear heard, but which shall be told afterwards.
Bid this traitor show the writing which proves the truth of what I
say."

When the false prince had delivered up the paper signed by the
serving-man prince, it was found to contain the following words:

    "The bearer of this document, the false and wicked servant
    of the serving-man prince, shall receive the punishment his
    sin deserves.
                                        (Signed) PRINCE SLUGOBYL."

"What? Is that the real meaning of that writing?" asked the traitor,
who could not read.

"Most assuredly," was the reply.

Then he threw himself at the king's feet and begged for mercy. But he
received his punishment, for he was tied to the tails of four wild
horses and torn to pieces.

Prince Slugobyl married the princess. It was a magnificent wedding. I
myself was there, and drank of the mead and wine; but they only
touched my beard, they did not enter my mouth.



THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES



[Illustration]

THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES


In ancient days there lived a king and queen; the former was old but
the latter young. Although they loved one another dearly they were
very unhappy, for God had not given them any children. They fretted
and grieved about this so deeply that the queen became ill with
melancholy. The doctors advised her to travel. The king was obliged to
remain at home, so she went without him, accompanied by twelve maids
of honour, all beautiful and fresh as flowers in May. When they had
travelled for some days, they reached a vast uninhabited plain which
stretched so far away it seemed to touch the sky. After driving hither
and thither for some time the driver was quite bewildered, and stopped
before a large stone column. At its foot stood a warrior on horseback,
clad in steel armour.

"Brave knight, can you direct me to the high-road?" said the driver;
"we are lost, and know not which way to go."

"I will show you the way," said the warrior, "but only on one
condition, that each of you gives me a kiss."

The queen looked at the warrior in wrath, and ordered the coachman to
drive on. The carriage continued moving nearly all day, but as if
bewitched, for it always returned to the stone column. This time the
queen addressed the warrior.

"Knight," said she, "show us the road, and I will reward you richly."

"I am the Master Spirit of the Steppes," answered he. "I demand
payment for showing the way, and my payment is always in kisses."

"Very well, my twelve maids of honour shall pay you."

"Thirteen kisses are due to me; the first must be given by the lady
who addresses me."

The queen was very angry, and again the attempt was made to find their
way. But the carriage, though during the whole time it moved in an
opposite direction, still returned to the stone column. It was now
dark, and they were obliged to think of finding shelter for the night,
so the queen was obliged to give the warrior his strange payment.
Getting out of her carriage she walked up to the knight, and looking
modestly down allowed him to kiss her; her twelve maids of honour who
followed did the same. A moment later stone column and horseman had
vanished, and they found themselves on the high-road, while a perfumed
cloud seemed to float over the steppes. The queen stepped into her
carriage with her ladies, and so the journey was continued.

But from that day the beautiful queen and her maids became thoughtful
and sad; and, losing all pleasure in travel, went back to the capital.
Yet the return home did not make the queen happy, for always before
her eyes she saw the Horseman of the Steppes. This displeased the
king, who became gloomy and ill-tempered.

One day while the king was on his throne in the council chamber he
suddenly heard the sweetest warblings, like unto those produced by a
bird of paradise; these were answered by the songs of many
nightingales. Wondering, he sent to find out what it was. The
messenger returned saying that the queen and her twelve maids of
honour had each been presented with a girl baby, and that the sweet
warblings were but the crying of the children. The king was greatly
astonished, and while he was engaged in deep thought about the matter
the palace was suddenly lit up by lights of dazzling brightness. On
inquiring into the cause he learnt that the little princess had opened
her eyes, and that they shone with matchless brilliancy.

At first the king could not speak, so amazed was he. He laughed and he
cried, he sorrowed and he rejoiced, and in the midst of it all a
deputation of ministers and senators was announced. When these were
shown into his presence they fell on their knees, and striking the
ground with their foreheads, said, "Sire, save your people and your
royal person. The queen and her twelve maids of honour have been
presented by the Spirit of the Steppes with thirteen girl babies. We
beseech you to have these children killed, or we shall all be
destroyed."

The king, roused to anger, gave orders that all the babies should be
thrown into the sea. The courtiers were already on their way to obey
this cruel command when the queen entered, weeping, and pale as death.
She threw herself at the king's feet and begged him to spare the lives
of these helpless and innocent children, and instead to let them be
placed on a desert island and there left in the hands of God.

The king granted her wish. The baby princess was placed in a golden
cradle, her little companions in copper cradles, and the thirteen were
taken to a desert island and left quite alone. Every one at court
thought that they had perished, and said one to another, "They will
die from cold and hunger; they will be devoured by wild beasts, or
birds of prey; they are sure to die; perchance they will be buried
under dead leaves or covered with snow." But happily nothing of the
kind happened, for God takes care of little children.

The small princess grew bigger day by day. Every morning she was
awakened by the rising sun, and bathed by the dew. Soft breezes
refreshed her, and twisted into plaits her luxuriant hair. The trees
sang her to sleep with their rustling lullabies, the stars watched
over her at night. The swans clothed her in their soft raiment, and
the bees fed her with their honey. The beauty of the little maiden
increased with her growth. Her brow was calm and pure as the moon, her
lips red as a rosebud, and so eloquent that her voice sounded like a
shower of pearls. But wonderful beyond compare was the expressive
beauty of her eyes, for if she looked at you kindly you seemed to
float in a sea of joy, if angrily it made you numb with fear, and you
were instantly changed into a block of ice. She was waited upon by her
twelve companions, who were almost as charming as their mistress, to
whom they were devotedly attached. Rumours of the loveliness of
Princess Sudolisu spread far and wide. People came to see her from all
parts of the world, so that it was soon no longer a desert island, but
a thickly populated and magnificent city.

[Illustration]

Many a prince came from afar and entered the lists as suitor for the
hand of Sudolisu, but none succeeded in winning her love. Those who
bore with good temper and resignation the disappointment of being
refused returned home safe and sound, but woe to the unlucky wretch
who rebelled against her will and attempted to use an armed force; his
soldiers perished miserably, while he, frozen to the heart by her
angry glance, was turned into a block of ice.

Now it happened that the famous ogre, Kostey, who lived underground,
was a great admirer of beauty. And he took it into his head to see
what the creatures above ground were doing. By the help of his
telescope he was able to observe all the kings and queens, princes and
princesses, gentlemen and ladies, living on the earth. As he was
looking his eye fell upon a beautiful island, where, bright as many
stars, stood twelve maidens; while in their midst, upon a couch of
swan's-down, slept a young princess lovely as the dawn of day.
Sudolisu was dreaming of a young knight who rode a spirited horse; on
his breast was a golden cuirass, and in his hand an invisible club.
And in her dream she admired this knight, and loved him more than life
itself. The wicked Kostey longed to have her for his own, and
determined to carry her off. He reached the earth by striking it from
underground three times with his forehead. The princess called her
army together, and putting herself at its head, led her soldiers
against him. But he merely breathed upon the soldiers and they fell
down in an overpowering sleep. Then he stretched out his bony hands to
take the princess, but she, throwing a glance full of anger and
disdain at him, changed him into a block of ice. Then she shut herself
up in her palace. Kostey did not remain frozen long; when the princess
had departed he came to life again, and started off in pursuit of her.
On reaching the town where she dwelt, he put all the inhabitants into
a charmed sleep, and laid the same spell upon the twelve maids of
honour. Fearing the power of her eyes, he dared not attack Sudolisu
herself; so he surrounded her palace with an iron wall, and left it in
charge of a monster dragon with twelve heads. Then he waited, in hope
that the princess would give in.

Days passed, weeks grew into months, and still Princess Sudolisu's
kingdom looked like one large bedchamber. The people snored in the
streets, the brave army lying in the fields slept soundly, hidden in
the long grass under the shadow of nettle, wormwood, and thistle, rust
and dust marring the brightness of their armour. Inside the palace
everything was the same. The twelve maids of honour lay motionless.
The princess alone kept watch, silent amid this reign of sleep. She
walked up and down her narrow prison, sighing and weeping bitter
tears, but no other sound broke the silence; only Kostey, avoiding her
glance, still called through the doors and begged her to refuse him no
longer. Then he promised she should be Queen of the Nether World, but
she answered him not.

Lonely and miserable, she thought of the prince of her dreams. She saw
him in his golden armour, mounted on his spirited steed, looking at
her with eyes full of love. So she imagined him day and night.

Looking out of window one day, and seeing a cloud floating on the
horizon, she cried:

  "Floating Cloudlet soft and white,
    Pilgrim of the sky,
  I pray you for one moment, light
    On me your pitying eye.
  Where my love is can you tell?
  Thinks he of me ill or well?"

"I know not," answered the cloud, "ask the wind."

Then she saw a tiny breeze playing among the field flowers, and called
out:

  "Gentle Breezelet, soul of air,
    Look not lightly on my pain;
  Kindly lift me from despair,
    Help me freedom to regain.
  Where my love is can you tell?
  Thinks he of me ill or well?"

"Ask that little star yonder," answered the breeze, "she knows more
than I."

Sudolisu raised her beautiful eyes to the twinkling stars and said:

  "Shining Star, God's light on high,
    Look down and prithee see;
  Behold me weep and hear me sigh,
    Then help and pity me.
  Where my love is canst thou tell?
  Thinks he of me ill or well?"

"You will learn more from the moon," answered the star; "she lives
nearer the earth than I, and sees everything that goes on there."

The moon was just rising from her silver bed when Sudolisu called to
her:

  "Pearl of the Sky, thou radiant Moon,
    Thy watch o'er the stars pray leave,
  Throw thy soft glance o'er the earth ere I swoon,
    O'ercome by my sorrows I weep and I grieve.
  I pine for my friend, oh ease thou my heart,
  And say, am I loved? In his thoughts have I part?"

"Princess," replied the moon, "I know nothing of your friend. But wait
a few hours, the sun will have then risen; he knows everything, and
will surely be able to tell you."

So the princess kept her eyes fixed upon that part of the sky where
the sun first appears, chasing away the darkness like a flock of
birds. When he came forth in all his glory she said:

  "Soul of the World, thou deep fountain of life,
    Eye of all-powerful God,
  Visit my prison, dark scene of sad strife,
    Raise up my soul from the sod,
  With hope that my friend whom I pine for and love
  May come to my rescue. Say, where does he rove?"

"Sweet Sudolisu," answered the sun, "dry the tears that like pearls
roll down your sad and lovely face. Let your troubled heart be at
peace, for your friend the prince is now on his way to rescue you. He
has recovered the magic ring from the Nether World, and many armies
from those countries have assembled to follow him. He is now moving
towards Kostey's palace, and intends to punish him. But all this will
be of no avail, and Kostey will gain the victory, if the prince does
not make use of other means which I am now on my way to provide him
with. Farewell; be brave, he whom you love will come to your aid and
save you from Kostey and his sorceries; happiness is in store for you
both."

The sun then rose upon a distant land where Prince Junak, mounted on a
powerful steed and clad in golden armour, assembled his forces to
fight against the giant Kostey. Thrice he had dreamt of the beautiful
princess shut up in the Sleeping Palace, for the fame of her
loveliness had reached him, and he loved without having seen.

"Leave your army where it is," said the sun, "it will not be of the
slightest use in fighting against Kostey, he is proof against all
weapons. The only way to rescue the princess is to kill him, and there
is but one who can tell you how to do it, and that is the witch, old
Yaga. I will show you how to find the horse that will carry you
straight to her. First take the road to the east, and walk on till you
come to a wide plain: there, right in the middle of the plain, are
three oaks, and in the centre of these, lying close to the ground, is
an iron door with a copper handle. Behind the door is the horse, also
an invisible club; both are necessary for the work you have to do. You
will learn the rest afterwards. Farewell."

This advice astonished the prince greatly; he hardly knew what to do.
After deep reflection he crossed himself, took the magic ring from his
finger and cast it into the sea. Instantly the army vanished like mist
before the wind, and when not a trace of it was left he took the road
to the east. After walking straight on for eight days he reached a
large green plain, in the middle of which grew the three oaks, and in
the centre of these, close to the ground, was the iron door with the
copper handle. Opening the door, he found a winding staircase which
led to a second door bound with iron, and shut by means of a huge
padlock sixty pounds in weight. At this moment he heard the neighing
of a horse, the sound being followed by the opening of eleven other
iron doors. There he saw the war-horse which centuries ago had been
bewitched by a magician. The prince whistled; the horse immediately
bounded towards him, at the same time breaking the twelve iron chains
that fastened him to the manger. He was a beautiful creature, strong,
light, handsome, full of fire and grace; his eyes flashed lightnings,
from his nostrils came flames of fire, his mane was like a cloud of
gold, he was certainly a marvel of a horse.

"Prince Junak," said the steed, "I have waited centuries for such a
knight as you; here I am, ready to carry you and serve you faithfully.
Mount upon my back, and take hold of the invisible club that hangs at
the pommel of the saddle. You yourself will not need to use it; give
it your orders, it will carry them out and do the fighting itself. Now
we will start; may God look after us! Tell me where you wish to go,
and you shall be there directly."

The prince quickly told the horse his history, mounted, seized the
club, and set off. The creature capered, galloped, flew, and swam in
the air higher than the highest forests but lower than the clouds; he
crossed mountains, rivers, and precipices; he barely touched the
blades of grass in passing over them, and went so lightly along the
roads that he did not raise one grain of dust.

Towards sunset Junak found himself close to an immense forest, in the
centre of which stood Yaga's house. All around were oaks and pines
hundreds of years old, untouched by the axe of man. These enormous
trees, lit up by the rays of the setting sun, seemed to look with
astonishment at their strange guest. The silence was absolute; not a
bird sang in the branches, not an insect hummed in the air, not a worm
crawled upon the ground. The only sound was that made by the horse as
he broke through the underwood. Then they came in sight of a small
house supported by a cock's foot, round which it turned as on a
movable pivot. Prince Junak cried:

  "Turn round, little house, turn round,
    I want to come inside;
  Let thy back to the forest be found,
    Thy door to me open wide."

The little house turned round, and the prince entering saw old Yaga,
who immediately cried out, "What, Prince Junak! How have you come
here, where no one ever enters?"

"You are a silly old witch, to worry me with questions instead of
making me welcome," said the prince.

At these words old Yaga jumped up and hastened to attend to his needs.
She prepared food and drink, made him a soft bed where he could sleep
comfortably, and then leaving the house passed the night out of doors.
On her return in the morning the prince related all his adventures and
confided his plans.

"Prince Junak," said she, "you have undertaken a very difficult task,
but your courage will enable you to accomplish it successfully. I will
tell you how to kill Kostey, for without that you can do nothing. Now,
in the very midst of the ocean lies the Island of Eternal Life. Upon
this island is an oak tree, and at the foot of it, hidden in the
earth, a coffer bound with iron. A hare is shut up in this coffer, and
under her sits a grey duck whose body contains an egg. Within this egg
is Kostey's life--if it be broken he dies. Good-bye, Prince Junak,
start without loss of time. Your horse will carry you to the island."

Junak mounted his horse, spoke a few words to him, and the brave
creature fled through space with the swiftness of an arrow. Leaving
the forest and its enormous trees behind, they soon reached the shores
of the ocean. Fishermen's nets lay on the beach, and in one of them
was a large sea fish who, struggling to free itself, spoke to the
prince in a human voice.

"Prince Junak," he said sadly, "free me from my prison; I assure you
you will lose nothing by doing me this service."

Junak did what was required of him, and threw the fish back into the
water. It plunged and disappeared, but he paid little attention to it,
so occupied was he with his own thoughts. In the far distance could be
seen the rocks of the Island of Eternal Life, but there seemed no way
of reaching it. Leaning on his club he thought and thought, and ever
as he thought he grew sadder and sadder.

"What is the matter, Prince Junak? Has anything vexed you?" asked his
horse.

"How can I help grieving when, while in sight of the island, I can go
no further? How can we cross the sea?"

[Illustration]

"Get on my back, prince, I will be your bridge; only take care to hold
on tight."

The prince held firmly to its mane, and the horse leapt into the sea.
At first they were plunged right beneath the waves, but rising again
to the surface swam easily across. The sun was about to set when the
prince dismounted on the Island of Eternal Life. He first took off his
horse's harness, and leaving him to browse on the green grass, hurried
to the top of a distant hill, whence he could see a large oak. Without
losing a moment he hastened towards it, seized the tree with both
hands, pulled at it with all his might, and after the most violent
efforts tore it up by the roots from the place it had filled for
centuries. The tree groaned and fell, and the hole in which it had
been planted appeared like an immense case. Right at the bottom of
this case was a coffer bound with iron. The prince took it up, broke
the lock by striking it with a stone, opened it and seized the hare
that was trying to make its escape. The grey duck that had lain
underneath flew off towards the sea: the prince fired, struck the
bird, the latter dropped its egg into the sea, and both were swallowed
by the waves. Junak gave a cry of despair and rushed to the beach. At
first he could see nothing. After a few minutes there was a slight
movement of the waves, while upon the surface swam the fish whose life
he had saved. It came towards him, right on to the sand, and dropping
the lost egg at his feet, said: "You see, prince, I have not forgotten
your kindness, and now I have found it in my power to be of service to
you."

Having thus spoken it disappeared in the water. The prince took the
egg, mounted his horse, and crossing the sea with his heart full of
hope, journeyed towards the island where Princess Sudolisu kept watch
over her sleeping subjects in the Enchanted Palace. The latter was
surrounded by a wall, and guarded by the Dragon with Twelve Heads. Now
these heads went to sleep in turn, six at a time, so it was impossible
to take him unawares or to kill him, for that could be done only by
his own blows.

On reaching the palace gates Junak sent his invisible club forward to
clear the way, whereupon it threw itself upon the dragon, and began to
beat all the heads unmercifully. The blows came so thick and fast that
the body was soon crushed to pieces. Still the dragon lived and beat
the air with its claws. Then it opened its twelve jaws from which
darted pointed tongues, but it could not lay hold of the invisible
club. At last, tormented on all sides and filled with rage, it buried
its sharp claws in its own body and died. The prince then entered the
palace gates, and having put his faithful horse in the stables and
armed himself with his invisible club, made his way for the tower in
which the princess was shut up. On seeing him she cried out, "Prince,
I rejoiced to see your victory over the dragon. There is yet a more
terrible foe to conquer, and he is my jailor, the cruel Kostey. Beware
of him, for if he should kill you, I shall throw myself out of window
into the precipice beneath."

"Be comforted, my princess: for in this egg I hold the life or death
of Kostey."

Then turning to the invisible club, he said, "Press forward, my
invisible club; strike your best, and rid the earth of this wicked
giant."

The club began by breaking down the iron doors, and thus reached
Kostey. The giant was soon so crippled with blows that his teeth were
smashed, lightnings flashed from his eyes, and he rolled round and
round like a pin-cushion. Had he been a man he must have died under
such treatment. But he was no man, this master of sorcery. So he
managed to get on his feet and look for his tormentor. The blows from
the club rained hard upon him all the time, and with such effect that
his groans could be heard all over the island. On approaching the
window he saw Prince Junak.

"Ah, wretch!" cried the ogre, "it is you, is it, who torments me in
this way!" and he prepared to blow upon him with his poisonous breath.
But the prince instantly crushed the egg between his hands, the shell
broke, the white and yellow mingled and flowed to the ground, and
Kostey died.

As the sorcerer breathed his last, the enchantments vanished and the
sleeping islanders awoke. The army, once more afoot, advanced with
beating drums to the palace, and everything fell into its accustomed
place. As soon as Princess Sudolisu was freed from her prison she held
out her white hand to her deliverer, and thanking him in the most
touching words, led him to the throne and placed him at her side. The
twelve maids of honour having chosen young and brave warriors, ranged
themselves with their lovers round the queen. Then the doors were
thrown open, and the priests in their robes entered, bearing a golden
tray of wedding rings. Thereupon the marriage ceremony was gone
through, and the lovers united in God's name.

After the wedding there were feasting and music and dancing, as is
usual on such occasions, and they all enjoyed themselves. It makes one
glad to think how happy they were, and what a glorious time they had
after their misfortunes.



THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND



[Illustration]

THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND


There once lived a king and queen who had an only daughter. And the
beauty of this princess surpassed everything seen or heard of. Her
forehead was brilliant as the moon, her lips like the rose, her
complexion had the delicacy of the lily, and her breath the sweetness
of jessamine. Her hair was golden, and in her voice and glance there
was something so enchanting that none could help listening to her or
looking at her.

The princess lived for seventeen years in her own rooms, rejoicing the
heart of her parents, teachers, and servants. No one else ever saw
her, for the sons of the king and all other princes were forbidden to
enter her rooms. She never went anywhere, never looked upon the
outside world, and never breathed the outer air, but she was perfectly
happy.

When she was eighteen it happened, either by chance or by the will of
fate, that she heard the cry of the cuckoo. This sound made her
strangely uneasy; her golden head drooped, and covering her eyes with
her hands, she fell into thought so deep as not to hear her mother
enter. The queen looked at her anxiously, and after comforting her
went to tell the king about it.

For many years past the sons of kings and neighbouring princes had,
either personally or by their ambassadors, presented themselves at
court to ask the king for the hand of his daughter in marriage. But he
had always bidden them wait until another time. Now, after a long
consultation with the queen, he sent messengers to foreign courts and
elsewhere to proclaim that the princess, in accordance with the wishes
of her parents, was about to choose a husband, and that the man of her
choice would also have the right of succession to the throne.

When the princess heard of this decision her joy was very great, and
for days she would dream about it. Then she looked out into the garden
through the golden lattice of her window, and longed with an
irresistible longing to walk in the open air upon the smooth lawn.
With great difficulty she at last persuaded her governesses to allow
her to do so, they agreeing on condition that she should keep with
them. So the crystal doors were thrown open, the oaken gates that shut
in the orchard turned on their hinges, and the princess found herself
on the green grass. She ran about, picking the sweet-scented flowers
and chasing the many-coloured butterflies. But she could not have been
a very prudent maiden, for she wandered away from her governesses,
with her face uncovered.

Just at that moment a raging hurricane, such as had never been seen or
heard before, passed by and fell upon the garden. It roared and
whistled round and round, then seizing the princess carried her far
away. The terrified governesses wrung their hands, and were for a time
speechless with grief. At last they rushed into the palace, and
throwing themselves on their knees before the king and queen, told
them with sobs and tears what had happened. They were overwhelmed with
sorrow and knew not what to do.

By this time quite a crowd of princes had arrived at the palace, and
seeing the king in such bitter grief, inquired the reason of it.

"Sorrow has touched my white hairs," said the king. "The hurricane has
carried off my dearly beloved child, the sweet Princess with the
Golden Hair, and I know not where it has taken her. Whoever finds this
out, and brings her back to me, shall have her for his wife, and with
her half my kingdom for a wedding present, and the remainder of my
wealth and titles after my death."

After hearing these words, princes and knights mounted their horses
and set off to search throughout the world for the beautiful Princess
with the Golden Hair, who had been carried away by Vikher.

Now among the seekers were two brothers, sons of a king, and they
travelled together through many countries asking for news of the
princess, but no one knew anything about her. But they continued their
search, and at the end of two years arrived in a country that lies in
the centre of the earth, and has summer and winter at the same time.

The princes determined to find out whether this was the place where
the hurricane had hidden the Princess with the Golden Hair. So they
began to ascend one of the mountains on foot, leaving their horses
behind them to feed on the grass. On reaching the top, they came in
sight of a silver palace supported on a cock's foot, while at one of
the windows the sun's rays shone upon a head of golden hair; surely it
could only belong to the princess. Suddenly the north wind blew so
violently, and the cold became so intense, that the leaves of the
trees withered and the breath froze. The two princes tried to keep
their footing, and battled manfully against the storm, but they were
overcome by its fierceness and fell together, frozen to death.

Their broken-hearted parents waited for them in vain. Masses were
said, charities distributed, and prayers sent up to God to pity them
in their sorrow.

One day when the queen, the mother of the princes, was giving a poor
old man some money she said to him, "My good old friend, pray God to
guard our sons and soon bring them back in good health."

[Illustration]

"Ah, noble lady," answered he, "that prayer would be useless.
Everlasting rest is all one may ask for the dead, but in return for
the love you have shown and the money you have given the poor and
needy, I am charged with this message--that God has taken pity on your
sorrow, and that ere long you will be the mother of a son, the like of
whom has never yet been seen."

The old man, having spoken thus, vanished.

The queen, whose tears were falling, felt a strange joy enter her
heart and a feeling of happiness steal over her, as she went to the
king and repeated the old man's words. And so it came to pass, for a
week or two later God sent her a son, and he was in no way like an
ordinary child. His eyes resembled those of a falcon, and his eyebrows
the sable's fur. His right hand was of pure gold, and his manner and
appearance were so full of an indescribable majesty, that he was
looked upon by every one with a feeling of awe.

His growth, too, was not like that of other children. When but three
days old, he stepped out of his swaddling-clothes and left his cradle.
And he was so strong that when his parents entered the room he ran
towards them, crying out, "Good morning, dear parents, why are you so
sad? Are you not happy at the sight of me?"

"We are indeed happy, dear child, and we thank God for having sent us
you in our great grief. But we cannot forget your two brothers; they
were so handsome and brave, and worthy of a great destiny. And our
sadness is increased when we remember that, instead of resting in
their own country in the tomb of their forefathers, they sleep in an
unknown land, perhaps without burial. Alas! it is three years since we
had news of them."

At these words the child's tears fell, and he embraced his parents and
said, "Weep no more, dear parents, you shall soon be comforted: for
before next spring I shall be a strong young man, and will look for my
brothers all over the world. And I will bring them back to you, if not
alive, yet dead: ay, though I have to seek them in the very centre of
the earth."

At these words and at that which followed the king and queen were
amazed. For the strange child, guided as it were by an invisible hand,
rushed into the garden, and in spite of the cold, for it was not yet
daylight, bathed in the early dew. When the sun had risen he threw
himself down near a little wood on the fine sand, rubbed and rolled
himself in it, and returned home, no longer a child but a youth.

It was pleasant to the king to see his son thrive in this way, and
indeed the young prince was the handsomest in the whole land. He grew
from hour to hour. At the end of a month he could wield a sword, in
two months he rode on horseback, in three months he had grown a
beautiful moustache of pure gold. Then he put on a helmet, and
presenting himself before the king and queen, said: "My much honoured
parents, your son asks your blessing. I am no longer a child, and now
go to seek my brothers. In order to find them I will, if necessary, go
to the furthest ends of the world."

"Ah, do not venture. Stay rather with us, dear son, you are still too
young to be exposed to the risks of such an undertaking."

"Adventures have no terrors for me," replied the young hero, "I trust
in God. Why should I for a moment hesitate to face these dangers?
Whatever Destiny has in store for us will happen, whatever we may do
to try to prevent it."

So they agreed to let him go. Weeping they bade him farewell, blessing
him and the road he was to travel.

A pleasant tale is soon told, but events do not pass so quickly.

The young prince crossed deep rivers and climbed high mountains, till
he came to a dark forest. In the distance he saw a cottage supported
on a cock's foot, and standing in the midst of a field full of
poppies. As he made his ways towards it he was suddenly seized by an
overpowering longing to sleep, but he urged on his horse, and breaking
off the poppy heads as he galloped through the field, came up close to
the house. Then he called out:

  "Little cot, turn around, on thy foot turn thou free;
  To the forest set thy back, let thy door be wide to me."

The cottage turned round with a great creaking noise, the door facing
the prince. He entered, and found an old woman with thin white hair
and a face covered with wrinkles, truly frightful to look upon. She
was sitting at a table, her head resting on her hands, her eyes fixed
on the ceiling, lost in deep thought. Near her were two beautiful
girls, their complexions like lilies and roses, and in every way sweet
to the eye.

"Ah, how do you do, Prince with Moustache of Gold, Hero with the
Golden Fist?" said old Yaga; "what has brought you here?"

Having told her the object of his journey, she replied, "Your elder
brothers perished on the mountain that touches the clouds, while in
search of the Princess with the Golden Hair, who was carried off by
Vikher, the hurricane."

"And how is this thief Vikher to be got at?" asked the prince.

"Ah, my dear child, he would swallow you like a fly. It is now a
hundred years since I went outside this cottage, for fear Vikher
should seize me and carry me off to his palace near the sky."

"I am not afraid of his carrying me off, I am not handsome enough for
that; and he will not swallow me either, for my golden hand can smash
anything."

"Then if you are not afraid, my dove, I will help you to the best of
my power. But give me your word of honour that you will bring me some
of the Water of Youth, for it restores even to the most aged the
beauty and freshness of youth."

"I give you my word of honour that I will bring you some."

"This then is what you must do. I will give you a pin-cushion for a
guide; this you throw in front of you, and follow whithersoever it
goes. It will lead you to the mountain that touches the clouds, and
which is guarded in Vikher's absence by his father and mother, the
northern blast and the south wind. On no account lose sight of the
pin-cushion. If attacked by the father, the northern blast, and
suddenly seized with cold, then put on this heat-giving hood: if
overpowered by burning heat of the south wind, then drink from this
cooling flagon. Thus by means of the pin-cushion, the hood, and the
flagon, you will reach the top of the mountain where the Princess with
the Golden Hair is imprisoned. Deal with Vikher as you will, only
remember to bring me some of the Water of Youth."

Our young hero took the heat-giving hood, the cooling flagon, and the
pin-cushion, and, after bidding farewell to old Yaga and her two
pretty daughters, mounted his steed and rode off, following the
pin-cushion, which rolled before him at a great rate.

Now a beautiful story is soon told, but the events of which it
consists do not in real life take place so rapidly.

When the prince had travelled through two kingdoms, he came to a land
in which lay a very beautiful valley that stretched into the far
distance, and above it towered the mountain that touches the sky. The
summit was so high above the earth you might almost fancy it reached
the moon.

The prince dismounted, left his horse to graze, and having crossed
himself began to follow the pin-cushion up steep and rocky paths. When
he had got half-way there the north wind began to blow, and the cold
was so intense that the wood of the trees split up and the breath
froze: he felt chilled to the heart. But he quickly put on the
heat-giving hood, and cried:

  "O Heat-Giving Hood, see I fly now to thee,
    Lend me quickly thine aid;
  O hasten to warm ere the cold has killed me,
    With thee I'm not afraid."

The northern blast blew with redoubled fury, but to no purpose. For
the prince was so hot that he streamed with perspiration, and indeed
was obliged to unbutton his coat and fan himself.

Here the pin-cushion stopped upon a small snow-covered mound. The
prince cleared away the snow, beneath which lay the frozen bodies of
two young men, and he knew them to be those of his lost brothers.
Having knelt beside them and prayed he turned to follow the
pin-cushion, which had already started, and was rolling ever higher
and higher. On reaching the top of the mountain he saw a silver palace
supported on a cock's foot, and at one of the windows, shining in the
sun's rays, a head of golden hair which could belong to no one but the
princess. Suddenly a hot wind began to blow from the south, and the
heat became so intense that leaves withered and dropped from the
trees, the grass dried up, and large cracks appeared in several places
of the earth's surface. Thirst, heat, and weariness began to tell upon
the young prince, so he took the cooling flagon from his pocket and
cried:

  "Flagon, bring me quick relief
    From this parching heat;
  In thy draught I have belief,
    Coolness it will mete."

After drinking deeply he felt stronger than ever, and so continued to
ascend. Not only was he relieved from the great heat, but was even
obliged to button up his coat to keep himself warm.

[Illustration]

The pin-cushion still led the way, ever climbing higher and higher,
while the prince followed close behind. After crossing the region of
clouds they came to the topmost peak of the mountain. Here the prince
came close to the palace, which can only be likened to a dream of
perfect beauty. It was supported on a cock's foot, and was built
entirely of silver, except for its steel gates and roof of solid gold.
Before the entrance was a deep precipice over which none but the birds
could pass. As the prince gazed upon the splendid building the
princess leaned out of one of the windows, and seeing him light shone
from her sparkling eyes, her lovely hair floated in the wind, and the
scent of her sweet breath filled the air. The prince sprang forward
and cried out:

  "Silver Palace, oh turn, on thy foot turn thou free,
  To the steep rocks thy back, but thy doors wide to me."

At these words it revolved creaking, the doorway facing the prince. As
he entered it returned to its original position. The prince went
through the palace till he came to a room bright as the sun itself,
and the walls, floor, and ceiling of which consisted of mirrors. He
was filled with wonder, for instead of one princess he saw twelve, all
equally beautiful, with the same graceful movements and golden hair.
But eleven were only reflections of the one real princess. She gave a
cry of joy on seeing him, and running to meet him, said: "Ah, noble
sir, you look like a delivering angel. Surely you bring me good news.
From what family, city, or country have you come? Perhaps my dear
father and mother sent you in search of me?"

"No one has sent me, I have come of my own free will to rescue you and
restore you to your parents."

When he had told her all that had passed she said, "Your devotion,
prince, is very great; may God bless your attempt. But Vikher the
hurricane is unconquerable, so, if life be dear to you, fly. Leave
this place before his return, which I expect every minute; he will
kill you with one glance of his eyes."

"If I should not succeed in saving you, sweet princess, life can be no
longer dear to me. But I am full of hope, and I beg you first to give
me some of the Strength-Giving Water from the Heroic Well, for this is
drunk by the hurricane."

The princess drew a bucketful of water, which the young man emptied at
one draught and then asked for another. This astonished her somewhat,
but she gave it him, and when he had drunk it he said, "Allow me,
princess, to sit down for a moment to take breath."

She gave him an iron chair, but directly he sat down it broke into a
thousand pieces. She then brought him the chair used by Vikher
himself, but although it was made of the strongest steel, it bent and
creaked beneath the prince's weight.

"Now you see," said he, "that I have grown heavier than your
unconquerable hurricane: so take courage, with God's help and your
good wishes I shall overcome him. In the meantime tell me how you pass
your time here."

"Alas! in bitter tears and sad reflections. My only consolation is
that I have been able to keep my persecutor at a distance, for he
vainly implores me to marry him. Two years have now passed away, and
yet none of his efforts to win my consent have been successful. Last
time he went away he told me that if on his return he had not guessed
the riddles I set him (the correct explanation of these being the
condition I have made for his marrying me), he would set them aside,
and marry me in spite of my objections."

"Ah, then I am just in time. I will be the priest on that occasion,
and give him Death for a bride."

At that moment a horrible whistling was heard.

"Be on your guard, prince," cried she, "here comes the hurricane."

The palace spun rapidly round, fearful sounds filled the building,
thousands of ravens and birds of ill omen croaked loudly and flapped
their wings, and all the doors opened with a tremendous noise.

Vikher, mounted on his winged horse that breathed fire, leapt into the
mirrored room, then stopped amazed at the sight before him. He was
indeed the hurricane, with the body of a giant and the head of a
dragon, and as he gazed his horse pranced and beat his wings.

"What is your business here, stranger?" he shouted: and the sound of
his voice was like unto a lion's roar.

"I am your enemy, and I want your blood," replied the prince calmly.

"Your boldness amuses me. At the same time, if you do not depart at
once I will take you in my left hand and crush every bone in your body
with my right."

"Try, if you dare, woman-stealer," he answered.

Vikher roared, breathing fire in his rage, and with his mouth wide
open threw himself upon the prince, intending to swallow him. But the
latter stepped lightly aside, and putting his golden hand down his
enemy's throat, seized him by the tongue and dashed him against the
wall with such force that the monster bounded against it like a ball,
and died within a few moments, shedding torrents of blood.

The prince then drew from different springs the water that _restores_,
that _revives_, and that _makes young_, and taking the unconscious
girl in his arms he led the winged horse to the door and said:

  "Silver Palace, oh turn, on thy foot turn thou free,
  To the steep rocks thy back, the courtyard may I see."

Whereupon the palace creaked round on the cock's foot, and the door
opened on the courtyard. Mounting the horse he placed the princess
before him, for she had by this time recovered from her swoon, and
cried:

  "Fiery Horse with strength of wing,
    I am now your lord;
  Do my will in everything,
    Be your law my word.
  Where I point there you must go
  At once, at once. The way you know."

And he pointed to the place where his brothers lay frozen in death.
The horse rose, pranced, beat the air with his wings, then, lifting
himself high in the air, came down gently where the two princes were
lying. The Prince with the Golden Hand sprinkled their bodies with the
Life-Restoring Water, and instantly the pallor of death disappeared,
leaving in its place the natural colour. He then sprinkled them with
the Water that Revives, after which they opened their eyes, got up,
and looking round said, "How well we have slept: but what has
happened? And how is it we see the lovely princess we sought in the
society of a young man, a perfect stranger to us?"

The Prince with the Golden Hand explained everything, embraced his
brothers tenderly, and taking them with him on his horse, showed the
latter that he wished to go in the direction of Yaga's cottage. The
horse rose up, pranced, lifted himself in the air, then, beating his
wings far above the highest forests, descended close by the cottage.
The prince said:

  "Little cot, turn around, on thy foot turn thou free,
  To the forest thy back, but thy door wide to me."

The cottage began to creak without delay, and turned round with the
floor facing the travellers. Old Yaga was on the look-out, and came to
meet them. As soon as she got the Water of Youth she sprinkled herself
with it, and instantly everything about her that was old and ugly
became young and charming. So pleased was she to be young again that
she kissed the prince's hands and said, "Ask of me anything you like,
I will refuse you nothing."

At that moment her two beautiful young daughters happened to look out
of the window, upon which the two elder princes, who were admiring
them, said, "Will you give us your daughters for wives?"

"That I will, with pleasure," said she, and beckoned them to her. Then
curtseying to her future sons-in-law, she laughed merrily and
vanished. They placed their brides before them on the same horse,
while the Prince with the Golden Hand, pointing to where he wished to
go, said:

  "Fiery Horse with strength of wing,
    I am now your lord;
  Do my will in everything,
    Be your law my word.
  Where I point there you must go
  At once, at once. The way you know."

The horse rose up, pranced, flapped his wings, and flew far above the
forest. An hour or two later he descended before the palace of the
Golden-Haired Princess's parents. When the king and queen saw their
only daughter who had so long been lost to them, they ran to meet her
with exclamations of joy and kissed her gratefully and lovingly, at
the same time thanking the prince who had restored her to them. And
when they heard the story of his adventures they said: "You, Prince
with the Golden Hand, shall receive our beloved daughter in marriage,
with the half of our kingdom, and the right of succession to the
remainder after us. Let us, too, add to the joy of this day by
celebrating the weddings of your two brothers."

The Princess with the Golden Hair kissed her father lovingly and said,
"My much honoured and noble sire and lord, the prince my bridegroom
knows of the vow I made when carried off by the hurricane, that I
would only give my hand to him who could answer aright my six enigmas:
it would be impossible for the Princess with the Golden Hair to break
her word."

The king was silent, but the prince said, "Speak, sweet princess, I am
listening."

"This is my first riddle: 'Two of my extremities form a sharp point,
the two others a ring, in my centre is a screw.'"

"A pair of scissors," answered he.

"Well guessed. This is the second: 'I make the round of the table on
only one foot, but if I am wounded the evil is beyond repair.'"

"A glass of wine."

"Right. This is the third: 'I have no tongue, and yet I answer
faithfully; I am not seen, yet every one hears me.'"

"An echo."

"True. This is the fourth: 'Fire cannot light me; brush cannot sweep
me; no painter can paint me; no hiding-place secure me.'"

"Sunshine."

"The very thing. This is the fifth: 'I existed before the creation of
Adam. I am always changing in succession the two colours of my dress.
Thousands of years have gone by, but I have remained unaltered both in
colour and form.'"

"It must be time, including day and night."

"You have succeeded in guessing the five most difficult, the last is
the easiest of all. 'By day a ring, by night a serpent; he who guesses
this shall be my bridegroom.'"

"It is a girdle."

"Now they are all guessed," said she, and gave her hand to the young
prince.

They knelt before the king and queen to receive their blessing. The
three weddings were celebrated that same evening, and a messenger
mounted the winged horse to carry the good news to the parents of the
young princes and to bring them back as guests. Meanwhile a
magnificent feast was prepared, and invitations were sent to all their
friends and acquaintances. And from that evening until the next
morning they ceased not to feast and drink and dance. I too was a
guest, and feasted with the rest; but though I ate and drank, the wine
only ran down my beard, and my throat remained dry.



IMPERISHABLE



[Illustration: Imperishable.]


Once upon a time, ever so many years ago, there lived a little old man
and a little old woman. Very old indeed were they, for they had lived
nearly a hundred years. But they took neither joy nor pleasure in
anything, and this because they had no children. They were now about
to keep the seventy-fifth anniversary of their wedding day, known as
the Diamond Wedding, but no guests were invited to share their simple
feast.

As they sat side by side they went over in memory the years of their
long life, and as they did so they felt sure that it was to punish
them for their sins that God had denied them the sweet happiness of
having children about them, and as they thought their tears fell fast.
At that moment some one knocked.

"Who is there?" cried the old woman, and ran to open the door. There
stood a little old man leaning on a stick, and white as a dove.

"What do you want?" asked the old woman.

"Charity," answered he.

The good old woman was kind-hearted, and she cut her last loaf in two,
giving one half to the beggar, who said, "I see you have been weeping,
good wife, and I know the reason of your tears; but cheer up, by God's
grace you shall be comforted. Though poor and childless to-day,
to-morrow you shall have family and fortune."

When the old woman heard this she was overjoyed, and fetching her
husband they both went to the door to invite the old man in. But he
was gone, and though they searched for him in every direction they
found nothing but his stick lying on the ground. For it was not a poor
old beggar, but an angel of God who had knocked. Our good friends did
not know this, so they picked up the stick and hurried off to find the
old man, with the purpose of returning it. But it seemed as if the
stick, like its master, were endowed with some marvellous power, for
whenever the old man or the old woman tried to pick it up it slipped
out of their hands and rolled along the ground. Thus they followed it
into a forest, and at the foot of a shrub which stood close by a
stream it disappeared. They hunted all round the shrub thinking to
find the stick there, but instead of the stick they came upon a bird's
nest containing twelve eggs, and from the shape of the shells it
seemed as if the young ones were ready to come forth.

"Pick up the eggs," said the old man, "they will make us an omelette
for our wedding feast."

The old woman grumbled a little, but she took the nest and carried it
home in the skirt of her gown. Fancy their astonishment when at the
end of twelve hours there came out, not unfledged birdlings, but
twelve pretty little boys. Then the shells broke into tiny fragments
which were changed into as many gold pieces. Thus, as had been
foretold, the old man and his wife found both family and fortune.

Now these twelve boys were most extraordinary children. Directly they
came out of the shells they seemed to be at least three months old,
such a noise did they make, crying and kicking about. The youngest of
all was a very big baby with black eyes, red cheeks, and curly hair,
and so lively and active that the old woman could hardly keep him in
his cradle at all. In twelve hours' time the children seemed to be a
year old, and could walk about and eat anything.

Then the old woman made up her mind that they should be baptized, and
thereupon sent her husband to fetch priest and organist without delay;
and the diamond wedding was celebrated at the same time as the
christening. For a short time their joy was clouded over by the
disappearance of the youngest boy, who was also the best-looking, and
his parents' favourite. They had begun to weep and mourn for him as if
he were lost, when suddenly he was seen to come from out of the
sleeves of the priest's cassock, and was heard to speak these words:
"Never fear, dear parents, your beloved son will not perish."

The old woman kissed him fondly and handed him to his godfather, who
presented him to the priest. So they had named him _Niezguinek_, that
is, _Imperishable_. The twelve boys went on growing at the rate of six
weeks every hour, and at the end of two years were fine strong young
men. Niezguinek, especially, was of extraordinary size and strength.
The good old people lived happily and peacefully at home while their
sons worked in the fields. On one occasion the latter went ploughing;
and while the eleven eldest used the ordinary plough and team of oxen,
Niezguinek made his own plough, and it had twelve ploughshares and
twelve handles, and to it were harnessed twelve team of the strongest
working oxen. The others laughed at him, but he did not mind, and
turned up as much ground as his eleven brothers together.

Another time when they went haymaking and his brothers used the
ordinary scythes, he carried one with twelve blades, and managed it so
cleverly, in spite of the jests of his companions, that he cut as much
grass as all of them together. And again, when they went to turn over
the hay, Niezguinek used a rake with twelve teeth, and so cleared
twelve plots of ground with every stroke. His haycock, too, was as
large as a hill in comparison with those of his brothers. Now, the day
after the making of the haycocks the old man and his wife happened to
be in the fields, and they noticed that one haycock had disappeared;
so thinking wild horses had made off with it, they advised their sons
to take turns in watching the place.

The eldest took his turn first, but after having watched all night
fell asleep towards morning, when he awoke to find another haycock
missing. The second son was not more fortunate in preventing the
disappearance of the hay, while the others succeeded no better; in
fact, of all the twelve haycocks, there only remained the largest,
Niezguinek's, and even that had been meddled with.

When it was the youngest's turn to watch, he went to the village
blacksmith and got him to make an iron club weighing two hundred and
sixty pounds; so heavy was it that the blacksmith and his assistants
could hardly turn it on the anvil. In order to test it, Niezguinek
whirled it round his head and threw it up in the air, and when it had
nearly reached the ground he caught it on his knee, upon which it was
smashed to atoms. He then ordered another weighing four hundred and
eighty pounds, and this the blacksmith and his men could not even
move. Niezguinek had helped them to make it, and when finished he
tested it in the same manner as the first. Finding it did not break he
kept it, and had in addition a noose plaited with twelve strong ropes.
Towards nightfall he went to the field, crouched down behind his
haycock, crossed himself, and waited to see what would happen. At
midnight there was a tremendous noise which seemed to come from the
east, while in that direction appeared a bright light. Then a white
mare, with twelve colts as white as herself, trotted up to the haycock
and began to eat it. Niezguinek came out of his hiding-place, and
throwing the noose over the mare's neck, jumped on her back and struck
her with his heavy club. The terrified creature gave the signal to the
colts to escape, but she herself, hindered by the noose, out of
breath, and wounded by the club, could not follow, but sank down on
the earth saying, "Do not choke me, Niezguinek."

He marvelled to hear her speak human language, and loosened the noose.
When she had taken breath she said, "Knight, if you give me my liberty
you shall never repent it. My husband, the Dappled Horse with Golden
Mane, will cruelly revenge himself upon you when he knows I am your
prisoner; his strength and swiftness are so great you could not escape
him. In exchange for my freedom I will give you my twelve colts, who
will serve you and your brothers faithfully."

On hearing their mother neigh the colts returned and stood with bent
heads before the young man, who released the mare, and led them home.
The brothers were delighted to see Niezguinek return with twelve
beautiful white horses, and each took the one that pleased his fancy
most, while the thinnest and weakest-looking was left for the
youngest.

The old couple were happy in the thought that their son was brave as
well as strong. One day it occurred to the old woman that she would
like to see them all married, and to have the house merry with her
daughters-in-law and their children. So she called upon her gossips
and friends to talk the matter over, and finally persuaded her husband
to be of the same opinion. He called his sons around him and addressed
them thus: "Listen to me, my sons: in a certain country lives a
celebrated witch known as old Yaga. She is lame, and travels about in
an oaken trough. She supports herself on iron crutches, and when she
goes abroad carefully removes all traces of her steps with a broom.
This old witch has twelve beautiful daughters who have large dowries;
do your best to win them for your wives. Do not return without
bringing them with you."

[Illustration]

Both parents blessed their sons, who, mounting their horses, were soon
out of sight. All but Niezguinek, who, left alone, went to the stable
and began to shed tears.

"Why do you weep?" asked his horse.

"Don't you think I have good reason?" replied he. "Here I have to go a
long long way in search of a wife, and you, my friend, are so thin and
weak that were I to depend upon your strength I should never be able
to join my brothers."

"Do not despair, Niezguinek," said the horse, "not only will you
overtake your brothers, but you will leave them far behind. I am the
son of the Dappled Horse with the Golden Mane, and if you will do
exactly as I tell you I shall be given the same power as he. You must
kill me and bury me under a layer of earth and manure, then sow some
wheat over me, and when the corn is ripe it must be gathered and some
of it placed near my body."

Niezguinek threw his arms round his horse's neck and kissed him
fondly, then led him into a yard and killed him with one blow of his
club. The horse staggered a moment and then fell dead. His master
covered him with a layer of manure and earth, upon which he sowed
wheat, as had been directed. It was immediately watered by a gentle
rain, and warmed by the heat of the sun's rays. The corn took root and
ripened so quickly that on the twelfth day Niezguinek set to work to
cut, thresh, and winnow it. So abundant was it that he was able to
give eleven measures to his parents, and keeping one for himself,
spread it before his horse's bones. In a very short time the horse
moved his head, sniffed the air, and began to devour the wheat. As
soon as it was finished he sprang up, and was so full of life that he
wanted to jump over the fence in one bound: but Niezguinek held him by
the mane, and getting lightly on his back, said: "Halt there, my
spirited steed, I do not want others to have the benefit of all the
trouble I have had with you. Carry me to old Yaga's house."

He was of a truth a most magnificent horse, big and strong, with eyes
that flashed like lightning. He leapt up into the air as high as the
clouds, and the next moment descended in the middle of a field, saying
to his master: "As we have first to see old Yaga, from whom we are
still a great way off, we can stop here for a short time: take food
and rest, I will do the same. Your brothers will be obliged to pass
us, for we are a good way in front of them. When they come you can go
on together to visit the old witch: remember, though it is difficult
to get into her house, it is much more difficult still to get out. But
if you would be perfectly safe, take from under my saddle a brush, a
scarf, and a handkerchief. They will be of use in helping you to
escape; for when you unroll the scarf, a river will flow between you
and your enemy; if you shake the brush it will become a thick forest;
and by waving the handkerchief it will be changed into a lake. After
you have been received into Yaga's house, and your brothers have
stabled their horses and gone to bed, I will tell you how to act."

For twelve days Niezguinek and his horse rested and gained strength,
and at the end of the time the eleven brothers came up. They wondered
greatly to see the youngest, and said, "Where on earth did you come
from? And whose horse is that?"

"I have come from home. The horse is the same I chose at first. We
have been waiting here twelve days; let us go on together now."

Within a short time they came to a house surrounded by a high oaken
paling, at the gate of which they knocked. Old Yaga peeped out through
a chink in the fence and cried, "Who are you? What do you want?"

"We are twelve brothers come to ask the twelve daughters of Yaga in
marriage. If she is willing to be our mother-in-law, let her open the
door."

The door was opened and Yaga appeared. She was a frightful-looking
creature, old as the hills; and being one of those monsters who feed
on human flesh, the unfortunate wretches who once entered her house
never came out again. She had a lame leg, and because of this she
leaned on a great iron crutch, and when she went out removed all
traces of her steps with a broom.

She received the young travellers very graciously, shut the gate of
the courtyard behind them, and led them into the house. Niezguinek's
brothers dismounted, and taking their horses to the stables, tied them
up to rings made of silver; the youngest fastened his to a copper
ring. The old witch served her guests with a good supper, and gave
them wine and hydromel to drink. Then she made up twelve beds on the
right side of the room for the travellers, and on the left side twelve
beds for her daughters.

All were soon asleep except Niezguinek. He had been warned beforehand
by his horse of the danger that threatened them, and now he got up
quietly and changed the positions of the twenty-four beds, so that the
brothers lay to the left side of the room, and Yaga's daughters to the
right. At midnight, old Yaga cried out in a hoarse voice, "Guzla,
play. Sword, strike."

Then were heard strains of sweet music, to which the old woman beat
time from her oaken trough. At the same moment a slender sword
descended into the room, and passing over to the beds on the right,
cut off the heads of the girls one by one: after which it danced about
and flashed in the darkness.

When the dawn broke the guzla ceased playing, the sword disappeared,
and silence reigned. Then Niezguinek softly aroused his brothers, and
they all went out without making any noise. Each mounted his horse,
and when they had broken open the yard gate they made their escape at
full speed. Old Yaga, thinking she heard footsteps, got up and ran
into the room where her daughters lay dead. At the dreadful sight she
gnashed her teeth, barked like a dog, tore out her hair by handfuls,
and seating herself in her trough as in a car, set off after the
fugitives. She had nearly reached them, and was already stretching out
her hand to seize them, when Niezguinek unrolled his magic scarf, and
instantly a deep river flowed between her and the horsemen. Not being
able to cross it she stopped on the banks, and howling savagely began
to drink it up.

"Before you have swallowed all that river you will burst, you wicked
old witch," cried Niezguinek. Then he rejoined his brothers.

But the old woman drank all the water, crossed the bed of the river in
her trough, and soon came near the young people. Niezguinek shook his
handkerchief, and a lake immediately spread out between them. So she
was again obliged to stop, and shrieking with rage began to drink up
the water.

"Before you have drunk that lake dry you will have burst yourself,"
said Niezguinek, and rode after his brothers.

The old vixen drank up part of the water, and turning the remainder
into a thick fog, hastened along in her trough. She was once more
close upon the young men when Niezguinek, without a moment's delay,
seized his brush, and as he waved it in the air a thick forest rose
between them. For a time the witch was at a loss to know what to do.
On one side she saw Niezguinek and his brothers rapidly disappearing,
while she stood on the other hindered by the branches and torn by the
thorns of the thick bushes, unable either to advance or retreat.
Foaming with rage, with fire flashing from her eyes, she struck right
and left with her crutches, crashing trees on all sides, but before
she could clear a way those she was in pursuit of had got more than a
hundred miles ahead.

So she was forced to give up, and grinding her teeth, howling, and
tearing out her hair, she threw after the fugitives such flaming
glances from her eyes that she set the forest on fire, and taking the
road home was soon lost to sight.

The travellers, seeing the flames, guessed what had happened, and
thanked God for having preserved them from such great dangers. They
continued their journey, and by eventide arrived at the top of a steep
hill. There they saw a town besieged by foreign troops, who had
already destroyed the outer part, and only awaited daylight to take it
by storm.

The twelve brothers kept out of sight behind the enemy; and when they
had rested and turned out their horses to graze all went to sleep
except Niezguinek, who kept watch without closing an eye. When
everything was perfectly still he got up, and calling his horse, said,
"Listen; yonder in that tent sleeps the king of this besieging army,
and he dreams of the victory he hopes for on the morrow: how could we
send all the soldiers to sleep and get possession of his person?"

The horse replied, "You will find some dried leaves of the herb of
Sleep in the pocket of the saddle. Mount upon my back and hover round
the camp, spreading fragments of the plant. That will cause all the
soldiers to fall into a sound sleep, after which you can carry out
your plans."

Niezguinek mounted his horse, pronouncing these magic words:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, let us go;
  Rise in the air, like a bird take thy flight,
    Haste to the camp of the foe."

The horse glanced upwards as if he saw some one beckoning to him from
the clouds, then rose rapidly as a bird on the wing and hovered over
the camp. Niezguinek took handfuls of the herb of Sleep from the
saddle-pockets and sprinkled it all about. Upon which all in the camp,
including the sentinels, fell at once into a heavy sleep. Niezguinek
alighted, entered the tent, and carried off the sleeping king without
any difficulty. He then returned to his brothers, unharnessed his
horse and lay down to rest, placing the royal prisoner near him. His
majesty slept on as if nothing unusual had taken place.

[Illustration]

At daybreak the soldiers of the besieging army awoke, and not being
able to find their king, were seized with such a panic of terror that
they retreated in great disorder. The ruler of the besieged city would
not at first believe that the enemy had really disappeared, and indeed
went himself to see if it was true: of a truth there remained nothing
of the enemy's camp but a few deserted tents whitening on the plain.
At that moment Niezguinek came up with his brothers, and said, "Sire,
the enemy has fled, and we were unable to detain them, but here is
their king whom we have made prisoner, and whom I deliver up to you."

The ruler replied, "I see, indeed, that you are a brave man among
brave men, and I will reward you. This royal prisoner is worth a large
ransom to me; so speak,--what would you like me to do for you?"

"I should wish, sire, that my brothers and I might enter the service
of your majesty."

"I am quite willing," answered the king. Then, having placed his
prisoner in charge of his guards, he made Niezguinek general, and
placed him at the head of a division of his army; the eleven brothers
were given the rank of officers.

When Niezguinek appeared in uniform, and with sabre in hand mounted
his splendid charger, he looked so handsome and conducted the
manoeuvres so well that he surpassed all the other chiefs in the
country, thus causing much jealousy, even among his own brothers, for
they were vexed that the youngest should outshine them, and so
determined to ruin him.

In order to accomplish this they imitated his handwriting, and placed
such a note before the king's door while Niezguinek was engaged
elsewhere. When the king went out he found the letter, and calling
Niezguinek to him, said, "I should very much like to have the phonic
guzla you mention in your letter."

"But, sire, I have not written anything about a guzla," said he.

"Read the note then. Is it not in your handwriting?"

Niezguinek read:

    "In a certain country, within the house of old Yaga, is a
    marvellous guzla: if the king wish I will fetch it for him.

                                            "(Signed) NIEZGUINEK."

"It is true," said he, "that this writing resembles mine, but it is a
forgery, for I never wrote it."

"Never mind," said the king, "as you were able to take my enemy
prisoner you will certainly be able to succeed in getting old Yaga's
guzla: go then, and do not return without it, or you will be
executed."

Niezguinek bowed and went out. He went straight to the stable, where
he found his charger looking very sad and thin, his head drooping
before the trough, the hay untouched.

"What is the matter with you, my good steed? What grieves you?"

"I grieve for us both, for I foresee a long and perilous journey."

"You are right, old fellow, but we have to go. And what is more, we
have to take away and bring here old Yaga's guzla; and how shall we do
it, seeing that she knows us?"

"We shall certainly succeed if you do as I tell you."

Then the horse gave him certain instructions, and when Niezguinek had
led him out of the stable and mounted he said:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, do not wait on the road;
  Rise in the air, like a bird take thy flight,
    Haste to the wicked old Yaga's abode."

The horse arose in the air as if he heard some one calling to him from
the clouds, and flitting rapidly along passed over several kingdoms
within a few hours, thus reaching old Yaga's dwelling before midnight.
Niezguinek threw the leaves of Sleep in at the window, and by means of
another wonderful herb caused all the doors of the house to open. On
entering he found old Yaga fast asleep, with her trough and iron
crutches beside her, while above her head hung the magic sword and
guzla.

While the old witch lay snoring with all her might, Niezguinek took
the guzla and leapt on his horse, crying:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, while I sing,
  Rise in the air, like a bird take thy flight,
    Haste to the court of my king."

Just as if the horse had seen something in the clouds, he rose swift
as an arrow, and flew through the air, above the fogs. The same day
about noon he neighed before his own manger in the royal stable, and
Niezguinek went in to the king and presented him with the guzla. On
pronouncing the two words, "Guzla, play," strains of music so gay and
inspiriting were heard that all the courtiers began dancing with one
another. The sick who listened were cured of their diseases, those who
were in trouble and grief forgot their sorrows, and all living
creatures were thrilled with a gladness such as they had never felt
before. The king was beside himself with joy; he loaded Niezguinek
with honours and presents, and, in order to have him always at court,
raised him to a higher rank in the army. In this new post he had many
under him, and he showed much exactitude in drill and other matters,
punishing somewhat severely when necessary. He made, too, no
difference in the treatment of his brothers, which angered them
greatly, and caused them to be still more jealous and to plot against
him. So they again imitated his handwriting and composed another
letter, which they left at the king's door. When his majesty had read
it he called Niezguinek to him and said, "I should much like to have
the marvellous sword you speak of in your letter."

"Sire, I have not written anything about a sword," said Niezguinek.

"Well, read it for yourself." And he read:

    "In a certain country within the house of old Yaga is a
    sword that strikes of its own accord: if the king would like
    to have it, I will engage to bring it him.

                                            "(Signed) NIEZGUINEK."

"Certainly," said Niezguinek, "this writing resembles mine, but I
never wrote those words."

"Never mind, as you succeeded in bringing me the guzla you will find
no difficulty in obtaining the sword. Start without delay, and do not
return without it at your peril."

Niezguinek bowed and went to the stable, where he found his horse
looking very thin and miserable, with his head drooping.

"What is the matter, my horse? Do you want anything?"

"I am unhappy because I foresee a long and dangerous journey."

"You are right, for we are ordered to return to Yaga's house for the
sword: but how can we get hold of it? doubtless she guards it as the
apple of her eye."

The horse answered, "Do as I tell you and all will be right." And he
gave him certain instructions. Niezguinek came out of the stable,
saddled his friend, and mounting him said:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white;
    Horse of my heart, do not wait on the road;
  Rise in the air, like a bird take thy flight,
    Haste to the wicked old witch's abode."

The horse rose immediately as if he had been beckoned to by some one
in the clouds, and passing swiftly through the air, crossed rivers and
mountains, till at midnight he stopped before old Yaga's house.

Since the disappearance of the guzla the sword had been placed on
guard before the house, and whoever came near it was cut to pieces.

Niezguinek traced a circle with holy chalk, and placing himself on
horseback in the centre of it, said:

  "Sword who of thyself can smite,
    I come to brave thy ire;
  Peace or war upon this site
    Of thee I do require.
  If thou canst conquer, thine my life;
  Should I beat thee, then ends this strife."

The sword clinked, leapt into the air, and fell to the ground divided
into a thousand other swords, which ranged themselves in battle array
and began to attack Niezguinek. But in vain; they were powerless to
touch him; for on reaching the chalk-traced circle they broke like
wisps of straw. Then the sword-in-chief, seeing how useless it was to
go on trying to wound him, submitted itself to Niezguinek and promised
him obedience. Taking the magic weapon in his hand, he mounted his
horse and said:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, while I sing,
  Rise in the air, like a bird take thy flight,
    Back to the court of my king."

The horse started with renewed courage, and by noon was eating his hay
in the royal stables. Niezguinek went in to the king and presented him
with the sword. While he was rejoicing over it one of his servants
rushed in quite out of breath and said, "Sire, your enemies who
attacked us last year, and whose king is your prisoner, surround our
town. Being unable to redeem their sovereign, they have come with an
immense army, and threaten to destroy us if their king is not released
without ransom."

The king armed himself with the magic sword, and going outside the
city walls, said to it, as he pointed to the enemy's camp, "Magic
Sword, smite the foe."

Immediately the sword clinked, leapt flashing in the air, and fell in
a thousand blades that threw themselves on the camp. One regiment was
destroyed during the first attack, another was defeated in the same
way, while the rest of the terrified soldiers fled and completely
disappeared. Then the king said, "Sword, return to me."

The thousand swords again became one, and so it returned to its
master's hand.

[Illustration]

The victorious king came home filled with joy. He called Niezguinek to
him, loaded him with gifts, and assuring him of his favour, made him
the highest general of his forces. In carrying out the duties of this
new post Niezguinek was often obliged to punish his brothers, who
became more and more enraged against him, and took counsel together
how they might bring about his downfall.

One day the king found a letter by his door, and after reading it he
called Niezguinek to him and said, "I should very much like to see
Princess Sudolisu, whom you wish to bring me."

"Sire, I do not know the lady, and have never spoken to her."

"Here, look at your letter."

Niezguinek read:

    "Beyond the nine kingdoms, far beyond the ocean, within a
    silver vessel with golden masts lives Princess Sudolisu. If
    the king wishes it, I will seek her for him.

                                             (Signed) NIEZGUINEK."

"It is true the writing is like unto mine; nevertheless, I neither
composed the letter nor wrote it."

"No matter," answered the king. "You will be able to get this
princess, as you did the guzla and the sword: if not, I will have you
killed."

Niezguinek bowed and went out. He entered the stable where stood his
horse looking very weak and sad, with his head bent down.

"What is the matter, dear horse? Are you in want of anything?"

"I am sorrowful," answered the horse, "because I foresee a long and
difficult journey."

"You are right, for we have to go beyond the nine kingdoms, and far
beyond the ocean, to find Princess Sudolisu. Can you tell me what to
do?"

"I will do my best, and if it is God's will we shall succeed. Bring
your club of four hundred and eighty pounds weight, and let us be
off."

Niezguinek saddled his horse, took his club, and mounting said:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, do not lag on the road;
  Rise in the air, through the clouds take thy flight,
    Haste to Princess Sudolisu's abode."

Then the horse looked up as if there were something he wanted in the
clouds, and with a spring flew through the air, swift as an arrow; and
so by the second day they had passed over ten kingdoms, and finding
themselves beyond the ocean, halted on the shore. Here the horse said
to Niezguinek, "Do you see that silver ship with golden masts that
rides on the waves yonder? That beautiful vessel is the home of
Princess Sudolisu, youngest daughter of old Yaga. For after the witch
had lost the guzla and magic sword she feared to lose her daughter
too: so she shut her up in that vessel, and having thrown the key
thereof into the ocean, sat herself in her oaken trough, where with
the help of the iron crutches she rows round and round the silver
ship, warding off tempests, and keeping at a distance all other ships
that would approach it.

"The first thing to be done is to get the diamond key that opens the
ship. In order to procure this you must kill me, and then throw into
the water one end of my entrails, by which bait you will trap the King
of the Lobsters. Do not set him free until he has promised to get you
the key, for it is this key that draws the vessel to you of its own
accord."

"Ah, my beloved steed," cried Niezguinek, "how can I kill you when I
love you as my own brother, and when my fate depends upon you
entirely?"

"Do as I tell you; you can bring me to life again, as you did before."

Niezguinek caressed his horse, kissed him and wept over him; then,
raising his mighty club, struck him full on the forehead. The poor
creature staggered and fell down dead. Niezguinek cut him open, and
putting an end of his entrails in the water, he kept hold of it and
hid himself in the water-rushes. Soon there came a crowd of crawfish,
and amongst them a gigantic lobster as large as a year-old calf.
Niezguinek seized him and threw him on the beach. The lobster said, "I
am king of all the crawfish tribe. Let me go, and I will give you
great riches for my ransom."

"I do not want your riches," answered Niezguinek, "but in exchange for
your freedom give me the diamond key which belongs to the silver ship
with the golden masts, for in that vessel dwells Princess Sudolisu."

The King of the Crawfish whistled, upon which myriads of his subjects
appeared. He spoke to them in their own language, and dismissed one,
who soon returned with the magic diamond key in his claws.

Niezguinek loosed the King of the Crawfish; and hiding himself inside
his horse's body as he had been instructed, lay in wait. At that
moment an old raven, followed by all his nestlings, happened to pass,
and attracted by the horse's carcase, he called to his young ones to
come and feast with him. Niezguinek seized the smallest of the birds
and held it firmly.

"Let my birdling go," said the old raven, "I will give you in return
anything you like to ask."

"Fetch me then three kinds of water, the Life-giving, the Curing, and
the Strengthening."

The old raven started off, and while awaiting his return Niezguinek,
who still held the ravenling, questioned him as to where he had come
from and what he had seen on his travels, and in this way heard news
of his brothers.

[Illustration]

When the father bird returned, carrying with him the bottles filled
with the marvellous waters, he wanted to have his nestling back.

"One moment more," said Niezguinek, "I want to be sure that they are
of the right sort."

Then he replaced the entrails in the body of his horse and sprinkled
him first with the Life-giving, then with the Curing, and finally with
the Strengthening Water; after which his beloved steed leapt to his
feet full of strength and cried, "Ah! how very soundly I have slept."

Niezguinek released the young raven and said to his horse, "For sure,
you would have slept to all eternity, and have never seen the sun
again, if I had not revived you as you taught me."

While speaking he saw the marvellous ship sparkling white in the sun.
She was made entirely of pure silver, with golden masts. The rigging
was of silk, the sails of velvet, and the whole was enclosed in a
casing of inpenetrable steel network. Niezguinek sprang down to the
water's edge armed with his club, and rubbing his forehead with the
diamond key, said:

  "Riding on the ocean waves a magic ship I see;
  Stop and change thy course, O ship, here I hold the key.
  Obey the signal known to thee,
  And come at once direct to me."

The vessel turned right round and came at full speed towards land, and
right on to the bank, where it remained motionless.

Niezguinek smashed in the steel network with his club; and opening the
doors with the diamond key, there found Princess Sudolisu. He made her
unconscious with the herb Sleep, and lifting her before him on his
horse, said:

  "Marvel of strength and of beauty so white,
    Horse of my heart, while I sing,
  Swift as an arrow through space take thy flight
    Straight to the court of my king."

Then the horse, as if he saw some strange thing in the clouds, lifted
himself in the air and began to fly through space so rapidly that in
about two hours he had crossed rivers, mountains, and forests, and had
reached his journey's end.

Although Niezguinek had fallen violently in love with the princess
himself, he took her straight to the royal palace and introduced her
to the king.

Now she was so exquisitely beautiful that the monarch was quite
dazzled by looking at her, and being thus carried away by his
admiration, he put his arm round her as if to caress her: but she
rebuked him severely.

"What have I done to offend you, princess? Why do you treat me so
harshly?"

"Because in spite of your rank you are ill-bred. You neither ask my
name nor that of my parents, and you think to take possession of me as
if I were but a dog or a falcon. You must understand that he who would
be my husband must have triple youth, that of heart, soul, and body."

"Charming princess, if I could become young again we would be married
directly."

She replied, "But I have the means of making you so, and by help of
this sword in my hand. For with it I will pierce you to the heart,
then cut up your body into small pieces, wash them carefully, and join
them together again. And if I breathe upon them you will return to
life young and handsome, just as if you were only twenty years of
age."

"Oh indeed! I should like to know who would submit to that; first make
trial of Sir Niezguinek here."

The princess looked at him, whereupon he bowed and said, "Lovely
princess, I willingly submit, although I am young enough without it.
In any case life without you would be valueless."

Then the princess took a step towards him and killed him with her
sword. She cut him up in pieces and washed these in pure water, after
which she joined them together again and breathed upon them. Instantly
Niezguinek sprang up full of life and health, and looked so handsome
and bright that the old king, who was dreadfully jealous, exclaimed,
"Make me, too, young again, princess; do not lose a moment."

The princess pierced him to the heart with her sword, cut him up into
little pieces, and, opening the window, threw them out, at the same
time calling the king's dogs, who quickly ate them up. Then she turned
to Niezguinek and said, "Proclaim yourself king, and I will be your
queen."

He followed her advice, and within a short time they were married; his
brothers, whom he had pardoned, and his parents having been invited to
the wedding. On their way back from the church the magic sword
suddenly clinked, and, flashing in the air, divided itself into a
thousand swords that placed themselves on guard as sentinels all round
the palace. The guzla, too, began to play so sweetly and gaily that
every living thing began to dance for joy.

The festival was magnificent. I myself was there, and drank freely of
wine and mead; and although not a drop went into my mouth, my chin was
quite wet.



OHNIVAK



[Illustration: OHNIVAK]


A certain king had a beautiful garden which contained a number of very
rare trees, but the most rare of all was an apple tree. It stood in
the middle of the garden, and produced one golden apple every day. In
the morning the blossom unfolded, during the day you might watch the
fruit grow, and before nightfall the apple was fully ripe. The next
day the same thing occurred--indeed, it happened regularly every
twenty-four hours. Nevertheless, no ripe fruit ever remained on the
tree on the following day; the apple disappeared, no one knew how or
when, and this deeply grieved the king.

At last he could bear it no longer, and calling his eldest son to him,
said: "My child, I wish you to keep watch in the garden to-night, and
see if you can find out what becomes of my golden apples. I will
reward you with the choice of all my treasures; if you should be lucky
enough to get hold of the thief, and bring him to me, I would gladly
give you half my kingdom."

The young prince girded his trusty sword to his side, and with his
crossbow on his shoulder and a good stock of well-tempered arrows,
went into the garden to mount guard. And as he sat under the apple
tree a great drowsiness came over him which he could not resist; his
arms dropped, his eyes closed, and stretching himself on the grass he
slept as soundly as if he had been in his own bed at home, nor did he
awake until day dawn, and then he saw that the apple had disappeared.

When questioned by his father, he said that no thieves had come, but
that the apple had vanished all the same. The king shook his head, for
he did not believe a word of it. Then, turning to his second son, he
bade him keep watch, and promised him a handsome reward if he should
catch the thief.

So the second son armed himself with everything necessary and went
into the garden. But he succeeded no better than his brother, for he
could not resist the desire to sleep, and when he awoke the apple was
no longer there.

When his father asked him how it disappeared, he replied, "No one took
it, it vanished of itself."

"Now, my dearest one, take your turn," said the king to his youngest
son; "although you are young, and have less experience than your
brothers, let us see if you cannot succeed where they have failed. If
you are willing, go, and may God help you."

Towards evening, when it began to be dusk, the youngest son went into
the garden to keep watch. He took with him a sword and crossbow, a few
well-tempered arrows, and a hedgehog's skin as a sort of apron, for he
thought that while sitting under the tree, if he spread the skin over
his knees, the pricking of the bristles on his hands might keep him
awake. And so it did, for by this means he was able to resist the
drowsiness that came over him.

At midnight Ohnivak, the bird of fire, flew down and alighted upon the
tree, and was just going off with the apple when the prince fixed an
arrow to his bow, and letting it fly, struck the bird under the wing.
Although wounded, it flew away, dropping one of its feathers upon the
ground. That night for the first time the apple remained untouched
upon the tree.

"Have you caught the thief?" asked the king next day.

"Not altogether, but no doubt we shall have him in time. I have a bit
of his trappings." And he gave the king the feather, and told him all
that had taken place.

The king was charmed with the feather; so lovely and bright was it
that it illumined all the galleries of the palace, and they needed no
other light.

The courtiers told the king that the feather could only belong to
Ohnivak, the bird of fire, and that it was worth all the rest of the
royal treasures put together.

From that time Ohnivak came no more to the garden, and the apples
remained untouched. Yet the king could think of nothing else but how
to possess this marvellous bird. At last, beginning to despair of ever
seeing it, he was filled with melancholy, and would remain for hours
in deep thought; thus he became really ill, and every day continued to
grow worse.

One day he summoned his three sons before him and said, "My dear
children, you see the sad state I am in. If I could but hear the bird
Ohnivak sing just once I should be cured of this disease of the heart;
otherwise it will be my death. Whichever of you shall succeed in
catching Ohnivak alive and inducing him to sing to me, to him I will
give half of my kingdom and the heirship to the throne."

Having taken leave of their father the brothers set off. They
travelled together until they came to a part of the forest where the
road branched off in three directions.

"Which turning shall we take?" asked the eldest.

The second brother answered, "We are three, and three roads lie before
us; let us each choose one, thus we shall treble our chances of
finding the bird, for we shall seek it in three different countries."

"That is a good idea, but how shall each one decide which way to
choose?"

The youngest brother said, "I will leave the choice to you two, and
will take whichever road you leave me."

[Illustration]

So each took the road that chance decided for him, agreeing that when
their mission was over they would return to the point of departure. In
order to recognise the place again each one planted the branch of a
tree at the cross roads, and they believed that he whose branch should
take root and grow into a big tree would be successful in the quest.

When each one had planted his branch at the chosen road they started
off. The eldest rode on, and never stopped until he reached the top of
a high mountain; there he dismounted, and let his horse graze while he
ate his breakfast. Suddenly a red fox came up, and speaking in the
language of men, said: "Pray, my handsome prince, give me a little of
what you are eating; I am very hungry."

For answer the prince let fly an arrow from his crossbow, but it is
impossible to say whether he hit the fox for it vanished and did not
appear again.

The second brother, without meeting with any adventure, reached a
wide-stretching moor, where he stopped for his meal. The red fox
appeared to him and begged for food; but he also refused food to the
famished fox, and shot at him. The creature disappeared as before.

The youngest travelled on till he came to the banks of a river.
Feeling tired and hungry, he got down from his horse and began his
breakfast; while he was eating, up came the red fox.

"Please, young sir," said the fox, "give me a morsel to satisfy my
hunger."

The prince threw him a piece of meat, and spoke kindly to him.

"Come near, do not be afraid, my red fox; I see you are more hungry
than I, but there is enough for us both."

And he divided all his provisions into two equal parts, one for
himself, and one for the poor red fox.

When the latter had eaten to his heart's content, he said: "You have
fed me well, in return I will serve you well; mount your horse and
follow me. If you do everything I tell you, the Bird of Fire shall be
yours."

Then he set off at a run before the horseman, clearing the road for
him with his bushy tail. By means of this marvellous broom, mountains
were cut down, ravines filled up, and rivers bridged over.

The young prince followed at a gallop, without the slightest wish to
stop, until they came to a castle built of copper.

"The Bird of Fire is in this castle," said the fox; "you must enter
exactly at midday, for then the guards will be asleep, and you will
pass unnoticed. Above all, beware of stopping anywhere. In the first
apartment you will find twelve birds black as night, in golden cages;
in the second, twelve golden birds in wooden cages; in the third,
Ohnivak, the bird of fire, roosting on his perch. Near him are two
cages, one of wood and the other of gold; be sure you put him in the
wooden cage--you would be sorry for it if he were put into the golden
one."

The prince entered the castle, and found everything just as the fox
had told him. Having passed through the two rooms he came to the
third, and there saw the fire-bird on his perch, apparently asleep. It
was indeed a beautiful creature, so beautiful that the prince's heart
beat high with joy. He handled him without difficulty, and put him
into the wooden cage, thinking at the same time to himself that it
could hardly be right for so lovely a bird to be in such an ugly cage,
a golden cage could be the only right place for him. So he took him
out of the wooden cage and placed him in the golden one. Hardly had he
shut the door when the bird opened his eyes and gave a piercing
scream; so shrill was it that it awoke the other birds, who began to
sing as loud as they could, and gave the alarm to the guards at the
palace door. These rushed in, seized the prince, and dragged him
before the king. The latter was very angry, and said: "Infamous thief,
who are you to have dared to force an entrance, and pass through my
sentinels, to steal my bird Ohnivak?"

"I am not a thief," answered the young prince indignantly, "I have
come to reclaim a thief whom you protect. I am the son of a king, and
in my father's gardens is an apple tree that bears golden fruit. It
blossoms at morning-time, while during the day the flower develops
into an apple that grows and ripens after sunset. Now in the night
your bird robbed us of our golden apples, and though I watched and
wounded him I could not catch him. My father is dying with grief
because of this, and the only remedy that can save and restore him to
health, is that he may listen to the fire-bird's song. This is why I
beg your majesty to give him me."

"You may have him," said the king, "but on one condition, that you
bring me Zlato-Nrivak, the horse with the golden mane."

So the prince had to go away empty-handed.

"Why did you not do as I told you? Why must you go and take the golden
cage?" said the fox, in despair at the failure of the expedition.

"I admit it was my own fault," said the prince, "but do not punish me
by being angry. I want your advice: tell me how I am to get
Zlato-Nrivak?"

"I know how it can be done," answered the red fox, "and I will help
you once more. Get on your horse, follow me, and do as I tell you."

The fox ran on in front, clearing the road with his bushy tail. The
prince followed at a gallop, until they came to a castle built
entirely of silver.

"In that castle lives the Horse with the Golden Mane," said the fox.
"You will have to go exactly at midday, when the sentinels are asleep;
thus you will get past safe and sound. But mind, do not stop anywhere.
You must pass through three stables. In the first are twelve black
horses with golden bridles; in the second, twelve white horses with
black bridles; in the third stands Zlato-Nrivak in front of his
manger, while near him are two bridles, one of gold, the other of
black leather. Whatever you do, beware of using the first, for you
will surely repent it."

The prince waited until the appointed time and then entered the
castle, finding everything exactly as the fox had said. In the third
stable stood Zlato-Nrivak, eating fire that flared up out of his
silver trough.

The Horse with the Golden Mane was so beautiful that the prince could
not take his eyes off him. Quickly unhooking the black leather bridle,
he put it over the horse's head. The animal made no resistance, but
was gentle and quiet as a lamb. Then the prince looked covetously at
the golden bridle sparkling with gems, and said to himself, "It is a
shame that such a splendid creature should be guided by these ugly
black reins while there is a bridle here far more suited to him, and
that is indeed his by right." So, forgetting his late experience and
the warnings of the red fox, he tore off the black bridle and put in
its place that of gold set with precious stones. No sooner did the
horse feel the change than he began to neigh and caper about, while
all the other horses answered with a perfect storm of neighings. The
sentinels, aroused by the noise, ran in, and seizing the prince, led
him before the king.

"Insolent thief," cried the enraged monarch, "how is it that you have
escaped the vigilance of the guards and have dared to lay hands upon
my horse with the golden mane? It is really disgraceful."

"True, I am nothing better," replied the prince proudly, "but I was
forced to do it against my will." And he related all his misadventures
at the copper castle, adding that it was impossible to obtain the
fire-bird except in exchange for Zlato-Nrivak, and that he hoped his
majesty would make him a present of the horse.

"Most willingly," answered the king, "but on one condition, that you
bring me the Maiden with the Golden Locks: she lives in the golden
castle on the shores of the Black Sea."

The fox was waiting in the forest the prince's return, and when he saw
him come back without the horse he was very angry indeed.

"Did I not warn you," said he, "to be content with the black leather
bridle? It is really a loss of time to try and help such an ungrateful
fellow, for it seems impossible to make you hear reason."

"Don't be cross," said the prince, "I confess that I am in fault; I
ought to have obeyed your orders. But have a little more patience with
me and help me out of this difficulty."

"Very well; but this will certainly be the last time. If you do just
as you are told we may yet repair all that has been spoilt by your
imprudence. Mount your horse and follow--off!"

The fox ran on in front, clearing the road with his bushy tail, until
they reached the shores of the Black Sea.

"That palace yonder," said the fox, "is the residence of the Queen of
the Ocean Kingdom. She has three daughters; it is the youngest who has
the golden hair, and is called Zlato-Vlaska. Now you must first go to
the queen and ask her to give you one of her daughters in marriage. If
she takes kindly to your proposal she will bid you choose, and mind
you take that princess who is the most plainly dressed."

The queen received him most graciously, and when he explained the
object of his visit she led him into a room where the three daughters
were spinning.

They were so much alike that no one could possibly distinguish one
from the other, and they were all so marvellously lovely that when the
young prince looked upon them he dared hardly breathe. Their hair was
carefully covered by a veil through which one could not distinguish
the colour of it, but their dresses were different. The first wore a
gown and veil embroidered with gold, and used a golden distaff; the
second had on a gown embroidered with silver and held a distaff of the
same metal; the third wore a gown and veil of dazzling whiteness, and
her distaff was made of wood.

The mother bade the prince choose, whereupon he pointed to the maiden
clothed in white, saying, "Give me this one to wife."

"Ah," said the queen, "some one has been letting you into the secret:
but wait a little, we shall meet again to-morrow."

All that night the prince lay awake, wondering how he should manage
not to make a mistake on the morrow. At dawn he was already at the
palace gates, which he had hardly entered when the princess clothed in
white chanced to pass: it was Zlato-Vlaska, and she had come to meet
him.

"If it is your wish to choose me again to-day," she said, "observe
carefully, and take the maiden around whose head buzzes a small fly."

In the afternoon the queen took the prince into a room where her three
daughters sat, and said: "If among these princesses you recognise the
one you chose yesterday she shall be yours; if not, you must die."

The young girls stood side by side, dressed alike in costly robes, and
all had golden hair. The prince was puzzled, and their beauty and
splendour dazzled him. For some time he could hardly see distinctly;
then, all of a sudden, a small fly buzzed over the head of one of the
princesses.

"This is the maiden who belongs to me," cried he, "and whom I chose
yesterday."

The queen, astonished that he should have guessed correctly, said,
"Quite right, but I cannot let you have her until you have submitted
to another trial, which shall be explained to you to-morrow."

On the morrow she pointed out to him a large fish-pond which lay in
the forest, and giving him a small golden sieve, said: "If with this
sieve you can, before sunset, empty that fish-pond yonder, I will give
you my daughter with the golden hair, but if you fail you will lose
your life."

The prince took the sieve, and, going down to the pond, plunged it in
to try his luck; but no sooner had he lifted it up than all the water
ran out through the holes--not a drop was left behind. Not knowing
what to do, he sat down on the bank with the sieve in his hand,
wondering in what possible way the difficulty might be overcome.

"Why are you so sad?" asked the maiden in white, as she came towards
him.

"Because I fear you will never be mine," sighed he; "your mother has
given me an impossible task."

"Come, cheer up, away with fear; it will all be right in the end."

Thereupon she took the sieve and threw it into the fishpond. Instantly
the water turned to foam on the surface, and a thick vapour rose up,
which fell in a fog so dense that nothing could be seen through it.
Then the prince heard footsteps, and turning round saw his horse
coming towards him, with his bridle down and the red fox at his side.

"Mount quickly," said the horse, "there is not a moment to lose; lift
the maiden in front of you."

The faithful steed flew like an arrow, and sped rapidly along over the
road that had been recently cleared by the bushy tail of the red fox.
But this time, instead of leading, the red fox followed, his tail
working marvels as he went: it destroyed the bridges, reopened the
ravines, raised high mountains, and in fact put back everything as it
used to be.

[Illustration]

The prince felt very happy as he rode along, holding the Princess with
the Golden Hair, but it saddened him much to think he would have to
give up all thought of marrying her himself, and that within a few
short hours he must leave her with the king of the silver palace: the
nearer he came to it, the more wretched he grew. The red fox, who
noticed this, said: "It appears to me that you do not want to exchange
the lovely Zlato-Vlaska for the Horse with the Golden Mane: is it not
so? Well, I have helped you so far, I will see what I can do for you
now."

And having thus spoken he turned a somersault over the stump of a
fallen tree which lay in the forest: while, to the prince's amazement,
he was immediately transformed into a young girl exactly resembling
the Princess with the Golden Hair.

"Now, leave your real bride in the forest," said the transformed fox,
"and take me with you to offer to the king of the silver palace in
exchange for his horse Zlato-Nrivak. Mount the horse, return here, and
escape with the maid you love; I will manage the rest."

The king of the silver castle received the maiden without the least
suspicion, and handed over in exchange the Horse with the Golden Mane,
over whose back lay the bejewelled bridle. The prince left at once.

At the palace all were busy preparing the wedding feast, for the
marriage was to take place immediately, and everything was to be of
the most costly description. Invitations had been out to all the
grandees of the land.

Towards the end of the feast, when every one had drunk his fill of
wine and pleasure, the king asked his guests their opinions on the
charms of his bride.

"She is most beautiful," said one, "in fact, it would be impossible
for her to be more lovely; only, it seems to me that her eyes are
somewhat like those of a fox."

The words were hardly out of his mouth when the royal bride vanished,
while in her place sat a red fox, who with one vigorous bound sprang
through the door and disappeared to rejoin the prince, who had
hastened on in front. With sweeping strokes of his bushy tail he
overthrew bridges, reopened precipices, and heaped up mountains; but
it was very hard work for the poor thing, and he did not come up with
the runaways until they had almost reached the copper castle. Here
they all had a rest, while the red fox turned a somersault and
transformed himself into a horse resembling the one with the golden
mane. Then the prince entered the copper castle and exchanged the
transformed fox for the fire-bird Ohnivak, the king having no
suspicions whatever. The red fox, having thus deceived the monarch,
reassumed his own shape and hurried after the departing prince, whom
he did not overtake until they had reached the banks of the river
where they had first become acquainted.

"Now here you are, prince," said the red fox, "in possession of
Ohnivak, of the lovely Zlato-Vlaska, and of the Horse with the Golden
Mane. Henceforth you can manage without my help, so return to your
father's house in peace and joy; but, take warning, do not stop
anywhere on the way, for if you do some misfortune will overtake you."

With these words the red fox vanished, while the prince continued his
journey unhindered. In his hand he held the golden cage that contained
the fire-bird, and at his side the lovely Zlato-Vlaska rode the Horse
with the Golden Mane; truly, he was the happiest of men.

When he reached the cross roads where he had parted from his brothers,
he hastened to look for the branches they had planted. His alone had
become a spreading tree, theirs were both withered. Delighted with
this proof of divine favour, he felt a strong desire to rest for a
while under the shadow of his own tree; he therefore dismounted, and
assisting the princess to do the same, fastened their horses to one of
the branches and hung up the cage containing Ohnivak on another:
within a few moments they were all sound asleep.

Meanwhile the two elder brothers arrived at the same place by
different roads, and both with empty hands. There they found their two
branches withered, that of their brother having grown into a splendid
tree. Under the shade of the latter he lay sleeping; by his side was
the Maid with the Golden Locks; the horse, Zlato-Nrivak, was fastened
to a tree, and the fire-bird roosted in his golden cage.

The hearts of the two brothers were filled with envious and wicked
thoughts, and they whispered thus to one another, "Just think what
will become of us--the youngest will receive half of the kingdom
during our father's life and succeed to the throne at his death; why
not cut his throat at once? One of us will take the Maid with the
Golden Locks, the other can carry the bird to our father and keep the
Horse with the Golden Mane; as for the kingdom, we will divide it
between us."

After this debate they killed their youngest brother and cut up his
body into small pieces, while they threatened to treat Zlato-Vlaska in
the same way if she attempted to disobey them.

On reaching home they sent the Horse with the Golden Mane to the
marble stables, the cage containing Ohnivak was placed in the room
where their father lay sick, and the princess was allowed a beautiful
suite of apartments and maids of honour to attend her.

When the king, who was much weakened by suffering, had looked at the
bird, he asked after his youngest son. To which the brothers replied:
"We have not seen or heard anything of him, it is very likely that he
has been killed."

The poor old man was much affected--it seemed, indeed, as if his last
hour had come. The fire-bird moped and refused to sing; the Horse with
the Golden Mane stood with his head bent down before his manger, and
would eat no food; while Princess Zlato-Vlaska remained as silent as
if she had been born dumb, her beautiful hair was neglected and
uncombed, and she wept--her tears fell fast.

Now as the red fox chanced to pass through the forest he came upon the
mangled body of the youngest brother, and he at once set to work to
put the scattered pieces together, but was unable to restore them to
life. At that moment a raven, accompanied by two young ones, came
hovering overhead. The fox crouched behind a bramble bush; and when
one of the young birds alighted upon the body to feed, he seized it
and made a pretence of strangling it. Upon which the parent bird, full
of anxious love and fear, perched upon a branch close by and croaked
as if to say, "Let my poor little nestling go. I have done you no
harm, neither have I worried you; let him free, and I will take the
first opportunity of returning your kindness."

"Just so," replied the red fox, "for I am greatly in need of some
kindness. Now if you will fetch me some of the Water of Death, and
some of the Water of Life, from the Red Sea, I will let your nestling
go safe and sound."

The old raven promised to fetch the water, and went off at once.

Within three days he returned, carrying in his beak two small bottles,
one full of the Water of Death, the other of the Water of Life. When
the red fox received them he wished first to try their effect upon
some living creature, so he cut the small raven up, and joining the
pieces together, watered them with the Water of Death. Instantly they
became a living bird, without mark or join anywhere. This he sprinkled
with the Water of Life, upon which the young raven spread its wings
and flew off to its family.

The red fox then performed the same operation on the body of the young
prince, and with the same happy result, for he rose again perfect in
form, and having about him no wound scars. On coming to life again,
all he said was, "Dear me! What a pleasant sleep I have had."

"I believe you," replied the red fox, "you would have gone on sleeping
for ever if I had not awakened you. And what a foolish young man you
are: did I not particularly order you not to stop anywhere, but to go
straight back to your father's house?"

He then related all that his brothers had done, and having obtained a
peasant's dress for him, led him to the outskirts of the forest, close
to the royal palace, where he left him.

The young prince then entered the palace grounds, unrecognised by the
servants, and on representing that he was in need of employment, was
appointed stable-boy to the royal stables. Some little time after he
heard the grooms lamenting that the Horse with the Golden Mane would
eat no food.

"What a pity it is," said they, "that this splendid steed should
starve to death; he droops his head and will take nothing."

"Give him," said the disguised prince, "some pea-straw; I bet you
anything he will eat that."

"But do you really think so? Why, our rough draught horses would
refuse such coarse food."

The prince's only answer was to fetch a bundle of pea-straw, which he
put into Zlato-Nrivak's marble trough: then, passing his hand gently
over his neck and mane, he said to him, "Grieve no more, my horse with
the golden mane."

The beautiful creature recognised his master's voice, and neighing
with joy, greedily devoured the pea-straw.

The news was noised about from one end of the palace to the other, and
the sick king summoned the boy to his presence.

"I hear you have made Zlato-Nrivak eat," said his majesty; "do you
think you could make my fire-bird sing? Go and examine him closely: he
is very sad, he droops his wings, and will neither eat nor drink. Ah
me! if he dies I shall certainly die too."

"Your majesty may rest assured, the bird will not die. Let him have
some husks of barley to eat, then he will soon be all right and begin
to sing."

The king ordered them to be brought, and the disguised prince put a
handful into Ohnivak's cage, saying, "Cheer up, my fire-bird."

[Illustration]

As soon as Ohnivak heard his master's voice he shook himself, and made
his feathers shine with more than their usual brightness. Then he
began to dance about his cage, and pecking up the husks, sang so
exquisitely that the king immediately felt better, and it was as if a
great weight had been lifted off his heart. The fire-bird again burst
into song, and this so affected the king that he sat up quite well,
and embraced the disguised prince out of very gratitude.

"Now," said he, "teach me how to restore to health this beautiful
maiden with the golden hair whom my sons brought back with them; for
she will not speak a word, her beautiful hair remains uncared for, and
her tears fall night and day."

"If your majesty will allow me to speak a few words to her, it may be
the means of making her bright and happy."

The king himself led the way to her apartments, and the disguised
prince, taking her hand, said: "Look up a moment, sweetheart; why
these tears? And why grieve thus, dear bride?"

The maiden knew him at once, and with a cry of joy threw herself into
his arms. This astonished the king mightily, and he could not for the
life of him think how a stable-boy dare address such a princess as his
"dear bride."

The prince then addressed the king thus: "And are you indeed the only
one who does not know me? How is it, my father and sovereign, that you
have not recognised your youngest son? I alone have succeeded in
obtaining the Fire-Bird, the Horse with the Golden Mane, and the Maid
with the Golden Hair."

Thereupon he related all his adventures, and Zlato-Vlaska in her turn
told how the wicked brothers had threatened to kill her if she
betrayed them. As for these bad men, they shook from head to foot, and
trembled like leaves in the wind. The indignant king ordered them to
be executed then and there.

Not very long after these events the youngest prince married the
beautiful Zlato-Vlaska, and the king gave him half of his kingdom as a
wedding present. When the old king died he reigned in his stead, and
lived happily with the princess ever after.



TEARS OF PEARLS



[Illustration]

TEARS OF PEARLS


Once upon a time there lived a very rich widow, with whom lived three
children--a handsome stepson; his sister, who was marvellously
beautiful; and her own daughter, passably good-looking.

All three children lived under the same roof, but, as is often the
case where there are step-parents, they were treated very differently.
The lady's own daughter was bad-tempered, disobedient, vain, and of a
tell-tale disposition: yet she was made much of, praised, and
caressed. The step-children were treated very harshly: the boy,
kind-hearted and obliging, was made to do all sorts of hard unpleasant
work, was constantly scolded, and looked upon as a good-for-nothing.
The step-daughter, who was not only exceedingly pretty but was as
sweet as an angel, was found fault with on all occasions, and her life
made utterly miserable.

It is, after all, but natural to love one's own children better than
those of others, but the feeling of love should be governed by the
laws of fairness. Now this wicked woman was blind to the faults of the
child she loved, and to the good qualities of her husband's children,
whom she hated.

When in a bad temper she was fond of boasting of the handsome fortune
she intended securing for her own daughter, even though the
step-children should be unprovided for. But, as the old proverb says,
"Man proposes, but God disposes." We shall therefore see how things
turned out.

One Sunday morning, before going to church, the step-daughter went
into the garden to pick some flowers for decorating the altar. She had
only gathered a few roses when, looking up, she saw quite close to her
three young men robed in dazzling white garments. They sat on a bench
shaded by shrubs, while near them was an old man who asked her for
alms.

She felt rather nervous before the strangers, but when she saw the old
man she took her last penny from her purse and gave it him. He thanked
her, and raising his hand over the girl's head, said to the men: "This
orphan girl is pious, patient under misfortune, and kind to the poor,
with whom she shares the little she has. Tell me what you wish for
her."

The first said, "I wish that when she weeps her tears may be changed
into so many pearls."

"And I," replied the second, "that when she smiles sweet roses may
fall from her lips."

"My wish," said the third, "is that whenever she dips her hands into
water there shall appear in it shining gold-fish."

"All these gifts shall be hers," added the old man. And with these
words they vanished.

The maiden was filled with awe, and fell on her knees in prayer. Then
her heart was filled with joy and peace, and she went back into the
house. She had scarcely crossed the threshold when her stepmother came
forward, and looking at her sternly, said, "Well, where have you
been?"

The poor child began to cry, when--marvel of marvels--instead of
tears, pearls fell from her eyes.

Notwithstanding her rage, the stepmother picked them up as quickly as
possible, while the girl smiled as she watched her. And as she smiled
roses fell from her lips, and her stepmother was beside herself with
delight.

The girl then went to put the flowers she had gathered in water; and
as she dipped her fingers in it while arranging them, pretty little
gold-fish appeared in the bowl.

From that day these marvels were constantly occurring; the tears were
changed into pearls, the smiles scattered roses, and the water, even
if she dipped but the tips of her fingers in, was filled with
gold-fish.

The stepmother softened and became more gentle, while little by little
she managed to draw from her step-child the secret of these gifts.

So next Sunday morning she sent her own daughter into the garden to
gather flowers, under pretence of their being for the altar. When she
had picked a few, she raised her eyes and saw the three young men
sitting on a low seat, while near them stood the little old man with
white hair, begging for alms. She pretended to be shy before the young
men, but at the beggar's request drew from her pocket a gold piece,
and gave it him, evidently much against her will. He put it in his
pocket, and turning to his companions, said: "This girl is the spoilt
child of her mother; she is bad-tempered and naughty, while her heart
is hardened against the poor. It is easy to understand why, for the
first time in her life, she has been so generous to-day. Tell me what
gifts you would wish me to bestow upon her."

The first said, "May her tears be changed into lizards."

"And her smile produce hideous toads," added the second.

"And when her hands touch the water may it be filled with serpents,"
said the third.

"So let it be," cried the old man. And they all vanished.

The poor girl was terrified, and went back to tell her mother what had
happened. And it was even so; for if she smiled hideous toads fell
from her mouth, her tears were changed into lizards, and the water in
which she dipped but the tips of her fingers was filled with serpents.

The stepmother was in despair, but she only loved her child the more,
and hated the orphans with a yet more bitter hatred. Indeed, she
worried them to such an extent that the boy determined to put up with
it no longer, but to seek his fortune elsewhere. So he tied up his
belongings in a handkerchief, took a loving farewell of his sister,
commending her to God's care, and left his home. The great world lay
before him, but which path to take he knew not. Turning to the
cemetery where his parents lay side by side, he wept and prayed,
kissed the earth that covered them three times, and set off on his
travels.

At that moment he felt something hard in the folds of his tunic, and
pressing on his heart. Wondering what it could be, he put in his hand
and drew thence a charming portrait of his dearly loved sister,
surrounded with pearls, roses, and gold-fish. So great was his
astonishment he could hardly believe his eyes. But he was very happy,
and kissed the picture over and over again; then, with one more look
at the cemetery, he made the sign of the cross and departed.

Now a beautiful story is soon told, but the acts of which it is the
sum pass more slowly.

After many adventures of little importance he reached the capital of a
kingdom by the sea, and there obtained the post of under-gardener at
the royal palace, with good food and wages.

In his prosperity he did not forget his unhappy sister, for he felt
very uneasy about her. When he had a few moments to himself he would
sit down in some retired spot and gaze upon her portrait with a sad
heart and eyes filled with tears. For the picture was a faithful
likeness of her, and he looked upon it as a gift from his parents.

Now the king had noticed this habit of his, and one day while he sat
by a stream looking at the picture he came quietly behind him, and
glanced over his shoulder to see what he was so attentively regarding.

"Give me that portrait," said the monarch.

The boy handed it him. The king examined it closely, and admiring it
greatly, said: "I have never seen such a beautiful face in all my
life, never even dreamed of such loveliness. Come, tell me, is the
original of the picture living?"

The lad burst into tears, and told him it was the living image of his
sister, who a short time since had received as a special mark of
favour from God, that her tears should be changed into pearls, her
smiles into roses, and the touch of her hands in water should produce
beautiful gold-fish.

The king commanded him to write to his stepmother at once and bid her
send her lovely step-daughter to the chapel of the palace, where the
king would be waiting to marry her. The letter also contained promises
of special royal favours.

The lad wrote the letter, which the king sent by a special messenger.

Now a good story is soon told, but the deeds of which it is the sum
are not performed so quickly.

When the stepmother received the letter she determined to say nothing
about it to her step-child, but she showed it to her own daughter, and
talked the matter over with her. Then she went to learn the art of
sorcery from a witch, and having found out all it was necessary to
know, set off with both of the girls. On approaching the capital, the
wicked woman pushed her step-child out of the carriage and repeated
some magic words over her. After this she became very small and
covered with feathers, then in a moment she was changed into a
wild-duck. She began to quack, and made for the water, as ducks do,
and swam to a far distance. The stepmother bade her farewell in the
following words: "By the strength of my hate may my will be fulfilled.
Swim about the banks in the form of a duck, and rejoice in thy
liberty. During that time my daughter shall take thy form, shall marry
the king, and shall enjoy the good fortune fate destined for thee."

[Illustration]

At the conclusion of these words her own child became endowed with all
the graces and beauty of her unfortunate step-sister. The two then
continued their journey, arriving at the royal chapel at the appointed
hour. The king received them with all honours, while the deceitful
woman gave away her own daughter, whom the bridegroom believed to be
the original of the beautiful picture. After the ceremony the mother
went away loaded with presents. The king, as he looked at his young
wife, could not understand why he did not feel for her the sympathy
and admiration he had felt for the portrait she so much resembled. But
it could not be altered now; what is done is done. So he admired her
beauty and looked forward to the pleasure of seeing pearls fall from
her eyes, roses from her lips, and gold-fish at the touch of her
fingers.

During the wedding feast the newly-made bride forgot herself and
smiled at her husband; immediately a number of hideous toads escaped
from her lips. The king, overcome with horror and disgust, rushed away
from her, upon which she began to cry, but instead of pearls, lizards
fell from her eyes. The majordomo ordered water to be brought for her
to wash her hands, but no sooner had she dipped the tips of her
fingers in the bowl than it was filled with serpents that hissed and
twisted and threw themselves among the wedding guests. The panic was
general, and a scene of great confusion followed. The guard was called
in, and had the greatest trouble to clear the hall of the disgusting
reptiles.

The bridegroom had taken refuge in the garden, and when he saw the
young man coming towards him, whom he thought had deceived him, his
anger overcame him, and he struck the poor lad with so much force that
he fell down dead.

The queen ran forward sobbing, and taking the king by the hand, said:
"What have you done? You have killed my innocent brother. It is
neither my fault, nor was it his, that since the wedding I have by
some enchantment lost the marvellous power I possessed before. This
evil will pass away in time, but time can never restore to me my dear
brother, my own mother's son."

"Forgive me, dear wife; in a moment of irritation I thought he had
deceived me, and I wanted to punish him, but did not mean to kill. I
regret it deeply, but it cannot be helped now. Forgive me my fault as
I forgive yours, with all my heart."

"You have my forgiveness, but I beg you to see that your wife's
brother has an honourable burial."

Her wishes were carried out, and the orphan lad, who had passed as her
brother, was laid in a handsome coffin. The chapel was hung with
black, and at night a guard was placed both inside and out.

Towards midnight the church doors silently opened, and while the
guards were overcome by sleep a pretty little duck entered unnoticed.
She stopped in the middle of the aisle, shook herself, and pulled out
her feathers one by one. Then it took the form of the beautiful
step-daughter, for it was she. She went up to her brother's coffin and
stood gazing at him, and as she looked she wept sorrowfully. Then she
put on her feathers again and went out a duck. When the guards awoke
they were astonished to find a quantity of fine pearls in the coffin.
Next day they told the king that the doors had opened of themselves
towards midnight, that they had been overcome by sleep, and that on
awakening they had found a large number of pearls in the coffin, but
knew not how they got there. The king was very much surprised,
especially at the appearance of the pearls, that ought to have been
produced by his wife's tears. On the second night he doubled the
guard, and impressed upon them the necessity for watchfulness.

At midnight the doors again opened silently as before, the soldiers
went to sleep, and the same little duck entered, and, taking out her
feathers, appeared as a lovely maiden. She could not help smiling as
she looked upon the sleeping soldiers, the number of which had been
doubled on her account; and as she smiled a number of roses fell from
her lips. As she drew near her brother her tears fell in torrents,
leaving a profusion of fine pearls. After some time she put on her
feathers and went out a duck. When the guards awoke they took the
roses and the pearls to the king. He was still more surprised to see
roses with the pearls, for these roses should have fallen from his
wife's lips. He again increased the number of the guard, and
threatened them with the most severe punishment if they failed to
watch all night. They did their best to obey, but in vain; they could
only sleep. When they awoke they found, not only roses and pearls, but
little gold-fish swimming in the holy water.

The amazed king could only conclude that their sleep was caused by
magic. On the fourth night he not only increased the number of
soldiers, but, unknown to every one, hid himself behind the altar,
where he hung a mirror, through which he could see everything that
passed without being seen.

At midnight the doors opened. The soldiers, under the influence of
sleep, had let fall their arms and lay on the ground. The king kept
his eyes fixed on the mirror, through which he saw a little wild-duck
enter. It looked timidly round on all sides, then, reassured at the
sight of the sleeping guards, advanced to the centre of the nave and
took off its feathers, thus appearing as a young maiden of exquisite
beauty.

The king, overwhelmed with joy and admiration, had a presentiment that
this was his true bride. So when she drew near the coffin he crept
noiselessly out of his hiding-place, and with a lighted taper set fire
to the feathers. They flared up immediately, and with such a bright
light that the soldiers were aroused. The girl ran towards the
monarch, wringing her hands and weeping tears of pearl.

"What have you done?" cried she. "How can I now escape my stepmother's
vengeance? For it is by her magic that I have been changed into a
wild-duck."

When the king had heard all, he ordered some of his soldiers to seize
the wife he had married and to take her right out of the country. He
sent others to take the wicked stepmother prisoner, and to burn her as
a witch. Both commands were instantly carried out. Meanwhile the girl
drew from the folds of her gown three small bottles, filled with three
different kinds of water, which she had brought from the sea.

[Illustration]

The first possessed the virtue of restoring life. This she sprinkled
over her brother, whereupon the chill and rigidity of death
disappeared, the colour came to his face, and warm red blood flowed
from his wound. Upon the wound she poured water from the second
bottle, and it was immediately healed. When she had made use of the
third kind of water he opened his eyes, looked at her with
astonishment, and threw himself joyfully into her arms.

The king, enraptured at this sight, conducted the two back to the
palace.

So instead of a funeral there was a wedding, to which a large number
of guests were immediately invited. Thus the orphan maid was married
to the king, while her brother became one of his majesty's nobles. And
the magnificence of the wedding feast was greater than anything seen
or heard of.



THE SLUGGARD



[Illustration]

THE SLUGGARD


On the banks of a certain river, where there was always good fishing,
lived an old man and his three sons. The two eldest were sharp-witted,
active young men, already married; the youngest was stupid and idle,
and a bachelor. When the father was dying, he called his children to
him and told them how he had left his property. The house was for his
two married sons, with a sum of three hundred florins each. After his
death he was buried with great pomp, and after the funeral there was a
splendid feast. All these honours were supposed to be for the benefit
of the man's soul.

When the elder brothers took possession of their inheritance, they
said to the youngest: "Listen, brother; let us take charge of your
share of the money, for we intend going out into the world as
merchants, and when we have made a great deal of money we will buy you
a hat, a sash, and a pair of red boots. You will be better at home;
and mind you do as your sisters-in-law tell you."

For a long time this silly fellow had been wanting a cap, a sash, and
a pair of red boots, so he was easily persuaded to give up all his
money.

The brothers set out on their travels, and crossed the sea in search
of fortune. The "fool" of the family remained at home; and, as he was
an out-and-out sluggard, he would lie whole days at a time on the warm
stove without doing a stroke of work, and only obeying his
sisters-in-law with the greatest reluctance. He liked fried onions,
potato soup, and cider, better than anything else in the world.

One day his sisters-in-law asked him to fetch them some water.

It was winter, and a hard frost; moreover, the sluggard did not feel
at all inclined to go out. So he said, "Go yourselves, I prefer to
stay here by the fire."

"Stupid boy, go at once. We will have some onions, potato soup, and
cider ready for you when you come back. If you refuse to do what we
ask you we shall tell our husbands, and then there will be neither
cap, sash, nor red boots for you."

At these words the sluggard thought he had better go. So he rolled off
the stove, took a hatchet and a couple of pails, and went down to the
river. On the surface of the water, where the ice had been broken, was
a large pike. The sluggard seized him by the fins and pulled him out.

"If you will let me go," said the pike, "I promise to give you
everything you wish for."

"Well then, I should like all my desires to be fulfilled the moment I
utter them."

"You shall have everything you want the moment you pronounce these
words:

  'At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  May such and such things happen, as I like.'"

"Just wait one moment while I try the effect," said the
sluggard, and began at once to say:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  Bring onions, cider, soup, just as I like."

That very moment his favourite dishes were before him. Having eaten a
large quantity, he said, "Very good, very good indeed; but will it
always be the same?"

"Always," replied the pike.

The sluggard put the pike back into the river, and turning towards his
buckets, said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  Walk home yourselves, my pails--that I should like."

The pails, and the strong rod to which they were fastened, immediately
set off and walked solemnly along, the sluggard following them with
his hands in his pockets. When they reached the house he put them in
their places, and again stretched himself out to enjoy the warmth of
the stove. Presently the sisters-in-law said, "Come and chop some wood
for us."

"Bother! do it yourselves."

"It is not fit work for women. Besides, if you don't do it the stove
will be cold, and then you will be the chief sufferer. Moreover, pay
attention to what we say, for if you do not obey us, there will be no
red boots, nor any other pretty things."

The sluggard then just sat up and said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  Let what my sisters want be done--that's what I like."

Instantly the hatchet came out from behind a stool and chopped up a
large heap of wood, put a part of it on the stove, and retired to its
corner. All this time the sluggard was eating and drinking at his
ease.

Another day some wood had to be brought from the forest. Our sluggard
now thought he would like to show off before the villagers, so he
pulled a sledge out of the shed, loaded it with onions and soup, after
which he pronounced the magic words.

The sledge started off, and passing through the village at a rattling
pace, ran over several people, and frightened the women and children.

When the forest was reached, our friend looked on while the blocks of
wood and faggots cut, tied, and laid themselves on the sledge, after
which they set off home again. But when they got to the middle of the
village the men, who had been hurt and frightened in the morning,
seized hold of the sluggard and pulled him off the sledge, dragging
him along by the hair to give him a sound thrashing.

At first he thought it was only a joke, but when the blows hurt his
shoulders, he said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  Come, faggots, haste, and my assailants strike."

In a moment all the blocks of wood and faggots jumped off the sledge
and began to hit right and left, and they hit so well that the men
were glad to get out of the way as best they could.

The sluggard laughed at them till his sides ached; then he remounted
his sledge, and was soon lying on the stove again.

From that day he became famous, and his doings were talked about all
through the country.

At last even the king heard of him, and, his curiosity being aroused,
he sent some of his soldiers to fetch him.

"Now then, booby," said the soldier, "come down off that stove and
follow me to the king's palace."

"Why should I? There is as much cider, onions, and soup as I want at
home."

The man, indignant at his want of respect, struck him.

Upon which the sluggard said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  May this man get a taste of what a broom is like."

A large broom, and not particularly clean, immediately hopped up, and
first dipping itself in a pail of water, beat the soldier so
mercilessly that he was obliged to escape through the window, whence
he returned to the king. His majesty, amazed at the sluggard's
refusal, sent another messenger. This man was 'cuter than his comrade,
and first made inquiries as to the sluggard's tastes. Then he went up
to him and said, "Good-day, my friend; will you come with me to see
the king? He wishes to present you with a cap, a waistband, and a pair
of red boots."

"With the greatest pleasure; you go on, I will soon overtake you."

Then he ate as much as he could of his favourite dishes and went to
sleep on the stove. He slept so long that at last his sisters-in-law
woke him up and told him he would be late if he did not at once go to
see the king. The lazy fellow said nothing but these words:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  This stove to carry me before the king I'd like."

At the very same instant the stove moved from its place and carried
him right up to the palace door. The king was filled with amazement,
and running out, followed by the whole court, asked the sluggard what
he would like to have.

"I have merely come to fetch the hat, waistband, and red boots you
promised me."

Just then the charming princess Gapiomila came to find out what was
going on. Directly the sluggard saw her, he thought her so enchanting
that he whispered to himself:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  That this princess so fair may love me, I should like."

Then he ordered his stove to take him back home, and when there he
continued to eat onions and soup and to drink cider.

[Illustration]

Meanwhile the princess had fallen in love with him, and begged her
father to send for him again. As the sluggard would not consent, the
king had him bound when asleep, and thus brought to the palace. Then
he summoned a celebrated magician, who at his orders shut the princess
and sluggard up in a crystal cask, to which was fastened a balloon
well filled with gas, and sent it up in the air among the clouds. The
princess wept bitterly, but the fool sat still and said he felt very
comfortable. At last she persuaded him to exert his powers, so he
said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  This cask of crystal earth at once must strike
  Upon the friendly island I should like."

The crystal cask immediately descended, and opened upon a hospitable
island where travellers could have all they wanted by simply wishing
for it. The princess and her companion walked about, eating when
hungry, and drinking when athirst. The sluggard was very happy and
contented, but the lady begged him to wish for a palace. Instantly the
palace made its appearance. It was built of white marble, with crystal
windows, roof of yellow amber, and golden furniture. She was delighted
with it. Next day she wanted a good road made, along which she could
go to see her father. Immediately there stretched before them a
fairy-like bridge made of crystal, having golden balustrades set with
diamonds, and leading right up to the king's palace. The sluggard was
just about to accompany the princess when he began to think of his own
appearance, and to feel ashamed that such an awkward, stupid fellow as
he should walk by the side of such a lovely and graceful creature. So
he said:

  "At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
  To be both handsome, wise, and clever I should like."

Suddenly he became as handsome, wise, and clever as it was possible to
be. Then he got into a gorgeous carriage with Gapiomila, and they
drove across the bridge that led to the king's palace.

There they were received with every mark of joy and affection. The
king gave them his blessing, and they were married the same evening.
An immense number of guests were invited to the wedding feast; I, too,
was there, and drank freely of wine and hydromel. And this is the
story I have done my best to tell you as faithfully as possible.



KINKACH MARTINKO



[Illustration]

KINKACH MARTINKO


Once upon a time there was a poor woman who had an only daughter,
named Helen, a very lazy girl. One day when she had refused to do a
single thing, her mother took her down to the banks of a stream and
began to strike her fingers with a flat stone, just as you do in
beating linen to wash it.

The girl cried a good deal. A prince, Lord of the Red Castle, happened
at that moment to pass by, and inquired as to the cause of such
treatment, for it horrified him that a mother should so ill-use her
child.

"Why should I not punish her?" answered the woman. "The idle girl can
do nothing but spin hemp into gold thread."

"Really?" cried he. "Does she really know how to spin gold thread out
of hemp? If that be so, sell her to me."

"Willingly; how much will you give me for her?"

"Half a measure of gold."

"Take her," said the mother; and she gave him her daughter as soon as
the money was paid.

The prince placed the girl behind him on the saddle, put spurs to his
horse, and took her home.

On reaching the Red Castle, the prince led Helen into a room filled
from floor to ceiling with hemp, and having supplied her with distaff
and spinning-wheel, said, "When you have spun all this hemp into gold
thread I will make you my wife."

Then he went out, locking the door after him.

On finding herself a prisoner, the poor girl wept as if her heart
would break. Suddenly she saw a very odd-looking little man seated on
the window-sill. He wore a red cap, and his boots were made of some
strange sort of material.

"Why do you weep so?" he asked.

"I cannot help it," she replied, "I am but a miserable slave. I have
been ordered to spin all this hemp into gold thread, but it is
impossible, I can never do it, and I know not what will become of me."

"I will do it for you in three days, on condition that at the end of
that time you guess my right name, and tell me what the boots I am
wearing now are made of."

Without for one moment reflecting as to whether she would be able to
guess aright she consented. The uncanny little man burst out laughing,
and taking her distaff set to work at once.

All day as the distaff moved the hemp grew visibly less, while the
skein of gold thread became larger and larger.

The little man spun all the time, and, without stopping an instant,
explained to Helen how to make thread of pure gold. As night drew on
he tied up the skein, saying to the girl, "Well, do you know my name
yet? Can you tell me what my boots are made of?"

Helen replied that she could not, upon which he grinned and
disappeared through the window. She then sat and looked at the sky,
and thought, and thought, and thought, and lost herself in
conjecturing as to what the little man's name might be, and in trying
to guess what was the stuff his boots were made of. Were they of
leather? or perhaps plaited rushes? or straw? or cast iron? No, they
did not look like anything of that sort. And as to his name--that was
a still more difficult problem to solve.

"What shall I call him?" said she to herself--"John? Or Henry? Who
knows? perhaps it is Paul or Joseph."

These thoughts so filled her mind that she forgot to eat her dinner.
Her meditations were interrupted by cries and groans from outside,
where she saw an old man with white hair sitting under the castle
wall.

"Miserable old man that I am," cried he; "I die of hunger and thirst,
but no one pities my sufferings."

Helen hastened to give him her dinner, and told him to come next day,
which he promised to do.

After again thinking for some time what answers she should give the
little old man, she fell asleep on the hemp.

The little old man did not fail to make his appearance the first thing
next morning, and remained all day spinning the gold thread. The work
progressed before their eyes, and it was only when evening came that
he repeated his questions. Not receiving a satisfactory answer, he
vanished in a fit of mocking laughter. Helen sat down by the window to
think; but think as she might, no answer to these puzzling questions
occurred to her.

While thus wondering the hungry old man again came by, and she gave
him her dinner. She was heart-sick and her eyes were full of tears,
for she thought she would never guess the spinner's name, nor of what
stuff his boots were made, unless perhaps God would help her.

"Why are you so sad?" asked the old man when he had eaten and drunk;
"tell me the cause of your grief, dear lady."

For a long time she would not tell him, thinking it would be useless;
but at last, yielding to his entreaties, she gave a full account of
the conditions under which the gold thread was made, explaining that
unless she could answer the little old man's questions satisfactorily
she feared some great misfortune would befall her. The old man
listened attentively, then, nodding his head, he said:

"In coming through the forest to-day I passed close to a large pile of
burning wood, round which were placed nine iron pots. A little man in
a red cap was running round and jumping over them, singing these
words:

  "My sweet friend, fair Helen, at the Red Castle near,
    Two days and two nights seeks my name to divine.
  She'll never find out, so the third night 'tis clear
    My sweet friend, fair Helen, can't fail to be mine.
  Hurrah! for my name is KINKACH MARTINKO,
  Hurrah! for my boots are of doggies' skin O!"

[Illustration]

"Now that is exactly what you want to know, my dear girl; so do not
forget, and you are saved."

And with these words the old man vanished.

Helen was greatly astonished, but she took care to fix in her memory
all that the good fellow had told her, and then went to sleep, feeling
that she could face to-morrow without fear.

On the third day, very early in the morning, the little old man
appeared and set busily to work, for he knew that all the hemp must be
spun before sunset, and that then he should be able to claim his
rights. When evening came all the hemp was gone, and the room shone
with the brightness of the golden thread.

As soon as his work was done, the queer little old man with the red
cap drew himself up with a great deal of assurance, and with his hands
in his pockets strutted up and down before Helen, ordering her to tell
him his right name and to say of what stuff the boots were made: but
he felt certain that she would not be able to answer aright.

"Your name is KINKACH MARTINKO, and your boots are made of dogskin,"
she replied without the slightest hesitation.

At these words he spun round on the floor like a bobbin, tore out his
hair and beat his breast with rage, roaring so that the very walls
trembled.

"It is lucky for you that you have guessed. If you had not, I should
have torn you to pieces on this very spot:" so saying he rushed out of
the window like a whirlwind.

Helen felt deeply grateful towards the old man who had told her the
answers, and hoped to be able to thank him in person. But he never
appeared again.

The Prince of the Red Castle was very pleased with her for having
accomplished her task so punctually and perfectly, and he married her
as he had promised.

Helen was truly thankful to have escaped the dangers that had
threatened her, and her happiness as a princess was greater than she
had dared hope. She had, too, such a good stock of gold thread that
she never had occasion to spin any more all her life long.



THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND, THE SASH
THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET



[Illustration]

THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND, THE SASH
THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET


Now it once happened that one of the king's herdsmen had three sons.
Two of these lads were supposed to be very sharp-witted, while the
youngest was thought to be very stupid indeed. The elder sons helped
their father to look after the flocks and herds, while the fool, so
they called him, was good for nothing but sleeping and amusing
himself.

He would pass whole days and nights slumbering peacefully on the
stove, only getting off when forced to by others, or when he was too
warm and wished to lie on the other side, or when, hungry and thirsty,
he wanted food and drink.

His father had no love for him, and called him a ne'er-do-well. His
brothers often tormented him by dragging him off the stove, and taking
away his food--indeed, he would many a time have gone hungry if his
mother had not been good to him and fed him on the quiet. She caressed
him fondly, for why should he suffer, thought she, if he does happen
to have been born a fool? Besides, who can understand the ways of God?
It sometimes happens that the wisest men are not happy, while the
foolish, when harmless and gentle, lead contented lives.

One day, on their return from the fields, the fool's two brothers
dragged him off the stove, and taking him into the yard, where they
gave him a sound thrashing, they turned him out of the house, saying,
"Go, fool, and lose no time, for you shall have neither food nor
lodging until you bring us a basket of mushrooms from the wood."

The poor lad was so taken by surprise he hardly understood what his
brothers wanted him to do. After pondering for a while he made his way
towards a small oak forest, where everything seemed to have a strange
and marvellous appearance, so strange that he did not recognise the
place. As he walked he came to a small dead tree-stump, on the top of
which he placed his cap, saying, "Every tree here raises its head to
the skies and wears a good cap of leaves, but you, my poor friend, are
bare-headed; you will die of cold. You must be among your brothers, as
I am among mine--a born fool. Take then my cap." And, throwing his
arms round the dead stump, he wept and embraced it tenderly. At that
moment an oak which stood near began to walk towards him as if it were
alive. The poor fellow was frightened, and about to run away, but the
oak spake like a human being and said, "Do not fly; stop a moment and
listen to me. This withered tree is my son, and up to this time no one
has grieved for his dead youth but me. You have now watered him with
your tears, and in return for your sympathy you shall henceforward
have anything you ask of me, on pronouncing these words:

  "'O Oak Tree so green, and with acorns of gold,
    Your friendship to prove I will try;
  In Heaven's good name now to beg I'll make bold,
    My needs, then, oh kindly supply.'"

At the same moment a shower of golden acorns fell. The fool filled his
pockets, thanked the oak, and bowing to her returned home.

"Well, stupid, where are the mushrooms?" cried one of his brothers.

"I have some mushrooms off the oak in my pockets."

"Eat them yourself then, for you will get nothing else, you
good-for-nothing. What have you done with your cap?"

"I put it on a poor stump of a tree that stood by the wayside, for its
head was uncovered, and I was afraid it might freeze."

He then scrambled on to the top of the stove, and as he lay down some
of the golden acorns fell out of his pocket. So bright were they, they
shone like sunbeams in the room. In spite of the fool's entreaties the
brothers picked them up and gave them to their father, who hastened to
present them to the king, telling him that his idiot son had gathered
them in the wood. The king immediately sent a detachment of his guards
to the forest to find the oak which bore golden acorns. But their
efforts were fruitless, for, though they hunted in every nook and
corner of the forest, they found not a single oak that bore acorns of
gold.

[Illustration]

At first the king was very angry, but when he grew calmer he sent for
his herdsman and said to him, "Tell your son, the fool, that he must
bring me, by this evening, a cask filled to the brim with these
precious golden acorns. If he obeys my commands you shall never lack
bread and salt, and you may rest assured that my royal favour will not
fail you in time of need."

The herdsman gave his youngest son the king's message.

"The king, I see," he replied, "is fond of a good bargain; he does not
ask, he commands--and insists upon a fool fetching him acorns of solid
gold in return for promises made of air. No, I shall not go."

And neither prayers nor threats were of the slightest avail to make
him change his mind. At last his brothers pulled him forcibly off the
stove, put his coat on him and a new cap, and dragged him into the
yard, where they gave him a good beating and drove him away, saying,
"Now, you stupid, lose no time; be off, and be quick. If you return
without the golden acorns you shall have neither supper nor bed."

What was the poor fellow to do? For a long time he wept, then crossing
himself he went in the direction of the forest. He soon reached the
dead stump, upon which his cap still rested, and going up to the
mother oak, said to her:

  "O Oak Tree so green, and with acorns of gold,
    In my helplessness I to thee cry;
  In Heaven's great name now to beg I make bold,
    My pressing needs pray satisfy."

The oak moved, and shook its branches: but instead of golden acorns, a
tablecloth fell into the fool's hands. And the tree said, "Keep this
cloth always in your possession, and for your own use. When you want a
benefit by it, you need only say:

  "'O Tablecloth, who for the poor,
    The hungry, and thirsty, makes cheer,
  May he who begs from door to door
    Feed off you without stint or fear.'"

When it had uttered these words the oak ceased to speak, and the fool,
thanking her, bowed, and turned towards home. On his way he wondered
to himself how he should tell his brothers, and what they would say,
but above all he thought how his good mother would rejoice to see the
feast-giving tablecloth. When he had walked about half the distance he
met an old beggar who said to him, "See what a sick and ragged old man
I am: for the love of God give me a little money or some bread."

The fool spread his tablecloth on the grass, and inviting the beggar
to sit down, said:

  "O Tablecloth, who for the poor,
    The hungry, and thirsty, makes cheer,
  May he who begs from door to door
    Feed off you without stint or fear."

Then a whistling was heard in the air, and overhead something shone
brightly. At the same instant a table, spread as for a royal banquet,
appeared before them. Upon it were many different kinds of food,
flasks of mead, and glasses of the choicest wine. The plate was of
gold and silver.

The fool and the beggar man crossed themselves and began to feast.
When they had finished the whistling was again heard, and everything
vanished. The fool folded up his tablecloth and went on his way. But
the old man said, "If you will give me your tablecloth you shall have
this wand in exchange. When you say certain words to it, it will set
upon the person or persons pointed out, and give them such a
thrashing, that to get rid of it they will give you anything they
possess."

The fool thought of his brothers and exchanged the tablecloth for the
wand, after which they both went on their respective ways.

Suddenly the fool remembered that the oak had ordered him to keep the
tablecloth for his own use, and that by parting with it he had lost
the power of giving his mother an agreeable surprise. So he said to
the wand:

  "Thou self-propelling, ever willing, fighting Wand,
      Run quick and bring
  My feast-providing tablecloth back to my hand,
      Thy praise I'll sing."

The wand went off like an arrow after the old man, quickly overtook
him, and throwing itself upon him began to beat him dreadfully, crying
out in a loud voice:

  "For others' goods you seem to have a liking,
  Stop, thief, or sure your back I'll keep on striking."

The poor beggar tried to run away, but it was of no use, for the wand
followed him, striking all the time and repeating the same words over
and over again. So in spite of his anxiety to keep the tablecloth he
was forced to throw it away and flee.

The wand brought the cloth back to the fool, who again went on his way
towards home, thinking of the surprise in store for his mother and
brothers. He had not gone very far when a traveller, carrying an empty
wallet, accosted him, saying, "For the love of God, give me a small
coin or a morsel of food, for my bag is empty and I am very hungry. I
have, too, a long journey before me."

The fool again spread his tablecloth on the grass and said:

  "O Tablecloth, who for the poor,
    The hungry, and thirsty, makes cheer,
  May he who begs from door to door
    Feed off you without stint or fear."

A whistling was heard in the air, something shone brightly overhead,
and a table, spread as for a royal feast, placed itself before them.
It was laid with a numerous variety of dishes, hydromel and costly
wines. The fool and his guest sat down, crossed themselves, and ate to
their hearts' content. When they had finished whistling was again
heard, and everything vanished. The fool folded the cloth up
carefully, and was about to continue his journey when the traveller
said, "Will you exchange your tablecloth for my waistband? When you
say to it certain words it will turn into a deep lake, upon which you
may float at will. The words run thus:

  "'O marvellous, wonderful, lake-forming Band,
    For my safety, and not for my fun,
  Bear me in a boat on thy waves far from land,
    So that I from my foes need not run.'"

The fool thought his father would find it very convenient always to
have water at hand for the king's flocks, so he gave his tablecloth in
exchange for the belt, which he wound round his loins, and taking the
wand in his hand, they went off in opposite directions. After a little
while the fool began to reflect on what the oak had told him about
keeping the tablecloth for his own use, and he remembered, too, that
he was depriving himself of the power of giving his mother a pleasant
surprise. Thereupon he said the magic words to his wand:

  "Thou self-propelling, ever willing, fighting Wand,
      Run quick and bring
  My feast-providing tablecloth back to my hand,
      Thy praise I'll sing."

The wand at once started in pursuit of the poor traveller, whom it
began to beat, at the same time crying out:

  "For others' goods you seem to have a liking,
  Stop, thief, or sure your back I'll keep on striking."

The man was scared out of his wits, and tried to escape the wand's
blows, but it was of no use, so he was forced to throw the tablecloth
away and run at the top of his speed. The wand brought the tablecloth
back to his master. The latter hid it under his coat, rearranged the
waistband, and taking the faithful wand in his hand, again went
towards home. As he walked he rejoiced to think of the pleasure he
should have in exercising the wand on his wicked brothers, of his
father's satisfaction when, by the help of the waistband, he could
always have water for the king's flocks, even in the driest weather,
and of his mother's joy on witnessing the wonders of the feast-giving
tablecloth. These pleasant thoughts were interrupted by a soldier,
lame, clothed in rags, and covered with wounds. He had once been a
famous warrior.

"I am pursued by misfortunes," said he to the fool. "I was once a
brave soldier, and fought valiantly in my youth. Now I am lamed for
life, and on this lonely road have found no one to give me a morsel of
food. Have pity on me and give me a little bread."

The fool sat down on the grass, and spreading out his tablecloth,
said:

  "O Tablecloth, who for the poor,
    The hungry, and thirsty, makes cheer,
  May he who begs from door to door
    Feed off you without stint or fear."

A whistling was heard in the air, something bright shone overhead, and
then before them stood a table, spread as for a royal feast, loaded
with dainty dishes, mead, and costly wines. When they had eaten and
drunk as much as they wanted the whistling was again heard, and then
everything vanished.

The fool was folding up his tablecloth, when the soldier said:

"Will you give me your tablecloth in exchange for this six-horned
helmet? It will fire itself off and instantly destroy the object
pointed out. You have but to turn it round on your head and repeat
these words:

  "'O Magic Helmet, never thou
    Dost want for powder nor shot;
  Allay my fears and fire now
    Just where I point. Fail not.'

You will see that it fires off immediately: and even if your enemy
were a mile away he would fall."

The fool was delighted with the idea, and thought how useful such a
hat would be in any sudden danger; it would even serve him to defend
his country, the king, or himself. So he handed the tablecloth to the
soldier, put the helmet on his head, took his wand in his hand, and
again set his face towards home.

When he had gone some distance, and the soldier was almost out of
sight, he began to think of what the oak had said about not parting
with the tablecloth, and of how his dear mother could not now enjoy
the pleasant surprise he had been dreaming about. So he said to the
wand:

  "Thou self-propelling, ever willing, fighting Wand,
      Run quick, and bring
  My feast-providing tablecloth back to my hand,
      Thy praise I'll sing."

The wand dashed after the soldier, and having reached him began to
beat him, crying out:

  "For others' goods you seem to have a liking,
  Stop, thief, or sure your back I'll keep on striking."


The soldier was still a powerful man, and in spite of his wound turned
right about face, intending to give blow for blow. But the wand was
too much for him, and he soon found resistance useless. So, overcome
by pain rather than fear, he threw away the tablecloth and took to his
heels.

The faithful wand brought the tablecloth back to his master, who, glad
to have it again, once more turned towards home.

He soon left the forest, crossed the fields, and came in sight of his
father's house. At a little distance therefrom his brothers met him,
and said crossly, "Well, stupid, where are the golden acorns?"

The fool looked at them and laughed in their faces. Then he said to
his wand:

  "O self-propelling, ever willing, fighting Wand
      Strike with thy usual fire
  My ever-scolding, teasing, worrying brother band,
      For they have roused my ire."

The wand needed no second bidding, and darting out of his hand began
to thrash the brothers soundly, crying out like a reasoning creature:

  "Your brother has often your blows felt, alack!
  Now taste it yourselves; hope you like it, whack, whack."

The brothers were overpowered, and felt all the while as if boiling
water were being poured over their heads. Yelling with pain they began
to run at full speed, and soon disappeared with clouds of dust flying
round them.

The wand then came back to the fool's hand. He went into the house,
climbed on the stove, and told his mother all that had happened. Then
he cried:

  "O Tablecloth, who for the poor,
    The hungry, and thirsty, makes cheer,
  Let us within our cottage door
    Feed off you without stint or fear."

A whistling was heard in the air, something bright shone overhead, and
then a table, laid as for a royal banquet, was placed before them,
covered with dainty meats, glasses, and bottles of mead and wine. The
whole service was of gold and silver. As the fool and his mother were
about to begin the feast the herdsman entered. He stopped, dumb with
amazement, but when invited to partake, began to eat and drink with
great enjoyment.

At the end of the meal the whistling was again heard, and everything
vanished completely.

The herdsman set off in hot haste to the court, to tell the king of
this new marvel. Thereupon his majesty sent one of his heroes in
search of the fool, whom he found stretched on the stove.

"If you value your life, listen, and obey the king's orders," said the
paladin. "He commands you to send him by me your tablecloth, then you
shall have your share of his royal favour. But if not you will always
remain a poor fool, and will, moreover, be treated as a refractory
prisoner. We teach them how to behave; you understand?"

"Oh yes, I understand." And then he pronounced the magic words:

  "O self-propelling, ever willing, fighting Wand,
      Go, soundly thrash that man--
  The most deceiving, dangerous wretch in all the land,
      So hurt him all you can."

The wand sprang from the fool's hand with the speed of lightning and
struck the paladin three times in the face. He immediately fled, but
the wand was after him, hitting him all the time, and crying out:

  "Mere promises are children's play,
  So do not throw your breath away,
  But think of something true to say,
  You rogue, when next you come our way."

Defeated and filled with consternation, the paladin returned to the
king and told him about the wand, and how badly he had been beaten.
When the king heard that the fool possessed a wand that struck of
itself, he wanted it so much that for a time he forgot all about the
tablecloth, and sent some of his soldiers with orders to bring him
back the wand.

When they entered the cottage, the fool, as usual, was lying on the
stove.

"Deliver up the wand to us instantly," said they; "the king is willing
to pay any price you ask, but if you refuse he will take it from you
by force."

Instead of replying the fool unwound the waistband, saying to it as he
did so:

  "O marvellous, wonderful, lake-forming Band,
    For my safety, and not for my fun,
  Bear me in a boat on thy waves far from land,
    So that I from my foes need not run."

There was a shimmering in the air, while at the same moment everything
around them disappeared, and a beautiful lake, long, wide, and deep,
was seen, surrounded by green fields. Fish with golden scales and eyes
of pearls played in the clear water. In the centre, in a small silver
skiff, rowed a man, whom the soldiers recognised as the fool.

They remained some time looking at this miracle, and then ran off to
tell the king. Now when the king heard thereof he was so anxious to
possess the lake, or rather the waistband that produced the lake, that
he sent a whole battalion of soldiers to take the fool prisoner.

This time they managed to get hold of him while he was asleep, but as
they were about to tie his hands he turned his hat round and said:

  "O Magic Helmet, never thou
    Dost want for powder nor shot,
  Allay my fears and fire now
    Just where I point. Fail not."

Instantly a hundred bullets whistled through the air, amid clouds of
smoke and loud reports. Many of the soldiers fell dead, others took
refuge in the wood, whence they returned to the king to give an
account of what had taken place.

Whereupon the king flew into a violent rage, furious that he had as
yet failed to take the fool. But his wish to possess the feast-giving
tablecloth, the magic wand, the lake-forming sash, and above all the
helmet with twenty-four horns, was stronger than ever.

Having reflected for some days on the best ways and means to attain
his object, he resolved to try the effect of kindness, and sent for
the fool's mother.

"Tell your son, the fool," said his majesty to the woman, "that my
charming daughter and I send greeting, and that we shall consider it
an honour if he will come here and show us the marvellous things he
possesses. Should he feel inclined to make me a present of them, I
will give him half my kingdom and will make him my heir. You may also
say that the princess, my daughter, will choose him for her husband."

The good woman hastened home to her son, whom she advised to accept
the king's invitation and show him his treasures. The fool wound the
waistband round his loins, put the helmet on his head, hid the
tablecloth in his breast, took his magic wand in his hand, and started
off to go to the court.

The king was not there on his arrival, but he was received by the
paladin, who saluted him courteously. Music played, and the troops did
him military honours--in fact, he was treated far better than he had
expected. On being presented to the king he took off his helmet, and
bowing low, said: "O king, I am come to lay at the foot of your throne
my tablecloth, waistband, wand, and helmet. In return for these gifts
I beg that your favour may be shown to the most humble of your
subjects."

"Tell me then, fool, what price you want for these goods?"

"Not money, sire, a fool of my sort cares very little about money. Has
not the king promised my mother that he will give me in exchange the
half of his kingdom, and the hand of his daughter in marriage? These
are the gifts I claim."

After these words the paladin was filled with envy at the good fortune
of the fool, and made a sign for the guards to enter. The soldiers
seized the poor fellow, dragged him out into the courtyard, and they
killed him treacherously to the sound of drums and trumpets, after
which they covered him over with earth.

Now it happened that when the soldiers stabbed him his blood spurted
out, and some of the drops fell beneath the princess's window. The
maiden wept bitterly at the sight, watering the blood-stained ground
with her tears. And lo! marvellous to relate, an apple-tree grew out
of the blood-sprinkled earth. And it grew so rapidly that its branches
soon touched the windows of her rooms; by noon it was covered with
blossom, while at eventide ripe red apples hung thereon. As the
princess was admiring them she noticed that one of the apples
trembled, and when she touched it, it fell into the bosom of her
dress. This took her fancy, and she held it in her hand.

Meanwhile the sun had set, night had fallen, and every one in the
palace was asleep, except the guard, the paladin, and the princess.
The guard, sword in hand, patrolled up and down, for it was his duty.
The princess toyed with her pretty little apple, and could not sleep.
The paladin, who had gone to bed, was aroused by a sound that made his
blood run cold, for the avenging wand stood before him and began to
beat him soundly. And although he rushed from the room trying to
escape from it, it followed him, crying out:

  "False paladin, you worthless man,
    Do not so envious be;
  Why act unjustly, when you can
    Both just and honest be?
  For others' goods why have you such a liking?
  You rogue, you thief, be sure I'll keep on striking."

The unhappy man wept and cried for mercy, but the wand still continued
to strike.

The princess was distressed on hearing these cries of distress, and
she watered her much-cherished apple with her tears. And, strange to
tell, the apple grew and changed its shape. Thus continuing to change,
it suddenly turned into a handsome young man, even the very same who
had been killed that morning.

"Lovely princess, I salute you," said the fool. "The cunning of the
paladin caused my death, but with your tears you have restored me to
life. Your father promised to give you to me: are you willing?"

"If such be the king's wish, I consent," replied she, as she gave him
her hand with a tender look.

As he spoke the door opened, admitting the helmet, which placed itself
upon his head; the sash, which wound itself round his waist; the
tablecloth, which hid itself in one of his pockets; and the avenging
wand, which placed itself in his hand. Then came the king, all out of
breath, and wondering what the noise was about. He was amazed to see
the fool alive again, and even more so that he should be with the
princess.

The young fellow, fearing the king's wrath, cried out:

  "O marvellous, wonderful, lake-forming Band,
    For my safety, and not for my fun,
  Bear us in a boat on thy waves far from land,
    So that we from our foes need not run."

There was a shimmering in the air, and then everything disappeared,
while on the lawn before the palace stretched a wide deep lake, in the
crystal water of which swam little fish with eyes of pearl and scales
of gold. Far away rowed the princess and the fool in a silver skiff.
The king stood on the shores of the lake and signed to them to return.
When they had landed they knelt at his feet and avowed their mutual
love. Upon which his majesty bestowed his blessing, the lake
disappeared, and they again found themselves in the princess's
apartments.

The king called a special meeting of his council, at which he
explained how things had turned out--that he had made the fool his
heir, and betrothed him to his daughter, and had put the paladin in
prison.

The fool gave the king his magic treasures, and told him what words to
say in each case.

Next day all their wishes were fulfilled. The fool of the family was
married to the princess, and at the same time received half the
kingdom, with the promise of succession to the throne. And the wedding
feast, to which all the rich and noble of the land were invited,
exceeded in its magnificence and splendour any other festival ever
seen or heard of.



THE END



_Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
_Edinburgh and London_





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