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Title: Croatian Tales of Long Ago
Author: Brlic-Mazuranic, Ivana
Language: English
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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.

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                             CROATIAN TALES
                              OF LONG AGO



------------------------------------------------------------------------


                       Croatian Tales of Long Ago

                                   BY
                         IVANA BRLIĆ-MAŽURANIĆ

[Illustration]

                             TRANSLATED BY
                             F. S. COPELAND


                                NEW YORK
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        (_All rights reserved_)

                       _Printed in Great Britain_



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                    Page

               How Quest Sought the Truth              9

               Fisherman Plunk and His Wife           55

               Reygoch                                93

               Bridesman Sun and Bride Bridekins     137

               Stribor’s Forest                      161

               Little Brother Primrose and Sister    185
                 Lavender

               Notes                                 255



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS
                                   BY
                             VLADIMIR KIRIN



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       How Quest Sought the Truth



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       How Quest Sought the Truth


                                   I


[Illustration]

ONCE upon a time very long ago there lived an old man in a glade in the
midst of an ancient forest. His name was Witting, and he lived there
with his three grandsons. Now this old man was all alone in the world
save for these three grandsons, and he had been father and mother to
them from the time when they were quite little. But now they were
full-grown lads, so tall that they came up to their grandfather’s
shoulder, and even taller. Their names were Bluster, Careful and Quest.

One spring morning old Witting got up early, before the sun had risen,
called his three grandsons and told them to go into the wood where they
had gathered honey last year; to see how the little bees had come
through the winter, and whether they had waked up yet from their winter
sleep. Careful, Bluster and Quest got up, dressed, and went out.

It was a good way to the place where the bees lived. Now all three
brothers knew every pathway in the woods, and so they strode cheerily
and boldly along through the great forest. All the same it was somewhat
dark and eerie under the trees, for the sun was not yet up and neither
bird nor beast stirring. Presently the lads began to feel a little
scared in that great silence, because just at dawn, before sunrise, the
wicked Rampogusto, King of Forest Goblins, loves to range the forest,
gliding softly from tree to tree in the gloom.

So the brothers started to ask one another about all the wonderful
things there might be in the world. But as not one of them had ever been
outside the forest, none could tell the others anything about the world;
and so they only became more and more depressed. At last, to keep up
their courage a bit, they began to sing and call upon All-Rosy to bring
out the Sun:

                   Little lord All-Rosy bright.
                   Bring golden Sun to give us light;
                   Show thyself, All-Rosy bright,
                   Loora-la, Loora-la lay!

Singing at the top of their voices, the lads walked through the woods
towards a spot from where they could see a second range of mountains. As
they neared the spot they saw a light above those mountains brighter
than they had ever seen before, and it fluttered like a golden banner.

The lads were dumbfounded with amazement, when all of a sudden the light
vanished from off the mountain and reappeared above a great rock nearer
at hand, then still nearer, above an old limetree, and at last shone
like burnished gold right in front of them. And then they saw that it
was a lovely youth in glittering raiment, and that it was his golden
cloak which fluttered like a golden banner. They could not bear to look
upon the face of the youth, but covered their eyes with their hands for
very fear.

“Why do you call me, if you are afraid of me, you silly fellows?”
laughed the golden youth—for he was All-Rosy. “You call on All-Rosy, and
then you are afraid of All-Rosy. You talk about the wide world, but you
do not know the wide world. Come along with me and I will show you the
world, both earth and heaven, and tell you what is in store for you.”

Thus spoke All-Rosy, and twirled his golden cloak so that he caught up
Bluster, Careful and Quest, all three in its shimmering folds. Round
went All-Rosy and round went the cloak, and the brothers, clinging to
the hem of the cloak, spun round with it, round and round and round
again, and all the world passed before their eyes. First they saw all
the treasure and all the lands and all the possessions and the riches
that were then in the world. And they went on whirling round and round
and round again, and saw all the armies, and all spears and all arrows
and all the captains and all plunder which were then in the world. And
the cloak twirled yet more quickly, round and round and round again, and
all of a sudden they saw all the stars, great and small, and the moon
and the Seven Sisters and the winds and all the clouds. The brothers
were quite dazed with so many sights, and still the cloak went on
twirling and whirling with a rustling, rushing sound like a golden
banner. At last the golden hem fluttered down; and Bluster, Careful and
Quest stood once more on the turf. Before them stood the golden youth
All-Rosy as before, and said to them:

“There, my lads, now you have seen all there is to see in the world.
Listen to what is in store for you and what you must do to be lucky.”

At that the brothers became more scared than ever, yet they pricked up
their ears and paid good heed, so as to remember everything very
carefully. But All-Rosy went on at once:

“There! this is what you must do. Stay in the glade, and don’t leave
your grandfather until he leaves you; and do not go into the world,
neither for good nor for evil, until you have repaid your grandfather
for all his love to you.” And as All-Rosy said this, he twirled his
cloak round and vanished, as though he had never been; and lo, it was
day in the forest.

But Rampogusto, King of the Forest Goblins, had seen and heard
everything. Like a wraith of mist he had slipped from tree to tree and
kept himself hidden from the brothers among the branches of an old
beech-tree.

Rampogusto had always hated old Witting. He hated him as a mean
scoundrel hates an upright man, and above all things he hated him
because the old man had brought the sacred fire to the glade so that it
might never go out, and the smoke of that fire made Rampogusto cough
most horribly.

So Rampogusto wasn’t pleased with the idea that the brothers should obey
All-Rosy, and stay beside their grandfather and look after him; but he
bethought himself how he could harm old Witting, and somehow turn his
grandsons against him.

[Illustration]

Therefore, no sooner had Bluster, Careful and Quest recovered from their
amazement and turned to go home than Rampogusto slipped swiftly, like a
cloud before the wind, to a wooded glen where there was a big osier
clump, which was chock-full of goblins—tiny, ugly, humpy, grubby,
boss-eyed, and what not, all playing about like mad creatures. They
squeaked and they squawked, they jumped and they romped; they were a
pack of harum-scarum imps, no good to anybody and no harm either, so
long as a man did not take them into his company. But Rampogusto knew
how to manage that.

So he picked out three of them, and told them to jump each on one of the
brothers, and see how they might harm old Witting through his grandsons.

Now while Rampogusto was busy choosing his goblins, Bluster, Careful and
Quest went on their way; and so scared were they that they clean forgot
all they had seen during their flight and everything that All-Rosy had
told them.

So they came back to the cabin, and sat down on a stone outside and told
their grandfather what had happened to them.

“And what did you see as you were flying round, and what did All-Rosy
tell you?” Witting asked Careful, his eldest grandson. Now Careful was
in a real fix, because he had clean forgotten, neither could he remember
what All-Rosy had told him. But from under the stone where they were
sitting crept a wee hobgoblin—ugly and horned and grey as a mouse.

The goblin tweaked Careful’s shirt from behind and whispered: “Say: I
have seen great riches, hundreds of beehives, a house of carved wood and
heaps of fine furs. And All-Rosy said to me: ‘Thou shalt be the richest
of all the three brothers.’”

Careful never bothered to think whether this was the truth that the imp
was suggesting, but just turned and repeated it word for word to his
grandfather. No sooner had he spoken than the goblin hopped into his
pouch, curled himself up in a corner of the pouch—and there stopped!

Then Witting asked Bluster, the second grandson, what he might have seen
in his flight, and what All-Rosy might have told him? And Bluster, too,
had noticed nothing and remembered nothing. But from under the stone
crept the second hobgoblin, quite small, ill-favoured, horned and smutty
as a polecat. The goblin plucked Bluster by the shirt and whispered:
“Say: I saw lots of armed men, many bows and arrows and slaves galore in
chains. And All-Rosy said to me: ‘Thou shalt be the mightiest of the
brothers.’”

Bluster considered no more than Careful had done, but was very pleased,
and lied to his grandfather even as the goblin had prompted him. And the
goblin at once jumped on his neck and crawled down his shirt, hid in his
bosom, and stopped there.

Now the grandfather asked the youngest grandson, Quest, but he, too,
could recall nothing. And from under the stone crept the third
hobgoblin, the youngest, the ugliest, horned with big horns, and black
as a mole.

The hobgoblin tugged Quest by the shirt and whispered: “Say: I have seen
all the heavens and all the stars and all clouds. And All-Rosy said to
me: ‘Thou shalt be the wisest among men and know what the winds say and
the stars tell.’”

But Quest loved the truth, and so he would not listen to the goblin nor
lie to his grandfather, but kicked the goblin and said to his
grandfather:

“I don’t know, grandfather, what I saw or what I heard.”

The goblin gave a squeal, bit Quest’s foot, and then scuttled away under
the stone like a lizard. But Quest gathered potent herbs and bound up
his foot with them, so that it might heal quickly.


                                   II

Now the goblin whom Quest had kicked first scooted away under the stone,
and then wriggled into the grass, and hopped off through the grass into
the woods, and through the woods into the osier clump.

He went up to Rampogusto all shaking with fright and said: “Rampogusto,
dread sovereign, I wasn’t able to jump on that youth whom you gave into
my care.”

Then Rampogusto fell into a frightful rage, because he knew those three
brothers well, and most of all he feared Quest, lest he should remember
the truth. For if Quest were to remember the truth, why, then Rampogusto
would never be able to get rid of old Witting nor the sacred fire.

So he seized the little goblin by the horns, picked him up and dusted
him soundly with a big birchrod.

“Go back!” he roared—“go back to the young man, and it will be a black
day for you if ever he remembers the truth!”

With these words Rampogusto let the goblin go; and the goblin, scared
half out of his wits, squatted for three days in the osier clump and
considered and considered how he might fulfil his difficult task. “I
shall have as much trouble with Quest, for sure, as Quest with me,”
reflected the goblin. For he was a scatter-brained little silly, and did
not care at all for a tiresome job.

But while he squatted in the osier clump those other two imps were
already at work, the one in Careful’s pouch and the other in Bluster’s
bosom. From that day forth Careful and Bluster began to rove over hill
and dale, and even slept but little at home—and all because of the
goblins!

There was the goblin curled up in the bottom of Careful’s pouch, and
that goblin loved riches better than the horn over his right eye.

So all day long he butted Careful in the ribs, teasing and goading him
on: “Hurry up, get on! We must seek, we must find! Let’s look for bees,
let’s gather honey, and then we will keep a tally with rows and rows of
scores!”

So said the goblin, because in those days they reckoned up a man’s
possessions with tallies.

Now a tally is only a long wooden stick with a notch cut in it for every
sum that is owing to a man!

But Bluster’s goblin butted him in the breast, and that goblin wanted to
be the strongest of all and lord of all the earth. So he worried and
worried Bluster, and urged him to roam through the woods looking for
young ash plants and slender maple saplings to make a warrior’s outfit
and weapons. “Hurry up, get on!” teased the goblin. “You must seek, you
must find! Spears, bows and arrows to suit a hero’s mind, so that man
and beast may tremble before us.”

And both Bluster and Careful listened to their goblins, and went off
after their own concerns as the goblins led them.

But Quest stayed with his grandfather that day and yet other three days,
and all the time he puzzled and puzzled over whatever it was that
All-Rosy might have told him; because Quest wanted to tell his
grandfather the truth; but, alas! he could not remember it at all!

So that day went by, and the next, and so three days; and on the third
day Quest said to his grandfather:

“Good-bye, grandfather. I am going to the hills, and shall not come back
until I remember the truth, if it should take me ten years.”

Now Witting’s hair was grey, and there was little he cared for in this
world except his grandson Quest, and him he loved and cherished as a
withered leaf cherishes a drop of dew. So the old man started sadly and
said:

“What good will the truth be to me, my boy, when I may be dead and gone
long before you remember it?”

This he said, and in his heart he grieved far more even than he showed
in his words; and he thought: “How could the boy leave me!”

But Quest replied:

“I must go, grandfather, because I have thought it out, and that seems
the right thing to me.”

Witting was a wise old man, and considered: “Perhaps there is more
wisdom in a young head than in an old one; only if the poor lad is doing
wrong it’s a sad weird he will have to dree—because he is so gentle and
upright.” And as Witting thought of that he grew sadder than ever, but
said nothing more. He just kissed his grandson good-bye and bade him go
where he wished.

But Quest’s heart sadly misgave him because of his grandfather, and he
very, very nearly changed his mind on the threshold and stayed beside
him. But he forced himself to do as he had made up his mind to, and went
out and away into the hills.

Just as Quest parted from his grandfather his imp thought he might as
well get out of the osier clump and tackle that tiresome job; and he
reached the clearing just as Quest was hurrying away.

So Quest went off to the hills, very downcast and sad; and when he came
to the first rock, lo and behold, there was the goblin, gibbering.

“Why,” thought Quest, “it’s the very same one—quite small, misshapen,
black as a mole and with big horns.”

The goblin stood right in Quest’s way, and would not let him pass. So
Quest got angry with the little monster for hindering him like this; he
picked up a stone, threw it at the goblin, and hit him squarely between
the horns. “Now I’ve killed him,” thought Quest.

But when he looked again there was the goblin as spry as ever, and two
more horns had sprouted where the stone had hit him!

“Well, evidently stones won’t drive him off,” said Quest. So he went
round the goblin and forward on his way. But the imp scuttled on in
front of him, to the right and to the left, and then straight in front,
for all the world like a rabbit.

At last they came to a little level spot between cliffs—a very stony
place; and on one side of it there was a deep well-spring. “Here will I
stay,” said Quest; and he at once spread out his sheep-skin coat under a
crab-tree and sat down, so that he might reflect in peace and remember
what All-Rosy had verily and truly told him.

But when the imp saw that, he squatted down straight in front of Quest
under the tree, played silly tricks on him, and worried him horribly. He
chased lizards under Quest’s feet, threw burrs at his shirt, and slipped
grasshoppers up his sleeves.

“Oh dear, this is most annoying!” thought Quest, when it had gone on for
some little time. “I have left my wise old grandfather, my brothers and
my home, so that I might be in quiet and remember the truth—and here am
I wasting my time with this horned imp of mischief!”

But as he had come out in a good cause, he nevertheless thought it the
right thing to stay where he was.


                                  III

So Quest and the goblin lived together on that lone ledge between the
cliffs, and each day was like the first. The goblin worried Quest so
that he couldn’t get on with his thinking.

On a clear morning Quest would rise from sleep and feel happy. “How
still it is, how lovely! Surely to-day I shall remember the truth!” And
lo, from the branch overhead a handful of crabs would come tumbling
about his ears, so that his head buzzed and his thoughts all got mixed.
And there was the little monster mocking him from the crabtree and
laughing fit to burst. Or Quest would be lying in the shade, thinking
most beautifully, till he felt like saying: “There, there now, _now_ it
will come back to me, _now_ I shall puzzle out the truth!” And then the
goblin would squirt him all over with ice-cold water from the spring
through a hollow elder twig—and again Quest would clean forget what he
had already thought out.

There was no silly trick nor idle joke that the goblin did not play on
Quest on the ledge there. And yet all might have been well, if Quest
hadn’t found it just a tiny bit amusing to watch these tomfooleries; and
though he was thinking hard about his task, yet his eyes _would_ wander
and look round to see what the imp might be doing next.

Quest was angry with himself over this, because he was wearying more and
more for his grandfather, and he saw full well that he would never
remember the truth while the goblin was about.

“I must get rid of him,” said Quest.

Well, one fine morning the goblin invented a new game. He climbed up the
cliff where there was a steep water-course in the face of the rock, got
astride a smooth bit of wood as if it had been a hobby-horse, and then
scooted down the water-course like a streak of lightning! This prank
pleased the little wretch so mightily that he must needs have company to
enjoy it the better! So he whistled on a blade of grass till it rang
over hill and dale, and lo, from scrub and rock and osier clump the
goblins came scuttling along, all tiny like himself. He gave orders, and
every man-jack of them took a stick and shinned up the cliff with it. My
word! how they got astride their hobby-horses and hurtled down the
water-course! There were all sorts and sizes and kinds of goblins—red as
a robin’s breast, green as greenfinches, woolly as lambs, naked as
frogs, horned as snails, bald as mice. They careered down the
water-course like a crazy company on crazy horses. Down they flew, each
close at the other’s heels, never stopping till they came to the middle
of the ledge; and there was a great stone all overgrown with moss. There
they were brought up short, and what with the bump of stopping so
suddenly and sheer high spirits they tumbled and scrambled about all
atop of one another in the moss!

Shrieking with glee, the silly crew had made the trip some two or three
times already, and poor Quest was hard put to it between two thoughts.
For one thing, he wanted to watch the imps and be amused by them, and
for another he was angry with them for making such a hullabaloo that he
could not remember the truth. So he shilly-shallied awhile, and at last
he said: “Well, this is past a joke. I must get rid of these
good-for-nothing loons, because while they are here I might as well have
stopped at home.”

And as Quest considered the matter, he noticed that as they rushed down
the water-course they made straight for the spring, and that, but for
the big stone, they would all have toppled into it head foremost. So
Quest crouched behind the stone, and when the imps came dashing down
again guffawing and chuckling as before, he quickly rolled the stone
aside, and the whole mad party rushed straight on to the
well-spring—right on to it and then into it, head first, each on top of
the other—red as robin’s breasts, green as greenfinches, woolly as
lambs, naked as frogs, horned as snails, bald-headed as mice—and first
of all the one who had fastened himself on to Quest....

And then Quest tipped a big flat stone over the well, and all the
goblins were caught inside like flies in a pitcher.

Quest was ever so pleased to have got rid of the goblins, sat down and
made sure he would now recollect the truth in good earnest.

But he had no luck, because down in the well the goblins began to
wriggle and to ramp as never before. Through every gap and chink shot up
tiny flames which the goblins gave out in their fright and distress. The
flames danced and wavered round the spring till Quest’s head was all in
a whirl. He closed his eyes, so that their flashing should not make him
giddy.

But then there arose from the pit such a noise, hubbub, knocking and
banging, barking and yowling, such yelling and shrieking for help, that
Quest’s ears were like to burst; and how could he even try to think
through it? He stopped his ears so as not to hear.

Then a smell of brimstone and sulphur drifted over to him. Through every
crack and crevice oozed thick sooty smoke which the imps belched forth
in their extremity. Smoke and sulphur fumes writhed round Quest; they
choked and smothered him.

So Quest saw there was no help for it. “Goblins shut up,” said he, “are
a hundred times worse than goblins at large. So I’ll just go and let
them out, since I can’t get rid of them anyhow. After all, I am better
off with their tomfooleries than with all that yammering.”

So he went and lifted off the stone; and the terrified goblins scuttled
away in all directions like so many wild cats, and ran away into the
woods and never came back to the ledge any more.

None stayed behind, but only the one black as a mole and with big horns,
because he did not dare to leave Quest for fear of Rampogusto.

But even he sobered down a little from that day forward, and had more
respect for Quest than before.

And so these two came to a sort of arrangement between them; they got
used to one another and lived side by side on the stony ledge.

In that way close on to a year slipped by, and Quest was no nearer
remembering what All-Rosy had really truly told him.

When the year was almost gone the goblin began to be most horribly
bored.

“How much longer have I got to stick here?” thought he. So one evening,
just as Quest was about to fall asleep, the imp wriggled up to him and
said:

“Well, my friend, here you’ve been sitting for close on a year and a
day, and what’s the good of it? Who knows but perhaps in the meantime
your old grand-dad has died all alone in his cabin.”

[Illustration]

A pang shot through Quest’s heart as if he had been struck with a knife,
but he said: “There, I have made up my mind not to budge from here until
I remember the truth, because truth comes before all things.” Thus said
Quest, because he was upright and of good parts.

But all the same he was deeply troubled by what the goblin had said
about his grandfather. He never slept a wink all night, but racked his
brains and thought: “How is it with the old man, my dear grandfather?”


                                   IV

Now all this time the grandfather went on living with Careful and
Bluster in the glade—only life had taken a very sad turn for the old
man. His grandsons ceased to trouble about him, nor would they stay near
him. They bade him neither “Good-morning” nor “Good-night,” and only
went about their own affairs and listened to the goblins they harboured,
the one in his pouch and the other in his bosom.

Every day Careful brought more bees from the forest, felled timber,
shaped rafters, and gradually built a new cabin. He carved himself ten
tallies, and every day he counted and reckoned over and over again when
these tallies would be filled up.

As for Bluster, he went hunting and reiving, bringing home game and
furs, plunder and treasure; and one day he even brought along two slaves
whom he had taken, so that they might work for the brothers and wait
upon them.

All this was very hard and disagreeable for the old man, and harder and
more disagreeable still were the looks he got from his grandsons. What
use had they for an old man who would not be served by the slaves, but
disgraced his grandsons by cutting wood and drawing water from the well
for himself? At last there wasn’t a thing about the old man that didn’t
annoy his grandsons, even this, that every day he would put a log on the
sacred fire.

Old Witting saw very well whither all this would lead, and that very
soon they would be thinking of getting rid of him altogether. He did not
care so much about his life, because life was not much use to him, but
he was sorry to die before seeing Quest once more, the dear lad who was
the joy of his old age.

One evening—and it was the very evening when Quest was so troubled in
his mind thinking of his grandfather—Careful said to Bluster: “Come
along, brother, let’s get rid of grandfather. You have weapons. Wait for
him by the well and kill him.”

Now Careful said this because he specially wanted the old cabin at all
costs, so as to put up beehives on that spot. “I can’t,” replied
Bluster, whose heart had not grown so hard, amidst bloodshed and
robbery, as Careful’s among his riches and his tallies.

But Careful would not give over, because the imp in his bag went on
whispering and nagging. The imp in his pouch knew very well that Careful
would be the first to put the old man away, and so gain him great credit
with Rampogusto.

Careful tried hard to talk over Bluster, but Bluster could not bring
himself to kill his grandfather with his own hand. So at last they
agreed and arranged that they would that very night burn down the old
man’s hut—burn it down with the old man inside!

When all was quiet in the glade, they sent out the slaves to watch the
traps in the woods that night. But the brothers crept up softly to
Witting’s cabin, shut the outer door tight with a thick wedge, so that
the old man might not escape from the flames, and then set fire to the
four corners of the house....

When all was done they went away and away into the hills so as not to
hear their poor old grandfather crying out for help. They made up their
minds to go over the whole of the mountain as far as they could, and not
to come back until next day, when all would be over, and their
grandfather and the cabin would be burnt up together.

So they went, and the flames began to lick upwards slowly round the
corners. But the rafters were of seasoned walnut, hard as stone, and
though the fire licked and crept all round them it could not catch
properly, and so it was late at night before the flames took hold of the
roof.

Old Witting awoke, opened his eyes and saw that the roof was ablaze over
his head. He got up and went to the door, and when he found that it was
fastened with a heavy wedge he knew at once whose doing it was.

“Oh, my children! my poor darlings!” said the old man, “you have taken
from your hearts to add to your wretched tallies; and behold, your
tallies are not even full, and there are many notches still lacking; but
your hearts are empty to the bottom already, since you could burn your
own grandfather and the cabin where you were born.”

That was all the thought that Father Witting gave to Careful and
Bluster. After that he thought neither good nor bad about them, nor did
he grieve over them further, but went and sat down quietly to wait for
death.

He sat on the oak chest and meditated upon his long life; and whatever
there had been in it, there was nothing he was sorry for save only this,
that Quest was not with him in his last hour—Quest, his darling child,
for whom he had grieved so much.

So he sat still, while the roof was already blazing away like a torch.

The rafters burned and burned, the ceiling began to crack. It blazed,
cracked, then gave way on either side of the old man, and rafters and
ceiling crashed down amid the flames into the cabin. The flames billowed
round Witting, the roof gaped above his head. Already he saw the dawn
pale in the sky before sunrise. Old Witting rose to his feet, raised his
hands to heaven, and so waited for the flames to carry him away from
this world, the old man and his old homestead together.


                                   V

Quest worried terribly that night, and when morning broke he went to the
spring to cool his burning face.

The sun was just up in the sky when Quest reached the spring, and when
he came there he saw a light shining in the water. It shone, it rose,
and lo! beside the spring and before Quest stood a lovely youth in
golden raiment. It was All-Rosy.

Quest started with joy, and said:

“My little lord All-Rosy bright, how I have longed for you! Do tell me
what you told me then that I must do? Here I have been racking my brains
and tormenting myself and calling on all my wits for a year and a
day—and I cannot remember the truth!”

As Quest said this, All-Rosy rather crossly shook his head and his
golden curls.

“Eh, boy, boy! I told you to stay with your grandfather till you had
rendered him the love you owe him, and not to leave him till he left
you,” said All-Rosy.

And then he went on:

“I thought you were wiser than your brothers, and there you are the most
foolish of the three. Here you have been racking your brains and calling
on your wits to help you for a year and a day so that you might remember
the truth; and if you had listened to your heart when it told you on the
threshold of your cabin to turn back and not to leave your old
grandfather—why then, you silly boy, you would have had the truth, even
without wits!”

Thus spoke All-Rosy. Once more he crossly shook his head with the golden
curls; then he took his golden cloak about him and vanished.

Shamed and troubled, Quest remained alone beside the spring, and from
between the stones he heard the imp giggling—the hobgoblin, quite small,
misshapen, and horned with big horns. The little wretch was pleased
because All-Rosy had shamed Quest, who always gave himself such
righteous airs; but when Quest roused himself from his first amazement
he called out joyfully:

“Now I’ll just wash quickly and then fly to my dear old grandfather.”
This he said and knelt by the spring to wash. Quest leaned down to reach
the water, leaned down too far, lost his balance, and fell into the
spring.

Fell into the spring and was drowned....


                                   VI

[Illustration]

THE hobgoblin jumped up from among the stones, leaped to the edge of the
spring, and looked down to see with his own eyes whether it was really
true.

Yes, Quest was really truly drowned. There he lay at the bottom of the
water, white as wax.

“Yoho, yoho, yo hey!” yelled the goblin, who was only a poor silly.
“Yoho, yoho, yo hey! my friend, we’re off to-day!”

The imp yelled so that all the rocks round the ledge rang with the
noise. Then he heaved up the stone that lay by the edge of the spring,
and the stone toppled over and covered the spring like a lid. Next the
imp flung Quest’s skin-coat on the top of the stone; last of all he went
and sat on the coat, and then he began to skip and to frolic.

“Yoho, yoho! my job is done!” yelled the goblin.

But it wasn’t for long that he skipped on the skin; it wasn’t for long
that he yelled.

For when the goblin had tired himself out, he looked round the ledge,
and a queer feeling came over him.

You see, the goblin had got used to Quest. Never before had he had such
an easy time as with that good youth. He had been allowed to fool about
as he chose, without anybody scolding him or telling him to stop; and
now that he came to think of it, he would have to go back to the osier
clump, to the mire, to his angry King Rampogusto, and go on repeating
the old goblin chatter among five hundred other goblins—all of them just
as he used to be himself.

He had lost the habit of it. He began to think—to _think_ a very little.
He began to feel sad—just a little sad, then more and more miserable;
and at last he was wringing and beating his hands, and the silly,
thoughtless goblin, who a minute ago had been yelling with glee, was now
weeping and wailing with grief and rolling about on the coat all crazy
with distress.

He wept and he howled till all his former yelling was clean nothing in
comparison. For a goblin is always a goblin. Once he starts wailing he
wails with a vengeance. And he pulled the fur out of the skin-coat in
handfuls, and rolled about on it as if he had taken leave of his senses.

Now just at that moment Bluster and Careful came to the lone ledge.

They had wandered all over the mountain, and were now on their way home
to the glade to see if their grandfather and the cabin were quite burnt
up. On the way back they came to a lone ledge where they had never been
before.

Bluster and Careful heard something wailing, and caught sight of Quest’s
skin-coat; and they thought at once that Quest must have come to grief
somehow.

Not that they felt sorry for their brother because they could not grieve
for anybody while the goblins were about them.

But at that moment their goblins began to wriggle, because they could
hear that one of their own kind was in trouble. Now there is no sort
that sticks more closely together and none more faithful in trouble than
the hobgoblins were. In the osier clump they would fight and squabble
all day; but if there was trouble each would give the skin off his shins
for the other!

So they wriggled and they worried; they pricked up their ears, and then
peered out, the one from the pouch and the other from the shirt. And as
they peered they at once saw a brother of theirs rolling about with
somebody or something—rolling and writhing, and nothing to be seen but
the fur flying.

“A wild beast is worrying him!” cried the terrified goblins. They jumped
out, one out of Careful’s pouch and the other out of Bluster’s bosom,
and scuttled off to help their friend.

But when they reached him, he would still do nothing but roll about on
the skin and howl:

“The boy is dead!—the boy is dead!” The other two goblins tried to quiet
him, and thought: “Maybe a thorn has got into his paw, or a midge into
his ear”—because they had never lived with a righteous man, and did not
know what it means to lament for others.

But the first goblin went on wailing so that you couldn’t hear yourself
speak, and he wouldn’t be comforted either.

So the other goblins were in a fine taking as to what they were to do
with him? Nor could they leave him there in his sore trouble. At last
they had an idea. Each laid hold of the sheep-skin coat by one sleeve,
and so they dragged along the coat with their brother inside, scuttled
away into the woods, and out of the woods into the osier clump and home
to Rampogusto.

So for the first time for a year and a day Bluster and Careful were quit
of their goblins. When the imps hopped away from them, the brothers felt
as though they had walked the world like blind men for a year and a day,
and were seeing it plainly again now for the first time there on the
rocky ledge.

First they looked at each other in a maze, and then they knew at once
what a terrible wrong they had done their grandfather.

“Brother! kinsman!” each cried to the other, “let us fly and save our
grandfather.” And they flew as if they had falcon’s wings, home to the
clearing.

When they came to the glade the cabin was roofless. Flames were rising
like a column from the hut. Only the walls and the door were still
standing, and the door was still tightly wedged.

The brothers hurried up, tore out the wedge, rushed into the cabin, and
carried out the old man in their arms from amid the flames, which were
just going to take hold on his feet.

They carried him out and laid him on the cool green turf, and then they
stood beside him and neither dared speak a word.

After a while old Witting opened his eyes, and as he saw them he asked
nothing about them. The only question he put was:

“Did you find Quest anywhere in the mountain?”

“No, grandfather,” answered the brothers. “Quest is dead. He was drowned
this morning in the well-spring. But, grandfather, forgive us, and we
will serve you and wait upon you like slaves.”

As they were speaking thus, old Witting arose and stood upon his feet.

“I see that you are already forgiven, my children,” said he, “since you
are standing here alive. But he who was the most upright of you three
had to pay with his life for his fault. Come, children, take me to the
place where he died.”

Humbly penitent, Careful and Bluster supported their grandfather as they
led him to the ledge.

But when they had walked a little while they saw that they had gone
astray, and had never been that way before. They told their grandfather;
but he just bade them keep on in that path.

So they came to a steep slope, and the road led up the slope right to
the crest of the mountain.

“Our grandfather will die,” whispered the brothers, “with him so feeble
and the hillside so steep.”

But old Witting only said: “On, children, on—follow the path.”

So they began to climb up the track, and the old man grew ever more grey
and pallid in the face. And on the mountain’s crest there was something
fair that rustled and crooned and sparkled and shone.

And when they reached the crest, they stood silent and stone still for
very wonder and awe.

For before them was neither hill nor dale, nor mountain nor plain, nor
anything at all, but only a great white cloud stretched out before them
like a great white sea—a white cloud, and on the white cloud a pink
cloud. Upon the pink cloud stood a glass mountain, and on the glass
mountain a golden castle with wide steps leading up to the gates.

That was the Golden Castle of All-Rosy. A soft light streamed from the
Castle—some of it from the pink cloud, some from the glass mountain, and
some from the pure gold walls; but most of all from the windows of the
Castle itself. For there sit the guests of All-Rosy, drinking from
golden goblets health and welcome to each new-comer.

[Illustration]

But All-Rosy does not enjoy the company of such as harbour any guilt in
their souls, nor will he let them into his Castle. Wherefore it is a
noble and chosen company that is assembled in his courts, and from them
streams the light through the windows.

Upon the ridge stood old Witting with his grandsons, all speechless as
they gazed at the marvel. They looked—and of a sudden they saw someone
sitting on the steps that led to the Castle. His face was hidden in his
hands and he wept.

The old man looked and knew him—knew him for Quest.

The old man’s soul was shaken within him. He roused himself and called
out across the cloud:

“What ails you, my child?”

“I am here, grandfather,” answered Quest. “A great light lifted me up
out of the well-spring and brought me here. So far have I come; but they
won’t let me into the Castle, because I have sinned against you.”

Tears ran down the old man’s cheeks. His hands and heart went out to
caress his dear child, to comfort him, to help him, to set his darling
free.

Careful and Bluster looked at their grandfather, but his face was
altogether changed. It was ashen, it was haggard, and not at all like
the face of a living man.

“The old man will die of these terrors,” whispered the brothers to each
other.

But the old man drew himself up to his full height, and already he was
moving away from them, when he looked back once more and said:

“Go home, children, back to the glade, since you are forgiven. Live and
enjoy in all righteousness what shall fall to your part. But I go to
help him to whom has been given the best part at the greatest cost.”

Old Witting’s voice was quite faint, but he stood before them upright as
a dart.

Bluster and Careful looked at one another. Had their grandfather gone
crazy, that he thought of walking across the clouds when he had no
breath even for speech?

But already the old man had left them. He left them, went on and stepped
out upon the cloud as though it were a meadow. And as he stepped out he
went forward. On he walked, the old man, and his feet carried him as
though he were a feather, and his cloak fluttered in the wind as if it
were a cloud upon that cloud. Thus he came to the pink cloud, and to the
glass mountain, and to the broad steps. He flew up the steps to his
grandson. Oh the joy of it, when the old man clasped his grandson! He
hugged him and he held him close as if he would never let him go. And
Careful and Bluster heard it all. Across the cloud they could hear the
old man and his grandchild weeping in each other’s arms for pure joy!

Then the old man took Quest by the hand and led him up to the Castle
gates. With his left hand he led his grandson, and with his right he
knocked at the gate.

And lo, a wonder! At once the great gates flew open, all the splendour
of the Castle was thrown open, and the company within, the noble guests,
welcomed grandfather Witting and grandson Quest upon the threshold.

They welcomed them, held out their hands to them, and led them in.

Careful and Bluster just saw them pass by the window, and saw where they
were placed at the table. The first place of all was given to old
Witting, and beside him sat Quest, where All-Rosy, the golden youth,
drinks welcome to his guests from a goblet of gold.

A great fear fell upon Bluster and Careful when they were left alone
with these awesome sights.

“Come away, brother, to our clearing,” whispered Careful; and they
turned and went. Bewildered by many marvels, they got back to their
clearing, and never again could they find either the path or the slope
that led to the mountain’s crest.


                                  VII

Thus it was and thus it befell.

Careful and Bluster went on living in the glade. They lived long as
valiant men and true, and brought up goodly families, sons and
grandsons. All good parts went down from father to son, and, of course,
also the sacred fire, which was fed with a fresh log every day so that
it might never go out.

So, you see, Rampogusto was right in being afraid of Quest, because if
Quest had not died in his search for truth those goblins would never
have left Careful and Bluster, and in the glade there would have been
neither righteous men nor sacred fire.

But so everything fell out. To the great shame and discomfiture of
Rampogusto and all his crew.

When those two goblins dragged Quest’s sheep-skin before Rampogusto, and
inside it the third goblin, who was still yammering and carrying on like
one demented, Rampogusto flew into a furious rage, for he knew that all
three youths had escaped him. In his great wrath he gave orders that all
three goblins should have their horns cropped close, and so run about
for everyone to make fun of!

But the worst of Rampogusto’s discomfiture was this: Every day the
sacred smoke gets into his throat and makes him cough most horribly.
Moreover, he never dare venture out into the woods for fear of meeting
some one of the valiant people.

So Rampogusto got nothing out of it but Quest’s cast-off sheep-skin; and
I’m sure he is welcome to that, for Quest doesn’t want a sheep-skin coat
anyhow in All-Rosy’s Golden Halls.

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      Fisherman Plunk and his Wife



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      Fisherman Plunk and His Wife


                                   I


FISHERMAN PLUNK was sick and tired of his miserable life. He lived alone
by the desolate sea-shore, and every day he caught fish with a bone
hook, because they didn’t know about nets in those parts at that time.
And how much fish can you catch with a hook, anyhow?

“What a dog’s life it is, to be sure!” cried Plunk to himself. “What I
catch in the morning I eat up at night, and there’s no joy for me in
this world at all, at all.”

And then Plunk heard that there were also rich sheriffs in the land, and
men of great power and might, who lived in luxury and comfort, lapped in
gold and fed on truffles. Then Plunk fell a-thinking how he too might
come to look upon such riches and live in the midst of them. So he made
up his mind that for three whole days he would sit still in his boat on
the sea and not take any fish at all, but see if that spell would help
him.

So Plunk sat for three days and nights in his boat on the face of the
sea—three days he sat there, three days he fasted, for three days he
caught no fish. When the third day began to dawn, lo and behold, a
silver boat arose from the sea—a silver boat with golden oars—and in the
boat, fair as a king’s daughter, stood the Pale Dawn-Maiden.

“For three days you have spared my little fishes’ lives,” said the
Dawn-Maiden, “and now tell me what you would like me to do for you?”

“Help me out of this miserable and dreary life. Here am I all day long
slaving away in this desolate place. What I catch during the day I eat
up at night, and there is no joy for me in the world at all, at all,”
said Plunk.

“Go home,” said the Dawn-Maiden, “and you will find what you need.” And
as she spoke, she sank in the sea, silver boat and all.

Plunk hurried back to the shore and then home. When he came to the
house, a poor orphan girl came out to meet him, all weary with the long
tramp across the hills. The girl said: “My mother is dead, and I am all
alone in the world. Take me for your wife, Plunk.”

Plunk hardly knew what to do. “Is this the good fortune which the
Dawn-Maiden has sent me?” Plunk could see that the girl was just a poor
body like himself; on the other hand, he was afraid of making a mistake
and turning away his luck. So he consented, and took the poor girl to be
his wife; and she, being very tired, lay down and slept till the
morning.

Plunk could scarcely await the next day for wondering how his good
fortune would show itself. But nothing happened that day except that
Plunk took his hook and went out fishing, and the Woman went up the hill
to gather wild spinach. Plunk came home at night, and so did the Woman,
and they supped upon fish and wild spinach. “Eh, if that is all the good
luck there is to it, I could just as well have done without,” thought
Plunk.

As the evening wore on, the Woman sat down beside Plunk to tell him
stories, to wile away the time for him. She told him about nabobs and
kings’ castles, about dragons that watch treasure-hoards, and kings’
daughters who sow their gardens with pearls and reap gems. Plunk
listened, and his heart within him began to sing for joy. Plunk forgot
that he was poor; he could have sat and listened to her for three years
together. But Plunk was still better pleased when he considered: “She is
a fairy wife. She can show me the way to the dragons’ hoards or the
kings’ gardens. I need only be patient and not make her angry.”

So Plunk waited; and day after day went by, a year went by, two years
passed. A little son was born to them; they called him little Winpeace.
Yet all went on as usual. Plunk caught fish, and his wife gathered wild
spinach in the mountains. In the evening she cooked the supper, and
after supper she rocked the baby and told Plunk stories. Her stories
grew prettier and prettier, and Plunk found it harder and harder to
wait, till at last, one evening, he had had enough of it; and just as
his wife was telling him about the immense treasures of the Sea King,
Plunk jumped up in a rage, shook her by the arm and cried:

“I tell you I’ll wait no longer. To-morrow in the morning you shall take
me down to the Sea King’s Castle!”

The Woman was quite frightened when Plunk jumped up like that. She told
him that she did not know where the Sea King had his Castle; but Plunk
began to beat his poor wife most unmercifully, and threatened to kill
her unless she told him her fairy secret.

Then the poor girl understood that Plunk had taken her for a fairy. She
burst into tears and cried:

“Truly I am no fairy, but a poor orphan girl who knows no spells nor
magic. And for the tales I have told you, I had them from my own heart
to beguile your weariness.”

Now this only put Plunk all the more in a rage, because he had lived in
a fool’s paradise for over two years; and he angrily bade the Woman go
away next morning ere dawn with the child, along the sea-shore to the
right-hand side, and he, Plunk, would go to the left, and she was not to
come back again till she had found the way to the Sea King’s Castle.

When the dawn came, the Woman wept and begged Plunk not to send her
away. “Who knows where one of us may be destroyed on this desolate
sea-shore?” said she. But Plunk fell upon her again, so that she took up
her child and went away crying whither her husband had bidden her. And
Plunk went off in the opposite direction.

So the Woman went on with her baby, little Winpeace. She went on for a
week; she went on for a fortnight, and nowhere did she find the way to
the Sea King. She grew so terribly tired that one day she fell asleep on
a stone beside the sea. When she woke up, her baby was gone—her little
Winpeace.

Her grief was so great that the tears froze fast in her heart, and not a
word could she speak for sorrow, but became dumb from that hour.

So the poor dumb creature wandered back along the sea-shore and home.
And next day Plunk came home, too. He had not found the way to the Sea
King, and he came back disappointed and cross.

When he got home, there was no baby Winpeace, and his wife had gone
dumb. She could not tell him what had happened, but was all haggard with
the great trouble.

And so it was with them from that day forward. The Woman neither wept
nor complained, but did her housework and waited upon Plunk in silence;
and the house was still and quiet as the grave. For some time Plunk
stood it, but in the end he got thoroughly weary. He had just felt
almost sure of the Sea King’s treasure, and lo! all this trouble and
worry had come upon him.

So Plunk made up his mind to try his sea-spell once more. Again for
three whole days he sat in his boat on the sea, for three days he
fasted, for three days he caught no fish. At the third day, at daybreak,
the Dawn-Maiden arose before him.

Plunk told her what had happened, and complained bitterly.

“I’m worse off than ever before. The baby is gone, the wife is dumb, and
my house dreary as the grave, and I’m just about bursting with trouble.”

To this the Dawn-Maiden said never a word, but just asked Plunk a
question:

“What do you want? I will help you just this once more.”

But Plunk was such a zany that he couldn’t think of anything else but
just this, that he was set on seeing and enjoying the Sea King’s
treasure; and so he didn’t wish for his child back again, or that his
wife should regain the power of speech, but he begged the Dawn-Maiden:

“Fair Dawn-Maiden,” said he, “show me the way to the Sea King.”

And again the Dawn-Maiden said nothing, but very kindly set Plunk on his
way:

“When day dawns at the next New Moon, get into your boat, wait for the
wind, and then drift eastward with the wind. The wind will carry you to
the Isle Bountiful, to the stone Gold-a-Fire. And there I shall be
waiting for you to show you the way to the Sea King.”

Plunk went joyfully home.

When it was about the New Moon (but he never told his wife anything) he
went out at the streak of dawn, got into his boat, waited for the wind,
and let the wind carry him away toward the east.

[Illustration]

The wind caught the boat and carried it along to the Unknown Sea, to the
Isle Bountiful. Like a green garden the fruitful island floats upon the
sea. The grass grows rank, and the meadows lush, the vines are full of
grapes and the almondtrees pink with blossom. In the midst of the island
there is precious stone, the white blazing stone Gold-a-Fire. One half
of the stone sheds its glow upon the island, and the other half lights
up the sea under the island. And there on the Isle Bountiful, on the
stone Gold-a-Fire, sits the Dawn-Maiden.

Very kindly did the Dawn-Maiden receive Plunk, very kindly she set him
on his way. She showed him a mill-wheel drifting on the sea towards the
island, and the mermaids dancing in a ring around the wheel. Then she
told him—always very kindly—how he must ask the mill-wheel politely to
take him down to the Sea King and not let the Dark Deeps of the Sea
swallow him.

Last of all the Dawn-Maiden said:

“Great store of gold and treasure will you enjoy in the Sea King’s
domain. But mark—to earth you cannot return, for three terrible watchers
bar the way. One troubles the waves, the second raises the storm, and
the third wields the lightning.”

But Plunk was happy as a grig in his boat as he paddled towards the
mill-wheel, and thought to himself:

“It’s easy to see, fair Dawn-Maiden, that you’ve never known want in
this world. I shan’t hanker back after this earth, where I’m leaving
nothing but ill-luck behind!”

So he paddled up to the mill-wheel, where round the mill-wheel the
mermaids were playing their foolish games. They dived and chased each
other through the water; their long hair floated on the waves, their
silver fins glittered, and their red lips smiled. And they sat on the
mill-wheel and made the sea all foamy around it.

The boat reached the mill-wheel, and Plunk did as the Dawn-Maiden had
told him. He held his paddle aloft so that the Dark Deeps should not
swallow him, and he politely asked the mill-wheel:

“Round wheel giddy-go-round, please take me down, either to the Dead
Dark Deep or to the Sea King’s Palace.”

As Plunk said this, the mermaids came swishing along like so many silver
fish, swarmed round the mill-wheel, seized the spokes in their snowy
hands, and began to turn the wheel—swiftly, giddily.

An eddy formed in the sea—a fierce eddy, a terrible whirlpool. The
whirlpool caught Plunk; it swept him round like a twig, and sucked him
down to the Sea King’s fastness.

Plunk’s ears were still ringing with the swirl of the sea and the
mermaids’ silly laughter when he suddenly found himself sitting on
beautiful sand—fine sand of pure gold.

Plunk looked round and cried out: “Ho, there’s a wonder for you! A whole
field of golden sand.”

Now what Plunk had taken to be a big field was only the great Hall of
the Sea King. Round the Hall stood the sea like a marble wall, and above
the Hall hung the sea, like a glass dome. Down from the stone
Gold-a-Fire streamed a bluish glare, livid and pale as moonlight. From
the ceiling hung festoons of pearls, and on the floor below stood tables
of coral.

And at the end—the far end, where slender pipes were piping and tiny
bells tinkling—there lazed and lounged the Sea King himself; he
stretched his limbs on the golden sand, raising only his great bullock’s
head, beside him a coral table, and behind him a golden hedge.

What with the quick, shrill music of the pipes, the tinkling of the
bells, and the sheen and glimmer all around him, Plunk wouldn’t have
believed there could be so much pleasure or wealth in the world!

Plunk went clean mad for pure joy—joy went to his head like strong wine;
his heart sang; he clapped his hands; he skipped about the golden sand
like a frolicsome child; he turned head over heels once, twice, and
again—just like a jolly boy.

Now this amused the Sea King vastly. For the Sea King’s feet are
heavy—far too heavy—and his great bullock’s head is heavier still. The
Sea King guffawed as he lounged on the golden sand; he laughed so
heartily that the golden sand blew up all round him.

“You’re fine and light on your feet, my boy,” said the Sea King, and he
reached up and pulled down a branch of pearls and gave it to Plunk. And
then the Sea King ordered the Under Seas Fairies to bring choice viands
and honeyed drink in golden vessels. And Plunk had leave to sit beside
the Sea King at the coral table, and surely that was a great honour!

When Plunk had dined, the Sea King asked him:

“Is there anything else you would like, my man?”

Now what should a poor man ask for, who had never known what it is to
have a good time? But Plunk was hungry from his long journey, and he had
made but a poor meal of it off the choice viands and the honeyed drinks.
So he said to the Sea King:

“Just as you were saying that, O King of the Sea, I was wishing that I
had a good helping of boiled wild spinach.”

The Sea King was rather surprised, but he recovered himself quickly,
laughed and said to Plunk:

“Eh, brother of mine, wild spinach is very dear down here, dearer than
pearls and mother-o’-pearl, because it’s a long way from here to the
place where it grows. But since you have just asked for it, I will send
a Foam Fairy to bring you some from the land where the wild spinach
grows. But you must turn three more coach-wheels for me.”

As Plunk was already in the best of humours he didn’t find that hard
either. Lightly he leapt to his feet, and quickly they all flocked round
him, the mermaids and the tiny folk in the Palace, and all for to see
that wonder!

Plunk took a run over the golden sand, turned a beautiful coach-wheel,
then a second and a third, light as a squirrel, and the Sea King and all
the tiny folk rocked with laughter at such cunning.

But heartiest of all laughed a little baby, and that was the little King
whom the mermaids themselves had crowned King for fun and idle sport.
The wee baby was sitting up in a golden cradle. His little shirt was of
silk, the cradle was hung with tiny bells of pearl, and in his hands the
child held a golden apple.

While Plunk was turning coach-wheels and the little King laughed so
heartily, Plunk looked round at him. He looked at the little King, and
then—Plunk started. It was his own baby boy, little Winpeace.

Well, Plunk was suddenly disgusted. He would never have guessed that he
would grow sick of it so soon.

Plunk frowned; he was angry, and when he had got over his shock a bit he
thought:

“Look at him, the urchin, how he’s got on, lording it here in idleness
and sport, and his mother at home gone dumb with grieving!”

Plunk was vexed; he hated seeing himself or the child in this Palace;
yet he dared not say a word, lest they should part him from the boy. So
he made himself the servant of his son, of little Winpeace, and thought
to himself: “Perhaps I shall be left alone with him sometimes. Then I
will remind the boy of his Father and Mother; I will run away with him;
I will carry off the little brat and go back with him to his mother.”

So thought Plunk, and one fine day, when he happened to be alone with
the little King, he whispered to the child: “Come along, my boy; let’s
run away with father.”

But Winpeace was only a baby, and what with living so long under the
sea, he had quite forgotten his father. He laughed; the little King
laughed. He thought: “Plunk is making fun,” and he kicked Plunk with his
little foot.

“You are not my father; you are the silly-billy who turns head over
heels before the Sea King.”

That stung Plunk to the heart, so that he well-nigh died with the pain
of it. He went out and wept for sheer bitter sorrow. All the Sea King’s
attendants gathered round him and said one to the other:

“Well, well, he must have been a great lord on earth, to weep amid such
splendours.”

“Upon my soul,” cried Plunk wrathfully, “I was the same as your Sea King
here. I had a son who tugged my beard, a wife who showed me marvels, and
wild spinach, brothers, as much as you want—and no need to turn
coach-wheels before anybody either.”

[Illustration]

The sea-folk marvelled at such magnificence, and left Plunk to mourn his
lost greatness. But Plunk went on serving the little King. He did all he
could to please the boy, thinking: “I shall get him somehow to run away
with me.” But the little King grew sillier and more wayward every day;
the days passed, and every day the child only thought Plunk more than
ever a zany.


                                   II

Now all this time Plunk’s wife was at home, all alone and grieving. The
first evening she made up the fire and kept the supper hot for Plunk;
but when she gave up expecting Plunk, she let the fire go out, nor did
she kindle it again.

So the poor dumb soul sat on her threshold. She neither worked, nor
tidied, nor wept, nor lamented, but just pined away with grief and
sorrow. She could not take counsel with anyone, because she was dumb;
nor could she cross the sea after Plunk, because she was all broken up
with grieving.

Where could she go, poor soul! but back one day to the far hills, where
her mother lay buried. And as she stood by her mother’s grave a
beautiful Hind up came to her.

And as the dumb animals speak, so the Hind spoke to the Woman:

“You must not sit there and pine away, my daughter, for else your heart
will break and your house will perish. But every evening you must get
Plunk’s supper ready for him, and after supper you must unpick some fine
hemp. If Plunk does not come home, then you must take his supper in the
morning and the fine hemp as well, and also the slender twin pipes, and
go up into the rocky mountain. Play upon the twin pipes; the snakes and
their young will come and eat up the supper, and the sea-fowl will line
their nests with the hemp.”

Full well the daughter understood all that her mother said, and as she
was bid so did she do. Every evening she cooked supper, and after supper
she unpicked hemp. Plunk did not come back; and so the Woman took her
little twin pipes in the morning, and carried both supper and hemp to
the rocky mountain. And as she played on her little pipes, played softly
on the right-hand pipe, lo, snakes and baby snakes came out of the
rocks. They ate up the supper and thanked the Woman in the dumb speech.
And when she played on the left-hand pipe, lo, gulls great and small
came flying, carried off the hemp to their nests, and thanked the Woman.

For three months the Woman went on in this way; thrice the moon waxed
and waned, and still Plunk had not come home.

Again grief overcame the poor dumb soul, so that she went again to her
mother’s grave.

The Hind came up, and in dumb speech the Woman said to her:

“Well, Mother, I have done all you told me, and Plunk has not come back.
I am weary of waiting. Shall I throw myself into the sea, or fling
myself down from the cliffs?”

“Daughter of mine,” said the Hind, “you must not fail in your trust.
Your Plunk is in grievous trouble. Now listen and hear how you may help
him. In the Unknown Sea there is a Big Bass, and that Bass has a golden
fin, and on that fin grows a golden apple. If you catch that Bass by
moonlight you will deliver your dear Plunk from his trouble. But on the
road to the Unknown Sea you will have to pass three caverns of cloud. In
the first there is a monstrous Snake, the Mother of All Snakes—it is she
who troubles the sea and stirs up the waves; in the second there is a
monstrous Bird, the Mother of All Birds—it is she who raises the storm;
and in the third there is a Golden Bee—it is she who flashes and wields
the lightning. Go, daughter dear, to the Unknown Sea, and take nothing
with you but your bone hook and slender twin pipes, and if you should
find yourself in great trouble, rip open your right-hand sleeve, all
white and unhemmed.”

The daughter gave good heed. Next day she took out the boat and put off
to sea, taking nothing with her but her hook and the slender twin pipes.

She drifted and sailed on the face of the sea till the waters bore her
to a far-off place, and there on the sea, lo, three terrible caverns of
lowering cloud!

From the entrance of the first cavern peered the head of a fearsome
Snake, the Mother of All Snakes. Her grisly head blocked up all the
entrance, her body lay coiled along the cave, and with her monstrous
tail she lashed the sea, troubling the waters and stirring up the waves.

The Woman did not dare go near the terrible sight, but remembered her
little pipes, and began to play upon the right-hand pipe. And as she
played, there came from the far-off, rock-bound lands snakes and baby
snakes galore swimming over the sea. Great coloured snakes and tiny
little snakes all came hurrying up and scurrying up and begged the
fearsome Snake—

“Let the Woman take her boat through your cavern, Mother dear! She has
done us a great good turn and fed us every day in the morning.”

“Through my cavern I may not let her pass,” answered the fearsome Snake,
“for to-day I must stir up the waves of the sea. But if she did you such
a good turn, I will repay it with another. Would she rather have a bar
of gold or six strings of pearls?”

But a true wife is not to be beguiled with gold or pearls, and so the
Woman answered in dumb speech:

“’Tis only for a small matter I have come here—for the Bass that lives
in the Unknown Sea. If I have done you a good turn, let me pass through
your cavern, fearsome Snake.”

“Let her pass, Mother dear,” said the snakes and baby snakes again.
“Here are many of us whom she has fed—full many to whom she gave meat.
You just lie down, Mother dear, and take a nap, and we’ll stir up the
waters for you.”

Now the Snake couldn’t very well disoblige such a big family, and she
had been longing for sleep for a thousand years. So she let the Woman
through the cavern, and then curled up on the floor of the cavern and
fell into a fearsome sleep. But before she fell asleep she reminded the
snakes and baby snakes once more:

“Now, stir me up the waters right properly, children dear, while I rest
a little.”

So the Woman passed through the cavern, and the snakes and their young
stayed in the cavern; but instead of stirring up the sea they soothed it
and made it calm.

The Woman sailed on, and came to the second cavern. And in the second
cavern there was a monstrous Bird, the Mother of All Birds. She craned
her frightful head through the opening, her iron beak gaped wide; she
spread her vast wings in the cavern and flapped them, and whenever she
flapped her wings she raised a storm.

[Illustration]

The Woman took up her twin pipes and sweetly played upon the left-hand
pipe. And from the far shore came flying gulls great and small, and
begged the monstrous bird to let the Woman pass with her boat through
her cavern, for that she had been a good friend to them and unpicked
hemp for them every day.

“I can’t let her pass through my cavern, for to-day I must raise a
mighty storm. But if she was so kind to you, I will repay her with even
greater kindness. From my iron beak I will give her of the Water of
Life, so that the power of speech shall be restored to her.”

Well, and wasn’t it a sore temptation for the poor dumb creature who
desired above all things that the power of speech should return to her?
But she remained steadfast, and this is what she answered the Bird:

“’Tis not for my own good that I came, but for a small matter—for the
Bass that lives in the Unknown Sea. If I have done you a good turn, let
me pass through your cavern.”

Then the grey gulls all entreated the Mother Bird and also advised her
to take a little nap, and they would meanwhile raise the storm for her.
The Mother Bird listened to her children’s entreaty, clung to the wall
of the cavern with her iron talons and went to sleep.

But the gulls great and small, instead of raising the storm, calmed the
wild winds and soothed them.

So the dumb Woman sailed through the second cavern and came to the
third.

In the third cavern she found the Golden Bee. The Golden Bee buzzed in
the entrance; she wielded the fiery lightning and the rolling thunder.
Sea and cavern resounded; lightnings flashed from the clouds.

Fear seized upon the Woman when she found herself all alone with these
terrors. But she remembered her right sleeve; she ripped it off, her
sleeve all white and unhemmed, flung it over the Golden Bee and caught
her in the sleeve!

The thunder and lightning were stilled at once, and the Golden Bee began
to coax the Woman:

“Set me free, O Woman! and in return I will show you something. Look out
over the wide waters, and it’s a joyful sight you will see.”

The Woman looked out over the wide waters. The sun was just on the
horizon. The sky grew pink overhead; the sea grew crimson from the east,
and from the sea arose a silver boat. And in the boat sat the
Dawn-Maiden, pale and fair as a king’s daughter, and beside her a little
child in a silken shirt and with a golden apple in his hand. It was the
Dawn-Maiden taking the little King for his morning sail on the sea.

The Woman recognised her lost baby.

Now isn’t that a wonder of wonders, that the sea should be so wide that
a mother cannot encompass it, and the sun so high that a mother should
not be able to reach it?

Her joy took hold of her like terror. She trembled like the slender
aspen. Should she stretch out her hand to the child? or call to him
tenderly? or should she just stand and look at him for ever and ever?

The silver boat glided over the crimson sea. It faded away in the
distance; the boat sank under the waves, and the mother roused herself
with a start.

“I will show you,” said the Golden Bee to the Woman, “how to get to the
little King, your son, and live with him in joy and happiness. But first
set me free, that I may wield the lightnings in the cavern—and through
my cavern I cannot let you pass!”

A fierce pang overcame the poor mother, overwhelmed and shook her. She
had seen her darling; her eyes had beheld her heart’s desire; she had
seen and beheld him, but not hugged him, not kissed him! The pang shook
her from head to foot. Should she be true to Plunk or no? Should she let
the Bee go and win to her child, or pass through the cavern to the
Unknown Sea for the sake of the Big Bass?

But even as the pang shot through the Woman, the tears gushed forth from
her heart; the power of speech returned to her, and ’twas in living
words that she answered the Golden Bee:

“Don’t sting me, O Golden Bee! I shall not let you go, because I must
pass through your cavern. I have wept for my child and buried him in my
heart. I have not come here for my own happiness, but for a small
matter—for the Big Bass that lives in the Unknown Sea.”

Thus said the Woman, and passed into the cavern. She rested in the
cavern; she took her ease in the boat, and there she waited for
nightfall and moonrise.

Eh, my dearie, but the sea was quiet that day, with the winds at rest in
the sky, and the fearsome Snake asleep in the first cavern, and the
monstrous Bird asleep in the second, and the wearied Woman in the third!

So the day went quietly by; evening came, and the moon rose. When the
moon rode high in the heavens, the Woman sailed out upon the Unknown Sea
at midnight, and in the midst of the Sea she let down her little bone
hook.


                                  III

That very evening the little King bade Plunk knit him a nice set of
silken reins. “First thing to-morrow morning I shall harness you to my
little carriage, and you shall give me a ride on the golden sands.”

Dearie me, considered poor Plunk, and where was he to hide from the
Dawn-Maiden when she would go down into the sea in the morning and
behold him thus to-morrow harnessed to a cart by his own son?

All the Sea King’s court slept. The Sea King slept. The wilful little
King slept—only Plunk was awake and knitting away at the reins. He
knitted fiercely, like one who is thinking hard. When it seemed to him
that the strings were strong enough, Plunk said to himself:

“I never asked anyone’s counsel when I was making a fool of myself, nor
shall I do so now that I have come to my senses.”

And as he said this he went softly up to the cradle where his son lay
fast asleep, wound the reins round and round the rockers of the cradle,
lashed the cradle to his own back, and started to run away with his son.

Softly Plunk strode over the golden sand—strode through the mighty Hall,
spacious as a wide meadow; slipped through the golden hedge, parting the
branches of pearls; and when he came to where the sea stood up like a
wall, nothing daunted, Plunk dived into the water with his boy.

But it is far—terribly far—from the Sea King’s fastness to the world of
day above! Plunk swam and swam; but how was a poor fisherman to swim
when he was weighed down by the little King—golden cradle, golden apple
and all—on his back?

Plunk felt as if the sea was piling itself up above him, higher and
higher, and heavier and heavier!

And just as Plunk was at the last gasp, he felt something scrape along
the golden cradle, something that caught in the rocker of the cradle;
and when it had caught fast, it began to haul them along apace!

“Now it’s all up with me!” said poor Plunk to himself. “Here’s a
sea-monster carrying me away on his tusk.”

But it wasn’t the tusk of a sea-monster; it was a bone fish-hook, the
very hook that Plunk’s wife had let down.

When the Woman felt that her hook had caught, she joyfully summoned all
her strength, pulling and hauling with all her might, for fear of losing
the great Big Bass.

As she began to haul in her catch the golden rocker began to show above
the water. The Woman could not distinguish it rightly by moonlight, but
thought: “It is the golden fin of the Bass.”

Next came up the child with the golden apple. Again the Woman thought:
“It is the golden apple on the fish’s fin.” And when at last Plunk’s
head came up, the Woman cried out joyfully: “And here is the head of the
great Big Bass.”

And as she cried out she hauled in her catch, and when she had hauled it
close alongside—why, dearie mine, how am I to tell you rightly how
overjoyed were those three when they met again in the boat, all in the
moonlight, in the middle of the Unknown Sea?

But they dare not lose any time. They had to pass through the three
caverns ere the monstrous watchers should awaken. So they took out the
oars and rowed with all their might and main.

But oh dear! the bad luck they had! When the little King awoke and saw
his mummy, he remembered her at once. He threw both his little arms
round his mummy’s neck—and the golden apple fell out of his hand. Down
fell the apple into the sea, down to the very bottom and into the Sea
King’s Castle, and hit the Sea King right on his shoulder!

The Sea King woke up, and bellowed with rage. All the court jumped to
their feet. They saw at once that the little King and his servant were
missing!

They gave chase. The mermaids swam out under the moonlight; the light
foam fairies flew out over the water; runners were sent out to rouse the
watchers in the caverns.

But the boat had already passed through the caverns, and so they had to
pursue it farther on. Plunk and the Woman were rowing—rowing for dear
life, their pursuers close in their wake. The mermaids whipped up the
waters; the swift foam fairies darted after the boat; the angry waves
rose up in wrath behind them; the wind howled from the clouds. Nearer
and nearer came the pursuers. The finest ship afloat would not have had
a chance, and how could a tiny two-oared boat? For hours and hours the
boat flew on before the tempest, and just as the day began to break, lo,
terror gathered from all sides around the boat.

For the hurricane beat upon the boat; the crested billows towered above
it; the mermaids joined in a ring around it. The ring heaved and swayed
around the boat; the mermaids raised their linked hands high to let the
mountainous waves pass through, but never let the little craft escape
the waves. Sea and storm whistled and roared.

The fear of death was upon Plunk, and in his dire need he cried out:

“Oh, fair Dawn-Maiden, help!”

The Dawn-Maiden arose from the sea. She saw Plunk, but never looked at
him. She looked at the little King, but no gift had she for him; but to
the faithful Wife she swiftly gave her gift—a broidered kerchief and a
pin.

Quickly they hoisted the kerchief, and it became a white sail, and the
pin turned into a rudder. The wind filled the sail, so that it bulged
like a ripe apple, and the Woman gripped the rudder with a strong hand.
The mermaids’ ring round the boat was broken; the boat rode upon the
azure sea like a star across the blue heavens! A wonder of wonders, it
flew over the sea before its terrible pursuers; the fiercer the pursuit,
the greater help it was to them; for the swifter the wind blew, the more
swiftly yet flew the boat before the wind, and the swifter the sea, the
more swiftly rode the boat upon the sea.

Already the rock-bound shore loomed afar, and upon the shore Plunk’s
little cottage and the bar of white sand before it.

As soon as the land hove in sight, the pursuit slackened. The foam
fairies fear the shore; the mermaids keep away from the coast. Wind and
waves stayed on the high seas, and only the boat flew straight ahead to
land like a child to its mother’s lap.

The boat flew to land over the white sand bar, and struck on a rock. The
boat split on the rock. Down went sail and rudder; down went the golden
cradle; away flew the Golden-winged Bee; and Plunk and his wife and
child were left alone on the beach outside their cottage.

When they sat down that night to their supper of wild spinach, they had
clean forgotten all that had happened. And but for those twin pipes,
there’s not a soul would remember it now. But whoever starts to play on
the pipes, the fat pipe at once begins to drone out about Plunk:

                    Harum-scarum Plunk would go
                    Where the pearls and corals grow;
                    There he found but grief and woe.

And then the little pipe reminds us of the Woman:

                   Rise, O Dawn, in loveliness!
                   Here is new-born happiness;
                   Were it three times drown’d in ill.
                   Faith and Love would save it still!

And that is the twin pipes’ message to the wide, wide world.

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                Reygoch



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                Reygoch


                                   I

ONCE upon a beautiful summer night the men were watching their horses in
the meadow. And as they watched, they fell asleep. And as they slept,
the fairies flew out of the clouds to have some sport with the horses,
as is the fairies’ way. Each fairy caught a horse, mounted it, and then
whipped it with her golden hair, urging it round and round the dewy
meadow.

Among the fairies there was one quite young and tiny, called Curlylocks,
who had come down to earth from the clouds for the first time that
night.

Curlylocks thought it lovely to ride through the night like a whirlwind.
And it so happened that she had got hold of the most spirited horse of
all—a Black—small, but fierce as fire. The Black galloped round and
round with the other horses, but he was the swiftest of all. Soon he was
all in a lather of foam.

But Curlylocks wanted to ride faster still. She bent down and pinched
the Black’s right ear. The horse started, reared, and then bolted
straight ahead, leaving behind the rest of the horses, the meadow and
all, as he flew away like the wind with Curlylocks into the wide, wide
world.

Curlylocks thoroughly enjoyed her lightning ride. The Black went like
the wind, by field and by river, by meadow and mountain, over dale and
hill. “Good gracious! what a lot of things there are in the world!”
thought Curlylocks, full of delight as she looked at all the pretty
sights. But what pleased her best was when they came through a country
where there were mountains all covered with glorious forests, and at the
foot of the mountains two golden fields like two great gold kerchiefs,
and in the midst of them two white villages, like two white doves, and a
little further on a great sheet of water.

[Illustration]

But the Black would not stop, neither there nor anywhere, but rushed on
and on as if he were possessed.

So the Black carried Curlylocks far and far away till at last they came
to a great plain, with a cold wind blowing over it. The Black galloped
into the plain, and there was nothing there but yellow sand, neither
trees nor grass, and the further they went into that great waste, the
colder it grew. But how large that plain is, I cannot tell you, for the
good reason that the man does not live who could cross it.

The Black ran on with Curlylocks for seven days and seven nights. The
seventh day, just before sunrise, they reached the centre of the plain,
and in the centre of the plain they found the ruinous walls of the
terribly great city of Frosten, and there it is always bitterly cold.

As the Black raced up to the ancient gates of Frosten, Curlylocks threw
her magic veil on the wall, and so caught hold of the wall. The Black
galloped away from under her, and so continued his wild career up to his
old age to and fro between the huge walls of Frosten, till at last he
found the northern gate and galloped out again into the plain—God knows
whither!

But Curlylocks came down from the wall and began to walk about the city,
and it was cold as cold! Her magic veil, without which she could not fly
among the clouds, she wound about her shoulders, for she took great care
of it. And so Curlylocks walked and walked about the city of Frosten,
and all the time she felt as if she must come upon something very
wonderful in this city, which was so marvellous and so great. However,
nothing did she see but only great crumbling walls, and nothing did she
hear but now and again a stone cracking with the cold.

Suddenly, just as Curlylocks had turned the corner of the very biggest
wall, she saw, fast asleep at the foot of the wall, a huge man, bigger
than the biggest oak in the biggest forest. The man was dressed in a
huge cloak of coarse linen, and the strap he wore for a belt was five
fathoms long. His head was as big as the biggest barrel, and his beard
was like a shock of corn. He was so big, that man, you might have
thought there was a church tower fallen down beside the wall!

This giant was called Reygoch, and he lived at Frosten. All he did was
to count the stones of the city of Frosten. He could never have finished
counting them but for that huge head of his, as big as a barrel. But he
counted and counted—he had counted for a thousand years, and had already
counted thirty walls and five gates of the city.

When Curlylocks spied Reygoch, she clasped her hands and wondered. She
never thought there could be such an immense creature in the world.

So Curlylocks sat down by Reygoch’s ear (and Reygoch’s ear was as big as
the whole of Curlylocks), and called down his ear:

“Aren’t you cold, daddy?”

Reygoch woke up, laughed, and looked at Curlylocks.

“Cold? I should think I was cold,” answered Reygoch, and his voice was
as deep as distant thunder. Reygoch’s big nose was all red with the
cold, and his hair and beard were all thick with hoar-frost.

“Dear me!” said Curlylocks, “you’re such a big man, and you aren’t going
to build yourself a roof to keep out the cold?”

“Why should I?” said Reygoch, and laughed again. “The sun will be out
presently.”

Reygoch heaved himself up so as to sit. He sat up. He clapped his left
shoulder with his right hand, and his right shoulder he clapped with the
left hand, so as to beat out the hoar-frost; and the hoar-frost came off
each shoulder as if it were snow slipping off a roof!

“Look out! look out, daddy! you’ll smother me!” cried Curlylocks. But
Reygoch could scarcely hear her, because it was a long way from
Curlylocks to his ear, so big was he when he sat up.

So Reygoch lifted Curlylocks on to his shoulder, told her his name and
his business, and she told him how she had come.

“And here comes the sun,” said Reygoch, and pointed for Curlylocks to
see.

Curlylocks looked, and there was the sun rising, but so pale and feeble,
as if there were no one for him to warm.

“Well, you are a silly, Reygoch!” said Curlylocks—“you are really silly
to live here and spend your life counting these tiresome stones of
Frosten. Come along, Reygoch, and see how beautiful the world is, and
find something more sensible to do.”

Now it had never occurred to Reygoch to want a finer home for himself
than Frosten city, nor had he ever thought that there might be better
work than his in the world. Reygoch always thought, “I was meant to
count the stones of Frosten,” and had never asked for anything better.

Curlylocks, however, gave him no peace, but persuaded him to come out
and see the world with her.

“I’ll take you to a lovely country,” said Curlylocks, “where there is an
ancient forest, and beside the forest two golden fields.”

Curlylocks talked for a long time. And old Reygoch had never had anybody
to talk to, and so he couldn’t resist persuasion.

“Well, let’s go!” said he.

Curlylocks was mightily pleased with this.

But now they had to contrive something, so that Reygoch could carry
Curlylocks, because Reygoch himself had nothing.

So Curlylocks drew out from her bosom a little bag of pearls. It was her
mother who had given Curlylocks these pearls before allowing her to go
down to earth, and told her: “If you ever should need anything, just
throw down a pearl, and it will turn into whatever you want. Be very
careful of those pearls, because there are so many things in the world
that you will want more and more as you go on.”

Curlylocks took out a tiny seed-pearl, threw it down, and lo, before
their eyes there grew a little basket, just as big as Curlylocks, and
the basket had a loop attached, just big enough to fit Reygoch’s ear.

Curlylocks jumped into the basket; and Reygoch picked up the basket and
hung it on his ear like an ear-ring!

Whenever Reygoch laughed, whenever he sneezed or shook his head,
Curlylocks rocked as if she were in a swing; and she thought it a
capital way of travelling.

So Reygoch started to walk, and had already taken a ten-yard stride,
when Curlylocks stopped him, and begged:

“Couldn’t we go underground, perhaps, Reygoch dear, so that I might see
what there is under the earth?”

“Why not?” answered Reygoch; for he could break into the earth as easy
as fun, only it had never entered his head to look what might be
underground.

But Curlylocks wanted to know everything about everything, and so they
agreed to travel underground until they should arrive under the forest
by the golden fields, and there they would come up.

When they had settled that, Reygoch began to break up the earth. He
lifted up his great feet and stamped for the first time, and at that the
whole of the great city of Frosten shook and a great many walls tumbled
down. Reygoch raised his feet a second time and stamped again, and the
whole plain quaked. Reygoch raised his feet a third time and stamped,
and lo, half the world trembled, the solid earth gaped under Reygoch,
and Reygoch and Curlylocks fell into the hole and down under the earth.

When they got there, they found the earth all honeycombed with pillars
and passages on every side, and heaven alone knew where they all led to.
And they could hear waters rushing and the moaning of the winds.

They followed one of the passages, and for awhile they had light from
the hole through which they had fallen. But as they went on it grew
darker and darker—black darkness, such as there is nowhere save in the
bowels of the earth.

Reygoch tramped calmly on in the dark. With his great hands he felt his
way from pillar to pillar.

But Curlylocks was frightened by the great darkness.

She clung to Reygoch’s ear and cried: “It’s dark, Reygoch dear!”

“Well, and why not?” returned Reygoch. “The dark didn’t come to us. It’s
we have come to it.”

Then Curlylocks got cross, because Reygoch never minded anything and she
had expected great things from so huge a man.

“I should be in a nice fix with you but for my pearls,” said Curlylocks
quite angrily.

Then she threw down another pearl, and a tiny lantern grew in her hand,
bright as if it were lit with gold. The darkness crept back deeper into
the earth, and the light shone far through the underground passages.

Curlylocks was delighted with her lantern, because it showed up all the
marvels which had been swallowed by the earth in days of old. In one
place she saw lordly castles, with doors and windows all fretted with
gold and framed in red marble. In another place were warriors’ weapons,
slender-barrelled muskets and heavy scimitars studded with gems and
precious stones. In a third place she saw long-buried treasures, golden
dishes and silver goblets full of gold ducats, and the Emperor’s very
crown of gold three times refined. All these treasures had been
swallowed up by God’s will, and it is God’s secret why so much treasure
should lie there undisturbed.

[Illustration]

But Curlylocks was quite dazzled with all these marvels; and instead of
going straight ahead by the way they had settled upon, she begged
Reygoch to put her down so that she might play about a little and admire
all the strange things and gaze upon the wonders of God’s secret.

So Reygoch set Curlylocks down, and Curlylocks took her little lantern
and ran to the castles, and to the weapons, and to the treasure-hoards.
And lest she might lose her little bag of pearls while she was playing,
she laid it down beside a pillar.

As for Reygoch, he sat down to rest not far off.

Curlylocks began to play with the treasures; she looked at the beautiful
things and rummaged among them. With her tiny hands she scattered the
golden ducats, examined the goblets chased in silver, and put upon her
head the crown of gold three times refined. She played about, looked
round and admired, and at last caught sight of a very slender little
ivory staff propped up against a mighty pillar.

But it was just that slender staff that kept the mighty pillar from
collapsing, because the pillar was already completely hollowed out by
the water. And therefore God had caused that little staff to fall down
there, and the staff held up the pillar under the earth.

But Curlylocks wondered:

“Why is that little staff just there?” And she went and picked up the
staff to look at it.

But no sooner had Curlylocks taken the staff and moved it than the
subterranean passages re-echoed with a terrible rumbling noise. The
great pillar trembled, swayed and crashed down amid a whole mountain of
falling earth, closing and blocking up the path between Reygoch and
Curlylocks. They could neither see nor hear one another, nor could they
reach one another....

There was the poor little fairy Curlylocks caught in the bowels of the
earth! She was buried alive in that vast grave, and perhaps would never
again see those golden fields for which she had set out, and all because
she would not go straight on by the way they had intended, but would
loiter and turn aside to the right and to the left to pry into God’s
secrets!

Curlylocks wept and cried, and tried to get to Reygoch. But she found
that there was no way through, and that her plight was hopeless; and as
for the bag of pearls, which might have helped her, it was buried under
the landslide.

When Curlylocks realised this she stopped crying, for she was proud, and
she thought: “There is no help for it, and I must die. Reygoch won’t
come to my rescue, because his wits are too slow even to help himself,
let alone to make him remember to help me. So there is nothing for it,
and I must die.”

So Curlylocks prepared for death. But in case folk should ever find her
in her grave she wanted them to know that she came of royal blood. So
she set the crown of gold three times refined upon her head, took the
ivory staff in her hand, and lay down to die. There was no one beside
Curlylocks except her little lantern, burning as if it were lit with
gold; and as Curlylocks began to grow cold and stiff, so the lantern
burned low and dim.

Reygoch was really an old stupid. When the pillar crashed down and there
was the big landslide between him and Curlylocks he never moved, but sat
still in the dark. Thus he sat for quite a long time, before it occurred
to him to go and find out what had happened.

He felt his way in the dark to the spot where Curlylocks had been,
groped about, and realised that the earth had subsided there and that
the passage was indeed blocked.

“Eh, but that way is choked up now,” considered Reygoch. And nothing
else could he think of, but turned round, left the mound of fallen earth
and Curlylocks beyond it, and went back by the road they had travelled
from Frosten city.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Thus old Reygoch went his way, pillar by pillar. He had already gone a
goodish bit; but there was all the time something worrying him. Reygoch
himself couldn’t imagine what it was that worried him.

He arranged the strap around his waist—perhaps it had been too tight;
and then he stretched his arm—perhaps his arm had gone to sleep. Yet it
was neither the one nor the other, but something else that worried.
Reygoch wondered what in the world it could be. He wondered, and as he
wondered he shook his head.

And as Reygoch shook his head, the little basket swung at his ear. And
when Reygoch felt how light the basket was, and that there was no
Curlylocks inside, a bitter pang shot through his heart and breast,
and—simpleton though he was—he knew well enough that he was grieved
because he missed Curlylocks, and he realised also that he ought to save
her.

It had taken Reygoch a lot of trouble to think out all that; but once he
had thought it out, he turned like the wind and flew back to the place
where the landslide was, to find Curlylocks behind the heap of earth. He
flew, and arrived just in time. Reygoch burrowed away with both hands,
and in a little while he had burrowed a big hole, so that he could see
Curlylocks lying there, the crown of fine gold on her head. She was
already growing cold and rigid, with her little lantern beside her, and
the flame of it as feeble as the tiniest little glow-worm.

If Reygoch had cried out in his grief the earth would have rocked, and
the little lantern would have gone out altogether—even the little
glow-worm light by the side of Curlylocks would have died away.

But Reygoch’s throat was all tight with pain, so that he could not cry
out. He put out his great big hand and gently picked up poor Curlylocks,
who was already quite cold, and warmed her between the hollowed palms of
his huge hands as you would warm a starved dicky-bird in winter. And lo!
in a little while Curlylocks moved her little head, and at once the
lantern burned a little brighter; and then Curlylocks moved her arm, and
the lantern burned brighter still. At last Curlylocks opened her eyes,
and the lantern burned as brightly as if its flame were pure gold!

Then Curlylocks jumped to her feet, caught hold of Reygoch’s beard, and
they both of them cried for pure joy. Reygoch’s tears were as big as
pears and Curlylocks’ as tiny as millet-seed, but except for size they
were both the same sort; and from that moment these two were mightily
fond of one another.

When they had finished their cry, Curlylocks found her pearls, and then
they went on. But they touched no more of the things they saw
underground, neither the sunken ships with their hoards of treasure,
which had worked their way down from the bottom of the sea, nor the red
coral, nor the yellow amber which twined round the underground pillars.
They touched nothing, but went straight along by the way that would take
them to the golden fields.

When they had gone on thus for a long time, Curlylocks asked Reygoch to
hold her up; and when he did so, Curlylocks took a handful of earth from
above her head.

She took the earth, looked at her hand, and there, among the soil, she
found leaves and fibres.

“Here we are, daddy, under the forest beside the golden fields,” said
Curlylocks. “Let’s hurry up and get out.”

So Reygoch stretched himself and began to break through the earth with
his head.


                                   II

And indeed they were under the forest, just underneath a wooded glen
between the two villages and the two counties. No one ever came to this
glen but the herd boys and girls from both villages and both counties.

Now there was bitter strife between the two villages—strife over the
threshing-floors, and the pastures, and the mills, and the
timber-felling, and most of all over the staff of headmanship, which one
of the villages had long claimed as belonging to it by rights, and the
other would not give up. And so these two villages were at enmity with
one another.

But the herd boys and girls of both villages were just simple young
folk, who understood nothing about the rights of their elders, and cared
less, but met every day on the boundary between the two villages and the
two counties. Their flocks mingled and fed together, while the boys
played games, and over their games would often be late in bringing the
sheep home of an evening.

For this the poor boys and girls would be soundly rated and scolded in
both villages. But in one of the villages there was a great-grandfather
and a great-grandmother who could remember all that had ever happened in
either village, and they said: “Leave the children alone. A better
harvest will spring from their childish games than ever from your wheat
in the fields.”

So the shepherds kept on coming, as before, with their sheep to the
glen, and in time the parents stopped bothering about what the children
did.

And so it was on the day when Reygoch broke through the earth at that
very spot. The boys and girls happened to be all gathered together under
the biggest oak, getting ready to go home. One was tying up his shoes,
another fixing a thong to a stick, and the girls were collecting the
sheep. All of a sudden they heard a dreadful thumping in the earth right
underneath their feet! There was a thud, then a second, and at the third
thud the earth gaped, and up there came, right in the midst of the
shepherds, a fearsome large head as big as a barrel, with a beard like a
shock of corn, and the beard still bristling with hoar-frost from
Frosten city!

The boys and girls all screamed with fright and fell down in a dead
faint—not so much because of the head as big as a barrel, but because of
the beard, that looked for all the world like a shock of corn!

So the shepherds fainted away—all but young Lilio, who was the
handsomest and cleverest among the lads of both villages and both
counties.

Lilio kept his feet, and went close up to see what sort of monster it
might be.

“Don’t be afraid, children,” said Lilio to the shepherds. “The Lord
never created that monstrous giant for evil, else he would have killed
half the world by now.”

So Lilio walked boldly up to Reygoch, and Reygoch lifted the basket with
Curlylocks down from his ear and set it on the ground.

“Come—oh come quickly, boys!” cried Lilio. “There is a little girl with
him, little and lovely as a star!”

The herd boys and girls got up and began to peep from behind each other
at Curlylocks; and those who had at first been the most frightened were
now the foremost in coming up to Curlylocks, because, you see, they were
always quickest in everything.

No sooner had the herd boys and girls seen dear little Curlylocks than
they loved her. They helped her out of her basket, led her to where the
turf was softest, and fell to admiring her lovely robes, which were
light as gossamer and blue as the sky, and her hair, which was shining
and soft as the morning light; but most of all they admired her fairy
veil, for she would wave it just for a moment, and then rise from the
grass and float in the air.

The herd boys and girls and Curlylocks danced in a ring together, and
played all kinds of games. Curlylocks’ little feet twinkled for pure
joy, her eyes laughed, and so did her lips, because she had found
companions who liked the same things as she did.

Then Curlylocks brought out her little bag of pearls to give presents
and pleasure to her new friends. She threw down a pearl, and a little
tree grew up in their midst, all decked with coloured ribbons, silk
kerchiefs and red necklaces for the girls. She threw down a second
pearl, and from all parts of the forest came forth haughty peacocks;
they stalked and strutted, they flew up and away, shedding their
glorious feathers all over the turf, so that the grass fairly sparkled
with them. And the herd boys stuck the feathers in their caps and
doublets. Yet another pearl did Curlylocks throw out, and from a lofty
branch there dropped a golden swing with silken ropes; and when the boys
and girls got on the swing, it swooped and stooped as light as a
swallow, and as gently as the grand barge of the Duke of Venice.

The children shouted for joy, and Curlylocks threw out all the pearls in
her bag one after another, never thinking that she ought to save them;
because Curlylocks liked nothing in the world better than lovely games
and pretty songs. And so she spent her pearls down to the last little
seed pearl, though heaven alone knew how badly she would need them soon,
both she and her new friends.

“I shall never leave you any more,” cried Curlylocks merrily. And the
herd boys and girls clapped their hands and threw up their caps for joy
over her words.

Only Lilio had not joined in their games, because he was rather sad and
worried that day. He stayed near Reygoch, and from there he watched
Curlylocks in all her loveliness, and all the pretty magic she made
there in the forest.

Meantime Reygoch had come out of his hole. Out he came and stood up
among the trees of the forest, and as he stood there his head rose above
the hundred-year-old forest, so terribly big was Reygoch.

Over the forest looked Reygoch, and out into the plain.

The sun had already set, and the sky was all crimson. In the plain you
could see the two golden fields spread out like two gold kerchiefs, and
in the midst of the fields two villages like two white doves. A little
way beyond the two villages flowed the mighty River Banewater, and all
along the river rose great grass-grown dykes; and on the dykes you could
see herds and their keepers moving.

“Well, well!” said Reygoch, “and to think that I have spent a thousand
years in Frosten city, in that desert, when there is so much beauty in
the world!” And Reygoch was so delighted with looking into the plain
that he just stood there with his great head as big as a barrel turning
from right to left, like a huge scarecrow nodding above the tree-tops.

Presently Lilio called to him:

“Sit down, daddy, for fear the elders of the villages should see you.”

Reygoch sat down, and the two started talking, and Lilio told Reygoch
why he was so sad that day.

“A very wicked thing is going to happen to-day,” said Lilio. “I
overheard the elders of our village talking last night, and this is what
they said: ‘Let us pierce the dyke along the River Banewater. The river
will widen the hole, the dyke will fall, and the water will flood the
enemy village; it will drown men and women, flood the graveyard and the
fields, till the water will be level above them, and nothing but a lake
to show where the enemy village has been. But our fields are higher, and
our village lies on a height, and so no harm will come to us.’ And then
they really went out with a great ram to pierce the dyke secretly and at
dead of night. But, daddy,” continued Lilio, “I know that our fields are
not so high, and I know that the water will overflow them too, and
before the night is over there will be a lake where our two villages
used to be. And that is why I am so sad.”

They were still talking when a terrible noise and clamour arose from the
plain.

“There!” cried Lilio, “the dreadful thing has happened!”

Reygoch drew himself up, picked up Lilio, and the two looked out over
the plain. It was a sad sight to see! The dyke was crumbling, and the
mighty Black Banewater rolling in two arms across the beautiful fields.
One arm rolled towards the one village, and the second arm towards the
other village. Animals were drowning, the golden fields disappeared
below the flood. Above the graves the crosses were afloat, and both
villages rang with cries and shouting. For in both villages the elders
had gone out to the threshing-floors with cymbals, drums and fifes, and
there they were drumming and piping away each to spite the other
village, so crazed were they with malice, while over and above that din
the village dogs howled dismally, and the women and children wept and
wailed.

“Daddy,” cried Lilio, “why have I not your hands to stop the water?”

Terrified and bewildered by the dreadful clamour in the plain, the herd
boys and girls crowded round Reygoch and Lilio.

When Curlylocks heard what was the matter she called out quick and
sprightly, as befits a little fairy:

“Come on, Reygoch—come on and stop the water!”

“Yes, yes, let’s go!” cried the herd boys of both villages and both
counties, as they wept and sobbed without stopping. “Come on, Reygoch,
and take us along too!”

Reygoch stooped, gathered up Lilio and Curlylocks (who was still
carrying her lantern) in his right hand, and all the rest of the herd
boys and girls in his left, and then Reygoch raced with ten-fathom
strides through the forest clearing and down into the plain. Behind him
ran the sheep, bleating with terror. And so they reached the plain.

Through fog and twilight ran Reygoch with the children in his arms and
the terrified flocks at his heels in frantic flight—all running towards
the dyke. And out to meet them flowed the Black Banewater, killing and
drowning as it flowed. It is terribly strong, is that water. Stronger
than Reygoch? Who knows? Will it sweep away Reygoch, too? Will it drown
those poor herd boys and girls also, and must the dear little Fairy
Curlylocks die—and she as lovely as a star?

So Reygoch ran on across the meadow, which was still dry, and came all
breathless to the dyke, where there was a great breach, through which
the river was pouring with frightful force.

“Stop it up, Reygoch—stop it up!” wailed the boys and girls.

Not far from the dyke there was a little mound in the plain.

“Put us on that mound,” cried Curlylocks briskly.

Reygoch set down Lilio and Curlylocks and the herd boys and girls on the
hillock, and the sheep and lambs crowded round them. Already the hillock
was just an island in the middle of the water.

But Reygoch took one mighty stride into the water and then lay down
facing the dyke, stopping up the breach with his enormous chest. For a
little while the water ceased to flow; but it was so terribly strong
that nothing on earth could stop it. The water pressed forward; it
eddied round Reygoch’s shoulders; it broke through under him, over him,
about him—everywhere—and rolled on again over the plain. Reygoch
stretched out both arms and piled up the earth in great handfuls; but as
fast as he piled it up, the water carried it away.

And in the plain the water kept on rising higher and higher; fields,
villages, cattle, threshing-floors, not one of them could be seen any
more. Of both villages, the roofs and church steeples were all that
showed above the flood.

Even around the hillock where the herd boys and girls were standing with
Lilio and Curlylocks the flood was rising higher and higher. The poor
young things were weeping and crying, some for their mothers, others for
their brothers and sisters, and some for their homes and gardens;
because they saw that both villages had perished, and not a soul
saved—and the water rising about them, too!

So they crowded up higher and higher upon the hillock; they huddled
together around Lilio and Curlylocks, who were standing side by side in
the midst of their friends.

Lilio stood still and white as marble; but Curlylocks’ eyes shone, and
she held up her lantern towards Reygoch to give him light for his work.
Curlylocks’ veil rose and fluttered in the night wind and hovered above
the water, as though the little fairy were about to fly away and vanish
from among all these terrors.

“Curlylocks! Curlylocks! don’t go! Don’t leave us!” wailed the herd
boys, to whom it seemed as if there were an angel with them while they
could look upon Curlylocks.

“I’m not going—I’m not going away!” cried Curlylocks. But her veil
fluttered, as if it would carry her away of its own accord, over the
water and up into the clouds.

Suddenly they heard a scream. The water had risen and caught one of the
girls by the hem of her skirt and was washing her away. Lilio stooped
just in time, seized the girl, and pulled her back on to the hillock.

“We must tie ourselves together,” cried the herd boys; “we must be tied
each to the other, or we shall perish.”

“Here, children—here!” cried Curlylocks, who had a kind and pitiful
heart.

Quickly she stripped her magic veil off her shoulders and gave it to the
herd girls. They tore the veil into strips, knotted the strips into long
ropes, and bound themselves together, each to other, round Lilio and
Curlylocks. And round the shepherds bleated the poor sheep in terror of
being drowned.

But Curlylocks was now among these poor castaways, no better off than
the rest of them. Her pearls she had wasted on toys, and her magic veil
she had given away and torn up out of the goodness of her heart, and now
she could no longer fly, nor save herself out of this misery.

But Lilio loved Curlylocks better than anything else in the world, and
when the water was already up to his feet he called:

“Don’t be afraid, Curlylocks! I will save you and hold you up!” And he
held up Curlylocks in his arms.

With one hand Curlylocks clung round Lilio’s neck, and with the other
she held up her little lantern aloft towards Reygoch.

And Reygoch, lying on his chest in the water, was all the time steadily
fighting the flood. Right and left of Reygoch rose the ruins of the dyke
like two great horns. Reygoch’s beard was touzled, his shoulders were
bleeding. Yet he could not stop the Banewater, and the flood round the
hillock was rising and rising to drown the poor remnant there. And now
it was night—yea, midnight.

All of a sudden a thought flashed through Curlylocks, and through all
the sobbing and crying she laughed aloud as she called to Reygoch:

“Reygoch, you old simpleton! why don’t you _sit_ between these two horns
of the dyke? Why don’t you dam the flood with your shoulders?”

The herd boys and girls stopped wailing at once. So dumbfounded were
they at the idea that not one of them had thought of that before!

“Uhuhu!” was all you could hear, and that was Reygoch laughing. And when
Reygoch laughs, mind you, it’s no joke! All the water round him boiled
and bubbled as he shook with laughter over his own stupidity!

Then Reygoch stood up, faced about, and—in a twinkling—he sat down
between those two horns!

And then happened the most wonderful thing of all! For the Black
Banewater stood as though you had rolled a wall into the breach! It
stood, and could not rise above Reygoch’s shoulders, but followed its
usual course, as before, the whole current behind Reygoch’s back. And
surely that was a most marvellous rescue!

The boys and girls were saved from the worst of the danger; and Reygoch,
sitting comfortably, took up earth in handfuls and all slow-and-surely
rebuilt the dyke under himself and on either hand. He began in the
middle of the night, and when the dawn broke, the job was finished. And
just as the sun rose, Reygoch got up from the dyke with his work done,
and started combing his beard, which was all caked with mud, twigs, and
little fishes.

But the poor boys and girls were not yet done with their troubles; for
where were they to go, and how were they to get there? There they stood
on the top of the hillock. All around them was a waste of water. Nothing
was to be seen of the two villages but just a few roofs—and not a soul
alive in either. To be sure, the villagers might have saved themselves
if they had taken refuge in their attics. But in both villages everybody
had gone to the threshing-floor with cymbals and fifes to make merry, so
that each could watch the destruction of the other. And when the water
was up to their waists, they were still clanging their cymbals; and when
it was up to their necks, they still blew their fifes for gratified
spite. And so they were drowned, one and all, with their fifes and
cymbals—and serve them right for their malice and uncharitableness!

So the poor children were left without a soul to cherish or protect
them, all houseless and homeless.

“We’re not sparrows, to live on the housetops,” said the boys sadly, as
they saw only the roofs sticking out of the water, “and we’re not foxes,
to live in burrows in the hills. If someone could clear our villages of
the water, we might make shift to get along somehow, but as it is, we
might as well jump into the water with our flocks and be drowned like
the rest, for we have nowhere and no one to turn to.”

That was a sad plight indeed, and Reygoch himself was dreadfully sorry
for them. But here was an evil he could in no wise remedy. He looked out
over the water and said: “There’s too much water here for me to bale out
or to drink up so as to clear your villages. Eh, children, what shall I
do for you?”

But then up and spoke Lilio, that was the wisest lad in these parts:

“Reygoch, daddy, if _you_ cannot drink so much water, _the Earth can_.
Break a hole in the ground, daddy, and drain off the water into the
earth.”

Dearie me! and wasn’t that great wisdom in a lad no bigger than
Reygoch’s finger?

Forthwith Reygoch stamped on the ground and broke a hole; and the Earth,
like a thirsty dragon, began to drink and to drink, and swallow, and
suck down into herself all that mighty water from off the whole plain.
Before long the Earth had gulped down all the water; villages, fields,
and meadows reappeared, ravaged and mud-covered, to be sure, but with
everything in its right place.

The young castaways cheered up at the sight, but none was so glad as
Curlylocks. She clapped her hands and cried:

“Oh, won’t it be lovely when the fields all grow golden again and the
meadows green!”

But hereupon the herd boys and girls were all downcast once more, and
Lilio said:

“Who will show us how to till the ground now that not one of our parents
is left alive?”

And indeed, far and wide, there was not a soul alive older than that
company of helpless young things in the midst of the ravaged plain, and
none with them but Reygoch, who was so big and clumsy and simple that he
could not turn his head inside one of their houses, nor did he know
anything about ploughing or husbandry.

So they were all in the dumps once more, and most of all Reygoch, who
was so fond of pretty Curlylocks, and now he could do nothing for her
nor her friends!

And, worst of all, Reygoch was getting horribly homesick for his
desolate city of Frosten. This night he had swallowed mud enough to last
him a thousand years, and seen more than enough of trouble. And so he
was just dying to be back in his vast, empty city, where he had counted
the stones in peace for so many hundred years.

So the herd boys were very crestfallen, and Lilio was crestfallen, and
Reygoch the most crestfallen of all. And really it was sad to look upon
all these poor boys and girls, doomed to perish without their parents
and wither like a flower cut off from its root.

Only Curlylocks looked gaily about her, right and left, for nothing
could damp her good spirits.

Suddenly Curlylocks cried out:

“Look—oh look! What are those people? Oh dear, but they must have seen
sights and wonders!”

All looked towards the village, and there, at one of the windows,
appeared the heads of an aged couple—an old man and an old woman. They
waved their kerchiefs, they called the young people by name, and laughed
till their wrinkled faces all shone with joy. They were
great-grandfather and great-grandmother, who had been the only sensible
people in the two villages, and had saved themselves by taking refuge in
the attic!

Oh dear! If the children had seen the sun at his rising and the morning
star at that attic window, they would not have shouted so for joy. The
very heavens rang again as they called out:

“Granny! Grandad!”

They raced to the village like young whippets, Curlylocks in front, with
her golden hair streaming in the wind, and after them the ewes and
lambs. They never stopped till they reached the village, and there
grandfather and grandmother were waiting for them at the gate. They
welcomed them, hugged them, and none of them could find words to thank
God enough for His mercy in giving grandad and grandma so much wisdom as
to make them take refuge in the attic! And that was really a very good
thing, because these were only quite simple villages, where there were
no books nor written records; and who would have reminded the herd boys
and girls of the consequences of wickedness if grandad and grandma had
not been spared?

When they had done hugging each other, they remembered Reygoch. They
looked round the plain, but there was no Reygoch. He was gone—gone all
of a sudden, the dear huge thing—gone like a mouse down its hole.

And Reygoch had indeed gone like a mouse down its hole. For when grandpa
and grandma appeared at the attic window, Reygoch got a fright such as
he had never yet had in his life. He was terrified at the sight of their
furrowed, wrinkled, withered old faces.

“Oh dear! oh dear! what a lot of trouble these old people must have been
through in these parts to have come to look like that!” thought Reygoch;
and in his terror he that very instant jumped down into the hole through
which the Black Banewater had sunk down, and so ran away back to his
desolate Frosten city.

                  *       *       *       *       *

All went well in the village. Grandad and Grandma taught the young folk,
and the young folk ploughed and sowed. Upon the grandparents’ advice
they built just one village, one threshing-floor, one church, and one
graveyard, so that there should be no more jealousy nor trouble.

All went well; but the best of all was that in the heart of the village
stood a beautiful tower of mountain marble, and on the top of it they
had made a garden, where blossomed oranges and wild olive. There lived
Curlylocks, the lovely fairy, and looked down upon the land that had
been so dear to her from the moment when she first came to earth.

And of an evening, when the field work was done, Lilio would lead the
herd boys and girls to the tower, and they would sing songs and dance in
a ring in the garden with Curlylocks, always lovely, gentle, and joyous.

But under the earth Reygoch once more fell in with the Black Banewater
as it roared and burbled underneath, while he wrestled with it till he
forced it deeper and deeper into the earth, and right down to the bottom
of the Pit, so that it might never again serve the spite and envy of
man. And then Reygoch went on to Frosten city. There he is sitting to
this very day, counting the stones and praying the Lord never again to
tempt him away from that vast and desolate spot, which is the very place
for one so big and so simple.

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             Bridesman Sun
                                  and
                            Bride Bridekins



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             Bridesman Sun
                                  and
                            Bride Bridekins


ONCE upon a time there was a miller and his wife, and both were miserly
and hard of heart. When the Emperor’s servants brought corn to be
ground, the miller would grind the corn free of all charge and send the
Emperor a gift into the bargain, only to gain favour with the mighty
Emperor and his daughter, the proud princess. But when poor folk came to
have their corn ground, the miller would take one measure in payment for
every two that he ground, and without that he would not grind at all.

One day, just about Yuletide and in the time of bitter frost, an old
wife came to the mill—an old wife all patches and tatters. The mill
stood in a little grove by the stream, and no one could say whence that
old wife had come.

But this wasn’t just an old wife like other old wives; it was Mother
Muggish. Now Muggish could turn herself into any mortal thing, a bird or
a snake, or an old woman or a young girl. And besides that she could do
anything, both good and bad. But woe to him who got into her bad books,
for she was very spiteful. Muggish lived in the morass on the fringe of
the bog where the autumn sun dwelt. And with her the sun put up over the
long winter night; for Muggish knew potent herbs and powerful spells;
she would nurse and cherish the feeble old sun till he grew young again
at Yuletide and started on his way once more.

“Good day to you,” Mother Muggish called out to the miller and his wife.
“Just grind this bag of corn for me.”

The old wife stood the bag on the floor, and the miller agreed:

“I’ll grind it for you; half the bag for you for your cake, and half for
me for my trouble.”

“Not so, my son! I shall not have enough for my Yuletide cake, because I
have six sons, and for seventh my grandson, the Sun, who was born
to-day.”

“Go away and don’t talk rubbish, you old fool!” burst out the miller. “A
likely one you are to be the Sun’s grandmother!”

So they argued this way and that; but the miller wouldn’t consent to
grind for less than one-half the bag, and so the old wife picked up her
bag again and went away by the way she came.

But the miller had a daughter, a beautiful girl, called Bride Bridekins.
When she was born, the fairies bathed her in the water that falls from
the wheel, so that all evils should turn from her, even as water runs
away from a mill. And, moreover, the fairies foretold that at her
wedding the Sun should be bridesman. Just fancy! she was the Sun’s
little bride! So they called her Bride Bridekins, and she was most
beautiful and smiling as a summer’s day.

Bride Bridekins was sorry when the miller sent away the old wife so
unkindly. She went out and waited in the wood for the old wife, and
said:

“Come again to-morrow, Mother, when I shall be alone. I will grind your
corn for you for nothing.”

Next day the miller and his wife went into the wood to cut the Yule log,
and Bride Bridekins was left alone.

Before long the old wife came up with her bag.

“Good fortune be yours, young maiden,” said the wife.

“And yours, too,” returned Bride Bridekins. “Wait a moment, Mother, till
we open the mill.”

The mill was worked by a little wheel which caught the water with four
paddles set cross-wise, which turned like a spindle. Now the miller had
shut off the water, and Bride Bridekins had to wade up to her knees in
the icy stream to open the sluice.

The mill clattered, round went the mill-stones, and Bride Bridekins
ground the old wife’s corn. She filled up the bag with flour and took
nothing for her pains.

“Eh, thank you kindly, maiden,” said Mother Muggish, “and I’ll help you
whithersoever your feet may carry you, since your feet you did not save
from the ice-cold wave, nor grudge your hands to soil with unrequited
toil. And, moreover, I’ll tell my grandson, the Sun, to whom he owes his
Yuletide cake.” And the old wife took up her bag and went.

From that day nothing would prosper in the mill without Bride Bridekins.
Unless her hand was on the mill, the paddles would not take the water;
unless she looked in the bin, there would be no flour in it. No matter
how much might fall into it from the grain-box, it was all lost on the
floor; the bin remained empty unless Bride Bridekins fed the mill. And
so it was with everything in and about the mill.

This went on for many a day, on and on and never any change, till the
miller and his wife began to be jealous of their daughter and to hate
her. The harder the girl worked and the more she earned, the blacker
they looked at her, because it came to her as easy as a song, and to
them not even with toiling and moiling.

It was upon a morning about Beltane time, when the Sun, strong and
flaming, travels across one-half of heaven like a ball of pure gold. The
Sun no longer slept in the morass, nor did Muggish foster him now; but
the Sun was lord of the world, and sky and earth obeyed him. Bride
Bridekins sat at Beltane time beside the mill and thought to herself:

“If I could only get away, since I cannot please these cross-patches
anyhow!”

And just as she thought this, there appeared before her the old wife,
who was really Muggish.

“I will help you, but you must obey me in all things, and take care not
to offend me,” said the old wife. “This very morning the proud princess
walked in the meadow and lost the keys of her chest and her wardrobe,
and now she cannot get at her crown nor her robes either. So the
princess has caused it to be proclaimed that whoever finds the keys, if
it be a youth the princess will become his true love and bride-to-be,
and if it be a maiden, the princess will take her for her first
lady-in-waiting. So you come away with me, and I will show you where the
keys are lying among the love-lies-bleeding that grows in the meadow.
You will bring the princess her keys and become her first
lady-in-waiting. You will be dressed in silk and sit by the princess’s
knee.”

[Illustration]

Then Muggish at once turned herself into a quail, and Bride Bridekins
followed her.

So they came to the meadow in front of the Emperor’s castle. Gallant
knights and noble dames walked about the meadow, and around the meadow
stood their esquires holding mettlesome steeds. One steed only was not
held by a squire, but by a barefoot boy. This horse belonged to Oleg the
Warden, and it was the most fiery steed of all. And Oleg the Warden
himself was the most excellent knight under the sun. You might know Oleg
the Warden amid ever so many earls and nobles, because his attire was
plain and without ornament, but his white plume, the prize of valour,
distinguished him above all the rest.

So the knights and dames walked about the meadow, all trampling the
grass with their shoes in their anxiety to find the keys. Only Oleg the
Warden kept but a poor look-out for the keys, taking the matter as a
mere jest and idle pastime. But from her window the Emperor’s daughter
looked out and watched to see whom fortune would favour. Very careful
watch did she keep, the proud princess, and repeated spells for luck so
that Oleg the Warden should find the keys.

When Bride Bridekins came with the quail running before her, not a soul
in the meadow noticed her but only Oleg the Warden.

“Never yet have I seen so sweet a maiden,” thought Oleg the Warden, and
strode towards her.

But just then the Emperor’s daughter also noticed Bride Bridekins from
her window, and so proud and heartless was she that she never stopped to
look how sweet the maiden was, but grew very angry, and said: “A fine
plight should I be in were that common wench there to find the keys and
become my lady-in-waiting!” Thus thinking, she at once sent out her
servants to drive away the girl.

Bride Bridekins went over the meadow where-ever the quail led her. They
came to the middle of the meadow, where the love-lies-bleeding grew
tall. The quail parted two leaves at the foot of a tuft of
love-lies-bleeding, and under them lay the keys.

Bride Bridekins bent down and picked up the keys; but when she looked up
to the Emperor’s castle and saw the proud princess, Bride Bridekins
became frightened, and thought: “How should I become the princess’s
lady-in-waiting?”

As she thought this she looked up, and lo, beside her stood a glorious
knight, as he might have been sworn brother to the Sun. And that was
Oleg the Warden.

Quickly Bride Bridekins made up her mind to disobey Muggish’s commands,
and she held out the keys to Oleg the Warden.

“Take the keys, unknown knight, and let the Emperor’s daughter be your
true love and bride-to-be,” said Bride Bridekins, and could not take her
eyes off the glorious knight.

But at that moment came the servants with whips, and roughly rated Bride
Bridekins so as to drive her away from the meadow, according to the
princess’s commands. When Oleg the Warden saw this, he was soon
resolved, and thus did he answer Bride Bridekins:

“Thank you for the keys, sweet maiden; but I have made up my mind
otherwise. _You_ shall be my true love and bride-to-be, because you are
fairer than the morning star. Here is my good horse; he will carry us to
my Barren Marches.”

Gladly did Bride Bridekins go with Oleg the Warden, and he lifted her
beside him on to his horse. As the good steed carried them swiftly past
the Emperor’s daughter sitting at her window. Oleg the Warden threw her
the keys so skilfully that they caught right on the window latch!

“There are your keys, august Princess!” cried Oleg the Warden. “Wear
your crown and your robes in all happiness, for I have taken the maiden
for myself.”

All that night Oleg the Warden rode on with Bride Bridekins, and at dawn
they arrived in the Barren Marches, at the oaken stronghold of Oleg the
Warden. Round the stockade there were three moats, and in the midst of
the stockade stood a smoke-blacked house.

“Behold the Castle of Oleg the Warden!” said the knight to Bride
Bridekins, and he laughed himself because his castle was not more
splendid. But Bride Bridekins laughed still more heartily because she
was to be the lady of such a glorious knight.

So they settled at once upon the wedding guests, so as to celebrate the
marriage. They invited twenty gallants and twenty orphan maids, because
that was all the people there were in the Barren Marches. And so that
they might be more and merrier, they also asked the Wild Wolf and his
Mate from the hills, and the Tawny Eagle, and the Grey Goshawk; and
Bride Bridekins asked two bridesmaids—the Turtle Dove and the Slender
Swallow.

And Bride Bridekins even boasted to Oleg the Warden:

“If the Sun were to recognise me, he too would come to the wedding. The
Sun would have been bridesman at the wedding, for so did the fairies
foretell.”

And so the wedding guests assembled in the soot-blacked castle, to make
merry—and never knew of the ill fate in store for them.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Now it had stung the proud princess to the heart when Oleg the Warden
had flung her the keys, and before so many nobles, before earls and
knights, refused the august princess and preferred a nameless maiden.

So the princess persuaded the Emperor, her father, and begged and
entreated him till he lent her his mighty army. Well mounted, the army
advanced upon the Barren Marches of Oleg the Warden with the wrathful
princess at its head.

The guests were just at table when the army came in sight. It was so
great that it covered all the Barren Marches till you could not see so
much as a patch of earth for it. And in front of the army a herald cried
aloud for all the world to hear:

                      Behold a gallant army
                        Has taken the field;
                      The Warden is a rebel,
                        We bid him to yield.
                      Alive shall he be taken
                        That freedom loved best;
                      But the heart shall be riven
                        From his lady’s breast.

When Oleg the Warden heard this, he asked Bride Bridekins:

“Are you afraid, lovely maiden?”

“I am not afraid,” she smilingly made answer. “I put my trust in the
Grey Wolf and his Mate, in your twenty gallants and twenty orphans, and
most of all in the knight Oleg the Warden. And besides that I have two
brave bridesmaids—the Turtle Dove and the Slender Swallow.”

Oleg the Warden smiled, and already the wedding guests had lightly
sprung to their feet. They seized their warriors’ weapons, both gallants
and orphans, and stood by the windows of the soot-blacked castle
stringing their good bows with silken cords as they waited for the
princess and her army. But that army was so mighty that neither Oleg the
Warden, nor his wedding guests, nor the soot-blacked house were able to
withstand it.

The first to fall were the Grey Wolf and his Mate; for they jumped the
stockade and the moats and rushed straight at the Emperor’s army to tear
out the proud princess’s eyes in the midst of her army. But a hundred
maces rose in the air; the soldiers defended the proud princess, the
Eagle and the Grey Goshawk had their pinions broken, and then the heavy
horses trampled them into the black earth.

The great host came nearer and nearer to the soot-blacked house. When it
was fairly on the threshold the wedding guests loosed their silken
bowstrings and greeted the soldiers with a shower of arrows.

But the wrathful archers of the wrathful princess did not stop!

Arrows flew hither and thither. There were archers past counting in the
army, so that their arrows flew in at the windows of the soot-blacked
house like a plague from heaven. Each gallant had his two or three
wounds to show, and each orphan some ten.

But the most grievous wound of all was upon Oleg the Warden. His good
right hand hung powerless, so greatly was he overcome by his wound.

[Illustration]

Quickly Bride Bridekins stepped up to Oleg the Warden to wash his wound
in the courtyard of the soot-blacked house. While she was washing his
wound, Oleg the Warden said to her: “It’s a poor fortune we have
garnered, my Bride Bridekins. There are none left for you to put your
trust in, and here is the host at the gates of the soot-blacked house.
They will break down the oak stockade, batter down the ancient gates. We
are lost; this is the end of us—wolves and eagles, and gallants and
orphans, and Oleg the Warden and his Bride Bridekins!”

But Bride Bridekins considered sadly, and then she said:

“Do not fear, brave Warden. I will send the Turtle Dove to fetch Muggish
from her morass. There is nothing Muggish does not know and nothing she
cannot do, and she will help us.”

So Bride Bridekins sent out the swift Turtle Dove. Away flew the grey
dove swifter than an arrow from the string, nor did the soldiers’ darts
overtake her. Off she flew and brought back Muggish from the bog. But
Muggish had turned herself into a raven and perched upon the gable of
the soot-blacked House.

Already the soldiers were battering at the entrance. Heavy clubs
hammered on the doors and portals, banging and clanging till all the
courts and passages of the soot-blacked house rang again, as though a
host from the nethermost Pit were beating on the gates of Oleg the
Warden.

“Fair greeting, dear Muggish!” the lovely Bride appealed to the black
raven—“fair greeting! Help us against the Princess’s malice, or else we
must all die untimely!”

But Muggish had only bided her time spitefully for an opportunity to
give vent to her grievance. Flapping her black wings, the raven said:

“Save yourself, my little dove! If you had listened to me, you would
have given the Princess her keys. You would have basked in royal grace,
beside the Princess had your place, in sumptuous silk fair to behold,
sipping wine from a cup of gold. But now you have gotten your heart’s
desire. Here you are in the soot-blacked house with none but
sore-wounded beggars within and a countless host outside. Seek help from
those whose counsel brought you to this!”

When Oleg the Warden heard this, he sprang to his feet, all wounded as
he was, and wrathfully cried out:

“Leave this unprofitable business, Bride Bridekins! When had a hero help
from a raven? And you,” he called to Muggish, “get off my roof, you
black bird of ill-omen, lest I waste a good swift arrow and shoot the
bird upon my gable!” With that Oleg the Warden embraced Bride Bridekins
and said:

“When I perish in the midst of the Emperor’s host, go, my lovely little
Bride! submit yourself to the Princess, and you shall be lady-in-waiting
to the proud Princess, who should have been true love and lady of Oleg
the Warden.” For a moment Oleg the Warden flinched; but then he tore
himself away from his bride, and rushed through the courtyard and
passage to raise the oaken bars, to throw open the gates to the
countless host, to perish or cut his way through their numbers.

Bride Bridekins was left alone in the castle, and above her on the roof
perched the black raven. She could hear the heavy oaken bars falling;
now the ancient gates must yield; another moment and the cruel soldiers
will burst in, take Oleg prisoner, and rive the heart out of the breast
of her, sweet child! Bride Bridekins’ thoughts chased through her brain:
What is to be done, and how?

The lovely bride looked all around to see if there were any found to
pity her in her distress. She bent her beauteous eyes to earth, and
raised them heavenward. As she raised them heavenward the Sun travelled
across the zenith in a blaze of pure gold. And as she looked at the Sun,
the Sun marvelled at so much loveliness, and at once looked back at her.
The Sun and Bride Bridekins looked at one another, and as they looked,
they recognised one another, and at once the Sun remembered. “Why, that
is the little bride whose Bridesman the Sun was to be! In a lucky hour
she gave me my Yuletide bread, and in a yet luckier moment she sought me
overhead.”

Just one moment before the Sun had heard Muggish mocking Bride Bridekins
and spitefully refusing to help her. So now the Sun thundered forth his
anger. All the land fell silent with fear; axes and clubs were dropped
in terror as the Sun thundered at Muggish:

“Eh, foster-mother, heart of stone! were the world’s justice to be
carved by spite, what crooked justice would pervert the right! If thou
from slime hast reared me, yet content art thou to keep the slime thine
element! With me thou hast not strode across the sky, nor from the
heavens downward bent thine eye to learn how justice should be born of
light. Fie, foster-mother, heart of stone! What! should the Sun at
Beltane in his might forget who sent him gifts on Yule night, when he
was a feeble babe? Or shall Bridesman Sun take it ill of the bride that
she left the Emperor’s palace and the Princess’s court because she
preferred a hero in her heart? Down with you into the earth,
black-hearted nurse! so that you underground, and I from the skies, may
help yon worthy knight and his lovely lady.”

Sky and earth obey the Sun, and how should the black raven—and that was
Muggish—withstand his commands? Upon the instant Muggish sank into the
earth to do the Sun’s bidding.

And strong as the Sun had been before, he now made himself yet stronger.
The Sun smote from above; he scorched the Barren Marches; he seared
heaven and earth; he would have melted the Mountain of Brass!

Upon the cruel soldiers’ heads their helmets dissolved; their heavy
armour melted; spears and axes grew red-hot. Heat overcame the wrathful
princess; heat overcame the multitude of archers as their brains grilled
inside their helmets, and their breasts laboured with the heat under
their armour. Who had not the shelter of a roof could not live. All the
host was struck down by the heat. They fell one atop of the other. A man
would call upon his sworn brother, and then the voice would cease as the
speaker perished.

While the Sun was thus smiting the cruel soldiers, Muggish helped the
Sun from underground. She opened deep bogholes under their feet.
Whenever the Sun struck down a man, there a boghole would gape beneath
him. He slipped into the bog, and the bog closed above him; where a man
stood, there his grave yawned for him.

So the soldiers vanished one by one, and the archers one by one, and the
weapons of war, and the clubs and the axes. It was terrible to behold
such a vast army stricken by the judgment of the Sun from the skies. The
Sun was executioner and the earth gravedigger. Yet a little while, an
hour or two, and the great host had vanished—not a soul was left alive
in the Barren Marches. Only those who were under the roof of the
soot-blacked house, they were left alive.

Once more all was still in the Barren Marches; and now the lovely lady.
Bride Bridekins, peeped joyously from her window to watch her bridesman
grow mild, now that he had done with slaying spite upon the earth.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Soon the wounds healed upon the gallants, for they had good luck to help
them; and the orphans recovered still more quickly, because hardship is
a good school. As for Oleg Ban, he could not pine with such a true love
as Bride Bridekins beside him. Early in the morning the Slender Swallow
flew out with a greeting for the Sun. At nightfall the Swallow returned
with greetings from the Sun, bidding them prepare the wedding feast for
the morrow, for he would come to give away the bride.

So they made ready, and it all fell out as they had planned. And such a
wedding as they had, and such songs as were sung that day in the Barren
Marches you’ll not find again in a hundred years, nor throughout nine
empires.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            Stribor’s Forest



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            Stribor’s Forest


                                   I


ONE day a young man went into Stribor’s Forest and did not know that the
Forest was enchanted and that all manner of magic abode there. Some of
its magic was good and some was bad—to each one according to his
deserts.

Now this Forest was to remain enchanted until it should be entered by
someone who preferred his sorrows to all the joys of this world.

The young man set to and cut wood, and presently sat down on a stump to
rest, for it was a fine winter’s day. And out of the stump slipped a
snake, and began to fawn upon him. Now this wasn’t a real snake, but a
human being transformed into a snake for its sins, and it could only be
set free by one who was willing to wed it. The snake sparkled like
silver in the sun as it looked up into the young man’s eyes.

“Dear me, what a pretty snake! I should rather like to take it home,”
said the young man in fun.

“Here’s the silly fool who is going to help me out of my trouble,”
thought the sinful soul within the snake. So she made haste and turned
herself at once out of a snake into a most beautiful woman standing
there before the young man. Her sleeves were white and embroidered like
butterflies’ wings, and her feet were tiny like a countess’s. But
because her thoughts had been evil, the tongue in her mouth remained a
serpent’s tongue.

“Here I am! Take me home and marry me!” said the snake-woman to the
youth.

Now if this youth had only had presence of mind and remembered quickly
to brandish his hatchet at her and call out: “I certainly never thought
of wedding a piece of forest magic,” why, then the woman would at once
have turned again into a snake, wriggled back into the stump, and no
harm done to anybody.

But he was one of your good-natured, timid and shy youths; moreover, he
was ashamed to say “No” to her, when she had transformed herself all on
his account. Besides, he liked her because she was pretty, and he
couldn’t know in his innocence what had remained inside her mouth.

So he took the Woman by the hand and led her home. Now that youth lived
with his old Mother, and he cherished his Mother as though she were the
image of a saint.

“This is your daughter-in-law,” said the youth, as he entered the house
with the Woman.

“The Lord be thanked, my son,” replied his Mother, and looked at the
pretty girl. But the Mother was old and wise, and knew at once what was
inside her daughter-in-law’s mouth.

The daughter-in-law went out to change her dress, and the Mother said to
her son:

“You have chosen a very pretty bride, my boy; only beware, lest she be a
snake.”

The youth was dumbfounded with astonishment. How could his Mother know
that the other had been a snake? And his heart grew angry within him as
he thought: “Surely my Mother is a witch.” And from that moment he hated
his Mother.

So the three began to live together, but badly and discordantly. The
daughter-in-law was ill-tempered, spiteful, greedy and proud.

Now there was a mountain peak there as high as the clouds, and one day
the daughter-in-law bade the old Mother go up and fetch her snow from
the summit for her to wash in.

“There is no path up there,” said the Mother.

“Take the goat and let her guide you. Where she can go up, there you can
tumble down,” said the daughter-in-law.

The son was there at the time, but he only laughed at the words, simply
to please his wife.

This so grieved the Mother that she set out at once for the peak to
fetch the snow, because she was tired of life. As she went her way she
thought to ask God to help her; but she changed her mind and said: “For
then God would know that my son is undutiful.”

But God gave her help all the same, so that she safely brought the snow
back to her daughter-in-law from the cloud-capped peak.

Next day the daughter-in-law gave her a fresh order:

“Go out on to the frozen lake. In the middle of the lake there is a
hole. Catch me a carp there for dinner.”

“The ice will give way under me, and I shall perish in the lake,”
replied the old Mother.

“The carp will be pleased if you go down with him,” said the
daughter-in-law.

And again the son laughed, and the Mother was so grieved that she went
out at once to the lake. The ice cracked under the old woman, and she
wept so that the tears froze on her face. But yet she would not pray to
God for help; she would keep it from God that her son was sinful.

“It is better that I should perish,” thought the Mother as she walked
over the ice.

But her time had not yet come. And therefore a gull flew over her head,
bearing a fish in its beak. The fish wriggled out of the gull’s beak and
fell right at the feet of the old woman. The Mother picked up the fish
and brought it safely to her daughter-in-law.

On the third day the Mother sat by the fire, and took up her son’s shirt
to mend it. When her daughter-in-law saw that, she flew at her, snatched
the shirt out of her hands, and screamed:

“Stop that, you blind old fool! That is none of your business.”

And she would not let the Mother mend her son’s shirt.

Then the old woman’s heart was altogether saddened, so that she went
outside, sat in that bitter cold on the bench before the house, and
cried to God:

“Oh God, help me!”

At that moment she saw a poor girl coming towards her. The girl’s bodice
was all torn and her shoulder blue with the cold, because the sleeve had
given way. But still the girl smiled, for she was bright and
sweet-tempered. Under her arm she carried a bundle of kindling-wood.

“Will you buy wood for kindling, Mother?” asked the girl.

“I have no money, my dear; but if you like I will mend your sleeve,”
sadly returned the old Mother, who was still holding the needle and
thread with which she had wanted to mend her son’s shirt.

So the old Mother mended the girl’s sleeve, and the girl gave her a
bundle of kindling-wood, thanked her kindly, and went on happy because
her shoulder was no longer cold.


                                   II

That evening the daughter-in-law said to the Mother:

“We are going out to supper with godmother. Mind you have hot water for
me when I come back.”

The daughter-in-law was greedy and always on the look-out to get invited
for a meal.

So the others went out, and the old woman was left alone. She took out
the kindling-wood which the poor girl had given her, lit the fire on the
hearth, and went into the shed for wood.

As she was in the shed fetching the wood, she suddenly heard something
in the kitchen a-bustling and a-rustling—“hist, hist!”

“Whoever is that?” called the old Mother from the shed.

“Brownies! Brownies!” came the answer from the kitchen in voices so
tiny, for all the world like sparrows chirping under the roof.

The old woman wondered what on earth was going on there in the dark, and
went into the kitchen. And when she got there the kindling-chips just
flared up on the hearth, and round the flame there were Brownies dancing
in a ring—all tiny little men no bigger than half an ell. They wore
little fur coats; their caps and shoes were red as flames; their beards
were grey as ashes, and their eyes sparkled like live coal.

More and more of them danced out of the flames, one for each chip. And
as they appeared they laughed and chirped, turned somersaults on the
hearth, twittered with glee, and then took hands and danced in a ring.

[Illustration]

And how they danced! Round the hearth, in the ashes, under the cupboard,
on the table, in the jug, on the chair! Round and round! Faster and
faster! They chirped and they chattered, chased and romped all over the
place. They scattered the salt; they spilt the barm; they upset the
flour—all for sheer fun. The fire on the hearth blazed and shone,
crackled and glowed; and the old woman gazed and gazed. She never
regretted the salt nor the barm, but was glad of the jolly little folk
whom God had sent to comfort her.

It seemed to the old woman as though she were growing young again. She
laughed like a dove; she tripped like a girl; she took hands with the
Brownies and danced. But all the time there was the load on her heart,
and that was so heavy that the dance stopped at once.

“Little brothers,” said the Mother to the Brownies, “can you not help me
to get a sight of my daughter-in-law’s tongue, so that when I can show
my son what I have seen with my own eyes he will perhaps come to his
senses?”

And the old woman told the Brownies all that had happened. The Brownies
sat round the edge of the hearth, their little feet thrust under the
grate, each wee mannikin beside his neighbour, and listened to the old
woman, all wagging their heads in wonder. And as they wagged their
heads, their red caps caught the glow of the fire, and you’d have
thought there was nothing there but the fire burning on the hearth.

When the old woman had finished her story, one of the Brownies called
out, and his name was Wee Tintilinkie:

“I will help you! I will go to the sunshiny land and bring you magpies’
eggs. We will put them under the sitting hen, and when the magpies are
hatched your daughter-in-law will betray herself. She will crave for
little magpies like any ordinary forest snake, and so put out her
tongue.”

All the Brownies twittered with joy because Wee Tintilinkie had thought
of something so clever. They were still at the height of their glee when
in came the daughter-in-law from supper with a cake for herself.

She flew to the door in a rage to see who was chattering in the kitchen.
But just as she opened the door, the door went bang! the flame leapt, up
jumped the Brownies, gave one stamp all round the hearth with their tiny
feet, rose up above the flames, flew up to the roof,—the boards in the
roof creaked a bit, and the Brownies were gone!

Only Wee Tintilinkie did not run away, but hid among the ashes.

When the flame leapt so unexpectedly and the door banged to, the
daughter-in-law got a start, so that for sheer fright she plumped on the
floor like a sack. The cake broke in her hand; her hair came down, combs
and all; her eyes goggled, and she called out angrily:

“What was that, you old wretch?”

“The wind blew up the flame when the door opened,” said the Mother, and
kept her wits about her.

“And what is that among the ashes?” said the daughter-in-law again. For
from the ashes peeped the red heel of Wee Tintilinkie’s shoe.

“That is a live ember,” said the Mother.

However, the daughter-in-law would not believe her, but, all dishevelled
as she was, she got up and went over to see close to what was on the
hearth. As she bent down with her face over the ashes Wee Tintilinkie
quickly let out with his foot, so that his heel caught the
daughter-in-law on the nose. The Woman screamed as if she were drowning
in the sea; her face was all over soot, and her tumbled hair all
smothered with ashes.

“What was that, you miserable old woman?” hissed the daughter-in-law.

“A chestnut bursting in the fire,” answered the Mother; and Wee
Tintilinkie in the ashes almost split with laughter.

While the daughter-in-law went out to wash, the Mother showed Wee
Tintilinkie where the daughter-in-law had set the hen, so as to have
little chickens for Christmas. That very night Wee Tintilinkie fetched
magpies’ eggs and put them under the hen instead of hens’ eggs.


                                  III

The daughter-in-law bade the Mother take good care of the hen and to
tell her at once whenever the chickens were hatched. Because the
daughter-in-law intended to invite the whole village to come and see
that she had chickens at Christmas, when nobody else had any.

In due time the magpies were hatched. The Mother told her
daughter-in-law that the chickens had come out, and the daughter-in-law
invited the village. Gossips and neighbours came along, both great and
small, and the old woman’s son was there too. The Wife told her
mother-in-law to fetch the nest and bring it into the passage.

The Mother brought in the nest, lifted off the hen, and behold, there
was something chirping in the nest. The naked magpies scrambled out, and
hop, hop, hopped all over the passage.

When the Snake-Woman so unexpectedly caught sight of _magpies_, she
betrayed herself. Her serpent’s nature craved its prey; she darted down
the passage after the little magpies and shot out her thin quivering
tongue at them as she used to do in the Forest.

Gossips and neighbours screamed and crossed themselves, and took their
children home, because they realised that the woman was indeed a snake
from the Forest.

But the Mother went up to her son full of joy.

[Illustration]

“Take her back to where you brought her from, my son. Now you have seen
with your own eyes what it is you are cherishing in your house;” and the
Mother tried to embrace her son.

But the son was utterly infatuated, so that he only hardened himself the
more against the village, and against his Mother, and against the
evidence of his own eyes. He would not turn away the Snake-Woman, but
cried out upon his Mother:

“Where did you get young magpies at this time of year, you old witch? Be
off with you out of my house!”

Eh, but the poor Mother saw that there was no help for it. She wept and
cried, and only begged her son not to turn her out of the house in broad
daylight for all the village to see what manner of son she had reared.

So the son allowed his Mother to stay in the house until nightfall.

When evening came, the old Mother put some bread into her bag, and a few
of those kindling-chips which the poor girl had given her, and then she
went weeping and sobbing out of her son’s house.

But as the Mother crossed the threshold, the fire went out on the
hearth, and the crucifix fell from the wall. Son and daughter-in-law
were left alone in the darkened cottage. And now the son felt that he
had sinned greatly against his Mother, and he repented bitterly. But he
did not dare to speak of it to his wife, because he was afraid. So he
just said:

“Let’s follow Mother and see her die of cold.”

Up jumped the wicked daughter-in-law, overjoyed, and fetched their fur
coats, and they dressed and followed the old woman from afar.

The poor Mother went sadly over the snow, by night, over the fields. She
came to a wide stubble-field, and there she was so overcome by the cold
that she could go no farther. So she took the kindling-wood out of her
bag, scraped the snow aside, and fit a fire to warm herself by.

But lo! no sooner had the chips caught fire than the Brownies came out
of them, just the same as on the household hearth!

They skipped out of the fire and all round in the snow, and the sparks
flew about them in all directions into the night.

The poor old woman was so glad she could almost have cried for joy
because they had not forsaken her on her way. And the Brownies crowded
round her, laughed and whistled.

“Oh, dear Brownies,” said the Mother, “I don’t want to be amused just
now; help me in my sore distress!”

Then she told the Brownies how her silly son had grown still more bitter
against her since even he and all the village had come to know that his
wife truly had a serpent’s tongue:

“He has turned me away; help me if you can.”

For a while the Brownies were silent, for a while their little shoes
tapped the snow, and they did not know what to advise.

At last Wee Tintilinkie said:

“Let’s go to Stribor, our master. He always knows what to do.”

And at once Wee Tintilinkie shinned up a hawthorn-tree; he whistled on
his fingers, and out of the dark and over the stubble-field there came
trotting towards them a stag and twelve squirrels!

They set the old Mother on the stag, and the Brownies got on the twelve
squirrels, and off they went to Stribor’s Forest.

Away and into the night they rode. The stag had mighty antlers with many
points, and at the end of each point there burned a little star. The
stag gave light on the way, and at his heels sped the twelve squirrels,
each squirrel with eyes that shone like two diamonds. They sped and they
fled, and far behind them toiled the daughter-in-law and her husband,
quite out of breath.

So they came to Stribor’s Forest, and the stag carried the old woman
through the forest.

Even in the dark the daughter-in-law knew that this was Stribor’s
Forest, where she had once before been enchanted for her sins. But she
was so full of spite that she could not think of her new sins nor feel
fear because of them, but triumphed all the more to herself and said:
“Surely the simple old woman will perish in this Forest amid all the
magic!” and she ran still faster after the stag.

[Illustration]

But the stag carried the Mother before Stribor. Now Stribor was lord of
that Forest. He dwelt in the heart of the Forest, in an oak so huge that
there was room in it for seven golden castles, and a village all fenced
about with silver. In front of the finest of the castles sat Stribor
himself on a throne, arrayed in a cloak of scarlet.

“Help this old woman, who is being destroyed by her serpent
daughter-in-law,” said the Brownies to Stribor, after both they and the
Mother had bowed low before him. And they told him the whole story. But
the son and daughter-in-law crept up to the oak, and looked and listened
through a wormhole to see what would happen.

When the Brownies had finished, Stribor said to the old woman:

“Fear nothing, Mother! Leave your daughter-in-law. Let her continue in
her wickedness until it shall bring her again to the state from which
she freed herself too soon. As for yourself, I can easily help you. Look
at yonder village, fenced about with silver.”

The Mother looked, and lo! it was her own native village, where she had
lived when she was young, and in the village there was holiday and
merry-making. Bells were ringing, fiddles playing, flags waving, and
songs resounding.

“Cross the fence, clap your hands, and you will at once regain your
youth. You will remain in your village to be young and blithe once more
as you were fifty years ago,” said Stribor.

At that the old woman was glad as never before in her life. She ran to
the fence; already her hand was on the silver gate, when she suddenly
bethought herself of something, and asked Stribor:

“And what will become of my son?”

“Don’t talk foolishness, old woman!” replied Stribor. “How would you
know about your son? He will remain in this present time, and you will
go back to your youth. You will know nothing about any son!”

When the old woman heard that, she considered sadly. And then she turned
slowly away from the gate, went back to Stribor, bowed low before him,
and said:

“I thank you, kind lord, for all the favour you would show me. But I
would rather abide in my misery and know that I have a son than that you
should give me all the riches and happiness in the world and I forget my
son.”

As the Mother said this, the whole Forest rang again. There was an end
to the magic in Stribor’s Forest, because the Mother preferred her
sorrows to all the joys of this world.

The entire Forest quaked, the earth fell in, and the huge oak, with its
castles and its silver-fenced village, sank underground. Stribor and the
Brownies vanished, the daughter-in-law gave a shriek, turned into a
snake, wriggled away down a hole, and Mother and Son were left alone
side by side in the middle of the Forest.

The son fell on his knees before his mother, kissed the hem of her
garment and her sleeve, and then he lifted her up in his arms and
carried her back to their home, which they happily reached by daybreak.

The son prayed God and his Mother to forgive him. God forgave him, and
his Mother had never been angry with him.

Later on the young man married that poor but sweet girl who had brought
the Brownies to their house. They are all three living happily together
to this day, and Wee Tintilinkie loves to visit their hearth of a
winter’s evening.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



              Little Brother Primrose and Sister Lavender



------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]



              Little Brother Primrose and Sister Lavender


                                   I

THE stronghold of a wise and noble princess was attacked by her enemies.
The princess could not gather together her large and faithful army
quickly enough to defend her castle, but had to fly by night with her
little prince in her arms.

So she fled all through the night, and at daybreak they reached the foot
of grisly Mount Kitesh, which was on the border of the principality.

At that time there were no more dragons anywhere in the world, nor
fairies, nor witches, nor any monsters. The Holy Cross and human reason
had driven them forth. But in the fastnesses of Mount Kitesh the last of
the Fiery Dragons had found a refuge, and seven Votaress Fairies
attended upon him. That is why Mount Kitesh was so grisly. But at the
foot of the mountain lay a quiet valley. There dwelt the shepherdess
Miloika in her little willow cabin, and tended her flock.

To that very valley came the princess at dawn with her baby, and when
she saw Miloika sitting outside her cabin she went up to her and begged:
“Hide me and the little prince in your cabin through the day. At
nightfall I will continue my flight with the prince.” Miloika made the
fugitives welcome, gave them ewes’ milk to drink, and hid them in her
cabin.

As evening approached, the kind and noble princess said: “I must go on
now with the prince. But will you take my Golden Girdle and the prince’s
little Gold Cross on a red ribbon? If our enemies should chance to find
us they would know us by the Girdle and the Cross. Put these two things
by and take good care of them in your little cabin. When my faithful
captains have gathered together an army and driven out the enemy, I
shall return to my castle and there you shall be my dear friend and
companion.”

“Your companion I cannot be, noble princess,” said Miloika, “for I am
not your equal either by birth or understanding. But I will take care of
your Girdle and your Cross, because in time of real sorrow and trouble
even the heart of a beggar can be companion to the heart of a king.”

As she said this, Miloika received the Girdle and the Cross from the
princess for safe keeping, and the princess took up the little prince
and went out and away with him into the night, which was so dark that
you could not tell grass from stone, nor field from sea.


                                   II

Many years passed, but the princess did not return to her lands nor to
her castle.

Her great army and her illustrious captains were so disloyal that they
all immediately went over to her enemies. And so the enemy conquered the
lands of the good and noble princess, and settled down in her castle.

No one knew or could discover what had become of the princess and the
little prince. Most probably her escape on that dark night had ended by
her falling into the sea, or over a precipice, or perishing in some
other way with her baby.

But Miloika the shepherdess faithfully kept the Golden Girdle of the
princess and the prince’s little Gold Cross.

The smartest and wealthiest swains of the village came to ask Miloika to
marry them, because the Golden Girdle and the little Gold Cross on the
red ribbon were worth as much as ten villages. But Miloika would have
none of them for her husband, saying: “You come because of the Golden
Girdle and the little Cross; but they are not mine, and I must take
better care of them than of my sheep or my cabin.”

So said Miloika, and chose a penniless and gentle youth to be her
husband, who cared nothing about the Girdle and Cross of Gold.

They lived in great poverty, and at times there was neither bread nor
meal in the house, but they never thought of selling either Girdle or
Cross.

Within a few years Miloika’s husband fell ill and died; and not long
afterwards a sore sickness came upon Miloika, and she knew that she too
must die. So she called her two children, her little daughter Lavender
and her still smaller son Primrose, and gave them each a keepsake. Round
Lavender’s waist she bound the Golden Girdle, and round Primrose’s neck
she hung the Gold Cross on the red ribbon. And Miloika said:

“Farewell, my children! You will be left alone in this world, and I have
taught you but little craft or skill; but with God’s help, what I have
taught you will just suffice for your childish needs. Cleave to one
another, and guard as a sacred trust what your mother gave into your
keeping, and then I shall always remain with you.” Thus spoke the
mother, and died.

Lavender and Primrose were so little that they did not know how their
mother had come by the Girdle and Cross, and still less did they
understand the meaning of their mother’s words. But they just sat side
by side by their dead mother like two poor little orphans and waited to
see what would become of them.

Presently the good folk of the village came along and said that Miloika
would have to be buried next day.


                                  III

But that was not the only thing that happened next day. For when the
people came back from the funeral, they all went into the house to
gossip, and only Lavender and Primrose remained outside, because they
still fancied that their mother would yet somehow come back to them.

Suddenly a huge Eagle pounced down upon them from the sky, knocked
Lavender down, caught her by the Girdle with his talons, and carried her
off into the clouds.

The Eagle flew away with Lavender to his eyrie, high up on Mount Kitesh.

It did not hurt Lavender at all to fly along like that, hanging by her
Gold Girdle. She was only sorry at being parted from her only brother,
and kept on thinking: “Why didn’t the Eagle take Primrose too!”

So they flew over Mount Kitesh, and there, all of a sudden, Lavender saw
what neither she nor anyone else of the inhabitants of the valley had
ever seen; for everyone avoided the grisly mountains, and of those who
had happened to stray into them not one had ever returned. What Lavender
saw was this: all the seven Votaress Fairies who waited upon the Fiery
Dragon assembled together upon a rock. They called themselves
_Votaresses_ because they had vowed, as the last of the fairy kin, to
take vengeance upon the human race.

The Fairies looked up, and there was the eagle carrying a little girl.
Now the Fairies and the Eagles had made a bargain between them that each
should bring his prey to that rock, and there hold a prizecourt upon the
rock to settle what was to be done with the prey and who was to have it.
And for that reason the rock was called _Share-spoil_.

So the Fairies called out to the Eagle:

“Ho, brother Klickoon! come and alight on Share-spoil!”

But luckily the bargain was no sounder than the parties to it.

The Eagle Klickoon had taken a fancy to Lavender, so he did not keep to
the bargain, nor would he alight on Share-spoil, but carried Lavender on
to his eyrie for his eaglets to play with.

But he had to fly right across the summit of the Mountain, because his
eyrie was on the far side.

Now, on the top of the Mountain there was a lake, and in the lake there
was an island, and on the island there was a little old chapel. Around
the lake was a tiny meadow, and all round the meadow ran a furrow
ploughed in days of old. Across this furrow neither the Dragon, nor the
Fairies, nor any monster of the Mountain could pass. About the lake
bloomed flowers, and spread their perfume; there doves took refuge, and
nightingales, and all gentle creatures from the mountains.

[Illustration]

Neither clouds nor mist hung over the holy furrow-surrounded Lake; but
evermore the sun and moon in turn shed their light upon it.

As Klickoon flew over the Lake with Lavender, she caught sight of the
chapel. And as she caught sight of the chapel, she remembered her
mother; and as she remembered her mother, she pressed her hand to her
heart; and as she pressed her hand to her heart, her mother’s trust, the
Golden Girdle, came undone upon Lavender.

The Girdle came undone; Lavender dropped from the Eagle’s talons
straight into the Lake, and the Girdle after her. Lavender caught hold
of the Golden Girdle and stepped over the reeds, and the water-lilies,
and the water-weeds, and the rushes to the island. There she sat down on
a stone outside the chapel. But Klickoon flew on like a whirlwind in a
rage, because he could not come near the Holy Lake.

Lavender was safe enough now, for nothing evil could reach her across
the furrow. But what was the good of that, when the poor little child
was all alone on the top of the grisly Mount Kitesh, and none could come
to her, and she could not get away?


                                   IV

Meantime the people who had buried Miloika noticed that the Eagle had
carried off Lavender. At first they all burst out lamenting, but then
one of them said:

“Good people, it is really as well that the Eagle carried off Lavender.
It would have been hard to find someone in the village who could take
charge of the _two_ children. But for Primrose alone we shall easily
find someone who will look after him.”

“Yes, yes,” the others all immediately agreed, “it is better so. We can
easily look after Primrose.”

They stood yet awhile outside the cabin gazing in the direction towards
which the Eagle had disappeared with Lavender into the skies, and then
they went back indoors to drink and to talk, repeating all the time:

“There’s not one of us but will be glad to take Primrose.”

So they said. But not one of them troubled so much about Primrose as to
offer him a drink of water, although it was very hot. Now Primrose was
thirsty and went in to ask for water. But he was so tiny that not one of
those people could understand what he said. Primrose wanted someone to
get him his little wooden mug; but not one of those people knew that
Primrose’s little wooden mug was behind the beam.

When Primrose saw all this, he looked round the room for a moment, and
then the child thought: “This is no good to me. I am left all alone in
the world.” So he leaned over the pitcher that stood on the floor, drank
as much water as he could, and then set out to see if he could find his
little sister Lavender.

He went out of the house and set off towards the sun—the direction in
which he had seen the Eagle fly away with Lavender.


                                   V

The sun was setting beyond Mount Kitesh, and so Primrose, always looking
at the sun, presently came to Mount Kitesh, too. There was no one beside
Primrose to say to him: “Don’t go up the Mountain, child! The Mountain
is full of terrors.” And so he went on, poor, foolish baby, and began to
climb up the Mountain.

But Primrose did not know what fear was. His mother had kept him safe
like a flower before the altar, so that no harm, not even the smallest,
had ever befallen him; he had never been pricked by a thorn, nor scared
by a harsh word.

And so no fear could enter Primrose’s heart, no matter what his eyes
beheld or his ears heard.

Meantime, Primrose had got well up into the Mountain and already reached
the first rocks and crags.

And there, below Share-spoil, the Votaress Fairies were all assembled
and still discussing how Klickoon had cheated them. Suddenly they saw a
child coming towards them, climbing up the Mountain. The Votaresses were
delighted; it would be easy to deal with such a little child!

As Primrose came nearer, the Votaresses went down to meet him. In less
than no time they had surrounded him. Primrose only wondered when he
suddenly saw so many ladies coming towards him, each with a great pair
of wings! One of the Votaresses went close up to the child to take him
by the hand.

Now Primrose was wearing the little Cross round his neck. When the Fairy
saw the Cross, she screamed and started away from Primrose, for she
could not touch him because of the Cross.

But the Fairies had no intention of letting the child off so easily.
They hovered about him in a wide circle and conferred softly about what
was to be done with him.

Little Primrose’s heart was untroubled within him. The Fairies
conferred, and their thoughts were so black that they came out in a
cloud of black forest wasps buzzing round their heads. But Primrose just
looked at them, and as he could see no harm in them, how was he to be
frightened? On the contrary, the wings of one of the Votaresses took his
fancy, flapping like that, and so he toddled up to her to see what she
was really like.

“That will do nicely,” thought the Votaress. “I cannot touch him, but I
will entice him into the Wolf’s Pit.”

For near by there was a pit all covered over with boughs, so that you
could not see it; and the bottom of the pit was full of horrible stakes
and spikes. Whoever stepped on the boughs was bound to fall through and
kill himself on the spikes.

So the Votaress Fairy enticed Primrose to the Wolf’s Pit, always
slipping away from him, and he always following to see what her wings
really were. And so they came to the Pit. The Fairy flew over the Pit;
but poor little misguided Primrose stepped on the boughs and fell down
the hole.

The Votaresses shrieked for joy, and hurried up to see the child perish
on the spikes.

But what do Fairies know about a baby!

Primrose was light as a chicken. Some of the boughs and branches fell
down with him, the branches covered the spikes, and Primrose was so
small and light that he came to rest upon the leaves as if they had been
a bed.

When Primrose found himself lying down upon something soft, he thought:
“I suppose I had better go to sleep!” So he tucked his little hand under
his head and went sound asleep, never thinking that he was caught in a
deep hole and could not get out.

Round him there were still many bare spikes, and the wicked Fairies were
bending over the Pit. But Primrose slept peacefully and quietly, as
though he were bedded on sweet basil. Primrose never moved. His mother
had taught him: “When you are in your bed, darling, shut your little
eyes and lie quite still, so as not to frighten your guardian angel.”

So the Fairies stood round the Pit, and saw the baby falling asleep like
a little duke in his golden crib. “That child is not so easy to deal
with, after all,” said the Votaresses. So they flew off to Share-spoil,
and took counsel as to how they might kill him, since they could not
touch him because of the little Cross.

They argued and argued, and at last one of the Votaresses had an idea.
“We will raise a storm,” said she; “we will cause a terrific rain. A
torrent will pour down the Mountain, and the child will be drowned in
the Pit.”

“Whoo-ee, whoo-ee!” howled the Votaresses. They flapped their wings for
joy, and at once rose up into the air and above the Mountain to roll up
the clouds and raise a storm.


                                   VI

Little Lavender was sitting on the top of the Mountain on her island in
the Holy Lake. Round her fluttered lovely butterflies, even settling on
her shoulders; and the grey dove guided her young to her lap to let her
feed them with seeds. A wild raspberry-cane bent over Lavender, and
Lavender ate the crimson fruit, and wanted for nothing.

But she was all alone, poor child! and sad at heart, because she
believed she was parted for ever from Primrose, her only brother; and,
moreover, she thought: “Did anyone, I wonder, remember to give him a
drink or to put him to bed?”

In the midst of these sad thoughts Lavender looked up at the sky and saw
a mist, black as night, rolling up round the Mountain. Over Lavender and
over the holy furrow-surrounded Lake the sun shone brightly; but all
around the mist was gathering and rising, inky clouds drifted and
whirled, rose and fell like a pall of smoke, and every now and again
fiery flashes darted from the gloom.

It was the Votaresses, flapping their great wings, who had piled up
those black clouds upon the Mountain, and it was from their eyes that
the fiery flashes shot across the darkness. And then suddenly it began
to thunder most terribly within the clouds; heavy rain beat down all
around upon the Mountain, and the Votaresses howled and darted to an fro
through the thunder and the rain.

When Lavender saw that, she considered: “Over my head there is sunshine,
and no harm can come to me. But perhaps there is someone abroad on the
Mountain in need of help in this storm.”

And although Lavender thought there was never a Christian soul on the
Mountain, yet she did as her mother had taught her to do in a storm: she
crossed herself and prayed. And as there was still a bell in the ruined
chapel, Lavender took hold of the rope and began to toll the bell
against the storm. Lavender did not know for whom she was praying or for
whom she was tolling, but she tolled for a help to anyone who might be
in distress.

When the bell on the island began to ring so unexpectedly, after having
been silent for a hundred years, the Votaresses took fright up there in
the clouds; they got worried and confused; they left off making a storm;
they fled in terror in all directions, and hid under the rocks, under
the crags, in hollow trees, or in the fern.

In a little while the Mountain was clear, and the sun shone on the
Mountain, where there had been no sunshine for a hundred years.

The sun shone; the rain stopped suddenly. But for poor little Primrose
the danger was not yet over.

That first great downpour had formed a big torrent in the Mountain, and
the wild water was rushing fast towards the very Pit where Primrose was
sleeping.

Primrose had heard neither the storm nor the thunder, and now he did not
hear the torrent either as it came rushing and roaring with frightful
swiftness towards him to drown him.

The water poured into the Pit, poured in, and in a moment it had
overwhelmed the child.

It covered him, overwhelmed him in a moment. There was not a thing to be
seen, neither Pit, nor spikes, nor Primrose, nothing but the wild water
foaming down the Mountain.

But as the flood rushed into the pit, it eddied at the bottom, surged
round and up and back upon itself, and then suddenly the water lifted up
the boughs and branches, and little Primrose, too, upon the boughs. It
lifted him up, clean out of the Pit, and carried him downhill on a
bough.

The torrent was so strong that it carried away great stones and ancient
oaks, rolling them along, and nothing could stop them, because they were
heavy and stout, and the torrent very fierce.

But tiny Primrose on his bough floated lightly down the flood, as
lightly as a white rose-bud, so that any bush could stop him.

And indeed, there was a bush in the way, and the bough with Primrose
caught in its branches. Primrose woke up with a start, caught hold of
the branch with his little hands, climbed up into the bush, and there he
sat on the top of the bush, just like a little bird.

Above Primrose the sun shone clear and sweet; below Primrose foamed the
dreadful water; and he sat in the bush in his little white shirt, and
rubbed his eyes in wonder, because he could not make out what had
happened and what had waked him up so suddenly.

By the time he had finished rubbing his eyes the water had all run away
downhill; the torrent was gone. Primrose watched the mud squelching and
writhing round the bush, and then Primrose climbed down, because he
thought:

“I suppose I ought to go on now, since they have waked me up.”

And so he went on up the hill. And he had slept so sweetly that he felt
quite happy, and thought: “Now I shall find Lavender.”


                                  VII

No sooner had the bell stopped ringing than the Votaresses recovered
their strength. They took courage and crept out of their hidie-holes.
When they got out, lo! the sun was shining on the Mountain, and there is
nothing in the world the wicked Fairies fear more than the sunlight. And
as they could not wrap the whole Mountain in mist all in a hurry, each
one quickly rolled herself up in a bit of fog, and off they flew to the
Pit to make sure that Primrose was drowned.

But when they got there and looked into the Pit, the Pit was empty;
Primrose was gone!

The Fairies cried aloud with vexation, and looked all over the Mountain
to see whether the water had not dashed him against a stone. But as the
Votaresses looked, why, this is what they saw: Primrose going blithely
on his way; the sun was drying his little shirt for him on his back, and
he was crooning away to himself as little children will.

“That child will escape us at this rate,” sobbed one of the Votaresses.
“The child is stronger than we are. Hadn’t we better ask the Fiery
Dragon to help us?”

“Don’t disgrace yourselves, my sisters,” said another Votaress. “Surely
we can get the better of a feeble infant by ourselves.”

So said the Fairy, but she did not know that Primrose in his simplicity
was stronger than all the evil and all the cunning in Mount Kitesh.

“We will send the She-bear to kill the child for us,” suggested a
Votaress. “Dumb animals do not fear the Cross.” And she flew off at once
to the bears’ den.

There lay the She-bear, a-playing with her cub.

“Run along, Bruineen, down that path. There is a child coming up the
path. Wait for him and kill him, Bruineen dear,” said the Votaress.

“I can’t leave my cub,” answered Bruineen.

“I’ll amuse him for you,” said the Votaress, and straightway began to
play with the little bear.

Bruineen went away down the path, and there was Primrose already in
sight.

The great She-bear rose up on her hind-legs, stretched out her front
paws, and so went forwards towards Primrose to kill him.

The She-bear was terrible to see, but Primrose saw nothing terrible in
her, and could only think:

“Here’s somebody coming and offering me his hand, so I must give him
mine.”

So Primrose raised both his little hands and held them out to the
She-bear, and went straight up to her, as though his mother had called
him to her arms.

Well, another moment, and the dreadful She-bear would seize him. She had
come up to him, and would have caught and killed him at once had he
offered to run. But she saw that she had time to consider how she had
best take hold of him. So she drew herself right up, looked at Primrose
from the right and from the left, and now she was going to pounce.

But at that very moment the little bear cub in the den began to squeal.
One of the black wasps that always buzzed round the Votaress’s head had
stung him. The cub howled lustily, because, although the Bruins are a
spiteful folk themselves, they won’t stand spite from anybody else. So
the cub squealed at the top of his voice, and when Bruineen heard her
baby crying she forgot about Primrose and the Mountain! Bruineen dropped
on all-fours and trundled away like fury to her den.

The angry She-bear caught the Votaress by the hair with her great paw.
They fought, they rolled, they tore at each other, and left Primrose in
peace.

Primrose followed the She-bear and looked on for a bit while they fought
and scuffled; he looked, and then he laughed aloud, silly baby! and went
on up the Mountain, and never knew what a narrow escape he had had!


                                  VIII

Once more the Votaresses assembled on Share-spoil to discuss what was to
be done about Primrose. They saw that they were weaker than he.

Moreover, they were getting tired of flying to Share-spoil and back and
conferring about Primrose, and so they were very angry.

“Well, we will poison the child. Neither spells nor cunning shall help
him now,” they resolved. And straightaway one of them took a wooden
platter and hurried off to a certain meadow in the Mountain to gather
poison berries.

But Primrose, never dreaming that anybody should be talking about him or
worrying their brains about him, walked gaily over the Mountain, cooing
softly to himself like a little dove.

Presently he came to the poison meadow. The path led through the middle
of it. On one side of the path the meadow was covered with red berries
and on the other side with black. Both were poisonous, and whoever ate
of either the one or the other was sure to die.

But how was Primrose to know that there was such a thing as poison in
the world, when he had never known any food but what his mother gave
him?

Primrose was hungry, and he liked the look of the red berries in the
meadow. But he saw someone over there in front of him on the red side
picking berries and seemingly in a great hurry, for she never raised her
head. It was the Votaress, and she was gathering red berries to poison
Primrose.

“That is her side,” thought Primrose, and went over to the black
berries, because he had never been taught to take what belonged to
another. So he sat down among the black berries and began to eat; and
the Fairy wandered far away among the red berries and never noticed that
Primrose had already come up and was eating black ones.

When Primrose had eaten enough he got up to go on. But, oh dear! a mist
rose before his eyes; his head began to ache most dreadfully, and the
earth seemed to rock beneath his feet.

That was because of the black poison.

Poor little Primrose! indeed you know neither spells nor cunning, and
how are you going to save yourself from this new danger?

But Primrose struggled on all the same, because he thought it was
nothing that a mist should rise before his eyes and the ground rock
beneath his feet!

And so he came up with the Fairy where she was picking berries. The
Votaress caught sight of Primrose, and at once she ran on to the path in
front of him with her plateful of red berries. She laid down the platter
before him and invited him by signs to eat.

The Votaress did not know that Primrose had already eaten of the black
berries; and if she had known, she would never have offered him red
ones, but would have let him die of the black poison.

Primrose did not care for any more berries, because his head ached
cruelly; but his mother used to say to him: “Eat, darling, when I offer
you something, and don’t grieve your mother.”

Now this was neither spell nor cunning what Primrose had been taught by
his mother. But it was in a good hour that Primrose did as his mother
had taught him.

He took the plate and ate of the red berries; and as he ate, the mist
cleared before his eyes, his head and his heart stopped aching, and the
ground no longer rocked beneath his feet.

The red poison killed the black in Primrose’s veins. He merrily clapped
his hands and went on his way as sound as a bell and as happy as a grig.

And now he could see the top of the Mountain ahead of him, and Primrose
thought:

“This is the end of the world. There is nothing beyond the top. There I
shall find Lavender.”


                                   IX

The Votaress would not believe her eyes; she stared after Primrose, and
there was he toddling along and the dreadful poison doing him no harm!

She looked and she looked—and then she shrieked with rage. She could not
imagine by what miracle Primrose had escaped. All she could see was that
the child would slip through her hands and reach the Lake, for he was
getting near the top.

The Votaress had no time to fly to Share-spoil and confer with her
sisters. In time of real trouble people don’t hold conferences. But she
flew straight to her brother, the thunder-voiced bird Belleroo.

Belleroo’s nest was in a little bog on the Mountain, close to the furrow
which ran round the Holy Lake. As he was an ill-tempered bird, he too
could not cross the furrow, but the evil Things of the Mountain had
appointed his place here on the boundary, so that he might trouble the
peace of the Lake with his booming.

“Kinsman, brother, Belleroo,” the Votaress cried out to Belleroo, “there
is a child coming up the path. Delay him here at the furrow with your
booming, so that he may not escape me across the farrow to the Lake. I
am going for the Fiery Dragon.”

No sooner had the Votaress said this than she flew like an arrow down
the Mountain to fetch the Fiery Dragon, who was lying asleep in a deep
gully.

As for Belleroo, he was always all impatience to be told to boom,
because he was horribly proud of his loud voice.

Dusk was beginning to fall. It was evening. Nearer and nearer to the
furrow came Primrose. Beyond the furrow he could see the Lake, and the
chapel looming white on the Lake.

“Here I am at the end of the world; I have only to cross that furrow,”
thought Primrose.

Suddenly the Mountain rang with the most awful noise, so that the
branches swayed and the leaves trembled on the trees, and the rocks and
cliffs re-echoed down to the deepest cavern. It was Belleroo roaring.

His boom was terrible. It would have scared the great Skanderbeg
himself, for it would have reminded Skanderbeg of the boom of the
Turkish guns.

But it did not in the least frighten the little innocent Primrose, who
had never yet been shouted at in grief or anger.

Primrose heard something making such a noise that the very Mountain
shook, and so he went up to see what great thing it might be. When he
got there, lo! it was a bird no bigger than a hen!

The bird dipped its beak in a pool, then threw up its head and puffed
out its throat like a pair of bellows, and boomed—heavens, it boomed so
that Primrose’s sleeves fluttered on him! This new wonder took
Primrose’s fancy so much that he sat down so as to see from near by how
Belleroo boomed.

Primrose sat down just below the holy furrow beside Belleroo, and peered
under his throat—because by now it was dark—the better to see how
Belleroo puffed out his throat.

Had Primrose been wiser he would not have lingered there on the Mountain
just below the furrow, where every evil Thing could hurt him, but he
would have taken that one step across the furrow so as to be safe where
the evil Things could not come.

But Primrose was just a little simpleton, and might easily have come to
grief just there, within sight of safety.

Primrose was much amused by Belleroo.

He was amused; he was beguiled.

And while he was amusing himself in this fashion, the Fairy went and
roused the Fiery Dragon where he slept in a deep gully.

She roused him and led him up the Mountain. On came the fearsome Fiery
Dragon, spouting flame out of both nostrils and crushing firs and
pine-trees as he went. There wasn’t room enough for him, you see, in the
forest and the Mountain.

Why don’t you run, little Primrose? One jump across the furrow, and you
will be safe and happy!

But Primrose did not think of running away. He went on sitting quite
calmly below the furrow, and when he saw the flames from the Dragon
flaring up in the darkness, he thought to himself: “What is making that
pretty light on the Mountain?”

It was a cruel fire coming along to devour Primrose, and he, foolish
baby! sat looking at it, all pleased and wondering: “What is making that
pretty light on the Mountain?”

The Votaress caught sight of Primrose, and said to the Fiery Dragon:

“There is the child. Fiery Dragon! Get your best fire ready!”

But the Dragon was panting with the stiff climb.

“Wait a moment, sister, while I get my breath,” answered the Dragon.

So the Dragon took a deep breath, once, twice, three times!

But that is just where the Dragon made a mistake.

Because his mighty breath caused an equally great wind on the Mountain.
The wind blew, and bowled Primrose over the furrow and right up to the
Holy Lake!

The Votaress gave one shriek, threw herself down on the ground, rolled
herself up in her black wings, and sobbed and cried like mad.

The angry Dragon snorted and puffed; he belched fire as from ten red-hot
furnaces. But the flames could not cross the furrow; when they reached
the furrow they just rose straight upwards as if they had come up
against a marble wall.

Sparks and flame crackled and spurted and returned upon Mount Kitesh.
Half the Mountain did the Dragon set on fire, but he lost little
Primrose!

When the wind bowled Primrose over like that, Primrose only laughed at
being carried away so fast. He laughed once; he laughed twice....


                                   X

On the island in the Lake, beside the little chapel, sat Lavender.

It was evening, but Lavender could not go to sleep because of the
hurly-burly in the Mountain. Lavender heard the Votaresses howling and
shrieking and Bruineen growling. She heard the Dragon come snorting up
from his lair, and saw him spout fire all over the Mountain.

And now she saw the blazing flames shooting upwards to the skies.

But then she heard something—good gracious! what was it she heard? A
laugh, like a little silver bell. Lavender’s heart throbbed within her.

The tiny voice laughed again.

Then Lavender could bear it no longer, but called from the Island:

“Who is that laughing in the Mountain?” asked Lavender gently, and all
a-tremble at the thought of _who_ might answer.

“Who is that calling me from the Island?” answered little Primrose.

And Lavender recognised Primrose’s baby-talk.

“Primrose! my own only Brother!” cried Lavender, and stood up white in
the moonlight.

“Lavender, little sister!” cried Primrose; and, light as a moth, he
stepped over the reeds and the rushes and the water-weeds to the Island.
They hugged and they kissed; they sat down side by side in the moonlight
by the little chapel. A little did they talk, but they were not clever
at making a long story. They clasped each other’s little hands and went
to sleep.


                                   XI

That was how they began to live day after day on the Holy Lake. Primrose
was quite happy and desired nothing better.

There was clear water in the Lake, and there were sweet raspberries.
There were plenty of flowers and butterflies in the meadow, and
fireflies and dew by night. Nightingales and doves nested in the trees.

Every evening Lavender would make Primrose a bed of leaves, and in the
morning she bathed him in the Lake and tied up his little shoes. And
Primrose thought: “What do we want with a wider world than this within
the furrow?”

Primrose was well off; he was only a baby!

And Lavender was happy, but she was troubled about Primrose, how she
should look after him and get him food. Because God has so ordered it
that the young folk can never get food without the old folk having to
think about it.

That is so all the world over, and couldn’t be otherwise even on the
Holy Lake.

So Lavender was worried. “To-morrow will be St. Peter’s Day. Will the
raspberries be over when St. Peter’s is past? Will the water grow cold
and the sun fail when autumn comes? How shall we get through the winter
all alone? Will our cottage in the valley go to rack and ruin?”

So Lavender worried, and wherever there is worry, there temptation comes
most easily.

One day she sat and mused: “Oh dear! what luck it would be if only we
could get back to our cottage!” Just then she heard somebody calling
from the Mountain. Lavender looked, and there in the wood on the far
side of the furrow stood the youngest of the Votaresses.

She was prettier than the other Votaresses, and loved finery. She had
noticed the Golden Girdle on Lavender, and now she wanted that Golden
Girdle above anything else in the world.

“Little girl, sister, throw me your Girdle,” called the fairy across the
furrow.

“I can’t do that, Fairy; I had that Girdle from my mother,” answered
Lavender.

“Little girl, sister, it wasn’t your mother’s Girdle; it belonged to the
princess, and the princess has been dead long ago. Throw me the Girdle,”
said the Fairy, who remembered the princess.

“I can’t, Fairy; the Girdle is from my mother,” repeated Lavender.

“Little girl, sister, I will carry you and your brother down to the
valley, and no harm shall come to you; throw me the Girdle,” cried the
Fairy once more.

This was a sad temptation for Lavender, who so longed to get away from
the Mountain! But all the same she would not sacrifice her mother’s
keepsake to the greedy fairy, but answered:

“I cannot, Fairy; I had the Girdle from my mother.”

The Fairy went away quite sadly, but next day she came back and began
again:

“Throw me the Girdle, and I will take you down the Mountain.”

“I cannot, Fairy; I had the Girdle from my mother,” Lavender answered
once more, but with a very heavy heart.

For seven days did the Fairy come, and for seven days she tempted
Lavender. Temptation is worse than the sharpest care, and poor little
Lavender pined away, so great was her wish to get down to the valley.
Yet all the same she would not give up the Girdle.

For seven days did the Fairy call, and for seven days did Lavender
answer her:

“I cannot, Fairy; the Girdle is from my mother.”

And when she answered thus on the seventh day, the Fairy saw that there
was no help for it.

The Fairy went down the Mountain; she sat down on the last, lowest
stone, shook down her hair and cried bitterly, so great was her desire
for the Golden Girdle of the princess.


                                  XII

Meantime the good and noble princess was not dead, but had lived for
many a year in a far country with her son, the prince.

The princess never told anybody how high-born a lady she was, and her
son was too young at the time of their flight for him to remember.

And so in that country not a soul knew—not even the prince—that they
came of royal blood. But how could anybody tell that she was a princess,
when she had neither crown nor Golden Girdle? And though she was good,
gentle, and noble, that did not prove that she was a princess.

The princess lived in the house of a worthy peasant, and there she span
and wove for his household.

In this way she earned enough to keep herself and her son.

The boy had grown up into a tall and handsome youth of unusual strength
and power, and the princess taught him nothing that was not good and
right.

But one thing was bad. The prince had a very hasty and fierce temper. So
the people called him _Rowfoot Relya_, because he was so rough and
strong—and so poor withal.

One day Rowfoot Relya was mowing his master’s meadow, and lay down at
noon in the shade to rest. And a young squire came riding by, and called
to Relya:

“Hi, young man! jump up and run back along the road and find me my
silver spur; it fell off somewhere on the way.”

When Relya heard that, his princely blood, his hot and hasty blood, was
roused to evil within him because the other had disturbed him in his
rest and would send him out to find his spur.

“Won’t I, by heaven!” cried Relya, “and you can lie here and rest
instead of me!” And with that he sprang at the young squire, pulled him
off his horse, and flung him down in the shade, so that he lay there for
dead.

But Rowfoot Relya, still furious, rushed home to his mother, and cried
out upon her:

“Wretched mother! why was I born a rowfoot churl, for others to send me
out to find their spurs for them in the dust?”

Relya’s face was quite distorted with rage as he said this.

The mother looked at her son, and her heart grieved sorely. She saw that
there would be no more peace for her and her son, because she would have
to tell him what she had so far kept secret.

“You are not a rowfoot churl, my son,” replied the princess, “but an
unfortunate prince.” And she told Relya all about herself and him.

Relya listened; his eyes blazed with a strange fire, and he clenched his
hands in bitter anger. Then he asked:

“Is there nothing left, then, mother, of our lands?”

“Nothing, my son, save a little Cross on a red ribbon and a Golden
Girdle,” answered his mother.

When Relya heard that, he cried:

“I am going, mother, and I shall bring back that Cross and Girdle,
wherever they may be! Threefold will the sight of them increase my
princely strength!”

And then he asked:

“And where did you leave the Cross and the Girdle, mother? Did you leave
them with the chief of your captains for him and your great army to
guard?”

“No, my son,” replied the princess, “and it is a good thing that I did
not, for my captains and my great army went over to the enemy, and are
now feasting and drinking with the enemy and wasting my lands.”

“Did you perhaps leave them in the lowest room of your castle, in the
seventh vault, under seven locks?”

“No, my son, and it is a good thing that I did not, because the enemy
got into my castle, broke open and ransacked its secret chambers,
searched its nine vaults, and fed his horses upon pearls out of my
treasure hoards,” replied the princess.

“But where did you leave the Golden Girdle and the Cross on the red
ribbon?” asked Relya, with flashing eyes.

“I left them with a young shepherdess in a willow cabin, where there are
neither locks nor strong boxes. Go, my son, perchance you will find them
there still.”

Relya would not believe that the Girdle and Cross might be safe in a
willow cabin when the noble princess’s pearls had not been safe even in
the ninth vault under her castle.

But his princely blood, so proud and masterful, was roused yet more to
evil in Relya’s veins, and he roughly said to his mother:

“Farewell, then, mother! I shall find the Cross and Girdle wherever they
may be, and it shall be no jesting matter for those who would refuse to
let me have them! I shall bring you back your Girdle and Cross, by the
princely blood in my veins.”

As Prince Relya said this, he took the blade of the scythe, fitted it
with a mighty hilt at the forge, and then hurried out into the world to
find his heritage. The earth rang beneath his feet; his hair streamed in
the wind, so swiftly did he stride; and his murderous blade shone in the
sun as though it were plated with flame.


                                  XIII

So Relya went on without stopping. He strode on by day, and by night he
did not rest; both great and small got out of his way.

It is far to Mount Kitesh, but Relya had no difficulty in finding out
the way, because Mount Kitesh was known throughout seven kingdoms for
its terrors.

On St. John’s Day Relya bade farewell to his mother, and on St. Peter’s
Day he reached the foot of the Mountain.

When he reached the foot of the Mountain, he inquired after the willow
cabin, the shepherdess Miloika, and the Golden Girdle and Cross.

“There is the cabin in the valley. Miloika we buried the first Sunday
after Easter, and her children have the Girdle and Cross. As for the
children, the Fairies have carried them off to Mount Kitesh,” replied
the villagers.

Very wroth was Relya when he heard that the Girdle and Cross had been
carried off to Mount Kitesh. He was so angry that he could not make up
his mind which to do first—hasten up the Mountain or find out about the
castle, since that was uppermost in his desires.

“And where is the princess’s castle?” shouted Relya.

“Over there, a day’s journey from here,” answered the villagers.

“And how stands it with the castle?” asked Relya, and his hand played
with his sword. “Tell me all you know about it!”

“None of us has been in the castle, because the lords of it are hard of
heart. Round the castle they have placed mutes for guards and savage
bloodhounds. We cannot force our way past the bloodhounds, and we do not
know how to persuade the guards,” answered the villagers. “And within
the castle are fine lords, drinking red wine in the halls, playing upon
silver lutes, and tossing golden balls to each other over a silken
carpet. In the outer hall are two hundred workmen cutting hearts out of
mother-o’-pearl for targets for the lords. And when the lords make a
great feast, they load their guns with precious stones and shoot at the
hearts of mother-o’-pearl.”

When the villagers told him this, a mist swam before Relya’s eyes, so
furious was he when he heard how wantonly the treasure in his mother’s
vaults was being squandered.

[Illustration]

For a while Relya hesitated, and then he cried:

“I am going up the Mountain to win the Cross and Girdle, and then I
shall return to thee, O my castle.”

Thus cried Relya; he made the sword sing through the air above his head,
and then strode swiftly up into Mount Kitesh. There he found the great
Dragon asleep in the deep gully. You see, the Dragon had tired himself
out with belching so much fire at Primrose, and now he had gone fast
asleep to gather fresh strength.

But Relya was all impatience to fight someone so as to cool his anger
and to prove his strength. He was tired of seeing everybody, both great
and small, get out of his way all the time, so now he rushed up to the
Fiery Dragon to rouse and dare him to mortal combat.

Relya was a Doughty Hero, and the Fiery Dragon was a Terrible Monster,
and so their combat must be sung in verse, beginning where Relya rushed
up to the Dragon:

            Childe Relya smote the Dragon on the side
            With the flat blade, to rouse him from his sleep.
            The Beast looked up, raising his grisly head,
            Beheld the hero Relya standing by.
            Up leapt the Dragon, with a rending blow
            O’erturns the cliff and widens out the gap
            To make a fitting space wherein to fight!
            Anon unto the clouds he rears him up;
            Anon on Relya pounces from the clouds,
            And so with Relya joins in mortal fray.
            Now groans the earth and splits the solid rock.
            With tooth and flame the Dragon turns to bay,
            And thrusts at Relya with his fiery head.
            But Relya waits him with a ready sword,
            And meets the onslaught with a ready sword;
            And with his weapon beating down the flame
            Seeks for the sword an undefended spot,
            Where he may smite the Dragon on the head.
            Deep bites the brand—so mighty was the shock
            That brand and bone no more will come apart.
            From dawn till noontide did the battle rage,
            And weaker grew the Dragon all the while,
            With brooding on the shame that galled his heart,
            Because the babe, young Primrose, had escaped.
            And stronger grew Childe Relya all the while,
            For he did battle for his heritage.
            When at high noon the sun burned overhead,
            Childe Relya swung his gleaming brand aloft
            Towards the sun, and called on Heaven for aid.
            Down fell the sword betwixt the Dragon’s eyes—
            Full swiftly fell, yet lightly struck the blade,
            Yet with such force, it cleft the Beast in twain.
            Into the hollow falls the Dragon, slain,
            And as stretched him in his dying spasm,
            The monstrous limbs block up the ancient chasm.

Thus did the doughty Relya overcome the Fiery Dragon. But his brave arms
and shoulders ached terribly. So Relya said to himself: “I shall never
get over the Mountain at this rate. I must consider what I had better
do.” And Relya went back to the foot of the Mountain, and there the hero
sat down on a stone and considered how he was to get across the
Mountain, and how he was to overcome the monsters, and where he might
find Miloika’s children and with them the Golden Girdle and Cross.

Relya was deep in thought, but all of a sudden he heard somebody weeping
and sobbing near him. Relya turned, and there was a Fairy sitting on a
stone, her hair all unbound, and crying her heart out.

“What ails you, pretty maiden? Why do you weep?” asked Relya.

“I weep, O hero, because I cannot get the Golden Girdle from the child
on the Lake,” answered the Fairy.

When Relya heard that he was overjoyed.

“Tell me, maiden, how can I get to that Lake?” asked Relya.

“And who may you be, unknown hero?” returned the Fairy.

“I am Prince Relya, and I seek a Golden Girdle and a Cross on a red
ribbon,” replied Relya.

When the Fairy heard that, she thought within her evil heart: “How lucky
for me! Let Relya get the Girdle away from the Lake and on to the
Mountain, and I will soon destroy Relya and keep the Girdle for myself.”

So the cunning Fairy spoke these honeyed words to Relya:

“Let us go, noble Prince! I will guide you across the Mountain. No harm
will come to you, and I will show you where the children are. Why should
you not have what is yours by inheritance?”

Thus sweetly did the Fairy speak, but in her heart she thought
otherwise. Relya, however, was mightily pleased, and at once agreed to
go with the Fairy.

So they went across the Mountain. Neither Fairies nor monsters touched
Relya, because he was being guided by the young Votaress Fairy.

On the way the Fairy advised Relya and tried to fill his heart with
anger.

“You should but see, noble Prince, how insolent these children are! Not
even to you will they give the Girdle. But you are a hero above all
heroes, Relya, so do not let them put you to shame.”

Relya laughed at the idea that two children should withstand him—_him_
who had cleft in twain the Fiery Dragon!

The Fairy then went on to tell him how the children had come up into the
Mountain, and how they did not know how to get away from it again.

In her joy at the prospect of getting the Girdle, the Fairy talked so
much that her cunning deserted her, and she chattered to Relya and
boasted to him of her knowledge.

“They are silly children, without any cunning. Yet if they knew what
_we_ know they would have escaped us already. There is a taper in the
chapel and a censer. If they would start the fire that is not lit with
hands, and then light the taper and censer, they could go with taper and
censer across the whole Mountain as if it were a church. Paths would
open before them and trees bow down as they passed. But for us this
would be the worst thing possible, because all we Fairies and Goblins in
Mount Kitesh would perish wherever the smoke from the taper and censer
spread. But what do these silly, insolent children know?”

If the Votaress had not been so overjoyed, she would surely never have
told Relya about the taper and censer, but would have kept the secret of
the Votaresses.

So they came to the furrow, and there was the Holy Lake before them.


                                  XIV

The Prince peered cautiously from behind a tree, and the Fairy pointed
out the children to him. Relya saw the little chapel on the island.
Before the chapel sat a little girl, pale as a white rose. She neither
sang nor crooned, but sat still with her hands clasped in her lap and
her eyes raised to heaven.

On the sand beside the chapel played a little boy, baby Primrose, and
round his neck hung a little Gold Cross.

He played on the sand, built castles and pulled them down again with his
tiny hands, and then laughed at his handiwork.

Relya watched, and as he watched he began to think. But the Votaress had
no time to wait while the Prince finished thinking things out, so she
softly prompted Relya.

“I will call to the little girl, noble Prince, and you shall see that
she will not give up the Girdle; then do you draw your burnished sword,
go up and take what is yours, and then come back to me to the Mountain,
and I will guide you back down the Mountain so that my sisters shall not
hurt you.”

As the Fairy said this, she secretly rejoiced, thinking how easily she
would kill Relya and get the Girdle for herself, so long as Relya would
bring it from the Lake. But Relya only listened with half an ear to what
the Votaress was saying, for he was lost in looking at the girl.

The Fairy called to Lavender:

“Little girl, sister, throw me the Girdle, and I will take you and your
brother down the Mountain.”

When Lavender heard this, her face grew yet paler, and she clasped her
little hands yet more tightly. She was so sad that she could scarcely
speak. She would so gladly have left the Mountain; her little heart was
bursting with longing.

But all the same she would not part with her mother’s Girdle.

Tears flowed down Lavender’s face; she wept softly, but through her
tears she answered:

“Go away, Fairy, and do not come back again, because you will not get
the Girdle.”

When Relya saw and heard this, his princely blood, his noble blood, was
roused within him, but to a good purpose.

He was filled with pity for these two poor orphans in the midst of the
grisly Mount Kitesh, defending themselves all alone against monsters and
temptations, death and destruction. “Great Heavens!” thought he, “the
princess trusted in her armed warriors and her strongholds to defend her
lands, and the lands were lost; but these babes are left alone in the
world, they have fallen among Fairies and Dragons, yet neither Fairies
nor Dragons can rob them of what their mother gave them.” All Relya’s
face changed as his heart went out with pity to the children. Thus
changed, he turned towards the Votaress.

The Votaress looked at Relya. Why did he raise his sword? Was it to cut
down those insolent children? No; Relya raised the sword aloft and
threatened the wicked Fairy with it.

“Fairy, avaunt! as if you had never been! If you had not been my guide
across the Mountain, I would strike your fair head from off your
shoulders. I was not born a prince, nor did I forge this mighty sword
that I might roam the world a spoiler of the fatherless!”

The poor Votaress was quite frightened. She started, and then fled to
the hills. And Relya shouted after her:

“Go, Fairy! call your fairies and monsters! Prince Relya does not fear
them!”

When the Fairy had run off to the hills, Relya crossed the furrow and
went towards the children on the island.

How happy was Lavender when she saw a human being coming towards them
and looking at them kindly! She sprang to her feet and stretched out
both her arms, as a captive bird spreads its wings when you open your
hand and let it go free.

Lavender was quite certain that Relya had come up only to bring them
safe back from the Mountain. She ran to Primrose, took him by the hand,
and both crossed over to Relya by the little bridge which they had
fashioned with their own tiny hands across the reeds.


                                   XV

A doughty hero was Relya, and he felt strange talking to children. But
the children did not feel in the least strange talking to a hero,
because they thought kindly of everybody, and there was no guile in
their hearts.

Primrose took hold of Relya’s hand and looked at his great sword. The
sword was twice as big as Primrose! Primrose reached up with his little
hand; he stood on tip-toe, and yet he could scarcely touch the hilt of
it. Relya looked, and never had he seen such tiny hands beside his own.
Relya was now in a sad quandary; he forgot all about the Girdle and
Cross as he thought: “What shall I say to these poor orphan babes? They
are little and foolish, and they do not understand.”

Just then Lavender asked Relya:

“And how shall we get out of the mountains, my lord?”

“Well, that is quite a sensible little girl,” considered Relya. “Here am
I, marvelling how small and foolish they are, and never thinking that,
after all, we have to get out of the mountains.”

Then Relya remembered what the Votaress had told him about the taper and
censer.

“Listen to me, little girl! The Votaress has gone to call her sisters to
help her, and I am going on to the Mountain to meet them. Please God, I
shall overcome the Votaress Fairies, return to you by the Holy Lake, and
lead you away from the Mountain. But if the fairies should overcome me,
if I perish on the Mountain, then do you start the fire that is not lit
with hands, light the taper and censer, and you will pass over the
Mountain as though it were a church.”

When Lavender heard this, she was sadly grieved, and said to Prince
Relya:

“You must not do that, my lord! What shall we poor orphans do if you
perish on the Mountain? You have only just come to be our protector, and
if you were to leave us straightway and get killed what should we do?
Let us rather set to at once and start the fire, so as to light taper
and censer, and do you, my lord, go forth with us over the Mountain.”

But at that Relya became very angry, and said:

“Don’t talk foolishness, you silly child! I was not born a hero for
taper and censer to lead me while yet I wear sword by my side.”

“Not taper and censer will lead you, but God’s will and commandment,”
replied Lavender.

“Don’t talk foolishness, you silly child! My sword would rust were I to
be led by taper and censer.”

“Your sword will not rust when you go a-mowing in field and meadow.”

Relya was troubled. It was not so much Lavender’s words as the sweet,
serious look in the little girl’s eyes that troubled him. He knew well
enough that he would scarcely overcome the fairies and monsters, and
that he would most probably perish if he were to go out to fight on the
Mountain.

Little Primrose flung his arms round Relya’s knees and looked at him
coaxingly. And Relya’s princely heart beat quick in his bosom, so that
he forgot about Cross and Girdle and fight and castle, and all he could
think was: “Well, I have to protect and save these faithful little
orphans.”

So he said:

“I will not throw away my life out of sheer wilfulness. Come, children,
start the fire, light taper and censer; your little hands shall lead
me.”


                                  XVI

A few moments later, and there was a wondrous marvel to be seen on Mount
Kitesh.

A wide path opened all the way down the Mountain, and on the path grew
turf as soft as silk. On the right-hand side walked little Primrose,
still in his little white shirt, and in his hand he held an ancient wax
taper, burning serenely and crackling softly, as though it were talking
with the sun. On the left walked Lavender, wearing the Golden Girdle and
swinging a silver censer, from which rose a cloud of white smoke.
Between the two children strode Relya, tall and strong. It seemed
strange to him, in his strength and valour, that taper and censer should
thus guide him and not his own good sword. But he smiled gently at the
children. His great sword hung over his shoulder, and as he strode on he
said to the sword:

“Do not fear, my faithful friend. We shall go a-mowing in field and
meadow; we shall clear scrub and forest; we shall hew rafters and build
steadings. The sun will gild thee a thousand times while thou art
winning bread for these two orphan babes.”

So they went across the Mountain as though it were a church. A thin
wraith of smoke rose from the taper, and sacred odours spread from the
censer.

But woe and alas for the Votaresses on Mount Kitesh! wherever the smoke
and the odour of incense spread upon the Mountain, there the Votaresses
perished and died. They made an end, each one as it seemed most
beautiful and fitting to her.

One turned herself into a grey stone, and then hurled herself down the
rocks into a chasm, where the stone broke into a thousand splinters.

The second changed into a crimson flame, and then at once went out,
puff! into the air.

The third dissolved into fine coloured dust, scattering herself over
rock and fern. And so each of them chose what seemed to her the most
beautiful way to die.

But it really didn’t matter in the least. One way or another, they all
had to leave this world, and even the most beautiful ways of dying could
not make up for that!

In this way all the seven Votaress Fairies perished, and that is why
there are no fairies, nor dragons, nor monsters now on Mount Kitesh or
anywhere else in the world.

But Relya and the children reached the valley in safety, and Lavender
took them to their cottage. And only then did Relya remember why he had
gone up Mount Kitesh.


                                  XVII

They went into the cottage and rested a little. Lavender, who knew where
was her mother’s modest store cupboard, brought out a little dry cheese,
and they refreshed themselves.

But now Relya was puzzled what to do about those two orphans. Ever since
they had come down into the valley, Relya’s mind had begun to run once
more upon the castle and upon his promise to his mother that he would
bring her back the Cross and Girdle.

Therefore Relya said to Lavender:

“Listen to me, little girl: you will have to give me the Golden Girdle
and Cross now, you and your brother, because they belong to me.”

“But we belong to you too, my lord,” said Lavender, and looked at Relya
quite astonished, because he had not grasped that before.

Relya laughed, and then he said:

“But I must take the Girdle and Cross to my mother.”

When Lavender heard that, she cried out overjoyed:

“Oh, sir, if you have a mother, do go and bring her here to us, because
we have no mother now.”

A stone would have wept to hear little Lavender speak of her mother in
that poor and bare little cottage! A stone would have wept at the
thought that so lovely a child should be left all alone in the world,
when she turned to Prince Relya and begged him to bring them a mother
because their mother was dead.

Again Relya was filled with pity, so that he almost wept. Therefore he
bade the children good-bye and went away to fetch his mother.


                                 XVIII

It took Relya seven days to return to his mother. She was waiting for
him by the window, and when she saw him coming, lo, there was Relya
coming home without sword, Cross, or Girdle. Relya never gave her time
to ask questions, but called to her in a gentle voice:

“Make ready, mother, and come with me, that we may guard what is ours.”

So they set out together. And on the way the Princess asked Relya
whether he had found the Cross and the Girdle, whether he had raised an
army and had reconquered their castle and lands?

“I found the Girdle and Cross, mother; but I raised no army, neither
have I reconquered our lands. We shall do better without an army,
mother, for you shall see what is left to us of our heritage,” said
Relya.

After seven days’ travel they reached the cabin where Lavender and
Primrose were waiting for them.

Oh, my dear! but there is great joy when kind hearts foregather! The
princess hugged Lavender and Primrose; she kissed their cheeks, eyes,
hands, and lips, and would scarcely let them go, so dear were they to
her, those orphan children from her lost lands!


                                  XIX

And so they lived together in the valley, although the little cabin was
rather too small for them. But Relya had strong hands, and he built them
a little house of stone. Their lives were uneventful, but there was a
blessing upon them. Primrose tended the ewes and lambs, Lavender looked
after the house and garden, the princess span and sewed, and Relya
worked in the fields.

The people of the village got to know the wisdom of the princess and
Relya’s strength. Presently they remarked how well the Golden Girdle
became the princess, and, although none of them had ever seen the
princess before, they said:

“She must be our noble princess.” And so they gave Relya and the
princess a great piece of land in the valley, and begged Relya to be
their leader in all things and the princess to be their counsellor.

God’s blessing was with Relya’s strength and the princess’s wisdom.
Their fields and meadows increased; other villages joined them; gardens
and cottages sprang up in the villages.

Meantime the fine lords in the castle went on drinking and feasting as
before. Now this had gone on far too long, and although the vaults and
cellars of the castle had been the richest in seven kingdoms, yet after
so many years of waste there began to be a lack of precious stones.

First of all the gems gave out in the treasure vaults, and then the
mother-o’-pearl in the passages. Yet a little while, and there was no
more bread for the servants, who had grown lazy. At last there was not
even meat for the bloodhounds and guards. The faithless servants
rebelled, the hounds ran away, and the guards left their posts.

But all this did not trouble the fine lords, because they had dulled
their wits with drinking and feasting. But one fine day the wine gave
out. _Then_ they decided to hold a council! They met in the great hall
and debated upon where they should get wine, because round about the
castle all was desolate: the inhabitants had left, and the vines had run
wild in the vineyards.

So the fine lords debated. But their vengeful and rebellious servants
had cut through the rafters of the great hall, and when the lords were
in the midst of their conference the roof fell in upon them. They were
buried under the ruins of the great tower of the castle and all of them
killed.

When the servants heard the tower crashing and falling, they too
deserted the castle.

And so the castle was left without hounds, servants, or fine lords,
ruinous and deserted, and dead.

Soon the news of this spread through the land, but not a soul troubled
to go and see what had happened in the dead castle. From all sides they
flocked together and went to the foot of Mount Kitesh to beg Relya to be
their prince, because they had heard of his strength and courage and of
the wisdom of the noble princess. Wherefore the people promised with
their own hands to build them a new castle, all fair and stately.

Relya accepted the people’s offer, because he rightly judged that God
had given him such great strength and courage, and had delivered him
from his hot and cruel temper, so that he might be of use to his
country.

So Relya became a prince; and the princess, who was getting old by now,
yet lived to see great happiness in her old age. And when the princess
and Relya, with Lavender and Primrose, entered their new and stately
castle for the first time, the village children scattered evergreens and
sweet basil on their path, men and woman pressed round the princess,
seized the hem of her robe and kissed it.

But the princess, radiant with joy, remembered that but for the loyalty
of Lavender and Primrose none of this would ever have come to pass. She
clasped the children to her breast and said:

“Happy the land whose treasure is not guarded by mighty armies or strong
cities, but by the mothers and children in shepherds’ cots. Such a land
will never perish!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Later on Prince Relya married Lavender, and never in the world was there
a princess sweeter and more lovely than Princess Lavender.

Primrose grew up into a brave and handsome youth. He rode a fiery dapple
grey, and he would often ride over Mount Kitesh, upon whose summit men
were building a new chapel by the Holy Lake.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 Notes

                     Interpretation of Names, Etc.

THE original names in these Fairy Tales are either taken from Slav
folk-lore or chosen or composed so as to convey a suitable meaning. In
the English text the translator has therefore tried to render the
significance of the original names in English in preference to
reproducing the Slav names in English spelling.


                      HOW QUEST SOUGHT THE TRUTH.

1. _Bjesomar_ (Rampogusto). The name given by the old Slavs in some
regions to the ruler of evil and malignant forces. Analysed, the name
might be translated as Cherish-goblin, one who cares for hobgoblindom.

2. _Svarožić_ (All-Rosy). The ancient Slavs pictured the sunshine in the
form of a beautiful youth named _Svarožić_, All-rose.

The names of the grandfather and his three grandsons—Witting, Bluster,
Careful and Quest—are as near as possible equivalents of the original
names _Vjest_, _Ljutiša_, _Marun_ and _Potjeh_.


                     FISHERMAN PLUNK AND HIS WIFE.

1. _Zora-djevojka_ (the Dawn-Maiden). To this day many old folk-tales of
the Slavs tell of the Dawn-Maiden who sails the sea in the early morning
in her boat of gold with a silver paddle and dwells in the Island of
_Bujan_.

2. _The Sea King._ Slovenes and Slovaks alike tell of a mighty and
wealthy Sea King who reigns in the depths of the sea.

3. _The Island of Bujan_ (the Isle Bountiful). This is a wonderful
island, so named for its abundance and fruitfulness and luxuriant
vegetation. It was the ancient Slav’s conception of Paradise. To this
day the Russians mention it in refrains and spells against sickness, for
a plentiful harvest, etc.

4. _The Stone Alatir_ (Gold-a-Fire). Is mentioned in ancient Slav tales
as “the white burning stone on Bujan,” and may perhaps be taken to stand
for the sun.

5. _Sea Maidens_ (Mermaids). In Slovene and Croatian folk-tales, as with
us, this term is applied to fabulous sea creatures, which are beautiful
women to the waist, and from the waist downward shaped like a forked
fish tail.

6. _The dumb speech._ The Jugoslavs popularly believe that animals
converse with each other in a special “language,” and that certain human
beings can “speak” and understand this “language.”

7. _The Monstrous Snake_, the _Bird with the Iron Beak_, the _Golden
Bee_. Three monsters which, according to folk-tales, stir up the waves,
raise tempests, and provoke thunderstorms round the Isle of Bujan,
whence the storms spread throughout the world.

_Palunko_ (Plunk) has no special significance, but the sound suggests a
doleful, feckless sort of person.

_Winpeace_ is a translation of Vlatko.


                                REYGOCH.

1. _Legen_ (_Ledjan_) (Frosten city). An ancient marvellous city which
is mentioned in Croatian folk-songs and tradition. _Leden_ means
_frozen_, _icy_.

2. _Regoč_, _Regoc_ (Reygoch). A huge simple giant of fairy kin. He is
mentioned by the poet _Gjorgjić_, of Dubrovnik (Ragusa), in his
_Marunko_.

The name _Kosjenka_ is derived from _kose_ (hair), and indicates the
little fairy’s flowing tresses.

Apart from being a simple fairy-tale, this story contains an allegorical
element. _Reygoch_, the benevolent, simple-minded giant, is a character
from _Marunko_, by the poet Gjorgjić, of Dubrovnik. The city of _Legen_,
or _Ledjan_ (which, to all intents and purposes, means “frozen”), is to
be found in Croatian folk-tales and ballads.


                   BRIDESMAN SUN AND BRIDE BRIDEKINS.

1. _Mokoš_ (Muggish). A mighty force which, according to the beliefs of
the ancient Slavs, ruled the earth, and especially in marshlands. She is
mentioned in connection with the heavenly thunder god. _Perun_.

2. _Kolede_ (translated by _Yuletide_) A winter festival celebrated at
the end of December in honour of the sun, whose power once more begins
to increase in those days.

3. _Krijes_ (translated by _Beltane_). A festival in honour of the
summer sun at the time of his greatest strength.

4. _Omaja_, _omaha_. Water which is flung from the mill-wheel. To this
day peasants bathe children in this water so that evil may be turned
away from them.

A _Ban_ is a Warden of the Marches.

_Neva_ means _bride_. _Nevičica_ is the diminutive of _Neva_.


                           STRIBOR’S FOREST.

1. _Domaći_ (“home sprites,” from _dom_, house, home), Brownies. In all
Slav nations this is the name given to the little domestic sprites which
haunt the hearth. They are sometimes harmful and sometimes beneficent.

2. _Malik Tintilinić_ (Wee Tintilinkie). Old popular name for one of the
most lively of these _domaći_.


              LITTLE BROTHER PRIMROSE AND SISTER LAVENDER.

1. _Kitež_ (Mount Kitesh). The Russian author Merežkovski mentions the
mysterious Kitež region, an uninhabited forest, and the Lake Svetlojar
(which latter name might very well be transliterated by the _Holy
Lake_), which used to be inhabited by all sorts of monsters.

2. _Vile Zatočnice_ (Votaress Fairies). The term _Votaress snakes_
(_zmije zatočnice_) is popularly applied to snakes which are supposed to
have taken a vow in the autumn not to go to sleep for the winter without
having killed somebody.

3 _Relya_ (_Hrelja_). A Croatian ballad makes mention of a certain
Hrelja as a better and stronger hero than even Kraljević Mark.

The names _Rutvica_ and _Jaglenac_ have simply been translated into
_Lavender_ and _Primrose_.

_Bukač_ is derived from _buka_, noise. Hence _Belleroo_.

_Medunkda_, from _medved_, a bear (Bruineen).

The term _božjak_ (applied to Relya), which suggests a powerful,
poverty-stricken churl, the translator has sought to render by _rowfoot_
(a rough fellow).


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------------------------------------------------------------------------



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 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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