The Crimson Fairy Book
Once upon a time, in a very hot country, a man lived with his wife in a little hut, which
was surrounded by grass and flowers. They were perfectly happy together till, by-and-by,
the woman fell ill and refused to take any food. The husband tried to persuade her to eat
all sorts of delicious fruits that he had found in the forest, but she would have none of
them, and grew so thin he feared she would die. 'Is there nothing you would like?' he said
at last in despair.
'Yes, I think I could eat some wild honey,' answered she. The husband was overjoyed, for
he thought this sounded easy enough to get, and he went off at once in search of it.
He came back with a wooden pan quite full, and gave it to his wife. 'I can't eat that,' she
said, turning away in disgust. 'Look! there are some dead bees in it! I want honey that is
quite pure.' And the man threw the rejected honey on the grass, and started off to get
some fresh. When he got back he offered it to his wife, who treated it as she had done the
first bowlful. 'That honey has got ants in it: throw it away,' she said, and when he brought
her some more, she declared it was full of earth. In his fourth journey he managed to find
some that she would eat, and then she begged him to get her some water. This took him
some time, but at length he came to a lake whose waters were sweetened with sugar. He
filled a pannikin quite full, and carried it home to his wife, who drank it eagerly, and said
that she now felt quite well. When she was up and had dressed herself, her husband lay
down in her place, saying: 'You have given me a great deal of trouble, and now it is my
'What is the matter with you?' asked the wife.
'I am thirsty and want some water,' answered he; and she took a large pot and carried it to
the nearest spring, which was a good way off. 'Here is the water,' she said to her husband,
lifting the heavy pot from her head; but he turned away in disgust.
'You have drawn it from the pool that is full of frogs and willows; you must get me some
more.' So the woman set out again and walked still further to another lake.
'This water tastes of rushes,' he exclaimed, 'go and get some fresh.' But when she brought
back a third supply he declared that it seemed made up of water-lilies, and that he must
have water that was pure, and not spoilt by willows, or frogs, or rushes. So for the fourth
time she put her jug on her head, and passing all the lakes she had hitherto tried, she came
to another, where the water was golden like honey. She stooped down to drink, when a
horrible head bobbed up on the surface.
'How dare you steal my water?' cried the head.