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The Crimson Fairy Book

The Prince And The Dragon
Once upon a time there lived an emperor who had three sons. They were all fine young
men, and fond of hunting, and scarcely a day passed without one or other of them going
out to look for game.
One morning the eldest of the three princes mounted his horse and set out for a
neighbouring forest, where wild animals of all sorts were to be found. He had not long
left the castle, when a hare sprang out of a thicket and dashed across the road in front.
The young man gave chase at once, and pursued it over hill and dale, till at last the hare
took refuge in a mill which was standing by the side of a river. The prince followed and
entered the mill, but stopped in terror by the door, for, instead of a hare, before him stood
a dragon, breathing fire and flame. At this fearful sight the prince turned to fly, but a fiery
tongue coiled round his waist, and drew him into the dragon's mouth, and he was seen no
more.
A week passed away, and when the prince never came back everyone in the town began
to grow uneasy. At last his next brother told the emperor that he likewise would go out to
hunt, and that perhaps he would find some clue as to his brother's disappearance. But
hardly had the castle gates closed on the prince than the hare sprang out of the bushes as
before, and led the huntsman up hill and down dale, till they reached the mill. Into this
the hare flew with the prince at his heels, when, lo! instead of the hare, there stood a
dragon breathing fire and flame; and out shot a fiery tongue which coiled round the
prince's waist, and lifted him straight into the dragon's mouth, and he was seen no more.
Days went by, and the emperor waited and waited for the sons who never came, and
could not sleep at night for wondering where they were and what had become of them.
His youngest son wished to go in search of his brothers, but for long the emperor refused
to listen to him, lest he should lose him also. But the prince prayed so hard for leave to
make the search, and promised so often that he would be very cautious and careful, that at
length the emperor gave him permission, and ordered the best horse in the stables to be
saddled for him.
Full of hope the young prince started on his way, but no sooner was he outside the city
walls than a hare sprang out of the bushes and ran before him, till they reached the mill.
As before, the animal dashed in through the open door, but this time he was not followed
by the prince. Wiser than his brothers, the young man turned away, saying to himself:
'There are as good hares in the forest as any that have come out of it, and when I have
caught them, I can come back and look for you.'
For many hours he rode up and down the mountain, but saw nothing, and at last, tired of
waiting, he went back to the mill. Here he found an old woman sitting, whom he greeted
pleasantly.
 
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