The Crimson Fairy Book
Once upon a time there was a king who had an only son. When the lad was about
eighteen years old his father had to go to fight in a war against a neighbouring country,
and the king led his troops in person. He bade his son act as Regent in his absence, but
ordered him on no account to marry till his return.
Time went by. The prince ruled the country and never even thought of marrying. But
when he reached his twenty-fifth birthday he began to think that it might be rather nice to
have a wife, and he thought so much that at last he got quite eager about it. He
remembered, however, what his father had said, and waited some time longer, till at last
it was ten years since the king went out to war. Then the prince called his courtiers about
him and set off with a great retinue to seek a bride. He hardly knew which way to go, so
he wandered about for twenty days, when, suddenly, he found himself in his father's
The king was delighted to see his son, and had a great many questions to ask and answer;
but when he heard that instead of quietly waiting for him at home the prince was starting
off to seek a wife he was very angry, and said: 'You may go where you please but I will
not leave any of my people with you.'
Only one faithful servant stayed with the prince and refused to part from him. They
journeyed over hill and dale till they came to a place called Goldtown. The King of
Goldtown had a lovely daughter, and the prince, who soon heard about her beauty, could
not rest till he saw her.
He was very kindly received, for he was extremely good-looking and had charming
manners, so he lost no time in asking for her hand and her parents gave her to him with
joy. The wedding took place at once, and the feasting and rejoicings went on for a whole
month. At the end of the month they set off for home, but as the journey was a long one
they spent the first evening at an inn. Everyone in the house slept, and only the faithful
servant kept watch. About midnight he heard three crows, who had flown to the roof,
'That's a handsome couple which arrived here tonight. It seems quite a pity they should
lose their lives so soon.'
'Truly,' said the second crow; 'for to-morrow, when midday strikes, the bridge over the
Gold Stream will break just as they are driving over it. But, listen! whoever overhears
and tells what we have said will be turned to stone up to his knees.'
The crows had hardly done speaking when away they flew. And close upon them
followed three pigeons.
'Even if the prince and princess get safe over the bridge they will perish,' said they; 'for
the king is going to send a carriage to meet them which looks as new as paint. But when