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The Grey Fairy Book

Long, Broad, and Quickeye
(A Bohemian Story)
Once upon a time there lived a king who had an only son whom he loved dearly. Now
one day the king sent for his son and said to him:
‘My dearest child, my hair is grey and I am old, and soon I shall feel no more the warmth
of the sun, or look upon the trees and flowers. But before I die I should like to see you
with a good wife; therefore marry, my son, as speedily as possible.'
‘My father,' replied the prince, ‘now and always, I ask nothing better than to do your
bidding, but I know of no daughter-in-law that I could give you.'
On hearing these words the old king drew from his pocket a key of gold, and gave it to
his son, saying:
‘Go up the staircase, right up to the top of the tower. Look carefully round you, and then
come and tell me which you like best of all that you see.'
So the young man went up. He had never before been in the tower, and had no idea what
it might contain.
The staircase wound round and round and round, till the prince was almost giddy, and
every now and then he caught sight of a large room that opened out from the side. But he
had been told to go to the top, and to the top he went. Then he found himself in a hall,
which had an iron door at one end. This door he unlocked with his golden key, and he
passed through into a vast chamber which had a roof of blue sprinkled with golden stars,
and a carpet of green silk soft as turf. Twelve windows framed in gold let in the light of
the sun, and on every window was painted the figure of a young girl, each more beautiful
than the last. While the prince gazed at them in surprise, not knowing which he liked
best, the girls began to lift their eyes and smile at him. He waited, expecting them to
speak, but no sound came.
Suddenly he noticed that one of the windows was covered by a curtain of white silk.
He lifted it, and saw before him the image of a maiden beautiful as the day and sad as the
tomb, clothed in a white robe, having a girdle of silver and a crown of pearls. The prince
stood and gazed at her, as if he had been turned into stone, but as he looked the sadness
which, was on her face seemed to pass into his heart, and he cried out:
‘This one shall be my wife. This one and no other.'
 
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