The Grey Fairy Book
What Came of Picking Flowers
There was once a woman who had three daughters whom she loved very much. One day
the eldest was walking in a water-meadow, when she saw a pink growing in the stream.
She stooped to pick the flower, but her hand had scarcely touched it, when she vanished
altogether. The next morning the second sister went out into the meadow, to see if she
could find any traces of the lost girl, and as a branch of lovely roses lay trailing across her
path, she bent down to move it away, and in so doing, could not resist plucking one of the
roses. In a moment she too had disappeared. Wondering what could have become of her
two sisters, the youngest followed in their footsteps, and fell a victim to a branch of
delicious white jessamine. So the old woman was left without any daughters at all.
She wept, and wept, and wept, all day and all night, and went on weeping so long, that
her son, who had been a little boy when his sisters disappeared, grew up to be a tall
youth. Then one night he asked his mother to tell him what was the matter.
When he had heard the whole story, he said, ‘Give me your blessing, mother, and I will
go and search the world till I find them.'
So he set forth, and after he had travelled several miles without any adventures, he came
upon three big boys fighting in the road. He stopped and inquired what they were fighting
about, and one of them answered:
‘My lord! our father left to us, when he died, a pair of boots, a key, and a cap. Whoever
puts on the boots and wishes himself in any place, will find himself there. The key will
open every door in the world, and with the cap on your head no one can see you. Now
our eldest brother wants to have all three things for himself, and we wish to draw lots for
‘Oh, that is easily settled,' said the youth. ‘I will throw this stone as far as I can, and the
one who picks it up first, shall have the three things.' So he took the stone and flung it,
and while the three brothers were running after it, he drew hastily on the boots, and said,
‘Boots, take me to the place where I shall find my eldest sister.'
The next moment the young man was standing on a steep mountain before the gates of a
strong castle guarded by bolts and bars and iron chains. The key, which he had not
forgotten to put in his pocket, opened the doors one by one, and he walked through a
number of halls and corridors, till he met a beautiful and richly-dressed young lady who
started back in surprise at the sight of him, and exclaimed, ‘Oh, sir, how did you contrive
*to* get in here?' The young man replied that he was her brother, and told her by what
means he had been able to pass through the doors. In return, she told him how happy she
was, except for one thing, and that was, her husband lay under a spell, and could never
break it till there should be put to death a man who could not die.