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The Pink Fairy Book

The Water of Life
Three brothers and one sister lived together in a small cottage, and they loved one another
dearly. One day the eldest brother, who had never done anything but amuse himself from
sunrise to sunset, said to the rest, 'Let us all work hard, and perhaps we shall grow rich,
and be able to build ourselves a palace.'
And his brothers and sister answered joyfully, 'Yes, we will all work!'
So they fell to working with all their might, till at last they became rich, and were able to
build themselves a beautiful palace; and everyone came from miles round to see its
wonders, and to say how splendid it was. No one thought of finding any faults, till at
length an old woman, who had been walking through the rooms with a crowd of people,
suddenly exclaimed, 'Yes, it is a splendid palace, but there is still something it needs!'
'And what may that be?'
'A church.'
When they heard this the brothers set to work again to earn some more money, and when
they had got enough they set about building a church, which should be as large and
beautiful as the palace itself.
And after the church was finished greater numbers of people than ever flocked to see the
palace and the church and vast gardens and magnificent halls.
But one day, as the brothers were as usual doing the honours to their guests, an old man
turned to them and said, 'Yes, it is all most beautiful, but there is still something it needs!'
'And what may that be?'
'A pitcher of the water of life, a branch of the tree the smell of whose flowers gives
eternal beauty, and the talking bird.'
'And where am I to find all those?'
'Go to the mountain that is far off yonder, and you will find what you seek.'
After the old man had bowed politely and taken farewell of them the eldest brother said
to the rest, 'I will go in search of the water of life, and the talking bird, and the tree of
'But suppose some evil thing befalls you?' asked his sister. 'How shall we know?'
'You are right,' he replied; ' I had not thought of that!'
Then they followed the old man, and said to him, 'My eldest brother wishes to seek for
the water of life, and the tree of beauty, and the talking bird, that you tell him are needful
to make our palace perfect. But how shall we know if any evil thing befall him?'