What the Rose did to the Cypress ....................................................................................... 4
Ball-carrier and the Bad One ............................................................................................ 26
How Ball-carrier Finished His Task ................................................................................. 32
The Bunyip........................................................................................................................ 37
Father Grumbler................................................................................................................ 39
The Story of the Yara........................................................................................................ 46
The Cunning Hare............................................................................................................. 52
The Turtle and His Bride .................................................................................................. 54
How Geirald The Coward Was Punished ......................................................................... 58
How the Little Brother Set Free His Big Brothers............................................................ 68
The Sacred Milk of Koumongoe....................................................................................... 73
The Wicked Wolverine ..................................................................................................... 80
The Husband of the Rat's Daughter .................................................................................. 84
The Mermaid and the Boy ................................................................................................ 87
The Elf Maiden ............................................................................................................... 100
How Some Wild Animals Became Tame Ones.............................................................. 105
Fortune and the Wood-Cutter ......................................................................................... 109
The Enchanted Head ....................................................................................................... 112
The Sister of the Sun....................................................................................................... 118
The Prince and the Three Fates....................................................................................... 129
The Fox and the Lapp ..................................................................................................... 136
Kisa the Cat..................................................................................................................... 144
The Lion and the Cat....................................................................................................... 148
Which was the Foolishest?.............................................................................................. 153
Asmund and Signy.......................................................................................................... 157
Rubezahl ......................................................................................................................... 161
Story Of The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate ................................................ 170
Story of Wali Dad the Simple-Hearted........................................................................... 179
Tale of a Tortoise and of a Mischievous Monkey .......................................................... 186
The Knights of the Fish................................................................................................... 196
The stories in this Fairy Book come from all quarters of the world. For example, the adventures of 'Ball-Carrier and the Bad One' are told by Red Indian grandmothers to Red Indian children who never go to school, nor see pen and ink. 'The Bunyip' is known to even more uneducated little ones, running about with no clothes at all in the bush, in Australia. You may see photographs of these merry little black fellows before their troubles begin, in 'Northern Races of Central Australia,' by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen. They have no lessons except in tracking and catching birds, beasts, fishes, lizards, and snakes, all of which they eat. But when they grow up to be big boys and girls, they are cruelly cut about with stone knives and frightened with sham bogies all for their good' their parents say and I think they would rather go to school, if they had their choice, and take their chance of being birched and bullied. However, many boys might think it better fun to begin to learn hunting as soon as they can walk. Other stories, like 'The Sacred Milk of Koumongoe,' come from the Kaffirs in Africa, whose dear papas are not so poor as those in Australia, but have plenty of cattle and milk, and good mealies to eat, and live in houses like very big bee-hives, and wear clothes of a sort, though not very like our own. 'Pivi and Kabo' is a tale from the brown people in the island of New Caledonia, where a boy is never allowed to speak to or even look at his own sisters; nobody knows why, so curious are the manners of this remote island. The story shows the advantages of good manners and pleasant behaviour; and the natives do not now cook and eat each other, but live on fish, vegetables, pork, and chickens, and dwell in houses. 'What the Rose did to the Cypress,' is a story from Persia, where the people, of course, are civilised, and much like those of whom you read in 'The Arabian Nights.' Then there are tales like 'The Fox and the Lapp ' from the very north of Europe, where it is dark for half the year and day-light for the other half. The Lapps are a people not fond of soap and water, and very much given to art magic. Then there are tales from India, told to Major Campbell, who wrote them out, by Hindoos; these stories are 'Wali Dad the Simple-hearted,' and 'The King who would be Stronger than Fate,' but was not so clever as his daughter. From Brazil, in South America, comes 'The Tortoise and the Mischievous Monkey,' with the adventures of other animals. Other tales are told in various parts of Europe, and in many languages; but all people, black, white, brown, red, and yellow, are like each other when they tell stories; for these are meant for children, who like the same sort of thing, whether they go to school and wear clothes, or, on the other hand, wear skins of beasts, or even nothing at all, and live on grubs and lizards and hawks and crows and serpents, like the little Australian blacks.
The tale of 'What the Rose did to the Cypress,' is translated out of a Persian manuscript by Mrs. Beveridge. 'Pivi and Kabo' is translated by the Editor from a French version; 'Asmund and Signy' by Miss Blackley; the Indian stories by Major Campbell, and all the rest are told by Mrs. Lang, who does not give them exactly as they are told by all sorts of outlandish natives, but makes them up in the hope white people will like them, skipping the pieces which they will not like. That is how this Fairy Book was made up for your entertainment.
Once upon a time a great king of the East, named Saman-lalposh,[FN#2] had three brave and clever sons--Tahmasp, Qamas, and Almas-ruh-baksh.[FN#3] One day, when the king was sitting in his hall of audience, his eldest son, Prince Tahmasp, came before him, and after greeting his father with due respect, said: 'O my royal father! I am tired of the town; if you will give me leave, I will take my servants to-morrow and will go into the country and hunt on the hill-skirts; and when I have taken some game I will come back, at evening-prayer time.' His father consented, and sent with him some of his own trusted servants, and also hawks, and falcons, hunting dogs, cheetahs and leopards.
At the place where the prince intended to hunt he saw a most beautiful deer. He ordered that it should not be killed, but trapped or captured with a noose. The deer looked about for a place where he might escape from the ring of the beaters, and spied one unwatched close to the prince himself. It bounded high and leaped right over his head, got out of the ring, and tore like the eastern wind into the waste. The prince put spurs to his horse and pursued it; and was soon lost to the sight of his followers. Until the world-lighting sun stood above his head in the zenith he did not take his eyes off the deer; suddenly it disappeared behind some rising ground, and with all his search he could not find any further trace of it. He was now drenched in sweat, and he breathed with pain; and his horse's tongue hung from its mouth with thirst. He dismounted and toiled on, with bridle on arm, praying and casting himself on the mercy of heaven. Then his horse fell and surrendered its life to God. On and on he went across the sandy waste, weeping and with burning breast, till at length a hill rose into sight. He mustered his strength and climbed to the top, and there he found a giant tree whose foot kept firm the wrinkled earth, and whose crest touched the very heaven. Its branches had put forth a glory of leaves, and there were grass and a spring underneath it, and flowers of many colours.Gladdened by this sight, he dragged himself to the water's edge, drank his fill, and returned thanks for his deliverance from thirst.
He looked about him and, to his amazement, saw close by a royal seat. While he was pondering what could have brought this into the merciless desert, a man drew near who was dressed like a faqir, and had bare head and feet, but walked with the free carriage of a person of rank. His face was kind, and wise and thoughtful, and he came on and spoke to the prince.'O good youth! how did you come here? Who are you? Where do you come from?'
The prince told everything just as it had happened to him, and then respectfully added: 'I have made known my own circumstances to you, and now I venture to beg you to tell me your own. Who are you? How did you come to make your dwelling in this wilderness?' To this the faqir replied: 'O youth! it would be best for you to have nothing to do with me and to know nothing of my fortunes, for my story is fit neither for telling nor for hearing.' The prince, however, pleaded so hard to be told, that at last there was nothing to be done but to let him hear.
'Learn and know, O young man! that I am King Janangir[FN#4] of Babylon, and that once I had army and servants, family and treasure; untold wealth and belongings. The Most High God gave me seven sons who grew up well versed in all princely arts. My eldest son heard from travellers that in Turkistan, on the Chinese frontier, there is a king named Quimus, the son of Timus, and that he has an only child, a daughter named Mihrafruz,[FN#5] who, under all the azure heaven, is unrivalled for beauty. Princes come from all quarters to ask her hand, and on one and all she imposes a condition. She says to them: "I know a riddle; and I will marry anyone who answers it, and will bestow on him all my possessions. But if a suitor cannot answer my question I cut off his head and hang it on the battlements of the citadel." The riddle she asks is, "What did the rose do to the cypress?"
'Now, when my son heard this tale, he fell in love with that unseen girl, and he came to me lamenting and bewailing himself. Nothing that I could say had the slightest effect on him. I said: "Oh my son! if there must be fruit of this fancy of yours, I will lead forth a great army against King Quimus. If he will give you his daughter freely, well and good; and if not, I will ravage his kingdom and bring her away by force." This plan did not please him; he said: "It is not right to lay a kingdom waste and to destroy a palace so that I may attain my desire. I will go alone; I will answer the riddle, and win her in this way." At last, out of pity for him, I let him go. He reached the city of King Quimus. He was asked the riddle and could not give the true answer; and his head was cut off and hung upon the battlements. Then I mourned him in black raiment for forty days.
After this another and another of my sons were seized by the same desire, and in the end all my seven sons went, and all were killed. In grief for their death I have abandoned my throne, and I abide here in this desert, withholding my hand from all State business and wearing myself away in sorrow.'
Prince Tahmasp listened to this tale, and then the arrow of love for that unseen girl struck his heart also. Just at this moment of his ill-fate his people came up, and gathered round him like moths round a light. They brought him a horse, fleet as the breeze of the dawn; he set his willing foot in the stirrup of safety and rode off. As the days went by the thorn of love rankled in his heart, and he became the very example of lovers, and grew faint and feeble. At last his confidants searched his heart and lifted the veil from the face of his love, and then set the matter before his father, King Saman-lal-posh. 'Your son, Prince Tahmasp, loves distractedly the Princess Mihr-afruz, daughter of King Quimus, son of Timus.' Then they told the king all about her and her doings. A mist of sadness clouded the king's mind, and he said to his son: 'If this thing is so, I will in the first place send a courier with friendly letters to King Quimus, and will ask the hand of his daughter for you. I will send an abundance of gifts, and a string of camels laden with flashing stones and rubies of Badakhsham In this way I will bring her and her suite, and I will give her to you to be your solace. But if King Quimus is unwilling to give her to you, I will pour a whirlwind of soldiers upon him, and I will bring to you, in this way, that most consequential of girls.' But the prince said that this plan would not be right, and that he would go himself, and would answer the riddle. Then the king's wise men said: 'This is a very weighty matter; it would be best to allow the prince to set out accompanied by some persons in whom you have confidence. Maybe he will repent and come back.' So King Saman ordered all preparations for the journey to be made, and then Prince Tahmasp took his leave and set out, accompanied by some of the courtiers, and taking with him a string of two-humped and raven-eyed camels laden with jewels, and gold, and costly stuffs.
By stage after stage, and after many days' journeying, he arrived at the city of King Quimus. What did he see? A towering citadel whose foot kept firm the wrinkled earth, and whose battlements touched the blue heaven. He saw hanging from its battlements many heads, but it had not the least effect upon him that these were heads of men of rank; he listened to no advice about laying aside his fancy, but rode up to the gate and on into the heart of the city. The place was so splendid that the eyes of the ages have never seen its like, and there, in an open square, he found a tent of crimson satin set up, and beneath it two jewelled drums with jewelled sticks. These drums were put there so that the suitors of the princess might announce their arrival by beating on them, after which some one would come and take them to the king's presence. The sight of the drums stirred the fire of Prince Tahmasp's love. He dismounted, and moved towards them; but his companions hurried after and begged him first to let them go and announce him to the king, and said that then, when they had put their possessions in a place of security, they would enter into the all important matter of the princess. The prince, however, replied that he was there for one thing only; that his first duty was to beat the drums and announce himself as a suitor, when he would be taken, as such, to the king, who would then give him proper lodgment. So he struck upon the drums, and at once summoned an officer who took him to King Quimus.
When the king saw how very young the prince looked, and that he was still drinking of the fountain of wonder, he said: 'O youth! leave aside this fancy which my daughter has conceived in the pride of her beauty. No one can answer er her riddle, and she has done to death many men who had had no pleasure in life nor tasted its charms. God forbid that your spring also should be ravaged by the autumn winds of martyrdom.' All his urgency, however, had no effect in making the prince withdraw. At length it was settled between them that three days should be given to pleasant hospitality and that then should follow what had to be said and done. Then the prince went to his own quarters and was treated as became his station.
King Quimus now sent for his daughter and for her mother, Gulrukh,[FN#6] and talked to them. He said to Mibrafruz: ' Listen to me, you cruel flirt! Why do you persist in this folly? Now there has come to ask your hand a prince of the east, so handsome that the very sun grows modest before the splendour of his face; he is rich, and he has brought gold and jewels, all for you, if you will marry him. A better husband you will not find.' But all the arguments of father and mother were wasted, for her only answer was: 'O my father! I have sworn to myself that I will not marry, even if a thousand years go by, unless someone answers my riddle, and that I will give myself to that man only who does answer it.'
The three days passed; then the riddle was asked: 'What did the rose do to the cypress?' The prince had an eloquent tongue, which could split a hair, and without hesitation he replied to her with a verse: 'Only the Omnipotent has knowledge of secrets; if any man says, " I know " do not believe him.'
Then a servant fetched in the polluted, blue-eyed headsman, who asked: 'Whose sun of life has come near its setting?' took the prince by the arm, placed him upon the cloth of execution, and then, all merciless and stony hearted, cut his head from his body and hung it on the battlements.
The news of the death of Prince Tahmasp plunged his father into despair and stupefaction. He mourned for him in black raiment for forty days; and then, a few days later, his second son, Prince Qamas, extracted from him leave to go too; and he, also, was put to death. One son only now remained, the brave, eloquent, happy-natured Prince Almas-ruh-bakhsh. One day, when his father sat brooding over his lost children, Almas came before him and said: 'O father mine! the daughter of King Quimus has done my two brothers to death; I wish to avenge them upon her.' These words brought his father to tears. 'O light of your father! ' he cried, 'I have no one left but you, and now you ask me to let you go to your death.''Dear father!' pleaded the prince, 'until I have lowered the pride of that beauty, and have set her here before you, I cannot settle down or indeed sit down off my feet.'
In the end he, too, got leave to go; but he went a without a following and alone. Like his brothers, he made the long journey to the city of Quimus the son of Timus; like them he saw the citadel, but he saw there the heads of Tahmasp and Qamas. He went about in the city, saw the tent and the drums, and then went out again to a village not far off. Here he found out a very old man who had a wife 120 years old, or rather more. Their lives were coming to their end, but they had never beheld face of child of their own. They were glad when the prince came to their house, and they dealt with him as with a son. He put all his belongings into their charge, and fastened his horse in their out-house. Then he asked them not to speak of him to anyone, and to keep his affairs secret. He exchanged his royal dress for another, and next morning, just as the sun looked forth from its eastern oratory, he went again into the city. He turned over in his mind without ceasing how he was to find out the meaning of the riddle, and to give them a right answer, and who could help him, and how to avenge his brothers. He wandered about the city, but heard nothing of service, for there was no one in all that land who understood the riddle of Princess Mihrafruz.
One day he thought he would go to her own palace and see if he could learn anything there, so he went out to her garden-house. It was a very splendid place, with a wonderful gateway, and walls like Alexander's ramparts. Many gate-keepers were on guard, and there was no chance of passing them. His heart was full of bitterness, but he said to himself: 'All will be well! it is here I shall get what I want.' He went round outside the garden wall hoping to find a gap, and he made supplication in the Court of Supplications and prayed, 'O Holder of the hand of the helpless! show me my way.'
While he prayed he bethought himself that he could get into the garden with a stream of inflowing water. He looked carefully round, fearing to be seen, stripped, slid into the stream and was carried within the great walls. There he hid himself till his loin cloth was dry. The garden was a very Eden, with running water amongst its lawns, with flowers and the lament of doves and the jug-jug of nightingales. It was a place to steal the senses from the brain, and he wandered about and saw the house, but there seemed to be no one there. In the forecourt was a royal seat of polished jasper, and in the middle of the platform was a basin of purest water that flashed like a mirror. He pleased himself with these sights for a while, and then went back to the garden and hid himself from the gardeners and passed the night. Next morning he put on the appearance of a madman and wandered about till he came to a lawn where several pert-faced girls were amusing themselves. On a throne, jewelled and overspread with silken stuffs, sat a girl the splendour of whose beauty lighted up the place, and whose ambergris and attar perfumed the whole air. 'That must be Mihrafruz,' he thought, 'she is indeed lovely.' Just then one of the attendants came to the water's edge to fill a cup, and though the prince was in hiding, his face was reflected in the water. When she saw this image she was frightened, and let her cup fall into the stream, and thought, 'Is it an angel, or a peri, or a man?' Fear and trembling took hold of her, and she screamed as women scream. Then some of the other girls came and took her to the princess who asked: 'What is the matter, pretty one?'
'O princess! I went for water, and I saw an image, and I was afraid.' So another girl went to the water and saw the same thing, and came back with the same story. The princess wished to see for herself; she rose and paced to the spot with the march of a prancing peacock. When she saw the image she said to her nurse: 'Find out who is reflected in the water, and where he lives.' Her words reached the prince's ear, he lifted up his head; she saw him and beheld beauty such as she had never seen before. She lost a hundred hearts to him, and signed to her nurse to bring him to her presence. The prince let himself be persuaded to go with the nurse, but when the princess questioned him as to who he was and how he had got into her garden, he behaved like a man out of his mind--sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, and saying: ' I am hungry,'Or words misplaced and random, civil mixed with the rude.
'What a pity!' said the princess, 'he is mad!' As she liked him she said: 'He is my madman; let no one hurt him.' She took him to her house and told him not to go away, for that she would provide for all his wants. The prince thought, 'It would be excellent if here, in her very house, I could get the answer to her riddle; but I must be silent, on pain of death.'
Now in the princess's household there was a girl called Dil-aram[FN#7]; she it was who had first seen the image of the prince. She came to love him very much, and she spent day and night thinking how she could make her affection known to him. One day she escaped from the princess's notice and went to the prince, and laid her head on his feet and said: ' Heaven has bestowed on you beauty and charm. Tell me your secret; who are you, and how did you come here? I love you very much, and if you would like to leave this place I will go with you. I have wealth equal to the treasure of the miserly Qarun.' But the prince only made answer like a man distraught, and told her nothing. He said to himself, ' God forbid that the veil should be taken in vain from my secret; that would indeed disgrace me.' So, with streaming eyes and burning breast, Dil-aram arose and went to her house and lamented and fretted.
Now whenever the princess commanded the prince's attendance, Dil-aram, of all the girls, paid him attention and waited on him best. The princess noticed this, and said: 'O Dilaram! you must take my madman into your charge and give him whatever he wants.' This was the very thing Dil- aram had prayed for. A little later she took the prince into a private place and she made him take an oath of secrecy, and she herself took one and swore, ' By Heaven! I will not tell your secret. Tell me all about yourself so that I may help you to get what you want.' The prince now recognised in her words the perfume of true love, and he made compact with her. 'O lovely girl! I want to know what the rose did to the cypress. Your mistress cuts off men's heads because of this riddle; what is at the bottom of it, and why does she do it?' Then Dil-aram answered: ' If you will promise to marry me and to keep me always amongst those you favour, I will tell you all I know, and I will keep watch about the riddle.'
'O lovely girl,' rejoined he, 'if I accomplish my purpose, so that I need no longer strive for it, I will keep my compact with you. When I have this woman in my power and have avenged my brothers, I will make you my solace.'
'O wealth of my life and source of my joy!' responded Dil-aram, 'I do not know what the rose did to the cypress; but so much I know that the person who told Mihr-afruz about it is a negro whom she hides under her throne. He fled here from Waq of the Caucasus--it is there you must make inquiry; there is no other way of getting at the truth.'On hearing these words, the prince said to his heart, 'O my heart! your task will yet wear away much of your life.'
He fell into long and far thought, and Dil-aram looked at him and said: 'O my life and my soul! do not be sad. If you would like this woman killed, I will put poison into her cup so that she will never lift her head from her drugged sleep again.'
'O Dil-aram! such a vengeance is not manly. I shall not rest till I have gone to Waq of the Caucasus and have cleared up the matter.' Then they repeated the agreement about their marriage, and bade one another goodbye.
The prince now went back to the village, and told the old man that he was setting out on a long journey, and begged him not to be anxious, and to keep safe the goods which had been entrusted to him.
The prince had not the least knowledge of the way to Waq of the Caucasus, and was cast down by the sense of his helplessness. He was walking along by his horse's side when there appeared before him an old man of serene countenance, dressed in green and carrying a staff, who resembled Khizr.[FN#8] The prince thanked heaven, laid the hands of reverence on his breast and salaamed. The old man returned the greeting graciously, and asked: 'How fare you? Whither are you bound? You look like a traveller.'
'O revered saint! I am in this difficulty: I do not know the way to Waq of the Caucasus.' The old man of good counsel looked at the young prince and said: 'Turn back from this dangerous undertaking. Do not go; choose some other task! If you had a hundred lives you would not bring one out safe from this journey.' But his words had no effect on the prince's resolve. 'What object have you,' the old man asked, 'in thus consuming your life?''I have an important piece of business to do, and only this journey makes it possible. I must go; I pray you, ill God's name, tell me the way.'
When the saint saw that the prince was not to be moved, he said: ' Learn and know, O youth! that Waq of Qaf is in the Caucasus and is a dependency of it. In it there are jins, demons, and peris. You must go on along this road till it forks into three; take neither the right hand nor the left, but the middle path. Follow this for a day and a night. Then you will come to a column on which is a marble slab inscribed with Cufic characters. Do what is written there; beware of disobedience.' Then he gave his good wishes for the journey and his blessing, and the prince kissed his [Bet, said good-bye, and, with thanks to the Causer of Causes, took the road.
After a day and a night he saw the column rise in silent beauty to the heavens. Everything was as the wise old man had said it would be, and the prince, who was skilled in all tongues, read the following Cufic inscription: 'O travellers! be it known to you that this column has been set up with its tablet to give true directions about these roads. If a man would pass his life in ease and pleasantness, let him take the right-hand path. If he take the left, he will have some trouble, but he will reach his goal without much delay. Woe to him who chooses the middle path! if he had a thousand lives he would not save one; it is very hazardous; it leads to the Caucasus, and is an endless road. Beware of it!'
The prince read and bared his head and lifted his hands in supplication to Him who has no needs, and prayed, 'O Friend of the traveller! I, Thy servant, come to Thee for succour. My purpose lies in the land of Qaf and my road is full of peril. Lead me by it.' Then he took a handful of earth and cast it on his collar, and said: 'O earth! be thou my grave; and O vest! tee thou my winding-sheet!' Then he took the middle road and went along it, day after day, with many a silent prayer, till he saw trees rise from the weary waste of sand. They grew in a garden, and he went up to the gate and found it a slab of beautifully worked marble, and that near it there lay sleeping, with his head on a stone, a negro whose face was so black that it made darkness round him. His upper lip, arched like an eyebrow, curved upwards to his nostrils and his lower hung down like a camel's. Four millstones formed his shield, and on a box- tree close by hung his giant sword. His loincloth was fashioned of twelve skins of beasts, and was bound round his waist by a chain of which each link was as big as an elephant's thigh.
The prince approached and tied up his horse near the negro's head. Then he let fall the Bismillah from his lips, entered the garden and walked through it till he came to the private part, delighting in the great trees, the lovely verdure, and the flowery borders. In the inner garden there were very many deer. These signed to him with eye and foot to go back, for that this was enchanted ground; but he did not understand them, and thought their pretty gestures were a welcome. After a while he reached a palace which had a porch more splendid than Caesar's, and was built of gold and silver bricks. In its midst was a high seat, overlaid with fine carpets, and into it opened eight doors, each having opposite to it a marble basin.
Banishing care, Prince Almas walked on through the garden, when suddenly a window opened and a girl, who was lovely enough to make the moon writhe with jealousy, put out her head. She lost her heart to the good looks of the prince, and sent her nurse to fetch him so that she might learn where he came from and how he had got into her private garden where even lions and wolves did not venture. The nurse went, and was struck with amazement at the sun-like radiance of his face; she salaamed and said: 'O youth! welcome! the lady of the garden calls you; come!' He went with her and into a palace which was like a house in Paradise, and saw seated on the royal carpets of the throne a girl whose brilliance shamed the shining sun. He salaamed; she rose, took him by the hand and placed him near her. 'O young man! who are you? Where do you come from? How did you get into this garden?' He told her his story from beginning to end, and Lady Latifa[FN#9] replied: 'This is folly! It will make you a vagabond of the earth, and lead you to destruction. Come, cease such talk! No one can go to the Caucasus. Stay with me and be thankful, for here is a throne which you can share with me, and in my society you can enjoy my wealth. I will do whatever you wish; I will bring here King Qulmus and his daughter, and you can deal with them as you will.'
'O Lady Latifa,' he said, 'I have made a compact with heaven not to sit down off my feet till I have been to Waq of Qaf and have cleared up this matter, and have taken Mihr- afruz from her father, as brave men take, and have put her in prison. When I have done all this I will come back to you in state and with a great following, and I will marry you according to the law.' Lady Latifa argued and urged her wishes, but in vain; the prince was not to be moved. Then she called to the cupbearers for new wine, for she thought that when his head was hot with it he might consent to stay. The pure, clear wine was brought; she filled a cup and gave to him. He said: 'O most enchanting sweetheart! it is the rule for the host to drink first and then the guest.' So to make him lose his head, she drained the cup; then filled it again and gave him. He drank it off, and she took a lute from one of the singers and played upon it with skill which witched away the sense of all who heard. But it was all in vain; three days passed in such festivities, and on the fourth the prince said: 'O joy of my eyes! I beg now that you will bid me farewell, for my way is long and the fire of your love darts flame into the harvest of my heart. By heaven's grace I may accomplish my purpose, and, if so, I will come back to you.'
Now she saw that she could not in any way change his resolve, she told her nurse to bring a certain casket which contained, she said, something exhilarating which would help the prince on his journey. The box was brought, and she divided off a portion of what was within and gave it to the prince to eat. Then, and while he was all unaware, she put forth her hand to a stick fashioned like a snake; she said some words over it and struck him so sharply on the shoulder that he cried out; then he made a pirouette and found that he was a deer.
When he knew what had been done to him he thought, 'All the threads of affliction are gathered together; I have lost my last chance!' He tried to escape, but the magician sent for her goldsmith, who, coming, overlaid the deer-horns with gold and jewels. The kerchief which that day she had had in her hand was then tied round its neck, and this freed it from her attentions.
The prince-deer now bounded into the garden and at once sought some way of escape. It found none, and it joined the other deer, which soon made it their leader. Now, although the prince had been transformed into the form of a deer, he kept his man's heart and mind. He said to himself, 'Thank heaven that the Lady Latifa has changed me into this shape, for at least deer are beautiful.' He remained for some time living as a deer amongst the rest, but at length resolved that an end to such a life must be put ill some way. He looked again for some place by which he could get out of the magic garden. Following round the wall he reached a lower part; he remembered the Divine Names and flung himself over, saying, 'Whatever happens is by the will of God.' When he looked about he found that he was in the very same place he had jumped from; there was the palace, there the garden and the deer! Eight times he leaped over the wall and eight times found himself where he had started from; but after the ninth leap there was a change, there was a palace and there was a garden, but the deer were gone.
Presently a girl of such moon-like beauty opened a window that the prince lost to her a hundred hearts. She was delighted with the beautiful deer, and cried to her nurse: 'Catch it! if you will I will give you this necklace, every pearl of which is worth a kingdom.' The nurse coveted the pearls, but as she was three hundred years old she did not know how she could catch a deer. However, she went down into the garden and held out some grass, but when she went near the creature ran away. The girl watched with great excitement from the palace window, and called: 'O nurse, if you don't catch it, I will kill you!' 'I am killing myself,' shouted back the old woman. The girl saw that nurse tottering along and went down to help, marching with the gait of a prancing peacock. When she saw the gilded horns and the kerchief she said: 'It must be accustomed to the hand, and be some royal pet!' The prince had it in mind that this might be another magician who could give him some other shape, but still it seemed best to allow himself to be caught. So he played about the girl and let her catch him by the neck. A leash was brought, fruits were given, and it was caressed with delight. It was taken to the palace and tied at the foot of the Lady Jamila's raised seat, but she ordered a longer cord to be brought so that it might be able to jump up beside her.
When the nurse went to fix the cord she saw tears falling from its eyes, and that it was dejected and sorrowful 'O Lady Jamila! this is a wonderful deer, it is crying; I never saw a deer cry before.' Jamila darted down like a flash of lightning, and saw that it was so. It rubbed its head on her feet and then shook it so sadly that the girl cried for sympathy. She patted it and said: 'Why are you sad, my heart? Why do you cry, my soul? Is it because I have caught you? I love you better than my own life.' But, spite of her comforting, it cried the more. Then Jamila said: 'Unless I am mistaken, this is the work of my wicked sister Latifa, who by magic art turns servants of God into beasts of the field.' At these words the deer uttered sounds, and laid its head on her feet. Then Jamila was sure it was a man, and said: ' Be comforted, I will restore you to your own shape.' She bathed herself and ordered the deer to be bathed, put on clean raiment, called for a box which stood in an alcove, opened it and gave a portion of what was in it to the deer to eat. Then she slipped her hand under her carpet and produced a stick to which she said something. She struck the deer hard, it pirouetted and became Prince Almas.
The broidered kerchief and the jewels lay upon the ground. The prince prostrated himself in thanks to heaven and Jamila, and said: 'O delicious person! O Chinese Venus! how shall I excuse myself for giving you so much trouble? With what words can I thank you?' Then she called for a clothes-wallet and chose out a royal dress of honour. Her attendants dressed him in it, and brought him again before the tender-hearted lady. She turned to him a hundred hearts, took his hand and seated him beside her, and said: 'O youth! tell me truly who you are and where you come from, and how you fell into the power of my sister.'
Even when he was a deer the prince had much admired Jamila now he thought her a thousand times more lovely than before. He judged that in truth alone was safety, and so told her his whole story. Then she asked: 'O Prince Almas-ruh-bakhsh, do you still wish so much to make this journey to Waq of Qaf? What hope is there in it? The road is dangerous even near here, and this is not yet the borderland of the Caucasus. Come, give it up! It is a great risk, and to go is not wise. It would be a pity for a man like you to fall into the hands of jins and demons. Stay with me, and I will do whatever you wish.'
'O most delicious person!' he answered, 'you are very generous, and the choice of my life lies in truth in your hands; but I beg one favour of you. If you love me, so do I too love you. If you really love me, do not forbid me to make this journey, but help me as far as you can. Then it may be that I shall succeed, and if I return with my purpose fulfilled I will marry you according to the law, and take you to my own country, and we will spend the rest of our lives together in pleasure and good companionship. Help me, if you can, and give me your counsel.'
'O very stuff of my life,' replied Jamila 'I will give you things that are not in kings' treasuries, and which will be of the greatest use to you. First, there are the bow and arrows of his Reverence the Prophet Salih. Secondly, there is the Scorpion of Solomon (on whom be peace), which is a sword such as no king has; steel and stone are one to it; if you bring it down on a rock it will not be injured, and it will cleave whatever you strike. Thirdly, there is the dagger which the sage Timus himself made; this is most useful, and the man who wears it would not bend under seven camels' loads. What you have to do first is to get to the home of the Simurgh,[FN#10] and to make friends with him. If he favours you, he will take you to Waq of Qaf; if not, you will never get there, for seven seas are on the way, and they are such seas that if all the kings of the earth, and all their wazirs, and all their wise men considered for a thousand years, they would not be able to cross them.''O most delicious person! where is the Simurgh's home? How shall I get there?'
'O new fruit of life! you must just do what I tell you, and you must use your eyes and your brains, for if you don't you will find yourself at the place of the negroes, who are a bloodthirsty set; and God forbid they should lay hands on your precious person.'
Then she took the bow and quiver of arrows, the sword, and the dagger out of a box, and the prince let fall a Bismillah, and girt them all on. Then Jamila of the houri-face, produced two saddle-bags of ruby-red silk, one filled with roasted fowl and little cakes, and the other with stones of price. Next she gave him a horse as swift as the breeze of the morning, and she said: ' Accept all these things from me; ride till you come to a rising ground, at no great distance from here, where there is a spring. It is called the Place of Gifts, and you must stay there one night. There you will see many wild beasts--lions, tigers, leopards, apes, and so on. Before you get there you must capture some game. On the long road beyond there dwells a lion-king, alla if other beasts did not fear him they would ravage the whole country and let no one pass. The lion is a red transgressor, so when he comes rise and do him reverence; take a cloth and rub the dust and earth from his face, then set the game you have taken before him, well cleansed, and lay the hands of respect on your breast. When he wishes to eat, take your knife and cut pieces of the meat and set them before him with a bow. In this way you will enfold that lion-king in perfect friendship, and he will be most useful to you, and you will be safe from molestation by the negroes. When you go on from the Place of Gifts, be sure you do not take the righthand road; take the left, for the other leads by the negro castle, which is known as the Place of Clashing Swords, and where there are forty negro captains each over three thousand or four thousand more. Their chief is Taramtaq.[FN#11] Further on than this is the home of the Simurgh.'
Having stored these things in the prince's memory, she said: 'You will see everything happen just as I have said.' Then she escorted him a little way; they parted, and she went home to mourn his absence.
Prince Almas, relying on the Causer of Causes, rode on to the Place of Gifts and dismounted at the platform. Everything happened just as Jamila had foretold; when one or two watches of the night had passed, he saw that the open ground around him was full of such stately and splendid animals as he had never seen before. By-and-by, they made way for a wonderfully big lion, which was eighty yards from nose to tail-tip, and was a magnificent creature. The prince advanced and saluted it; it proudly drooped its head and forelocks and paced to the platform. Seventy or eighty others were with it, and now encircled it at a little distance. It laid its right paw over its left, and the prince took the kerchief Jamila had given him for the purpose, and rubbed the dust and earth from its face; then brought forward the game he had prepared, and crossing his hands respectfully on his breast stood waiting before it. When it wished for food he cut off pieces of the meat and put them in its mouth. The serving lions also came near and the prince would have stayed his hand, but the king-lion signed to him to feed them too. This he did, laying the meat on the platform. Then the king-lion beckoned the prince to come near and said: 'Sleep at ease; my guards will watch.'. So, surrounded by the lion-guard, he slept till dawn, when the king lion said good-bye, and gave him a few of his own hairs and said: 'When you are in any difficulty, burn one of these and I will be there.' Then it went off into the jungle.
Prince Almas immediately started; he rode till he came to the parting of the ways. He remembered quite well that the right-hand way was short and dangerous, but he bethought himself too that whatever was written on his forehead would happen, and took the forbidden road. By-and-by he saw a castle, and knew from what Jamila had told him that it was the Place of Clashing Swords. He would have liked to go back by the way ho had come, but courage forbade, and he said, 'What has been preordained from eternity will happen to me,' and went on towards the castle. He was thinking of tying his horse to a tree which grew near the gate when a negro came out and spied him. ' Ha!' said the wretch to himself, 'this is good; Taram-taq has not eaten man-meat for a long time, and is craving for some. I will take this creature to him.' He took hold of the prince's reins, and said: 'Dismount, man-child! Come to my master. He has wanted to eat man-meat this long time back.' 'What nonsense are you saying?' said the prince, and other such words. When the negro understood that he was being abused, he cried: 'Come along! I will put you into such a state that the birds of the air will weep for you.' Then the prince drew the Scorpion of So]omon and struck him--struck him on the leathern belt and shore him through so that the sword came out on the other side. He stood upright for a little while, muttered some words, put out his hand to seize the prince, then fell in two and surrendered his life.
There was water close at hand, and the prince made his ablution, and then said: 'O my heart! a wonderful task lies upon you.' A second negro came out of the fort, and seeing what had been done, went back and told his chief. Others wished to be doubled, and went out, and of every one the Scorpion of Solomon made two. Then Taram-taq sent for a giant negro named Chil-maq, who in the day of battle was worth three hundred, and said to him: 'I shall thank you to fetch me that man.'
Chil-maq went out, tall as a tower, and bearing a shield of eight millstones, and as he walked he shouted: 'Ho! blunder- head! by what right do you come to our country and kill our people? Come! make two of me.' As the prince was despicable in his eyes, he tossed aside his club and rushed to grip him with his hands. He caught him by the collar, tucked him under his arm and set off with him to Taram-taq. But the prince drew the dagger of Timus and thrust it upwards through the giant's armpit, for its full length. This made Chil-maq drop him and try to pick up his club; but when he stooped the mighty sword shore him through at the waist.
When news of his champion's death reached Taram-taq he put himself at the head of an army of his negroes and led them forth. Many fell before the magic sword, and the prince laboured on in spite of weakness and fatigue till he was almost worn out. In a moment of respite from attack he struck his fire-steel and burned a hair of the king-lion; and he had just succeeded in this when the negroes charged again and all but took him prisoner. Suddenly from behind the distant veil of the desert appeared an army of lions led by their king. 'What brings these scourges of heaven here?' cried the negroes. They came roaring up, and put fresh life into the prince. He fought on, and when he struck on a belt the wearer fell in two, and when on a head he cleft to the waist. Then the ten thousand mighty lions joined the fray and tore in pieces man and horse.
Taram-taq was left alone; he would have retired into his fort, but the prince shouted: 'Whither away, accursed one? Are you fleeing before me?' At these defiant words the chief shouted back, 'Welcome, man! Come here and I will soften you to wax beneath my club.' Then he hurled his club at the prince's head, but it fell harmless because the prince had quickly spurred his horse forward. The chief, believing he had hit him, was looking down for him, when all at once he came up behind and cleft him to the waist and sent him straight to hell.
The king-lion greatly praised the dashing courage of Prince Almas. They went together into the Castle of Clashing Swords and found it adorned and fitted in princely fashion. In it was a daughter of Taram taq, still a child She sent a message to Prince Almas saying, 'O king of the world! choose this slave to be your handmaid. Keep her with you; where you go, there she will go! ' He sent for her and she kissed his feet and received the Mussulman faith at his hands. He told her he was going a long journey on important business, and that when he came back he would take her and her possessions to his own country, but that for the present she must stay in the castle. Then he made over the fort and all that was in it to the care of the lion, saying: 'Guard them, brother! let no one lay a hand on them.' He said goodbye, chose a fresh horse from the chief's stable and once again took the road.
After travelling many stages and for many days, he reached a plain of marvellous beauty and refreshment. It was carpeted with flowers--roses, tulips, and clover; it had lovely lawns, and amongst them running water. This choicest place of earth filled him with wonder. There was a tree such as he had never seen before; its branches were alike, but it bore flowers and fruit of a thousand kinds. Near it a reservoir had been fashioned of four sorts of stone--touchstone, pure stone, marble, and loadstone. In and out of it flowed water like attar. The prince felt sure this must be the place of the Simurgh.' he dismounted, turned his horse loose to graze, ate some of the food Jamila had given him, drank of the stream and lay down to sleep.
He was still dozing when he was aroused by the neighing and pawing of his horse. When he could see clearly he made out a mountain-like dragon whose heavy breast crushed the stones beneath it into putty. He remembered the Thousand Names of God and took the bow of Salih from its case and three arrows from their quiver. He bound the dagger of Tlmus firmly to his waist and hung the scorpion of Solomon round his neck. Then he set an arrow on the string and released it with such force that it went in at the monster's eye right up to the notch. The dragon writhed on itself, and belched forth an evil vapour, and beat the ground with its head till the earth quaked. Then the prince took a second arrow and shot into its throat. It drew in its breath and would have sucked the prince into its maw, but when he was within striking distance he drew his sword and, having committed himself to God, struck a mighty blow which cut the creature's neck down to the gullet. The foul vapour of the beast and horror at its strangeness now overcame the prince, and he fainted. When he came to himself he found that he was drenched in the gore of the dead monster. He rose and thanked God for his deliverance.
The nest of the Simurgh was in the wonderful tree above him, and in it were young birds; the parents were away searching for food. They always told the children, before they left them, not to put their heads out of the nest; but, to-day, at the noise of the fight below, they looked down and so saw the whole affair. By the time the dragon had been killed they were very hungry and set up a clamour for food. The prince therefore cut up the dragon and fed them with it, bit by bit, till they had eaten the whole. He then washed himself and lay down to rest, and he was still asleep when the Simurgh came home. As a rule, the young birds raised a clamour of welcome when their parents came near, but on this day they were so full of dragon-meat that they had no choice, they had to go to sleep.
As they flew nearer, the old birds saw the prince lying under the tree and no sign of life in the nest. They thought that the misfortune which for so many earlier years had befallen them had again happened and that their nestlings had disappeared. They had never been able to find out the murderer, and now suspected the prince. ' He has eaten our children and sleeps after it; he must die,' said the father-bird, and flew back to the hills and clawed up a huge stone which he meant to let fall on the prince's head. But his mate said, 'Let us look into the nest first for to kill an innocent person would condemn us at the Day of Resurrection.' They flew nearer, and presently the young birds woke and cried, 'Mother, what have you brought for us?' and they told the whole story of the fight, and of how they were alive only by the favour of the young man under the tree, and of his cutting up the dragon and of their eating it. The mother-bird then remarked, 'Truly, father! you were about to do a strange thing, and a terrible sin has been averted from you.' Then the Simurgh flew off to a distance with the great stone and dropped it. It sank down to the very middle of the earth.
Coming back, the Simurgh saw that a little sunshine fell upon the prince through the leaves, and it spread its wings and shaded him till he woke. When he got up he salaamed to it, who returned his greeting with joy and gratitude, and caressed him and said: 'O youth, tell me true! who are you, and where are you going? And how did you cross that pitiless desert where never yet foot of man had trod?' The prince told his story from beginning to end, and finished by saying: 'Now it is my heart's wish that you should help me to get to Waq of the Caucasus. Perhaps, by your favour, I shall accomplish my task and avenge my brothers.' In reply the Simurgh.' first blessed the deliverer of his children, and then went on: ' What you have done no child of man has ever done before; you assuredly have a claim on all my help, for every year up till now that dragon has come here and has destroyed my nestlings, and I have never been able to find who was the murderer and to avenge myself. By God's grace you have removed my children's powerful foe. I regard you as a child of my own. Stay with me; I will give you everything you desire, and I will establish a city here for you, and will furnish it with every requisite; I will give you the land of the Caucasus, and will make its princes subject to you. Give up the journey to Waq, it is full of risk, and the jins there will certainly kill you.' But nothing could move the prince, and seeing this the bird went on: 'Well, so be it! When you wish to set forth you must go into the plain and take seven head of deer, and must make watertight bags of their hides and keep their flesh in seven portions. Seven seas lie on our way
- I will carry you over them; but if I have not food and drink we shall fall into the sea and be drowned. When I ask for it you must put food and water into my mouth. So we shall make the journey safely.'
The prince did all as he was told, then they took flight; they crossed the seven seas, and at each one the prince fed the Simurgh When they alighted on the shore of the last sea, it said: 'O my son! there lies your road; follow it to the city. Take thee three feathers of mine, and, if you are in a difficulty, burn one and I will be with you in the twinkling of an eye.'
The prince walked on in solitude till he reached the city. He went in and wandered about through all quarters, and through bazaars and lanes and squares, in the least knowing from whom he could ask information about the riddle of Mihr-afruz. He spent seven days thinking it over in silence. From the first day of his coming he had made friends with a young cloth-merchant, and a great liking had sprung up between them. One day he said abruptly to his companion: 'O dear friend! I wish you would tell me what the rose did to the cypress, and what the sense of the riddle is.' The merchant started, and exclaimed: 'If there were not brotherly affection between us, I would cut off your head for asking me this! ' 'If you meant to kill me,' retorted the prince, ' you would still have first to tell me what I want to know.' When the merchant saw that the prince was in deadly earnest, he said: ' If you wish to hear the truth of the matter you must wait upon our king. There is no other way; no one else will tell you. I have a well-wisher at the Court, named Farrukhfal,[FN#12] and will introduce you to him.' 'That would be excellent,' cried the prince. A meeting was arranged between Farrukhfal and Almas, and then the amir took him to the king's presence and introduced him as a stranger and traveller who had come from afar to sit in the shadow of King Sinaubar.
Now the Simurgh had given the prince a diamond weighing thirty misqals, and he ordered this to the king, who at once recognised its value, and asked where it had been obtained. 'I, your slave, once had riches and state and power; there are many such stones in my country. On my way here I was plundered at the Castle of Clashing Swords, and I saved this one thing only, hidden in my bathing-cloth.' In return for the diamond, King Sinaubar showered gifts of much greater value, for he remembered that it was the last possession of the prince. He showed the utmost kindness and hospitality, and gave his wazir orders to instal the prince in the royal guest-house. He took much pleasure in his visitor's society; they were together every day and spent the time most pleasantly. Several times the king said: 'Ask me for something, that I may give it you.'One day he so pressed to know what would pleasure the prince, that the latter said: 'I have only one wish, and that I will name to you in private.' The king at once commanded every one to withdraw, and then Prince Almas said: ' The desire of my life is to know what the rose did to the cypress, and what meaning there is in the words.' The king was astounded. 'In God's name! if anyone else had said that to me I should have cut off his head instantly.' The prince heard this in silence, and presently so beguiled the king with pleasant talk that to kill him was impossible.
Time flew by, the king again and again begged the prince to ask some gift of him, and always received this same reply: 'I wish for your Majesty's welfare, what more can I desire?'One night there was a banquet, and cupbearers carried round gold and silver cups of sparkling wine, and singers with sweetest voices contended for the prize. The prince drank from the king's own cup, and when his head was hot with wine he took a lute from one of the musicians and placed himself on the carpet border and sang and sang till he witched away the sense of all who listened. Applause and compliments rang from every side. The king filled his cup and called the prince and gave it him and said: 'Name your wish! it is yours.' The prince drained off the wine and answered: 'O king of the world! learn and know that I have only one aim in life, and this is to know what the rose did to the cypress.'
'Never yet,' replied the king, 'has any man come out from that question alive. If this is your only wish, so be it; I will tell you. But I will do this on one condition only, namely, that when you have heard you will submit yourself to death.' To this the prince agreed, and said: ' I set my foot firmly on this compact.'
The king then gave an order to an attendant; a costly carpet overlaid with European velvet was placed near him, and a dog was led in by a golden and jewelled chain and set upon the splendid stuffs. A band of fair girls came in and stood round it in waiting.
Then, with ill words, twelve negroes dragged in a lovely woman, fettered on hands and feet and meanly dressed, and they set her down on the bare floor. She was extraordinarily beautiful, and shamed the glorious sun. The king ordered a hundred stripes to be laid on her tender body; she sighed a long sigh. Food was called for and table-cloths were spread. Delicate meats were set before the dog, and water given it in a royal cup of Chinese crystal. When it had eaten its fill, its leavings were placed before the lovely woman and she was made to eat of them. She wept and her tears were pearls; she smiled and her lips shed roses. Pearls and flowers were gathered up and taken to the treasury.
'Now,' said the king, ' you have seen these things and your purpose is fulfilled.' 'Truly,' said the prince, 'I have seen things which I have not understood; what do they mean, and what is the story of them? Tell me and kill me.'
Then said the king: 'The woman you see there in chains is my wife; she is called Gul, the Rose, and I am Sinaubar, the Cypress. One day I was hunting and became very thirsty. After great search I discovered a well in a place so secret that neither bird nor beast nor man could find it without labour. I was alone, I took my turban for a rope and my cap for a bucket. There was a good deal of water, but when I let down my rope, something caught it, and I could not in any way draw it back. I shouted down into the well: "O! servant of God! whoever you are, why do you deal unfairly with me? I am dying of thirst, let go! in God's name." A cry came up in answer, "O servant of God! we have been in the well a long time; in God's name get us out!" After trying a thousand schemes, I drew up two blind women. They said they were peris, and that their king had blinded them in his anger and had left them in the well alone.' "Now," they said, "if you will get us the cure for our blindness we will devote ourselves to your service, and will do whatever you wish." ' "What is the cure for your blindness?"
' "Not far from this place," they said, "a cow comes up from the great sea to graze; a little of her dung would cure us. We should be eternally your debtors. Do not let the cow see you, or she will assuredly kill you."
'With renewed strength and spirit I went to the shore. There I watched the cow come up from the sea, graze, and go back. Then I came out of my hiding, took a little of her dung and conveyed it to the peris. They rubbed it on their eyes, and by the Divine might saw again.
'They thanked heaven and me, and then considered what they could do to show their gratitude to me. "Our peri-king," they said, "has a daughter whom he keeps under his own eye and thinks the most lovely girl on earth. In good sooth, she has not her equal! Now we will get you into her house and you must win her heart, and if she has an inclination for another, you must drive it out and win her for yourself. Her mother loves her so dearly that she has no ease but in her presence, and she will give her to no one in marriage. Teach her to love you so that she cannot exist without you. But if the matter becomes known to her mother she will have you burned in the fire. Then you must beg, as a last favour, that your body may be anointed with oil so that you may burn the more quickly and be spared torture. If the peri-king allows this favour, we two will manage to be your anointers, and we will put an oil on you such that if you were a thousand years in the fire not a trace of burning would remain."
'In the end the two peris. took me to the girl's house. I saw her sleeping daintily. She was most lovely, and I was so amazed at the perfection of her beauty that I stood with senses lost, and did not know if she were real or a dream. When at last I saw that she was a real girl, I returned thanks that I, the runner, had come to my goal, and that I, the seeker, had found my treasure.
'When the peri opened her eyes she asked in affright: "Who are you? Have you come to steal? How did you get here? Be quick! save yourself from this whirlpool of destruction, for the demons and peris. who guard me will wake and seize you."
'But love's arrow had struck me deep, and the girl, too, looked kindly on me. I could not go away. For some months I remained hidden in her house. 'We did not dare to let her mother know of our love. Sometimes the girl was very sad and fearful lest her mother should come to know. One day her father said to her: "Sweetheart, for some time I have noticed that your beauty is not what it was. How is this? Has sickness touched you? Tell me that I may seek a cure." Alas! there was now no way of concealing the mingled delight and anguish of our love; from secret it became known. I was put in prison and the world grew dark to my rose, bereft of her lover.
'The peri-king ordered me to be burnt, and said: "Why have you, a man, done this perfidious thing in my house?" His demons and peris. collected amber-wood and made a pile, and would have set me on it, when I remembered the word of life which the two peris. I had rescued had breathed into my ear, and I asked that my body might be rubbed with oil to release me the sooner from torture. This was allowed, and those two contrived to be the anointers. I was put into the fire and it was kept up for seven days and nights. By the will of the Great King it left no trace upon me. At the end of a week the pert-king ordered the ashes to be cast upon the dust-heap, and I was found alive and unharmed.
'Peris who had seen Gul consumed by her love for me now interceded with the king, and said: "It is clear that your daughter's fortunes are bound up with his, for the fire has not hurt him. It is best to give him the girl, for they love one another. He is King of Waq of Qaf, and you will find none better."'To this the king agreed, and made formal marriage between Gul and me. You now know the price I paid for this faithless creature. O prince! remember our compact.' 'I remember,' said the prince; ' but tell me what brought Queen Gul to her present pass?'
'One night,' continued King Sinaubar,'I was aroused by feeling Gul's hands and feet, deadly cold, against my body. I asked her where she had been to get so cold, and she said she had had to go out. Next morning, when I went to my stable I saw that two of my horses, Windfoot and Tiger, were thin and worn out. I reprimanded the groom and beat him. He asked where his fault lay, and said that every night my wife took one or other of these horses and rode away, and came back only just before dawn. A flame kindled in my heart, and I asked myself where she could go and what she could do. I told the groom to be silent, and when next Gul took a horse from the stable to saddle another quickly and bring it to me. That day I did not hunt, but stayed at home to follow the matter up. I lay down as usual at night and pretended to fall asleep. When I seemed safely off Gul got up and went to the stable as her custom was. That night it was Tiger's turn. She rode off on him, and I took Windfoot and followed. With me went that dog you see, a faithful friend who never left me.
'When I came to the foot of those hills which lie outside the city I saw Gul dismount and go towards a house which some negroes have built there. Over against the door was a high seat, and on it lay a giant negro, before whom she salaamed. He got up and beat her till she was marked with weals, but she uttered no complaint. I was dumfounded, for once when I had struck her with a rose stalk she had complained and fretted for three days! Then the negro said to her: " How now, ugly one and shaven head! Why are you so late, and why are you not wearing wedding garments?" She answered him: "That person did not go to sleep quickly, and he stayed at home all day, so that I was not able to adorn myself. I came as soon as I could." In a little while he called her to sit beside him; but this was more than I could bear. I lost control of myself and rushed upon him. He clutched my collar and we grappled in a death struggle. Suddenly she came behind me, caught my feet and threw me. While he held me on the ground, she drew out my own knife and gave it to him. I should have been killed but for that faithful dog which seized his throat and pulled him down and pinned him to the ground. Then I got up and despatched the wretch. There were four other negroes at the place; three I killed and the fourth got away, and has taken refuge beneath the throne of Mihr-afruz, daughter of King Quimus. I took Gul back to my palace, and from that time till now I have treated her as a dog is treated, and I have cared for my dog as though it were my wife. Now you know what the rose did to the cypress; and now you must keep compact with me.''I shall keep my word,' said the prince; 'but may a little water be taken to the roof so that I may make my last ablution?'
To this request the king consented. The prince mounted to the roof, and, getting into a corner, struck his fire-steel and burned one of the Sirurgh's feathers in the flame. Straightway it appeared, and by the majesty of its presence made the city quake. It took the prince on its back and soared away to the zenith.
After a time King Sinaubar said: 'That young man is a long time on the roof; go and bring him here.' But there was no sign of the prince upon the roof; only, far away in the sky, the Simurgh was seen carrying him off. When the king heard of his escape he thanked heaven that his hands were clean of this blood.
Up and up flew the Simurgh, till earth looked like an egg resting on an ocean. At length it dropped straight down to its own place, where the kind prince was welcomed by the young birds and most hospitably entertained. He told the whole story of the rose and the cypress, and then, laden with gifts which the Simurgh had gathered from cities far and near, he set his face for the Castle of Clashing Swords. The king-lion came out to meet him; he took the negro chief's daughter---whose name was also Gul--in lawful marriage, and then marched with her and her possessions and her attendants to the Place of Gifts. Here they halted for a night, and at dawn said good-bye to the king-lion and set out for Jamila's country.
When the Lady Jamila heard that Prince Almas was near, she went out, with many a fair handmaid, to give him loving reception. Their meeting was joyful, and they went together to the garden-palace. Jamila summoned all her notables, and in their presence her marriage with the prince was solemnised. A few days later she entrusted her affairs to her wazir, and made preparation to go with the prince to his own country. Before she started she restored all the men whom her sister, Latifa, had bewitched, to their own forms, and received their blessings, and set them forward to their homes. The wicked Latifa herself she left quite alone in her garden-house. When all was ready they set out with all her servants and slaves, all her treasure and goods, and journeyed at ease to the city of King Quimus.
When King Quimus heard of the approach of such a great company, he sent out his wazir to give the prince honourable meeting, and to ask what had procured him the favour of the visit. The prince sent back word that he had no thought of war, but he wrote: ' Learn and know, King Quimus, that I am here to end the crimes of your insolent daughter who has tyrannously done to death many kings and kings sons, and has hung their heads on your citadel. I am here to give her the answer to her riddle.' Later on he entered the city, beat boldly on the drums, and was conducted to the presence.
The king entreated him to have nothing to do with the riddle, for that no man had come out of it alive. 'O king!' replied the prince, 'it is to answer it that I am here; I will not withdraw.'
Mihr-afruz was told that one man more had staked his head on her question, and that this was one who said he knew the answer. At the request of the prince, all the officers and notables of the land were summoned to hear his reply to the princess. All assembled, and the king and his queen Gul-rakh, and the girl and the prince were there.The prince addressed Mihr-afruz: 'What is the question you ask?' 'What did the rose do to the cypress?' she rejoined. The prince smiled, and turned and addressed the assembly. 'You who are experienced men and versed in affairs, did you ever know or hear and see anything of this matter?' 'No!' they answered, 'no one has ever known or heard or seen aught about it; it is an empty fancy.' 'From whom, then, did the princess hear of it? This empty fancy it is that has done many a servant of God to death!'
All saw the good sense of his words and showed their approval. Then he turned to the princess: 'Tell us the truth, princess; who told you of this thing? I know it hair by hair, and in and out; but if I tell you what I know, who is there that can say I speak the truth? You must produce the person who can confirm my words.'Her heart sank, for she feared that her long-kept secret was now to be noised abroad. But she said merely: 'Explain yourself.'
'I shall explain myself fully when you bring here the negro whom you hide beneath your throne.'
Here the king shouted in wonderment: 'Explain yourself, young man! What negro does my daughter hide beneath her throne?'
Messengers were forthwith despatched to the garden house, and after awhile they returned bringing a negro whom they had discovered in a secret chamber underneath the throne of Mihr-afruz, dressed in a dress of honour, and surrounded with luxury. The king was overwhelmed with astonishment, but the girl had taken heart again. She had had time to think that perhaps the prince had heard of the presence of the negro, and knew no more. So she said haughtily: 'Prince! you have not answered my riddle.''O most amazingly impudent person,' cried he, 'do you not yet repent?'
Then he turned to the people, and told them the whole story of the rose and the cypress, of King Sinaubar and Queen Gul. When he came to the killing of the negroes, he said to the one who stood before them: 'You, too, were present.''That is so; all happened as you have told it!'
There was great rejoicing in the court and all through the country over the solving of the riddle, and because now no more kings and princes would be killed. King Quimus made over his daughter to Prince Almas, but the latter refused to marry her, and took her as his captive. He then asked that the heads should be removed from the battlements and given decent burial. This was done. He received from the king everything that belonged to Mihr-afruz; her treasure of gold and silver; her costly stuffs and carpets; her household plenishing; her horses and camels; her servants and slaves.
Then he returned to his camp and sent for Dil-aram, who came bringing her goods and chattels, her gold and her jewels. When all was ready, Prince Almas set out for home, taking with him Jamila, and Dil-aram and Gul, daughter of Taram-taq, and the wicked Mihr-afruz, and all the belongings of the four, packed on horses and camels, and in carts without number.
As he approached the borders of his father's country word of his coming went before him, and all the city came forth to give him welcome. King Saman-lal-posh-- Jessamine, wearer of rubies--had so bewept the loss of his sons that he was now blind. When the prince had kissed his feet and received his blessing, he took from a casket a little collyrium of Solomon, which the Simurgh had given him, and which reveals the hidden things of earth, and rubbed it on his father's eyes. Light came, and the king saw his son.
Mihr-afruz was brought before the king, and the prince said: 'This is the murderer of your sons; do with her as you will.' The king fancied that the prince might care for the girl's beauty, and replied: 'You have humbled her; do with her as you will.'
Upon this the prince sent for four swift and strong horses, and had the negro bound to each one of them; then each was driven to one of the four quarters, and he tore in pieces like muslin.
This frightened Mihr-afruz horribly, for she thought the same thing might be done to herself. She cried out to the prince: 'O Prince Almas! what is hardest to get is most valued. Up till now I have been subject to no man, and no man had had my love. The many kings and kings sons who have died at my hands have died because it was their fate to die like this. In this matter I have not sinned. That was their fate from eternity; and from the beginning it was predestined that my fate should be bound up with yours.'
The prince gave ear to the argument from pre-ordainment, and as she was a very lovely maiden he took her too in lawful marriage. She and Jamila, set up house together, and Dil-aram and Gul set up theirs; and the prince passed the rest of his life with the four in perfect happiness, and in pleasant and sociable entertainment.Now has been told what the rose did to the cypress. Finished, finished, finished! Footnotes for What The Rose Did to the Cypress [FN#1] Translated from two Persian MSS. in the possession of the British Museum and the India Office, and adapted, with some reservations, by Annette S. Beveridge. [FN#2] Jessamine, ruby-decked. [FN#3] Life-giving diamond. [FN#4] World-gripper. [FN#5] Love-enkindler. [FN#6] Rose-cheek. [FN#7] Heartsease. [FN#8] Elias. [FN#9] Pleasure. [FN#10] Thirty-birds. [FN#11] Pomp and Pride. [FN#12] Of happy omen.
Far, far in the forest there were two little huts, and in each of them lived a man who was a famous hunter, his wife, and three or four children. Now the children were forbidden to play more than a short distance from the door, as it was known that, away on the other side of the wood near the great river, there dwelt a witch who had a magic ball that she used as a means of stealing children.
Her plan was a very simple one, and had never yet failed. When she wanted a child she just flung her ball in the direction of the child's home, and however far off it might be, the ball was sure to reach it. Then, as soon as the child saw it, the ball would begin rolling slowly back to the witch, just keeping a little ahead of the child, so that he always thought that he could catch it the next minute. But he never did, and, what was more, his parents never saw him again.
Of course you must not suppose that all the fathers and mothers who had lost children made no attempts to find them, but the forest was so large, and the witch was so cunning in knowing exactly where they were going to search, that it was very easy for her to keep out of the way. Besides, there was always the chance that the children might have been eaten by wolves, of which large herds roamed about in winter.
One day the old witch happened to want a little boy, so she threw her ball in the direction of the hunters' huts. A child was standing outside, shooting at a mark with his bow and arrows, but the moment he saw the ball, which was made of glass whose blues and greens and whites, all frosted over, kept changing one into the other, he flung down his bow, and stooped to pick the ball up. But as he did so it began to roll very gently downhill. The boy could not let it roll away, when it was so close to him, so he gave chase. The ball seemed always within his grasp, yet he could never catch it; it went quicker and quicker, and the boy grew more and more excited. That time he almost touched it--no, he missed it by a hair's breadth! Now, surely, if he gave a spring he could get in front of it! He sprang forward, tripped and fell, and found himself in the witch's house!
'Welcome! welcome! grandson!' said she; 'get up and rest yourself, for you have had a long walk, and I am sure you must be tired!' So the boy sat down, and ate some food which she gave him in a bowl. It was quite different from anything he had tasted before, and he thought it was delicious. When he had eaten up every bit, the witch asked him if he had ever fasted.'No,' replied the boy, 'at least I have been obliged to sometimes, but never if there was any food to be had.' 'You will have to fast if you want the spirits to make you strong and wise, and the sooner you begin the better.' 'Very well,' said the boy, 'what do I do first?' 'Lie down on those buffalo skins by the door of the hut,' answered she; and the boy lay down, and the squirrels and little bears and the birds came and talked to him. At the end of ten days the old woman came to him with a bowl of the same food that he had eaten before. 'Get up, my grandson, you have fasted long enough. Have the good spirits visited you, and granted you the strength and wisdom that you desire?' 'Some of them have come, and have given me a portion of both,' answered the boy, 'but many have stayed away from me.' 'Then,' said she, 'you must fast ten days more.'
So the boy lay down again on the buffalo skins, and fasted for ten days, and at the end of that time he turned his face to the wall, and fasted for twenty days longer. At length the witch called to him, and said:
'Come and eat something, my grandson.' At the sound of her voice the boy got up and ate the food she gave him. When he had finished every scrap she spoke as before: 'Tell me, my grandson, have not the good spirits visited you all these many days that you have fasted?''Not all, grandmother,' answered he; 'there are still some who keep away from me and say that I have not fasted long enough.' 'Then you must fast again,' replied the old woman, 'and go on fasting till you receive the gifts of all the good spirits. Not one must be missing.'
The boy said nothing, but lay down for the third time on the buffalo skins, and fasted for twenty days more. And at the end of that time the witch thought he was dead, his face was so white and his body so still. But when she had fed him out of the bowl he grew stronger, and soon was able to sit up.'You have fasted a long time,' said she, 'longer than anyone ever fasted before. Surely the good spirits must be satisfied now?' 'Yes, grandmother,' answered the boy, 'they have all come, and have given me their gifts.'
This pleased the old woman so much that she brought him another basin of food, and while he was eating it she talked to him, and this is what she said: 'Far away, on the other side of the great river, is the home of the Bad One. In his house is much gold, and what is more precious even than the gold, a little bridge, which lengthens out when the Bad One waves his hand, so that there is no river or sea that he cannot cross. Now I want that bridge and some of the gold for myself, and that is the reason that I have stolen so many boys by means of my ball. I have tried to teach them how to gain the gifts of the good spirits, but none of them would fast long enough, and at last I had to send them away to perform simple, easy little tasks. But you have been strong and faithful, and you can do this thing if you listen to what I tell you! When you reach the river tie this ball to your foot, and it will take you across--you cannot manage it in any other way. But do not be afraid; trust to the ball, and you will be quite safe!'
The boy took the ball and put it in a bag. Then he made himself a club and a bow, and some arrows which would fly further than anyone else's arrows, because of the strength the good spirits had given him. They had also bestowed on him the power of changing his shape, and had increased the quickness of his eyes and ears so that nothing escaped him. And in some way or other they made him understand that if he needed more help they would give it to him.
When all these things were ready the boy bade farewell to the witch and set out. He walked through the forest for several days without seeing anyone but his friends the squirrels and the bears and the birds, but though he stopped and spoke to them all, he was careful not to let them know where he was going.
At last, after many days, he came to the river, and beyond it he noticed a small hut standing on a hill which he guessed to be the home of the Bad One. But the stream flowed so quickly that he could not see how he was ever to cross it, and in order to test how swift the current really was, he broke a branch from a tree and threw it in. It seemed hardly to touch the water before it was carried away, and even his magic sight could not follow it. He could not help feeling frightened, but he hated giving up anything that he had once undertaken, and, fastening the ball on his right foot, he ventured on the river. To his surprise he was able to stand up; then a panic seized him, and he scrambled up the bank again. In a minute or two he plucked up courage to go a little further into the river, but again its width frightened him, and a second time he turned back. However, he felt rather ashamed of his cowardice, as it was quite clear that his ball could support him, and on his third trial he got safely to the other side.
Once there he replaced the ball in the bag, and looked carefully round him. The door of the Bad One's hut was open, and he saw that the ceiling was supported by great wooden beams, from which hung the bags of gold and the little bridge. He saw, too, the Bad One sitting in the midst of his treasures eating his dinner, and drinking something out of a horn. It was plain to the boy that he must invent some plan of getting the Bad One out of the way, or else he would never be able to steal the gold or the bridge.
What should he do? Give horrible shrieks as if he were in pain? But the Bad One would not care whether he were murdered or not! Call him by his name? But the Bad One was very cunning, and would suspect some trick. He must try something better than that! Then suddenly an idea came to him, and he gave a little jump of joy. 'Oh, how stupid of me not to think of that before!' said he, and he wished with all his might that the Bad One should become very hungry--so hungry that he could not wait a moment for fresh food to be brought to him. And sure enough at that instant the Bad One called out to his servant, 'You did not bring food that would satisfy a sparrow Fetch some more at once, for I am perfectly starving.' Then, without giving the woman time to go to the larder, he got up from his chair, and rolled, staggering from hunger, towards the kitchen.
Directly the door had closed on the Bad One the boy ran in, pulled down a bag of gold from the beam, and tucked it under his left arm. Next he unhooked the little bridge and put it under his right. He did not try to escape, as most boys of his age would have done, for the wisdom put into his mind by the good spirits taught him that before he could reach the river and make use of the bridge the Bad One would have tracked him by his footsteps and been upon him. So, making himself very small and thin, he hid himself behind a pile of buffalo skins in the corner, first tearing a slit through one of them, so that he could see what was going on.
He had hardly settled himself when the servant entered the room, and, as she did so, the last bag of gold on the beam fell to the ground--for they had begun to fall directly the boy had taken the first one. She cried to her master that someone had stolen both the bag and the bridge, and the Bad One rushed in, mad with anger, and bade her go and seek for footsteps outside, that they might find out where the thief had gone. In a few minutes she returned, saying that he must be in the house, as she could not see any footsteps leading to the river, and began to move all the furniture in the room, without discovering Ball Carrier.
'But he must be here somewhere,' she said to herself, examining for the second time the pile of buffalo skins; and Ball-Carrier, knowing that he could not possibly escape now, hastily wished that the Bad One should be unable to eat any more food at present.
'Ah, there is a slit in this one,' cried the servant, shaking the skin; 'and here he is.' And she pulled out Ball-Carrier, looking so lean and small that he would hardly have made a mouthful for a sparrow.'Was it you who took my gold and bridge?' asked the Bad One. 'Yes,' answered Ball-Carrier, 'it was I who took them.'
The Bad One made a sign to the woman, who inquired where he had hidden them. He lifted his left arm where the gold was, and she picked up a knife and scraped his skin so that no gold should be left sticking to it.
'What have you done with the bridge?' said she. And he lifted his right arm, from which she took the bridge, while the Bad One looked on, well pleased. 'Be sure that he does not run away,' chuckled he. 'Boil some water, and get him ready for cooking, while I go and invite my friends the water-demons to the feast.'
The woman seized Ball-Carrier between her finger and thumb, and was going to carry him to the kitchen, when the boy spoke:
'I am very lean and small now,' he said, 'hardly worth the trouble of cooking; but if you were to keep me two days, and gave me plenty of food, I should get big and fat. As it is, your friends the water-demons would think you meant to laugh at them, when they found that I was the feast.'
Meanwhile the servant, whose name was Lung Woman, led him into a little shed, and chained him up to a ring in the wall. But food was given him every hour, and at the end of two days he was as fat and big as a Christmas turkey, and could hardly move his head from one side to the other.
'He will do now,' said the Bad One, who came constantly to see how he was getting on. 'I shall go and tell the water-demons that we expect them to dinner to-night. Put the kettle on the fire, but be sure on no account to taste the broth.'
Lung-Woman lost no time in obeying her orders. She built up the fire, which had got very low, filled the kettle with water, and passing a rope which hung from the ceiling through the handle, swung it over the flames. Then she brought in Ball-Carrier, who, seeing all these preparations, wished that as long as he was in the kettle the water might not really boil, though it would hiss and bubble, and also, that the spirits would turn the water into fat.
The kettle soon began to sing and bubble, and Ball Carrier was lifted in. Very soon the fat which was to make the sauce rose to the surface, and Ball-Carrier, who was bobbing about from one side to the other, called out that Lung-Woman had better taste the broth, as he though that some salt should be added to it. The servant knew quite well that her master had forbidden her to do any thing of the kind, but when once the idea was put into her head, she found the smell from the kettle so delicious that she unhooked a long ladle from the wall and plunged it into the kettle.
'You will spill it all, if you. stand so far off,' said the boy; ' why don't you come a little nearer?' And as she did so he cried to the spirits to give him back his usual size and strength and to make the water scalding hot Then he gave the kettle a kick, which upset all the boiling water upon her, and jumping over her body he seized once more the gold and the bridge, picked up his club and bow and arrows, and after setting fire to the Bad One's hut, ran down to the river, which he crossed safely by the help of the bridge.
The hut, which was made of wood, was burned to the ground before the Bad One came back with a large crowd of water-demons. There was not a sign of anyone or anything, so he started for the river, where he saw Ball Carrier sitting quietly on the other side. Then the Bad One knew what had happened, and after telling the water demons that there would be no feast after all, he called to Ball-Carrier, who was eating an a,pple. 'I know your name now,' he said, 'and as you have ruined me, and I am not rich any more, will you take me as your servant?'
'Yes, I will, though you have tried to kill me,' answered Ball-Carrier, throwing the bridge across the water as he spoke. But when the Bad One was in the midst of the stream, the boy wished it to become small; and the Bad One fell into the water and was drowned, and the world was rid of him.[U.S.. Bureau of Ethnology.]
After Ball-Carrier had managed to drown the Bad One so that he could not do any more mischief, he forgot the way to his grandmother's house, and could not find it again, though he searched everywhere. During this time he wandered into many strange places, and had many adventures; and one day he came to a hut where a young girl lived. He was tired and hungry and begged her to let him in and rest, and he stayed a long while, and the girl became his wife. One morning he saw two children playing in front of the hut, and went out to speak to them. But as soon as they saw him they set up cries of horror and ran away. 'They are the children of my sister who has been on a long journey,' replied his wife, 'and now that she knows you are my husband she wants to kill you.''Oh, well, let her try,' replied Ball-Carrier. 'It is not the first time people have wished to do that. And here I am still, you see!' 'Be careful,' said the wife, ' she is very cunning.' But at this moment the sister-in-law came up.
'How do you do, brother-in-law? I have heard of you so often that I am very glad to meet you. I am told that you are more powerful than any man on earth, and as I am powerful too, let us try which is the strongest.''That will be delightful,' answered he. 'Suppose we begin with a short race, and then we will go on to other things.' ' That will suit me very well,' replied the woman, who was a witch. 'And let us agree that the one who wins shall have the right to kill the other.'
'Oh, certainly,' said Ball-Carrier;' and I don't think we shall find a flatter course than the prairie itself--no one knows how many miles it stretches. We will run to the end and back again.'This being settled they both made ready for the race, and Ball-Carrier silently begged the good spirits to help him, and not to let him fall into the hands of this wicked witch.
'When the sun touches the trunk of that tree we will start,' said she, as they both stood side by side. But with the first step Ball-Carrier changed himself into a wolf and for a long way kept ahead. Then gradually he heard her creeping up behind him, and soon she was in front. So Ball-Carrier took the shape of a pigeon and flew rapidly past her, but in a little while she was in front again and the end of the prairie was in sight. 'A crow can fly faster than a pigeon,' thought he, and as a crow he managed to pass her and held his ground so long that he fancied she was quite beaten. The witch began to be afraid of it too, and putting out all her strength slipped past him. Next he put on the shape of a hawk, and in this form he reached the bounds of the prairie, he and the witch turning homewards at the moment.
Bird after bird he tried, but every time the witch gained on him and took the lead. At length the goal was in sight, and Ball-Carrier knew that unless he could get ahead now he would be killed before his own door, under the eyes of his wife. His eyes had grown dim from fatigue, his wings flapped wearily and hardly bore him along, while the witch seemed as fresh as ever. What bird was there whose flight was swifter than his? Would not the good spirits tell him? Ah, of course he knew; why had he not thought of it at first and spared himself all that fatigue? And the next instant a humming bird, dressed in green and blue, flashed past the woman and entered the house. The witch came panting up, furious at having lost the race which she felt certain of winning; and Ball-Carrier, who had by this time changed back into his own shape, struck her on the head and killed her.
For a long while Ball-Carrier was content to stay quietly at home with his wife and children, for he was tired of adventures, and only did enough hunting to supply the house with food. But one day he happened to eat some poisonous berries that he had found in the forest, and grew so ill that he felt he was going to die.
'When I am dead do not bury me in the earth,' he said, 'but put me over there, among that clump of trees.' So his wife and her three children watched by him as long as he was alive, and after he was dead they took him up and laid the body on a platform of stakes which they had prepared in the grove. And as they returned weeping to the hut they caught a glimpse of the ball rolling away down the path back to the old grandmother. One of the sons sprang forward to stop it, for Ball-Carrier had often told them the tale of how it had helped him to cross the river, but it was too quick for him, and they had to content themselves with the war club and bow and arrows, which were put carefully away.
By-and-by some travellers came past, and the chief among them asked leave to marry Ball-Carrier's daughter. The mother said she must have a little time to think over it, as her daughter was still very young; so it was settled that the man should go away for a month with his friends, and then come back to see if the girl was willing.
Now ever since Ball-Carrier's death the family had been very poor, and often could not get enough to eat. One morning the girl, who had had no supper and no breakfast, wandered off to look for cranberries, and though she was quite near home was astonished at noticing a large hut, which certainly had not been there when last she had come that way. No one was about, so she ventured to peep in, and her surprise was increased at seeing, heaped up in one corner, a quantity of food of all sorts, while a little robin redbreast stood perched on a beam looking down upon her.'It is my father, I am sure,' she cried; and the bird piped in answer.
From that day, whenever they wanted food they went to the hut, and though the robin could not speak, he would hop on their shoulders and let them feed him with the food they knew he liked best.
When the man came back he found the girl looking so much prettier and fatter than when he had left her, that he insisted that they should be married on the spot. And the mother, who did not know how to get rid of him, gave in.
The husband spent all his time in hunting, and the family had never had so much meat before; but the man, who had seen for himself how poor they were, noticed with amazement that they did not seem to care about it, or to be hungry. 'They must get food from somewhere,' he thought, and one morning, when he pretended to be going out to hunt, he hid in a thicket to watch. Very soon they all left the house together, and walked to the other hut, which the girl's husband saw for the first time, as it was hid in a hollow. He followed, and noticed that each one went up to the redbreast, and shook him by the claw; and he then entered boldly and shook the bird's claw too. The whole party afterwards sat down to dinner, after which they all returned to their own hut.
The next day the husband declared that he was very ill, and could not eat anything; but this was only a presence so that he might get what he wanted. The family were all much distressed, and begged him to tell them what food he fancied.'Oh! I could not eat any food,' he answered every time, and at each answer his voice grew fainter and fainter, till they thought he would die from weakness before their eyes. 'There must be some thing you could take, if you would only say what it is,' implored his wife. 'No, nothing, nothing; except, perhaps--but of course that is impossible!' 'No, I am sure it is not,' replied she; ' you shall have it, I promise--only tell me what it is.' 'I think--but I could not ask you to do such a thing. Leave me alone, and let me die quietly.' 'You shall not die,' cried the girl, who was very fond of her husband, for he did not beat her as most girls' husbands did. 'Whatever it is, I will manage to get it for you.' 'Well, then, I think, if I had that--redbreast, nicely roasted, I could eat a little bit of his wing!' The wife started back in horror at such a request; but the man turned his face to the wall, and took no notice, as he thought it was better to leave her to herself for a little.
Weeping and wringing her hands, the girl went down to her mother. The brothers were very angry when they heard the story, and declared that, if any one were to die, it certainly should not be the robin. But all that night the man seemed getting weaker and weaker, and at last, quite early, the wife crept out, and stealing to the hut, killed the bird, and brought him home to her husband.
Just as she was going to cook it her two brothers came in. They cried out in horror at the sight, and, rushing out of the hut, declared they would never see her any more. And the poor girl, with a heavy heart, took the body of the redbreast up to her husband.
But directly she entered the room the man told her that he felt a great deal better, and that he would rather have a piece of bear's flesh, well boiled, than any bird, however tender. His wife felt very miserable to think that their beloved redbreast had been sacrificed for nothing, and begged him to try a little bit.
'You felt so sure that it would do you good before,' said she, 'that I can't help thinking it would quite cure you now.' But the man only flew into a rage, and flung the bird out of the window. Then he got up and went out.
Now all this while the ball had been rolling, rolling, rolling to the old grandmother's hut on the other side of the world, and directly it rolled into her hut she knew that her grandson must be dead. Without wasting any time she took a fox skin and tied it round her forehead, and fastened another round her waist, as witches always do when they leave their own homes. When she was ready she said to the ball: ' Go back the way you came, and lead me to my grandson.' And the ball started with the old woman following.It was a long journey, even for a witch, but, like other things, it ended at last; and the old woman stood before the platform of stakes, where the body of Ball-Carrier lay.
'Wake up, my grandson, it is time to go home,' the witch said. And Ball-Carrier stepped down oft the platform, and brought his club and bow and arrows out of the hut, and set out, for the other side of the world, behind the old woman.When they reached the hut where Ball-Carrier had fasted so many years ago, the old woman spoke for the first time since they had started on their way. 'My grandson, did you ever manage to get that gold from the Bad One?' 'Yes, grandmother, I got it.' 'Where is it?' she asked. 'Here, in my left arm-pit,' answered he.
So she picked up a knife and scraped away all the gold which had stuck to his skin, and which had been sticking there ever since he first stole it. After she had finished she asked again:'My grandson, did you manage to get that bridge from the Bad One?' 'Yes, grandmother, I got that too,' answered he. 'Where is it?' she asked, and Ball-Carrier lifted his right arm, and pointed to his arm-pit. 'Here is the bridge, grandmother,' said he. Then the witch did something that nobody in the world could have guessed that she would do. First, she took the gold and said to Ball-carrier:
'My grandson, this gold must be hidden in the earth, for if people think they can get it when they choose, they will become lazy and stupid. But if we take it and bury it in different parts of the world they will have to work for it if they want it, and then will only find a little at a time.' And as she spoke, she pulled up one of the poles of the hut, and Ball-Carrier saw that underneath was a deep, deep hole, which seemed to have no bottom. Down this hole she poured all the gold, and when it was out of sight it ran about all over the world, where people that dig hard sometimes find it. And after that was done she put the pole back again.Next she lifted down a spade from a high shelf, where it had grown quite rusty, and dug a very small hole on the opposite side of the hut--very small, but very deep.
'Give me the bridge,' said she, ' for I am going to bury it here. If anyone was to get hold of it, and find that they could cross rivers and seas without any trouble, they would never discover how to cross them for themselves. I am a witch, and if I had chosen I could easily have cast my spells over the Bad One, and have made him deliver them to you the first day you came into my hut. But then you would never have fasted, and never have planned how to get what you wanted, and never have known the good spirits, and would have been fat and idle to the end of your days. And now go; in that hut, which you can just see far away, live your father and mother, who are old people now, and need a son to hunt for them. You have done what you were set to do, and I need you no more.'Then Ball-Carrier remembered his parents and went back to them. [From Bureau of Ethnology. 'Indian Folklore.']
Long, long ago, far, far away on the other side of the world, some young men left the camp where they lived to get some food for their wives and children. The sun was hot, but they liked heat, and as they went they ran races and tried who could hurl his spear the farthest, or was cleverest in throwing a strange weapon called a boomerang, which always returns to the thrower. They did not get on very fast at this rate, but presently they reached a flat place that in time of flood was full of water, but was now, in the height of summer, only a set of pools, each surrounded with a fringe of plants, with bulrushes standing in the inside of all. In that country the people are fond of the roots of bulrushes, which they think as good as onions, and one of the young men said that they had better collect some of the roots and carry them back to the camp. It did not take them long to weave the tops of the willows into a basket, and they were just going to wade into the water and pull up the bulrush roots when a youth suddenly called out: 'After all, why should we waste our time in doing work that is only fit for women and children? Let them come and get the roots for themselves; but we will fish for eels and anything else we can get.'
This delighted the rest of the party, and they all began to arrange their fishing lines, made from the bark of the yellow mimosa, and to search for bait for their hooks. Most of them used worms, but one, who had put a piece of raw meat for dinner into his skin wallet, cut off a little bit and baited his line with it, unseen by his companions.
For a long time they cast patiently, without receiving a single bite; the sun had grown low in the sky, and it seemed as if they would have to go home empty-handed, not even with a basket of roots to show; when the youth, who had baited his hook with raw meat, suddenly saw his line disappear under the water. Something, a very heavy fish he supposed, was pulling so hard that he could hardly keep his feet, and for a few minutes it seemed either as if he must let go or be dragged into the pool. He cried to his friends to help him, and at last, trembling with fright at what they were going to see, they managed between them to land on the bank a creature that was neither a calf nor a seal, but something of both, with a long, broad tail. They looked at each other with horror, cold shivers running down their spines; for though they had never beheld it, there was not a man amongst them who did not know what it was-- the cub of the awful Bunyip!
All of a sudden the silence was broken by a low wail, answered by another from the other side of the pool, as the mother rose up from her den and came towards them, rage flashing from her horrible yellow eyes. 'Let it go! let it go!' whispered the young men to each other; but the captor declared that he had caught it, and was going to keep it. 'He had promised his sweetheart,' he said, 'that he would bring back enough meat for her father's house to feast on for three days, and though they could not eat the little Bunyip, her brothers and sisters should have it to play with.' So, flinging his spear at the mother to keep her back, he threw the little Bunyip on to his shoulders, and set out for the camp, never heeding the poor mother's cries of distress.
By this time it was getting near sunset, and the plain was in shadow, though the tops of the mountains were still quite bright. The youths had all ceased to be afraid, when they were startled by a low rushing sound behind them, and, looking round, saw that the pool was slowly rising, and the spot where they had landed the Bunyip was quite covered. 'What could it be?' they asked one of another; ' there was not a cloud in the sky, yet the water had risen higher already than they had ever known it do before.' For an instant they stood watching as if they were frozen, then they turned and ran with all their might, the man with the Bunyip run- ning faster than all. When he reached a high peak over- looking all the plain he stopped to take breath, and turned to see if he was safe yet. Safe! why only the tops of the trees remained above that sea of water, and these were fast disappearing. They must run fast indeed if they were to escape. So on they flew, scarcely feeling the ground as they went, till they flung themselves on the ground before the holes scooped out of the earth where they had all been born. The old men were sitting in front, the children were playing, and the women chattering together, when the little Bunyip fell into their midst, and there was scarcely a child among them who did not know that something terrible was upon them. 'The water! the water!' gasped one of the young men; and there it was, slowly but steadily mounting the ridge itself. Parents and children clung together, as if by that means they could drive back the advancing flood; and the youth who had caused all this terrible catastrophe, seized his sweetheart, and cried: 'I will climb with you to the top of that tree, and there no waters can reach us.' But, as he spoke, something cold touched him, and quickly he glanced down at his feet. Then with a shudder he saw that they were feet no longer, but bird's claws. He looked at the girl he was clasping, and beheld a great black bird standing at his side; he turned to his friends, but a flock of great awkward flapping creatures stood in their place He put up his hands to cover his face, but they were no more hands, only the ends of wings; and when he tried to speak, a noise such as he had never heard before seemed to come from his throat, which had suddenly become narrow and slender. Already the water had risen to his waist, and he found himself sitting easily upon it, while its surface reflected back the image of a black swan, one of many.
Never again did the swans become men; but they are still different from other swans, for in the night-time those who listen can hear them talk in a language that is certainly not swan's language; and there are even sounds of laughing and talking, unlike any noise made by the swans whom we know.
The little Bunyip was carried home by its mother, and after that the waters sank back to their own channels. The side of the pool where she lives is always shunned by everyone, as nobody knows when she may suddenly put out her head and draw him into her mighty jaws. But people say that underneath the black waters of the pool she has a house filled with beautiful things, such as mortals who dwell on the earth have no idea of. Though how they know I cannot tell you, as nobody has ever seen it.[From Journal of Anthropological-Institute.]
Once upon a time there lived a man who had nearly as many children as there were sparrows in the garden. He had to work very hard all day to get them enough to eat, and was often tired and cross, and abused everything and everybody, so that people called him 'Father Grumbler.'
By-and-by he grew weary of always working, and on Sundays he lay a long while in bed, instead of going to church. Then after a time he found it dull to sit so many hours by himself, thinking of nothing but how to pay the rent that was owing, and as the tavern across the road looked bright and cheerful, he walked in one day and sat down with his friends. 'It was just to chase away Care,' he said; but when he came out, hours and hours after, Care came out with him.Father Grumbler entered his house feeling more dismal than when he left it, for he knew that he had wasted both his time and his money.
'I will go and see the Holy Man in the cave near the well,' he said to himself, 'and perhaps he can tell me why all the luck is for other people, and only misfortunes happen to me.' And he set out at once for the cave.It was a long way off, and the road led over mountains and through valleys; but at last he reached the cave where the Holy Man dwelt, and knocked at the door. 'Who is there?' asked a voice from within. 'It is I, Holy Man, Father Grumbler, you know, who has as many children as sparrows in the garden.' 'Well, and what is it that you want?' 'I want to know why other people have all the luck, and only misfortunes happen to me!'
The Holy Man did not answer, but went into an inner cave, from which he came out bearing something in his hand. 'Do you see this basket?' said he. 'It is a magical basket, and if you are hungry you have only got to say: "Little basket, little basket, do your duty," and you will eat the best dinner you ever had in your life. But when you have had enough, be sure you don't forget to cry out: "That will do for to-day." Oh!--and one thing more--you need not show it to everybody and declare that I have give it to you. Do you understand?'
Father Grumbler was always accustomed to think of himself as so unlucky that he did not know whether the Holy Man was not playing a trick upon him; but he took the basket without being polite enough to say either 'Thank you,' or 'Good-morning,' and went away. However, he only waited till he was out of sight of the cave before he stooped down and whispered: 'Little basket, little basket, do your duty.'
Now the basket had a lid, so that he could not see what was inside, but he heard quite clearly strange noises, as if a sort of scuffling was going on. Then the lid burst open, and a quantity of delicious little white rolls came tumbling out one after the other, followed by a stream of small fishes all ready cooked. What a quantity there were to be sure! The whole road was covered with them, and the banks on each side were beginning to disappear. Father Grumbler felt quite frightened at the torrent, but at last he remembered what the Holy Man had told him, and cried at the top of his voice: 'Enough! enough! That will do for to-day!' And the lid of the basket closed with a snap.
Father Grumbler sighed with relief and happiness as he looked around him, and sitting down on a heap of stones, he ate till he could eat no more. Trout, salmon, turbot, soles, and a hundred other fishes whose names he did not know, lay boiled, fried, and grilled within reach of his hands. As the Holy Man had said, he had never eaten such a dinner; still, when he had done, he shook his head, and grumbled; 'Yes, there is plenty to eat, of course, but it only makes me thirsty, and there is not a drop to drink anywhere.'Yet, somehow, he could never tell why, he looked up and saw the tavern in front of him, which he thought was miles, and miles, and miles away.
'Bring the best wine you have got, and two glasses, good mother,' he said as he entered, 'and if you are fond of fish there is enough here to feed the house. Only there is no need to chatter about it all over the place. You understand? Eh?' And without waiting for an answer he whispered to the basket: 'Little basket, little basket, do your duty.' The innkeeper and his wife thought that their customer had gone suddenly mad, and watched him closely, ready to spring on him if he became violent; but both instinctively jumped backwards, nearly into the fire, as rolls and fishes of every kind came tumbling out of the basket, covering the tables and chairs and the floor, and even overflowing into the street.'Be quick, be quick, and pick them up,' cried the man. 'And if these are not enough, there are plenty more to be had for the asking.'
The innkeeper and his wife did not need telling twice. Down they went on their knees and gathered up everything they could lay hands on. But busy though they seemed, they found time to whisper to each other:'If we can only get hold of that basket it will make our fortune!'
So they began by inviting Father Grumbler to sit down to the table, and brought out the best wine in the cellar, hoping it might loosen his tongue. But Father Grumbler was wiser than they gave him credit for, and though they tried in all manner of ways to find out who had given him the basket, he put them off, and kept his secret to himself. Unluckily, though he did not SPEAK, he did drink, and it was not long before he fell fast asleep. Then the woman fetched from her kitchen a basket, so like the magic one that no one, without looking very closely, could tell the difference, and placed it in Father Grumbler's hand, while she hid the other carefully away.
It was dinner time when the man awoke, and, jumping up hastily, he set out for home, where he found all the children gathered round a basin of thin soup, and pushing their wooden bowls forward, hoping to have the first spoonful. Their father burst into the midst of them, bearing his basket, and crying:
'Don't spoil your appetites, children, with that stuff. Do you see this basket? Well, I have only got to say, "Little basket, little basket, do your duty," and you will see what will happen. Now you shall say it instead of me, for a treat.'
The children, wondering and delighted, repeated the words, but nothing happened. Again and again they tried, but the basket was only a basket, with a few scales of fish sticking to the bottom, for the innkeeper's wife had taken it to market the day before.
'What is the matter with the thing?' cried the father at last, snatching the basket from them, and turning it all over, grumbling and swearing while he did so, under the eyes of his astonished wife and children, who did not know whether to cry or to laugh.'It certainly smells of fish,' he said, and then he stopped, for a sudden thought had come to him. 'Suppose it is not mine at all; supposing-- Ah, the scoundrels!'
And without listening to his wife and children, who were frightened at his strange conduct and begged him to stay at home, he ran across to the tavern and burst open the door.'Can I do anything for you, Father Grumbler?' asked the innkeeper's wife in her softest voice. 'I have taken the wrong basket--by mistake, of course,' said he. 'Here is yours, will you give me back my own?' 'Why, what are you talking about?' answered she. 'You can see for yourself that there is no basket here.' And though Father Grumbler DID look, it was quite true that none was to be seen.
'Come, take a glass to warm you this cold day,' said the woman, who was anxious to keep him in a good temper, and as this was an invitation Father Grumbler never refused, he tossed it off and left the house.He took the road that led to the Holy Man's cave, and made such haste that it was not long before he reached it. 'Who is there?' said a voice in answer to his knock. 'It is me, it is me, Holy man. You know quite well. Father Grumbler, who has as many children as sparrows in the garden.' 'But, my good man, it was only yesterday that I gave you a handsome present.' 'Yes, Holy Man, and here it is. But something has happened, I don't know what, and it won't work any more.' 'Well, put it down. I will go and see if I can find anything for you.' In a few minutes the Holy Man returned with a cock under his arm.
'Listen to me,' he said, 'whenever you want money, you only have to say: "Show me what you can do, cock," and you will see some wonderful things. But, remember, it is not necessary to let all the world into the secret.''Oh no, Holy Man, I am not so foolish as that.' 'Nor to tell everybody that I gave it to you,' went on the Holy Man. 'I have not got these treasures by the dozen.' And without waiting for an answer he shut the door.
As before, the distance seemed to have wonderfully shortened, and in a moment the tavern rose up in front of Father Grumbler. Without stopping to think, he went straight in, and found the innkeeper's wife in the kitchen making a cake.'Where have you come from, with that fine red cock in your basket,' asked she, for the bird was so big that the lid would not shut down properly. 'Oh, I come from a place where they don't keep these things by the dozen,' he replied, sitting down in front of the table. The woman said no more, but set before him a bottle of his favourite wine, and soon he began to wish to display his prize.
'Show me what you can do, cock,' cried he. And the cock stood up and flapped his wings three times, crowing 'coquerico' with a voice like a trumpet, and at each crow there fell from his beak golden drops, and diamonds as large as peas.
This time Father Grumbler did not invite the innkeeper's wife to pick up his treasures, but put his own hat under the cock's beak, so as to catch everything he let fall; and he did not see the husband and wife exchanging glances with each other which said, 'That would be a splendid cock to put with our basket.'
'Have another glass of wine?' suggested the innkeeper, when they had finished admiring the beauty of the cock, for they pretended not to have seen the gold or the diamonds. And Father Grumbler, nothing loth, drank one glass after another, till his head fell forward on the table, and once more he was sound asleep. Then the woman gently coaxed the cock from the basket and carried it off to her own poultry yard, from which she brought one exactly like it, and popped it in its place.
Night was falling when the man awoke, and throwing proudly some grains of gold on the table to pay for the wine he had drunk, he tucked the cock comfortably into his basket and set out for home.His wife and all the children were waiting for him at the door, and as soon as she caught sight of him she broke out: 'You are a nice man to go wasting your time and your money drinking in that tavern, and leaving us to starve! Aren't you ashamed of yourself?'
'You don't know what you are talking of,' he answered. 'Money? Why, I have gold and diamonds now, as much as I want. Do you see that cock? Well, you have only to say to him, "Show me what you can do, cock," and something splendid will happen.'
Neither wife nor children were inclined to put much faith in him after their last experience; however, they thought it was worth trying, and did as he told them. The cock flew round the room like a mad thing, and crowed till their heads nearly split with the noise; but no gold or diamonds dropped on the brick floor-- not the tiniest grain of either.Father Grumbler stared in silence for an instant, and then he began to swear so loudly that even his family, accustomed as they were to his language, wondered at him. At last he grew a little quieter, but remained as puzzled as ever.
'Can I have forgotten the words? But I KNOW that was what he said! And I saw the diamonds with my own eyes!' Then suddenly he seized the cock, shut it into the basket, and rushed out of the house.
His heavy wooden shoes clattered as he ran along the road, and he made such haste that the stars were only just beginning to come out when he reached the cave of the Holy Man.'Who is that knocking?' asked a voice from within. 'It is me! It is me! Holy Man! you know! Father--'
'But, my good fellow, you really should give some one else a chance. This is the third time you have been--and at such an hour, too!'
'Oh, yes, Holy Man, I know it is very late, but you will forgive me! It is your cock--there is something the matter. It is like the basket. Look!'
'When you wish to dust your own jacket or those of your friends,' he said, 'you have only got to say, "Flack, flick, switch, be quick," and you will see what happens. That is all I have to tell you.' And, smiling to himself, the Holy Man pushed Father Grumbler out of the cave.
'Ah, I understand now,' muttered the good man, as he took the road home; 'but I think I have got you two rascals!' and he hurried on to the tavern with his basket under his arm, and the cock and the switch both inside.
'Good evening, friends!' he said, as he entered the inn. 'I am very hungry, and should be glad if you would roast this cock for me as soon as possible. THIS cock and no other-mind what I say,' he went on. 'Oh, and another thing! You can light the fire with this basket. When you have done that I will show you something I have in my bag,' and, as he spoke, he tried to imitate the smile that the Holy Man had given HIM.
These directions made the innkeeper's wife very uneasy. However, she said nothing, and began to roast the cock, while her husband did his best to make the man sleepy with wine, but all in vain.
After dinner, which he did not eat without grumbling, for the cock was very tough, the man struck his hand on the table, and said: 'Now listen to me. Go and fetch my cock and my basket, at once. Do you hear?''Your cock, and your basket, Father Grumbler? But you have just- -'
'MY cock and MY basket!' interrupted he. 'And, if you are too deaf and too stupid to understand what that means, I have got something which may help to teach you.' And opening the bag, he cried: 'Flack, flick, switch, be quick.'
And flack! flick! like lightening a white switch sprang out of the bag, and gave such hearty blows to the innkeeper and his wife, and to Father Grumbler into the bargain, that they all jumped as high as feathers when a mattress is shaken.
'Stop! stop! make it stop, and you shall have back your cock and basket,' cried the man and his wife. And Father Grumbler, who had no wish to go on, called out between his hops: 'Stop then, can't you? That is enough for to-day!'
But the switch paid no attention, and dealt out its blows as before, and MIGHT have been dealing them to this day, if the Holy Man had not heard their cries and come to the rescue. 'Into the bag, quick!' said he, and the switch obeyed.'Now go and fetch me the cock and the basket,' and the woman went without a word, and placed them on the table.
'You have all got what you deserved,' continued the Holy Man, 'and I have no pity for any of you. I shall take my treasures home, and perhaps some day I may find a man who knows how to make the best of the chances that are given to him. But that will never be YOU,' he added, turning to Father Grumbler.[From Contes Populaires.]
Down in the south, where the sun shines so hotly that everything and everybody sleeps all day, and even the great forests seem silent, except early in the morning and late in the evening--down in this country there once lived a young man and a maiden. The girl had been born in the town, and had scarcely ever left it; but the young man was a native of another country, and had only come to the city near the great river because he could find no work to do where he was.
A few months after his arrival, when the days were cooler, and the people did not sleep so much as usual, a great feast was held a little way out of the town, and to this feast everyone flocked from thirty miles and more. Some walked and some rode, some came in beautiful golden coaches; but all had on splendid dresses of red or blue, while wreaths of flowers rested on their hair.
It was the first time that the youth had been present on such an occasion, and he stood silently aside watching the graceful dances and the pretty games played by the young people. And as he watched, he noticed one girl, dressed in white with scarlet pomegranates in her hair, who seemed to him lovelier than all the rest.When the feast was over, and the young man returned home, his manner was so strange that it drew the attention of all his friends.
Through his work next day the youth continued to see the girl's face, throwing the ball to her companions, or threading her way between them as she danced. At night sleep fled from him, and after tossing for hours on his bed, he would get up and plunge into a deep pool that lay a little way in the forest.
This state of things went on for some weeks, then at last chance favoured him. One evening, as he was passing near the house where she lived, he saw her standing with her back to the wall, trying to beat off with her fan the attacks of a savage dog that was leaping at her throat. Alonzo, for such was his name, sprang forward, and with one blow of his fist stretched the creature dead upon the road. He then helped the frightened and half- fainting girl into the large cool verandah where her parents were sitting, and from that hour he was a welcome guest in the house, and it was not long before he was the promised husband of Julia.
Every day, when his work was done, he used to go up to the house, half hidden among flowering plants and brilliant creepers, where humming-birds darted from bush to bush, and parrots of all colours, red and green and grey, shrieked in chorus. There he would find the maiden waiting for him, and they would spend an hour or two under the stars, which looked so large and bright that you felt as if you could almost touch them.
'What did you do last night after you went home?' suddenly asked the girl one evening. 'Just the same as I always do,' answered he. 'It was too hot to sleep, so it was no use going to bed, and I walked straight of to the forest and bathed in one of those deep dark pools at the edge of the river. I have been there constantly for several months, but last night a strange thing happened. I was taking my last plunge, when I heard--sometimes from one side, and sometimes from another--the sound of a voice singing more sweetly than any nightingale, though I could not catch any words. I left the pool, and, dressing myself as fast as I could, I searched every bush and tree round the water, as I fancied that perhaps it was my friend who was playing a trick on me, but there was not a creature to be seen; and when I reached home I found my friend fast asleep.'
As Julia listened her face grew deadly white, and her whole body shivered as if with cold. From her childhood she had heard stories of the terrible beings that lived in the forests and were hidden under the banks of the rivers, and could only be kept off by powerful charms. Could the voice which had bewitched Alonzo have come from one of these? Perhaps, who knows, it might be the voice of the dreaded Yara herself, who sought young men on the eve of their marriage as her prey.For a moment the girl sat choked with fear, as these thoughts rushed through her; then she said: 'Alonzo, will you promise something?' 'What is that?' asked he. 'It is something that has to do with our future happiness.' 'Oh! it is serious, then? Well, of course I promise. Now tell me!' 'I want you to promise,' she answered, lowering her voice to a whisper, 'never to bathe in those pools again.' 'But why not, queen of my soul; have I not gone there always, and nothing has harmed me, flower of my heart?' 'No; but perhaps something will. If you will not promise I shall go mad with fright. Promise me.' 'Why, what is the matter? You look so pale! Tell me why you are so frightened?' 'Did you not hear the song?' she asked, trembling. 'Suppose I did, how could that hurt me? It was the loveliest song I ever heard!' 'Yes, and after the song will come the apparition; and after that-- after that--' 'I don't understand. Well--after that?'
'After that--death.' Alonzo stared at her. Had she really gone mad? Such talk was very unlike Julia; but before he could collect his senses the girl spoke again:'That is the reason why I implore you never to go there again; at any rate till after we are married.' 'And what difference will our marriage make?' 'Oh, there will be no danger then; you can go to bathe as often as you like!' 'But tell me why you are so afraid?' 'Because the voice you heard--I know you will laugh, but it is quite true--it was the voice of the Yara.'
At these words Alonzo burst into a shout of laughter; but it sounded so harsh and loud that Julia shrank away shuddering. It seemed as if he could not stop himself, and the more he laughed the paler the poor girl became, murmuring to herself as she watched him:'Oh, heaven! you have seen her! you have seen her! what shall I do?' Faint as was her whisper, it reached the ears of Alonzo, who, though he still could not speak for laughing, shook his head. 'You may not know it, but it is true. Nobody who has not seen the Yara laughs like that.' And Julia flung herself on the ground weeping bitterly. At this sight Alonzo became suddenly grave, and kneeling by her side, gently raised her up. 'Do not cry so, my angel,' he said, 'I will promise anything you please. Only let me see you smile again.' With a great effort Julia checked her sobs, and rose to her feet.
'Thank you,' she answered. 'My heart grows lighter as you say that! I know you will try to keep your word and to stay away from the forest. But--the power of the Yara is very strong, and the sound of her voice is apt to make men forget everything else in the world. Oh, I have seen it, and more than one betrothed maiden lives alone, broken-hearted. If ever you should return to the pool where you first heard the voice, promise me that you will at least take this with you.' And opening a curiously carved box, she took out a seashell shot with many colours, and sang a song softly into it. 'The moment you hear the Yara's voice,' said she, 'put this to your ear, and you will hear my song instead. Perhaps--I do not know for certain--but perhaps, I may be stronger than the Yara.'
It was late that night when Alonzo returned home. The moon was shining on the distant river, which looked cool and inviting, and the trees of the forest seemed to stretch out their arms and beckon him near. But the young man steadily turned his face in the other direction, and went home to bed.
The struggle had been hard, but Alonzo had his reward next day in the joy and relief with which Julia greeted him. He assured her that having overcome the temptation once the danger was now over; but she, knowing better than he did the magic of the Yara's face and voice, did not fail to make him repeat his promise when he went away.
For three nights Alonzo kept his word, not because he believed in the Yara, for he thought that the tales about her were all nonsense, but because he could not bear the tears with which he knew that Julia would greet him, if he confessed that he had returned to the forest. But, in spite of this, the song rang in his ears, and daily grew louder.
On the fourth night the attraction of the forest grew so strong that neither the thought of Julia nor the promises he had made her could hold him back. At eleven o'clock he plunged into the cool darkness of the trees, and took the path that led straight to the river. Yet, for the first time, he found that Julia's warnings, though he had laughed at her at the moment, had remained in his memory, and he glanced at the bushes with a certain sense of fear which was quite new to him.
When he reached the river he paused and looked round for a moment to make sure that the strange feeling of some one watching him was fancy, and he was really alone. But the moon shone brightly on every tree, and nothing was to be seen but his own shadow; nothing was to be heard but the sound of the rippling stream.
He threw off his clothes, and was just about to dive in headlong, when something--he did not know what--suddenly caused him to look round. At the same instant the moon passed from behind a cloud, and its rays fell on a beautiful golden-haired woman standing half hidden by the ferns.
With one bound he caught up his mantle, and rushed headlong down the path he had come, fearing at each step to feel a hand laid on his shoulder. It was not till he had left the last trees behind him, and was standing in the open plain, that he dared to look round, and then he thought a figure in white was still standing there waving her arms to and fro. This was enough; he ran along the road harder than ever, and never paused till he was save in his own room.
With the earliest rays of dawn he went back to the forest to see whether he could find any traces of the Yara, but though he searched every clump of bushes, and looked up every tree, everything was empty, and the only voices he heard were those of parrots, which are so ugly that they only drive people away.
'I think I must be mad,' he said to himself, 'and have dreamt all that folly'; and going back to the city he began his daily work. But either that was harder than usual, or he must be ill, for he could not fix his mind upon it, and everybody he came across during the day inquired if anything had happened to give him that white, frightened look.
'I must be feverish,' he said to himself; 'after all, it is rather dangerous to take a cold bath when one is feeling so hot.' Yet he knew, while he said it, that he was counting the hours for night to come, that he might return to the forest.
In the evening he went as usual to the creeper-covered house. But he had better have stayed away, as his face was so pale and his manner so strange, that the poor girl saw that something terrible had occurred. Alonzo, however, refused to answer any of her questions, and all she could get was a promise to hear everything the next day.
On pretence of a violent headache, he left Julia much earlier than usual and hurried quickly home. Taking down a pistol, he loaded it and put it in his belt, and a little before midnight he stole out on the tips of his toes, so as to disturb nobody. Once outside he hastened down the road which led to the forest.
He did not stop till he had reached the river pool, when holding the pistol in his hand, he looked about him. At every little noise-- the falling of a leaf, the rustle of an animal in the bushes, the cry of a night-bird--he sprang up and cocked his pistol in the direction of the sound. But though the moon still shone he saw nothing, and by and by a kind of dreamy state seemed to steal over him as he leant against a tree.How long he remained in this condition he could not have told, but suddenly he awoke with a start, on hearing his name uttered softly.
'Who is that?' he cried, standing upright instantly; but only an echo answered him. Then his eyes grew fascinated with the dark waters of the pool close to his feet, and he looked at it as if he could never look away.
He gazed steadily into the depths for some minutes, when he became aware that down in the darkness was a bright spark, which got rapidly bigger and brighter. Again that feeling of awful fear took possession of him, and he tried to turn his eyes from the pool. But it was no use; something stronger than himself compelled him to keep them there.
At last the waters parted softly, and floating on the surface he saw the beautiful woman whom he had fled from only a few nights before. He turned to run, but his feet were glued to the spot.
She smiled at him and held out her arms, but as she did so there came over him the remembrance of Julia, as he had seen her a few hours earlier, and her warnings and fears for the very danger in which he now found himself.
Meanwhile the figure was always drawing nearer, nearer; but, with a violent effort, Alonzo shook off his stupor, and taking aim at her shoulder he pulled the trigger. The report awoke the sleeping echoes, and was repeated all through the forest, but the figure smiled still, and went on advancing. Again Alonzo fired, and a second time the bullet whistled through the air, and the figure advanced nearer. A moment more, and she would be at his side.
Then, his pistol being empty, he grasped the barrel with both hands, and stood ready to use it as a club should the Yara approach and closer. But now it seemed her turn to feel afraid, for she paused an instant while he pressed forward, still holding the pistol above his head, prepared to strike.
In his excitement he had forgotten the river, and it was not till the cold water touched his feet that he stood still by instinct. The Yara saw that he was wavering, and suffering herself to sway gently backwards and forwards on the surface of the river, she began to sing. The song floated through the trees, now far and now near; no one could tell whence it came, the whole air seemed full of it. Alonzo felt his senses going and his will failing. His arms dropped heavily to his side, but in falling struck against the sea shell, which, as he had promised Julia, he had always carried in his coat.
His dimmed mind was just clear enough to remember what she had said, and with trembling fingers, that were almost powerless to grasp, he drew it out. As he did so the song grew sweeter and more tender than before, but he shut his ears to it and bent his head over the shell. Out of its depths arose the voice of Julia singing to him as she had sung when she gave him the shell, and though the notes sounded faint at first, they swelled louder and louder till the mist which had gathered about him was blown away.
Then he raised his head, feeling that he had been through strange places, where he could never wander any more; and he held himself erect and strong, and looked about him. Nothing was to be seen but the shining of the river, and the dark shadows of the trees; nothing was to be heard but the hum of the insects, as they darted through the night.[Adapted from Folklore Bresilien.]
In a very cold country, far across the seas, where ice and snow cover the ground for many months in the year, there lived a little hare, who, as his father and mother were both dead, was brought up by his grandmother. As he was too young, and she was too old, to work, they were very poor, and often did not have enough to eat.
One day, when the little fellow was hungrier than usual, he asked his grandmother if he might go down to the river and catch a fish for their breakfast, as the thaw had come and the water was flowing freely again. She laughed at him for thinking that any fish would let itself be caught by a hare, especially such a young one; but as she had the rheumatism very badly, and could get no food herself, she let him go. 'If he does not catch a fish he may find something else,' she said to herself. So she told her grandson where to look for the net, and how he was to set it across the river; but just as he was starting, feeling himself quite a man, she called him back.'After all, I don't know what is the use of your going, my boy! For even if you should catch a fish, I have no fire to cook it with.' 'Let me catch my fish, and I will soon make you a fire,' he answered gaily, for he was young, and knew nothing about the difficulties of fire-making.
It took him some time to haul the net through bushes and over fields, but at length he reached a pool in the river which he had often heard was swarming with fish, and here he set the net, as his grandmother had directed him.
He was so excited that he hardly slept all night, and at the very first streak of dawn he ran as fast as ever he could down to the river. His heart beat as quickly as if he had had dogs behind him, and he hardly dared to look, lest he should be disappointed. Would there be even one fish? And at this thought the pangs of hunger made him feel quite sick with fear. But he need not have been afraid; in every mesh of the net was a fine fat fish, and of course the net itself was so heavy that he could only lift one corner. He threw some of the fish back into the water, and buried some more in a hole under a stone, where he would be sure to find them. Then he rolled up the net with the rest, put it on his back and carried it home. The weight of the load caused his back to ache, and he was thankful to drop it outside their hut, while he rushed in, full of joy, to tell his grandmother. 'Be quick and clean them!' he said, 'and I will go to those people's tents on the other side of the water.'
The old woman stared at him in horror as she listened to his proposal. Other people had tried to steal fire before, and few indeed had come back with their lives; but as, contrary to all her expectations, he had managed to catch such a number of fish, she thought that perhaps there was some magic about him which she did not know of, and did not try to hinder him.
When the fish were all taken out, he fetched the net which he had laid out to dry, folded it up very small, and ran down to the river, hoping that he might find a place narrow enough for him to jump over; but he soon saw that it was too wide for even the best jumper in the world. For a few moments he stood there, wondering what was to be done, then there darted into his head some words of a spell which he had once heard a wizard use, while drinking from the river. He repeated them, as well as he could remember, and waited to see what would happen. In five minutes such a grunting and a puffing was heard, and columns of water rose into the air, though he could not tell what had made them. Then round the bend of the stream came fifteen huge whales, which he ordered to place themselves heads to tails, like stepping stones, so that he could jump from one to the other till he landed on the opposite shore. Directly he got there he told the whales that he did not need them any more, and sat down in the sand to rest.
Unluckily some children who were playing about caught sight of him, and one of them, stealing softly up behind him, laid tight hold of his ears. The hare, who had been watching the whales as they sailed down the river, gave a violent start, and struggled to get away; but the boy held on tight, and ran back home, as fast as he could go.'Throw it in the pot,' said the old woman, as soon as he had told his story; 'put it in that basket, and as soon as the water boils in the pot we will hang it over the fire!'
'Better kill it first,' said the old man; and the hare listened, horribly frightened, but still looking secretly to see if there was no hole through which he could escape, if he had a chance of doing so. Yes, there was one, right in the top of the tent, so, shaking himself, as if with fright, he let the end of his net unroll itself a little.
'I wish that a spark of fire would fall on my net,' whispered he; and the next minute a great log fell forward into the midst of the tent, causing every one to spring backwards. The sparks were scattered in every direction, and one fell on the net, making a little blaze. In an instant the hare had leaped through the hole, and was racing towards the river, with men, women, and children after him. There was no time to call back the whales, so, holding the net tight in his mouth, he wished himself across the river. Then he jumped high into the air, and landed safe on the other side, and after turning round to be sure that there was no chance of anyone pursuing him, trotted happily home to his grandmother.'Didn't I tell you I would bring you fire?' said he, holding up his net, which was now burning briskly. 'But how did you cross the water?' inquired the old woman. 'Oh, I just jumped!' said he. And his grandmother asked him no more questions, for she saw that he was wiser than she. ['Indian Folk Tales.' Bureau of Ethnology.]
There was once a turtle who lived among a great many people of different kinds, in a large camp near a big river which was born right up amongst the snows, and flowed straight away south till it reached a sea where the water was always hot.There were many other turtles in the camp, and this turtle was kind and pleasant to them all, but he did not care for any of them very much, and felt rather lonely.
At last he built himself a hut, and filled it with skins for seats, and made it as comfortable as any hut for miles round; and when it was quite finished he looked about among the young women to see which of them he should ask to be his wife.
It took him some time to make up his mind, for no turtle likes being hurried, but at length he found one girl who seemed prettier and more industrious than the rest, and one day he entered her home, and said: 'Will you marry me?'
The young woman was so surprised at this question that she dropped the beaded slipper she was making, and stared at the turtle. She felt inclined to laugh--the idea was so absurd; but she was kind-hearted and polite, so she looked as grave as she could, and answered:'But how are you going to provide for a family? Why, when the camp moves, you will not even be able to keep up with the rest!'
'I can keep up with the best of them,' replied the turtle, tossing his head. But though he was very much offended he did not let the girl see it, and begged and, prayed her so hard to marry him that, at last, she consented, very unwillingly.'You will have to wait till the spring, though,' she said; 'I must make a great many slippers and dresses for myself, as I shall not have much time afterwards.' This did not please the turtle; but he knew it was no use talking, so all he answered was: 'I shall go to war and take some captives, and I shall be away several months. And when I return I shall expect you to be ready to marry me.'
So he went back to his hut, and at once set about his preparations. The first thing he did was to call all his relations together, and ask them if they would come with him and make war on the people of a neighbouring village. The turtles, who were tired of doing nothing, agreed at once, and next day the whole tribe left the camp. The girl was standing at the door of her hut as they passed, and laughed out loud--they moved so slowly. Her lover, who was marching at the head, grew very angry at this, and cried out:
'In four days from now you will be weeping instead of laughing, because there will be hundreds of miles between you and me.'
The army marched on, till one day, when they felt as if they must have got half round the earth, though they were scarcely four miles from the camp, they found a large tree lying across their path. They looked at it with dismay, and the oldest among them put their heads together to see what was to be done.'Can't we manage to get past by the top?' asked one.
'Why, it would take us YEARS,' exclaimed another. 'Just look at all those tall green branches, spreading in every direction. If once we got entangled in THEM, we should never get out again!''Well then, let us go round by the bottom,' said a third.
'How are we to do that, when the roots have made a deep hole, and above that is a high bank?' replied a fourth. 'No; the only way I can think of, is to burn a large hole in the trunk.' And this they did, but the trunk was very thick, and would not burn through.
'It is no use, we must give it up,' they agreed at last. 'After all, nobody need ever know! We have been away such a long while that we might easily have had all sorts of adventures.' And so the whole company turned homewards again.
They took even longer to go back than they had to come, for they were tired and footsore with their journey. When they drew near the camp they plucked up their courage, and began to sing a war- song. At this the villagers came flocking to see what spoils the turtles had won, but, as they approached, each turtle seized some one by the wrist, exclaiming: 'You are our spoils; you are our prisoners!''Now that I have got you I will keep you,' said the leader, who had happened to seize his betrothed.
Everybody was naturally very angry at this behaviour, and the girl most of all, and in her secret heart she determined to have her revenge. But, just at present, the turtles were too strong, so the prisoners had to put on their smartest slippers and their brightest clothes, and dance a war dance while the turtles sang. They danced so long that it seemed as if they would never stop, till the turtle who was leading the singing suddenly broke into a loud chant:
Whoever comes here, will die, will die!
At this all the dancers grew so frightened that they burst through the ring of their captors, and ran back to the village, the turtles following--very slowly. On the way the chief turtle met a man, who said to him:'That woman who was to have been your wife has married another man!' 'Is that true?' said the turtle. 'Then I must see him.'
But as soon as the villager was out of sight the turtle stopped, and taking a bundle containing fringes and ornaments from his back, he hung them about him, so that they rattled as he walked. When he was quite close to the hut where the woman lived, he cried out:'Here I am to claim the woman who promised to be my wife.' 'Oh, here is the turtle,' whispered the husband hurriedly; 'what is to be done now?' 'Leave that to me; I will manage him,' replied the wife, and at that moment the turtle came in, and seized her by the wrist. 'Come with me,' he said sternly. 'You broke your promise,' answered she. 'You said you would be back soon, and it is more than a year since you went! How was I to know that you were alive?' At her words the husband took courage, and spoke hastily: 'Yes, you promised you would go to war and bring back some prisoners, and you have not done it.'
'I DID go, and made many prisoners,' retorted the turtle angrily, drawing out his knife. 'Look here, if she won't be MY wife, she sha'n't be YOURS. I will cut her in two; and you shall have one half, and I the other.''But half a woman is no use to me,' answered the man. 'If you want her so much you had better take her.' And the turtle, followed by his relations, carried her off to his own hut.
Now the woman saw she would gain nothing by being sulky, so she pretended to be very glad to have got rid of her husband; but all the while she was trying to invent a plan to deliver herself from the turtle. At length she remembered that one of her friends had a large iron pot, and when the turtle had gone to his room to put away his fringes, she ran over to her neighbour's and brought it back. Then she filled it with water and hung it over the fire to boil. It was just beginning to bubble and hiss when the turtle entered.'What are you doing there?' asked he, for he was always afraid of things that he did not understand. 'Just warming some water,' she answered. 'Do you know how to swim?' 'Yes, of course I do. What a question! But what does it matter to you?' said the turtle, more suspicious than ever.
'Oh, I only thought that after your long journey you might like to wash. The roads are so muddy, after the winter's rains. I could rub your shell for you till it was bright and shining again.'Well, I AM rather muddy. If one is fighting, you know, one cannot stop to pick one's way. I should certainly be more comfortable if my back was washed.' The woman did not wait for him to change his mind. She caught him up by his shell and popped him straight into the pot, where he sank to the bottom, and died instantly.
The other turtles, who were standing at the door, saw their leader disappear, and felt it was their duty as soldiers to follow him; and, springing into the pot, died too. All but one young turtle, who, frightened at not seeing any of his friends come out again, went as fast as he could to a clump of bushes, and from there made his way to the river. His only thought was to get away as far as possible from that dreadful hut; so he let the river carry him where it was going itself, and at last, one day, he found himself in the warm sea, where, if he is not dead, you may meet him still.[Bureau of Ethnology.]
Once upon a time there lived a poor knight who had a great many children, and found it very hard to get enough for them to eat. One day he sent his eldest son, Rosald, a brave and honest youth, to the neighbouring town to do some business, and here Rosald met a young man named Geirald, with whom he made friends.
Now Geirald was the son of a rich man, who was proud of the boy, and had all his life allowed him to do whatever he fancied, and, luckily for the father, he was prudent and sensible, and did not waste money, as many other rich young men might have done. For some time he had set his heart on travelling into foreign countries, and after he had been talking for a little while to Rosald, he asked if his new friend would be his companion on his journey.'There is nothing I should like better,' answered Rosald, shaking his head sorrowfully; 'but my father is very poor, and he could never give me the money.'
'Oh, if that is your only difficulty, it is all right,' cried Geirald. 'My father has more money than he knows what to do with, and he will give me as much as I want for both of us; only, there is one thing you must promise me, Rosald, that, supposing we have any adventures, you will let the honour and glory of them fall to me.'
'Yes, of course, that is only fair,' answered Rosald, who never cared about putting himself forward. 'But I cannot go without telling my parents. I am sure they will think me lucky to get such a chance.'
As soon as the business was finished, Rosald hastened home. His parents were delighted to hear of his good fortune, and his father gave him his own sword, which was growing rusty for want of use, while his mother saw that his leather jerkin was in order.'Be sure you keep the promise you made to Geirald,' said she, as she bade him good-bye, 'and, come what may, see that you never betray him.'
Full of joy Rosald rode off, and the next day he and Geirald started off to seek adventures. To their disappointment their own land was so well governed that nothing out of the common was very likely to happen, but directly they crossed the border into another kingdom all seemed lawlessness and confusion.
They had not gone very far, when, riding across a mountain, they caught a glimpse of several armed men hiding amongst some trees in their path, and remembered suddenly some talk they had heard of a band of twelve robbers who lay in wait for rich travellers. The robbers were more like savage beasts than men, and lived somewhere at the top of the mountain in caves and holes in the ground. They were all called 'Hankur,' and were distinguished one from another by the name of a colour--blue, grey, red, and so on, except their chief, who was known as Hankur the Tall. All this and more rushed into the minds of the two young men as they saw the flash of their swords in the moonlight.
'It is impossible to fight them--they are twelve to two,' whispered Geirald, stopping his horse in the path. 'We had much better ride back and take the lower road. It would be stupid to throw away our lives like this.'
'Oh, we can't turn back,' answered Rosald, 'we should be ashamed to look anyone in the face again! And, besides, it is a grand opportunity to show what we are made of. Let us tie up our horses here, and climb up the rocks so that we can roll stones down on them.''Well, we might try that, and then we shall always have our horses,' said Geirald. So they went up the rocks silently and carefully.
The robbers were lying all ready, expecting every moment to see their victims coming round the corner a few yards away, when a shower of huge stones fell on their heads, killing half the band. The others sprang up the rock, but as they reached the top the sword of Rosald swung round, and one man after another rolled down into the valley. At last the chief managed to spring up, and, grasping Rosald by the waist, flung away his sword, and the two fought desperately, their bodies swaying always nearer the edge. It seemed as if Rosald, being the smaller of the two, MUST fall over, when, with his left hand, he drew the robber's sword out of its sheath and plunged it into his heart. Then he took from the dead man a beautiful ring set with a large stone, and put it on his own finger.
The fame of this wonderful deed soon spread through the country, and people would often stop Geirald's horse, and ask leave to see the robber's ring, which was said to have been stolen from the father of the reigning king. And Geirald showed them the ring with pride, and listened to their words of praise, and no one would ever have guessed anyone else had destroyed the robbers.
In a few days they left the kingdom and rode on to another, where they thought they would stop through the remainder of the winter, for Geirald liked to be comfortable, and did not care about travelling through ice and snow. But the king would only grant them leave to stop on condition that, before the winter was ended, they should give him some fresh proof of the courage of which he had heard so much. Rosald's heart was glad at the king's message, and as for Geirald, he felt that as long as Rosald was there all would go well. So they both bowed low and replied that it was the king's place to command and theirs to obey.
'Well, then,' said his Majesty, 'this is what I want you to do: In the north-east part of my kingdom there dwells a giant, who has an iron staff twenty yards long, and he is so quick in using it, that even fifty knights have no chance against him. The bravest and strongest young men of my court have fallen under the blows of that staff; but, as you overcame the twelve robbers so easily, I feel that I have reason to hope that you may be able to conquer the giant. In three days from this you will set out.''We will be ready, your Majesty,' answered Rosald; but Geirald remained silent.
'How can we possibly fight against a giant that has killed fifty knights?' cried Geirald, when they were outside the castle. 'The king only wants to get rid of us! He won't think about us for the next three days--that is one comfort--so we shall have plenty of time to cross the borders of the kingdom and be out of reach.'
'We mayn't be able to kill the giant, but we certainly can't run away till we have tried,' answered Rosald. 'Besides, think how glorious it will be if we DO manage to kill him! I know what sort of weapon I shall use. Come with me now, and I will see about it.' And, taking his friend by the arm, he led him into a shop where he bought a huge lump of solid iron, so big that they could hardly lift it between them. However, they just managed to carry it to a blacksmith's where Rosald directed that it should be beaten into a thick club, with a sharp spike at one end. When this was done to his liking he took it home under his arm.
Very early on the third morning the two young men started on their journey, and on the fourth day they reached the giant's cave before he was out of bed. Hearing the sound of footsteps, the giant got up and went to the entrance to see who was coming, and Rosald, expecting something of the sort, struck him such a blow on the forehead that he fell to the ground. Then, before he could rise to his feet again, Rosald drew out his sword and cut off his head.
'It was not so difficult after all, you see,' he said, turning to Geirald. And placing the giant's head in a leathern wallet which was slung over his back, they began their journey to the castle.As they drew near the gates, Rosald took the head from the wallet and handed it to Geirald, whom he followed into the king's presence.
'The giant will trouble you no more,' said Geirald, holding out the head. And the king fell on his neck and kissed him, and cried joyfully that he was the 'bravest knight in all the world, and that a feast should be made for him and Rosald, and that the great deed should be proclaimed throughout the kingdom.' And Geirald's heart swelled with pride, and he almost forgot that it was Rosald and not he, who had slain the giant.
By-and-by a whisper went round that a beautiful lady who lived in the castle would be present at the feast, with twenty-four lovely maidens, her attendants. The lady was the queen of her own country, but as her father and mother had died when she was a little girl, she had been left in the care of this king who was her uncle.
She was now old enough to govern her own kingdom, but her subjects did not like being ruled by a woman, and said that she must find a husband to help her in managing her affairs. Prince after prince had offered himself, but the young queen would have nothing to say to any of them, and at last told her ministers that if she was to have a husband at all she must choose him for herself, as she would certainly not marry any of those whom they had selected for her. The ministers replied that in that case she had better manage her kingdom alone, and the queen, who knew nothing about business, got things into such a confusion that at last she threw them up altogether, and went off to her uncle.
Now when she heard how the two young men had slain the giant, her heart was filled with admiration of their courage, and she declared that if a feast was held she would certainly be present at it.
And so she was; and when the feast was over she asked the king, her guardian, if he would allow the two heroes who had killed the robbers and slain the giant to fight a tourney the next day with one of her pages. The king gladly gave his consent, and ordered the lists to be made ready, never doubting that two great champions would be eager for such a chance of adding to their fame. Little did he guess that Geirald had done all he could to persuade Rosald to steal secretly out of the castle during the night, 'for,' said he, 'I don't believe they are pages at all, but well-proved knights, and how can we, so young and untried, stand up against them?'
'The honour will be all the higher if we gain the day,' answered Rosald; but Geirald would listen to nothing, and only declared that he did not care about honour, and would rather be alive than have every honour in the world heaped upon him. Go he would, and as Rosald had sworn to give him his company, he must come with him.
Rosald was much grieved when he heard these words, but he knew that it was useless attempting to persuade Geirald, and turned his thoughts to forming some plan to prevent this disgraceful flight. Suddenly his face brightened. 'Let us change clothes,' he said, 'and I will do the fighting, while you shall get the glory. Nobody will ever know.' And to this Geirald readily consented.
Whether Geirald was right or not in thinking that the so-called page was really a wellproved knight, it is certain that Rosald's task was a very hard one. Three times they came together with a crash which made their horses reel; once Rosald knocked the helmet off his foe, and received in return such a blow that he staggered in his saddle. Shouts went up from the lookers-on, as first one and then the other seemed gaining the victory; but at length Rosald planted his spear in the armour which covered his adversary's breast and bore him steadily backward. 'Unhorsed! unhorsed!' cried the people; and Rosald then himself dismounted and helped his adversary to rise.
In the confusion that followed it was easy for Rosald to slip away and return Geirald his proper clothes. And in these, torn and dusty with the fight, Geirald answered the king's summons to come before him.
'You have done what I expected you to do,' said he, 'and now, choose your reward.' 'Grant me, sire, the hand of the queen, your niece,' replied the young man, bowing low, 'and I will defend her kingdom against all her enemies.'
'She could choose no better husband,' said the king, 'and if she consents I do.' And he turned towards the queen, who had not been present during the fight, but had just slipped into a seat by his right hand. Now the queen's eyes were very sharp, and it seemed to her that the man who stood before her, tall and handsome though he might be, was different in many slight ways, and in one in particular, from the man who had fought the tourney. How there could be any trickery she could not understand, and why the real victor should be willing to give up his prize to another was still stranger; but something in her heart warned her to be careful. She answered: 'You may be satisfied, uncle, but I am not. One more proof I must have; let the two young men now fight against each other. The man I marry must be the man who killed the robbers and the giant, and overcame my page.' Geirald's face grew pale as he heard these words. He knew there was no escape from him now, though he did not doubt for one moment that Rosald would keep his compact loyally to the last. But how would it be possible that even Rosald should deceive the watchful eyes of the king and his court, and still more those of the young queen whom he felt uneasily had suspected him from the first?
The tourney was fought, and in spite of Geirald's fears Rosald managed to hang back to make attacks which were never meant to succeed, and to allow strokes which he could easily have parried to attain their end. At length, after a great show of resistance, he fell heavily to the ground. And as he fell he knew that it was not alone the glory that was his rightfully which he gave up, but the hand of the queen that was more precious still.But Geirald did not even wait to see if he was wounded; he went straight to the wall where the royal banner waved and claimed the reward which was now his.
The crowd of watchers turned towards the queen, expecting to see her stoop and give some token to the victor. Instead, to the surprise of everyone, she merely smiled gracefully, and said that before she bestowed her hand one more test must be imposed, but this should be the last. The final tourney should be fought; Geirald and Rosald should meet singly two knights of the king's court, and he who could unhorse his foe should be master of herself and of her kingdom. The combat was fixed to take place at ten o'clock the following day.
All night long Geirald walked about his room, not daring to face the fight that lay in front of him, and trying with all his might to discover some means of escaping it. All night long he moved restlessly from door to window; and when the trumpets sounded, and the combatants rode into the field, he alone was missing. The king sent messengers to see what had become of him, and he was found, trembling with fear, hiding under his bed. After that there was no need of any further proof. The combat was declared unnecessary, and the queen pronounced herself quite satisfied, and ready to accept Rosald as her husband.
'You forgot one thing,' she said, when they were alone. 'I recognized my father's ring which Hankur the Tall had stolen, on the finger of your right hand, and I knew that it was you and not Geirald who had slain the robber band. I was the page who fought you, and again I saw the ring on your finger, though it was absent from his when he stood before me to claim the prize. That was why I ordered the combat between you, though your faith to your word prevented my plan being successful, and I had to try another. The man who keeps his promise at all costs to himself is the man I can trust, both for myself and for my people.'
So they were married, and returned to their own kingdom, which they ruled well and happily. And many years after a poor beggar knocked at the palace gates and asked for money, for the sake of days gone by--and this was Geirald.[From Neuislandischem Volksmarcher.]
Once upon a time there lived two peasants who had three daughters, and, as generally happens, the youngest was the most beautiful and the best tempered, and when her sisters wanted to go out she was always ready to stay at home and do their work.Years passed quickly with the whole family, and one day the parents suddenly perceived that all three girls were grown up, and that very soon they would be thinking of marriage.
'Have you decided what your husband's name is to be?' said the father, laughingly, to his eldest daughter, one evening when they were all sitting at the door of their cottage. 'You know that is a very important point!''Yes; I will never wed any man who is not called Sigmund,' answered she.
'Well, it is lucky for you that there are a great many Sigmunds in this part of the world,' replied her father, 'so that you can take your choice! And what do YOU say?' he added, turning to the second.'Oh, I think that there is no name so beautiful as Sigurd,' cried she. 'Then you won't be an old maid either,' answered he. 'There are seven Sigurds in the next village alone! And you, Helga?'
Helga, who was still the prettiest of the three, looked up. She also had her favourite name, but, just as she was going to say it, she seemed to hear a voice whisper: 'Marry no one who is not called Habogi.'
The girl had never heard of such a name, and did not like it, so she determined to pay no attention; but as she opened her mouth to tell her father that her husband must be called Njal, she found herself answering instead: 'If I do marry it will be to no one except Habogi.''Who IS Habogi?' asked her father and sisters; 'We never heard of such a person.' 'All I can tell you is that he will be my husband, if ever I have one,' returned Helga; and that was all she would say.
Before very long the young men who lived in the neighbouring villages or on the sides of the mountains, had heard of this talk of the three girls, and Sigmunds and Sigurds in scores came to visit the little cottage. There were other young men too, who bore different names, though not one of them was called 'Habogi,' and these thought that they might perhaps gain the heart of the youngest. But though there was more than one 'Njal' amongst them, Helga's eyes seemed always turned another way.
At length the two elder sisters made their choice from out of the Sigurds and the Sigmunds, and it was decided that both weddings should take place at the same time. Invitations were sent out to the friends and relations, and when, on the morning of the great day, they were all assembled, a rough, coarse old peasant left the crowd and came up to the brides' father.
'I cannot talk of such things just now,' answered the father, who could not bear the thought of giving his favourite daughter to this horrible old man, and hoped, by putting it off, that something might happen. But the sisters, who had always been rather jealous of Helga, were secretly pleased that their bridegrooms should outshine hers.
When the feast was over, Habogi led up a beautiful horse from a field where he had left it to graze, and bade Helga jump up on its splendid saddle, all embroidered in scarlet and gold. 'You shall come back again,' said he; 'but now you must see the house that you are to live in.' And though Helga was very unwilling to go, something inside her forced her to obey.The old man settled her comfortably, then sprang up in front of her as easily as if he had been a boy, and, shaking the reins, they were soon out of sight.
After some miles they rode through a meadow with grass so green that Helga's eyes felt quite dazzled; and feeding on the grass were a quantity of large fat sheep, with the curliest and whitest wool in the world.'What lovely sheep! whose are they?' cried Helga.
'Your Habogi's,' answered he, 'all that you see belongs to him; but the finest sheep in the whole herd, which has little golden bells hanging between its horns, you shall have for yourself.'This pleased Helga very much, for she had never had anything of her own; and she smiled quite happily as she thanked Habogi for his present.
They soon left the sheep behind them, and entered a large field with a river running through it, where a number of beautiful grey cows were standing by a gate waiting for a milk-maid to come and milk them.'Oh, what lovely cows!' cried Helga again; 'I am sure their milk must be sweeter than any other cows. How I should like to have some! I wonder to whom they belong?'
'To your Habogi,' replied he; 'and some day you shall have as much milk as you like, but we cannot stop now. Do you see that big grey one, with the silver bells between her horns? That is to be yours, and you can have her milked every morning the moment you wake.'And Helga's eyes shone, and though she did not say anything, she thought that she would learn to milk the cow herself.
A mile further on they came to a wide common, with short, springy turf, where horses of all colours, with skins of satin, were kicking up their heels in play. The sight of them so delighted Helga that she nearly sprang from her saddle with a shriek of joy.'Whose are they?' Oh! whose are they?' she asked. 'How happy any man must be who is the master of such lovely creatures!' 'They are your Habogi's,' replied he, 'and the one which you think the most beautiful of all you shall have for yourself, and learn to ride him.' At this Helga quite forgot the sheep and the cow.
'A horse of my own!' said she. 'Oh, stop one moment, and let me see which I will choose. The white one? No. The chestnut? No. I think, after all, I like the coal-black one best, with the little white star on his forehead. Oh, do stop, just for a minute.'But Habogi would not stop or listen. 'When you are married you will have plenty of time to choose one,' was all he answered, and they rode on two or three miles further. At length Habogi drew rein before a small house, very ugly and mean-looking, and that seemed on the point of tumbling to pieces.
'This is my house, and is to be yours,' said Habogi, as he jumped down and held out his arms to lift Helga from the horse. The girl's heart sank a little, as she thought that the man who possessed such wonderful sheep, and cows, and horses, might have built himself a prettier place to live in; but she did not say so. And, taking her arm, he led her up the steps.
But when she got inside, she stood quite bewildered at the beauty of all around her. None of her friends owned such things, not even the miller, who was the richest man she knew. There were carpets everywhere, thick and soft, and of deep rich colours; and the cushions were of silk, and made you sleepy even to look at them; and curious little figures in china were scattered about. Helga felt as if it would take her all her life to see everything properly, and it only seemed a second since she had entered the house, when Habogi came up to her.
'I must begin the preparations for our wedding at once,' he said; 'but my foster-brother will take you home, as I promised. In three days he will bring you back here, with your parents and sisters, and any guests you may invite, in your company. By that time the feast will be ready.'
Helga had so much to think about, that the ride home appeared very short. Her father and mother were delighted to see her, as they did not feel sure that so ugly and cross-looking a man as Habogi might not have played her some cruel trick. And after they had given her some supper they begged her to tell them all she had done. But Helga only told them that they should see for themselves on the third day, when they would come to her wedding.
It was very early in the morning when the party set out, and Helga's two sisters grew green with envy as they passed the flocks of sheep, and cows, and horses, and heard that the best of each was given to Helga herself; but when they caught sight of the poor little house which was to be her home their hearts grew light again.
'I should be ashamed of living in such a place,' whispered each to the other; and the eldest sister spoke of the carved stone over HER doorway, and the second boasted of the number of rooms SHE had. But the moment they went inside they were struck dumb with rage at the splendour of everything, and their faces grew white and cold with fury when they saw the dress which Habogi had prepared for his bride--a dress that glittered like sunbeams dancing upon ice.
'She SHALL not look so much finer than us,' they cried passionately to each other as soon as they were alone; and when night came they stole out of their rooms, and taking out the wedding-dress, they laid it in the ash-pit, and heaped ashes upon it. But Habogi, who knew a little magic, and had guessed what they would do, changed the ashes into roses, and cast a spell over the sisters, so that they could not leave the spot for a whole day, and every one who passed by mocked at them.
The next morning when they all awoke the ugly tumble-down house had disappeared, and in its place stood a splendid palace. The guests' eyes sought in vain for the bridegroom, but could only see a handsome young man, with a coat of blue velvet and silver and a gold crown upon his head.'Who is that?' they asked Helga. 'That is my Habogi,' said she. [From Neuislandischem Volksmarcher.]
In a small hut, right in the middle of the forest, lived a man, his wife, three sons and a daughter. For some reason, all the animals seemed to have left that part of the country, and food grew very scarce; so, one morning, after a night of snow, when the tracks of beasts might be easily seen, the three boys started off to hunt.
They kept together for some time, till they reached a place where the path they had been following split into two, and one of the brothers called his dog and went to the left, while the others took the trail to the right. These had not gone far when their dogs scented a bear, and drove him out from the thicket. The bear ran across a clearing, and the elder brother managed to place an arrow right in his head.
They both took up the bear, and carried it towards home, meeting the third at the spot where they had parted from him. When they reached home they threw the bear down on the floor of the hut saying,'Father, here is a bear which we killed; now we can have some dinner.' But the father, who was in a bad temper, only said: 'When I was a young man we used to get two bears in one day.'
The sons were rather disappointed at hearing this, and though there was plenty of meat to last for two or three days, they started off early in the morning down the same trail that they had followed before. As they drew near the fork a bear suddenly ran out from behind a tree, and took the path on the right. The two elder boys and their dogs pursued him, and soon the second son, who was also a good shot, killed him instantly with an arrow. At the fork of the trail, on their way home, they met the youngest, who had taken the left-hand road, and had shot a bear for himself. But when they threw the two bears triumphantly on the floor of the hut their father hardly looked at them, and only said:'When I was a young man I used to get three bears in one day.'
The next day they were luckier than before, and brought back three bears, on which their father told them that HE had always killed four. However, that did not prevent him from skinning the bears and cooking them in a way of his own, which he thought very good, and they all ate an excellent supper.
Now these bears were the servants of the great bear chief who lived in a high mountain a long way off. And every time a bear was killed his shadow returned to the house of the bear chief, with the marks of his wounds plainly to bee seen by the rest. The chief was furious at the number of bears the hunters had killed, and determined that he would find some way of destroying them. So he called another of his servants, and said to him:
'Go to the thicket near the fork, where the boys killed your brothers, and directly they or the dogs see you return here as fast as ever you can. The mountain will open to let you in, and the hunters will follow you. Then I shall have them in my power, and be able to revenge myself.'The servant bowed low, and started at once for the fork, where he hid himself in the bushes.
By-and-by the boys came in sight, but this time there were only two of them, as the youngest had stayed at home. The air was warm and damp, and the snow soft and slushy, and the elder brother's bowstring hung loose, while the bow of the younger caught in a tree and snapped in half. At that moment the dogs began to bark loudly, and the bear rushed out of the thicket and set off in the direction of the mountain. Without thinking that they had nothing to defend themselves with, should the bear turn and attack them, the boys gave chase. The bear, who knew quite well that he could not be shot, sometimes slackened his pace and let the dogs get quite close; and in this way the elder son reached the mountain without observing it, while his brother, who had hurt his foot, was still far behind.
As he ran up, the mountain opened to admit the bear, and the boy, who was close on his heels, rushed in after him, and did not know where he was till he saw bears sitting on every side of him, holding a council. The animal he had been chasing sank panting in their midst, and the boy, very much frightened, stood still, letting his bow fall to the ground.
'Why are you trying to kill all my servants?' asked the chief. 'Look round and see their shades, with arrows sticking in them. It was I who told the bear to-day how he was to lure you into my power. I shall take care that you shall not hurt my people any more, because you will become a bear yourself.'
At this moment the second brother came up--for the mountain had been left open on purpose to tempt him also--and cried out breathlessly: 'Don't you see that the bear is lying close to you? Why don't you shoot him?' And, without waiting for a reply, pressed forward to drive his arrow into the heart of the bear. But the elder one caught his raised arm, and whispered: 'Be quiet! can't you tell where you are?' Then the boy looked up and saw the angry bears about him. On the one side were the servants of the chief, and on the other the servants of the chief's sister, who was sorry for the two youths, and begged that their lives might be spared. The chief answered that he would not kill them, but only cast a spell over them, by which their heads and bodies should remain as they were, but their arms and legs should change into those of a bear, so that they would go on all fours for the rest of their lives. And, stooping over a spring of water, he dipped a handful of moss in it and rubbed it over the arms and legs of the boys. In an instant the transformation took place, and two creatures, neither beast nor human stood before the chief.
Now the bear chief of course knew that the boys' father would seek for his sons when they did not return home, so he sent another of his servants to the hiding-place at the fork of the trail to see what would happen. He had not waited long, when the father came in sight, stooping as he went to look for his sons' tracks in the snow. When he saw the marks of snow-shoes along the path on the right he was filled with joy, not knowing that the servant had made some fresh tracks on purpose to mislead him; and he hastened forward so fast that he fell headlong into a pit, where the bear was sitting. Before he could pick himself up the bear had quietly broken his neck, and, hiding the body under the snow, sat down to see if anyone else would pass that way.
Meanwhile the mother at home was wondering what had become of her two sons, and as the hours went on, and their father never returned, she made up her mind to go and look for him. The youngest boy begged her to let him undertake the search, but she would not hear of it, and told him he must stay at home and take care of his sister. So, slipping on her snow-shoes, she started on her way.
As no fresh snow had fallen, the trail was quite easy to find, and she walked straight on, till it led her up to the pit where the bear was waiting for her. He grasped her as she fell and broke her neck, after which he laid her in the snow beside her husband, and went back to tell the bear chief.
Hour after hour dragged heavily by in the forest hut, and at last the brother and sister felt quite sure that in some way or other all the rest of the family had perished. Day after day the boy climbed to the top of a tall tree near the house, and sat there till he was almost frozen, looking on all sides through the forest openings, hoping that he might see someone coming along. Very soon all the food in the house was eaten, and he knew he would have to go out and hunt for more. Besides, he wished to seek for his parents.
The little girl did not like being left alone in the hut, and cried bitterly; but her brother told her that there was no use sitting down quietly to starve, and that whether he found any game or not he would certainly be back before the following night. Then he cut himself some arrows, each from a different tree, and winged with the feathers of four different birds. He then made himself a bow, very light and strong, and got down his snow-shoes. All this took some time, and he could not start that day, but early next morning he called his little dog Redmouth, whom he kept in a box, and set out.
After he had followed the trail for a great distance he grew very tired, and sat upon the branch of a tree to rest. But Redmouth barked so furiously that the boy thought that perhaps his parents might have been killed under its branches, and stepping back, shot one of his arrows at the root of the tree. Whereupon a noise like thunder shook it from top to bottom, fire broke out, and in a few minutes a little heap of ashes lay in the place where it had stood.
Not knowing quite what to make of it all, the boy continued on the trail, and went down the right-hand fork till he came to the clump of bushes where the bears used to hide.
Now, as was plain by his being able to change the shape of the two brothers, the bear chief knew a good deal of magic, and he was quite aware that the little boy was following the trail, and he sent a very small but clever bear servant to wait for him in the bushes and to try to tempt him into the mountain. But somehow his spells could not have worked properly that day, as the bear chief did not know that Redmouth had gone with his master, or he would have been more careful. For the moment the dog ran round the bushes barking loudly, the little bear servant rushed out in a fright, and set out for the mountains as fast as he could.
The dog followed the bear, and the boy followed the dog, until the mountain, the house of the great bear chief, came in sight. But along the road the snow was so wet and heavy that the boy could hardly get along, and then the thong of his snow-shoes broke, and he had to stop and mend it, so that the bear and the dog got so far ahead that he could scarcely hear the barking. When the strap was firm again the boy spoke to his snow-shoes and said:'Now you must go as fast as you can, or, if not, I shall lose the dog as well as the bear.' And the snow-shoes sang in answer that they would run like the wind.
As he came along, the bear chief's sister was looking out of the window, and took pity on this little brother, as she had on the two elder ones, and waited to see what the boy would do, when he found that the bear servant and the dog had already entered the mountain.
The little brother was certainly very much puzzled at not seeing anything of either of the animals, which had vanished suddenly out of his sight. He paused for an instant to think what he should do next, and while he did so he fancied he heard Redmouth's voice on the opposite side of the mountain. With great difficulty he scrambled over steep rocks, and forced a path through tangled thickets; but when he reached the other side the sound appeared to start from the place from which he had come. Then he had to go all the way back again, and at the very top, where he stopped to rest, the barking was directly beneath him, and he knew in an instant where he was and what had happened.
'Let my dog out at once, bear chief!' cried he. 'If you do not, I shall destroy your palace.' But the bear chief only laughed, and said nothing. The boy was very angry at his silence, and aiming one of his arrows at the bottom of the mountain, shot straight through it.
As the arrow touched the ground a rumbling was heard, and with a roar a fire broke out which seemed to split the whole mountain into pieces. The bear chief and all his servants were burnt up in the flames, but his sister and all that belonged to her were spared because she had tried to save the two elder boys from punishment.
As soon as the fire had burnt itself out the little hunter entered what was left of the mountain, and the first thing he saw was his two brothers--half bear, half boy. 'Oh, help us! help us!' cried they, standing on their hind legs as they spoke, and stretching out their fore-paws to him.
'But how am I to help you?' asked the little brother, almost weeping. 'I can kill people, and destroy trees and mountains, but I have no power over men.' And the two elder brothers came up and put their paws on his shoulders, and they all three wept together.The heart of the bear chief's sister was moved when she saw their misery, and she came gently up behind, and whispered: 'Little boy, gather some moss from the spring over there, and let your brothers smell it.'
With a bound all three were at the spring, and as the youngest plucked a handful of wet moss, the two others sniffed at it with all their might. Then the bearskin fell away from them, and they stood upright once more.
'How can we thank you? how can we thank you?' they stammered, hardly able to speak; and fell at her feet in gratitude. But the bear's sister only smiled, and bade them go home and look after the little girl, who had no one else to protect her.And this the boys did, and took such good care of their sister that, as she was very small, she soon forgot that she had ever had a father and mother. [From the Bureau of Ethnology, U.S.]
Early in the morning and late in the evenings the parents worked hard in the fields, resting, when the sun was high, under the shade of some tree. While they were absent the little girl kept house alone, for her brother always got up before the dawn, when the air was fresh and cool, and drove out the cattle to the sweetest patches of grass he could find.One day, when Koane had slept later than usual, his father and mother went to their work before him, and there was only Thakane to be seen busy making the bread for supper. 'Thakane,' he said, 'I am thirsty. Give me a drink from the tree Koumongoe, which has the best milk in the world.' 'Oh, Koane,' cried his sister, 'you know that we are forbidden to touch that tree. What would father say when he came home? For he would be sure to know.'
'Nonsense,' replied Koane, 'there is so much milk in Koumongoe that he will never miss a little. If you won't give it to me, I sha'n't take the cattle out. They will just have to stay all day in the hut, and you know that they will starve.' And he turned from her in a rage, and sat down in the corner.After a while Thakane said to him: 'It is getting hot, had you better drive out the cattle now?' But Koane only answered sulkily: 'I told you I am not going to drive them out at all. If I have to do without milk, they shall do without grass.'
Thakane did not know what to do. She was afraid to disobey her parents, who would most likely beat her, yet the beasts would be sure to suffer if they were kept in, and she would perhaps be beaten for that too. So at last she took an axe and a tiny earthen bowl, she cut a very small hole in the side of Koumongoe, and out gushed enough milk to fill the bowl.'Here is the milk you wanted,' said she, going up to Koane, who was still sulking in his corner.
'What is the use of that?' grumbled Koane; 'why, there is not enough to drown a fly. Go and get me three times as much!'
Trembling with fright, Thakane returned to the tree, and struck it a sharp blow with the axe. In an instant there poured forth such a stream of milk that it ran like a river into the hut.
'Koane! Koane!' cried she, 'come and help me to plug up the hole. There will be no milk left for our father and mother.' But Koane could not stop it any more than Thakane, and soon the milk was flowing through the hut downhill towards their parents in the fields below.The man saw a white stream a long way off, and guessed what had happened.
'Wife, wife,' he called loudly to the woman, who was working at a little distance: 'Do you see Koumongoe running fast down the hill? That is some mischief of the children's, I am sure. I must go home and find out what is the matter.' And they both threw down their hoes and hurried to the side of Koumongoe.
Kneeling on the grass, the man and his wife made a cup of their hands and drank the milk from it. And no sooner had they done this, than Koumongoe flowed back again up the hill, and entered the hut.
'Thakane,' said the parents, severely, when they reached home panting from the heat of the sun, 'what have you been doing? Why did Koumongoe come to us in the fields instead of staying in the garden?'
'It was Koane's fault,' answered Thakane. 'He would not take the cattle to feed until he drank some of the milk from Koumongoe. So, as I did not know what else to do, I gave it to him.'
The father listened to Thakane's words, but made no answer. Instead, he went outside and brought in two sheepskins, which he stained red and sent for a blacksmith to forge some iron rings. The rings were then passed over Thakane's arms and legs and neck, and the skins fastened on her before and behind. When all was ready, the man sent for his servants and said:'I am going to get rid of Thakane.' 'Get rid of your only daughter?' they answered, in surprise. 'But why?'
'Because she has eaten what she ought not to have eaten. She has touched the sacred tree which belongs to her mother and me alone.' And, turning his back, he called to Thakane to follow him, and they went down the road which led to the dwelling of an ogre.They were passing along some fields where the corn was ripening, when a rabbit suddenly sprang out at their feet, and standing on its hind legs, it sang: Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her,' replied the man, 'she is old enough to give you an answer.' Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:
I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father.And when the rabbit heard that, he cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'
But the father paid no heed to what the rabbit said, and only walked on the faster, bidding Thakane to keep close behind him. By-and-by they met with a troop of great deer, called elands, and they stopped when they saw Thakane and sang:Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to give you an answer.' Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:
I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father.And the elands all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'
By this time it was nearly dark, and the father said they could travel no further that night, and must go to sleep where they were. Thakane was thankful indeed when she heard this, for she was very tired, and found the two skins fastened round her almost too heavy to carry. So, in spite of her dread of the ogre, she slept till dawn, when her father woke her, and told her roughly that he was ready to continue their journey.
Crossing the plain, the girl and her father passed a herd of gazelles feeding. They lifted their heads, wondering who was out so early, and when they caught sight of Thakane, they sang:Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair? 'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to answer for herself.'
Then, in her turn, Thakane sang: I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him the Koumongoe of my father.And the gazelles all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'
At last they arrived at the village where the ogre lived, and they went straight to his hut. He was nowhere to be seen, but in his place was his son Masilo, who was not an ogre at all, but a very polite young man. He ordered his servants to bring a pile of skins for Thakane to sit on, but told her father he must sit on the ground. Then, catching sight of the girl's face, which she had kept down, he was struck by its beauty, and put the same question that the rabbit, and the elands, and the gazelles had done.
Thakane answered him as before, and he instantly commanded that she should be taken to the hut of his mother, and placed under her care, while the man should be led to his father. Directly the ogre saw him he bade the servant throw him into the great pot which always stood ready on the fire, and in five minutes he was done to a turn. After that the servant returned to Masilo and related all that had happened.
Now Masilo had fallen in loved with Thakane the moment he saw her. At first he did not know what to make of this strange feeling, for all his life he had hated women, and had refused several brides whom his parents had chosen for him. However, they were so anxious that he should marry, that they willingly accepted Thakane as their daughter-inlaw, though she did bring any marriage portion with her.
After some time a baby was born to her, and Thakane thought it was the most beautiful baby that ever was seen. But when her mother-in-law saw it was a girl, she wrung her hands and wept, saying:'O miserable mother! Miserable child! Alas for you! why were you not a boy!'
Thakane, in great surprise, asked the meaning of her distress; and the old woman told her that it was the custom in that country that all the girls who were born should be given to the ogre to eat.Then Thakane clasped the baby tightly in her arms, and cried: 'But it is not the customer in MY country! There, when children die, they are buried in the earth. No one shall take my baby from me.'
That night, when everyone in the hut was asleep, Thakane rose, and carrying her baby on her back, went down to a place where the river spread itself out into a large lake, with tall willows all round the bank. Here, hidden from everyone, she sat down on a stone and began to think what she should do to save her child.
Suddenly she heard a rustling among the willows, and an old woman appeared before her.
Then Thakane dried her eyes, and gladly accepted the old woman's offer. When she got home she told her husband she had thrown it in the river, and as he had watched her go in that direction he never thought of doubting what she said.
On the appointed day, Thakane slipped out when everybody was busy, and ran down the path that led to the lake. As soon as she got there, she crouched down among the willows, and sang softly:Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out!
And in a moment the old woman appeared holding the baby in her arms. Dilah had become so big and strong, that Thakane's heart was filled with joy and gratitude, and she stayed as long as she dared, playing with her baby. At last she felt she must return to the village, lest she should be missed, and the child was handed back to the old woman, who vanished with her into the lake.
Children grow up very quickly when they live under water, and in less time than anyone could suppose, Dilah had changed from a baby to a woman. Her mother came to visit her whenever she was able, and one day, when they were sitting talking together, they were spied out by a man who had come to cut willows to weave into baskets. He was so surprised to see how like the face of the girl was to Masilo, that he left his work and returned to the village.
'Masilo,' he said, as he entered the hut, 'I have just beheld your wife near the river with a girl who must be your daughter, she is so like you. We have been deceived, for we all thought she was dead.'When he heard this, Masilo tried to look shocked because his wife had broken the law; but in his heart he was very glad. 'But what shall we do now?' asked he.
'Make sure for yourself that I am speaking the truth by hiding among the bushes the first time Thakane says she is going to bathe in the river, and waiting till the girl appears.' For some days Thakane stayed quietly at home, and her husband began to think that the man had been mistaken; but at last she said to her husband: 'I am going to bathe in the river.'
'Well, you can go,' answered he. But he ran down quickly by another path, and got there first, and hid himself in the bushes. An instant later, Thakane arrived, and standing on the bank, she sang:Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father Masilo cast out!
Then the old woman came out of the water, holding the girl, now tall and slender, by the hand. And as Masilo looked, he saw that she was indeed his daughter, and he wept for joy that she was not lying dead in the bottom of the lake. The old woman, however, seemed uneasy, and said to Thakane: 'I feel as if someone was watching us. I will not leave the girl to-day, but will take her back with me'; and sinking beneath the surface, she drew the girl after her. After they had gone, Thakane returned to the village, which Masilo had managed to reach before her.All the rest of the day he sat in a corner weeping, and his mother who came in asked: 'Why are you weeping so bitterly, my son?' 'My head aches,' he answered; 'it aches very badly.' And his mother passed on, and left him alone.
In the evening he said to his wife: 'I have seen my daughter, in the place where you told me you had drowned her. Instead, she lives at the bottom of the lake, and has now grown into a young woman.''I don't know what you are talking about,' replied Thakane. 'I buried my child under the sand on the beach.'
Then Masilo implored her to give the child back to him; but she would not listen, and only answered: 'If I were to give her back you would only obey the laws of your country and take her to your father, the ogre, and she would be eaten.'
But Masilo promised that he would never let his father see her, and that now she was a woman no one would try to hurt her; so Thakane's heart melted, and she went down to the lake to consult the old woman.
'What am I to do?' she asked, when, after clapping her hands, the old woman appeared before her. 'Yesterday Masilo beheld Dilah, and ever since he has entreated me to give him back his daughter.'
'If I let her go he must pay me a thousand head of cattle in exchange,' replied the old woman. And Thakane carried her answer back to Masilo.
'Why, I would gladly give her two thousand!' cried he, 'for she has saved my daughter.' And he bade messengers hasten to all the neighbouring villages, and tell his people to send him at once all the cattle he possessed. When they were all assembled he chose a thousand of the finest bulls and cows, and drove them down to the river, followed by a great crowd wondering what would happen.
And Dilah came from the waters holding out her hands to Masilo and Thakane, and in her place the cattle sank into the lake, and were driven by the old woman to the great city filled with people, which lies at the bottom.[Contes Populaires des Bassoutos.]
'You need not speak like that, for I have SEEN you walking,' replied the wolverine, 'though I am quite sure that you could never catch ME!' and he ran a little distance and then stopped to see if the rock was pursuing him; but, to his vexation, the rock was still in the same place. Then the wolverine went up close, and struck the rock a blow with his paw, saying: 'Well, will you catch me NOW?''I can't walk, but I can ROLL,' answered the rock. And the wolverine laughed and said: 'Oh, that will do just as well'; and began to run down the side of the mountain.
At first he went quite slowly, 'just to give the rock a chance,' he thought to himself; but soon he quickened his pace, for he found that the rock was almost at his heels. But the faster the wolverine ran, the faster the rock rolled, and by-and-by the little creature began to get very tired, and was sorry he had not left the rock to itself. Thinking that if he could manage to put on a spurt he would reach the forest of great trees at the bottom of the mountain, where the rock could not come, he gathered up all his strength, and instead of running he leaped over sticks and stones, but, whatever he did, the rock was always close behind him. At length he grew so weary that he could not even see where he was going, and catching his foot in a branch he tripped and fell. The rock stopped at once, but there came a shriek from the wolverine:'Get off, get off! can't you see that you are on my legs?' 'Why did you not leave me alone?' asked the rock. 'I did not want to move--I hate moving. But you WOULD have it, and I certainly sha'n't move now till I am forced to.'
'I will call my brothers,' answered the wolverine. 'There are many of them in the forest, and you will soon see that they are stronger than you.' And he called, and called, and called, till wolves and foxes and all sorts of other creatures all came running to see what was the matter.
'How DID you get under that rock?' asked they, making a ring round him; but they had to repeat their question several times before the wolverine would answer, for he, like many other persons, found it hard to confess that he had brought his troubles on himself.
'Well, I was dull, and wanted someone to play with me,' he said at last, in sulky voice, 'and I challenged the rock to catch me. Of course I thought I could run the fastest; but I tripped, and it rolled on me. It was just an accident.''It serves you right for being so silly,' said they; but they pushed and hauled at the rock for a long time without making it move an inch.
'You are no good at all,' cried the wolverine crossly, for it was suffering great pain, 'and if you cannot get me free, I shall see what my friends the lightning and thunder can do.' And he called loudly to the lightning to come and help him as quickly as possible.
In a few minutes a dark cloud came rolling up the sky, giving out such terrific claps of thunder that the wolves and the foxes and all the other creatures ran helter-skelter in all directions. But, frightened though they were, they did not forget to beg the lightning to take off the wolverine's coat and to free his legs, but to be careful not to hurt him. So the lightning disappeared into the cloud for a moment to gather up fresh strength, and then came rushing down, right upon the rock, which it sent flying in all directions, and took the wolverine's coat so neatly that, though it was torn into tiny shreds, the wolverine himself was quite unharmed.
'That was rather clumsy of you,' said he, standing up naked in his flesh. 'Surely you could have split the rock without tearing my coat to bits!' And he stooped down to pick up the pieces. It took him a long time, for there were a great many of them, but at last he had them all in his hand.'I'll go to my sister the frog,' he thought to himself, 'and she will sew them together for me'; and he set off at once for the swamp in which his sister lived. 'Will you sew my coat together? I had an unlucky accident, and it is quite impossible to wear,' he said, when he found her.
'With pleasure,' she answered, for she had always been taught to be polite; and getting her needle and thread she began to fit the pieces. But though she was very good-natured, she was not very clever, and she got some of the bits wrong. When the wolverine, who was very particular about his clothes, came to put it on, he grew very angry.
'What a useless creature you are!' cried he. 'Do you expect me to go about in such a coat as that? Why it bulges all down the back, as if I had a hump, and it is so tight across the chest that I expect it to burst every time I breathe. I knew you were stupid, but I did not think you were as stupid as that.' And giving the poor frog a blow on her head, which knocked her straight into the water, he walked off in a rage to his younger sister the mouse.
'I tore my coat this morning,' he began, when he had found her sitting at the door of her house eating an apple. 'It was all in little bits, and I took it to our sister the frog to ask her to sew it for me. But just look at the way she has done it! You will have to take it to pieces and fit them together properly, and I hope I shall not have to complain again.' For as the wolverine was older than the mouse, he was accustomed to speak to her in this manner. However, the mouse was used to it and only answered: 'I think you had better stay here till it is done, and if there is any alteration needed I can make it.' So the wolverine sat down on a heap of dry ferns, and picking up the apple, he finished it without even asking the mouse's leave.At last the coat was ready, and the wolverine put it on.
'Yes, it fits very well,' said he, 'and you have sewn it very neatly. When I pass this way again I will bring you a handful of corn, as a reward'; and he ran off as smart as ever, leaving the mouse quite grateful behind him.
He wandered about for many days, till he reached a place where food was very scarce, and for a whole week he went without any. He was growing desperate, when he suddenly came upon a bear that was lying asleep. 'Ah! here is food at last!' thought he; but how was he to kill the bear, who was so much bigger than himself? It was no use to try force, he must invent some cunning plan which would get her into his power. At last, after thinking hard, he decided upon something, and going up to the bear, he exclaimed: 'Is that you, my sister?'
The bear turned round and saw the wolverine, and murmuring to herself, so low that nobody could hear, 'I never heard before that I had a brother,' got up and ran quickly to a tree, up which she climbed. Now the wolverine was very angry when he saw his dinner vanishing in front of him, especially as HE could not climb trees like the bear, so he followed, and stood at the foot of the tree, shrieking as loud as he could, 'Come down, sister; our father has sent me to look for you! You were lost when you were a little girl and went out picking berries, and it was only the other day that we heard from a beaver where you were.' At these words, the bear came a little way down the tree, and the wolverine, seeing this, went on:'Are you not fond of berries? I am! And I know a place where they grow so thick the ground is quite hidden. Why, look for yourself! That hillside is quite red with them!'
'I can't see so far,' answered the bear, now climbing down altogether. 'You must have wonderfully good eyes! I wish I had; but my sight is very short.'
'So was mine till my father smashed a pailful of cranberries, and rubbed my eyes with them,' replied the wolverine. 'But if you like to go and gather some of the berries I will do just as he did, and you will soon be able to see as far as me.'
It took the bear a long while to gather the berries, for she was slow about everything, and, besides, it made her back ache to stoop. But at last she returned with a sackful, and put them down beside the wolverine. 'That is splendid, sister!' cried the wolverine. 'Now lie flat on the ground with your head on this stone, while I smash them.'The bear, who was very tired, was only too glad to do as she was bid, and stretched herself comfortably on the grass.
'I am ready now,' said the wolverine after a bit; 'just at first you will find that the berries make your eyes smart, but you must be careful not to move, or the juice will run out, and then it will have to be done all over again.'So the bear promised to lie very still; but the moment the cranberries touched her eyes she sprang up with a roar.
'Oh, you mustn't mind a little pain,' said the wolverine, 'it will soon be over, and then you will see all sorts of things you have never dreamt of.' The bear sank down with a groan, and as her eyes were full of cranberry juice, which completely blinded her, the wolverine took up a sharp knife and stabbed her to the heart.
Then he took off the skin, and, stealing some fire from a tent, which his sharp eyes had perceived hidden behind a rock, he set about roasting the bear bit by bit. He thought the meat was the best he ever had tasted, and when dinner was done he made up his mind to try that same trick again, if ever he was hungry.And very likely he did! [Adapted from Bureau of Ethnology.]
Once upon a time there lived in Japan a rat and his wife who came of an old and noble race, and had one daughter, the loveliest girl in all the rat world. Her parents were very proud of her, and spared no pains to teach her all she ought to know. There was not another young lady in the whole town who was as clever as she was in gnawing through the hardest wood, or who could drop from such a height on to a bed, or run away so fast if anyone was heard coming. Great attention, too, was paid to her personal appearance, and her skin shone like satin, while her teeth were as white as pearls, and beautifully pointed.Of course, with all these advantages, her parents expected her to make a brilliant marriage, and, as she grew up, they began to look round for a suitable husband.
But here a difficulty arose. The father was a rat from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, outside as well as in, and desired that his daughter should wed among her own people. She had no lack of lovers, but her father's secret hopes rested on a fine young rat, with moustaches which almost swept the ground, whose family was still nobler and more ancient than his own. Unluckily, the mother had other views for her precious child. She was one of those people who always despise their own family and surroundings, and take pleasure in thinking that they themselves are made of finer material than the rest of the world. 'HER daughter should never marry a mere rat,' she declared, holding her head high. 'With her beauty and talents she had a right to look for someone a little better than THAT.'So she talked, as mothers will, to anyone that would listen to her. What the girl thought about the matter nobody knew or cared--it was not the fashion in the rat world.
Many were the quarrels which the old rat and his wife had upon the subject, and sometimes they bore on their faces certain marks which looked as if they had not kept to words only.
'Reach up to the stars is MY motto,' cried the lady one day, when she was in a greater passion than usual. 'My daughter's beauty places her higher than anything upon earth,' she cried; 'and I am certainly not going to accept a son-in-law who is beneath her.''Better offer her in marriage to the sun,' answered her husband impatiently. 'As far as I know there is nothing greater than he.' 'Well, I WAS thinking of it,' replied the wife, 'and as you are of the same mind, we will pay him a visit to-morrow.'
So the next morning, the two rats, having spent hours in making themselves smart, set out to see the sun, leading their daughter between them.
The journey took some time, but at length they came to the golden palace where the sun lived.
'Noble king,' began the mother, 'behold our daughter! She is so beautiful that she is above everything in the whole world. Naturally, we wish for a son-in-law who, on his side, is greater than all. Therefore we have come to you.'
'I feel very much flattered,' replied the sun, who was so busy that he had not the least wish to marry anybody. 'You do me great honour by your proposal. Only, in one point you are mistaken, and it would be wrong of me to take advantage of your ignorance. There is something greater than I am, and that is the cloud. Look!' And as he spoke a cloud spread itself over the sun's face, blotting out his rays.'Oh, well, we will speak to the cloud,' said the mother. And turning to the cloud she repeated her proposal.
'Indeed I am unworthy of anything so charming,' answered the cloud; 'but you make a mistake again in what you say. There is one thing that is even more powerful than I, and that is the wind. Ah, here he comes, you can see for yourself.'
And she DID see, for catching up the cloud as he passed, he threw it on the other side of the sky. Then, tumbling father, mother and daughter down to the earth again, he paused for a moment beside them, his foot on an old wall.When she had recovered her breath, the mother began her little speech once more.
'The wall is the proper husband for your daughter,' answered the wind, whose home consisted of a cave, which he only visited when he was not rushing about elsewhere; 'you can see for yourself that he is greater than I, for he has power to stop me in my flight.' And the mother, who did not trouble to conceal her wishes, turned at once to the wall.Then something happened which was quite unexpected by everyone.
'I won't marry that ugly old wall, which is as old as my grandfather,' sobbed the girl, who had not uttered one word all this time. 'I would have married the sun, or the cloud, or the wind, because it was my duty, although I love the handsome young rat, and him only. But that horrid old wall--I would sooner die!'And the wall, rather hurt in his feelings, declared that he had no claim to be the husband of so beautiful a girl.
'It is quite true,' he said, 'that I can stop the wind who can part the clouds who can cover the sun; but there is someone who can do more than all these, and that is the rat. It is the rat who passes through me, and can reduce me to powder, simply with his teeth. If, therefore, you want a son-in-law who is greater than the whole world, seek him among the rats.'
'Ah, what did I tell you?' cried the father. And his wife, though for the moment angry at being beaten, soon thought that a rat son-in-law was what she had always desired.
Long, long ago, there lived a king who ruled over a country by the sea. When he had been married about a year, some of his subjects, inhabiting a distant group of islands, revolted against his laws, and it became needful for him to leave his wife and go in person to settle their disputes. The queen feared that some ill would come of it, and implored him to stay at home, but he told her that nobody could do his work for him, and the next morning the sails were spread, and the king started on his voyage.
The vessel had not gone very far when she ran upon a rock, and stuck so fast in a cleft that the strength of the whole crew could not get her off again. To make matters worse, the wind was rising too, and it was quite plain that in a few hours the ship would be dashed to pieces and everybody would be drowned, when suddenly the form of a mermaid was seen dancing on the waves which threatened every moment to overwhelm them.
'There is only one way to free yourselves,' she said to the king, bobbing up and down in the water as she spoke, 'and that is to give me your solemn word that you will deliver to me the first child that is born to you.'
The king hesitated at this proposal. He hoped that some day he might have children in his home, and the thought that he must yield up the heir to his crown was very bitter to him; but just then a huge wave broke with great force on the ship's side, and his men fell on their knees and entreated him to save them.So he promised, and this time a wave lifted the vessel clean off the rocks, and she was in the open sea once more.
The affairs of the islands took longer to settle than the king had expected, and some months passed away before he returned to his palace. In his absence a son had been born to him, and so great was his joy that he quite forgot the mermaid and the price he had paid for the safety of his ship. But as the years went on, and the baby grew into a fine big boy, the remembrance of it came back, and one day he told the queen the whole story. From that moment the happiness of both their lives was ruined. Every night they went to bed wondering if they should find his room empty in the morning, and every day they kept him by their sides, expecting him to be snatched away before their very eyes.At last the king felt that this state of things could not continue, and he said to his wife:
'After all, the most foolish thing in the world one can do is to keep the boy here in exactly the place in which the mermaid will seek him. Let us give him food and send him on his travels, and perhaps, if the mermaid ever blocs come to seek him, she may be content with some other child.' And the queen agreed that his plan seemed the wisest. So the boy was called, and his father told him the story of the voyage, as he had told his mother before him. The prince listened eagerly, and was delighted to think that he was to go away all by himself to see the world, and was not in the least frightened; for though he was now sixteen, he had scarcely been allowed to walk alone beyond the palace gardens. He began busily to make his preparations, and took off his smart velvet coat, putting on instead one of green cloth, while he refused a beautiful bag which the queen offered him to hold his food, and slung a leather knapsack over his shoulders instead, just as he had seen other travellers do. Then he bade farewell to his parents and went his way.
All through the day he walked, watching with interest the strange birds and animals that darted across his path in the forest or peeped at him from behind a bush. But as evening drew on he became tired, and looked about as he walked for some place where he could sleep. At length he reached a soft mossy bank under a tree, and was just about to stretch himself out on it, when a fearful roar made him start and tremble all over. In another moment something passed swiftly through the air and a lion stood before him.'What are you doing here?' asked the lion, his eyes glaring fiercely at the boy. 'I am flying from the mermaid,' the prince answered, in a quaking voice. 'Give me some food then,' said the lion, 'it is past my supper time, and I am very hungry.' The boy was so thankful that the lion did not want to eat him, that he gladly picked up his knapsack which lay on the ground, and held out some bread and a flask of wine.
'I feel better now,' said the lion when he had done, 'so now I shall go to sleep on this nice soft moss, and if you like you can lie down beside me.' So the boy and the lion slept soundly side by side, till the sun rose.
'I must be off now,' remarked the lion, shaking the boy as he spoke; 'but cut off the tip of my ear, and keep it carefully, and if you are in any danger just wish yourself a lion and you will become one on the spot. One good turn deserves another, you know.'The prince thanked him for his kindness, and did as he was bid, and the two then bade each other farewell.
'I wonder how it feels to be a lion,' thought the boy, after he had gone a little way; and he took out the tip of the ear from the breast of his jacket and wished with all his might. In an instant his head had swollen to several times its usual size, and his neck seemed very hot and heavy; and, somehow, his hands became paws, and his skin grew hairy and yellow. But what pleased him most was his long tail with a tuft at the end, which he lashed and switched proudly. 'I like being a lion very much,' he said to himself, and trotted gaily along the road.
After a while, however, he got tired of walking in this unaccustomed way--it made his back ache and his front paws felt sore. So he wished himself a boy again, and in the twinkling of an eye his tail disappeared and his head shrank, and the long thick mane became short and curly. Then he looked out for a sleeping place, and found some dry ferns, which he gathered and heaped up.
But before he had time to close his eyes there was a great noise in the trees near by, as if a big heavy body was crashing through them. The boy rose and turned his head, and saw a huge black bear coming towards him.'What are you doing here?' cried the bear. 'I am running away from the mermaid,' answered the boy; but the bear took no interest in the mermaid, and only said: 'I am hungry; give me something to eat.'
The knapsack was lying on the ground among the fern, but the prince picked it up, and, unfastening the strap, took out his second flask of wine and another loaf of bread. 'We will have supper together,' he remarked politely; but the bear, who had never been taught manners, made no reply, and ate as fast as he could. When he had quite finished, he got up and stretched himself.
'You have got a comfortable-looking bed there,' he observed. 'I really think that, bad sleeper as I am, I might have a good night on it. I can manage to squeeze you in,' he added; 'you don't take up a great deal of room.' The boy was rather indignant at the bear's cool way of talking; but as he was too tired to gather more fern, they lay down side by side, and never stirred till sunrise next morning.
'I must go now,' said the bear, pulling the sleepy prince on to his feet; 'but first you shall cut off the tip of my ear, and when you are in any danger just wish yourself a bear and you will become one. One good turn deserves another, you know.' And the boy did as he was bid, and he and the bear bade each other farewell.
'I wonder how it feels to be a bear,' thought he to himself when he had walked a little way; and he took out the tip from the breast of his coat and wished hard that he might become a bear. The next moment his body stretched out and thick black fur covered him all over. As before, his hands were changed into paws, but when he tried to switch his tail he found to his disgust that it would not go any distance. 'Why it is hardly worth calling a tail!' said he. For the rest of the day he remained a bear and continued his journey, but as evening came on the bear-skin, which had been so useful when plunging through brambles in the forest, felt rather heavy, and he wished himself a boy again. He was too much exhausted to take the trouble of cutting any fern or seeking for moss, but just threw himself down under a tree, when exactly above his head he heard a great buzzing as a bumble-bee alighted on a honeysuckle branch. 'What are you doing here?' asked the bee in a cross voice; 'at your age you ought to be safe at home.'
'I am running away from the mermaid,' replied the boy; but the bee, like the lion and the bear, was one of those people who never listen to the answers to their questions, and only said: 'I am hungry. Give me something to eat.'
The boy took his last loaf and flask out of his knapsack and laid them on the ground, and they had supper together. 'Well, now I am going to sleep,' observed the bee when the last crumb was gone, 'but as you are not very big I can make room for you beside me,' and he curled up his wings, and tucked in his legs, and he and the prince both slept soundly till morning. Then the bee got up and carefully brushed every scrap of dust off his velvet coat and buzzed loudly in the boy's ear to waken him.
'Take a single hair from one of my wings,' said he, 'and if you are in danger just wish yourself a bee and you will become one. One good turn deserves another, so farewell, and thank you for your supper.' And the bee departed after the boy had pulled out the hair and wrapped it carefully in a leaf.
'It must feel quite different to be a bee from what it does to be a lion or bear,' thought the boy to himself when he had walked for an hour or two. 'I dare say I should get on a great deal faster,' so he pulled out his hair and wished himself a bee.
In a moment the strangest thing happened to him. All his limbs seemed to draw together, and his body to become very short and round; his head grew quite tiny, and instead of his white skin he was covered with the richest, softest velvet. Better than all, he had two lovely gauze wings which carried him the whole day without getting tired.
Late in the afternoon the boy fancied he saw a vast heap of stones a long way off, and he flew straight towards it. But when he reached the gates he saw that it was really a great town, so he wished himself back in his own shape and entered the city.
He found the palace doors wide open and went boldly into a sort of hall which was full of people, and where men and maids were gossiping together. He joined their talk and soon learned from them that the king had only one daughter who had such a hatred to men that she would never suffer one to enter her presence. Her father was in despair, and had had pictures painted of the handsomest princes of all the courts in the world, in the hope that she might fall in love with one of them; but it was no use; the princess would not even allow the pictures to be brought into her room.'It is late,' remarked one of the women at last; 'I must go to my mistress.' And, turning to one of the lackeys, she bade him find a bed for the youth.
'It is not necessary,' answered the prince, 'this bench is good enough for me. I am used to nothing better.' And when the hall was empty he lay down for a few minutes. But as soon as everything was quiet in the palace he took out the hair and wished himself a bee, and in this shape he flew upstairs, past the guards, and through the keyhole into the princess's chamber. Then he turned himself into a man again.
At this dreadful sight the princess, who was broad awake, began to scream loudly. 'A man! a man!' cried she; but when the guards rushed in there was only a bumble-bee buzzing about the room. They looked under the bed, and behind the curtains, and into the cupboards, then came to the conclusion that the princess had had a bad dream, and bowed themselves out. The door had scarcely closed on them than the bee disappeared, and a handsome youth stood in his place.
'I knew a man was hidden somewhere,' cried the princess, and screamed more loudly than before. Her shrieks brought back the guards, but though they looked in all kinds of impossible places no man was to be seen, and so they told the princess.
'He was here a moment ago--I saw him with my own eyes,' and the guards dared not contradict her, though they shook their heads and whispered to each other that the princess had gone mad on this subject, and saw a man in every table and chair. And they made up their minds that--let her scream as loudly as she might-- they would take no notice.
Now the princess saw clearly what they were thinking, and that in future her guards would give her no help, and would perhaps, besides, tell some stories about her to the king, who would shut her up in a lonely tower and prevent her walking in the gardens among her birds and flowers. So when, for the third time, she beheld the prince standing before her, she did not scream but sat up in bed gazing at him in silent terror.
'Do not be afraid,' he said, 'I shall not hurt you'; and he began to praise her gardens, of which he had heard the servants speak, and the birds and flowers which she loved, till the princess's anger softened, and she answered him with gentle words. Indeed, they soon became so friendly that she vowed she would marry no one else, and confided to him that in three days her father would be off to the wars, leaving his sword in her room. If any man could find it and bring it to him he would receive her hand as a reward. At this point a cock crew, and the youth jumped up hastily saying: 'Of course I shall ride with the king to the war, and if I do not return, take your violin every evening to the seashore and play on it, so that the very sea-kobolds who live at the bottom of the ocean may hear it and come to you.'
Just as the princess had foretold, in three days the king set out for the war with a large following, and among them was the young prince, who had presented himself at court as a young noble in search of adventures. They had left the city many miles behind them, when the king suddenly discovered that he had forgotten his sword, and though all his attendants instantly offered theirs, he declared that he could fight with none but his own.'The first man who brings it to me from my daughter's room,' cried he, 'shall not only have her to wife, but after my death shall reign in my stead.'
At this the Red Knight, the young prince, and several more turned their horses to ride as fast as the wind back to the palace. But suddenly a better plan entered the prince's head, and, letting the others pass him, he took his precious parcel from his breast and wished himself a lion. Then on he bounded, uttering such dreadful roars that the horses were frightened and grew unmanageable, and he easily outstripped them, and soon reached the gates of the palace. Here he hastily changed himself into a bee, and flew straight into the princess's room, where he became a man again. She showed him where the sword hung concealed behind a curtain, and he took it down, saying as he did so: 'Be sure not to forget what you have promised to do.'
The princess made no reply, but smiled sweetly, and slipping a golden ring from her finger she broke it in two and held half out silently to the prince, while the other half she put in her own pocket. He kissed it, and ran down the stairs bearing the sword with him. Some way off he met the Red Knight and the rest, and the Red Knight at first tried to take the sword from him by force. But as the youth proved too strong for him, he gave it up, and resolved to wait for a better opportunity.
This soon came, for the day was hot and the prince was thirsty. Perceiving a little stream that ran into the sea, he turned aside, and, unbuckling the sword, flung himself on the ground for a long drink. Unluckily, the mermaid happened at that moment to be floating on the water not very far off, and knew he was the boy who had been given her before he was born. So she floated gently in to where he was lying, she seized him by the arm, and the waves closed over them both. Hardly had they disappeared, when the Red Knight stole cautiously up, and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the king's sword on the bank. He wondered what had become of the youth, who an hour before had guarded his treasure so fiercely; but, after all, that was no affair of his! So, fastening the sword to his belt, he carried it to the king.
The war was soon over, and the king returned to his people, who welcomed him with shouts of joy. But when the princess from her window saw that her betrothed was not among the attendants riding behind her father, her heart sank, for she knew that some evil must have befallen him. and she feared the Red Knight. She had long ago learned how clever and how wicked he was, and something whispered to her that it was he who would gain the credit of having carried back the sword, and would claim her as his bride, though he had never even entered her chamber. And she could do nothing; for although the king loved her, he never let her stand in the way of his plans.
The poor princess was only too right, and everything came to pass exactly as she had foreseen it. The king told her that the Red Knight had won her fairly, and that the wedding would take place next day, and there would be a great feast after it.
In those days feasts were much longer and more splendid than they are now; and it was growing dark when the princess, tired out with all she had gone through, stole up to her own room for a little quiet. But the moon was shining so brightly over the sea that it seemed to draw her towards it, and taking her violin under her arm, she crept down to the shore.
'Listen! listen! said the mermaid to the prince, who was lying stretched on a bed of seaweeds at the bottom of the sea. 'Listen! that is your old love playing, for mermaids know everything that happens upon earth.'
'I hear nothing,' answered the youth, who did not look happy. ' Take me up higher, where the sounds can reach me.'
So the mermaid took him on her shoulders and bore him up midway to the surface. 'Can you hear now?' she asked.
'The water is still rushing in my ears,' answered he; ' but wait a little, that will soon pass off.' And as he spoke he put his hand into his breast, and seizing the hair wished himself a bee, and flew straight into the pocket of the princess. The mermaid looked in vain for him, and coated all night upon the sea; but he never came back, and never more did he gladden her eyes. But the princess felt that something strange was about her, though she knew not what, and returned quickly to the palace, where the young man at once resumed his own shape. Oh, what joy filled her heart at the sight of him! But there was no time to be lost, and she led him right into the hall, where the king and his nobles were still sitting at the feast. 'Here is a man who boasts that he can do wonderful tricks,' said she, ' better even than the Red Knight's! That cannot be true, of course, but it might be well to give this impostor a lesson. He pretends, for instance, that he can turn himself into a lion; but that I do not believe. I know that you have studied the art of magic,' she went on, turning to the Red Knight, 'so suppose you just show him how it is done, and bring shame upon him.'
Now the Red Knight had never opened a book of magic in his life; but he was accustomed to think that he could do everything better than other people without any teaching at all. So he turned and twisted himself about, and bellowed and made faces; but he did not become a lion for all that.'Well, perhaps it is very difficult to change into a lion. Make yourself a bear,' said the princess. But the Red Knight found it no easier to become a bear than a lion. 'Try a bee,' suggested she. 'I have always read that anyone who can do magic at all can do that.' And the old knight buzzed and hummed, but he remained a man and not a bee.
'Now it is your turn,' said the princess to the youth. 'Let us see if you can change yourself into a lion.' And in a moment such a fierce creature stood before them, that all the guests rushed out of the hall, treading each other underfoot in their fright. The lion sprang at the Red Knight, and would have torn him in pieces had not the princess held him back, and bidden him to change himself into a man again. And in a second a man took the place of the lion.
'Now become a bear,' said she; and a bear advanced panting and stretching out his arms to the Red Knight, who shrank behind the princess.
By this time some of the guests had regained their courage, and returned as far as the door, thinking that if it was safe for the princess perhaps it was safe for them. The king, who was braver than they, and felt it needful to set them a good example besides, had never left his seat, and when at a new command of the princess the bear once more turned into a man, he was silent from astonishment, and a suspicion of the truth began to dawn on him. 'Was it he who fetched the sword?' asked the king.
'Yes, it was,' answered the princess; and she told him the whole story, and how she had broken her gold ring and given him half of it. And the prince took out his half of the ring, and the princess took out hers, and they fitted exactly. Next day the Red Knight was hanged, as he richly deserved, and there was a new marriage feast for the prince and princess.[Lapplandische Mahrchen.]