The Grey Fairy Book by Andrew Lang - HTML preview
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Herr Lazarus and the Draken
Once upon a time there was a cobbler called Lazarus, who was very fond of honey. One day, as he ate some while he sat at work, the flies collected in such numbers that with one blow he killed forty. Then he went and ordered a sword to be made for him, on which he had written these words: ‘With one blow I have slain forty.' When the sword was ready he took it and went out into the world, and when he was two days' journey from home he came to a spring, by which he laid himself down and slept.
Now in that country there dwelt Draken, one of whom came to the spring to draw water; there he found Lazarus sleeping, and read what was written on his sword. Then he went back to his people and told them what he had seen, and they all advised him to make fellowship with this powerful stranger. So the Draken returned to the spring, awoke Lazarus, and said that if it was agreeable to him they should make fellowship together.
Lazarus answered that he was willing, and after a priest had blessed the fellowship, they returned together to the other Draken, and Lazarus dwelt among them. After some days they told him that it was their custom to take it in turns to bring wood and water, and as he was now of their company, he must take his turn. They went first for water and wood, but at last it came to be Lazarus's turn to go for water. The Draken had a great leathern bag, holding two hundred measures of water. This Lazarus could only, with great difficulty, drag empty to the spring, and because he could not carry it back full, he did not fill it at all, but, instead, he dug up the ground all round the spring.
As Lazarus remained so long away, the Draken sent one of their number to see what had become of him, and when this one came to the spring, Lazarus said to him: ‘We will no more plague ourselves by carrying water every day. I will bring the entire spring home at once, and so we shall be freed from this burden.'But the Draken called out: ‘On no account, Herr Lazarus, else we shall all die of thirst; rather will we carry the water ourselves in turns, and you alone shall be exempt.'
Next it comes to be Lazarus's turn to bring the wood. Now the Draken, when they fetched the wood, always took an entire tree on their shoulder, and so carried it home. Because Lazarus could not imitate them in this, he went to the forest, tied all the trees together with a thick rope, and remained in the forest till evening. Again the Draken sent one of them after him to see what had become of him, and when this one asked what he was about, Lazarus answered: ‘I will bring the entire forest home at once, so that after that we may have rest.'
But the Draken called out: ‘By no means, Herr Lazarus, else we shall all die of cold; rather will we go ourselves to bring wood, and let you be free.' And then the Draken tore up one tree, threw it over his shoulder, and so carried it home.
When they had lived together some time, the Draken became weary of Lazarus, and agreed among themselves to kill him; each Draken, in the night while Lazarus slept, should strike him a blow with a hatchet. But Lazarus heard of this scheme, and when the evening came, he took a log of wood, covered it with his cloak, laid it in the place where he usually slept, and then hid himself. In the night the Draken came, and each one hit the log a blow with his hatchet, till it flew in pieces.
Thereupon Lazarus took the log, threw it away, and laid himself down in its stead. Towards dawn, he began to groan, and when the Draken heard that, they asked what ailed him, to which he made answer: ‘The gnats have stung me horribly.' This terrified the Draken, for they believed that Lazarus took their blows for gnat-stings, and they determined at any price to get rid of him. Next morning, therefore, they asked him if he had not wife or child, and said that if he would like to go and visit them they would give him a bag of gold to take away with him. He agreed willingly to this, but asked further that one of the Draken should go with him to carry the bag of gold. They consented, and one was sent with him.
When they had come to within a short; distance of Lazarus's house, he said to the Draken: ‘Stop here, in the meantime, for I must go on in front and tie up my children, lest they eat you.'So he went and tied his children with strong ropes, and said to them: ‘As soon as the Draken comes in sight, call out as loud as you can, "Drakenflesh! Drakenflesh!"' So, when the Draken appeared, the children cried out: ‘Drakenflesh! Drakenflesh!' and this so terrified the Draken that he let the bag fall and fled.
On the road he met a fox, which asked him why he seemed so frightened. He answered that he was afraid of the children of Herr Lazarus, who had been within a hair-breadth of eating him up. But the fox laughed, and said: ‘What! you were afraid of the children of Herr Lazarus? He had two fowls, one of which I ate yesterday, the other I will go and fetch now--if you do not believe me, come and see for yourself; but you must first tie yourself on to my tail.'
The Draken then tied himself on to the fox's tail, and went back thus with it to Lazarus's house, in order to see what it would arrange. There stood Lazarus with his gun raised ready to fire, who, when he saw the fox coming along with the Draken, called out to the fox: ‘Did I not tell you to bring me all the Draken, and you bring me only one?'When the Draken heard that he made off to the rightabout at once, and ran so fast that the fox was dashed in pieces against the stones. When Lazarus had got quit of the Draken he built himself, with their gold, a, magnificent house, in which he spent the rest of his days in great enjoyment.
The Story of the Queen of the Flowery Isles
There once lived a queen who ruled over the Flowery Isles, whose husband, to her extreme grief, died a few years after their marriage. On being left a widow she devoted herself almost entirely to the education of the two charming princesses, her only children. The elder of them was so lovely that as she grew up her mother greatly feared she would excite the jealousy of the Queen of all the Isles, who prided herself on being the most beautiful woman in the world, and insisted on all rivals bowing before her charms.
In order the better to gratify her vanity she had urged the king, her husband, to make war on all the surrounding islands, and as his greatest wish was to please her, the only conditions he imposed on any newly-conquered country was that each princess of every royal house should attend his court as soon as she was fifteen years old, and do homage to the transcendent beauty of his queen.The queen of the Flowery Isles, well aware of this law, was fully determined to present her daughter to the proud queen as soon as her fifteenth birthday was past.
The queen herself had heard a rumour of the young princess's great beauty, and awaited her visit with some anxiety, which soon developed into jealousy, for when the interview took place it was impossible not to be dazzled by such radiant charms, and she was obliged to admit that she had never beheld anyone so exquisitely lovely.Of course she thought in her own mind ‘excepting myself!' for nothing could have made her believe it possible that anyone could eclipse her.
But the outspoken admiration of the entire court soon undeceived her, and made her so angry that she pretended illness and retired to her own rooms, so as to avoid witnessing the princess's triumph. She also sent word to the Queen of the Flowery Isles that she was sorry not to be well enough to see her again, and advised her to return to her own states with the princess, her daughter.
This message was entrusted to one of the great ladies of the court, who was an old friend of the Queen of the Flowery Isles, and who advised her not to wait to take a formal leave but to go home as fast as she could.
The queen was not slow to take the hint, and lost no time in obeying it. Being well aware of the magic powers of the incensed queen, she warned her daughter that she was threatened by some great danger if she left the palace for any reason whatever during the next six months.
The princess promised obedience, and no pains were spared to make the time pass pleasantly for her.
The six months were nearly at an end, and on the very last day a splendid fête was to take place in a lovely meadow quite near the palace. The princess, who had been able to watch all the preparations from her window, implored her mother to let her go as far as the meadow; and the queen, thinking all risk must be over, consented, and promised to take her there herself.
The princess, overjoyed at being once more in the open air, was walking a little in advance of her party when suddenly the earth opened under her feet and closed again after swallowing her up!
The queen fainted away with terror, and the younger princess burst into floods of tears and could hardly be dragged away from the fatal spot, whilst the court was overwhelmed with horror at so great a calamity.Orders were given to bore the earth to a great depth, but in vain; not a trace of the vanished princess was to be found.
She sank right through the earth and found herself in a desert place with nothing but rocks and trees and no sign of any human being. The only living creature she saw was a very pretty little dog, who ran up to her and at once began to caress her. She took him in her arms, and after playing with him for a little put him down again, when he started off in front of her, looking round from time to time as though begging her to follow.
She let him lead her on, and presently reached a little hill, from which she saw a valley full of lovely fruit trees, bearing flowers and fruit together. The ground was also covered with fruit and flowers, and in the middle of the valley rose a fountain surrounded by a velvety lawn.
The princess hastened to this charming spot, and sitting down on the grass began to think over the misfortune which had befallen her, and burst into tears as she reflected on her sad condition.The fruit and clear fresh water would, she knew, prevent her from dying of hunger or thirst, but how could she escape if any wild beast appeared and tried to devour her?
At length, having thought over every possible evil which could happen, the princess tried to distract her mind by playing with the little dog. She spent the whole day near the fountain, but as night drew on she wondered what she should do, when she noticed that the little dog was pulling at her dress.
She paid no heed to him at first, but as he continued to pull her dress and then run a few steps in one particular direction, she at last decided to follow him; he stopped before a rock with a large opening in the centre, which he evidently wished her to enter. The princess did so and discovered a large and beautiful cave lit up by the brilliancy of the stones with which it was lined, with a little couch covered with soft moss in one corner. She lay down on it and the dog at once nestled at her feet. Tired out with all she had gone through she soon fell asleep.
Next morning she was awakened very early by the songs of many birds. The little dog woke up too, and sprang round her in his most caressing manner. She got up and went outside, the dog as before running on in front and turning back constantly to take her dress and draw her on.
She let him have his way and he soon led her back to the beautiful garden where she had spent part of the day before. Here she ate some fruit, drank some water of the fountain, and felt as if she had made an excellent meal. She walked about amongst the flowers, played with her little dog, and at night returned to sleep in the cave.
In this way the princess passed several months, and as her first terrors died away she gradually became more resigned to her fate. The little dog, too, was a great comfort, and her constant companion.
One day she noticed that he seemed very sad and did not even caress her as usual. Fearing he might be ill she carried him to a spot where she had seen him eat some particular herbs, hoping they might do him good, but he would not touch them. He spent all the night, too, sighing and groaning as if in great pain.
At last the princess fell asleep, and when she awoke her first thought was for her little pet, but not finding him at her feet as usual, she ran out of the cave to look for him. As she stepped out of the cave she caught sight of an old man, who hurried away so fast that she had barely time to see him before he disappeared.
This was a fresh surprise and almost as great a shock as the loss of her little dog, who had been so faithful to her ever since the first day she had seen him. She wondered if he had strayed away or if the old man had stolen him.
Tormented by all kinds of thoughts and fears she wandered on, when suddenly she felt herself wrapped in a thick cloud and carried through the air. She made no resistance and before very long found herself, to her great surprise, in an avenue leading to the palace in which she had been born. No sign of the cloud anywhere.
As the princess approached the palace she perceived that everyone was dressed in black, and she was filled with fear as to the cause of this mourning. She hastened on and was soon recognised and welcomed with shouts of joy. Her sister hearing the cheers ran out and embraced the wanderer, with tears of happiness, telling her that the shock of her disappearance had been so terrible that their mother had only survived it a few days. Since then the younger princess had worn the crown, which she now resigned to her sister to whom it by right belonged.
But the elder wished to refuse it, and would only accept the crown on condition that her sister should share in all the power.
The first acts of the new queen were to do honour to the memory of her dear mother and to shower every mark of generous affection on her sister. Then, being still very grieved at the loss of her little dog, she had a careful search made for him in every country, and when nothing could be heard of him she was so grieved that she offered half her kingdom to whoever should restore him to her.
Many gentlemen of the court, tempted by the thought of such a reward, set off in all directions in search of the dog; but all returned empty-handed to the queen, who, in despair announced that since life was unbearable without her little dog, she would give her hand in marriage to the man who brought him back.
The prospect of such a prize quickly turned the court into a desert, nearly every courtier starting on the quest. Whilst they were away the queen was informed one day that a very ill-looking man wished to speak with her. She desired him to be shown into a room where she was sitting with her sister.On entering her presence he said that he was prepared to give the queen her little dog if she on her side was ready to keep her word.
The princess was the first to speak. She said that the queen had no right to marry without the consent of the nation, and that on so important an occasion the general council must be summoned. The queen could not say anything against this statement; but she ordered an apartment in the palace to be given to the man, and desired the council to meet on the following day.
Next day, accordingly, the council assembled in great state, and by the princess's advice it was decided to offer the man a large sum of money for the dog, and should he refuse it, to banish him from the kingdom without seeing the queen again. The man refused the price offered and left the hall.
The princess informed the queen of what had passed, and the queen approved of all, but added that as she was her own mistress she had made up her mind to abdicate her throne, and to wander through the world till she had found her little dog.
The princess was much alarmed by such a resolution, and implored the queen to change her mind. Whilst they were discussing the subject, one of the chamberlains appeared to inform the queen that the bay was covered with ships. The two sisters ran to the balcony, and saw a large fleet in full sail for the port.
In a little time they came to the conclusion that the ships must come from a friendly nation, as every vessel was decked with gay flags, streamers, and pennons, and the way was led by a small ship flying a great white flag of peace.
The queen sent a special messenger to the harbour, and was soon informed that the fleet belonged to the Prince of the Emerald Isles, who begged leave to land in her kingdom, and to present his humble respects to her. The queen at once sent some of the court dignitaries to receive the prince and bid him welcome.
She awaited him seated on her throne, but rose on his appearance, and went a few steps to meet him; then begged him to be seated, and for about an hour kept him in close conversation.
The prince was then conducted to a splendid suite of apartments, and the next day he asked for a private audience. He was admitted to the queen's own sitting- room, where she was sitting alone with her sister.After the first greetings the prince informed the queen that he had some very strange things to tell her, which she only would know to be true.
‘Madam,' said he, ‘I am a neighbour of the Queen of all the Isles; and a small isthmus connects part of my states with hers. One day, when hunting a stag, I had the misfortune to meet her, and not recognising her, I did not stop to salute her with all proper ceremony. You, Madam, know better than anyone how revengeful she is, and that she is also a mistress of magic. I learnt both facts to my cost. The ground opened under my feet, and I soon found myself in a far distant region transformed into a little dog, under which shape I had the honour to meet your Majesty. After six months, the queen's vengeance not being yet satisfied, she further changed me into a hideous old man, and in this form I was so afraid of being unpleasant in your eyes, Madam, that I hid myself in the depths of the woods, where I spent three months more. At the end of that time I was so fortunate as to meet a benevolent fairy who delivered me from the proud queen's power, and told me all your adventures and where to find you. I now come to offer you a heart which has been entirely yours, Madam, since first we met in the desert.'
A few days later a herald was sent through the kingdom to proclaim the joyful news of the marriage of the Queen of the Flowery Isles with the young prince. They lived happily for many years, and ruled their people well.As for the bad queen, whose vanity and jealousy had caused so much mischief, the Fairies took all her power away for a punishment. [‘Cabinet des Fées.']
Udea and Her Seven Brothers
Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who had seven boys. The children lived in the open air and grew big and strong, and the six eldest spent part of every day hunting wild beasts. The youngest did not care so much about sport, and he often stayed with his mother.
One morning, however, as the whole seven were going out for a long expedition, they said to their aunt, 'Dear aunt, if a baby sister comes into the world to-day, wave a white handkerchief, and we will return immediately; but if it is only a boy, just brandish a sickle, and we will go on with what we are doing.'
Now the baby when it arrived really proved to be a girl, but as the aunt could not bear the boys, she thought it was a good opportunity to get rid of them. So she waved the sickle. And when the seven brothers saw the sign they said, 'Now we have nothing to go back for,' and plunged deeper into the desert.The little girl soon grew to be a big girl, and she was called by all her friends (though she did not know it) 'Udea, who had driven her seven brothers into strange lands.'
One day, when she had been quarrelling with her playmates, the oldest among them said to her, 'It is a pity you were born, as ever since, your brothers have been obliged to roam about the world.'Udea did not answer, but went home to her mother and asked her, 'Have I really got brothers?' 'Yes,' replied her mother, 'seven of them. But they went away the day you were born, and I have never heard of them since.' Then the girl said, 'I will go and look for them till I find them.' 'My dear child,' answered her mother, 'it is fifteen years since they left, and no man has seen them. How will you know which way to go?' 'Oh, I will follow them, north and south, east and west, and though I may travel far, yet some day I will find them.'
Then her mother said no more, but gave her a camel and some food, and a negro and his wife to take care of her, and she fastened a cowrie shell round the camel's neck for a charm, and bade her daughter go in peace.
During the first day the party journeyed on without any adventures, but the second morning the negro said to the girl, 'Get down, and let the negress ride instead of you.'
But on the following day he said again to Udea, 'Get down, and let the negress ride instead of you,' and though Udea called to her mother she was too far away, and the mother never heard her. Then the negro seized her roughly and threw her on the ground, and said to his wife, 'Climb up,' and the negress climbed up, while the girl walked by the side. She had meant to ride all the way on her camel as her feet were bare and the stones cut them till the blood came. But she had to walk on till night, when they halted, and the next morning it was the same thing again. Weary and bleeding the poor girl began to cry, and implored the negro to let her ride, if only for a little. But he took no notice, except to bid her walk a little faster.
By-and-by they passed a caravan, and the negro stopped and asked the leader if they had come across seven young men, who were thought to be hunting somewhere about. And the man answered, 'Go straight on, and by midday you will reach the castle where they live.'
When he heard this, the black melted some pitch in the sun, and smeared the girl with it, till she looked as much a negro as he did. Next he bade his wife get down from the camel, and told Udea to mount, which she was thankful to do. So they arrived at her brothers' castle.
Leaving the camel kneeling at the entrance for Udea to dismount, the negro knocked loudly at the door, which was opened by the youngest brother, all the others being away hunting. He did not of course recognise Udea, but he knew the negro and his wife, and welcomed them gladly, adding, 'But who does the other negress belong to?''Oh, that is your sister!' said they. 'My sister! but she is coal black!' 'That may be, but she is your sister for all that.'
The young man asked no more questions, but took them into the castle, and he himself waited outside till his brothers came home.
As soon as they were alone, the negro whispered to Udea, 'If you dare to tell your brothers that I made you walk, or that I smeared you with pitch, I will kill you.'
'How are you, good old Barka?' they said to the negro; 'and how comes it that we never knew that we had a sister till now?' and they greeted Udea warmly, while she shed tears of relief and gladness.
The next morning they all agreed that they would not go out hunting. And the eldest brother took Udea on his knee, and she combed his hair and talked to him of their home till the tears ran down his cheeks and dropped on her bare arm. And where the tears fell a white mark was made. Then the brother took a cloth and rubbed the place, and he saw that she was not black at all.'Tell me, who painted you over like this?' cried he. 'I am afraid to tell you,' sobbed the girl, 'the negro will kill me.' 'Afraid! and with seven brothers!'
'Well, I will tell you then,' she answered. 'The negro forced me to dismount from the camel and let his wife ride instead. And the stones cut my feet till they bled and I had to bind them. And after that, when we heard your castle was near by, he took pitch and smeared my body with it.'
Then the brother rushed in wrath from the room, and seizing his sword, cut off first the negro's head and then his wife's. He next brought in some warm water, and washed his sister all over, till her skin was white and shining again.
'Ah, now we see that you are our sister!' they all said. 'What fools the negro must have thought us, to believe for an instant that we could have a sister who was black!' And all that day and the next they remained in the castle.
But on the third morning they said to their sister: 'Dear sister, you must lock yourself into this castle, with only the cat for company. And be very careful never to eat anything which she does not eat too. You must be sure to give her a bit of everything. In seven days we shall be back again.''All right,' she answered, and locked herself into the castle with the cat. On the eighth day the brothers came home. 'How are you?' they asked. 'You have not been anxious?' 'No, why should I be anxious? The gates were fast locked, and in the castle are seven doors, and the seventh is of iron. What is there to frighten me?'
'No one will try to hurt us,' said the brothers, 'for they fear us greatly. But for yourself, we implore you to do nothing without consulting the cat, who has grown up in the house, and take care never to neglect her advice.''All right,' replied Udea, 'and whatever I eat she shall have half.' 'Capital! and if ever you are in danger the cat will come and tell us--only elves and pigeons, which fly round your window, know where to find us.' 'This is the first I have heard of the pigeons,' said Udea. 'Why did you not speak of them before?' We always leave them food and water for seven days,' replied the brothers.
'Ah,' sighed the girl, 'if I had only known, I would have given them fresh food and fresh water; for after seven days anything becomes bad. Would it not be better if I fed them every day?''Much better,' said they, 'and we shall feel any kindnesses you do towards the cat or the pigeons exactly as if they were shown to ourselves.' 'Set your minds at ease,' answered the girl, 'I will treat them as if they were my brothers.'
That night the brothers slept in the castle, but after breakfast next morning they buckled on their weapons and mounted their horses, and rode off to their hunting grounds, calling out to their sister, 'Mind you let nobody in till we come back.'
'Very well,' cried she, and kept the doors carefully locked for seven days and on the eighth the brothers returned as before. Then, after spending one evening with her, they departed as soon as they had done breakfast.Directly they were out of sight Udea began to clean the house, and among the dust she found a bean which she ate. 'What are you eating?' asked the cat. 'Nothing,' said she. 'Open your mouth, and let me see.' The girl did as she was told, and then the cat said 'Why did you not give me half?' 'I forgot,' answered she, 'but there are plenty of beans about, you can have as many as you like.' 'No, that won't do. I want half of that particular bean.' 'But how can I give it you? I tell you I have eaten it. I can roast you a hundred others.' 'No, I want half of that one.' 'Oh! do as you like, only go away!' cried she.
So the cat ran straight to the kitchen fire, and spit on it and put it out, and when Udea came to cook the supper she had nothing to light it with. 'Why did you put the fire out?' asked she.'Just to show you how nicely you would be able to cook the supper. Didn't you tell me to do what I liked?'
The girl left the kitchen and climbed up on the roof of the castle and looked out. Far, far away, so far that she could hardly see it, was the glow of a fire. 'I will go and fetch a burning coal from there and light my fire,' thought she, and opened the door of the castle. When she reached the place where the fire was kindled, a hideous man-eater was crouching over it.'Peace be with you, grandfather,' said she. 'The same to you,' replied the man-eater. 'What brings you here, Udea?' 'I came to ask for a lump of burning coal, to light my fire with.' 'Do you want a big lump or a little lump?' 'Why, what difference does it make?' said she.
'If you have a big lump you must give me a strip of your skin from your ear to your thumb, and if you have a little lump, you must give me a strip from your ear to your little finger.'
Udea, who thought that one sounded as bad as the other, said she would take the big lump, and when the man-eater had cut the skin, she went home again. And as she hastened on a raven beheld the blood on the ground, and plastered it with earth, and stayed by her till she reached the castle. And as she entered the door he flew past, and she shrieked from fright, for up to that moment she had not seen him. In her terror she called after him. 'May you get the same start as you have given me!''Why should you wish me harm,' asked the raven pausing in his flight, 'when I have done you a service?' 'What service have you done me?' said she. 'Oh, you shall soon see,' replied the raven, and with his bill he scraped away all the earth he had smeared over the blood and then flew away.
In the night the man-eater got up, and followed the blood till he came to Udea's castle. He entered through the gate which she had left open, and went on till he reached the inside of the house. But here he was stopped by the seven doors, six of wood and one of iron, and all fast locked. And he called through them 'Oh Udea, what did you see your grandfather doing?''I saw him spread silk under him, and silk over him, and lay himself down in a four-post bed.' When he heard that, the man-eater broke in one door, and laughed and went away.
And the second night he came back, and asked her again what she had seen her grandfather doing, and she answered him as before, and he broke in another door, and laughed and went away, and so each night till he reached the seventh door. Then the maiden wrote a letter to her brothers, and bound it round the neck of a pigeon, and said to it, 'Oh, thou pigeon that served my father and my grandfather, carry this letter to my brothers, and come back at once.' And the pigeon flew away.
It flew and it flew and it flew till it found the brothers. The eldest unfastened the letter from the pigeon's neck, and read what his sister had written: 'I am in a great strait, my brothers. If you do not rescue me to-night, to-morrow I shall be no longer living, for the man-eater has broken open six doors, and only the iron door is left. So haste, haste, post haste.''Quick, quick! my brothers,' cried he. 'What is the matter?' asked they. 'If we cannot reach our sister to-night, to-morrow she will be the prey of the man-eater.' And without more words they sprang on their horses, and rode like the wind.
The gate of the castle was thrown down, and they entered the court and called loudly to their sister. But the poor girl was so ill with fear and anxiety that she could not even speak. Then the brothers dismounted and passed through the six open doors, till they stood before the iron one, which was still shut. 'Udea, open!' they cried, 'it is only your brothers!' And she arose and unlocked the door, and throwing herself on the neck of the eldest burst into tears.
'Tell us what has happened,' he said, 'and how the man- eater traced you here.' 'It is all the cat's fault,' replied Udea. 'She put out my fire so that I could not cook. All about a bean! I ate one and forgot to give her any of it.''But we told you so particularly,' said the eldest brother, 'never to eat anything without sharing it with the cat.' 'Yes, but I tell you I forgot,' answered Udea. 'Does the man-eater come here every night?' asked the brothers. 'Every night,' said Udea, 'and he breaks one door in and then goes away.'
Then all the brothers cried together, 'We will dig a great hole, and fill it with burning wood, and spread a covering over the top; and when the man-eater arrives we will push him into it.' So they all set to work and prepared the great hole, and set fire to the wood, till it was reduced to a mass of glowing charcoal. And when the man-eater came, and called as usual, 'Udea, what did you see your grandfather doing?' she answered, 'I saw him pull off the ass' skin and devour the ass, and he fell in the fire, and the fire burned him up.'
Then the man-eater was filled with rage, and he flung himself upon the iron door and burst it in. On the other side stood Udea's seven brothers, who said, 'Come, rest yourself a little on this mat.' And the man-eater sat down, and he fell right into the burning pit which was under the mat, and they heaped on more wood, till nothing was left of him, not even a bone. Only one of his finger-nails was blown away, and fell into an upper chamber where Udea was standing, and stuck under one of the nails of her own fingers. And she sank lifeless to the earth.
Meanwhile her brothers sat below waiting for her and wondering why she did not come. 'What can have happened to her!' exclaimed the eldest brother. 'Perhaps she has fallen into the fire, too.' So one of the others ran upstairs and found his sister stretched on the floor. 'Udea! Udea!' he cried, but she did not move or reply. Then he saw that she was dead, and rushed down to his brothers in the courtyard and called out, 'Come quickly, our sister is dead!' In a moment they were all beside her and knew that it was true, and they made a bier and laid her on it, and placed her across a camel, and said to the camel, 'Take her to her mother, but be careful not to halt by the way, and let no man capture you, and see you kneel down before no man, save him who shall say "string" [Footnote: 'Riemen.'] to you. But to him who says "string," then kneel.'
So the camel started, and when it had accomplished half its journey it met three men, who ran after it in order to catch it; but they could not. Then they cried 'Stop!' but the camel only went the faster. The three men panted behind till one said to the others, 'Wait a minute! The string of my sandal is broken!' The camel caught the word 'string' and knelt down at once, and the men came up and found a dead girl lying on a bier, with a ring on her finger. And as one of the young men took hold of her hand to pull off the ring, he knocked out the man-eater's finger-nail, which had stuck there, and the maiden sat up and said, 'Let him live who gave me life, and slay him who slew me!' And when the camel heard the maiden speak, it turned and carried her back to her brothers.
Now the brothers were still seated in the court bewailing their sister, and their eyes were dim with weeping so that they could hardly see. And when the camel stood before them they said, 'Perhaps it has brought back our sister!' and rose to give it a beating. But the camel knelt down and the girl dismounted, and they flung themselves on her neck and wept more than ever for gladness.'Tell me,' said the eldest, as soon as he could speak, 'how it all came about, and what killed you.' 'I was waiting in the upper chamber,' said she, 'and a nail of the man-eater's stuck under my nail, and I fell dead upon the ground. That is all I know.' 'But who pulled out the nail?' asked he.
'A man took hold of my hand and tried to pull off my ring, and the nail jumped out and I was alive again. And when the camel heard me say "Let him live who gave me life, slay him who slew me!" it turned and brought me back to the castle. That is my story.'She was silent and the eldest brother spoke. 'Will you listen to what I have to say, my brothers?' And they replied, 'How should we not hear you? Are you not our father as well as our brother?' 'Then this is my advice. Let us take our sister back to our father and mother, that we may see them once more before they die.' And the young men agreed, and they mounted their horses and placed their sister in a litter on the camel. So they set out.
At the end of five days' journey they reached the old home where their father and mother dwelt alone. And the heart of their father rejoiced, and he said to them, 'Dear sons, why did you go away and leave your mother and me to weep for you night and day?''Dear father,' answered the son, 'let us rest a little now, and then I will tell you everything from the beginning.' 'All right,' replied the father, and waited patiently for three days. And on the morning of the fourth day the eldest brother said, 'Dear father, would you like to hear our adventures?' 'Certainly I should!'
'Well, it was our aunt who was the cause of our leaving home, for we agreed that if the baby was a sister she should wave a white handkerchief, and if it was a brother, she should brandish a sickle, for then there would be nothing to come back for, and we might wander far away. Now our aunt could not bear us, and hated us to live in the same house with her, so she brandished the sickle, and we went away. That is all our story.'And that is all this story. [Märchen und Gedichte aus der Stadt Tripolis. Von Hans Stumme.]
The White Wolf
Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters; they were all beautiful, but the youngest was the fairest of the three. Now it happened that one day their father had to set out for a tour in a distant part of his kingdom. Before he left, his youngest daughter made him promise to bring her back a wreath of wild flowers. When the king was ready to return to his palace, he bethought himself that he would like to take home presents to each of his three daughters; so he went into a jeweller's shop and bought a beautiful necklace for the eldest princess; then he went to a rich merchant's and bought a dress embroidered in gold and silver thread for the second princess, but in none of the flower shops nor in the market could he find the wreath of wild flowers that his youngest daughter had set her heart on. So he had to set out on his homeward way without it. Now his journey led him through a thick forest. While he was still about four miles distant from his palace, he noticed a white wolf squatting on the roadside, and, behold! on the head of the wolf, there was a wreath of wild flowers.
Then the king called to the coachman, and ordered him to get down from his seat and fetch him the wreath from the wolf's head. But the wolf heard the order and said: 'My lord and king, I will let you have the wreath, but I must have something in return.''What do you want?' answered the king. 'I will gladly give you rich treasure in exchange for it.' 'I do not want rich treasure,' replied the wolf. 'Only promise to give me the first thing that meets you on your way to your castle. In three days I shall come and fetch it.'
And the king thought to himself: 'I am still a good long way from home, I am sure to meet a wild animal or a bird on the road, it will be quite safe to promise.' So he consented, and carried the wreath away with him. But all along the road he met no living creature till he turned into the palace gates, where his youngest daughter was waiting to welcome him home.
That evening the king was very sad, remembering his promise; and when he told the queen what had happened, she too shed bitter tears. And the youngest princess asked them why they both looked so sad, and why they wept. Then her father told her what a price he would have to pay for the wreath of wild flowers he had brought home to her, for in three days a white wolf would come and claim her and carry her away, and they would never see her again. But the queen thought and thought, and at last she hit upon a plan.
There was in the palace a servant maid the same age and the same height as the princess, and the queen dressed her up in a beautiful dress belonging to her daughter, and determined to give her to the white wolf, who would never know the difference. On the third day the wolf strode into the palace yard and up the great stairs, to the room where the king and queen were seated.'I have come to claim your promise,' he said. 'Give me your youngest daughter.'
Then they led the servant maid up to him, and he said to her: 'You must mount on my back, and I will take you to my castle.' And with these words he swung her on to his back and left the palace.When they reached the place where he had met the king and given him the wreath of wild flowers, he stopped, and told her to dismount that they might rest a little. So they sat down by the roadside. 'I wonder,' said the wolf, 'what your father would do if this forest belonged to him?'
And the girl answered: 'My father is a poor man, so he would cut down the trees, and saw them into planks, and he would sell the planks, and we should never be poor again; but would always have enough to eat.'
Then the wolf knew that he had not got the real princess, and he swung the servant-maid on to his back and carried her to the castle. And he strode angrily into the king's chamber, and spoke.'Give me the real princess at once. If you deceive me again I will cause such a storm to burst over your palace that the walls will fall in, and you will all be buried in the ruins.'
Then the king and the queen wept, but they saw there was no escape. So they sent for their youngest daughter, and the king said to her: 'Dearest child, you must go with the white wolf, for I promised you to him, and I must keep my word.'
So the princess got ready to leave her home; but first she went to her room to fetch her wreath of wild flowers, which she took with her. Then the white wolf swung her on his back and bore her away. But when they came to the place where he had rested with the servant-maid, he told her to dismount that they might rest for a little at the roadside. Then he turned to her and said: 'I wonder what your father would do if this forest belonged to him?'
And the princess answered: 'My father would cut down the trees and turn it into a beautiful park and gardens, and he and his courtiers would come and wander among the glades in the summer time.'
'This is the real princess,' said the wolf to himself. But aloud he said: 'Mount once more on my back, and I will bear you to my castle.'
And when she was seated on his back he set out through the woods, and he ran, and ran, and ran, till at last he stopped in front of a stately courtyard, with massive gates.
And at these words the white furry skin slipped from his back, and the princess saw that he was not a wolf at all, but a beautiful youth, tall and stately; and he gave her his hand, and led her up the castle stairs.
One day, at the end of half a year, he came into her room and said: 'My dear one, you must get ready for a wedding. Your eldest sister is going to be married, and I will take you to your father's palace. When the wedding is over, I shall come and fetch you home. I will whistle outside the gate, and when you hear me, pay no heed to what your father or mother say, leave your dancing and feasting, and come to me at once; for if I have to leave without you, you will never find your way back alone through the forests.'
When the princess was ready to start, she found that he had put on his white fur skin, and was changed back into the wolf; and he swung her on to his back, and set out with her to her father's palace, where he left her, while he himself returned home alone. But, in the evening, he went back to fetch her, and, standing outside the palace gate, he gave a long, loud whistle. In the midst of her dancing the princess heard the sound, and at once she went to him, and he swung her on his back and bore her away to his castle.
Again, at the end of half a year, the prince came into her room, as the white wolf, and said: 'Dear heart, you must prepare for the wedding of your second sister. I will take you to your father's palace to-day, and we will remain there together till to-morrow morning.'
So they went together to the wedding. In the evening, when the two were alone together, he dropped his fur skin, and, ceasing to be a wolf, became a prince again. Now they did not know that the princess's mother was hidden in the room. When she saw the white skin lying on the floor, she crept out of the room, and sent a servant to fetch the skin and to burn it in the kitchen fire. The moment the flames touched the skin there was a fearful clap of thunder heard, and the prince disappeared out of the palace gate in a whirlwind, and returned to his palace alone.
But the princess was heart-broken, and spent the night weeping bitterly. Next morning she set out to find her way back to the castle, but she wandered through the woods and forests, and she could find no path or track to guide her. For fourteen days she roamed in the forest, sleeping under the trees, and living upon wild berries and roots, and at last she reached a little house. She opened the door and went in, and found the wind seated in the room all by himself, and she spoke to the wind and said: 'Wind, have you seen the white wolf?'
And the wind answered: 'All day and all night I have been blowing round the world, and I have only just come home; but I have not seen him.'
But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which, he told her, she would be able to walk a hundred miles with every step. Then she walked through the air till she reached a star, and she said: 'Tell me, star, have you seen the white wolf?'And the star answered: 'I have been shining all night, and I have not seen him.'
But the star gave her a pair of shoes, and told her that if she put them on she would be able to walk two hundred miles at a stride. So she drew them on, and she walked to the moon, and she said: 'Dear moon, have you not seen the white wolf?'But the moon answered, 'All night long I have been sailing through the heavens, and I have only just come home; but I did not see him.'
But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which she would be able to cover four hundred miles with every stride. So she went to the sun, and said: 'Dear sun, have you seen the white wolf?'
And the sun answered, 'Yes, I have seen him, and he has chosen another bride, for he thought you had left him, and would never return, and he is preparing for the wedding. But I will help you. Here are a pair of shoes. If you put these on you will be able to walk on glass or ice, and to climb the steepest places. And here is a spinning-wheel, with which you will be able to spin moss into silk. When you leave me you will reach a glass mountain. Put on the shoes that I have given you and with them you will be able to climb it quite easily. At the summit you will find the palace of the white wolf.'Then the princess set out, and before long she reached the glass mountain, and at the summit she found the white wolf's palace, as the sun had said.
But no one recognised her, as she had disguised herself as an old woman, and had wound a shawl round her head. Great preparations were going on in the palace for the wedding, which was to take place next day. Then the princess, still disguised as an old woman, took out her spinning-wheel, and began to spin moss into silk. And as she spun the new bride passed by, and seeing the moss turn into silk, she said to the old woman: 'Little mother, I wish you would give me that spinning-wheel.'And the princess answered, 'I will give it to you if you will allow me to sleep to-night on the mat outside the prince's door.' And the bride replied, 'Yes, you may sleep on the mat outside the door.'
So the princess gave her the spinning-wheel. And that night, winding the shawl all round her, so that no one could recognise her, she lay down on the mat outside the white wolf's door. And when everyone in the palace was asleep she began to tell the whole of her story. She told how she had been one of three sisters, and that she had been the youngest and the fairest of the three, and that her father had betrothed her to a white wolf. And she told how she had gone first to the wedding of one sister, and then with her husband to the wedding of the other sister, and how her mother had ordered the servant to throw the white fur skin into the kitchen fire. And then she told of her wanderings through the forest; and of how she had sought the white wolf weeping; and how the wind and star and moon and sun had befriended her, and had helped her to reach his palace. And when the white wolf heard all the story, he knew that it was his first wife, who had sought him, and had found him, after such great dangers and difficulties.
But he said nothing, for he waited till the next day, when many guests--kings and princes from far countries --were coming to his wedding. Then, when all the guests were assembled in the banqueting hall, he spoke to them and said: 'Hearken to me, ye kings and princes, for I have something to tell you. I had lost the key of my treasure casket, so I ordered a new one to be made; but I have since found the old one. Now, which of these keys is the better?'Then all the kings and royal guests answered: 'Certainly the old key is better than the new one.' 'Then,' said the wolf, 'if that is so, my former bride is better than my new one.'
And he sent for the new bride, and he gave her in marriage to one of the princes who was present, and then he turned to his guests, and said: 'And here is my former bride'--and the beautiful princess was led into the room and seated beside him on his throne. 'I thought she had forgotten me, and that she would never return. But she has sought me everywhere, and now we are together once more we shall never part again.'
Mohammed with the Magic Finger
Once upon a time, there lived a woman who had a son and a daughter. One morning she said to them: 'I have heard of a town where there is no such thing as death: let us go and dwell there.' So she broke up her house, and went away with her son and daughter.
When she reached the city, the first thing she did was to look about and see if there was any churchyard, and when she found none, she exclaimed, 'This is a delightful spot. We will stay here for ever.'
By-and-by, her son grew to be a man, and he took for a wife a girl who had been born in the town. But after a little while he grew restless, and went away on his travels, leaving his mother, his wife, and his sister behind him.He had not been gone many weeks when one evening his mother said, 'I am not well, my head aches dreadfully.' 'What did you say?' inquired her daughter-in-law. 'My head feels ready to split,' replied the old woman. The daughter-in-law asked no more questions, but left the house, and went in haste to some butchers in the next street. 'I have got a woman to sell; what will you give me for her?' said she. The butchers answered that they must see the woman first, and they all returned together. Then the butchers took the woman and told her they must kill her. 'But why?' she asked.
'Because,' they said, 'it is always our custom that when persons are ill and complain of their head they should be killed at once. It is a much better way than leaving them to die a natural death.''Very well,' replied the woman. 'But leave, I pray you, my lungs and my liver untouched, till my son comes back. Then give both to him.'
But the men took them out at once, and gave them to the daughter-in-law, saying: 'Put away these things till your husband returns.' And the daughter-in-law took them, and hid them in a secret place.
When the old woman's daughter, who had been in the woods, heard that her mother had been killed while she was out, she was filled with fright, and ran away as fast as she could. At last she reached a lonely spot far from the town, where she thought she was safe, and sat down on a stone, and wept bitterly. As she was sitting, sobbing, a man passed by.
'Thankfully,' said she, and he led her down, down, under the earth, till they reached a great city. Then he married her, and in course of time she had a son. And the baby was known throughout the city as 'Mohammed with the magic finger,' because, whenever he stuck out his little finger, he was able to see anything that was happening for as far as two days' distance.By-and-by, as the boy was growing bigger, his uncle returned from his long journey, and went straight to his wife. 'Where are my mother and sister?' he asked; but his wife answered: 'Have something to eat first, and then I will tell you.' But he replied: 'How can I eat till I know what has become of them?' Then she fetched, from the upper chamber, a box full of money, which she laid before him, saying, 'That is the price of your mother. She sold well.' 'What do you mean?' he gasped.
'Oh, your mother complained one day that her head was aching, so I got in two butchers and they agreed to take her. However, I have got her lungs and liver hidden, till you came back, in a safe place.''And my sister?' 'Well, while the people were chopping up your mother she ran away, and I heard no more of her.'
'Give me my mother's liver and lungs,' said the young man. And she gave them to him. Then he put them in his pocket, and went away, saying: 'I can stay no longer in this horrible town. I go to seek my sister.'Now, one day, the little boy stretched out his finger and said to his mother, 'My uncle is coming!' 'Where is he?' she asked.
'He is still two days' journey off: looking for us; but he will soon be here.' And in two days, as the boy had foretold, the uncle had found the hole in the earth, and arrived at the gate of the city. All his money was spent, and not knowing where his sister lived, he began to beg of all the people he saw.
'Here comes my uncle,' called out the little boy. 'Where?' asked his mother. 'Here at the house door;' and the woman ran out and embraced him, and wept over him. When they could both speak, he said: 'My sister, were you by when they killed my mother?''I was absent when they slew her,' replied she, 'and as I could do nothing, I ran away. But you, my brother, how did you get here?'
'By chance,' he said, 'after I had wandered far; but I did not know I should find you!' 'My little boy told me you were coming,' she explained, 'when you were yet two days distant; he alone of all men has that great gift.'
But she did not tell him that her husband could change himself into a serpent, a dog, or a monster, whenever he pleased. He was a very rich man, and possessed large herds of camels, goats, sheep, cattle, horses and asses; all the best of their kind. And the next morning, the sister said: 'Dear brother, go and watch our sheep, and when you are thirsty, drink their milk!''Very well,' answered he, and he went. Soon after, she said again, 'Dear brother, go and watch our goats.' 'But why? I like tending sheep better!' 'Oh, it is much nicer to be a goatherd,' she said; so he took the goats out. When he was gone, she said to her husband, 'You must kill my brother, for I cannot have him living here with me.' 'But, my dear, why should I? He has done me no harm.' 'I wish you to kill him,' she answered, 'or if not I will leave.' 'Oh, all right, then,' said he; 'to-morrow I will change myself into a serpent, and hide myself in the date barrel; and when he comes to fetch dates I will sting him in the hand.' 'That will do very well,' said she. When the sun was up next day, she called to her brother, 'Go and mind the goats.' 'Yes, of course,' he replied; but the little boy called out: 'Uncle, I want to come with you.' 'Delighted,' said the uncle, and they started together.
After they had got out of sight of the house the boy said to him, 'Dear uncle, my father is going to kill you. He has changed himself into a serpent, and has hidden himself in the date barrel. My mother has told him to do it.''And what am I to do?' asked the uncle.
'I will tell you. When we bring the goats back to the house, and my mother says to you, "I am sure you must be hungry: get a few dates out of the cask," just say to me, "I am not feeling very well, Mohammed, you go and get them for me."'So, when they reached the house the sister came out to meet them, saying, 'Dear brother, you must certainly be hungry: go and get a few dates.' But he answered, 'I am not feeling very well. Mohammed, you go and get them for me.' 'Of course I will,' replied the little boy, and ran at once to the cask. 'No, no,' his mother called after him; 'come here directly! Let your uncle fetch them himself!' But the boy would not listen, and crying out to her 'I would rather get them,' thrust his hand into the date cask. Instead of the fruit, it struck against something cold and slimy, and he whispered softly, 'Keep still; it is I, your son!' Then he picked up his dates and went away to his uncle. 'Here they are, dear uncle; eat as many as you want.' And his uncle ate them. When he saw that the uncle did not mean to come near the cask, the serpent crawled out and regained his proper shape. 'I am thankful I did not kill him,' he said to his wife; 'for, after all, he is my brother-inlaw, and it would have been a great sin!' 'Either you kill him or I leave you,' said she.
'Well, well!' sighed the man, 'to-morrow I will do it.' The woman let that night go by without doing anything further, but at daybreak she said to her brother, 'Get up, brother; it is time to take the goats to pasture!''All right,' cried he. 'I will come with you, uncle,' called out the little boy. 'Yes, come along,' replied he.
But the mother ran up, saying, 'The child must not go out in this cold or he will be ill;' to which he only answered, 'Nonsense! I am going, so it is no use your talking! I am going! I am! I am!''Then go!' she said. And so they started, driving the goats in front of them.
When they reached the pasture the boy said to his uncle: 'Dear uncle, this night my father means to kill you. While we are away he will creep into your room and hide in the straw. Directly we get home my mother will say to you, "Take that straw and give it to the sheep," and, if you do, he will bite you.''Then what am I to do?' asked the man. 'Oh, do not be afraid, dear uncle! I will kill my father myself.' 'All right,' replied the uncle. As they drove back the goats towards the house, the sister cried: 'Be quick, dear brother, go and get me some straw for the sheep.' 'Let me go,' said the boy. 'You are not big enough; your uncle will get it,' replied she. 'We will both get it,' answered the boy; 'come, uncle, let us go and fetch that straw!' 'All right,' replied the uncle, and they went to the door of the room. 'It seems very dark,' said the boy; 'I must go and get a light;' and when he came back with one, he set fire to the straw, and the serpent was burnt.
Then the mother broke into sobs and tears. 'Oh, you wretched boy! What have you done? Your father was in that straw, and you have killed him!'
'Now, how was I to know that my father was lying in that straw, instead of in the kitchen?' said the boy.
On the way the boy began: 'Dear uncle, this night my mother means to kill both of us, by poisoning us with the bones of the serpent, which she will grind to powder and sprinkle in our food.''And what are we to do?' asked the uncle. 'I will kill her, dear uncle. I do not want either a father or a mother like that!'
When they came home in the evening they saw the woman preparing supper, and secretly scattering the powdered bones of the serpent on one side of the dish. On the other, where she meant to eat herself, there was no poison.And the boy whispered to his uncle, 'Dear uncle, be sure you eat from the same side of the dish as I do!' 'All right,' said the uncle. So they all three sat down to the table, but before they helped themselves the boy said, 'I am thirsty, mother; will you get me some milk?' 'Very well,' said she, 'but you had better begin your supper.' And when she came back with the milk they were both eating busily. 'Sit down and have something too,' said the boy, and she sat down and helped herself from the dish, but at the very first moment she sank dead upon the ground.
'She has got what she meant for us,' observed the boy; 'and now we will sell all the sheep and cattle.'
So the sheep and cattle were sold, and the uncle and nephew took the money and went to see the world.
'Every day you must take the sheep out to pasture, and carry my old mother on your shoulders, taking great care her feet shall never touch the ground. And, besides that, you must catch, every evening, seven singing birds for my seven sons.''That is easily done,' said the man. Then they went back together, and the stranger said, 'Here are your sheep; and now stoop down, and let my mother climb on your back.'
'Very good,' answered Mohammed's uncle. The new shepherd did as he was told, and returned in the evening with the old woman on his back, and the seven singing birds in his pocket, which he gave to the seven boys, when they came to meet him. So the days passed, each one exactly like the other.At last, one night, he began to weep, and cried: 'Oh, what have I done, that I should have to perform such hateful tasks?'
And his nephew Mohammed saw him from afar, and thought to himself, 'My uncle is in trouble--I must go and help him;' and the next morning he went to his master and said: 'Dear master, I must go to my uncle, and I wish to send him here instead of myself, while I serve under his master. And that you may know it is he and no other man, I will give him my staff, and put my mantle on him.''All right,' said the master.
Mohammed set out on his journey, and in two days he arrived at the place where his uncle was standing with the old woman on his back trying to catch the birds as they flew past. And Mohammed touched him on the arm, and spoke: 'Dear uncle, did I not warn you never to take service under any blue-eyed red-haired man!'But what could I do?' asked the uncle. 'I was hungry, and he passed, and we signed a contract.' 'Give the contract to me!' said the young man. 'Here it is,' replied the uncle, holding it out. 'Now,' continued Mohammed, 'let the old woman get down from your back.' 'Oh no, I mustn't do that!' cried he.
But the nephew paid no attention, and went on talking: 'Do not worry yourself about the future. I see my way out of it all. And, first, you must take my stick and my mantle, and leave this place. After two days' journey, straight before you, you will come to some tents which are inhabited by shepherds. Go in there, and wait.''All right!' answered the uncle. Then Mohammed with the Magic Finger picked up a stick and struck the old woman with it, saying, 'Get down, and look after the sheep; I want to go to sleep.' 'Oh, certainly!' replied she.
So Mohammed lay down comfortably under a tree and slept till evening. Towards sunset he woke up and said to the old woman: 'Where are the singing birds which you have got to catch?'
'You never told me anything about that,' replied she.
'Of course I will catch them!' cried she in a hurry, and ran about the bushes after the birds, till thorns pierced her foot, and she shrieked from pain and exclaimed, 'Oh dear, how unlucky I am! and how abominably this man is treating me!' However, at last she managed to catch the seven birds, and brought them to Mohammed, saying, 'Here they are!''Then now we will go back to the house,' said he. When they had gone some way he turned to her sharply: 'Be quick and drive the sheep home, for I do not know where their fold is.' And she drove them before her. By-and-by the young man spoke: 'Look here, old hag; if you say anything to your son about my having struck you, or about my not being the old shepherd, I'll kill you!' 'Oh, no, of course I won't say anything!' When they got back, the son said to his mother: 'That is a good shepherd I've got, isn't he?' 'Oh, a splendid shepherd!' answered she. 'Why, look how fat the sheep are, and how much milk they give!' 'Yes, indeed!' replied the son, as he rose to get supper for his mother and the shepherd. In the time of Mohammed's uncle, the shepherd had had nothing to eat but the scraps left by the old woman; but the new shepherd was not going to be content with that. 'You will not touch the food till I have had as much as I want,' whispered he. 'Very good!' replied she. And when he had had enough, he said: 'Now, eat!' But she wept, and cried: 'That was not written in your contract. You were only to have what I left!' 'If you say a word more, I will kill you!' said he.
The next day he took the old woman on his back, and drove the sheep in front of him till he was some distance from the house, when he let her fall, and said: 'Quick! go and mind the sheep!'
Then he took a ram, and killed it. He lit a fire and broiled some of its flesh, and called to the old woman:
'Come and eat with me!' and she came. But instead of letting her eat quietly, he took a large lump of the meat and rammed it down her throat with his crook, so that she died. And when he saw she was dead, he said: 'That is what you have got for tormenting my uncle!' and left her lying where she was, while he went after the singing birds. It took him a long time to catch them; but at length he had the whole seven hidden in the pockets of his tunic, and then he threw the old woman's body into some bushes, and drove the sheep before him, back to their fold. And when they drew near the house the seven boys came to meet him, and he gave a bird to each.'Why are you weeping?' asked the boys, as they took their birds. 'Because your grandmother is dead!' And they ran and told their father. Then the man came up and said to Mohammed: 'What was the matter? How did she die?'
And Mohammed answered: 'I was tending the sheep when she said to me, "Kill me that ram; I am hungry!" So I killed it, and gave her the meat. But she had no teeth, and it choked her.''But why did you kill the ram, instead of one of the sheep?' asked the man. 'What was I to do?' said Mohammed. 'I had to obey orders!'
'Well, I must see to her burial!' said the man; and the next morning Mohammed drove out the sheep as usual, thinking to himself, 'Thank goodness I've got rid of the old woman! Now for the boys!'
All day long he looked after the sheep, and towards evening he began to dig some little holes in the ground, out of which he took six scorpions. These he put in his pockets, together with one bird which he caught. After this he drove his flock home.
When he approached the house the boys came out to meet him as before, saying: 'Give me my bird!' and he put a scorpion into the hand of each, and it stung him, and he died. But to the youngest only he gave a bird.As soon as he saw the boys lying dead on the ground, Mohammed lifted up his voice and cried loudly: 'Help, help! the children are dead!' And the people came running fast, saying: 'What has happened? How have they died?'
And Mohammed answered: 'It was your own fault! The boys had been accustomed to birds, and in this bitter cold their fingers grew stiff, and could hold nothing, so that the birds flew away, and their spirits flew with them. Only the youngest, who managed to keep tight hold of his bird, is still alive.'
And the father groaned, and said, 'I have borne enough! Bring no more birds, lest I lose the youngest also!'
As he was driving the sheep out to grass he said to his master: 'Out there is a splendid pasture, and I will keep the sheep there for two or, perhaps, three days, so do not be surprised at our absence.'
'Very good!' said the man; and Mohammed started. For two days he drove them on and on, till he reached his uncle, and said to him, 'Dear uncle, take these sheep and look after them. I have killed the old woman and the boys, and the flock I have brought to you!'
Then Mohammed returned to his master; and on the way he took a stone and beat his own head with it till it bled, and bound his hands tight, and began to scream. The master came running and asked, 'What is the matter?'
And Mohammed answered: 'While the sheep were grazing, robbers came and drove them away, and because I tried to prevent them, they struck me on the head and bound my hands. See how bloody I am!''What shall we do?' said the master; 'are the animals far off?' 'So far that you are not likely ever to see them again,' replied Mohammed. 'This is the fourth day since the robbers came down. How should you be able to overtake them?' 'Then go and herd the cows!' said the man. 'All right!' replied Mohammed, and for two days he went. But on the third day he drove the cows to his uncle, first cutting off their tails. Only one cow he left behind him. 'Take these cows, dear uncle,' said he. 'I am going to teach that man a lesson.' 'Well, I suppose you know your own business best,' said the uncle. 'And certainly he almost worried me to death.'
So Mohammed returned to his master, carrying the cows' tails tied up in a bundle on his back. When he came to the sea-shore, he stuck all the tails in the sand, and went and buried the one cow, whose tail he had not cut off, up to her neck, leaving the tail projecting. After he had got everything ready, he began to shriek and scream as before, till his master and all the other servants came running to see what was the matter.'What in the world has happened?' they cried
'The sea has swallowed up the cows,' said Mohammed, 'and nothing remains but their tails. But if you are quick and pull hard, perhaps you may get them out again!' The master ordered each man instantly to take hold of a tail, but at the first pull they nearly tumbled backwards, and the tails were left in their hands.'Stop,' cried Mohammed, 'you are doing it all wrong. You have just pulled off their tails, and the cows have sunk to the bottom of the sea.' 'See if you can do it any better,' said they; and Mohammed ran to the cow which he had buried in the rough grass, and took hold of her tail and dragged the animal out at once. 'There! that is the way to do it!' said he, 'I told you you knew nothing about it!'
The men slunk away, much ashamed of themselves; but the master came up to Mohammed. 'Get you gone!' he said, 'there is nothing more for you to do! You have killed my mother, you have slain my children, you have stolen my sheep, you have drowned my cows; I have now no work to give you.''First give me the strip of your skin which belongs to me of right, as you have broken your contract!' 'That a judge shall decide,' said the master; 'we will go before him.' 'Yes, we will,' replied Mohammed. And they went before the judge. 'What is your case?' asked the judge of the master.
'My lord,' said the man, bowing low, 'my shepherd here has robbed me of everything. He has killed my children and my old mother; he has stolen my sheep, he has drowned my cows in the sea.'The shepherd answered: 'He must pay me what he owes me, and then I will go.' 'Yes, that is the law,' said the judge. 'Very well,' returned the master, 'let him reckon up how long he has been in my service.' 'That won't do,' replied Mohammed, 'I want my strip of skin, as we agreed in the contract.' Seeing there was no help for it, the master cut a bit of skin, and gave it to Mohammed, who went off at once to his uncle. 'Now we are rich, dear uncle,' cried he; 'we will sell our cows and sheep and go to a new country. This one is no longer the place for us.'
The sheep were soon sold, and the two comrades started on their travels. That night they reached some Bedouin tents, where they had supper with the Arabs. Before they lay down to sleep, Mohammed called the owner of the tent aside. 'Your greyhound will eat my strip of leather,' he said to the Arab.'No; do not fear.' 'But supposing he does?' 'Well, then, I will give him to you in exchange,' replied the Arab. Mohammed waited till everyone was fast asleep, then he rose softly, and tearing the bit of skin in pieces, threw it down before the greyhound, setting up wild shrieks as he did so. 'Oh, master, said I not well that your dog would eat my thong?' 'Be quiet, don't make such a noise, and you shall have the dog.' So Mohammed put a leash round his neck, and led him away. In the evening they arrived at the tents of some more Bedouin, and asked for shelter. After supper Mohammed said to the owner of the tent, 'Your ram will kill my greyhound.' 'Oh, no, he won't.' 'And supposing he does?' 'Then you can take him in exchange.'
So in the night Mohammed killed the greyhound, and laid his body across the horns of the ram. Then he set up shrieks and yells, till he roused the Arab, who said: 'Take the ram and go away.'
Mohammed did not need to be told twice, and at sunset he reached another Bedouin encampment. He was received kindly, as usual, and after supper he said to his host: 'Your daughter will kill my ram.''Be silent, she will do nothing of the sort; my daughter does not need to steal meat, she has some every day.' 'Very well, I will go to sleep; but if anything happens to my ram I will call out.' 'If my daughter touches anything belonging to my guest I will kill her,' said the Arab, and went to his bed.
When everybody was asleep, Mohammed got up, killed the ram, and took out his liver, which he broiled on the fire. He placed a piece of it in the girl's hands, and laid some more on her night-dress while she slept and knew nothing about it. After this he began to cry out loudly.'What is the matter? be silent at once!' called the Arab. 'How can I be silent, when my ram, which I loved like a child, has been slain by your daughter?' 'But my daughter is asleep,' said the Arab. 'Well, go and see if she has not some of the flesh about her.'
'If she has, you may take her in exchange for the ram;' and as they found the flesh exactly as Mohammed had foretold, the Arab gave his daughter a good beating, and then told her to get out of sight, for she was now the property of this stranger.
They wandered in the desert till, at nightfall, they came to a Bedouin encampment, where they were hospitably bidden to enter. Before lying down to sleep, Mohammed said to the owner of the tent: 'Your mare will kill my wife.''Certainly not.' 'And if she does?' 'Then you shall take the mare in exchange.'
When everyone was asleep, Mohammed said softly to his wife: 'Maiden, I have got such a clever plan! I am going to bring in the mare and put it at your feet, and I will cut you, just a few little flesh wounds, so that you may be covered with blood, and everybody will suppose you to be dead. But remember that you must not make a sound, or we shall both be lost.'This was done, and then Mohammed wept and wailed louder than ever.
The Arab hastened to the spot and cried, 'Oh, cease making that terrible noise! Take the mare and go; but carry off the dead girl with you. She can lie quite easily across the mare's back.'
Then Mohammed and his uncle picked up the girl, and, placing her on the mare's back, led it away, being very careful to walk one on each side, so that she might not slip down and hurt herself. After the Arab tents could be seen no longer, the girl sat up on the saddle and looked about her, and as they were all hungry they tied up the mare, and took out some dates to eat. When they had finished, Mohammed said to his uncle: 'Dear uncle, the maiden shall be your wife; I give her to you. But the money we got from the sheep and cows we will divide between us. You shall have two-thirds and I will have one. For you will have a wife, but I never mean to marry. And now, go in peace, for never more will you see me. The bond of bread and salt is at an end between us.'So they wept, and fell on each other's necks, and asked forgiveness for any wrongs in the past. Then they parted and went their ways. [Märchen und Gedichte aus der Stadt Tripolis. Von Haus Stumme.]
Once on a time there was a rich merchant, who had an only son called Bobino. Now, as the boy was clever, and had a great desire for knowledge, his father sent him to be under a master, from whom he thought he would learn to speak all sorts of foreign languages. After some years with this master, Bobino returned to his home.
One evening, as he and his father were walking in the garden, the sparrows in the trees above their heads began such a twittering, that they found it impossible to hear each other speak. This annoyed the merchant very much, so, to soothe him, Bobino said: 'Would you like me to explain to you what the sparrows are saying to each other?'
The merchant looked at his son in astonishment, and answered: 'What can you mean? How can you explain what the sparrows say? Do you consider yourself a soothsayer or a magician?''I am neither a soothsayer nor a magician,' answered Bobino; 'but my master taught me the language of all the animals.'
'Alas! for my good money!' exclaimed the merchant. 'The master has certainly mistaken my intention. Of course I meant you to learn the languages that human beings talk, and not the language of animals.''Have patience,' answered the son. 'My master thought it best to begin with the language of animals, and later to learn the languages of human beings.' On their way into the house the dog ran to meet them, barking furiously. 'What can be the matter with the beast?' said the merchant. 'Why should he bark at me like that, when he knows me quite well?' 'Shall I explain to you what he is saying?' said Bobino. 'Leave me in peace, and don't trouble me with your nonsense,' said the merchant quite crossly. 'How my money has been wasted!'
A little later, as they sat down to supper, some frogs in a neighbouring pond set up such a croaking as had never been heard. The noise so irritated the merchant that he quite lost his temper and exclaimed: 'This only was wanting to add the last drop to my discomfort and disappointment.'
'Shall I explain to you?' began Bobino. 'Will you hold your tongue with your explanations?' shouted the merchant. 'Go to bed, and don't let me see your face again!'
So Bobino went to bed and slept soundly. But his father, who could not get over his disappointment at the waste of his money, was so angry, that he sent for two servants, and gave them orders, which they were to carry out on the following day.
Next morning one of the servants awakened Bobino early, and made him get into a carriage that was waiting for him. The servant placed himself on the seat beside him, while the other servant rode alongside the carriage as an escort. Bobino could not understand what they were going to do with him, or where he was being taken; but he noticed that the servant beside him looked very sad, and his eyes were all swollen with crying.Curious to know the reason he said to him: 'Why are you so sad? and where are you taking me?'
But the servant would say nothing. At last, moved by Bobino's entreaties, he said: 'My poor boy, I am taking you to your death, and, what is worse, I am doing so by the order of your father.''But why,' exclaimed Bobino, 'does he want me to die? What evil have I done him, or what fault have I committed that he should wish to bring about my death?'
'You have done him no evil,' answered the servant 'neither have you committed any fault; but he is half mad with anger because, in all these years of study, you have learnt nothing but the language of animals. He expected something quite different from you, that is why he is determined you shall die.''If that is the case, kill me at once,' said Bobino. 'What is the use of waiting, if it must be done?'
'I have not the heart to do it,' answered the servant. 'I would rather think of some way of saving your life, and at the same time of protecting ourselves from your father's anger. By good luck the dog has followed us. We will kill it, and cut out the heart and take it back to your father. He will believe it is yours, and you, in the meantime, will have made your escape.'When they had reached the thickest part of the wood, Bobino got out of the carriage, and having said good-bye to the servants set out on his wanderings.
On and on he walked, till at last, late in the evening, he came to a house where some herdsmen lived. He knocked at the door and begged for shelter for the night. The herdsmen, seeing how gentle a youth he seemed, made him welcome, and bade him sit down and share their supper.
While they were eating it, the dog in the courtyard began to bark. Bobino walked to the window, listened attentively for a minute, and then turning to the herdsmen said: 'Send your wives and daughters at once to bed, and arm yourselves as best you can, because at midnight a band of robbers will attack this house.'
'I know it from the dog's barking,' answered Bobino. 'I understand his language, and if I had not been here, the poor beast would have wasted his breath to no purpose. You had better follow my advice, if you wish to save your lives and property.'
The herdsmen were more and more astonished, but they decided to do as Bobino advised. They sent their wives and daughters upstairs, then, having armed themselves, they took up their position behind a hedge, waiting for midnight.
Just as the clock struck twelve they heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and a band of robbers cautiously advanced towards the house. But the herdsmen were on the lookout; they sprang on the robbers from behind the hedge, and with blows from their cudgels soon put them to flight.
You may believe how grateful they were to Bobino, to whose timely warning they owed their safety. They begged him to stay and make his home with them; but as he wanted to see more of the world, he thanked them warmly for their hospitality, and set out once more on his wanderings. All day he walked, and in the evening he came to a peasant's house. While he was wondering whether he should knock and demand shelter for the night, he heard a great croaking of frogs in a ditch behind the house. Stepping to the back he saw a very strange sight. Four frogs were throwing a small bottle about from one to the other, making a great croaking as they did so. Bobino listened for a few minutes, and then knocked at the door of the house. It was opened by the peasant, who asked him to come in and have some supper.
When the meal was over, his host told him that they were in great trouble, as his eldest daughter was so ill, that they feared she could not recover. A great doctor, who had been passing that way some time before, had promised to send her some medicine that would have cured her, but the servant to whom he had entrusted the medicine had let it drop on the way back, and now there seemed no hope for the girl.
Then Bobino told the father of the small bottle he had seen the frogs play with, and that he knew that was the medicine which the doctor had sent to the girl. The peasant asked him how he could be sure of this, and Bobino explained to him that he understood the language of animals, and had heard what the frogs said as they tossed the bottle about. So the peasant fetched the bottle from the ditch, and gave the medicine to his daughter. In the morning she was much better, and the grateful father did not know how to thank Bobino enough. But Bobino would accept nothing from him, and having said good-bye, set out once more on his wanderings.
One day, soon after this, he came upon two men resting under a tree in the heat of the day. Being tired he stretched himself on the ground at no great distance from them, and soon they all three began to talk to one another. In the course of conversation, Bobino asked the two men where they were going; and they replied that they were on their way to a neighbouring town, where, that day, a new ruler was to be chosen by the people.
While they were still talking, some sparrows settled on the tree under which they were lying. Bobino was silent, and appeared to be listening attentively. At the end of a few minutes he said to his companions, 'Do you know what those sparrows are saying? They are saying that to-day one of us will be chosen ruler of that town.'
The men said nothing, but looked at each other. A few minutes later, seeing that Bobino had fallen asleep, they stole away, and made with all haste for the town, where the election of a new ruler was to take place.
A great crowd was assembled in the market-place, waiting for the hour when an eagle should be let loose from a cage, for it had been settled that on whose-soever house the eagle alighted, the owner of that house should become ruler of the town. At last the hour arrived; the eagle was set free, and all eyes were strained to see where it would alight. But circling over the heads of the crowd, it flew straight in the direction of a young man, who was at that moment entering the town. This was none other than Bobino, who had awakened soon after his companions had left him, and had followed in their footsteps. All the people shouted and proclaimed that he was their future ruler, and he was conducted by a great crowd to the Governor's house, which was for the future to be his home. And here he lived happily, and ruled wisely over the people.
The Dog and the Sparrow
There was once upon a time a sheep-dog whose master was so unkind that he starved the poor beast, and ill- treated him in the cruellest manner. At last the dog determined to stand this ill-usage no longer, and, one day, he ran away from home. As he was trotting along the road he met a sparrow, who stopped him and said: 'Brother, why do you look so sad?'The dog answered: 'I am sad because I am hungry, and have nothing to eat.' 'If that's all, dear brother,' said the sparrow, 'come to the town with me, and I'll soon get food for you.' So they went together to the town, and when they came to a butcher's shop, the sparrow said to the dog: 'You stand still and I'll peck down a piece of meat for you.'
First she looked all round to see that no one was watching her, and then she set to work to peck at a piece of meat that lay on the edge of a shelf, till at last it fell down. The dog seized it ravenously, and ran with it to a dark corner where he gobbled it up in a very few minutes.
When he had finished it, the sparrow said: 'Now come with me to another shop, and I will get you a second piece, so that your hunger may be satisfied.' When the dog had finished the second piece of meat, the sparrow asked him: 'Brother, have you had enough now?''Yes,' replied the dog, 'I've had quite enough meat, but I haven't had any bread yet.'
The sparrow said: 'You shall have as much bread as you like, only come with me.' Then she led him to a baker's shop, and pecked so long at two rolls on a shelf that at last they fell down, and the dog ate them up.But still his hunger was not appeased; so the sparrow took him to another baker's shop, and got some more rolls for him. Then she asked him: 'Well, brother, are you satisfied?' 'Yes,' he replied; 'and now let us go for a little walk outside the town.' So the two went for a stroll into the country; but the day was very hot, and after they had gone a short distance the dog said: 'I am very tired, and would like to go to sleep.' 'Sleep, then,' said the sparrow, 'and I will keep watch meantime on the branch of a tree.'
So the dog lay down in the middle of the road, and was soon fast asleep. While he was sleeping a carter passed by, driving a waggon drawn by three horses, and laden with two barrels of wine. The sparrow noticed that the man was not going out of his way to avoid the dog, but was driving right in the middle of the road where the poor animal lay; so she called out: 'Carter, take care what you are about, or I shall make you suffer for it.'But the carter merely laughed at her words, and, cracking his whip, he drove his waggon right over the dog, so that the heavy wheels killed him. Then the sparrow called out: 'You have caused my brother's death, and your cruelty will cost you your waggon and horses.' 'Waggon and horses, indeed,' said the carter; 'I'd like to know how you could rob me of them!'
The sparrow said nothing, but crept under the cover of the waggon and pecked so long at the bunghole of one of the barrels that at last she got the cork away, and all the wine ran out without the carter's noticing it.
But at last he turned round and saw that the bottom of the cart was wet, and when he examined it, he found that one of the barrels was quite empty. 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!' he exclaimed.'You'll have worse luck still,' said the sparrow, as she perched on the head of one of the horses and pecked out its eyes.
When the carter saw what had happened, he seized an axe and tried to hit the sparrow with it, but the little bird flew up into the air, and the carter only hit the blind horse on the head, so that it fell down dead. 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!' he exclaimed again.
'You'll have worse luck yet,' said the sparrow; and when the carter drove on with his two horses she crept under the covering again, and pecked away at the cork of the second barrel till she got it away, and all the wine poured out on to the road.When the carter perceived this fresh disaster he called out once more: 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!' But the sparrow answered: 'Your bad luck is not over yet,' and flying on to the head of the second horse she pecked out its eyes.
The carter jumped out of the waggon and seized his axe, with which he meant to kill the sparrow; but the little bird flew high into the air, and the blow fell on the poor blind horse instead, and killed it on the spot. Then the carter exclaimed: 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!'
'You've not got to the end of your bad luck yet,' sang the sparrow; and, perching on the head of the third horse, she pecked out its eyes.
The carter, blind with rage, let his axe fly at the bird; but once more she escaped the blow, which fell on the only remaining horse, and killed it. And again the carter called out: 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!'
The carter had to leave his waggon on the road, and he went home in a towering passion. As soon as he saw his wife, he called out: 'Oh! what bad luck I have had! all my wine is spilt, and my horses are all three dead.'
'My dear husband,' replied his wife, 'your bad luck pursues you, for a wicked little sparrow has assembled all the other birds in the world, and they are in our barn eating everything up.'
The carter went out to the barn where he kept his corn and found it was just as his wife had said. Thousands and thousands of birds were eating up the grain, and in the middle of them sat the little sparrow. When he saw his old enemy, the carter cried out: 'Oh! what an unlucky fellow I am!''Not unlucky enough yet,' answered the sparrow; 'for, mark my words, carter, your cruel conduct will cost you your life;' and with these words she flew into the air.
The carter was much depressed by the loss of all his worldly goods, and sat down at the fire plotting vengeance on the sparrow, while the little bird sat on the window ledge and sang in mocking tones: 'Yes, carter, your cruel conduct will cost you your life.'
Then the carter seized his axe and threw it at the sparrow, but he only broke the window panes, and did not do the bird a bit of harm. She hopped in through the broken window and, perching on the mantelpiece, she called out; 'Yes, carter, it will cost you your life.'
The carter, quite beside himself with rage, flew at the sparrow again with his axe, but the little creature always eluded his blows, and he only succeeded in destroying all his furniture. At last, however, he managed to catch the bird in his hands. Then his wife called out: 'Shall I wring her neck?'
'Certainly not,' replied her husband, 'that would be far too easy a death for her; she must die in a far crueller fashion than that. I will eat her alive;' and he suited the action to his words. But the sparrow fluttered and struggled inside him till she got up into the man's mouth, and then she popped out her head and said: 'Yes, carter, it will cost you your life.'The carter handed his wife the axe, and said: 'Wife, kill the bird in my mouth dead.'
The woman struck with all her might, but she missed the bird and hit the carter right on the top of his head, so that he fell down dead. But the sparrow escaped out of his mouth and flew away into the air.
[From the German, Kletke.]
The Story of the Three Sons of Hali
Till his eighteenth birthday the young Neangir lived happily in a village about forty miles from Constantinople, believing that Mohammed and Zinebi his wife, who had brought him up, were his real parents.
Neangir was quite content with his lot, though he was neither rich nor great, and unlike most young men of his age had no desire to leave his home. He was therefore completely taken by surprise when one day Mohammed told him with many sighs that the time had now come for him to go to Constantinople, and fix on a profession for himself. The choice would be left to him, but he would probably prefer either to be a soldier or one of the doctors learned in the law, who explain the Koran to the ignorant people. 'You know the holy book nearly by heart,' ended the old man, 'so that in a very short time you would be fitted to teach others. But write to us and tell us how you pass your life, and we, on our side, will promise never to forget you.'So saying, Mohammed gave Neangir four piastres to start him in the great city, and obtained leave for him to join a caravan which was about to set off for Constantinople.
The journey took some days, as caravans go very slowly, but at last the walls and towers of the capital appeared in the distance. When the caravan halted the travellers went their different ways, and Neangir was left, feeling very strange and rather lonely. He had plenty of courage and made friends very easily; still, not only was it the first time he had left the village where he had been brought up, but no one had ever spoken to him of Constantinople, and he did not so much as know the name of a single street or of a creature who lived in it.
Wondering what he was to do next, Neangir stood still for a moment to look about him, when suddenly a pleasant-looking man came up, and bowing politely, asked if the youth would do him the honour of staying in his house till he had made some plans for himself. Neangir, not seeing anything else he could do, accepted the stranger's offer and followed him home.They entered a large room, where a girl of about twelve years old was laying three places at the table. 'Zelida,' said the stranger, 'was I not quite right when I told you that I should bring back a friend to sup with us?'
'My father,' replied the girl, 'you are always right in what you say, and what is better still, you never mislead others.' As she spoke, an old slave placed on the table a dish called pillau, made of rice and meat, which is a great favourite among people in the East, and setting down glasses of sherbet before each person, left the room quietly. During the meal the host talked a great deal upon all sorts of subjects; but Neangir did nothing but look at Zelida, as far as he could without being positively rude.
The girl blushed and grew uncomfortable, and at last turned to her father. 'The stranger's eyes never wander from me,' she said in a low and hesitating voice. 'If Hassan should hear of it, jealousy will make him mad.'
'No, no,' replied the father, 'you are certainly not for this young man. Did I not tell you before that I intend him for your sister Argentine. I will at once take measures to fix his heart upon her,' and he rose and opened a cupboard, from which be took some fruits and a jug of wine, which he put on the table, together with a small silver and mother-of-pearl box.'Taste this wine,' he said to the young man, pouring some into a glass. 'Give me a little, too,' cried Zelida. 'Certainly not,' answered her father, 'you and Hassan both had as much as was good for you the other day.' 'Then drink some yourself,' replied she, 'or this young man will think we mean to poison him.' 'Well, if you wish, I will do so,' said the father; 'this elixir is not dangerous at my age, as it is at yours.'
When Neangir had emptied his glass, his host opened the mother-of-pearl box and held it out to him. Neangir was beside himself with delight at the picture of a young maiden more beautiful than anything he had ever dreamed of. He stood speechless before it, while his breast swelled with a feeling quite new to him.
His two companions watched him with amusement, until at last Neangir roused himself. 'Explain to me, I pray you,' he said, 'the meaning of these mysteries. Why did you ask me here? Why did you force me to drink this dangerous liquid which has set fire to my blood? Why have you shown me this picture which has almost deprived me of reason?'
'I will answer some of your questions,' replied his host, 'but all, I may not. The picture that you hold in your hand is that of Zelida's sister. It has filled your heart with love for her; therefore, go and seek her. When you find her, you will find yourself.''But where shall I find her?' cried Neangir, kissing the charming miniature on which his eyes were fixed.
'I am unable to tell you more,' replied his host cautiously. 'But I can' interrupted Zelida eagerly. 'To-morrow you must go to the Jewish bazaar, and buy a watch from the second shop on the right hand. And at midnight--'
But what was to happen at midnight Neangir did not hear, for Zelida's father hastily laid his hand over her mouth, crying: 'Oh, be silent, child! Would you draw down on you by imprudence the fate of your unhappy sisters?' Hardly had he uttered the words, when a thick black vapour rose about him, proceeding from the precious bottle, which his rapid movement had overturned. The old slave rushed in and shrieked loudly, while Neangir, upset by this strange adventure, left the house.
He passed the rest of the night on the steps of a mosque, and with the first streaks of dawn he took his picture out of the folds of his turban. Then, remembering Zelida's words, he inquired the way to the bazaar, and went straight to the shop she had described.
In answer to Neangir's request to be shown some watches, the merchant produced several and pointed out the one which he considered the best. The price was three gold pieces, which Neangir readily agreed to give him; but the man made a difficulty about handing over the watch unless he knew where his customer lived.'That is more than I know myself,' replied Neangir. 'I only arrived in the town yesterday and cannot find the way to the house where I went first.' 'Well,' said the merchant, 'come with me, and I will take you to a good Mussulman, where you will have everything you desire at a small charge.'
Neangir consented, and the two walked together through several streets till they reached the house recommended by the Jewish merchant. By his advice the young man paid in advance the last gold piece that remained to him for his food and lodging.
As soon as Neangir had dined he shut himself up in his room, and thrusting his hand into the folds of his turban, drew out his beloved portrait. As he did so, he touched a sealed letter which had apparently been hidden there without his knowledge, and seeing it was written by his foster-mother, Zinebi, he tore it eagerly open. Judge of his surprise when he read these words:
'My dearest Child,--This letter, which you will some day find in your turban, is to inform you that you are not really our son. We believe your father to have been a great lord in some distant land, and inside this packet is a letter from him, threatening to be avenged on us if you are not restored to him at once. We shall always love you, but do not seek us or even write to us. It will be useless.'In the same wrapper was a roll of paper with a few words as follows, traced in a hand unknown to Neangir:
'Traitors, you are no doubt in league with those magicians who have stolen the two daughters of the unfortunate Siroco, and have taken from them the talisman given them by their father. You have kept my son from me, but I have found out your hiding-place and swear by the Holy Prophet to punish your crime. The stroke of my scimitar is swifter than the lightning.'
The unhappy Neangir on reading these two letters-- of which he understood absolutely nothing--felt sadder and more lonely than ever. It soon dawned on him that he must be the son of the man who had written to Mohammed and his wife, but he did not know where to look for him, and indeed thought much more about the people who had brought him up and whom he was never to see again.
To shake off these gloomy feelings, so as to be able to make some plans for the future, Neangir left the house and walked briskly about the city till darkness had fallen. He then retraced his steps and was just crossing the threshold when he saw something at his feet sparkling in the moonlight. He picked it up, and discovered it to be a gold watch shining with precious stones. He gazed up and down the street to see if there was anyone about to whom it might belong, but there was not a creature visible. So he put it in his sash, by the side of a silver watch which he had bought from the Jew that morning.
The possession of this piece of good fortune cheered Neangir up a little, 'for,' thought he, 'I can sell these jewels for at least a thousand sequins, and that will certainly last me till I have found my father.' And consoled by this reflection he laid both watches beside him and prepared to sleep.In the middle of the night he awoke suddenly and heard a soft voice speaking, which seemed to come from one of the watches. 'Aurora, my sister,' it whispered gently. 'Did they remember to wind you up at midnight?' 'No, dear Argentine,' was the reply. 'And you?' 'They forgot me, too,' answered the first voice, 'and it is now one o'clock, so that we shall not be able to leave our prison till to-morrow--if we are not forgotten again--then.' 'We have nothing now to do here,' said Aurora. 'We must resign ourselves to our fate--let us go.'
Filled with astonishment Neangir sat up in bed, and beheld by the light of the moon the two watches slide to the ground and roll out of the room past the cats' quarters. He rushed towards the door and on to the staircase, but the watches slipped downstairs without his seeing them, and into the street. He tried to unlock the door and follow them, but the key refused to turn, so he gave up the chase and went back to bed.
The next day all his sorrows returned with tenfold force. He felt himself lonelier and poorer than ever, and in a fit of despair he thrust his turban on his head, stuck his sword in his belt, and left the house determined to seek an explanation from the merchant who had sold him the silver watch.
When Neangir reached the bazaar he found the man he sought was absent from his shop, and his place filled by another Jew.
'Ah! what business?' cried Neangir in a fury. 'You are the brother of a scoundrel who sold me yesterday a watch that ran away in the night. But I will find it somehow, or else you shall pay for it, as you are his brother!'
'What is that you say?' asked the Jew, around whom a crowd had rapidly gathered. 'A watch that ran away. If it had been a cask of wine, your story might be true, but a watch-! That is hardly possible!'
'The Cadi shall say whether it is possible or not,' replied Neangir, who at that moment perceived the other Jew enter the bazaar. Darting up, he seized him by the arm and dragged him to the Cadi's house; but not before the man whom he had found in the shop contrived to whisper to his brother, in a tone loud enough for Neangir to hear, 'Confess nothing, or we shall both be lost.'
When the Cadi was informed of what had taken place he ordered the crowd to be dispersed by blows, after the Turkish manner, and then asked Neangir to state his complaint. After hearing the young man's story, which seemed to him most extraordinary, he turned to question the Jewish merchant, who instead of answering raised his eyes to heaven and fell down in a dead faint.
The judge took no notice of the swooning man, but told Neangir that his tale was so singular he really could not believe it, and that he should have the merchant carried back to his own house. This so enraged Neangir that he forgot the respect due to the Cadi, and exclaimed at the top of his voice, 'Recover this fellow from his fainting fit, and force him to confess the truth,' giving the Jew as he spoke a blow with his sword which caused him to utter a piercing scream.'You see for yourself,' said the Jew to the Cadi, 'that this young man is out of his mind. I forgive him his blow, but do not, I pray you, leave me in his power.'
At that moment the Bassa chanced to pass the Cadi's house, and hearing a great noise, entered to inquire the cause. When the matter was explained he looked attentively at Neangir, and asked him gently how all these marvels could possibly have happened.
'My lord,' replied Neangir, 'I swear I have spoken the truth, and perhaps you will believe me when I tell you that I myself have been the victim of spells wrought by people of this kind, who should be rooted out from the earth. For three years I was changed into a three- legged pot, and only returned to man's shape when one day a turban was laid upon my lid.'
At these words the Bassa rent his robe for joy, and embracing Neangir, he cried, 'Oh, my son, my son, have I found you at last? Do you not come from the house of Mohammed and Zinebi?'
'Blessed be the Prophet,' said the Bassa, 'who has restored one of my sons to me, at the time I least expected it! You know,' he continued, addressing the Cadi, 'that during the first years of my marriage I had three sons by the beautiful Zambac. When he was three years old a holy dervish gave the eldest a string of the finest coral, saying "Keep this treasure carefully, and be faithful to the Prophet, and you will be happy." To the second, who now stands before you, he presented a copper plate on which the name of Mahomet was engraved in seven languages, telling him never to part from his turban, which was the sign of a true believer, and he would taste the greatest of all joys; while on the right arm of the third the dervish clasped a bracelet with the prayer that his right hand should be pure and the left spotless, so that he might never know sorrow.
'My eldest son neglected the counsel of the dervish and terrible troubles fell on him, as also on the youngest. To preserve the second from similar misfortunes I brought him up in a lonely place, under the care of a faithful servant named Gouloucou, while I was fighting the enemies of our Holy Faith. On my return from the wars I hastened to embrace my son, but both he and Gouloucou had vanished, and it is only a few months since that I learned that the boy was living with a man called Mohammed, whom I suspected of having stolen him. Tell me, my son, how it came about that you fell into his hands.'
'My lord,' replied Neangir, 'I can remember little of the early years of my life, save that I dwelt in a castle by the seashore with an old servant. I must have been about twelve years old when one day as we were out walking we met a man whose face was like that of this Jew, coming dancing towards us. Suddenly I felt myself growing faint. I tried to raise my hands to my head, but they had become stiff and hard. In a word, I had been changed into a copper pot, and my arms formed the handle. What happened to my companion I know not, but I was conscious that someone had picked me up, and was carrying me quickly away.
'After some days, or so it seemed to me, I was placed on the ground near a thick hedge, and when I heard my captor snoring beside me I resolved to make my escape. So I pushed my way among the thorns as well as I could, and walked on steadily for about an hour.
'You cannot imagine, my lord, how awkward it is to walk with three legs, especially when your knees are as stiff as mine were. At length after much difficulty I reached a market-garden, and hid myself deep down among the cabbages, where I passed a quiet night.
'The next morning, at sunrise, I felt some one stooping over me and examining me closely. "What have you got there, Zinebi?" said the voice of a man a little way off.
'Mohammed lifted me from the ground and looked at me with admiration. That pleased me, for everyone likes to be admired, even if he is only a pot! And I was taken into the house and filled with water, and put on the fire to boil.'For three years I led a quiet and useful life, being scrubbed bright every day by Zinebi, then a young and beautiful woman.
'One morning Zinebi set me on the fire, with a fine fillet of beef inside me to cook for dinner. Being afraid that some of the steam would escape through the lid, and that the taste of her stew would be spoilt, she looked about for something to put over the cover, but could see nothing handy but her husband's turban. She tied it firmly round the lid, and then left the room. For the first time during three years I began to feel the fire burning the soles of my feet, and moved away a little-- doing this with a great deal more ease than I had felt when making my escape to Mohammed's garden. I was somehow aware, too, that I was growing taller; in fact in a few minutes I was a man again.
'After the third hour of prayer Mohammed and Zinebi both returned, and you can guess their surprise at finding a young man in the kitchen instead of a copper pot! I told them my story, which at first they refused to believe, but in the end I succeeded in persuading them that I was speaking the truth. For two years more I lived with them, and was treated like their own son, till the day when they sent me to this city to seek my fortune. And now, my lords, here are the two letters which I found in my turban. Perhaps they may be another proof in favour of my story.'
Whilst Neangir was speaking, the blood from the Jew's wound had gradually ceased to flow; and at this moment there appeared in the doorway a lovely Jewess, about twentytwo years old, her hair and her dress all disordered, as if she had been flying from some great danger. In one hand she held two crutches of white wood, and was followed by two men. The first man Neangir knew to be the brother of the Jew he had struck with his sword, while in the second the young man thought he recognised the person who was standing by when he was changed into a pot. Both of these men had a wide linen band round their thighs and held stout sticks.The Jewess approached the wounded man and laid the two crutches near him; then, fixing her eyes on him, she burst into tears.
'Unhappy Izouf,' she murmured, 'why do you suffer yourself to be led into such dangerous adventures? Look at the consequences, not only to yourself, but to your two brothers,' turning as she spoke to the men who had come in with her, and who had sunk down on the mat at the feet of the Jew.
The Bassa and his companions were struck both with the beauty of the Jewess and also with her words, and begged her to give them an explanation.
'My lords,' she said, 'my name is Sumi, and I am the daughter of Moizes, one of our most famous rabbis. I am the victim of my love for Izaf,' pointing to the man who had entered last, 'and in spite of his ingratitude, I cannot tear him from my heart. Cruel enemy of my life,' she continued turning to Izaf, 'tell these gentlemen your story and that of your brothers, and try to gain your pardon by repentance.'
'We all three were born at the same time,' said the Jew, obeying the command of Sumi at a sign from the Cadi, 'and are the sons of the famous Nathan Ben-Sadi, who gave us the names of Izif, Izouf, and Izaf. From our earliest years we were taught the secrets of magic, and as we were all born under the same stars we shared the same happiness and the same troubles.
'Our mother died before I can remember, and when we were fifteen our father was seized with a dangerous illness which no spells could cure. Feeling death draw near, he called us to his bedside and took leave of us in these words:
'"My sons, I have no riches to bequeath to you; my only wealth was those secrets of magic which you know. Some stones you already have, engraved with mystic signs, and long ago I taught you how to make others. But you still lack the most precious of all talismans--the three rings belonging to the daughters of Siroco. Try to get possession of them, but take heed on beholding these young girls that you do not fall under the power of their beauty. Their religion is different from yours, and further, they are the betrothed brides of the sons of the Bassa of the Sea. And to preserve you from a love which can bring you nothing but sorrow, I counsel you in time of peril to seek out the daughter of Moizes the Rabbi, who cherishes a hidden passion for Izaf, and possesses the Book of Spells, which her father himself wrote with the sacred ink that was used for the Talmud." So saying, our father fell back on his cushions and died, leaving us burning with desire for the three rings of the daughters of Siroco.
'No sooner were our sad duties finished than we began to make inquiries where these young ladies were to be found, and we learned after much trouble that Siroco, their father, had fought in many wars, and that his daughters, whose beauty was famous throughout all the land, were named Aurora, Argentine, and Zelida.'At the second of these names, both the Bassa and his son gave a start of surprise, but they said nothing and Izaf went on with his story.
'The first thing to be done was to put on a disguise, and it was in the dress of foreign merchants that we at length approached the young ladies, taking care to carry with us a collection of fine stones which we had hired for the occasion. But alas! it was to no purpose that Nathan Ben-Sadi had warned us to close our hearts against their charms! The peerless Aurora was clothed in a garment of golden hue, studded all over with flashing jewels; the fair-haired Argentine wore a dress of silver, and the young Zelida, loveliest of them all, the costume of a Persian lady.
'Among other curiosities that we had brought with us, was a flask containing an elixir which had the quality of exciting love in the breasts of any man or woman who drank of it. This had been given me by the fair Sumi, who had used it herself and was full of wrath because I refused to drink it likewise, and so return her passion. I showed this liquid to the three maidens who were engaged in examining the precious stones, and choosing those that pleased them best; and I was in the act of pouring some in a crystal cup, when Zelida's eyes fell on a paper wrapped round the flask containing these words. "Beware lest you drink this water with any other man than him who will one day be your husband." "Ah, traitor!" she exclaimed, "what snare have you laid for me?" and glancing where her finger pointed I recognised the writing of Sumi.
'By this time my two brothers had already got possession of the rings of Aurora and Argentine in exchange for some merchandise which they coveted, and no sooner had the magic circles left their hands than the two sisters vanished completely, and in their place nothing was to be seen but a watch of gold and one of silver. At this instant the old slave whom we had bribed to let us enter the house, rushed into the room announcing the return of Zelida's father. My brothers, trembling with fright, hid the watches in their turbans, and while the slave was attending to Zelida, who had sunk fainting to the ground, we managed to make our escape.'Fearing to be traced by the enraged Siroco, we did not dare to go back to the house where we lodged, but took refuge with Sumi.
'"Unhappy wretches!" cried she, "is it thus that you have followed the counsels of your father? This very morning I consulted my magic books, and saw you in the act of abandoning your hearts to the fatal passion which will one day be your ruin. No, do not think I will tamely bear this insult! It was I who wrote the letter which stopped Zelida in the act of drinking the elixir of love! As for you," she went on, turning to my brothers, "you do not yet know what those two watches will cost you! But you can learn it now, and the knowledge of the truth will only serve to render your lives still more miserable."'As she spoke she held out the sacred book written by Moizes, and pointed to the following lines:
'"If at midnight the watches are wound with the key of gold and the key of silver, they will resume their proper shapes during the first hour of the day. They will always remain under the care of a woman, and will come back to her wherever they may be. And the woman appointed to guard them is the daughter of Moizes."
'My brothers were full of rage when they saw themselves outwitted, but there was no help for it. The watches were delivered up to Sumi and they went their way, while I remained behind curious to see what would happen.
'As night wore on Sumi wound up both watches, and when midnight struck Aurora and her sister made their appearance. They knew nothing of what had occurred and supposed they had just awakened from sleep, but when Sumi's story made them understand their terrible fate, they both sobbed with despair and were only consoled when Sumi promised never to forsake them. Then one o'clock sounded, and they became watches again.
'All night long I was a prey to vague fears, and I felt as if something unseen was pushing me on--in what direction I did not know. At dawn I rose and went out, meeting Izif in the street suffering from the same dread as myself. We agreed that Constantinople was no place for us any longer, and calling to Izouf to accompany us, we left the city together, but soon determined to travel separately, so that we might not be so easily recognised by the spies of Siroco.
'A few days later I found myself at the door of an old castle near the sea, before which a tall slave was pacing to and fro. The gift of one or two worthless jewels loosened his tongue, and he informed me that he was in the service of the son of the Bassa of the Sea, at that time making war in distant countries. The youth, he told me, had been destined from his boyhood to marry the daughter of Siroco, whose sisters were to be the brides of his brothers, and went on to speak of the talisman that his charge possessed. But I could think of nothing but the beautiful Zelida, and my passion, which I thought I had conquered, awoke in full force.
'In order to remove this dangerous rival from my path, I resolved to kidnap him, and to this end I began to act a madman, and to sing and dance loudly, crying to the slave to fetch the boy and let him see my tricks. He consented, and both were so diverted with my antics that they laughed till the tears ran down their cheeks, and even tried to imitate me. Then I declared I felt thirsty and begged the slave to fetch me some water, and while he was absent I advised the youth to take off his turban, so as to cool his head. He complied gladly, and in the twinkling of an eye was changed into a pot. A cry from the slave warned me that I had no time to lose if I would save my life, so I snatched up the pot and fled with it like the wind.
'You have heard, my lords, what became of the pot, so I will only say now that when I awoke it had disappeared; but I was partly consoled for its loss by finding my two brothers fast asleep not far from me. "How did you get here?" I inquired, "and what has happened to you since we parted?"
'"Alas!" replied Izouf, "we were passing a wayside inn from which came sounds of songs and laughter, and fools that we were--we entered and sat down. Circassian girls of great beauty were dancing for the amusement of several men, who not only received us politely, but placed us near the two loveliest maidens. Our happiness was complete, and time flew unknown to us, when one of the Circassians leaned forward and said to her sister, 'Their brother danced, and they must dance too.' What they meant by these words I know not, but perhaps you can tell us?"
'"I understand quite well," I replied. "They were thinking of the day that I stole the son of the Bassa, and had danced before him."
'"Perhaps you are right," continued Izouf, "for the two ladies took our hands and danced with us till we were quite exhausted, and when at last we sat down a second time to table we drank more wine than was good for us. Indeed, our heads grew so confused, that when the men jumped up and threatened to kill us, we could make no resistance and suffered ourselves to be robbed of everything we had about us, including the most precious possession of all, the two talismans of the daughters of Siroco."
'Not knowing what else to do, we all three returned to Constantinople to ask the advice of Sumi, and found that she was already aware of our misfortunes, having read about them in the book of Moizes. The kind-hearted creature wept bitterly at our story, but, being poor herself, could give us little help. At last I proposed that every morning we should sell the silver watch into which Argentine was changed, as it would return to Sumi every evening unless it was wound up with the silver key-- which was not at all likely. Sumi consented, but only on the condition that we would never sell the watch without ascertaining the house where it was to be found, so that she might also take Aurora thither, and thus Argentine would not be alone if by any chance she was wound up at the mystic hour. For some weeks now we have lived by this means, and the two daughters of Siroco have never failed to return to Sumi each night. Yesterday Izouf sold the silver watch to this young man, and in the evening placed the gold watch on the steps by order of Sumi, just before his customer entered the house; from which both watches came back early this morning.''If I had only known!' cried Neangir. 'If I had had more presence of mind, I should have seen the lovely Argentine, and if her portrait is so fair, what must the original be!'
'It was not your fault,' replied the Cadi, 'you are no magician; and who could guess that the watch must be wound at such an hour? But I shall give orders that the merchant is to hand it over to you, and this evening you will certainly not forget.''It is impossible to let you have it to-day,' answered Izouf, 'for it is already sold.' 'If that is so,' said the Cadi, 'you must return the three gold pieces which the young man paid.' The Jew, delighted to get off so easily, put his hand in his pocket, when Neangir stopped him. 'No, no,' he exclaimed, 'it is not money I want, but the adorable Argentine; without her everything is valueless.'
'My dear Cadi,' said the Bassa, 'he is right. The treasure that my son has lost is absolutely priceless.'
'My lord,' replied the Cadi, 'your wisdom is greater than mine. Give judgment I pray you in the matter.'
When they arrived at the door of his dwelling, he noticed two women sitting on a bench close by, thickly veiled and beautifully dressed. Their wide satin trousers were embroidered in silver, and their muslin robes were of the finest texture. In the hand of one was a bag of pink silk tied with green ribbons, containing something that seemed to move.
At the approach of the Bassa both ladies rose, and came towards him. Then the one who held the bag addressed him saying, 'Noble lord, buy, I pray you, this bag, without asking to see what it contains.''How much do you want for it?' asked the Bassa. 'Three hundred sequins,' replied the unknown. At these words the Bassa laughed contemptuously, and passed on without speaking.
'You will not repent of your bargain,' went on the woman. 'Perhaps if we come back tomorrow you will be glad to give us the four hundred sequins we shall then ask. And the next day the price will be five hundred.'
'Come away,' said her companion, taking hold of her sleeve. 'Do not let us stay here any longer. It may cry, and then our secret will be discovered.' And so saying, the two young women disappeared.
The Jews were left in the front hall under the care of the slaves, and Neangir and Sumi followed the Bassa inside the house, which was magnificently furnished. At one end of a large, brilliantly-lighted room a lady of about thirty-five years old reclined on a couch, still beautiful in spite of the sad expression of her face.
'Incomparable Zambac,' said the Bassa, going up to her, 'give me your thanks, for here is the lost son for whom you have shed so many tears,' but before his mother could clasp him in her arms Neangir had flung himself at her feet.'Let the whole house rejoice with me,' continued the Bassa, 'and let my two sons Ibrahim and Hassan be told, that they may embrace their brother.'
'Alas! my lord!' said Zambac, 'do you forget that this is the hour when Hassan weeps on his hand, and Ibrahim gathers up his coral beads?'
'Let the command of the Prophet be obeyed,' replied the Bassa; 'then we will wait till the evening.'
'Sumi,' answered the Bassa, 'I owe you already the happiness of my life; come with me then, and the sight of my unhappy sons will tell you of our trouble better than any words of mine.'
The Bassa rose from his divan and drew aside the hangings leading to a large hall, closely followed by Neangir and Sumi. There they saw two young men, one about seventeen, and the other nineteen years of age. The younger was seated before a table, his forehead resting on his right hand, which he was watering with his tears. He raised his head for a moment when his father entered, and Neangir and Sumi both saw that this hand was of ebony.
The other young man was occupied busily in collecting coral beads which were scattered all over the floor of the room, and as he picked them up he placed them on the same table where his brother was sitting. He had already gathered together ninety-eight beads, and thought they were all there, when they suddenly rolled off the table and he had to begin his work over again.
'Do you see,' whispered the Bassa, 'for three hours daily one collects these coral beads, and for the same space of time the other laments over his hand which has become black, and I am wholly ignorant what is the cause of either misfortune.'
'Do not let us stay here,' said Sumi, 'our presence must add to their grief. But permit me to fetch the Book of Spells, which I feel sure will tell us not only the cause of their malady but also its cure.'
The Bassa readily agreed to Sumi's proposal, but Neangir objected strongly. 'If Sumi leaves us,' he said to his father, 'I shall not see my beloved Argentine when she returns tonight with the fair Aurora. And life is an eternity till I behold her.''Be comforted,' replied Sumi. 'I will be back before sunset; and I leave you my adored Izaf as a pledge.'
Scarcely had the Jewess left Neangir, when the old female slave entered the hall where the three Jews still remained carefully guarded, followed by a man whose splendid dress prevented Neangir from recognising at first as the person in whose house he had dined two days before. But the woman he knew at once to be the nurse of Zelida.
He started eagerly forward, but before he had time to speak the slave turned to the soldier she was conducting. 'My lord,' she said, 'those are the men; I have tracked them from the house of the Cadi to this palace. They are the same; I am not mistaken, strike and avenge yourself.'
As he listened the face of the stranger grew scarlet with anger. He drew his sword and in another moment would have rushed on the Jews, when Neangir and the slaves of the Bassa seized hold of him.'What are you doing?' cried Neangir. 'How dare you attack those whom the Bassa has taken under his protection?'
'Ah, my son,' replied the soldier, 'the Bassa would withdraw his protection if he knew that these wretches have robbed me of all I have dearest in the world. He knows them as little as he knows you.''But he knows me very well,' replied Neangir, 'for he has recognised me as his son. Come with me now into his presence.' The stranger bowed and passed through the curtain held back by Neangir, whose surprise was great at seeing his father spring forward and clasp the soldier in his arms.
'What! is it you, my dear Siroco?' cried he. 'I believed you had been slain in that awful battle when the followers of the Prophet were put to flight. But why do your eyes kindle with the flames they shot forth on that fearful day? Calm yourself and tell me what I can do to help you. See, I have found my son, let that be a good omen for your happiness also.'
'I did not guess,' answered Siroco, 'that the son you have so long mourned had come back to you. Some days since the Prophet appeared to me in a dream, floating in a circle of light, and he said to me, "Go to-morrow at sunset to the Galata Gate, and there you will find a young man whom you must bring home with you. He is the second son of your old friend the Bassa of the Sea, and that you may make no mistake, put your fingers in his turban and you will feel the plaque on which my name is engraved in seven different languages."'
'I did as I was bid,' went on Siroco, 'and so charmed was I with his face and manner that I caused him to fall in love with Argentine, whose portrait I gave him. But at the moment when I was rejoicing in the happiness before me, and looking forward to the pleasure of restoring you your son, some drops of the elixir of love were spilt on the table, and caused a thick vapour to arise, which hid everything. When it had cleared away he was gone. This morning my old slave informed me that she had discovered the traitors who had stolen my daughters from me, and I hastened hither to avenge them. But I place myself in your hands, and will follow your counsel.'
'Fate will favour us, I am sure,' said the Bassa, 'for this very night I expect to secure both the silver and the gold watch. So send at once and pray Zelida to join us.' A rustling of silken stuffs drew their eyes to the door, and Ibrahim and Hassan, whose daily penance had by this time been performed, entered to embrace their brother. Neangir and Hassan, who had also drunk of the elixir of love, could think of nothing but the beautiful ladies who had captured their hearts, while the spirits of Ibrahim had been cheered by the news that the daughter of Moizes hoped to find in the Book of Spells some charm to deliver him from collecting the magic beads.It was some hours later that Sumi returned, bringing with her the sacred book.
'See,' she said, beckoning to Hassan, 'your destiny is written here.' And Hassan stooped and read these words in Hebrew. 'His right hand has become black as ebony from touching the fat of an impure animal, and will remain so till the last of its race is drowned in the sea.'
'Alas!' sighed the unfortunate youth. 'It now comes back to my memory. One day the slave of Zambac was making a cake. She warned me not to touch, as the cake was mixed with lard, but I did not heed her, and in an instant my hand became the ebony that it now is.'
'Holy dervish!' exclaimed the Bassa, 'how true were your words! My son has neglected the advice you gave him on presenting him the bracelet, and he has been severely punished. But tell me, O wise Sumi, where I can find the last of the accursed race who has brought this doom on my son?''It is written here,' replied Sumi, turning over some leaves. 'The little black pig is in the pink bag carried by the two Circassians.' When he read this the Bassa sank on his cushions in despair.
'Ah,' he said, 'that is the bag that was offered me this morning for three hundred sequins. Those must be the women who caused Izif and Izouf to dance, and took from them the two talismans of the daughters of Siroco. They only can break the spell that has been cast on us. Let them be found and I will gladly give them the half of my possessions. Idiot that I was to send them away!'
While the Bassa was bewailing his folly, Ibrahim in his turn had opened the book, and blushed deeply as he read the words: 'The chaplet of beads has been defiled by the game of "Odd and Even." Its owner has tried to cheat by concealing one of the numbers. Let the faithless Moslem seek for ever the missing bead.'
'O heaven,' cried Ibrahim, 'that unhappy day rises up before me. I had cut the thread of the chaplet, while playing with Aurora. Holding the ninety-nine beads in my hand she guessed "Odd," and in order that she might lose I let one bead fall from my hand. Since then I have sought it daily, but it never has been found.'
'Holy dervish!' cried the Bassa, 'how true were your words! From the time that the sacred chaplet was no longer complete, my son has borne the penalty. But may not the Book of Spells teach us how to deliver Ibrahim also?'
'Listen,' said Sumi, 'this is what I find: "The coral bead lies in the fifth fold of the dress of yellow brocade."' 'Ah, what good fortune!' exclaimed the Bassa; 'we shall shortly see the beautiful Aurora, and Ibrahim shall at once search in the fifth fold of her yellow brocade. For it is she no doubt of whom the book speaks.'
As the Jewess closed the Book of Moizes, Zelida appeared, accompanied by a whole train of slaves and her old nurse. At her entrance Hassan, beside himself with joy, flung himself on his knees and kissed her hand.'My lord,' he said to the Bassa, 'pardon me these transports. No elixir of love was needed to inflame my heart! Let the marriage rite make us speedily one.'
'My son, are you mad?' asked the Bassa. 'As long as the misfortunes of your brothers last, shall you alone be happy? And whoever heard of a bridegroom with a black hand? Wait yet a little longer, till the black pig is drowned in the sea.'
'Yes! dear Hassan,' said Zelida, 'our happiness will be increased tenfold when my sisters have regained their proper shapes. And here is the elixir which I have brought with me, so that their joy may equal ours.' And she held out the flask to the Bassa, who had it closed in his presence.
Zambac was filled with joy at the sight of Zelida, and embraced her with delight. Then she led the way into the garden, and invited all her friends to seat themselves under the thick overhanging branches of a splendid jessamine tree. No sooner, however, were they comfortably settled, than they were astonished to hear a man's voice, speaking angrily on the other side of the wall.'Ungrateful girls!' it said, 'is this the way you treat me? Let me hide myself for ever! This cave is no longer dark enough or deep enough for me.'
A burst of laughter was the only answer, and the voice continued, 'What have I done to earn such contempt? Was this what you promised me when I managed to get for you the talismans of beauty? Is this the reward I have a right to expect when I have bestowed on you the little black pig, who is certain to bring you good luck?'
At these words the curiosity of the listeners passed all bounds, and the Bassa commanded his slaves instantly to tear down the wall. It was done, but the man was nowhere to be seen, and there were only two girls of extraordinary beauty, who seemed quite at their ease, and came dancing gaily on to the terrace. With them was an old slave in whom the Bassa recognised Gouloucou, the former guardian of Neangir.
Gouloucou shrank with fear when he saw the Bassa, as he expected nothing less than death at his hands for allowing Neangir to be snatched away. But the Bassa made him signs of forgiveness, and asked him how he had escaped death when he had thrown himself from the cliff. Gouloucou explained that he had been picked up by a dervish who had cured his wounds, and had then given him as slave to the two young ladies now before the company, and in their service he had remained ever since.
'My lord,' answered one of the ladies, 'when at your command the wall was thrown down, the man whom you heard speaking was so frightened at the noise that he caught up the pig and ran away.''Let him be pursued instantly,' cried the Bassa; but the ladies smiled.
'Do not be alarmed, my lord,' said one, 'he is sure to return. Only give orders that the entrance to the cave shall be guarded, so that when he is once in he shall not get out again.'
By this time night was falling and they all went back to the palace, where coffee and fruits were served in a splendid gallery, near the women's apartments. The Bassa then ordered the three Jews to be brought before him, so that he might see whether these were the two damsels who had forced them to dance at the inn, but to his great vexation it was found that when their guards had gone to knock down the wall the Jews had escaped.
At this news the Jewess Sumi turned pale, but glancing at the Book of Spells her face brightened, and she said half aloud, 'There is no cause for disquiet; they will capture the dervish,' while Hassan lamented loudly that as soon as fortune appeared on one side she fled on the other!
On hearing this reflection one of the Bassa's pages broke into a laugh. 'This fortune comes to us dancing my lord,' said he, 'and the other leaves us on crutches. Do not be afraid. She will not go very far.'The Bassa, shocked at his impertinent interference, desired him to leave the room and not to come back till he was sent for. 'My lord shall be obeyed,' said the page, 'but when I return, it shall be in such good company that you will welcome me gladly.' So saying, he went out.
When they were alone, Neangir turned to the fair strangers and implored their help. 'My brothers and myself,' he cried, 'are filled with love for three peerless maidens, two of whom are under a cruel spell. If their fate happened to be in your hands, would you not do all in your power to restore them to happiness and liberty?'
But the young man's appeal only stirred the two ladies to anger. 'What,' exclaimed one, 'are the sorrows of lovers to us? Fate has deprived us of our lovers, and if it depends on us the whole world shall suffer as much as we do!'
The Story of the Fair Circassians
'We were born in Circassia of poor people, and my sister's name is Tezila and mine Dely. Having nothing but our beauty to help us in life, we were carefully trained in all the accomplishments that give pleasure. We were both quick to learn, and from our childhood could play all sorts of instruments, could sing, and above all could dance. We were besides, lively and merry, as in spite of our misfortunes we are to this day.
'We were easily pleased and quite content with our lives at home, when one morning the officials who had been sent to find wives for the Sultan saw us, and were struck with our beauty. We had always expected something of the sort, and were resigned to our lot, when we chanced to see two young men enter our house. The elder, who was about twenty years of age, had black hair and very bright eyes. The other could not have been more than fifteen, and was so fair that he might easily have passed for a girl.
'They knocked at the door with a timid air and begged our parents to give them shelter, as they had lost their way. After some hesitation their request was granted, and they were invited into the room in which we were. And if our parents' hearts were touched by their beauty, our own were not any harder, so that our departure for the palace, which had been arranged for the next day, suddenly became intolerable to us.'Night came, and I awoke from my sleep to find the younger of the two strangers sitting at my bedside and felt him take my hand.
'"Fear nothing, lovely Dely," he whispered, "from one who never knew love till he saw you. My name," he went on, "is Prince Delicate, and I am the son of the king of the Isle of Black Marble. My friend, who travels with me, is one of the richest nobles of my country, and the secrets which he knows are the envy of the Sultan himself. And we left our native country because my father wished me to marry a lady of great beauty, but with one eye a trifle smaller than the other."
'My vanity was flattered at so speedy a conquest, and I was charmed with the way the young man had declared his passion. I turned my eyes slowly on him, and the look I gave him caused him almost to lose his senses. He fell fainting forward, and I was unable to move till Tezila, who had hastily put on a dress, ran to my assistance together with Thelamis, the young noble of whom the Prince had spoken.
'As soon as we were all ourselves again we began to bewail our fate, and the journey that we were to take that very day to Constantinople. But we felt a little comforted when Thelamis assured us that he and the prince would follow in our steps, and would somehow contrive to speak to us. Then they kissed our hands, and left the house by a side-way.
'A few moments later our parents came to tell us that the escort had arrived, and having taken farewell of them we mounted the camels, and took our seats in a kind of box that was fixed to the side of the animal. These boxes were large enough for us to sleep in comfortably, and as there was a window in the upper part, we were able to see the country through which we passed.
'For several days we journeyed on, feeling sad and anxious as to what might become of us, when one day as I was looking out of the window of our room, I heard my name called, and beheld a beautifully dressed girl jumping out of the box on the other side of our camel. One glance told me that it was the prince, and my heart bounded with joy. It was, he said, Thelamis's idea to disguise him like this, and that he himself had assumed the character of a slave-dealer who was taking this peerless maiden as a present to the Sultan. Thelamis had also persuaded the officer in charge of the caravan to let him hire the vacant box, so it was easy for the prince to scramble out of his own window and approach ours.
This ingenious trick enchanted us, but our agreeable conversation was soon interrupted by the attendants, who perceived that the camel was walking in a crooked manner and came to find out what was wrong. Luckily they were slow in their movements, and the prince had just time to get back to his own box and restore the balance, before the trick was discovered.
'But neither the prince nor his friend had any intention of allowing us to enter the Sultan's palace, though it was difficult to know how we were to escape, and what was to become of us when once we had escaped. At length, one day as we were drawing near Constantinople, we learned from the prince that Thelamis had made acquaintance with a holy dervish whom he had met on the road, and had informed him that we were his sisters, who were being sold as slaves against his will. The good man was interested in the story, and readily agreed to find us shelter if we could manage to elude the watchfulness of our guards. The risk was great, but it was our only chance.
'That night, when the whole caravan was fast asleep, we raised the upper part of our boxes and by the help of Thelamis climbed silently out. We next went back some distance along the way we had come, then, striking into another road, reached at last the retreat prepared for us by the dervish. Here we found food and rest, and I need not say what happiness it was to be free once more.
'The dervish soon became a slave to our beauty, and the day after our escape he proposed that we should allow him to conduct us to an inn situated at a short distance, where we should find two Jews, owners of precious talismans which did not really belong to them. "Try," said the dervish, "by some means to get possession of them."
'The inn, though not on the direct road to Constantinople, was a favourite one with merchants, owing to the excellence of the food, and on our arrival we discovered at least six or eight other people who had stopped for refreshment. They greeted us politely, and we sat down to table together.
'In a short time the two men described by the dervish entered the room, and at a sign from him my sister made room at her side for one, while I did the same for the other.
'Now the dervish had happened to mention that "their brother had danced." At the moment we paid no attention to this remark, but it came back to our minds now, and we determined that they should dance also. To accomplish this we used all our arts and very soon bent them to our wills, so that they could refuse us nothing. At the end of the day we remained possessors of the talismans and had left them to their fate, while the prince and Thelamis fell more in love with us than ever, and declared that we were more lovely than any women in the world.
'The sun had set before we quitted the inn, and we had made no plans as to where we should go next, so we readily consented to the prince's proposal that we should embark without delay for the Isle of Black Marble. What a place it was! Rocks blacker than jet towered above its shores and shed thick darkness over the country. Our sailors had not been there before and were nearly as frightened as ourselves, but thanks to Thelamis, who undertook to be our pilot, we landed safely on the beach.
'When we had left the coast behind us, with its walls of jet, we entered a lovely country where the fields were greener, the streams clearer, and the sun brighter than anywhere else. The people crowded round to welcome their prince, whom they loved dearly, but they told him that the king was still full of rage at his son's refusal to marry his cousin the Princess Okimpare, and also at his flight. Indeed, they all begged him not to visit the capital, as his life would hardly be safe. So, much as I should have enjoyed seeing the home of my beloved prince, I implored him to listen to this wise advice and to let us all go to Thelamis's palace in the middle of a vast forest.
'To my sister and myself, who had been brought up in a cottage, this house of Thelamis's seemed like fairyland. It was built of pink marble, so highly polished that the flowers and streams surrounding it were reflected as in a mirror. One set of rooms was furnished especially for me in yellow silk and silver, to suit my black hair. Fresh dresses were provided for us every day, and we had slaves to wait on us. Ah, why could not this happiness have lasted for ever!
'The peace of our lives was troubled by Thelamis's jealousy of my sister, as he could not endure to see her on friendly terms with the prince, though knowing full well that his heart was mine. Every day we had scenes of tender reproaches and of explanations, but Tezila's tears never failed to bring Thelamis to his knees, with prayers for forgiveness.
'We had been living in this way for some months when one day the news came that the king had fallen dangerously ill. I begged the prince to hurry at once to the Court, both to see his father and also to show himself to the senators and nobles, but as his love for me was greater than his desire of a crown, he hesitated as if foreseeing all that afterwards happened. At last Tezila spoke to him so seriously in Thelamis's presence, that he determined to go, but promised that he would return before night.
'Night came but no prince, and Tezila, who had been the cause of his departure, showed such signs of uneasiness that Thelamis's jealousy was at once awakened. As for me, I cannot tell what I suffered. Not being able to sleep I rose from my bed and wandered into the forest, along the road which he had taken so many hours before. Suddenly I heard in the distance the sound of a horse's hoofs, and in a few moments the prince had flung himself down and was by my side. "Ah, how I adore you!" he exclaimed; "Thelamis's love will never equal mine." The words were hardly out of his mouth when I heard a slight noise behind, and before we could turn round both our heads were rolling in front of us, while the voice of Thelamis cried:
'"Alas," replied my head in weak tones, "I am not Tezila, but Dely, whose life you have destroyed, as well as that of your friend." At this Thelamis paused and seemed to reflect for an instant.
'"Be not frightened," he said more quietly, "I can make you whole again," and laying a magic powder on our tongues he placed our heads on our necks. In the twinkling of an eye our heads were joined to our bodies without leaving so much as a scar; only that, blinded with rage as he still was, Thelamis had placed my head on the prince's body, and his on mine!
'I cannot describe to you how odd we both felt at this strange transformation. We both instinctively put up our hands--he to feel his hair, which was, of course, dressed like a woman's, and I to raise the turban which pressed heavily on my forehead. But we did not know what had happened to us, for the night was still dark.
'At this point Tezila appeared, followed by a troop of slaves bearing flowers. It was only by the light of their torches that we understood what had occurred. Indeed the first thought of both of us was that we must have changed clothes.
'Now in spite of what we may say, we all prefer our own bodies to those of anybody else, so notwithstanding our love for each other, at first we could not help feeling a little cross with Thelamis. However, so deep was the prince's passion for me, that very soon he began to congratulate himself on the change. " My happiness is perfect," he said; "my heart, beautiful Dely, has always been yours, and now I have your head also."
'But though the prince made the best of it, Thelamis was much ashamed of his stupidity. "I have," he said hesitatingly, "two other pastilles which have the same magic properties as those I used before. Let me cut off your heads again, and that will put matters straight." The proposal sounded tempting, but was a little risky, and after consulting together we decided to let things remain as they were. "Do not blame me then," continued Thelamis, "if you will not accept my offer. But take the two pastilles, and if it ever happens that you are decapitated a second time, make use of them in the way I have shown you, and each will get back his own head." So saying he presented us with the pastilles, and we all returned to the castle.
'However, the troubles caused by the unfortunate exchange were only just beginning. My head, without thinking what it was doing, led the prince's body to my apartments. But my women, only looking at the dress, declared I had mistaken the corridor, and called some slaves to conduct me to his highness's rooms. This was bad enough, but when--as it was still night my servants began to undress me, I nearly fainted from surprise and confusion, and no doubt the prince's head was suffering in the same manner at the other end of the castle!
'By the next morning--you will easily guess that we slept but little--we had grown partly accustomed to our strange situation, and when we looked in the mirror, the prince had become brown-skinned and black-haired, while my head was covered with his curly golden locks. And after that first day, everyone in the palace had become so accustomed to the change that they thought no more about it.
'Some weeks after this, we heard that the king of the Isle of Black Marble was dead. The prince's head, which once was mine, was full of ambitious desires, and he longed to ride straight to the capital and proclaim himself king. But then came the question as to whether the nobles would recognise the prince with a girl's body, and indeed, when we came to think of it, which was prince and which was girl?
'At last, after much argument, my head carried the day and we set out; but only to find that the king had declared the Princess Okimpare his successor. The greater part of the senators and nobles openly professed that they would much have preferred the rightful heir, but as they could not recognise him either in the prince or me, they chose to consider us as impostors and threw us into prison.
'A few days later Tezila and Thelamis, who had followed us to the capital, came to tell us that the new queen had accused us of high treason, and had herself been present at our trial--which was conducted without us. They had been in mortal terror as to what would be our sentence, but by a piece of extraordinary luck we had been condemned to be beheaded.'I told my sister that I did not see exactly where the luck came in, but Thelamis interrupted me rudely:
'"What!" he cried, "of course I shall make use of the pastilles, and--" but here the officers arrived to lead us to the great square where the execution was to take place--for Okimpare was determined there should be no delay.
'The square was crowded with people of all ages and all ranks, and in the middle a platform had been erected on which was the scaffold, with the executioner, in a black mask, standing by. At a sign from him I mounted first, and in a moment my head was rolling at his feet. With a bound my sister and Thelamis were beside me, and like lightning Thelamis seized the sabre from the headsman, and cut off the head of the prince. And before the multitude had recovered from their astonishment at these strange proceedings, our bodies were joined to our right heads, and the pastilles placed on our tongues. Then Thelamis led the prince to the edge of the platform and presented him to the people, saying, "Behold your lawful king."
'Shouts of joy rent the air at the sound of Thelamis's words, and the noise reached Okimpare in the palace. Smitten with despair at the news, she fell down unconscious on her balcony, and was lifted up by the slaves and taken back to her own house.'Meanwhile our happiness was all turned to sorrow. I had rushed up to the prince to embrace him fondly, when he suddenly grew pale and staggered.
'"I die faithful to you," he murmured, turning his eyes towards me, "and I die a king!" and leaning his head on my shoulder he expired quietly, for one of the arteries in his neck had been cut through.
'Not knowing what I did I staggered towards the sabre which was lying near me, with the intention of following my beloved prince as speedily as possible. And when Thelamis seized my hand (but only just in time), in my madness I turned the sabre upon him, and he fell struck through the heart at my feet.'
The whole company were listening to the story with breathless attention, when it became plain that Dely could go no further, while Tezila had flung herself on a heap of cushions and hidden her face. Zambac ordered her women to give them all the attention possible, and desired they should be carried into her own rooms.
When the two sisters were in this condition, Ibrahim, who was a very prudent young man, suggested to his parents that, as the two Circassians were both unconscious, it would be an excellent opportunity to search them and see if the talismans belonging to the daughters of Siroco were concealed about their persons. But the Bassa, shocked at the notion of treating his guests in so inhospitable a manner, refused to do anything of the kind, adding that the next day he hoped to persuade them to give the talismans up of their own free will.
By this time it was nearly midnight and Neangir, who was standing near the Jewess Sumi, drew out the portrait of Argentine, and heard with delight that she was even more beautiful than her picture. Everyone was waiting on tip-toe for the appearance of the two watches, who were expected when the clock struck twelve to come in search of Sumi, and that there might be no delay the Bassa ordered all the doors to be flung wide open. It was done, and there entered not the longed-for watches, but the page who had been sent away in disgrace.
Then the Bassa arose in wrath. 'Azemi,' he said, 'did I not order you to stand no more in my presence?'
'My lord,' replied Azemi, modestly, 'I was hidden outside the door, listening to the tale of the two Circassians. And as I know you are fond of stories, give me also leave to tell you one. I promise you it shall not be long.''Speak on,' replied the Bassa, 'but take heed what you say.'
'My lord,' began Azemi, 'this morning I was walking in the town when I noticed a man going in the same direction followed by a slave. He entered a baker's shop, where he bought some bread which he gave to the slave to carry. I watched him and saw that he purchased many other kinds of provisions at other places, and when the slave could carry no more his master commanded him to return home and have supper ready at midnight.
'When left alone the man went up the street, and turning into a jeweller's shop, brought out a watch that as far as I could see was made of silver. He walked on a few steps, then stooped and picked up a gold watch which lay at his feet. At this point I ran up and told him that if he did not give me half its price I would report him to the Cadi; he agreed, and conducting me to his house produced four hundred sequins, which he said was my share, and having got what I wanted I went away.
'As it was the hour for attending on my lord I returned home and accompanied you to the Cadi, where I heard the story of the three Jews and learned the importance of the two watches I had left at the stranger's. I hastened to his house, but he had gone out, and I could only find the slave, whom I told that I was the bearer of important news for his master. Believing me to be one of his friends, he begged me to wait, and showed me into a room where I saw the two watches lying on the table. I put them in my pocket, leaving the four hundred sequins in place of the gold watch and three gold pieces which I knew to be the price of the other. As you know the watches never remain with the person who buys them, this man may think himself very lucky to get back his money. I have wound them both up, and at this instant Aurora and Argentine are locked safely into my own room.'
Everybody was so delighted to hear this news that Azemi was nearly stifled with their embraces, and Neangir could hardly be prevented from running to break in the door, though he did not even know where the page slept.But the page begged to have the honour of fetching the ladies himself, and soon returned leading them by the hand.
For some minutes all was a happy confusion, and Ibrahim took advantage of it to fall on his knees before Aurora, and search in the fifth fold of her dress for the missing coral bead. The Book of Spells had told the truth; there it was, and as the chaplet was now complete the young man's days of seeking were over.
In the midst of the general rejoicing Hassan alone bore a gloomy face.
Supper was then served, and after they had all eaten of rare fruits which seemed to them the most delicious in the whole world, the Bassa ordered the flask containing the elixir of love to be brought and the young people to drink of it. Then their eyes shone with a new fire, and they swore to be true to each other till death.
This ceremony was scarcely over when the clock struck one, and in an instant Aurora and Argentine had vanished, and in the place where they stood lay two watches. Silence fell upon all the company--they had forgotten the enchantment; then the voice of Azemi was heard asking if he might be allowed to take charge of the watches till the next day, pledging his head to end their enchantment. With the consent of Sumi, this was granted, and the Bassa gave Azemi a purse containing a thousand sequins, as a reward for the services he had already rendered to them. After this everybody went to his own apartment.
Azemi had never possessed so much money before, and never closed his eyes for joy the whole night long. Very early he got up and went into the garden, thinking how he could break the enchantment of the daughters of Siroco. Suddenly the soft tones of a woman fell on his ear, and peeping through the bushes he saw Tezila, who was arranging flowers in her sister's hair. The rustling of the leaves caused Dely to start; she jumped up as if to fly, but Azemi implored her to remain and begged her to tell him what happened to them after the death of their lovers, and how they had come to find the dervish.
'The punishment decreed to us by the Queen Okimpare,' answered Dely, 'was that we were to dance and sing in the midst of our sorrow, at a great fete which was to be held that very day for all her people. This cruel command nearly turned our brains, and we swore a solemn oath to make all lovers as wretched as we were ourselves. In this design we succeeded so well that in a short time the ladies of the capital came in a body to Okimpare, and prayed her to banish us from the kingdom, before their lives were made miserable for ever. She consented, and commanded us to be placed on board a ship, with our slave Gouloucou.'On the shore we saw an old man who was busily engaged in drowning some little black pigs, talking to them all the while, as if they could understand him. '"Accursed race," said he, "it is you who have caused all the misfortunes of him to whom
I gave the magic bracelet. Perish all of you!"
'We drew near from curiosity, and recognised in him the dervish who had sheltered us on our first escape from the caravan.
'When the old man discovered who we were he was beside himself with pleasure, and offered us a refuge in the cave where he lived. We gladly accepted his offer, and to the cave we all went, taking with us the last little pig, which he gave us as a present.'"The Bassa of the Sea," he added, "will pay you anything you like to ask for it."
'Without asking why it was so precious I took the pig and placed it in my work bag, where it has been ever since. Only yesterday we offered it to the Bassa, who laughed at us, and this so enraged us against the dervish that we cut off his beard when he was asleep, and now he dare not show himself.'
'Ah,' exclaimed the page, 'it is not fitting that such beauty should waste itself in making other people miserable. Forget the unhappy past and think only of the future. And accept, I pray you, this watch, to mark the brighter hours in store.' So saying he laid the watch upon her knee. Then he turned to Tezila. 'And you fair maiden, permit me to offer you this other watch. True it is only of silver, but it is all I have left to give. And I feel quite sure that you must have somewhere a silver seal, that will be exactly the thing to go with it.''Why, so you have,' cried Dely; 'fasten your silver seal to your watch, and I will hang my gold one on to mine.'
The seals were produced, and, as Azemi had guessed, they were the talismans which the two Circassians had taken from Izif and Izouf, mounted in gold and silver. As quick as lightning the watches slid from the hands of Tezila and her sister, and Aurora and Argentine stood before them, each with her talisman on her finger.
At first they seemed rather confused themselves at the change which had taken place, and the sunlight which they had not seen for so long, but when gradually they understood that their enchantment had come to an end, they could find no words to express their happiness.
The Circassians could with difficulty be comforted for the loss of the talismans, but Aurora and Argentine entreated them to dry their tears, as their father, Siroco, who was governor of Alexandria, would not fail to reward them in any manner they wished. This promise was soon confirmed by Siroco himself, who came into the garden with the Bassa and his two sons, and was speedily joined by the ladies of the family. Only Hassan was absent. It was the hour in which he was condemned to bewail his ebony hand.
To the surprise of all a noise was at this moment heard in a corner of the terrace, and Hassan himself appeared surrounded by slaves, clapping his hands and shouting with joy. 'I was weeping as usual,' cried he, 'when all at once the tears refused to come to my eyes, and on looking down at my hand I saw that its blackness had vanished. And now, lovely Zelida, nothing prevents me any longer from offering you the hand, when the heart has been yours always.'
But though Hassan never thought of asking or caring what had caused his cure, the others were by no means so indifferent. It was quite clear that the little black pig must be dead-but how, and when? To this the slaves answered that they had seen that morning a man pursued by three others, and that he had taken refuge in the cavern which they had been left to guard. Then, in obedience to orders, they had rolled a stone over the entrance.
Piercing shrieks interrupted their story, and a man, whom the Circassians saw to be the old dervish, rushed round the corner of the terrace with the three Jews behind him. When the fugitive beheld so many people collected together, he turned down another path, but the slaves captured all four and brought them before their master.
What was the surprise of the Bassa when he beheld in the old dervish the man who had given the chaplet, the copper plaque, and the bracelet to his three sons. 'Fear nothing, holy father,' he said, 'you are safe with me. But tell us, how came you here?'
'My lord,' explained the dervish, 'when my beard was cut off during my sleep by the two Circassians, I was ashamed to appear before the eyes of men, and fled, bearing with me the pink silk bag. In the night these three men fell in with me, and we passed some time in conversation, but at dawn, when it was light enough to see each other's faces, one of them exclaimed that I was the dervish travelling with the two Circassians who had stolen the talismans from the Jews. I jumped up and tried to fly to my cave, but they were too quick for me, and just as we reached your garden they snatched the bag which contained the little black pig and flung it into the sea. By this act, which delivers your son, I would pray you to forgive them for any wrongs they may have done you--nay more, that you will recompense them for it.' The Bassa granted the holy man's request, and seeing that the two Jews had fallen victims to the charms of the Circassian ladies, gave his consent to their union, which was fixed to take place at the same time as that of Izaf with the wise Sumi. The Cadi was sent for, and the Jews exchanged the hats of their race for the turbans of the followers of the Prophet. Then, after so many misfortunes, the Bassa's three sons entreated their father to delay their happiness no longer, and the six marriages were performed by the Cadi at the hour of noon.[Cabinet des Fees.]
The Jackal and the Spring
Once upon a time all the streams and rivers ran so dry that the animals did not know how to get water. After a very long search, which had been quite in vain, they found a tiny spring, which only wanted to be dug deeper so as to yield plenty of water. So the beasts said to each other, 'Let us dig a well, and then we shall not fear to die of thirst;' and they all consented except the jackal, who hated work of any kind, and generally got somebody to do it for him.
When they had finished their well, they held a council as to who should be made the guardian of the well, so that the jackal might not come near it, for, they said, 'he would not work, therefore he shall not drink.'After some talk it was decided that the rabbit should be left in charge; then all the other beasts went back to their homes.
When they were out of sight the jackal arrived. 'Good morning! Good morning, rabbit!' and the rabbit politely said, 'Good morning!' Then the jackal unfastened the little bag that hung at his side, and pulled out of it a piece of honeycomb which he began to eat, and turning to the rabbit he remarked:'As you see, rabbit, I am not thirsty in the least, and this is nicer than any water.' 'Give me a bit,' asked the rabbit. So the jackal handed him a very little morsel. 'Oh, how good it is!' cried the rabbit; 'give me a little more, dear friend!' But the jackal answered, 'If you really want me to give you some more, you must have your paws tied behind you, and lie on your back, so that I can pour it into your mouth.'
The rabbit did as he was bid, and when he was tied tight and popped on his back, the jackal ran to the spring and drank as much as he wanted. When he had quite finished he returned to his den.In the evening the animals all came back, and when they saw the rabbit lying with his paws tied, they said to him: 'Rabbit, how did you let yourself be taken in like this?' 'It was all the fault of the jackal,' replied the rabbit; 'he tied me up like this, and told me he would give me something nice to eat. It was all a trick just to get at our water.'
'Rabbit, you are no better than an idiot to have let the jackal drink our water when he would not help to find it. Who shall be our next watchman? We must have somebody a little sharper than you!' and the little hare called out, 'I will be the watchman.' The following morning the animals all went their various ways, leaving the little hare to guard the spring. When they were out of sight the jackal came back. 'Good morning! good morning, little hare,' and the little hare politely said, 'Good morning.''Can you give me a pinch of snuff?' said the jackal. 'I am so sorry, but I have none,' answered the little hare.
The jackal then came and sat down by the little hare, and unfastened his little bag, pulling out of it a piece of honeycomb. He licked his lips and exclaimed, 'Oh, little hare, if you only knew how good it is!''What is it?' asked the little hare.
'It is something that moistens my throat so deliciously,' answered the jackal, 'that after I have eaten it I don't feel thirsty any more, while I am sure that all you other beasts are for ever wanting water.''Give me a bit, dear friend,' asked the little hare.
'Not so fast,' replied the jackal. 'If you really wish to enjoy what you are eating, you must have your paws tied behind you, and lie on your back, so that I can pour it into your mouth.'
'You can tie them, only be quick,' said the little hare, and when he was tied tight and popped on his back, the jackal went quietly down to the well, and drank as much as he wanted. When he had quite finished he returned to his den.
In the evening the animals all came back; and when they saw the little hare with his paws tied, they said to him: 'Little hare, how did you let yourself be taken in like this? Didn't you boast you were very sharp? You undertook to guard our water; now show us how much is left for us to drink!''It is all the fault of the jackal,' replied the little hare. 'He told me he would give me something nice to eat if I would just let him tie my hands behind my back.' Then the animals said, 'Who can we trust to mount guard now?' And the panther answered, 'Let it be the tortoise.'
The following morning the animals all went their various ways, leaving the tortoise to guard the spring. When they were out of sight the jackal came back. 'Good morning, tortoise; good morning.'But the tortoise took no notice.
'Good morning, tortoise; good morning.' But still the tortoise pretended not to hear. Then the jackal said to himself, 'Well, to-day I have only got to manage a bigger idiot than before. I shall just kick him on one side, and then go and have a drink.' So he went up to the tortoise and said to him in a soft voice, 'Tortoise! tortoise!' but the tortoise took no notice. Then the jackal kicked him out of the way, and went to the well and began to drink, but scarcely had he touched the water, than the tortoise seized him by the leg. The jackal shrieked out: 'Oh, you will break my leg!' but the tortoise only held on the tighter. The jackal then took his bag and tried to make the tortoise smell the honeycomb he had inside; but the tortoise turned away his head and smelt nothing. At last the jackal said to the tortoise, 'I should like to give you my bag and everything in it,' but the only answer the tortoise made was to grasp the jackal's leg tighter still.
So matters stood when the other animals came back. The moment he saw them, the jackal gave a violent tug, and managed to free his leg, and then took to his heels as fast as he could. And the animals all said to the tortoise:'Well done, tortoise, you have proved your courage; now we can drink from our well in peace, as you have got the better of that thieving jackal!' [Contes Populaires des Bassoutos, recueillis et traduits par E. Jacottet. Paris: Leroux, editeur.]
Once on a time there was a king who had an only daughter. He was so proud and so fond of her, that he was in constant terror that something would happen to her if she went outside the palace, and thus, owing to his great love for her, he forced her to lead the life of a prisoner, shut up within her own rooms.
The princess did not like this at all, and one day she complained about it very bitterly to her nurse. Now, the nurse was a witch, though the king did not know it. For some time she listened and tried to soothe the princess; but when she saw that she would not be comforted, she said to her: 'Your father loves you very dearly, as you know. Whatever you were to ask from him he would give you. The one thing he will not grant you is permission to leave the palace. Now, do as I tell you. Go to your father and ask him to give you a wooden wheel-barrow, and a bear's skin. When you have got them bring them to me, and I will touch them with my magic wand. The wheel-barrow will then move of itself, and will take you at full speed wherever you want to go, and the bear's skin will make such a covering for you, that no one will recognise you.'
So the princess did as the witch advised her. The king, when he heard her strange request, was greatly astonished, and asked her what she meant to do with a wheel-barrow and a bear's skin. And the princess answered, 'You never let me leave the house--at least you might grant me this request' So the king granted it, and the princess went back to her nurse, taking the barrow and the bear's skin with her.
As soon as the witch saw them, she touched them with her magic wand, and in a moment the barrow began to move about in all directions. The princess next put on the bear's skin, which so completely changed her appearance, that no one could have known that she was a girl and not a bear. In this strange attire she seated herself on the barrow, and in a few minutes she found herself far away from the palace, and moving rapidly through a great forest. Here she stopped the barrow with a sign that the witch had shown her, and hid herself and it in a thick grove of flowering shrubs.
Now it happened that the prince of that country was hunting with his dogs in the forest. Suddenly he caught sight of the bear hiding among the shrubs, and calling his dogs, hounded them on to attack it. But the girl, seeing what peril she was in, cried, 'Call off your dogs, or they will kill me. What harm have I ever done to you?' At these words, coming from a bear, the prince was so startled that for a moment he stood stock-still, then he said quite gently, 'Will you come with me? I will take you to my home.'
'I will come gladly,' replied the bear; and seating herself on the barrow it at once began to move in the direction of the prince's palace. You may imagine the surprise of the prince's mother when she saw her son return accompanied by a bear, who at once set about doing the house-work better than any servant that the queen had ever seen.
Now it happened that there were great festivities going on in the palace of a neighbouring prince, and at dinner, one day, the prince said to his mother: 'This evening there is to be a great ball, to which I must go.'
In the evening the prince set off for the ball. As soon as he had started, the bear came to the queen and implored to be allowed to go to the ball, saying that she would hide herself so well that no one would know she was there. The kind-hearted queen could not refuse her.
Then the bear ran to her barrow, threw off her bear's skin, and touched it with the magic wand that the witch had given her. In a moment the skin was changed into an exquisite ball dress woven out of moon-beams, and the wheel-barrow was changed into a carriage drawn by two prancing steeds. Stepping into the carriage the princess drove to the grand entrance of the palace. When she entered the ball-room, in her wondrous dress of moonbeams, she looked so lovely, so different from all the other guests, that everyone wondered who she was, and no one could tell where she had come from.From the moment he saw her, the prince fell desperately in love with her, and all the evening he would dance with no one else but the beautiful stranger.
When the ball was over, the princess drove away in her carriage at full speed, for she wished to get home in time to change her ball dress into the bear's skin, and the carriage into the wheel-barrow, before anyone discovered who she was.
The prince, putting spurs into his horse, rode after her, for he was determined not to let her out of his sight. But suddenly a thick mist arose and hid her from him. When he reached his home he could talk to his mother of nothing else but the beautiful stranger with whom he had danced so often, and with whom he was so much in love. And the bear beneath the table smiled to itself, and muttered: 'I am the beautiful stranger; oh, how I have taken you in!'
The next evening there was a second ball, and, as you may believe, the prince was determined not to miss it, for he thought he would once more see the lovely girl, and dance with her and talk to her, and make her talk to him, for at the first ball she had never opened her lips.
And, sure enough, as the music struck up the first dance, the beautiful stranger entered the room, looking even more radiant than the night before, for this time her dress was woven out of the rays of the sun. All evening the prince danced with her, but she never spoke a word.
When the ball was over he tried once more to follow her carriage, that he might know whence she came, but suddenly a great waterspout fell from the sky, and the blinding sheets of rain hid her from his sight.
When he reached his home he told his mother that he had again seen the lovely girl, and that this time she had been even more beautiful than the night before. And again the bear smiled beneath the table, and muttered: 'I have taken him in a second time, and he has no idea that I am the beautiful girl with whom he is so much in love.'
On the next evening, the prince returned to the palace for the third ball. And the princess went too, and this time she had changed her bear's skin into a dress woven out of the starlight, studded all over with gems, and she looked so dazzling and so beautiful, that everyone wondered at her, and said that no one so beautiful had ever been seen before. And the prince danced with her, and, though he could not induce her to speak, he succeeded in slipping a ring on her finger.
When the ball was over, he followed her carriage, and rode at such a pace that for long he kept it in sight. Then suddenly a terrible wind arose between him and the carriage, and he could not overtake it.
When he reached his home he said to his mother, 'I do not know what is to become of me; I think I shall go mad, I am so much in love with that girl, and I have no means of finding out who she is. I danced with her and I gave her a ring, and yet I do not know her name, nor where I am to find her.'Then the bear laughed beneath the table and muttered to itself.
And the prince continued: 'I am tired to death. Order some soup to be made for me, but I don't want that bear to meddle with it. Every time I speak of my love the brute mutters and laughs, and seems to mock at me. I hate the sight of the creature!'
When the soup was ready, the bear brought it to the prince; but before handing it to him, she dropped into the plate the ring the prince had given her the night before at the ball. The prince began to eat his soup very slowly and languidly, for he was sad at heart, and all his thoughts were busy, wondering how and where he could see the lovely stranger again. Suddenly he noticed the ring at the bottom of the plate. In a moment he recognised it, and was dumb with surprise.
Then he saw the bear standing beside him, looking at him with gentle, beseeching eyes, and something in the eyes of the bear made him say: 'Take off that skin, some mystery is hidden beneath it.'
And the bear's skin dropped off, and the beautiful girl stood before him, in the dress woven out of the star-light, and he saw that she was the stranger with whom he had fallen so deeply in love. And now she appeared to him a thousand times more beautiful than ever, and he led her to his mother. And the princess told them her story, and how she had been kept shut up by her father in his palace, and how she had wearied of her imprisonment. And the prince's mother loved her, and rejoiced that her son should have so good and beautiful a wife.
Once there was a woman who had no children, and this made her very unhappy. So she spoke one day to the Sunball, saying: 'Dear Sunball, send me only a little girl now, and when she is twelve years old you may take her back again.'
So soon after this the Sunball sent her a little girl, whom the woman called Letiko, and watched over with great care till she was twelve years old. Soon after that, while Letiko was away one day gathering herbs, the Sunball came to her, and said: 'Letiko, when you go home, tell your mother that she must bethink herself of what she promised me.'
Then Letiko went straight home, and said to her mother: 'While I was gathering herbs a fine tall gentleman came to me and charged me to tell you that you should remember what you promised him.'
When the woman heard that she was sore afraid, and immediately shut all the doors and windows of the house, stopped up all the chinks and holes, and kept Letiko hidden away, that the Sunball should not come and take her away. But she forgot to close up the keyhole, and through it the Sunball sent a ray into the house, which took hold of the little girl and carried her away to him.
One day, the Sunball having sent her to the straw shed to fetch straw, the girl sat down on the piles of straw and bemoaned herself, saying: 'As sighs this straw under my feet so sighs my heart after my mother.'And this caused her to be so long away that the Sunball asked her, when she came back: 'Eh, Letiko, where have you been so long?' She answered: 'My slippers are too big, and I could not go faster.' Then the Sunball made the slippers shorter.
Another time he sent her to fetch water, and when she came to the spring, she sat down and lamented, saying: 'As flows the water even so flows my heart with longing for my mother.'Thus she again remained so long away that the Sunball asked her: 'Eh, Letiko, why have you remained so long away?' And she answered: 'My petticoat is too long and hinders me in walking.'
Then the Sunball cut her petticoat to make it shorter. Another time the Sunball sent her to bring him a pair of sandals, and as the girl carried these in her hand she began to lament, saying: 'As creaks the leather so creaks my heart after my little mother.'When she came home the Sunball asked her again: 'Eh, Letiko, why do you come home so late?' 'My red hood is too wide, and falls over my eyes, therefore I could not go fast.' Then he made the hood narrower.
At last, however, the Sunball became aware how sad Letiko was. He sent her a second time to bring straw, and, slipping in after her, he heard how she lamented for her mother. Then he went home, called two foxes to him, and said: 'Will you take Letiko home?''Yes, why not?' 'But what will you eat and drink if you should become hungry and thirsty by the way?' 'We will eat her flesh and drink her blood.' When the Sunball heard that, he said: 'You are not suited for this affair.' Then he sent them away, and called two hares to him, and said: 'Will you take Letiko home to her mother?' 'Yes, why not?' 'What will you eat and drink if you should become hungry and thirsty by the way?' 'We will eat grass and drink from streamlets.' 'Then take her, and bring her home.'
Then the hares set out, taking Letiko with them, and because it was a long way to her home they became hungry by the way. Then they said to the little girl: 'Climb this tree, dear Letiko, and remain there till we have finished eating.'So Letiko climbed the tree, and the hares went grazing. It was not very long, however, before a lamia came under the tree and called out: 'Letiko, Letiko, come down and see what beautiful shoes I have on.' 'Oh! my shoes are much finer than yours.' 'Come down. I am in a hurry, for my house is not yet swept.' 'Go home and sweep it then, and come back when you are ready.' Then the lamia went away and swept her house, and when she was ready she came back and called out: 'Letiko, Letiko, come down and see what a beautiful apron I have.' 'Oh! my apron is much finer than yours.' 'If you will not come down I will cut down the tree and eat you.' 'Do so, and then eat me.'
Then the lamia hewed with all her strength at the tree, but could not cut it down. And when she saw that, she called out: 'Letiko, Letiko, come down, for I must feed my children.''Go home then and feed them, and come back when you are ready.' When the lamia was gone away, Letiko called out: 'Little hares! little hares!'
Then said one hare to the other: 'Listen, Letiko is calling;' and they both ran back to her as fast as they could go. Then Letiko came down from the tree, and they went on their way.The lamia ran as fast as she could after them, to catch them up, and when she came to a field where people were working she asked them: 'Have you seen anyone pass this way?' They answered: 'We are planting beans.' 'Oh! I did not ask about that; but if anyone had passed this way.' But the people only answered the louder: 'Are you deaf? It is beans, beans, beans we are planting.' When Letiko had nearly reached her home the dog knew her, and called out, 'Bow wow! see here comes Letiko!' And the mother said, 'Hush! thou beast of ill-omen! wilt thou make me burst with misery?' Next the cat on the roof saw her, and called out 'Miaouw! miaouw! see here comes Letiko!' And the mother said, 'Keep silence! thou beast of ill-omen! wilt thou make me burst with misery?'
Then the cock spied, and called out: 'Cock-a-doodle-do! see here comes Letiko!' And the mother said again: 'Be quiet! thou bird of ill-omen! wilt thou make me burst with misery?'
The nearer Letiko and the two hares came to the house the nearer also came the lamia, and when the hare was about to slip in by the house door she caught it by its little tail and tore it out.When the hare came in the mother stood up and said to it: 'Welcome, dear little hare; because you have brought me back Letiko I will silver your little tail.' And she did so; and lived ever after with her daughter in happiness and content.
The Daughter 0f Buk Ettemsuch
Once upon a time there lived a man who had seven daughters. For a long time they dwelt quite happily at home together, then one morning the father called them all before him and said:
'Your mother and I are going on a journey, and as we do not know how long we may be away, you will find enough provisions in the house to last you three years. But see you do not open the door to anyone till we come home again.''Very well, dear father,' replied the girls.
For two years they never left the house or unlocked the door; but one day, when they had washed their clothes, and were spreading them out on the roof to dry, the girls looked down into the street where people were walking to and fro, and across to the market, with its stalls of fresh meat, vegetables, and other nice things.'Come here,' cried one. 'It makes me quite hungry! Why should not we have our share? Let one of us go to the market, and buy meat and vegetables.' 'Oh, we mustn't do that!' said the youngest. 'You know our father forbade us to open the door till he came home again.'
Then the eldest sister sprang at her and struck her, the second spit at her, the third abused her, the fourth pushed her, the fifth flung her to the ground, and the sixth tore her clothes. Then they left her lying on the floor, and went out with a basket.
In about an hour they came back with the basket full of meat and vegetables, which they put in a pot, and set on the fire, quite forgetting that the house door stood wide open. The youngest sister, however, took no part in all this, and when dinner was ready and the table laid, she stole softly out to the entrance hall, and hid herself behind a great cask which stood in one corner.
Now, while the other sisters were enjoying their feast, a witch passed by, and catching sight of the open door, she walked in. She went up to the eldest girl, and said: 'Where shall I begin on you, you fat bolster?''You must begin,' answered she, 'with the hand which struck my little sister.' So the witch gobbled her up, and when the last scrap had disappeared, she came to the second and asked: 'Where shall I begin on you, my fat bolster?'
And the second answered, 'You must begin on my mouth, which spat on my sister.' And so on to the rest; and very soon the whole six had disappeared. And as the witch was eating the last mouthful of the last sister, the youngest, who had been crouching, frozen with horror, behind the barrel, ran out through the open door into the street. Without looking behind her, she hastened on and on, as fast as her feet would carry her, till she saw an ogre's castle standing in front of her. In a corner near the door she spied a large pot, and she crept softly up to it and pulled the cover over it, and went to sleep.
By-and-by the ogre came home. 'Fee, Fo, Fum,' cried he, 'I smell the smell of a man. What ill fate has brought him here?' And he looked through all the rooms, and found nobody. 'Where are you?' he called. 'Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm.'But the girl was still silent.
'Come out, I tell you,' repeated the ogre. 'Your life is quite safe. If you are an old man, you shall be my father. If you are a boy, you shall be my son. If your years are as many as mine, you shall be my brother. If you are an old woman, you shall be my mother. If you are a young one, you shall be my daughter. If you are middle-aged, you shall be my wife. So come out, and fear nothing.'Then the maiden came out of her hiding-place, and stood before him.
'Fear nothing,' said the ogre again; and when he went away to hunt he left her to look after the house. In the evening he returned, bringing with him hares, partridges, and gazelles, for the girl's supper; for himself he only cared for the flesh of men, which she cooked for him. He also gave into her charge the keys of six rooms, but the key of the seventh he kept himself.And time passed on, and the girl and the ogre still lived together. She called him 'Father,' and he called her 'Daughter,' and never once did he speak roughly to her. One day the maiden said to him, 'Father, give me the key of the upper chamber.' 'No, my daughter,' replied the ogre. 'There is nothing there that is any use to you.' 'But I want the key,' she repeated again.
However the ogre took no notice, and pretended not to hear. The girl began to cry, and said to herself: 'To-night, when he thinks I am asleep, I will watch and see where he hides it;' and after she and the ogre had supped, she bade him good-night, and left the room. In a few minutes she stole quietly back, and watched from behind a curtain. In a little while she saw the ogre take the key from his pocket, and hide it in a hole in the ground before he went to bed. And when all was still she took out the key, and went back to the house. The next morning the ogre awoke with the first ray of light, and the first thing he did was to look for the key. It was gone, and he guessed at once what had become of it.
But instead of getting into a great rage, as most ogres would have done, he said to himself, 'If I wake the maiden up I shall only frighten her. For to-day she shall keep the key, and when I return to-night it will be time enough to take it from her.' So he went off to hunt.
The moment he was safe out of the way, the girl ran upstairs and opened the door of the room, which was quite bare. The one window was closed, and she threw back the lattice and looked out. Beneath lay a garden which belonged to the prince, and in the garden was an ox, who was drawing up water from the well all by himself --for there was nobody to be seen anywhere. The ox raised his head at the noise the girl made in opening the lattice, and said to her, 'Good morning, O daughter of Buk Ettemsuch! Your father is feeding you up till you are nice and fat, and then he will put you on a spit and cook you.'These words so frightened the maiden that she burst into tears and ran out of the room. All day she wept, and when the ogre came home at night, no supper was ready for him. 'What are you crying for?' said he. 'Where is my supper, and is it you who have opened the upper chamber?' 'Yes, I opened it,' answered she. 'And what did the ox say to you?' 'He said, "Good morning, O daughter of Buk Ettemsuch. Your father is feeding you up till you are nice and fat, and then he will put you on a spit and cook you."'
'Well, to-morrow you can go to the window and say, "My father is feeding me up till I am nice and fat, but he does not mean to eat me. If I had one of your eyes I would use it for a mirror, and look at myself before and behind; and your girths should be loosened, and you should be blind--seven days and seven nights."'
'All right,' replied the girl, and the next morning, when the ox spoke to her, she answered him as she had been told, and he fell down straight upon the ground, and lay there seven days and seven nights. But the flowers in the garden withered, for there was no one to water them.
When the prince came into his garden he found nothing but yellow stalks; in the midst of them the ox was lying. With a blow from his sword he killed the animal, and, turning to his attendants, he said, 'Go and fetch another ox!' And they brought in a great beast, and he drew the water out of the well, and the flowers revived, and the grass grew green again. Then the prince called his attendants and went away.
The next morning the girl heard the noise of the waterwheel, and she opened the lattice and looked out of the window.
And the maiden answered: 'My father is feeding me up till I am nice and fat, but he does not mean to eat me. If I had one of your eyes I would use it for a mirror, and look at myself before and behind; and your girths should be loosened, and you should be blind-seven days and seven nights.'
Directly she uttered these words the ox fell to the ground and lay there, seven days and seven nights. Then he arose and began to draw the water from the well. He had only turned the wheel once or twice, when the prince took it into his head to visit his garden and see how the new ox was getting on. When he entered the ox was working busily; but in spite of that the flowers and grass were dried up. And the prince drew his sword, and rushed at the ox to slay him, as he had done the other. But the ox fell on his knees and said:'My lord, only spare my life, and let me tell you how it happened.' 'How what happened?' asked the prince.
'My lord, a girl looked out of that window and spoke a few words to me, and I fell to the ground. For seven days and seven nights I lay there, unable to move. But, O my lord, it is not given to us twice to behold beauty such as hers.''It is a lie,' said the prince. 'An ogre dwells there. Is it likely that he keeps a maiden in his upper chamber?' 'Why not?' replied the ox. 'But if you come here at dawn to-morrow, and hide behind that tree, you will see for yourself.' 'So I will,' said the prince; 'and if I find that you have not spoken truth, I will kill you.' The prince left the garden, and the ox went on with his work. Next morning the prince came early to the garden, and found the ox busy with the waterwheel. 'Has the girl appeared yet?' he asked. 'Not yet; but she will not be long. Hide yourself in the branches of that tree, and you will soon see her.'
The prince did as he was told, and scarcely was he seated when the maiden threw open the lattice.
'Good morning, O daughter of Buk Ettemsuch!' said the ox. 'Your father is feeding you up till you are nice and fat, and then he will put you on a spit and cook you.'
'My father is feeding me up till I am nice and fat, but he does not mean to eat me. If I had one of your eyes I would use it for a mirror, and look at myself before and behind; and your girths should be loosened, and you should be blind--seven days and seven nights.' And hardly had she spoken when the ox fell on the ground, and the maiden shut the lattice and went away. But the prince knew that what the ox had said was true, and that she had not her equal in the whole world. And he came down from the tree, his heart burning with love.'Why has the ogre not eaten her?' thought he. 'This night I will invite him to supper in my palace and question him about the maiden, and find out if she is his wife.'
So the prince ordered a great ox to be slain and roasted whole, and two huge tanks to be made, one filled with water and the other with wine. And towards evening he called his attendants and went to the ogre's house to wait in the courtyard till he came back from hunting. The ogre was surprised to see so many people assembled in front of his house; but he bowed politely and said, 'Good morning, dear neighbours! To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? I have not offended you, I hope?''Oh, certainly not!' answered the prince. 'Then,' continued the ogre, 'What has brought you to my house to-day for the first time?' 'We should like to have supper with you,' said the prince.
'Well, supper is ready, and you are welcome,' replied the ogre, leading the way into the house, for he had had a good day, and there was plenty of game in the bag over his shoulder.A table was quickly prepared, and the prince had already taken his place, when he suddenly exclaimed, 'After all, Buk Ettemsuch, suppose you come to supper with me?' 'Where?' asked the ogre. 'In my house. I know it is all ready.' 'But it is so far off--why not stay here?' 'Oh, I will come another day; but this evening I must be your host.' So the ogre accompanied the prince and his attendants back to the palace. After a while the prince turned to the ogre and said: 'It is as a wooer that I appear before you. I seek a wife from an honourable family.' 'But I have no daughter,' replied the ogre. 'Oh, yes you have, I saw her at the window.' 'Well, you can marry her if you wish,' said he.
So the prince's heart was glad as he and his attendants rode back with the ogre to his house. And as they parted, the prince said to his guest, 'You will not forget the bargain we have made?''I am not a young man, and never break my promises,' said the ogre, and went in and shut the door. Upstairs he found the maiden, waiting till he returned to have her supper, for she did not like eating by herself. 'I have had my supper,' said the ogre, 'for I have been spending the evening with the prince.' 'Where did you meet him?' asked the girl. 'Oh, we are neighbours, and grew up together, and to-night I promised that you should be his wife.' 'I don't want to be any man's wife,' answered she; but this was only pretence, for her heart too was glad. Next morning early came the prince, bringing with him bridal gifts, and splendid wedding garments, to carry the maiden back to his palace.
But before he let her go the ogre called her to him, and said, 'Be careful, girl, never to speak to the prince; and when he speaks to you, you must be dumb, unless he swears "by the head of Buk Ettemsuch." Then you may speak.''Very well,' answered the girl.
They set out; and when they reached the palace, the prince led his bride to the room he had prepared for her, and said 'Speak to me, my wife,' but she was silent; and by-and-by he left her, thinking that perhaps she was shy. The next day the same thing happened, and the next.
At last he said, 'Well, if you won't speak, I shall go and get another wife who will.' And he did.
Now when the new wife was brought to the palace the daughter of Buk Ettemsuch rose, and spoke to the ladies who had come to attend on the second bride. 'Go and sit down. I will make ready the feast.' And the ladies sat down as they were told, and waited.
The maiden sat down too, and called out, 'Come here, firewood,' and the firewood came. 'Come here, fire,' and the fire came and kindled the wood. 'Come here, pot.' 'Come here, oil;' and the pot and the oil came. 'Get into the pot, oil!' said she, and the oil did it. When the oil was boiling, the maiden dipped all her fingers in it, and they became ten fried fishes. 'Come here, oven,' she cried next, and the oven came. 'Fire, heat the oven.' And the fire heated it. When it was hot enough, the maiden jumped in, just as she was, with her beautiful silver and gold dress, and all her jewels. In a minute or two she had turned into a snow-white loaf, that made your mouth water.Said the loaf to the ladies, 'You can eat now; do not stand so far off;' but they only stared at each other, speechless with surprise. 'What are you staring at?' asked the new bride. 'At all these wonders,' replied the ladies. 'Do you call these wonders?' said she scornfully; 'I can do that too,' and she jumped straight into the oven, and was burnt up in a moment. Then they ran to the prince and said: 'Come quickly, your wife is dead!' 'Bury her, then!' returned he. 'But why did she do it? I am sure I said nothing to make her throw herself into the oven.'
Accordingly the burnt woman was buried, but the prince would not go to the funeral as all his thoughts were still with the wife who would not speak to him. The next night he said to her, 'Dear wife, are you afraid that something dreadful will happen if you speak to me? If you still persist in being dumb, I shall be forced to get another wife.' The poor girl longed to speak, but dread of the ogre kept her silent, and the prince did as he had said, and brought a fresh bride into the palace. And when she and her ladies were seated in state, the maiden planted a sharp stake in the ground, and sat herself down comfortably on it, and began to spin.'What are you staring at so?' said the new bride to her ladies. 'Do you think that is anything wonderful? Why, I can do as much myself!' 'I am sure you can't,' said they, much too surprised to be polite.
Then the maid sprang off the stake and left the room, and instantly the new wife took her place. But the sharp stake ran through, and she was dead in a moment. So they sent to the prince and said, 'Come quickly, and bury your wife.'
'Bury her yourselves,' he answered. 'What did she do it for? It was not by my orders that she impaled herself on the stake.'
So they buried her; and in the evening the prince came to the daughter of Buk Ettemsuch, and said to her, 'Speak to me, or I shall have to take another wife.' But she was afraid to speak to him.
The following day the prince hid himself in the room and watched. And soon the maiden woke, and said to the pitcher and to the water-jug, 'Quick! go down to the spring and bring me some water; I am thirsty.'
And they went. But as they were filling themselves at the spring, the water-jug knocked against the pitcher and broke off its spout. And the pitcher burst into tears, and ran to the maiden, and said: 'Mistress, beat the water-jug, for he has broken my spout!''By the head of Buk Ettemsuch, I implore you not to beat me!'
'Ah,' she replied, 'if only my husband had sworn by that oath, I could have spoken to him from the beginning, and he need never have taken another wife. But now he will never say it, and he will have to go on marrying fresh ones.'And the prince, from his hiding-place, heard her words, and he jumped up and ran to her and said, 'By the head of Buk Ettemsuch, speak to me.' So she spoke to him, and they lived happily to the end of their days, because the girl kept the promise she had made to the ogre. [Märchen und Gedichte aus der Stadt Tripolis. Von Hans Stumme.]
Laughing Eye and Weeping Eye, or the Limping Fox(Servian Story)
Once upon a time there lived a man whose right eye always smiled, and whose left eye always cried; and this man had three sons, two of them very clever, and the third very stupid. Now these three sons were very curious about the peculiarity of their father's eyes, and as they could not puzzle out the reason for themselves, they determined to ask their father why he did not have eyes like other people.
So the eldest of the three went one day into his father's room and put the question straight out; but, instead of answering, the man flew into a fearful rage, and sprang at him with a knife. The young fellow ran away in a terrible fright, and took refuge with his brothers, who were awaiting anxiously the result of the interview.‘You had better go yourselves,' was all the reply they got, ‘and see if you will fare any better.'
Upon hearing this, the second son entered his father's room, only to be treated in the same manner as his brother; and back he came telling the youngest, the fool of the family, that it was his turn to try his luck.
Then the youngest son marched boldly up to his father and said to him, ‘My brothers would not let me know what answer you had given to their question. But now, do tell me why your right eye always laughs and your left eye always weeps.'As before, the father grew purple with fury, and rushed forwards with his knife. But the simpleton did not stir a step; he knew that he had really nothing to fear from his father.
‘Ah, now I see who is my true son,' exclaimed the old man; ‘the others are mere cowards. And as you have shown me that you are brave, I will satisfy your curiosity. My right eye laughs because I am glad to have a son like you; my left eye weeps because a precious treasure has been stolen from me. I had in my garden a vine that yielded a tun of wine every hour--someone has managed to steal it, so I weep its loss.'
The simpleton returned to his brothers and told them of their father's loss, and they all made up their minds to set out at once in search of the vine. They travelled together till they came to some cross roads, and there they parted, the two elder ones taking one road, and the simpleton the other.
‘Thank goodness we have got rid of that idiot,' exclaimed the two elder. ‘Now let us have some breakfast.' And they sat down by the roadside and began to eat.
They had only half finished, when a lame fox came out of a wood and begged them to give him something to eat. But they jumped up and chased him off with their sticks, and the poor fox limped away on his three pads. As he ran he reached the spot where the youngest son was getting out the food he had brought with him, and the fox asked him for a crust of bread. The simpleton had not very much for himself, but he gladly gave half of his meal to the hungry fox.
‘You will find here the vine that you are seeking, but it will not be at all easy to get it. You must listen carefully to what I am going to say. Before you reach the vine you will have to pass twelve outposts, each consisting of two guards. If you see these guards looking straight at you, go on without fear, for they are asleep. But if their eyes are shut then beware, for they are wide awake. If you once get to the vine, you will find two shovels, one of wood and the other of iron. Be sure not to take the iron one; it will make a noise and rouse the guards, and then you are lost.'
The young man got safely through the garden without any adventures till he came to the vine which yielded a tun of wine an hour. But he thought he should find it impossible to dig the hard earth with only a wooden shovel, so picked up the iron one instead. The noise it made soon awakened the guards. They seized the poor simpleton and carried him to their master.‘Why do you try to steal my vine?' demanded he; ‘and how did you manage to get past the guards?' ‘The vine is not yours; it belongs to my father, and if you will not give it to me now, I will return and get it somehow.'
‘You shall have the vine if you will bring me in exchange an apple off the golden appletree that flowers every twenty-four hours, and bears fruit of gold.' So saying, he gave orders that the simpleton should be released, and this done, the youth hurried off to consult the fox.
‘Now you see,' observed the fox, ‘this comes of not following my advice. However, I will help you to get the golden apple. It grows in a garden that you will easily recognise from my description. Near the apple-tree are two poles, one of gold, the other of wood. Take the wooden pole, and you will be able to reach the apple.'
Master Simpleton listened carefully to all that was told him, and after crossing the garden, and escaping as before from the men who were watching it, soon arrived at the apple-tree. But he was so dazzled by the sight of the beautiful golden fruit, that he quite forgot all that the fox had said. He seized the golden pole, and struck the branch a sounding blow. The guards at once awoke, and conducted him to their master. Then the simpleton had to tell his story.
‘I will give you the golden apple,' said the owner of the garden, ‘if you will bring me in exchange a horse which can go round the world in four-and-twenty hours.' And the young man departed, and went to find the fox.This time the fox was really angry, and no wonder.
‘If you had listened to me, you would have been home with your father by this time. However I am willing to help you once more. Go into the forest, and you will find the horse with two halters round his neck. One is of gold, the other of hemp. Lead him by the hempen halter, or else the horse will begin to neigh, and will waken the guards. Then all is over with you.'So Master Simpleton searched till he found the horse, and was struck dumb at its beauty. ‘What!' he said to himself, ‘put the hempen halter on an animal like that? Not I, indeed!' Then the horse neighed loudly; the guards seized our young friend and conducted him before their master. ‘I will give you the golden horse,' said he, ‘if you will bring me in exchange a golden maiden who has never yet seen either sun or moon.' ‘But if I am to bring you the golden maiden you must lend me first the golden steed with which to seek for her.' ‘Ah,' replied the owner of the golden horse, ‘but who will undertake that you will ever come back?' ‘I swear on the head of my father,' answered the young man, ‘that I will bring back either the maiden or the horse.' And he went away to consult the fox.
Now, the fox who was always patient and charitable to other people's faults, led him to the entrance of a deep grotto, where stood a maiden all of gold, and beautiful as the day. He placed her on his horse and prepared to mount.
‘Are you not sorry,' said the fox, ‘to give such a lovely maiden in exchange for a horse? Yet you are bound to do it, for you have sworn by the head of your father. But perhaps I could manage to take her place.' So saying, the fox transformed himself into another golden maiden, so like the first that hardly anyone could tell the difference between them.
The simpleton took her straight to the owner of the horse, who was enchanted with her. And the young man got back his father's vine and married the real golden maiden into the bargain.[Contes Populaires Slaves. Traduits par Louis Léger. Paris: Ernest Leroux, éditeur.]
The Unlooked-for Prince(Polish Story)
A long time ago there lived a king and queen who had no children, although they both wished very much for a little son. They tried not to let each other see how unhappy they were, and pretended to take pleasure in hunting and hawking and all sorts of other sports; but at length the king could bear it no longer, and declared that he must go and visit the furthest corners of his kingdom, and that it would be many months before he should return to his capital.By that time he hoped he would have so many things to think about that he would have forgotten to trouble about the little son who never came.
The country the king reigned over was very large, and full of high, stony mountains and sandy deserts, so that it was not at all easy to go from one place to another. One day the king had wandered out alone, meaning to go only a little distance, but everything looked so alike he could not make out the path by which he had come. He walked on and on for hours, the sun beating hotly on his head, and his legs trembling under him, and he might have died of thirst if he had not suddenly stumbled on a little well, which looked as if it had been newly dug. On the surface floated a silver cup with a golden handle, but as it bobbed about whenever the king tried to seize it, he was too thirsty to wait any longer and knelt down and drank his fill.
When he had finished he began to rise from his knees, but somehow his beard seemed to have stuck fast in the water, and with all his efforts he could not pull it out. After two or three jerks to his head, which only hurt him without doing any good, he called out angrily, ‘Let go at once! Who is holding me?'
‘It is I, the King Kostiei,' said a voice from the well, and looking up through the water was a little man with green eyes and a big head. ‘You have drunk from my spring, and I shall not let you go until you promise to give me the most precious thing your palace contains, which was not there when you left it.'
Now the only thing that the king much cared for in his palace was the queen herself, and as she was weeping bitterly on a pile of cushions in the great hall when he had ridden away, he knew that Kostiei's words could not apply to her. So he cheerfully gave the promise asked for by the ugly little man, and in the twinkling of an eye, man, spring, and cup had disappeared, and the king was left kneeling on the dry sand, wondering if it was all a dream. But as he felt much stronger and better he made up his mind that this strange adventure must really have happened, and he sprang on his horse and rode off with a light heart to look for his companions.
In a few weeks they began to set out on their return home, which they reached one hot day, eight months after they had all left. The king was greatly beloved by his people, and crowds lined the roads, shouting and waving their hats as the procession passed along. On the steps of the palace stood the queen, with a splendid golden cushion in her arms, and on the cushion the most beautiful boy that ever was seen, wrapped about in a cloud of lace. In a moment Kostiei's words rushed into the king's mind, and he began to weep bitterly, to the surprise of everybody, who had expected him nearly to die of joy at the sight of his son. But try as he would and work as hard as he might he could never forget his promise, and every time he let the baby out of his sight he thought that he had seen it for the last time.
However, years passed on and the prince grew first into a big boy, and then into a fine young man. Kostiei made no sign, and gradually even the anxious king thought less and less about him, and in the end forgot him altogether.
There was no family in the whole kingdom happier than the king and queen and prince, until one day when the youth met a little old man as he was hunting in a lonely part of the woods. ‘How are you my unlooked-for Prince?' he said. ‘You kept them waiting a good long time!'‘And who are you?' asked the prince.
‘You will know soon enough. When you go home give my compliments to your father and tell him that I wish he would square accounts with me. If he neglects to pay his debts he will bitterly repent it.'So saying the old man disappeared, and the prince returned to the palace and told his father what had happened. The king turned pale and explained to his son the terrible story.
‘Do not grieve over it, father,' answered the prince. ‘It is nothing so dreadful after all! I will find some way to force Kostiei to give up his rights over me. But if I do not come back in a year's time, you must give up all hopes of ever seeing me.'
Then the prince began to prepare for his journey. His father gave him a complete suit of steel armour, a sword, and a horse, while his mother hung round his neck a cross of gold. So, kissing him tenderly, with many tears they let him go.
He rode steadily on for three days, and at sunset on the fourth day he found himself on the seashore. On the sand before him lay twelve white dresses, dazzling as the snow, yet as far as his eyes could reach there was no one in sight to whom they could belong. Curious to see what would happen, he took up one of the garments, and leaving his horse loose, to wander about the adjoining fields, he hid himself among some willows and waited. In a few minutes a flock of geese which had been paddling about in the sea approached the shore, and put on the dresses, struck the sand with their feet and were transformed in the twinkling of an eye into eleven beautiful young girls, who flew away as fast as they could. The twelfth and youngest remained in the water, stretching out her long white neck and looking about her anxiously. Suddenly, among the willows, she perceived the king's son, and called out to him with a human voice:‘Oh Prince, give me back my dress, and I shall be for ever grateful to you.'
The prince hastened to lay the dress on the sand, and walked away. When the maiden had thrown off the goose-skin and quickly put on her proper clothes, she came towards him and he saw that none had ever seen or told of such beauty as hers. She blushed and held out her hand, saying to him in a soft voice:
‘I thank you, noble Prince, for having granted my request. I am the youngest daughter of Kostiei the immortal, who has twelve daughters and rules over the kingdoms under the earth. Long time my father has waited for you, and great is his anger. But trouble not yourself and fear nothing, only do as I bid you. When you see the King Kostiei, fall straightway upon your knees and heed neither his threats nor his cry, but draw near to him boldly. That which will happen after, you will know in time. Now let us go.'
At these words she struck the ground with her foot and a gulf opened, down which they went right into the heart of the earth. In a short time they reached Kostiei's palace, which gives light, with a light brighter than the sun, to the dark kingdoms below. And the prince, as he had been bidden, entered boldly into the hall.
Kostiei, with a shining crown upon his head, sat in the centre upon a golden throne. His green eyes glittered like glass, his hands were as the claws of a crab. When he caught sight of the prince he uttered piercing yells, which shook the walls of the palace. The prince took no notice, but continued his advance on his knees towards the throne. When he had almost reached it, the king broke out into a laugh and said:
‘It has been very lucky for you that you have been able to make me laugh. Stay with us in our underground empire, only first you will have to do three things. To-night it is late. Go to sleep; to-morrow I will tell you.'
Early the following morning the prince received a message that Kostiei was ready to see him. He got up and dressed, and hastened to the presence chamber, where the little king was seated on his throne. When the prince appeared, bowing low before him, Kostiei began:
‘Now, Prince, this is what you have to do. By to-night you must build me a marble palace, with windows of crystal and a roof of gold. It is to stand in the middle of a great park, full of streams and lakes. If you are able to build it you shall be my friend. If not, off with your head.'
The prince listened in silence to this startling speech, and then returning to his room set himself to think about the certain death that awaited him. He was quite absorbed in these thoughts, when suddenly a bee flew against the window and tapped, saying, ‘Let me come in.' He rose and opened the window, and there stood before him the youngest princess.‘What are you dreaming about, Prince?' ‘I was dreaming of your father, who has planned my death.' ‘Fear nothing. You may sleep in peace, and to-morrow morning when you awake you will find the palace all ready.'
What she said, she did. The next morning when the prince left his room he saw before him a palace more beautiful than his fancy had ever pictured. Kostiei for his part could hardly believe his eyes, and pondered deeply how it had got there.
‘Well, this time you have certainly won; but you are not going to be let off so easily. Tomorrow all my twelve daughters shall stand in a row before you, and if you cannot tell me which of them is the youngest, off goes your head.'‘What! Not recognise the youngest princess!' said the Prince to himself, as he entered his room, ‘a likely story!'
‘It is such a difficult matter that you will never be able to do it without my help,' replied the bee, who was buzzing about the ceiling. ‘We are all so exactly alike, that even our father scarcely knows the difference between us.'‘Then what must I do?' ‘This. The youngest is she who will have a ladybird on her eyelid. Be very careful. Now good-bye.'
Next morning King Kostiei again sent for the prince. The young princesses were all drawn up in a row, dressed precisely in the same manner, and with their eyes all cast down. As the prince looked at them, he was amazed at their likeness. Twice he walked along the line, without being able to detect the sign agreed upon. The third time his heart beat fast at the sight of a tiny speck upon the eyelid of one of the girls.‘This one is the youngest,' he said.
‘How in the world did you guess?' cried Kostiei in a fury. ‘There is some jugglery about it! But you are not going to escape me so easily. In three hours you shall come here and give me another proof of your cleverness. I shall set alight a handful of straw, and before it is burnt up you will have turned it into a pair of boots. If not, off goes your head.'So the prince returned sadly into his room, but the bee was there before him. ‘Why do you look so melancholy, my handsome Prince?' ‘How can I help looking melancholy when your father has ordered me to make him a pair of boots? Does he take me for a shoemaker?' ‘What do you think of doing?' ‘Not of making boots, at any rate! I am not afraid of death. One can only die once after all.' ‘No, Prince, you shall not die. I will try to save you. And we will fly together or die together.'
As she spoke she spat upon the ground, and then drawing the prince after her out of the room, she locked the door behind her and threw away the key. Holding each other tight by the hand, they made their way up into the sunlight, and found themselves by the side of the same sea, while the prince's horse was still quietly feeding in the neighbouring meadow. The moment he saw his master, the horse whinnied and galloped towards him. Without losing an instant the prince sprang into the saddle, swung the princess behind him, and away they went like an arrow from a bow.
When the hour arrived which Kostiei had fixed for the prince's last trial, and there were no signs of him, the king sent to his room to ask why he delayed so long. The servants, finding the door locked, knocked loudly and received for answer, ‘In one moment.' It was the spittle, which was imitating the voice of the prince.The answer was taken back to Kostiei. He waited; still no prince. He sent the servants back again, and the same voice replied, ‘Immediately.' ‘He is making fun of me!' shrieked Kostiei in a rage. ‘Break in the door, and bring him to me!'
The servants hurried to do his bidding. The door was broken open. Nobody inside; but just the spittle in fits of laughter! Kostiei was beside himself with rage, and commanded his guards to ride after the fugitives. If the guards returned without the fugitives, their heads should pay for it.
By this time the prince and princess had got a good start, and were feeling quite happy, when suddenly they heard the sound of a gallop far behind them. The prince sprang from the saddle, and laid his ear to the ground.‘They are pursuing us,' he said.
‘Then there is no time to be lost,' answered the princess; and as she spoke she changed herself into a river, the prince into a bridge, the horse into a crow, and divided the wide road beyond the bridge into three little ones. When the soldiers came up to the bridge, they paused uncertainly. How were they to know which of the three roads the fugitives had taken? They gave it up in despair and returned in trembling to Kostiei.
‘Idiots!' he exclaimed, in a passion. ‘They were the bridge and the river, of course! Do you mean to say you never thought of that? Go back at once!' and off they galloped like lightning.But time had been lost, and the prince and princess were far on their way. ‘I hear a horse,' cried the princess. The prince jumped down and laid his ear to the ground. ‘Yes,' he said, ‘they are not far off now.'
In an instant prince, princess, and horse had all disappeared, and instead was a dense forest, crossed and recrossed by countless paths. Kostiei's soldiers dashed hastily into the forest, believing they saw before them the flying horse with its double burden. They seemed close upon them, when suddenly horse, wood, everything disappeared, and they found themselves at the place where they started. There was nothing for it but to return to Kostiei, and tell him of this fresh disaster.‘A horse! a horse!' cried the king. ‘I will go after them myself. This time they shall not escape.' And he galloped off, foaming with anger. ‘I think I hear someone pursuing us,' said the princess ‘Yes, so do I.'
‘And this time it is Kostiei himself. But his power only reaches as far as the first church, and he can go no farther. Give me your golden cross.' So the prince unfastened the cross which was his mother's gift, and the princess hastily changed herself into a church, the prince into a priest, and the horse into a belfry.It was hardly done when Kostiei came up. ‘Greeting, monk. Have you seen some travellers on horseback pass this way?' ‘Yes, the prince and Kostiei's daughter have just gone by. They have entered the church, and told me to give you their greetings if I met you.' Then Kostiei knew that he had been hopelessly beaten, and the prince and princess continued their journey without any more adventures. [Contes Populaires Slaves. Traduits par Louis Léger. Paris: Leroux, éditeur.]