The Grey Fairy Book by Andrew Lang - HTML preview
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There lived, once upon a time, a man who was as rich as he could be; but as no happiness in this world is ever quite complete, he had an only son who was such a simpleton that he could barely add two and two together. At last his father determined to put up with his stupidity no longer, and giving him a purse full of gold, he sent him off to seek his fortune in foreign lands, mindful of the adage:How much a fool that's sent to roam Excels a fool that stays at home.
Moscione, for this was the youth's name, mounted a horse, and set out for Venice, hoping to find a ship there that would take him to Cairo. After he had ridden for some time he saw a man standing at the foot of a poplar tree, and said to him: ‘What's your name, my friend; where do you come from, and what can you do?'The man replied, ‘My name is Quick-as-Thought, I come from Fleet-town, and I can run like lightning.' ‘I should like to see you,' returned Moscione. ‘Just wait a minute, then,' said Quick-as-Thought, ‘and I will soon show you that I am speaking the truth.' The words were hardly out of his mouth when a young doe ran right across the field they were standing in.
Quick-as-Thought let her run on a short distance, in order to give her a start, and then pursued her so quickly and so lightly that you could not have tracked his footsteps if the field had been strewn with flour. In a very few springs he had overtaken the doe, and had so impressed Moscione with his fleetness of foot that he begged Quick-as-Thought to go with him, promising at the same time to reward him handsomely.
Quick-as-Thought agreed to his proposal, and they continued on their journey together. They had hardly gone a mile when they met a young man, and Moscione stopped and asked him: ‘What's your name, my friend; where do you come from, and what can you do?'
The man thus addressed answered promptly, ‘I am called Hare's-ear, I come from Curiosity Valley, and if I lay my ear on the ground, without moving from the spot, I can hear everything that goes on in the world, the plots and intrigues of court and cottage, and all the plans of mice and men.'
‘If that's the case,' replied Moscione, ‘just tell me what's going on in my own home at present.'
The youth laid his ear to the ground and at once reported: ‘An old man is saying to his wife, "Heaven be praised that we have got rid of Moscione, for perhaps, when he has been out in the world a little, he may gain some common sense, and return home less of a fool than when he set out."'‘Enough, enough,' cried Moscione. ‘You speak the truth, and I believe you. Come with us, and your fortune's made.'
The young man consented; and after they had gone about ten miles, they met a third man, to whom Moscione said: ‘What's your name, my brave fellow; where were you born, and what can you do?'The man replied, ‘I am called Hit-the-Point, I come from the city of Perfect-aim, and I draw my bow so exactly that I can shoot a pea off a stone.' ‘I should like to see you do it, if you've no objection,' said Moscione. The man at once placed a pea on a stone, and, drawing his bow, he shot it in the middle with the greatest possible ease. When Moscione saw that he had spoken the truth, he immediately asked Hit-the-Point to join his party. After they had all travelled together for some days, they came upon a number of people who were digging a trench in the blazing sun. Moscione felt so sorry for them, that he said: ‘My dear friends, how can you endure working so hard in heat that would cook an egg in a minute?' But one of the workmen answered: ‘We are as fresh as daisies, for we have a young man among us who blows on our backs like the west wind.' ‘Let me see him,' said Moscione. The youth was called, and Moscione asked him: ‘What's your name; where do you come from, and what can you do?'
He answered: ‘I am called Blow-Blast, I come from Wind-town, and with my mouth I can make any winds you please. If you wish a west wind I can raise it for you in a second, but if you prefer a north wind I can blow these houses down before your eyes.'
‘Seeing is believing,' returned the cautious Moscione. Blow-Blast at once began to convince him of the truth of his assertion. First he blew so softly that it seemed like the gentle breeze at evening, and then he turned round and raised such a mighty storm, that he blew down a whole row of oak trees.
When Moscione saw this he was delighted, and begged Blow-Blast to join his company. And as they went on their way they met another man, whom Moscione addressed as usual: ‘What's your name: where do you come from, and what can you do?'‘I am called Strong-Back; I come from Power-borough, and I possess such strength that I can take a mountain on my back, and it seems a feather to me.' ‘If that's the case,' said Moscione, ‘you are a clever fellow; but I should like some proof of your strength.' Then Strong-Back loaded himself with great boulders of rock and trunks of trees, so that a hundred waggons could not have taken away all that he carried on his back.
When Moscione saw this he prevailed on Strong-Back to join his troop, and they all continued their journey till they came to a country called Flower Vale. Here there reigned a king whose only daughter ran as quickly as the wind, and so lightly that she could run over a field of young oats without bending a single blade. The king had given out a proclamation that anyone who could beat the princess in a race should have her for a wife, but that all who failed in the competition should lose their head.
As soon as Moscione heard of the Royal Proclamation, he hastened to the king and challenged the princess to race with him. But on the morning appointed for the trial he sent word to the king that he was not feeling well, and that as he could not run himself he would supply someone to take his place.‘It's just the same to me,' said Canetella, the princess; ‘let anyone come forward that likes, I am quite prepared to meet him.'
At the time appointed for the race the whole place was crowded with people anxious to see the contest, and, punctual to the moment, Quick-as-Thought, and Canetella dressed in a short skirt and very lightly shod, appeared at the starting-point.Then a silver trumpet sounded, and the two rivals started on their race, looking for all the world like a greyhound chasing a hare. But Quick-as-Thought, true to his name, outran the princess, and when the goal was reached the people all clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the stranger!'
Canetella was much depressed by her defeat; but, as the race had to be run a second time, she determined she would not be beaten again. Accordingly she went home and sent Quick-as-Thought a magic ring, which prevented the person who wore it, not only from running, but even from walking, and begged that he would wear it for her sake. Early next morning the crowd assembled on the race-course, and Canetella and Quick asThought began their trial afresh. The princess ran as quickly as ever, but poor Quick-asThought was like an overloaded donkey, and could not go a step.
Then Hit-the-Point, who had heard all about the princess's deception from Hare's-ear, when he saw the danger his friend was in, seized his bow and arrow and shot the stone out of the ring Quick-as-Thought was wearing. In a moment the youth's legs became free again, and in five bounds he had overtaken Canetella and won the race.
The king was much disgusted when he saw that he must acknowledge Moscione as his future son-in-law, and summoned the wise men of his court to ask if there was no way out of the difficulty. The council at once decided that Canetella was far too dainty a morsel for the mouth of such a travelling tinker, and advised the king to offer Moscione a present of gold, which no doubt a beggar like him would prefer to all the wives in the world.The king was delighted at this suggestion, and calling Moscione before him, he asked him what sum of money he would take instead of his promised bride. Moscione first consulted with his friends, and then answered: ‘I demand as much gold and precious stones as my followers can carry away.'
The king thought he was being let off very easily, and produced coffers of gold, sacks of silver, and chests of precious stones; but the more Strong-Back was loaded with the treasure the straighter he stood.
At last the treasury was quite exhausted, and the king had to send his courtiers to his subjects to collect all the gold and silver they possessed. But nothing was of any avail, and Strong-Back only asked for more.
When the king's counsellors saw the unexpected result of their advice, they said it would be more than foolish to let some strolling thieves take so much treasure out of the country, and urged the king to send a troop of soldiers after them, to recover the gold and precious stones.So the king sent a body of armed men on foot and horse, to take back the treasure StrongBack was carrying away with him. But Hare's-ear, who had heard what the counsellors had advised the king, told his companions just as the dust of their pursuers was visible on the horizon.
No sooner had Blow-Blast taken in their danger than he raised such a mighty wind that all the king's army was blown down like so many nine-pins, and as they were quite unable to get up again, Moscione and. his companions proceeded on their way without further let or hindrance.
As soon as they reached his home, Moscione divided his spoil with his companions, at which they were much delighted. He, himself, stayed with his father, who was obliged at last to acknowledge that his son was not quite such a fool as he looked.
The Street Musicians
A man once possessed a donkey which had served him faithfully for many years, but at last the poor beast grew old and feeble, and every day his work became more of a burden. As he was no longer of any use, his master made up his mind to shoot him; but when the donkey learnt the fate that was in store for him, he determined not to die, but to run away to the nearest town and there to become a street musician.
When he had trotted along for some distance he came upon a greyhound lying on the road, and panting for dear life. ‘Well, brother,' said the donkey, ‘what's the matter with you? You look rather tired.'
‘So I am,' replied the dog, ‘but because I am getting old and am growing weaker every day, and cannot go out hunting any longer, my master wanted to poison me; and, as life is still sweet, I have taken leave of him. But how I am to earn my own livelihood I haven't a notion.'
‘Well,' said the donkey, ‘I am on my way to the nearest big town, where I mean to become a street musician. Why don't you take up music as a profession and come along with me? I'll play the flute and you can play the kettle-drum.'
The greyhound was quite pleased at the idea, and the two set off together. When they had gone a short distance they met a cat with a face as long as three rainy days. ‘Now, what has happened to upset your happiness, friend puss?' inquired the donkey.
‘It's impossible to look cheerful when one feels depressed,' answered the cat. ‘I am well up in years now, and have lost most of my teeth; consequently I prefer sitting in front of the fire to catching mice, and so my old mistress wanted to drown me. I have no wish to die yet, so I ran away from her; but good advice is expensive, and I don't know where I am to go to, or what I am to do.'‘Come to the nearest big town with us,' said the donkey, ‘and try your fortune as a street musician. I know what sweet music you make at night, so you are sure to be a success.'
The cat was delighted with the donkey's proposal, and they all continued their journey together. In a short time they came to the courtyard of an inn, where they found a cock crowing lustily. ‘What in the world is the matter with you?' asked the donkey. ‘The noise you are making is enough to break the drums of our ears.'
‘I am only prophesying good weather,' said the cock; ‘for to-morrow is a feast day, and just because it is a holiday and a number of people are expected at the inn, the landlady has given orders for my neck to be wrung to-night, so that I may be made into soup for to-morrow's dinner.'
‘I'll tell you what, redcap,' said the donkey; ‘you had much better come with us to the nearest town. You have got a good voice, and could join a street band we are getting up.' The cock was much pleased with the idea, and the party proceeded on their way.
But the nearest big town was a long way off, and it took them more than a day to reach it. In the evening they came to a wood, and they made up their minds to go no further, but to spend the night there. The donkey and the greyhound lay down under a big tree, and the cat and the cock got up into the branches, the cock flying right up to the topmost twig, where he thought he would be safe from all danger. Before he went to sleep he looked round the four points of the compass, and saw a little spark burning in the distance. He called out to his companions that he was sure there must be a house not far off, for he could see a light shining.
When he heard this, the donkey said at, once: ‘Then we must get up, and go and look for the house, for this is very poor shelter.' And the greyhound added: ‘Yes; I feel I'd be all the better for a few bones and a scrap or two of meat.'
So they set out for the spot where the light was to be seen shining faintly in the distance, but the nearer they approached it the brighter it grew, till at last they came to a brilliantly lighted house. The donkey being the biggest of the party, went to the window and looked in.‘Well, greyhead, what do you see?' asked the cock. ‘I see a well-covered table,' replied the donkey, ‘with excellent food and drink, and several robbers are sitting round it, enjoying themselves highly.' ‘I wish we were doing the same,' said the cock. ‘So do I,' answered the donkey. ‘Can't we think of some plan for turning out the robbers, and taking possession of the house ourselves?'
So they consulted together what they were to do, and at last they arranged that the donkey should stand at the window with his fore-feet on the sill, that the greyhound should get on his back, the cat on the dog's shoulder, and the cock on the cat's head. When they had grouped themselves in this way, at a given signal, they all began their different forms of music. The donkey brayed, the greyhound barked, the cat miawed, and the cock crew. Then they all scrambled through the window into the room, breaking the glass into a thousand pieces as they did so.
The robbers were all startled by the dreadful noise, and thinking that some evil spirits at the least were entering the house, they rushed out into the wood, their hair standing on end with terror. The four companions, delighted with the success of their trick, sat down at the table, and ate and drank all the food and wine that the robbers had left behind them. When they had finished their meal they put out the lights, and each animal chose a suitable sleeping-place. The donkey lay down in the courtyard outside the house, the dog behind the door, the cat in front of the fire, and the cock flew up on to a high shelf, and, as they were all tired after their long day, they soon went to sleep.
Shortly after midnight, when the robbers saw that no light was burning in the house and that all seemed quiet, the captain of the band said: ‘We were fools to let ourselves be so easily frightened away;' and, turning to one of his men, he ordered him to go and see if all was safe.
The man found everything in silence and darkness, and going into the kitchen he thought he had better strike a light. He took a match, and mistaking the fiery eyes of the cat for two glowing coals, he tried to light his match with them. But the cat didn't see the joke, and sprang at his face, spitting and scratching him in the most vigorous manner. The man was terrified out of his life, and tried to run out by the back door; but he stumbled over the greyhound, which bit him in the leg. Yelling with pain he ran across the courtyard only to receive a kick from the donkey's hind leg as he passed him. In the meantime the cock had been roused from his slumbers, and feeling very cheerful he called out, from the, shelf where he was perched, ‘Kikeriki!'
Then the robber hastened back to his captain and said: ‘Sir, there is a dreadful witch in the house, who spat at me and scratched my face with her long fingers; and before the door there stands a man with a long knife, who cut my leg severely. In the courtyard outside lies a black monster, who fell upon me with a huge wooden club; and that is not all, for, sitting on the roof, is a judge, who called out: "Bring the rascal to me." So I fled for dear life.'
After this the robbers dared not venture into the house again, and they abandoned it for ever. But the four street musicians were so delighted with their lodgings that they determined to take up their abode in the robbers' house, and, for all I know to the contrary, they may be living there to this day.[From the German, Kletke.]
The Twin Brothers
Once there was a fisherman who had plenty of money but no children. One day an old woman came to his wife and said: ‘What use is all your prosperity to you when you have no children?'‘It is God's will,' answered the fisherman's wife.
‘Nay, my child, it is not God's will, but the fault of your husband; for if he would but catch the little gold-fish you would surely have children. To-night, when he comes home, tell him he must go back and catch the little fish. He must then cut it in six pieces--one of these you must eat, and your husband the second, and soon after you will have two children. The third piece you must give to the dog, and she will have two puppies. The fourth piece give to the mare, and she will have two foals. The fifth piece bury on the right of the house door, and the sixth on the left, and two cypress trees will spring up there.'
When the fisherman came home at evening his wife told him all that the old woman had advised, and he promised to bring home the little gold-fish. Next morning, therefore, he went very early to the water, and caught the little fish. Then they did as the old woman had ordered, and in due time the fisherman's wife had two sons, so like each other that no one could tell the difference. The dog had two puppies exactly alike, the mare had two foals, and on each side of the front door there sprang up two cypress trees precisely similar.
When the two boys were grown up, they were not content to remain at home, though they had wealth in plenty; but they wished to go out into the world, and make a name for themselves. Their father would not allow them both to go at once, as they were the only children he had. He said: ‘First one shall travel, and when he is come back then the other may go.'
So the one took his horse and his dog, and went, saying to his brother: ‘So long as the cypress trees are green, that is a sign that I am alive and well; but if one begins to wither, then make haste and come to me.' So he went forth into the world.
One day he stopped at the house of an old woman, and as at evening he sat before the door, he perceived in front of him a castle standing on a hill. He asked the old woman to whom it belonged, and her answer was: ‘My son, it is the castle of the Fairest in the Land!'‘And I am come here to woo her!'
‘That, my son, many have sought to do, and have lost their lives in the attempt; for she has cut off their heads and stuck them on the post you see standing there.' ‘And the same will she do to me, or else I shall be victor, for to-morrow I go there to court her.'Then he took his zither and played upon it so beautifully that no one in all that land had ever heard the like, and the princess herself came to the window to listen. The next morning the Fairest in the Land sent for the old woman and asked her, ‘Who is it that lives with you, and plays the zither so well?' ‘It is a stranger, princess, who arrived yesterday evening,' answered the old woman. And the princess then commanded that the stranger should be brought to her.
When he appeared before the princess she questioned him about his home and his family, and about this and that; and confessed at length that his zither-playing gave her great pleasure, and that she would take him for her husband. The stranger replied that it was with that intent he had come.
The princess then said: ‘You must now go to my father, and tell him you desire to have me to wife, and when he has put the three problems before you, then come back and tell me.'The stranger then went straight to the king, and told him that he wished to wed his daughter.
And the king answered: ‘I shall be well pleased, provided you can do what I impose upon you; if not you will lose your head. Now, listen; out there on the ground, there lies a thick log, which measures more than two fathoms; if you can cleave it in two with one stroke of your sword, I will give you my daughter to wife. If you fail, then it will cost you your head.'
Then the stranger withdrew, and returned to the house of the old woman sore distressed, for he could believe nothing but that next day he must atone to the king with his head. And so full was he of the idea of how to set about cleaving the log that he forgot even his zither.
In the evening came the princess to the window to listen to his playing, and behold all was still. Then she called to him: ‘Why are you so cast down this evening, that you do not play on your zither?'And he told her his trouble.
But she laughed at it, and called to him: ‘And you grieve over that? Bring quickly your zither, and play something for my amusement, and early to-morrow come to me.' Then the stranger took his zither and played the whole evening for the amusement of the princess.Next morning she took a hair from her locks and gave it to him, saying: ‘Take this hair, and wind it round your sword, then you will be able to cleave the log in two.' Then the stranger went forth, and with one blow cleft the log in two. But the king said: ‘I will impose another task upon you, before you can wed my daughter.' ‘Speak on,' said the stranger.
‘Listen, then,' answered the king; ‘you must mount a horse and ride three miles at full gallop, holding in each hand a goblet full of water. If you spill no drop then I shall give you my daughter to wife, but should you not succeed then I will take your life.'Then the stranger returned to the house of the old woman, and again he was so troubled as to forget his zither.
In the evening the princess came to the window as before to listen to the music, but again all was still; and she called to him: ‘What is the matter that you do not play on your zither?'Then he related all that the king had ordered him to do, and the princess answered: ‘Do not let yourself be disturbed, only play now, and come to me to-morrow morning.' Then next morning he went to her, and she gave him her ring, saying: ‘Throw this ring into the water and it will immediately freeze, so that you will not spill any.' The stranger did as the princess bade him, and carried the water all the way.
Then the king said: ‘Now I will give you a third task, and this shall be the last. I have a negro who will fight with you to-morrow, and if you are the conqueror you shall wed my daughter.'
The stranger returned, full of joy, to the house of the old woman, and that evening was so merry that the princess called to him;: ‘You seem very cheerful this evening; what has my father told you that makes you so glad?'He answered: ‘Your father has told me that to-morrow I must fight with his negro. He is only another man like myself, and I hope to subdue him, and to gain the contest.'
But the princess answered: ‘This is the hardest of all. I myself am the black man, for I swallow a drink that changes me into a negro of unconquerable strength. Go tomorrow morning to the market, buy twelve buffalo hides and wrap them round your horse; fasten this cloth round you, and when I am let loose upon you to-morrow show it to me, that I may hold myself back and may not kill you. Then when you fight me you must try to hit my horse between the eyes, for when you have killed it you have conquered me.'
Next morning, therefore, he went to the market and bought the twelve buffalo hides which he wrapped round his horse. Then he began to fight with the black man, and when the combat had already lasted a long time, and eleven hides were torn, then the stranger hit the negro's horse between the eyes, so that it fell dead, and the black man was defeated.Then said the king: ‘Because you have solved the three problems I take you for my sonin-law.' But the stranger answered: ‘I have some business to conclude first; in fourteen days I will return and bring the bride home.'
So he arose and went into another country, where he came to a great town, and alighted at the house of an old woman. When he had had supper he begged of her some water to drink, but she answered: ‘My son, I have no water; a giant has taken possession of the spring, and only lets us draw from it once a year, when we bring him a maiden. He eats her up, and then he lets us draw water; just now it is the lot of the king's daughter, and tomorrow she will be led forth.'The next day accordingly the princess was led forth to the spring, and bound there with a golden chain. After that all the people went away and she was left alone.
When they had gone the stranger went to the maiden and asked her what ailed her that she lamented so much, and she answered that the reason was because the giant would come and eat her up. And the stranger promised that he would set her free if she would take him for her husband, and the princess joyfully consented.When the giant appeared the stranger set his dog at him, and it took him by the throat and throttled him till he died; so the princess was set free.
Now when the king heard of it he gladly consented to the marriage, and the wedding took place with great rejoicings. The young bridegroom abode in the palace one hundred and one weeks. Then he began to find it too dull, and he desired to go out hunting. The king would fain have prevented it, but in this he could not succeed. Then he begged his son-inlaw at least to take sufficient escort with him, but this, too, the young man evaded, and took only his horse and his dog.
He had ridden already a long way, when he saw in the distance a hut, and rode straight towards it in order to get some water to drink. There he found an old woman from whom he begged the water. She answered that first he should allow her to beat his dog with her little wand, that it might not bite her while she fetched the water. The hunter consented; and as soon as she had touched the dog with her wand it immediately turned to stone. Thereupon she touched the hunter and also his horse, and both turned to stone. As soon as that had happened, the cypress trees in front of his father's house began to wither. And when the other brother saw this, he immediately set out in search of his twin. He came first to the town where his brother had slain the giant, and there fate led him to the same old woman where his brother had lodged. When she saw him she took him for his twin brother, and said to him: ‘Do not take it amiss of me, my son, that I did not come to wish you joy on your marriage with the king's daughter.'
The stranger perceived what mistake she had made, but only said: ‘That does not matter, old woman,' and rode on, without further speech, to the king's palace, where the king and the princess both took him for his twin brother, and called out: ‘Why have you tarried so long away? We thought something evil had befallen you.'
When night came and he slept with the princess, who still believed him to be her husband, he laid his sword between them, and when morning came he rose early and went out to hunt. Fate led him by the same way which his brother had taken, and from a distance he saw him and knew that he was turned to stone. Then he entered the hut and ordered the old woman to disenchant his brother. But she answered: ‘Let me first touch your dog with my wand, and then I will free your brother.'He ordered the dog, however, to take hold of her, and bite her up to the knee, till she cried out: ‘Tell your dog to let me go and I will set your brother free!' But he only answered: ‘Tell me the magic words that I may disenchant him myself;' and as she would not he ordered his dog to bite her up to the hip. Then the old woman cried out: ‘I have two wands, with the green one I turn to stone, and with the red one I bring to life again.' So the hunter took the red wand and disenchanted his brother, also his brother's horse, and his dog, and ordered his own dog to eat the old woman up altogether.
While the brothers went on their way back to the castle of the king, the one brother related to the other how the cypress tree had all at once dried up and withered, how he had immediately set out in search of his twin, and how he had come to the castle of his father-in-law, and had claimed the princess as his wife. But the other brother became furious on hearing this, and smote him over the forehead till he died, and returned alone to the house of his father-in-law.When night came and he was in bed the princess asked him: ‘What was the matter with you last night, that you never spoke a word to me?'
Then he cried out: ‘That was not me, but my brother, and I have slain him, because he told me by the way that he had claimed you for his wife!'
‘Do you know the place where you slew him?' asked the princess, ‘and can you find the body?'
‘Then to-morrow we shall ride thither,' said the princess. Next morning accordingly they set out together, and when they had come to the place, the princess drew forth a small bottle that she had brought with her, and sprinkled the body with some drops of the water so that immediately he became alive again.
When he stood up, his brother said to him: ‘Forgive me, dear brother, that I slew you in my anger.' Then they embraced and went together to the Fairest in the Land, whom the unmarried brother took to wife.Then the brothers brought their parents to live with them, and all dwelt together in joy and happiness.
There was once upon a time a king who reigned over a country called ‘Bello Puojo.' He was very rich and powerful, and had everything in the world he could desire except a child. But at last, after he had been married for many years, and was quite an old man, his wife Renzolla presented him with a fine daughter, whom they called Cannetella.
She grew up into a beautiful girl, and was as tall and straight as a young fir-tree. When she was eighteen years old her father called her to him and said: ‘You are of an age now, my daughter, to marry and settle down; but as I love you more than anything else in the world, and desire nothing but your happiness, I am determined to leave the choice of a husband to yourself. Choose a man after your own heart, and you are sure to satisfy me.' Cannetella thanked her father very much for his kindness and consideration, but told him that she had not the slightest wish to marry, and was quite determined to remain single.
The king, who felt himself growing old and feeble, and longed to see an heir to the throne before he died, was very unhappy at her words, and begged her earnestly not to disappoint him.
When Cannetella saw that the king had set his heart on her marriage, she said: ‘Very well, dear father, I will marry to please you, for I do not wish to appear ungrateful for all your love and kindness; but you must find me a husband handsomer, cleverer, and more charming than anyone else in the world.'
The king was overjoyed by her words, and from early in the morning till late at night he sat at the window and looked carefully at all the passers-by, in the hopes of finding a sonin-law among them.
One day, seeing a very good-looking man crossing the street, the king called his daughter and said: ‘Come quickly, dear Cannetella, and look at this man, for I think he might suit you as a husband.'
They called the young man into the palace, and set a sumptuous feast before him, with every sort of delicacy you can imagine. In the middle of the meal the youth let an almond fall out of his mouth, which, however, he picked up again very quickly and hid under the table-cloth.When the feast was over the stranger went away, and the king asked Cannetella: ‘Well, what did you think of the youth?' ‘I think he was a clumsy wretch,' replied Cannetella. ‘Fancy a man of his age letting an almond fall out of his mouth!'
When the king heard her answer he returned to his watch at the window, and shortly afterwards a very handsome young man passed by. The king instantly called his daughter to come and see what she thought of the new comer.
‘Call him in,' said Cannetella, ‘that we may see him close.'
‘Not at all,' replied his daughter; ‘what could you do with a man who requires at least two servants to help him on with his cloak, because he is too awkward to put it on properly himself?'
‘If that's all you have against him,' said the king, ‘I see how the land lies. You are determined not to have a husband at all; but marry someone you shall, for I do not mean my name and house to die out.'
‘Well, then, my dear parent,' said Cannetella, ‘I must tell you at once that you had better not count upon me, for I never mean to marry unless I can find a man with a gold head and gold teeth.'
The king was very angry at finding his daughter so obstinate; but as he always gave the girl her own way in everything, he issued a proclamation to the effect that any man with a gold head and gold teeth might come forward and claim the princess as his bride, and the kingdom of Bello Puojo as a wedding gift.
Now the king had a deadly enemy called Scioravante, who was a very powerful magician. No sooner had this man heard of the proclamation than he summoned his attendant spirits and commanded them to gild his head and teeth. The spirits said, at first, that the task was beyond their powers, and suggested that a pair of golden horns attached to his forehead would both be easier to make and more comfortable to wear; but Scioravante would allow no compromise, and insisted on having a head and teeth made of the finest gold. When it was fixed on his shoulders he went for a stroll in front of the palace. And the king, seeing the very man he was in search of, called his daughter, and said: ‘Just look out of the window, and you will find exactly what you want.'
Then, as Scioravante was hurrying past, the king shouted out to him: ‘Just stop a minute, brother, and don't be in such desperate haste. If you will step in here you shall have my daughter for a wife, and I will send attendants with her, and as many horses and servants as you wish.'
‘A thousand thanks,' returned Scioravante; ‘I shall be delighted to marry your daughter, but it is quite unnecessary to send anyone to accompany her. Give me a horse and I will carry off the princess in front of my saddle, and will bring her to my own kingdom, where there is no lack of courtiers or servants, or, indeed, of anything your daughter can desire.'
At first the king was very much against Cannetella's departing in this fashion; but finally Scioravante got his way, and placing the princess before him on his horse, he set out for his own country.
Towards evening he dismounted, and entering a stable he placed Cannetella in the same stall as his horse, and said to her: ‘Now listen to what I have to say. I am going to my home now, and that is a seven years' journey from here; you must wait for me in this stable, and never move from the spot, or let yourself be seen by a living soul. If you disobey my commands, it will be the worse for you.'
When the magician had left her Cannetella felt very miserable, and bitterly cursed the day she was born. She spent all her time weeping and bemoaning the cruel fate that had driven her from a palace into a stable, from soft down cushions to a bed of straw, and from the dainties of her father's table to the food that the horses left.She led this wretched life for a few months, and during that time she never saw who fed and watered the horses, for it was all done by invisible hands.
One day, when she was more than usually unhappy, she perceived a little crack in the wall, through which she could see a beautiful garden, with all manner of delicious fruits and flowers growing in it. The sight and smell of such delicacies were too much for poor Cannetella, and she said to herself, ‘I will slip quietly out, and pick a few oranges and grapes, and I don't care what happens. Who is there to tell my husband what I do? and even if he should hear of my disobedience, he cannot make my life more miserable than it is already.'So she slipped out and refreshed her poor, starved body with the fruit she plucked in the garden.
But a short time afterwards her husband returned unexpectedly, and one of the horses instantly told him that Cannetella had gone into the garden, in his absence, and had stolen some oranges and grapes.
Scioravante was furious when he heard this, and seizing a huge knife from his pocket he threatened to kill his wife for her disobedience. But Cannetella threw herself at his feet and implored him to spare her life, saying that hunger drove even the wolf from the wood. At last she succeeded in so far softening her husband's heart that he said, ‘I will forgive you this time, and spare your life; but if you disobey me again, and I hear, on my return, that you have as much as moved out of the stall, I will certainly kill you. So, beware; for I am going away once more, and shall be absent for seven years.'
With these words he took his departure, and Cannetella burst into a flood of tears, and, wringing her hands, she moaned: ‘Why was I ever born to such a hard fate? Oh! father, how miserable you have made your poor daughter! But, why should I blame my father? for I have only myself to thank for all my sufferings. I got the cursed head of gold, and it has brought all this misery on me. I am indeed punished for not doing as my father wished!'
When a year had gone by, it chanced, one day, that the king's cooper passed the stables where Cannetella was kept prisoner. She recognised the man, and called him to come in. At first he did not know the poor princess, and could not make out who it was that called him by name. But when he heard Cannetella's tale of woe, he hid her in a big empty barrel he had with him, partly because he was sorry for the poor girl, and, even more, because he wished to gain the king's favour. Then he slung the barrel on a mule's back, and in this way the princess was carried to her own home. They arrived at the palace about four o'clock in the morning, and the cooper knocked loudly at the door. When the servants came in haste and saw only the cooper standing at the gate, they were very indignant, and scolded him soundly for coming at such an hour and waking them all out of their sleep.
The king hearing the noise and the cause of it, sent for the cooper, for he felt certain the man must have some important business, to have come and disturbed the whole palace at such an early hour.
The cooper asked permission to unload his mule, and Cannetella crept out of the barrel. At first the king refused to believe that it was really his daughter, for she had changed so terribly in a few years, and had grown so thin and pale, that it was pitiful to see her. At last the princess showed her father a mole she had on her right arm, and then he saw that the poor girl was indeed his long-lost Cannetella. He kissed her a thousand times, and instantly had the choicest food and drink set before her.
After she had satisfied her hunger, the king said to her: ‘Who would have thought, my dear daughter, to have found you in such a state? What, may I ask, has brought you to this pass?'
Cannetella replied: ‘That wicked man with the gold head and teeth treated me worse than a dog, and many a time, since I left you, have I longed to die. But I couldn't tell you all that I have suffered, for you would never believe me. It is enough that I am once more with you, and I shall never leave you again, for I would rather be a slave in your house than queen in any other.'In the meantime Scioravante had returned to the stables, and one of the horses told him that Cannetella had been taken away by a cooper in a barrel.
When the wicked magician heard this he was beside himself with rage, and, hastening to the kingdom of Bello Puojo, he went straight to an old woman who lived exactly opposite the royal palace, and said to her: ‘If you will let me see the king's daughter, I will give you whatever reward you like to ask for.'
The woman demanded a hundred ducats of gold, and Scioravante counted them out of his purse and gave them to her without a murmur. Then the old woman led him to the roof of the house, where he could see Cannetella combing out her long hair in a room in the top story of the palace.
The princess happened to look out of the window, and when she saw her husband gazing at her, she got such a fright that she flew downstairs to the king, and said: ‘My lord and father, unless you shut me up instantly in a room with seven iron doors, I am lost.'‘If that's all,' said the king, ‘it shall be done at once.' And he gave orders for the doors to be closed on the spot.
When Scioravante saw this he returned to the old woman, and said: ‘I will give you whatever you like if you will go into the palace, hide under the princess's bed, and slip this little piece of paper beneath her pillow, saying, as you do so: "May everyone in the palace, except the princess, fall into a sound sleep."'
The old woman demanded another hundred golden ducats, and then proceeded to carry out the magician's wishes. No sooner had she slipped the piece of paper under Cannetella's pillow, than all the people in the palace fell fast asleep, and only the princess remained awake.
Then Scioravante hurried to the seven doors and opened them one after the other. Cannetella screamed with terror when she saw her husband, but no one came to her help, for all in the palace lay as if they were dead. The magician seized her in the bed on which she lay, and was going to carry her off with him, when the little piece of paper which the old woman had placed under her pillow fell on the floor.
In an instant all the people in the palace woke up, and as Cannetella was still screaming for help, they rushed to her rescue. They seized Scioravante and put him to death; so he was caught in the trap which he had laid for the princess--and, as is so often the case in this world, the biter himself was bit.[From the Italian, Kletke.]
There lived, once upon a time, in the land of Marigliano, a poor woman called Masella, who had six pretty daughters, all as upright as young fir-trees, and an only son called Antonio, who was so simple as to be almost an idiot. Hardly a day passed without his mother saying to him, ‘What are you doing, you useless creature? If you weren't too stupid to look after yourself, I would order you to leave the house and never to let me see your face again.'
Every day the youth committed some fresh piece of folly, till at last Masella, losing all patience, gave him a good beating, which so startled Antonio that he took to his heels and never stopped running till it was dark and the stars were shining in the heavens. He wandered on for some time, not knowing where to go, and at last he came to a cave, at the mouth of which sat an ogre, uglier than anything you can conceive.
He had a huge head and wrinkled brow--eyebrows that met, squinting eyes, a flat broad nose, and a great gash of a mouth from which two huge tusks stuck out. His skin was hairy, his arms enormous, his legs like sword blades, and his feet as flat as ducks'. In short, he was the most hideous and laughable object in the world.
But Antonio, who, with all his faults, was no coward, and was moreover a very civilspoken lad, took off his hat, and said: ‘Good-day, sir; I hope you are pretty well. Could you kindly tell me how far it is from here to the place where I wish to go?'When the ogre heard this extraordinary question he burst out laughing, and as he liked the youth's polite manners he said to him: ‘Will you enter my service?' ‘What wages do you give?' replied Antonio. ‘If you serve me faithfully,' returned the ogre, ‘I'll be bound you'll get enough wages to satisfy you.'
So the bargain was struck, and Antonio agreed to become the ogre's servant. He was very well treated, in every way, and he had little or no work to do, with the result that in a few days he became as fat as a quail, as round as a barrel, as red as a lobster, and as impudent as a bantam-cock.
But, after two years, the lad got weary of this idle life, and longed desperately to visit his home again. The ogre, who could see into his heart and knew how unhappy he was, said to him one day: ‘My dear Antonio, I know how much you long to see your mother and sisters again, and because I love you as the apple of my eye, I am willing to allow you to go home for a visit. Therefore, take this donkey, so that you may not have to go on foot; but see that you never say "Bricklebrit" to him, for if you do you'll be sure to regret it.' Antonio took the beast without as much as saying thank you, and jumping on its back he rode away in great haste; but he hadn't gone two hundred yards when he dismounted and called out ‘Bricklebrit.'No sooner had he pronounced the word than the donkey opened its mouth and poured forth rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls, as big as walnuts.
Antonio gazed in amazement at the sight of such wealth, and joyfully filling a huge sack with the precious stones, he mounted the donkey again and rode on till he came to an inn. Here he got down, and going straight to the landlord, he said to him: ‘My good man, I must ask you to stable this donkey for me. Be sure you give the poor beast plenty of oats and hay, but beware of saying the word "Bricklebrit" to him, for if you do I can promise you will regret it. Take this heavy sack, too, and put it carefully away for me.'
The landlord, who was no fool, on receiving this strange warning, and seeing the precious stones sparkling through the canvas of the sack, was most anxious to see what would happen if he used the forbidden word. So he gave Antonio an excellent dinner, with a bottle of fine old wine, and prepared a comfortable bed for him. As soon as he saw the poor simpleton close his eyes and had heard his lusty snores, he hurried to the stables and said to the donkey ‘Bricklebrit,' and the animal as usual poured out any number of precious stones.
When the landlord saw all these treasures he longed to get possession of so valuable an animal, and determined to steal the donkey from his foolish guest. As soon as it was light next morning Antonio awoke, and having rubbed his eyes and stretched himself about a hundred times he called the landlord and said to him: ‘Come here, my friend, and produce your bill, for short reckonings make long friends.'
When Antonio had paid his account he went to the stables and took out his donkey, as he thought, and fastening a sack of gravel, which the landlord had substituted for his precious stones, on the creature's back, he set out for his home.
No sooner had he arrived there than he called out: ‘Mother, come quickly, and bring table-cloths and sheets with you, and spread them out on the ground, and you will soon see what wonderful treasures I have brought you.'
His mother hurried into the house, and opening the linen-chest where she kept her daughters' wedding outfits, she took out table-cloths and sheets made of the finest linen, and spread them flat and smooth on the ground. Antonio placed the donkey on them, and called out ‘Bricklebrit.' But this time he met with no success, for the donkey took no more notice of the magic word than he would have done if a lyre had been twanged in his ear. Two, three, and four times did Antonio pronounce ‘Bricklebrit,' but all in vain, and he might as well have spoken to the wind.
Disgusted and furious with the poor creature, he seized a thick stick and began to beat it so hard that he nearly broke every bone in its body. The miserable donkey was so distracted at such treatment that, far from pouring out precious stones, it only tore and dirtied all the fine linen.
When poor Masella saw her table-cloths and sheets being destroyed, and that instead of becoming rich she had only been made a fool of, she seized another stick and belaboured Antonio so unmercifully with it, that he fled before her, and never stopped till he reached the ogre's cave.
When his master saw the lad returning in such a sorry plight, he understood at once what had happened to him, and making no bones about the matter, he told Antonio what a fool he had been to allow himself to be so imposed upon by the landlord, and to let a worthless animal be palmed off on him instead of his magic donkey.
Antonio listened humbly to the ogre's words, and vowed solemnly that he would never act so foolishly again. And so a year passed, and once more Antonio was overcome by a fit of home-sickness, and felt a great longing to see his own people again.
Now the ogre, although he was so hideous to look upon, had a very kind heart, and when he saw how restless and unhappy Antonio was, he at once gave him leave to go home on a visit. At parting he gave him a beautiful table-cloth, and said: ‘Give this to your mother; but see that you don't lose it as you lost the donkey, and till you are safely in your own house beware of saying "Table-cloth, open," and "Table-cloth, shut." If you do, the misfortune be on your own head, for I have given you fair warning.'
Antonio set out on his journey, but hardly had he got out of sight of the cave than he laid the table-cloth on the ground and said, ‘Table-cloth, open.' In an instant the table-cloth unfolded itself and disclosed a whole mass of precious stones and other treasures.
When Antonio perceived this he said, ‘Table-cloth, shut,' and continued his journey. He came to the same inn again, and calling the landlord to him, he told him to put the tablecloth carefully away, and whatever he did not to say ‘Table-cloth, open,' or ‘Table-cloth, shut,' to it.The landlord, who was a regular rogue, answered, ‘Just leave it to me, I will look after it as if it were my own.'
After he had given Antonio plenty to eat and drink, and had provided him with a comfortable bed, he went straight to the table-cloth and said, ‘Table-cloth, open.' It opened at once, and displayed such costly treasures that the landlord made up his mind on the spot to steal it.
When Antonio awoke next morning, the host handed him over a table-cloth exactly like his own, and carrying it carefully over his arm, the foolish youth went straight to his mother's house, and said: ‘Now we shall be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and need never go about in rags again, or lack the best of food.'
With these words he spread the table-cloth on the ground and said, ‘Table-cloth, open.'
But he might repeat the injunction as often as he pleased, it was only waste of breath, for nothing happened. When Antonio saw this he turned to his mother and said: ‘That old scoundrel of a landlord has done me once more; but he will live to repent it, for if I ever enter his inn again, I will make him suffer for the loss of my donkey and the other treasures he has robbed me of.'
Masella was in such a rage over her fresh disappointment that she could not restrain her impatience, and, turning on Antonio, she abused him soundly, and told him to get out of her sight at once, for she would never acknowledge him as a son of hers again. The poor boy was very depressed by her words, and slunk back to his master like a dog with his tail between his legs. When the ogre saw him, he guessed at once what had happened. He gave Antonio a good scolding, and said, ‘I don't know what prevents me smashing your head in, you useless ne'er-do-well! You blurt everything out, and your long tongue never ceases wagging for a moment. If you had remained silent in the inn this misfortune would never have overtaken you, so you have only yourself to blame for your present suffering.'
Antonio listened to his master's words in silence, looking for all the world like a whipped dog. When he had been three more years in the ogre's service he had another bad fit of home-sickness, and longed very much to see his mother and sisters again.
So he asked for permission to go home on a visit, and it was at once granted to him. Before he set out on his journey the ogre presented him with a beautifully carved stick and said, ‘Take this stick as a remembrance of me; but beware of saying, "Rise up, Stick," and "Lie down, Stick," for if you do, I can only say I wouldn't be in your shoes for something.'Antonio took the stick and said, ‘Don't be in the least alarmed, I'm not such a fool as you think, and know better than most people what two and two make.' ‘I'm glad to hear it,' replied the ogre, ‘but words are women, deeds are men. You have heard what I said, and forewarned is forearmed.'
This time Antonio thanked his master warmly for all his kindness, and started on his homeward journey in great spirits; but he had not gone half a mile when he said ‘Rise up, Stick.'
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the stick rose and began to rain down blows on poor Antonio's back with such lightning-like rapidity that he had hardly strength to call out, ‘Lie down, Stick;' but as soon as he uttered the words the stick lay down, and ceased beating his back black and blue.
Although he had learnt a lesson at some cost to himself, Antonio was full of joy, for he saw a way now of revenging himself on the wicked landlord. Once more he arrived at the inn, and was received in the most friendly and hospitable manner by his host. Antonio greeted him cordially, and said: ‘My friend, will you kindly take care of this stick for me? But, whatever you do, don't say "Rise up, Stick." If you do, you will be sorry for it, and you needn't expect any sympathy from me.'
The landlord, thinking he was coming in for a third piece of good fortune, gave Antonio an excellent supper; and after he had seen him comfortably to bed, he ran to the stick, and calling to his wife to come and see the fun, he lost no time in pronouncing the words ‘Rise up, Stick.'The moment he spoke the stick jumped up and beat the landlord so unmercifully that he and his wife ran screaming to Antonio, and, waking him up, pleaded for mercy.
When Antonio saw how successful his trick had been, he said: ‘I refuse to help you, unless you give me all that you have stolen from me, otherwise you will be beaten to death.'
The landlord, who felt himself at death's door already, cried out: ‘Take back your property, only release me from this terrible stick;' and with these words he ordered the donkey, the table-cloth, and other treasures to be restored to their rightful owner.As soon as Antonio had recovered his belongings he said ‘Stick, lie down,' and it stopped beating the landlord at once.
Then he took his donkey and table-cloth and arrived safely at his home with them. This time the magic words had the desired effect, and the donkey and table-cloth provided the family with treasures untold. Antonio very soon married off his sister, made his mother rich for life, and they all lived happily for ever after.[From the Italian, Kletke.]
A Fairy's Blunder
Once upon a time there lived a fairy whose name was Dindonette. She was the best creature in the world, with the kindest heart; but she had not much sense, and was always doing things, to benefit people, which generally ended in causing pain and distress to everybody concerned. No one knew this better than the inhabitants of an island far off in the midst of the sea, which, according to the laws of fairyland, she had taken under her special protection, thinking day and night of what she could do to make the isle the pleasantest place in the whole world, as it was the most beautiful.Now what happened was this:
As the fairy went about, unseen, from house to house, she heard everywhere children longing for the time when they would be ‘grown-up,' and able, they thought, to do as they liked; and old people talking about the past, and sighing to be young again.
‘Is there no way of satisfying these poor things?' she thought. And then one night an idea occurred to her. ‘Oh, yes, of course! It has been tried before; but I will manage better than the rest, with their old Fountain of Youth, which, after all, only made people young again. I will enchant the spring that bubbles up in the middle of the orchard, and the children that drink of it shall at once become grown men and women, and the old people return to the days of their childhood.'And without stopping to consult one single other fairy, who might have given her good advice, off rushed Dindonette, to cast her spell over the fountain.
It was the only spring of fresh water in the island, and at dawn was crowded with people of all ages, come to drink at its source. Delighted at her plan for making them all happy, the fairy hid herself behind a thicket of roses, and peeped out whenever footsteps came that way. It was not long before she had ample proof of the success of her enchantments. Almost before her eyes the children put on the size and strength of adults, while the old men and women instantly became helpless, tiny babies. Indeed, so pleased was she with the result of her work, that she could no longer remain hidden, and went about telling everybody what she had done, and enjoying their gratitude and thanks.
But after the first outburst of delight at their wishes being granted, people began to be a little frightened at the rapid effects of the magic water. It was delicious to feel yourself at the height of your power and beauty, but you would wish to keep so always! Now this was exactly what the fairy had been in too much of a hurry to arrange, and no sooner had the children become grown up, and the men and women become babies, than they all rushed on to old age at an appalling rate! The fairy only found out her mistake when it was too late to set it right.
When the inhabitants of the island saw what had befallen them, they were filled with despair, and did everything they could think of to escape from such a dreadful fate. They dug wells in their places, so that they should no longer need to drink from the magic spring; but the sandy soil yielded no water, and the rainy season was already past. They stored up the dew that fell, and the juice of fruits and of herbs, but all this was as a drop in the ocean of their wants. Some threw themselves into the sea, trusting that the current might carry them to other shores--they had no boats--and a few, still more impatient, put themselves to death on the spot. The rest submitted blindly to their destiny.
Perhaps the worst part of the enchantment was, that the change from one age to another was so rapid that the person had no time to prepare himself for it. It would not have mattered so much if the man who stood up in the assembly of the nation, to give his advice as to peace or war, had looked like a baby, as long as he spoke with the knowledge and sense of a full-grown man. But, alas! with the outward form of an infant, he had taken on its helplessness and foolishness, and there was no one who could train him to better things. The end of it all was, that before a month had passed the population had died out, and the fairy Dindonette, ashamed and grieved at the effects of her folly, had left the island for ever.
Many centuries after, the fairy Selnozoura, who had fallen into bad health, was ordered by her doctors to make the tour of the world twice a week for change of air, and in one of these journeys she found herself at Fountain Island. Selnozoura never made these trips alone, but always took with her two children, of whom she was very fond--Cornichon, a boy of fourteen, bought in his childhood at a slave-market, and Toupette, a few months younger, who had been entrusted to the care of the fairy by her guardian, the genius Kristopo. Cornichon and Toupette were intended by Selnozoura to become husband and wife, as soon as they were old enough. Meanwhile, they travelled with her in a little vessel, whose speed through the air was just a thousand nine hundred and fifty times greater than that of the swiftest of our ships.
Struck with the beauty of the island, Selnozoura ran the vessel to ground, and leaving it in the care of the dragon which lived in the hold during the voyage, stepped on shore with her two companions. Surprised at the sight of a large town whose streets and houses were absolutely desolate, the fairy resolved to put her magic arts in practice to find out the cause. While she was thus engaged, Cornichon and Toupette wandered away by themselves, and by-and-by arrived at the fountain, whose bubbling waters looked cool and delicious on such a hot day. Scarcely had they each drunk a deep draught, when the fairy, who by this time had discovered all she wished to know, hastened to the spot.‘Oh, beware! beware!' she cried, the moment she saw them. ‘If you drink that deadly poison you will be ruined for ever!' ‘Poison?' answered Toupette. ‘It is the most refreshing water I have ever tasted, and
Cornichon will say so too!'
‘Unhappy children, then I am too late! Why did you leave me? Listen, and I will tell you what has befallen the wretched inhabitants of this island, and what will befall you too. The power of fairies is great,' she added, when she had finished her story, ‘but they cannot destroy the work of another fairy. Very shortly you will pass into the weakness and silliness of extreme old age, and all I can do for you is to make it as easy to you as possible, and to preserve you from the death that others have suffered, from having no one to look after them. But the charm is working already! Cornichon is taller and more manly than he was an hour ago, and Toupette no longer looks like a little girl.'
‘Do not pity us,' said Cornichon. ‘If we are fated to grow old so soon, let us no longer delay our marriage. What matter if we anticipate our decay, if we only anticipate our happiness too?'
The fairy felt that Cornichon had reason on his side, and seeing by a glance at Toupette's face that there was no opposition to be feared from her, she answered, ‘Let it be so, then. But not in this dreadful place. We will return at once to Bagota, and the festivities shall be the most brilliant ever seen.'
They all returned to the vessel, and in a few hours the four thousand five hundred miles that lay between the island and Bagota were passed. Everyone was surprised to see the change which the short absence had made in the young people, but as the fairy had promised absolute silence about the adventure, they were none the wiser, and busied themselves in preparing their dresses for the marriage, which was fixed for the next night.
Early on the following morning the genius Kristopo arrived at the Court, on one of the visits he was in the habit of paying his ward from time to time. Like the rest, he was astonished at the sudden improvement in the child. He had always been fond of her, and in a moment he fell violently in love. Hastily demanding an audience of the fairy, he laid his proposals before her, never doubting that she would give her consent to so brilliant a match. But Selnozoura refused to listen, and even hinted that in his own interest Kristopo had better turn his thoughts elsewhere. The genius pretended to agree, but, instead, he went straight to Toupette's room, and flew away with her through the window, at the very instant that the bridegroom was awaiting her below.
When the fairy discovered what had happened, she was furious, and sent messenger after messenger to the genius in his palace at Ratibouf, commanding him to restore Toupette without delay, and threatening to make war in case of refusal.
Kristopo gave no direct answer to the fairy's envoys, but kept Toupette closely guarded in a tower, where the poor girl used all her powers of persuasion to induce him to put off their marriage. All would, however, have been quite vain if, in the course of a few days, sorrow, joined to the spell of the magic water, had not altered her appearance so completely that Kristopo was quite alarmed, and declared that she needed amusement and fresh air, and that, as his presence seemed to distress her, she should be left her own mistress. But one thing he declined to do, and that was to send her back to Bagota.
In the meantime both sides had been busily collecting armies, and Kristopo had given the command of his to a famous general, while Selnozoura had placed Cornichon at the head of her forces. But before war was actually declared, Toupette's parents, who had been summoned by the genius, arrived at Ratibouf. They had never seen their daughter since they parted from her as a baby, but from time to time travellers to Bagota had brought back accounts of her beauty. What was their amazement, therefore, at finding, instead of a lovely girl, a middle-aged woman, handsome indeed, but quite faded--looking, in fact, older than themselves. Kristopo, hardly less astonished than they were at the sudden change, thought that it was a joke on the part of one of his courtiers, who had hidden Toupette away, and put this elderly lady in her place. Bursting with rage, he sent instantly for all the servants and guards of the town, and inquired who had the insolence to play him such a trick, and what had become of their prisoner. They replied that since Toupette had been in their charge she had never left her rooms unveiled, and that during her walks in the surrounding gardens, her food had been brought in and placed on her table; as she preferred to eat alone no one had ever seen her face, or knew what she was like.
The servants were clearly speaking the truth, and Kristopo was obliged to believe them. ‘But,' thought he, ‘if they have not had a hand in this, it must be the work of the fairy,' and in his anger he ordered the army to be ready to march.
On her side, Selnozoura of course knew what the genius had to expect, but was deeply offended when she heard of the base trick which she was believed to have invented. Her first desire was to give battle to Kristopo at once, but with great difficulty her ministers induced her to pause, and to send an ambassador to Kristopo to try to arrange matters.
So the Prince Zeprady departed for the court of Ratibouf, and on his way he met Cornichon, who was encamped with his army just outside the gates of Bagota. The prince showed him the fairy's written order that for the present peace must still be kept, and Cornichon, filled with longing to see Toupette once more, begged to be allowed to accompany Zeprady on his mission to Ratibouf.
By this time the genius's passion for Toupette, which had caused all these troubles, had died out, and he willingly accepted the terms of peace offered by Zeprady, though he informed the prince that he still believed the fairy to be guilty of the dreadful change in the girl. To this the prince only replied that on that point he had a witness who could prove, better than anyone else, if it was Toupette or not, and desired that Cornichon should be sent for.
When Toupette was told that she was to see her old lover again, her heart leapt with joy; but soon the recollection came to her of all that had happened, and she remembered that Cornichon would be changed as well as she. The moment of their meeting was not all happiness, especially on the part of Toupette, who could not forget her lost beauty, and the genius, who was present, was at last convinced that he had not been deceived, and went out to sign the treaty of peace, followed by his attendants.‘Ah, Toupette: my dear Toupette!' cried Cornichon, as soon as they were left alone; ‘now that we are once more united, let our past troubles be forgotten.'
‘Our past troubles!' answered she, ‘and what do you call our lost beauty and the dreadful future before us? You are looking fifty years older than when I saw you last, and I know too well that fate has treated me no better!'
‘Ah, do not say that,' replied Cornichon, clasping her hand. ‘You are different, it is true; but every age has its graces, and surely no woman of sixty was ever handsomer than you! If your eyes had been as bright as of yore they would have matched badly with your faded skin. The wrinkles which I notice on your forehead explain the increased fulness of your cheeks, and your throat in withering is elegant in decay. Thus the harmony shown by your features, even as they grow old, is the best proof of their former beauty.'‘Oh, monster!' cried Toupette, bursting into tears, ‘is that all the comfort you can give me?' ‘But, Toupette,' answered Cornichon, ‘you used to declare that you did not care for beauty, as long as you had my heart.' ‘Yes, I know,' said she, ‘but how can you go on caring for a person who is as old and plain as I?' ‘Toupette, Toupette,' replied Cornichon, ‘you are only talking nonsense. My heart is as much yours as ever it was, and nothing in the world can make any difference.'
At this point of the conversation the Prince Zeprady entered the room, with the news that the genius, full of regret for his behaviour, had given Cornichon full permission to depart for Bagota as soon as he liked, and to take Toupette with him; adding that, though he begged they would excuse his taking leave of them before they went, he hoped, before long, to visit them at Bagota.
Neither of the lovers slept that night--Cornichon from joy at returning home, Toupette from dread of the blow to her vanity which awaited her at Bagota. It was hopeless for Cornichon to try to console her during the journey with the reasons he had given the day before. She only grew worse and worse, and when they reached the palace went straight to her old apartments, entreating the fairy to allow both herself and Cornichon to remain concealed, and to see no one.
For some time after their arrival the fairy was taken up with the preparations for the rejoicings which were to celebrate the peace, and with the reception of the genius, who was determined to do all in his power to regain Selnozoura's lost friendship. Cornichon and Toupette were therefore left entirely to themselves, and though this was only what they wanted, still, they began to feel a little neglected.
At length, one morning, they saw from the windows that the fairy and the genius were approaching, in state, with all their courtiers in attendance. Toupette instantly hid herself in the darkest corner of the room, but Cornichon, forgetting that he was now no longer a boy of fourteen, ran to meet them. In so doing he tripped and fell, bruising one of his eyes severely. At the sight of her lover lying helpless on the floor, Toupette hastened to his side; but her feeble legs gave way under her, and she fell almost on top of him, knocking out three of her loosened teeth against his forehead. The fairy, who entered the room at this moment, burst into tears, and listened in silence to the genius, who hinted that byand-by everything would be put right.
‘At the last assembly of the fairies,' he said, ‘when the doings of each fairy were examined and discussed, a proposal was made to lessen, as far as possible, the mischief caused by Dindonette by enchanting the fountain. And it was decided that, as she had meant nothing but kindness, she should have the power of undoing one half of the spell. Of course she might always have destroyed the fatal fountain, which would have been best of all; but this she never thought of. Yet, in spite of this, her heart is so good, that I am sure that the moment she hears that she is wanted she will fly to help. Only, before she comes, it is for you, Madam, to make up your mind which of the two shall regain their former strength and beauty.'
At these words the fairy's soul sank. Both Cornichon and Toupette were equally dear to her, and how could she favour one at the cost of the other? As to the courtiers, none of the men were able to understand why she hesitated a second to declare for Toupette; while the ladies were equally strong on the side of Cornichon.But, however undecided the fairy might be, it was quite different with Cornichon and Toupette.
‘Ah, my love,' exclaimed Cornichon, ‘at length I shall be able to give you the best proof of my devotion by showing you how I value the beauties of your mind above those of your body! While the most charming women of the court will fall victims to my youth and strength, I shall think of nothing but how to lay them at your feet, and pay heart-felt homage to your age and wrinkles.'
‘Not so fast,' interrupted Toupette, ‘I don't see why you should have it all. Why do you heap such humiliations upon me? But I will trust to the justice of the fairy, who will not treat me so.'Then she entered her own rooms, and refused to leave them, in spite of the prayers of Cornichon, who begged her to let him explain.
No one at the court thought or spoke of any other subject during the few days before the arrival of Dindonette, whom everybody expected to set things right in a moment. But, alas! she had no idea herself what was best to be done, and always adopted the opinion of the person she was talking to. At length a thought struck her, which seemed the only way of satisfying both parties, and she asked the fairy to call together all the court and the people to hear her decision.‘Happy is he,' she began, ‘who can repair the evil he has caused, but happier he who has never caused any.' As nobody contradicted this remark, she continued:
‘To me it is only allowed to undo one half of the mischief I have wrought. I could restore you your youth,' she said to Cornichon, ‘or your beauty,' turning to Toupette. ‘I will do both; and I will do neither.'A murmur of curiosity arose from the crowd, while Cornichon and Toupette trembled with astonishment.
‘No,' went on Dindonette, ‘never should I have the cruelty to leave one of you to decay, while the other enjoys the glory of youth. And as I cannot restore you both at once to what you were, one half of each of your bodies shall become young again, while the other half goes on its way to decay. I will leave it to you to choose which half it shall be--if I shall draw a line round the waist, or a line straight down the middle of the body.'
She looked about her proudly, expecting applause for her clever idea. But Cornichon and Toupette were shaking with rage and disappointment, and everyone else broke into shouts of laughter. In pity for the unhappy lovers, Selnozoura came forward.
‘Do you not think,' she said, ‘that instead of what you propose, it would be better to let them take it in turns to enjoy their former youth and beauty for a fixed time? I am sure you could easily manage that.'‘What an excellent notion!' cried Dindonette. ‘Oh, yes, of course that is best! Which of you shall I touch first?' ‘Touch her,' replied Cornichon, who was always ready to give way to Toupette. ‘I know her heart too well to fear any change.'
So the fairy bent forward and touched her with her magic ring, and in one instant the old woman was a girl again. The whole court wept with joy at the sight, and Toupette ran up to Cornichon, who had fallen down in his surprise, promising to pay him long visits, and tell him of all her balls and water parties.
The two fairies went to their own apartments, where the genius followed them to take his leave.
‘Oh, dear!' suddenly cried Dindonette, breaking in to the farewell speech of the genius. ‘I quite forgot to fix the time when Cornichon should in his turn grow young. How stupid of me! And now I fear it is too late, for I ought to have declared it before I touched Toupette with the ring. Oh, dear! oh, dear! why did nobody warn me?'
‘You were so quick,' replied Selnozoura, who had long been aware of the mischief the fairy had again done, ‘and we can only wait now till Cornichon shall have reached the utmost limits of his decay, when he will drink of the water, and become a baby once more, so that Toupette will have to spend her life as a nurse, a wife, and a caretaker.'
After the anxiety of mind and the weakness of body to which for so long Toupette had been a prey, it seemed as if she could not amuse herself enough, and it was seldom indeed that she found time to visit poor Cornichon, though she did not cease to be fond of him, or to be kind to him. Still, she was perfectly happy without him, and this the poor man did not fail to see, almost blind and deaf from age though he was.
But it was left to Kristopo to undo at last the work of Dindonette, and give Cornichon back the youth he had lost, and this the genius did all the more gladly, as he discovered, quite by accident, that Cornichon was in fact his son. It was on this plea that he attended the great yearly meeting of the fairies, and prayed that, in consideration of his services to so many of the members, this one boon might be granted him. Such a request had never before been heard in fairyland, and was objected to by some of the older fairies; but both Kristopo and Selnozoura were held in such high honour that the murmurs of disgust were set aside, and the latest victim to the enchanted fountain was pronounced to be free of the spell. All that the genius asked in return was that he might accompany the fairy back to Bagota, and be present when his son assumed his proper shape.
They made up their minds they would just tell Toupette that they had found a husband for her, and give her a pleasant surprise at her wedding, which was fixed for the following night. She heard the news with astonishment, and many pangs for the grief which Cornichon would certainly feel at his place being taken by another; but she did not dream of disobeying the fairy, and spent the whole day wondering who the bridegroom could be.
At the appointed hour, a large crowd assembled at the fairy's palace, which was decorated with the sweetest flowers, known only to fairyland. Toupette had taken her place, but where was the bridegroom?‘Fetch Cornichon!' said the fairy to her chamberlain. But Toupette interposed: ‘Oh, Madam, spare him, I entreat you, this bitter pain, and let him remain hidden and in peace.'
‘It is necessary that he should be here,' answered the fairy, ‘and he will not regret it.' And, as she spoke, Cornichon was led in, smiling with the foolishness of extreme old age at the sight of the gay crowd.‘Bring him here,' commanded the fairy, waving her hand towards Toupette, who started back from surprise and horror.
Selnozoura then took the hand of the poor old man, and the genius came forward and touched him three times with his ring, when Cornichon was transformed into a handsome young man.‘May you live long,' the genius said, ‘to enjoy happiness with your wife, and to love your father.' And that was the end of the mischief wrought by the fairy Dindonette! [Cabinet des Fées.]
Long, Broad, and Quickeye(A Bohemian Story) Once upon a time there lived a king who had an only son whom he loved dearly. Now one day the king sent for his son and said to him:
‘My dearest child, my hair is grey and I am old, and soon I shall feel no more the warmth of the sun, or look upon the trees and flowers. But before I die I should like to see you with a good wife; therefore marry, my son, as speedily as possible.'‘My father,' replied the prince, ‘now and always, I ask nothing better than to do your bidding, but I know of no daughter-in-law that I could give you.' On hearing these words the old king drew from his pocket a key of gold, and gave it to his son, saying: ‘Go up the staircase, right up to the top of the tower. Look carefully round you, and then come and tell me which you like best of all that you see.' So the young man went up. He had never before been in the tower, and had no idea what it might contain.
The staircase wound round and round and round, till the prince was almost giddy, and every now and then he caught sight of a large room that opened out from the side. But he had been told to go to the top, and to the top he went. Then he found himself in a hall, which had an iron door at one end. This door he unlocked with his golden key, and he passed through into a vast chamber which had a roof of blue sprinkled with golden stars, and a carpet of green silk soft as turf. Twelve windows framed in gold let in the light of the sun, and on every window was painted the figure of a young girl, each more beautiful than the last. While the prince gazed at them in surprise, not knowing which he liked best, the girls began to lift their eyes and smile at him. He waited, expecting them to speak, but no sound came.Suddenly he noticed that one of the windows was covered by a curtain of white silk.
He lifted it, and saw before him the image of a maiden beautiful as the day and sad as the tomb, clothed in a white robe, having a girdle of silver and a crown of pearls. The prince stood and gazed at her, as if he had been turned into stone, but as he looked the sadness which, was on her face seemed to pass into his heart, and he cried out:
‘This one shall be my wife. This one and no other.' As he said the words the young girl blushed and hung her head, and all the other figures vanished.The young prince went quickly back to his father, and told him all he had seen and which wife he had chosen. The old man listened to him full of sorrow, and then he spoke:
‘You have done ill, my son, to search out that which was hidden, and you are running to meet a great danger. This young girl has fallen into the power of a wicked sorcerer, who lives in an iron castle. Many young men have tried to deliver her, and none have ever come back. But what is done is done! You have given your word, and it cannot be broken. Go, dare your fate, and return to me safe and sound.'
So the prince embraced his father, mounted his horse, and set forth to seek his bride. He rode on gaily for several hours, till he found himself in a wood where he had never been before, and soon lost his way among its winding paths and deep valleys. He tried in vain to see where he was: the thick trees shut out the sun, and he could not tell which was north and which was south, so that he might know what direction to make for. He felt in despair, and had quite given up all hope of getting out of this horrible place, when he heard a voice calling to him.‘Hey! hey! stop a minute!' The prince turned round and saw behind him a very tall man, running as fast as his legs would carry him. ‘Wait for me,' he panted, ‘and take me into your service. If you do, you will never be sorry.' ‘Who are you?' asked the prince, ‘and what can you do?'
‘Long is my name, and I can lengthen my body at will. Do you see that nest up there on the top of that pine-tree? Well, I can get it for you without taking the trouble of climbing the tree,' and Long stretched himself up and up and up, till he was very soon as tall as the pine itself. He put the nest in his pocket, and before you could wink your eyelid he had made himself small again, and stood before the prince.
‘Yes; you know your business,' said he, ‘but birds' nests are no use to me. I am too old for them. Now if you were only able to get me out of this wood, you would indeed be good for something.'
‘Oh, there's no difficulty about that,' replied Long, and he stretched himself up and up and up till he was three times as tall as the tallest tree in the forest. Then he looked all round and said, ‘We must go in this direction in order to get out of the wood,' and shortening himself again, he took the prince's horse by the bridle, and led him along. Very soon they got clear of the forest, and saw before them a wide plain ending in a pile of high rocks, covered here and there with trees, and very much like the fortifications of a town.
As they left the wood behind, Long turned to the prince and said, ‘My lord, here comes my comrade. You should take him into your service too, as you will find him a great help.'‘Well, call him then, so that I can see what sort of a man he is.'
‘He is a little too far off for that,' replied Long. ‘He would hardly hear my voice, and he couldn't be here for some time yet, as he has so much to carry. I think I had better go and bring him myself,' and this time he stretched himself to such a height that his head was lost in the clouds. He made two or three strides, took his friend on his back, and set him down before the prince. The new-comer was a very fat man, and as round as a barrel.‘Who are you?' asked the prince, ‘and what can you do?' ‘Your worship, Broad is my name, and I can make myself as wide as I please.' ‘Let me see how you manage it.' ‘Run, my lord, as fast as you can, and hide yourself in the wood,' cried Broad, and he began to swell himself out.
The prince did not understand why he should run to the wood, but when he saw Long flying towards it, he thought he had better follow his example. He was only just in time, for Broad had so suddenly inflated himself that he very nearly knocked over the prince and his horse too. He covered all the space for acres round. You would have thought he was a mountain!At length Broad ceased to expand, drew a deep breath that made the whole forest tremble, and shrank into his usual size. ‘You have made me run away,' said the prince. ‘But it is not every day one meets with a man of your sort. I will take you into my service.' So the three companions continued their journey, and when they were drawing near the rocks they met a man whose eyes were covered by a bandage. ‘Your excellency,' said Long, ‘this is our third comrade. You will do well to take him into your service, and, I assure you, you will find him worth his salt.'
‘Who are you?' asked the prince. ‘And why are your eyes bandaged? You can never see your way!'
‘It is just the contrary, my lord! It is because I see only too well that I am forced to bandage my eyes. Even so I see as well as people who have no bandage. When I take it off my eyes pierce through everything. Everything I look at catches fire, or, if it cannot catch fire, it falls into a thousand pieces. They call me Quickeye.'
And so saying he took off his bandage and turned towards the rock. As he fixed his eyes upon it a crack was heard, and in a few moments it was nothing but a heap of sand. In the sand something might be detected glittering brightly. Quickeye picked it up and brought it to the prince. It turned out to be a lump of pure gold.
‘You are a wonderful creature,' said the prince, ‘and I should be a fool not to take you into my service. But since your eyes are so good, tell me if I am very far from the Iron Castle, and what is happening there just now.'
‘If you were travelling alone,' replied Quickeye, ‘it would take you at least a year to get to it; but as we are with you, we shall arrive there to-night. Just now they are preparing supper.'‘There is a princess in the castle. Do you see her?' ‘A wizard keeps her in a high tower, guarded by iron bars.' ‘Ah, help me to deliver her!' cried the prince. And they promised they would.
Then they all set out through the grey rocks, by the breach made by the eyes of Quickeye, and passed over great mountains and through deep woods. And every time they met with any obstacle the three friends contrived somehow to put it aside. As the sun was setting, the prince beheld the towers of the Iron Castle, and before it sank beneath the horizon he was crossing the iron bridge which led to the gates. He was only just in time, for no sooner had the sun disappeared altogether, than the bridge drew itself up and the gates shut themselves.There was no turning back now!
The prince put up his horse in the stable, where everything looked as if a guest was expected, and then the whole party marched straight up to the castle. In the court, in the stables, and all over the great halls, they saw a number of men richly dressed, but every one turned into stone. They crossed an endless set of rooms, all opening into each other, till they reached the dining-hall. It was brilliantly lighted; the table was covered with wine and fruit, and was laid for four. They waited a few minutes expecting someone to come, but as nobody did, they sat down and began to eat and drink, for they were very hungry.
When they had done their supper they looked about for some place to sleep. But suddenly the door burst open, and the wizard entered the hall. He was old and hump-backed, with a bald head and a grey beard that fell to his knees. He wore a black robe, and instead of a belt three iron circlets clasped his waist. He led by the hand a lady of wonderful beauty, dressed in white, with a girdle of silver and a crown of pearls, but her face was pale and sad as death itself.
‘I know why you are here. Very good; you may have her if for three nights following you can prevent her making her escape. If you fail in this, you and your servants will all be turned into stone, like those who have come before you.' And offering the princess a chair, he left the hall.
The prince could not take his eyes from the princess, she was so lovely! He began to talk to her, but she neither answered nor smiled, and sat as if she were made of marble. He seated himself by her, and determined not to close his eyes that night, for fear she should escape him. And in order that she should be doubly guarded, Long stretched himself like a strap all round the room, Broad took his stand by the door and puffed himself out, so that not even a mouse could slip by, and Quickeye leant against a pillar which stood in the middle of the floor and supported the roof. But in half a second they were all sound asleep, and they slept sound the whole night long.In the morning, at the first peep of dawn, the prince awoke with a start. But the princess was gone. He aroused his servants and implored them to tell him what he must do.
‘Calm yourself, my lord,' said Quickeye. ‘I have found her already. A hundred miles from here there is a forest. In the middle of the forest, an old oak, and on the top of the oak, an acorn. This acorn is the princess. If Long will take me on his shoulders, we shall soon bring her back.' And sure enough, in less time than it takes to walk round a cottage, they had returned from the forest, and Long presented the acorn to the prince.‘Now, your excellency, throw it on the ground.'
The prince obeyed, and was enchanted to see the princess appear at his side. But when the sun peeped for the first time over the mountains, the door burst open as before, and the wizard entered with a loud laugh. Suddenly he caught sight of the princess; his face darkened, he uttered a low growl, and one of the iron circlets gave way with a crash. He seized the young girl by the hand and bore her away with him.
All that day the prince wandered about the castle, studying the curious treasures it contained, but everything looked as if life had suddenly come to a standstill. In one place he saw a prince who had been turned into stone in the act of brandishing a sword round which his two hands were clasped. In another, the same doom had fallen upon a knight in the act of running away. In a third, a serving man was standing eternally trying to convey a piece of beef to his mouth, and all around them were others, still preserving for evermore the attitudes they were in when the wizard had commanded ‘From henceforth be turned into marble.' In the castle, and round the castle all was dismal and desolate. Trees there were, but without leaves; fields there were, but no grass grew on them. There was one river, but it never flowed and no fish lived in it. No flowers blossomed, and no birds sang.
Three times during the day food appeared, as if by magic, for the prince and his servants. And it was not until supper was ended that the wizard appeared, as on the previous evening, and delivered the princess into the care of the prince.
All four determined that this time they would keep awake at any cost. But it was no use. Off they went as they had done before, and when the prince awoke the next morning the room was again empty.With a pang of shame, he rushed to find Quickeye. ‘Awake! Awake! Quickeye! Do you know what has become of the princess?'
Quickeye rubbed his eyes and answered: ‘Yes, I see her. Two hundred miles from here there is a mountain. In this mountain is a rock. In the rock, a precious stone. This stone is the princess. Long shall take me there, and we will be back before you can turn round.'
So Long took him on his shoulders and they set out. At every stride they covered twenty miles, and as they drew near Quickeye fixed his burning eyes on the mountain; in an instant it split into a thousand pieces, and in one of these sparkled the precious stone. They picked it up and brought it to the prince, who flung it hastily down, and as the stone touched the floor the princess stood before him. When the wizard came, his eyes shot forth flames of fury. Cric-crac was heard, and another of his iron bands broke and fell. He seized the princess by the hand and led her off, growling louder than ever.
All that day things went on exactly as they had done the day before. After supper the wizard brought back the princess, and looking him straight in the eyes he said, ‘We shall see which of us two will gain the prize after all!'
That night they struggled their very hardest to keep awake, and even walked about instead of sitting down. But it was quite useless. One after another they had to give in, and for the third time the princess slipped through their fingers.When morning came, it was as usual the prince who awoke the first, and as usual, the princess being gone, he rushed to Quickeye. ‘Get up, get up, Quickeye, and tell me where is the princess?'
Quickeye looked about for some time without answering. ‘Oh, my lord, she is far, very far. Three hundred miles away there lies a black sea. In the middle of this sea there is a little shell, and in the middle of the shell is fixed a gold ring. That gold ring is the princess. But do not vex your soul; we will get her. Only to-day, Long must take Broad with him. He will be wanted badly.'
So Long took Quickeye on one shoulder, and Broad on the other, and they set out. At each stride they left thirty miles behind them. When they reached the black sea, Quickeye showed them the spot where they must seek the shell. But though Long stretched down his hand as far as it would go, he could not find the shell, for it lay at the bottom of the sea.‘Wait a moment, comrades, it will be all right. I will help you,' said Broad.
Then he swelled himself out so that you would have thought the world could hardly have held him, and stooping down he drank. He drank so much at every mouthful, that only a minute or so passed before the water had sunk enough for Long to put his hand to the bottom. He soon found the shell, and pulled the ring out. But time had been lost, and Long had a double burden to carry. The dawn was breaking fast before they got back to the castle, where the prince was waiting for them in an agony of fear.
Soon the first rays of the sun were seen peeping over the tops of the mountains. The door burst open, and finding the prince standing alone the wizard broke into peals of wicked laughter. But as he laughed a loud crash was heard, the window fell into a thousand pieces, a gold ring glittered in the air, and the princess stood before the enchanter. For Quickeye, who was watching from afar, had told Long of the terrible danger now threatening the prince, and Long, summoning all his strength for one gigantic effort, had thrown the ring right through the window.
The wizard shrieked and howled with rage, till the whole castle trembled to its foundations. Then a crash was heard, the third band split in two, and a crow flew out of the window.Then the princess at length broke the enchanted silence, and blushing like a rose, gave the prince her thanks for her unlooked-for deliverance.
But it was not only the princess who was restored to life by the flight of the wicked black crow. The marble figures became men once more, and took up their occupations just as they had left them off. The horses neighed in the stables, the flowers blossomed in the garden, the birds flew in the air, the fish darted in the water. Everywhere you looked, all was life, all was joy!And the knights who had been turned into stone came in a body to offer their homage to the prince who had set them free. ‘Do not thank me,' he said, ‘for I have done nothing. Without my faithful servants, Long,
Broad, and Quickeye, I should even have been as one of you.'
With these words he bade them farewell, and departed with the princess and his faithful companions for the kingdom of his father.
All the knights who had been enchanted in the Iron Castle were invited to the ceremony, and after it had taken place, Long, Broad, and Quickeye took leave of the young couple, saying that they were going to look for more work.
The prince offered them all their hearts could desire if they would only remain with him, but they replied that an idle life would not please them, and that they could never be happy unless they were busy, so they went away to seek their fortunes, and for all I know are seeking still.[Contes populaires. Traduits par Louis Léger. Paris: Leroux, éditeur.]
There was once upon a time a woman who had an only daughter. When the child was about seven years old she used to pass every day, on her way to school, an orchard where there was a wild plum tree, with delicious ripe plums hanging from the branches. Each morning the child would pick one, and put it into her pocket to eat at school. For this reason she was called Prunella. Now, the orchard belonged to a witch. One day the witch noticed the child gathering a plum, as she passed along the road. Prunella did it quite innocently, not knowing that she was doing wrong in taking the fruit that hung close to the roadside. But the witch was furious, and next day hid herself behind the hedge, and when Prunella came past, and put out her hand to pluck the fruit, she jumped out and seized her by the arm.‘Ah! you little thief!' she exclaimed. ‘I have caught you at last. Now you will have to pay for your misdeeds.'
The poor child, half dead with fright, implored the old woman to forgive her, assuring her that she did not know she had done wrong, and promising never to do it again. But the witch had no pity, and she dragged Prunella into her house, where she kept her till the time should come when she could have her revenge.As the years passed Prunella grew up into a very beautiful girl. Now her beauty and goodness, instead of softening the witch's heart, aroused her hatred and jealousy. One day she called Prunella to her, and said: ‘Take this basket, go to the well, and bring it back to me filled with water. If you don't I will kill you.'
The girl took the basket, went and let it down into the well again and again. But her work was lost labour. Each time, as she drew up the basket, the water streamed out of it. At last, in despair, she gave it up, and leaning against the well she began to cry bitterly, when suddenly she heard a voice at her side saying ‘Prunella, why are you crying?'Turning round she beheld a handsome youth, who looked kindly at her, as if he were sorry for her trouble. ‘Who are you,' she asked, ‘and how do you know my name?'
‘I am the son of the witch,' he replied, ‘and my name is Bensiabel. I know that she is determined that you shall die, but I promise you that she shall not carry out her wicked plan. Will you give me a kiss, if I fill your basket?'
‘No,' said Prunella, ‘I will not give you a kiss, because you are the son of a witch.' ‘Very well,' replied the youth sadly. ‘Give me your basket and I will fill it for you.' And he dipped it into the well, and the water stayed in it. Then the girl returned to the house, carrying the basket filled with water. When the witch saw it, she became white with rage, and exclaimed ‘Bensiabel must have helped you.' And Prunella looked down, and said nothing.‘Well, we shall see who will win in the end,' said the witch, in a great rage.
The following day she called the girl to her and said: ‘Take this sack of wheat. I am going out for a little; by the time I return I shall expect you to have made it into bread. If you have not done it I will kill you.' Having said this she left the room, closing and locking the door behind her.
Poor Prunella did not know what to do. It was impossible for her to grind the wheat, prepare the dough, and bake the bread, all in the short time that the witch would be away. At first she set to work bravely, but when she saw how hopeless her task was, she threw herself on a chair, and began to weep bitterly. She was roused from her despair by hearing Bensiabel's voice at her side saying: ‘Prunella, Prunella, do not weep like that. If you will give me a kiss I will make the bread, and you will be saved.'‘I will not kiss the son of a witch,' replied Prunella. But Bensiabel took the wheat from her, and ground it, and made the dough, and when the witch returned the bread was ready baked in the oven. Turning to the girl, with fury in her voice, she said: ‘Bensiabel must have been here and helped you;' and Prunella looked down, and said nothing. ‘We shall see who will win in the end,' said the witch, and her eyes blazed with anger.
Next day she called the girl to her and said: ‘Go to my sister, who lives across the mountains. She will give you a casket, which you must bring back to me.' This she said knowing that her sister, who was a still more cruel and wicked witch than herself, would never allow the girl to return, but would imprison her and starve her to death. But Prunella did not suspect anything, and set out quite cheerfully. On the way she met Bensiabel.‘Where are you going, Prunella?' he asked. ‘I am going to the sister of my mistress, from whom I am to fetch a casket.' ‘Oh poor, poor girl!' said Bensiabel. ‘You are being sent straight to your death. Give me a kiss, and I will save you.'
But again Prunella answered as before, ‘I will not kiss the son of a witch.' ‘Nevertheless, I will save your life,' said Bensiabel, ‘for I love you better than myself. Take this flagon of oil, this loaf of bread, this piece of rope, and this broom. When you reach the witch's house, oil the hinges of the door with the contents of the flagon, and throw the loaf of bread to the great fierce mastiff, who will come to meet you. When you have passed the dog, you will see in the courtyard a miserable woman trying in vain to let down a bucket into the well with her plaited hair. You must give her the rope. In the kitchen you will find a still more miserable woman trying to clean the hearth with her tongue; to her you must give the broom. You will see the casket on the top of a cupboard, take it as quickly as you can, and leave the house without a moment's delay. If you do all this exactly as I have told you, you will not be killed.'
So Prunella, having listened carefully to his instructions, did just what he had told her. She reached the house, oiled the hinges of the door, threw the loaf to the dog, gave the poor woman at the well the rope, and the woman in the kitchen the broom, caught up the casket from the top of the cupboard, and fled with it out of the house. But the witch heard her as she ran away, and rushing to the window called out to the woman in the kitchen: ‘Kill that thief, I tell you!'But the woman replied: ‘I will not kill her, for she has given me a broom, whereas you forced me to clean the hearth with my tongue.' Then the witch called out in fury to the woman at the well: ‘Take the girl, I tell you, and fling her into the water, and drown her!' But the woman answered: ‘No, I will not drown her, for she gave me this rope, whereas you forced me to use my hair to let down the bucket to draw water.'
Then the witch shouted to the dog to seize the girl and hold her fast; but the dog answered: ‘No, I will not seize her, for she gave me a loaf of bread, whereas you let me starve with hunger.'The witch was so angry that she nearly choked, as she called out: ‘Door, bang upon her, and keep her a prisoner.' But the door answered: ‘I won't, for she has oiled my hinges, so that they move quite easily, whereas you left them all rough and rusty.'
And so Prunella escaped, and, with the casket under her arm, reached the house of her mistress, who, as you may believe, was as angry as she was surprised to see the girl standing before her, looking more beautiful than ever. Her eyes flashed, as in furious tones she asked her, ‘Did you meet Bensiabel?'But Prunella looked down, and said nothing.
‘We shall see,' said the witch, ‘who will win in the end. Listen, there are three cocks in the hen-house; one is yellow, one black, and the third is white. If one of them crows during the night you must tell me which one it is. Woe to you if you make a mistake. I will gobble you up in one mouthful.'Now Bensiabel was in the room next to the one where Prunella slept. At midnight she awoke hearing a cock crow. ‘Which one was that?' shouted the witch. Then, trembling, Prunella knocked on the wall and whispered: ‘Bensiabel, Bensiabel, tell me, which cock crowed?' ‘Will you give me a kiss if I tell you?' he whispered back through the wall. But she answered ‘No.' Then he whispered back to her: ‘Nevertheless, I will tell you. It was the yellow cock that crowed.' The witch, who had noticed the delay in Prunella's answer, approached her door calling angrily: ‘Answer at once, or I will kill you.' So Prunella answered: ‘It was the yellow cock that crowed.' And the witch stamped her foot and gnashed her teeth. Soon after another cock crowed. ‘Tell me now which one it is,' called the witch. And, prompted by Bensiabel, Prunella answered: ‘That is the black cock.' A few minutes after the crowing was heard again, and the voice of the witch demanding ‘Which one was that?'
And again Prunella implored Bensiabel to help her. But this time he hesitated, for he hoped that Prunella might forget that he was a witch's son, and promise to give him a kiss. And as he hesitated he heard an agonised cry from the girl: ‘Bensiabel, Bensiabel, save me! The witch is coming, she is close to me, I hear the gnashing of her teeth!'
With a bound Bensiabel opened his door and flung himself against the witch. He pulled her back with such force that she stumbled, and falling headlong, dropped down dead at the foot of the stairs.Then, at last, Prunella was touched by Bensiabel's goodness and kindness to her, and she became his wife, and they lived happily ever after.