The Lilac Fairy Book HTML version

The Three Crowns
There was once a king who had three daughters. The two eldest were very proud and
quarrelsome, but the youngest was as good as they were bad. Well, three princes came to
court them, and two of them were exactly like the eldest ladies, and one was just as
lovable as the youngest. One day they were all walking down to a lake that lay at the
bottom of the lawn when they met a poor beggar. The king wouldn't give him anything,
and the eldest princesses wouldn't give him anything, nor their sweethearts; but the
youngest daughter and her true love did give him something, and kind words along with
it, and that was better than all.
When they got to the edge of the lake what did they find but the beautifullest boat you
ever saw in your life; and says the eldest, 'I'll take a sail in this fine boat'; and says the
second eldest, 'I'll take a sail in this fine boat'; and says the youngest, 'I won't take a sail
in that fine boat, for I am afraid it's an enchanted one.' But the others persuaded her to go
in, and her father was just going in after her, when up sprung on the deck a little man
only seven inches high, and ordered him to stand back. Well, all the men put their hands
to their swords; and if the same swords were only playthings, they weren't able to draw
them, for all strength that was left their arms. Seven Inches loosened the silver chain that
fastened the boat, and pushed away, and after grinning at the four men, says he to them.
'Bid your daughters and your brides farewell for awhile. You,' says he to the youngest,
'needn't fear, you'll recover your princess all in good time, and you and she will be as
happy as the day is long. Bad people, if they were rolling stark naked in gold, would not
be rich. Good-bye.' Away they sailed, and the ladies stretched out their hands, but weren't
able to say a word.
Well, they weren't crossing the lake while a cat 'ud be lickin' her ear, and the poor men
couldn't stir hand or foot to follow them. They saw Seven Inches handing the three
princesses out of the boat, and letting them down by a basket into a draw-well, but king
nor princes ever saw an opening before in the same place. When the last lady was out of
sight, the men found the strength in their arms and legs again. Round the lake they ran,
and never drew rein till they came to the well and windlass; and there was the silk rope
rolled on the axle, and the nice white basket hanging to it. 'Let me down,' says the
youngest prince. 'I'll die or recover them again.' 'No,' says the second daughter's
sweetheart, 'it is my turn first.' And says the other, 'I am the eldest.' So they gave way to
him, and in he got into the basket, and down they let him. First they lost sight of him, and
then, after winding off a hundred perches of the silk rope, it slackened, and they stopped
turning. They waited two hours, and then they went to dinner, because there was no pull
made at the rope.
Guards were set till next morning, and then down went the second prince, and sure
enough, the youngest of all got himself let down on the third day. He went down perches
and perches, while it was as dark about him as if he was in a big pot with a cover on. At
last he saw a glimmer far down, and in a short time he felt the ground. Out he came from
the big lime-kiln, and, lo! and behold you, there was a wood, and green fields, and a
castle in a lawn, and a bright sky over all. 'It's in Tir-na-n-Oge I am,' says he. 'Let's see
what sort of people are in the castle.' On he walked, across fields and lawn, and no one