ONCE a weaver who was in want of work, took service with a farmer as a shepherd.
The farmer, knowing that the man was very slow-witted, gave him most careful instructions as to everything that he was to do. Finally he said:
"If a wolf or any wild animal attempts to hurt the flock you should pick up a big stone like this' (suiting the action to the word) "and throw a few such at him, and he will be afraid and go away."
The weaver said that he understood, and started with the flocks to the hillsides where they grazed all day.
By chance in the afternoon a rather big cat appeared, and the weaver instantly ran home as fast as he could to get the stones which the farmer had shown him to throw at the creature. When he came back all the flock was scattered. When the farmer heard the tale he beat him and cried in anger,
"Were there no stones on the hillside that you should run back to get them? You're not fit to herd sheep. Today you shall stay at home and mind my old mother who is sick. Perhaps you'll be able to drive flies off her face, if you can't drive beasts away from sheep!"
Next day the weaver was left at home to take care of the farmer's old sick mother. As she lay outside on a bed, it turned out that the flies became very troublesome, and the weaver looked round for something to drive them away with. And as he had been told to pick up the nearest stone to drive the beasts away from the flock, he thought he would this time show how cleverly he could obey orders. Accordingly he seized the nearest stone, a big, heavy one, and dashed it at the flies. Alas! he slew the poor old woman also. And then, being afraid of the anger of the farmer, he fled and was not seen again in that neighbourhood.
All that day and all the next night he walked. At last he came to a village where a great many weavers lived together.
"You're welcome," they said. "Eat and sleep, for tomorrow six of us start in search of fresh wool to weave, and we hope you to give us your company."
"Willingly," answered the weaver.
So the next morning the seven weavers set out to go to the village where they could buy what they wanted. On the way they had to cross a ravine which lately had been full of water, but now was quite dry. The weavers, however, were used to swim over this ravine. Therefore, despite the fact that this time it was dry, they stripped, and, tying their clothes on their heads, they proceeded to swim across the dry sand and rocks that formed the bed of the ravine. Thus they got to the other side without further damage than bruised knees and elbows.
As soon as they were over, one of them began to count the party to make sure that all were safe there. He counted all except himself, and then cried out that somebody was missing! This set each of them counting; but each made the same mistake of counting all except himself, so that they became certain that one of their party was missing! They ran up and down the bank of the ravine wringing their hands in great distress and looking for signs of their lost comrade. There a farmer found them and asked what was the matter.
"Alas!" said one, "seven of us started from the other bank and one must have been drowned on the crossing, as we can only find six remaining!"
The farmer eyed them a minute, and then, picking up his stick, he dealt each a rather heavy blow, counting, as he did so, "One! two! three!" and so on up to the seven. When the weavers found that there were seven of them they were overcome with gratitude to one whom they took for a magician as he could thus make seven out of an obvious six.
THERE was once a king who ruled over a kingdom somewhere between sunrise and sunset. It was as small as kingdoms usually were in old times, and when the king went up to the roof of his castle and took a look round he could see to the ends of it in every direction. But as it was all his own, he was very proud of it, and often wondered how it would get along without him. He had only one child, and that was a daughter, so he foresaw that she must be provided with a husband who would be fit to be king after him. Where to find one rich enough and clever enough to be a suitable match for the princess was what troubled him, and often kept him awake at night.
At last he devised a plan. He made a proclamation over all his kingdom (and asked his nearest neighbours to publish it in theirs as well) that whoever could bring him a dozen of the finest pearls the king had ever seen, and could perform certain tasks that would be set him, should have his daughter in marriage and in due time succeed to the throne. The pearls, he thought, could only be brought by a very wealthy man, and the tasks would require unusual talents to accomplish them.
There were plenty who tried to fulfil the terms which the king proposed. Rich merchants and foreign princes presented themselves one after the other, so that some days the number of them was quite annoying; but, though they could all produce magnificent pearls, not one of them could perform even the simplest of the tasks set them. Some turned up, too, who were mere adventurers, and tried to deceive the old king with imitation pearls; but he was not to be taken in so easily, and they were soon sent about their business. At the end of several weeks the stream of suitors began to fall off, and still there was no prospect of a suitable son-in-law.
Now it so happened that in a little corner of the king's dominions, beside the sea, there lived a poor fisher, who had three sons, and their names were Peter, paul, and Osmond. Peter and Paul were grown men, while Osmond was just coming to manhood. The two elder brothers were much bigger and stronger than the youngest, but Osmond was far the cleverest of the three, though neither Peter nor Paul would admit this. It was a fact, however, as we shall see in the course of our story.
One day the fisherman went out fishing, and among his catch for the day he brought home three dozen oysters. When these were opened, every shell was found to contain a large and beautiful pearl. Hereupon the three brothers, at one and the same moment, fell on the idea of offering themselves as suitors for the princess. After some discussion, it was agreed that the pearls should be divided by lot, and that each should have his chance in the order of his age: of course, if the oldest was successful the other two would be saved the trouble of trying.
Next morning Peter put his pearls in a little basket, and set off for the king's castle. He had not gone far on his way when he came on the king of the ants and the king of the Beetles, who, with their armies behind them, were facing each other and preparing for battle.
"Come and help me," said the king of the ants; "the beetles are too big for us. I may help you some day in return.
"I've no time to waste on other people's affairs," said Peter; "just fight away as best you can; "and with that he walked off and left them.
A little further on the way he met an old woman.
"Good morning, young man," said she; "you're early astir. What have you got in your basket?"
"Cinders," said Peter promptly, and walked on, adding to himself, "Take that for being so inquisitive."
"Very well, cinders be it," the old woman called after him, but he pretended not to hear her.
Very soon he reached the castle, and was at once brought before the king. When he took the cover off the basket, the king and all his courtiers said with one voice that these were the finest pearls they had ever seen, and they couldn't take their eyes off them. But then a strange thing happened: the pearls began to lose their whiteness and grew quite dim in colour; then they grew blacker and blacker till at last they were just like so many cinders. Peter was so amazed that he could say nothing for himself, but the king said quite enough for both, and Peter was glad to get away home again as fast as his legs would carry him. To his father and brothers, however, he gave no account of his attempt, except that it had been a failure.
Next day Paul set out to try his luck. He soon came on the king of the ants and the king of the Beetles, who with their armies had encamped on the field of battle all night, and were ready to begin the fight again.
"Come and help me," said the king of the ants; "we got the worst of it yesterday. I may help you some day in return."
"I don't care though you get the worst of it today too," said Paul. "I've more important business on hand than mixing myself up in your quarrels."
So he walked on, and presently the same old woman met him. "Good morning," said she; "what have you got in your basket?"
"Cinders," said Paul, who was quite as insolent as his brother, and quite as anxious to teach other people good manners.
"Very well, cinders be it," the old woman shouted after him, but Paul neither looked back nor answered her. He thought more of what she said, however, after his pearls also turned to cinders before the eyes of king and court: then he lost no time in getting home again, and was very sulky when asked how he had succeeded.
The third day came, and with it came Osmond's turn to try his fortune. He got up and had his breakfast, while Peter and Paul lay in bed and made rude remarks, telling him that he would come back quicker than he went, for if they had failed it couldn't be supposed that he would succeed. Osmond made no reply, but put his pearls in the little basket and walked off.
The king of the ants and the king of the beetles were again marshalling their hosts, but the ants were greatly reduced in numbers, and had little hope of holding out that day.
"Come and help us," said their king to Osmond, "or we shall be completely defeated. I may help you some day in return."
Now Osmond had always heard the ants spoken of as clever and industrious little creatures, while he never heard anyone say a good word for the beetles, so he agreed to give the wished-for help. At the first charge he made, the ranks of the beetles broke and fled in dismay, and those escaped best that were nearest a hole, and could get into it before Osmond's boots came down on them. In a few minutes the ants had the field all to themselves; and their king made quite an eloquent speech to Osmond, thanking him for the service he had done them, and promising to assist him in any difficulty.
"Just call on me when you want me," he said, "where-ever you're. I'm never far away from anywhere, and if I can possibly help you, I shall not fail to do it."
Osmond was inclined to laugh at this, but he kept a grave face, said he would remember the offer, and walked on. At a turn of the road he suddenly came on the old woman. "Good morning," said she; "what have you got in your basket?"
"Pearls," said Osmond; "I'm going to the castle to win the princess with them." And in case she might not believe him, he lifted the cover and let her see them.
"Beautiful," said the old woman; "very beautiful indeed; but they will go a very little way towards winning the princess, unless you can also perform the tasks that are set you. However," she said, "I see you have brought something with you to eat. Won't you give that to me: you're sure to get a good dinner at the castle."
"Yes, of course," said Osmond, "I hadn't thought of that"; and he handed over the whole of his lunch to the old woman.
He had already taken a few steps on the way again, when the old woman called him back.
"Here," she said; "take this whistle in return for your lunch. It isn't much to look at, but if you blow it, anything that you have lost or that has been taken from you'll find its way back to you in a moment."
Osmond thanked her for the whistle, though he didn't see of what use it was to be to him just then, and held on his way to the castle.
When Osmond presented his pearls to the king there were exclamations of wonder and delight from everyone who saw them. It was not pleasant, however, to discover that Osmond was a mere fisher-lad; that wasn't the kind of son-in-law that the king had expected, and he said so to the queen.
"Never mind," said she, "you can easily set him such tasks as he'll never be able to perform: we shall soon get rid of him."
"Yes, of course," said the king; "really I forget things nowadays, with all the bustle we have had of late."
That day Osmond dined with the king and queen and their nobles, and at night was put into a bedroom grander than anything of the kind he had ever seen. It was all so new to him that he couldn't sleep a wink, especially as he was always wondering what kind of tasks would be set him to do, and whether he would be able to perform them. In spite of the softness of the bed, he was very glad when morning came at last.
After breakfast was over, the king said to Osmond, "Just come with me, and I'll show you what you must do first." He led him out to the barn, and there in the middle of the floor was a, large pile of grain. "Here," said the king, "you have a mixed heap of wheat, barley, oats, and rye, a sackful of each. By an hour before sunset you must have these sorted out into four heaps, and if a single grain is found to be in a wrong heap you have no further chance of marrying my daughter. I shall lock the door, so that no one can get in to assist you, and I shall return at the appointed time to see how you have succeeded."
The king walked off, and Osmond looked in despair at the task before him. Then he sat down and tried what he could do at it, but it was soon very clear that single-handed he could never hope to accomplish it in the time. Assistance was out of the questionunless, he suddenly thoughtunless the king of the ants could help. On him he began to call, and before many minutes had passed that royal personage made his appearance. Osmond explained the trouble he was in.
"Is that all?" said the ant; "we shall soon put that to rights." He gave the royal signal, and in a minute or two a stream of ants came pouring into the barn, who under the king's orders set to work to separate the grain into the proper heaps.
Osmond watched them for a while, but through the continual movement of the little creatures, and his not having slept during the previous night, he soon fell sound asleep. When he woke again, the king had just come into the barn, and was amazed to find that not only was the task accomplished, but that Osmond had found time to take a nap as well.
"Wonderful," said he; "I couldn't have believed it possible. However, the hardest is yet to come, as you'll see tomorrow."
Osmond thought so too when the next day's task was set before him. The king's gamekeepers had caught a hundred live hares, which were to be let loose in a large meadow, and there Osmond must herd them all day, and bring them safely home in the evening: if even one were missing, he must give up all thought of marrying the princess. Before he had quite grasped the fact that this was an impossible task, the keepers had opened the sacks in which the hares were brought to the field, and, with a whisk of the short tail and a flap of the long ears, each one of the hundred flew in a different direction.
"Now," said the king, "as he walked away, "let's see what your cleverness can do here."
Osmond stared round him in bewilderment, and having nothing better to do with his hands, thrust them into his pockets, as he was in the habit of doing. Here he found something which turned out to be the whistle given to him by the old woman. He remembered what she had said about the virtues of the whistle, but was rather doubtful whether its powers would extend to a hundred hares, each of which had gone in a different direction and might be several miles distant by this time. However, he blew the whistle, and in a few minutes the hares came bounding through the hedge on all the four sides of the field, and before long were all sitting round him in a circle. After that, Osmond allowed them to run about as they pleased, so long as they stayed in the field.
The king had told one of the keepers to hang about for a little and see what became of Osmond, not doubting, however, that as soon as he saw the coast clear he would use his legs to the best advantage, and never show face at the castle again. It was therefore with great surprise and annoyance that he now learned of the mysterious return of the hares and the likelihood of Osmond carrying out his task with success.
"One of them must be got out of his hands by hook or crook," said he. "I'll go and see the queen about it; she's good at devising plans."
A little later, a girl in a shabby dress came into the field and walked up to Osmond.
"Do give me one of those hares," she said; "we have just got visitors who are going to stay to dinner, and there's nothing we can give them to eat."
"I can't," said Osmond. "For one thing, they're not mine; for another, a great deal depends on my having them all here in the evening."
But the girl (and she was a very pretty girl, though so shabbily dressed) begged so hard for one of them that at last he said:
"Very well; give me a kiss and you shall have one of them."
He could see that she didn't quite care for this, but she consented to the bargain, and gave him the kiss, and went away with a hare in her apron. Scarcely had she got outside the field, however, when Osmond blew his whistle, and immediately the hare wriggled out of its prison like an eel, and went back to its master at the top of its speed.
Not long after this the hare-herd had another visit. This time it was a stout old woman in the dress of a peasant, who also was after a hare to provide a dinner for unexpected visitors. Osmond again refused, but the old lady was so pressing, and would take no refusal, that at last he said:
"Very well, you shall have a hare, and pay nothing for it either, if you'll only walk round me on tiptoe, look up to the sky, and cackle like a hen."
"Fie," said she; "what a ridiculous thing to ask anyone to do; just think what the neighbours would say if they saw me. They would think I had taken leave of my senses."
"Just as you like," said Osmond; "you know best whether you want the hare or not."
There was no help for it, and a pretty figure the old lady made in carrying out her task; the cackling wasn't very well done, but Osmond said it would do, and gave her the hare. As soon as she had left the field, the whistle was sounded again, and back came long-legs-and-ears at a marvellous speed.
The next to appear on the same errand was a fat old fellow in the dress of a groom: it was the royal livery he wore, and he plainly thought a good deal of himself.
"Young man," said he, "I want one of those hares; name your price, but I must have one of them."
"All right," said Osmond; "you can have one at an easy rate. Just stand on your head, whack your heels together, and cry "'Hurrah,'" and the hare is yours."
"Eh, what!" said the old fellow; "me stand on my head, what an idea!"
"Oh, very well," said Osmond, "you needn't unless you like, you know; but then you won't get the hare."
It went very much against the grain, one could see, but after some efforts the old fellow had his head on the grass and his heels in the air; the whacking and the "Hurrah" were rather feeble, but Osmond was not very exacting, and the hare was handed over. Of course, it wasn't long in coming back again, like the others.
Evening came, and home came Osmond with the hundred hares behind him. Great was the wonder over all the castle, and the king and queen seemed very much put out, but it was noticed that the princess actually smiled to Osmond.
"Well, well," said the king; "you have done that very well indeed. If you're as successful with a little task which I shall give you tomorrow we shall consider the matter settled, and you shall marry the princess."
Next day it was announced that the task would be performed in the great hall of the castle, and everyone was invited to come and witness it. The king and queen sat on their thrones, with the princess beside them, and the lords and ladies were all round the hall. At a sign from the king, two servants carried in a large empty tub, which they set down in the open space before the throne, and Osmond was told to stand beside it.
"Now," said the king, "you must tell us as many undoubted truths as will fill that tub, or you can't have the princess."
"But how are we to know when the tub is full?" said Osmond.
"Don't you trouble about that," said the king; "that's my part of the business."
This seemed to everybody present rather unfair, but no one liked to be the first to say so, and Osmond had to put the best face he could on the matter, and begin his story.
"Yesterday," he said, "when I was herding the hares, there came to me a girl, in a shabby dress, and begged me to give her one of them. She got the hare, but she had to give me a kiss for it; and that girl was the princess. Isn't that true?" said he, looking at her.
The princess blushed and looked very uncomfortable, but had to admit that it was true.
"That hasn't filled much of the tub," said the king. "Go on again."
"After that," said Osmond, "a stout old woman, in a peasant's dress, came and begged for a hare. Before she got it, she had to walk round me on tiptoe, turn up her eyes, and cackle like a hen; and that old woman was the queen. Isn't that true, now?"
The queen turned very red and hot, but couldn't deny it.
"H-m," said the king; "that's something, but the tub isn't full yet." To the queen he whispered, "I didn't think you would be such a fool."
"What did you do?" she whispered in return.
"Do you suppose I would do anything for him?" said the king, and then hurriedly ordered Osmond to go on.
"In the next place," said Osmond, "there came a fat old fellow on the same errand. He was very proud and dignified, but in order to get the hare he actually stood on his head, whacked his heels together, and cried "'Hurrah''; and that old fellow was the -"
"Stop, stop," shouted the king; "you needn't say another word; the tub is full."
Then all the court applauded, and the king and queen accepted Osmond as their son-in-law, and the princess was very well pleased, for by this time she had quite fallen in love with him, because he was so handsome and so clever. When the old king got time to think over it, he was quite convinced that his kingdom would be safe in Osmond's hands if he looked after the people as well as he herded the hares.
[Scandinavian - #5.2]
ONCE on a time there lived a queen who had been the mother of a great many children, and of them all only one daughter was left. But then she was worth at least a thousand.
Her mother, who, since the death of the king, her father, had nothing in the world she cared for so much as this little princess, was so terribly afraid of losing her that she quite spoiled her, and never tried to correct any of her faults. The consequence was that this little person, who was as pretty as possible, and was one day to wear a crown, grew up so proud and so much in love with her own beauty that she despised everyone else in the world.
The queen, her mother, by her caresses and flatteries, helped to make her believe that there was nothing too good for her. She was dressed almost always in the prettiest frocks, as a fairy, or as a queen going out to hunt, and the ladies of the court followed her dressed as forest fairies.
And to make her more vain than ever the queen caused her portrait to be taken by the cleverest painters and sent it to several neighbouring kings with whom she was very friendly.
When they saw this portrait they fell in love with the princessevery one of them, but on each it had a different effect. One fell ill, one went quite crazy, and a few of the luckiest set off to see her as soon as possible, but these poor princes became her slaves the moment they set eyes on her.
Never has there been a gayer court. Twenty delightful kings did everything they could think of to make themselves agreeable, and after having spent ever so much money in giving a single entertainment thought themselves very lucky if the princess said "That's pretty."
All this admiration vastly pleased the queen. Not a day passed but she received seven or eight thousand sonnets, and as many elegies, madrigals, and songs, which were sent her by all the poets in the world. All the prose and the poetry that was written just then was about Rosefor that was the princess's nameand all the bonfires that they had were made of these verses, which crackled and sparkled better than any other sort of wood.
Rose was already fifteen years old, and every one of the princes wished to marry her, but not one dared to say so. How could they when they knew that any of them might have cut off his head five or six times a day just to please her, and she would have thought it a mere trifle, so little did she care? You may imagine how hard- hearted her lovers thought her; and the queen, who wished to see her married, didn't know how to persuade her to think of it seriously.
"Rose," she said, "I do wish you wouldn't be so proud. What makes you despise all these nice kings? I wish you to marry one of them, and you don't try to please me."
"I'm so happy," Rose answered: "do leave me in peace, madam. I don't want to care for anyone."
"But you would be very happy with any of these princes," said the queen, "and I shall be very angry if you fall in love with anyone who isn't worthy of you."
But the princess thought so much of herself that she didn't consider anyone of her lovers clever or handsome enough for her; and her mother, who was getting really angry at her determination not to be married, began to wish that she had not allowed her to have her own way so much.
At last, not knowing what else to do, she resolved to consult a certain witch who was called "The fairy of the desert." Now this was very difficult to do, as she was guarded by some terrible lions; but happily the queen had heard a long time before that whoever wanted to pass these lions safely must throw to them a cake made of millet flour, sugar-candy, and crocodile's eggs. This cake she prepared with her own hands, and putting it in a little basket, she set out to seek the fairy. But as she was not used to walking far, she soon felt very tired and sat down at the foot of a tree to rest, and presently fell fast asleep. When she awoke she was dismayed to find her basket empty. The cake was all gone! and, to make matters worse, at that moment she heard the roaring of the great lions, who had found out that she was near and were coming to look for her
"What shall I do?" she cried; "I shall be eaten up," and being too frightened to run a single step, she began to cry, and leaned against the tree under which she had been asleep.
Just then she heard some one say: "H'm, h'm!"
She looked all round her, and then up the tree, and there she saw a little tiny man, who was eating oranges.
"Well, queen," said he, "I know you very well, and I know how much afraid you are of the lions; and you're quite right too, for they have eaten many other people: and what can you expect, as you have not any cake to give them?"
"I must make up my mind to die," said the poor queen. "Alas! I shouldn't care so much if only my dear daughter were married."
"Oh! you have a daughter," cried the yellow dwarf (who was so called because he was a dwarf and had such a yellow face, and lived in the orange tree). "I'm really glad to hear that, for I've been looking for a wife all over the world. Now, if you'll promise that she shall marry me, not one of the lions, tigers, or bears shall touch you."
The queen looked at him and was almost as much afraid of his ugly little face as she had been of the lions before, so that she couldn't speak a word.
"What! you hesitate, madam," cried the dwarf. "You must be very fond of being eaten up alive."
And, as he spoke, the queen saw the lions, which were running down a hill toward them.
Each one had two heads, eight feet, and four rows of teeth, and their skins were as hard as turtle shells, and were bright red.
At this dreadful sight, the poor queen, who was trembling like a dove when it sees a hawk, cried out as loud as she could, "Oh! dear dwarf, Rose shall marry you."
"Oh, indeed!" said he disdainfully. "Rose is pretty enough, but I don't particularly want to marry heryou can keep her."
"Oh! noble sir," said the queen in great distress, adon't refuse her. She is the most charming princess in the world."
"Oh! well," he replied, "out of charity I'll take her; but be sure and don't forget that she is mine."
As he spoke a little door opened in the trunk of the orange tree, in rushed the queen, only just in time, and the door shut with a bang in the faces of the lions.
The queen was so confused that at first she didn't notice another little door in the orange tree, but presently it opened and she found herself in a field of thistles and nettles. It was encircled by a muddy ditch, and a little further on was a tiny thatched cottage, out of which came the yellow dwarf with a very jaunty air. He wore wooden shoes and a little yellow coat, and as he had no hair and very long ears he looked altogether a shocking little object.
"I'm delighted," said he to the queen, "that, as you're to be my mother-in-law, you should see the little house in which your Rose will live with me. With these thistles and nettles she can feed a donkey which she can ride whenever she likes; under this humble roof no weather can hurt her; she'll drink the water of this brook and eat frogswhich grow very fat about here; and then she'll have me always with her, handsome, agreeable, and gay as you see me now. For if her shadow stays by her more closely than I do I shall be surprised."
The unhappy queen. seeing all at once what a miserable life her daughter would have with this dwarf couldn't bear the idea, and fell down insensible without saying a word.
When she revived she found to her great surprise that she was lying in her own bed at home, and, what was more, that she had on the loveliest lace night cap that she had ever seen in her life. At first she thought that all her adventures, the terrible lions, and her promise to the yellow dwarf that he should marry Rose, must have been a dream, but there was the new cap with its beautiful ribbon and lace to remind her that it was all true, which made her so unhappy that she could neither eat, drink, nor sleep for thinking of it.
The princess, who, in spite of her wilfulness, really loved her mother with all her heart, was much grieved when she saw her looking so sad, and often asked her what was the matter; but the queen, who didn't want her to find out the truth, only said that she was ill, or that one of her neighbors was threatening to make war against her. Rose knew quite well that something was being hidden from herand that neither of these was the real reason of the queen's uneasiness. So she made up her mind that she would go and consult the fairy of the desert about it, especially as she had often heard how wise she was, and she thought that at the same time she might ask her advice as to whether it would be as well to be married, or not.
So, with great care, she made some of the proper cake to pacify the lions, and one night went up to her room very early, pretending that she was going to bed; but instead of that, she wrapped herself in a long white veil, and went down a secret staircase, and set off all by herself to find the Witch.
But when she got as far as the same fatal orange tree, and saw it covered with flowers and fruit, she stopped and began to gather some of the orangesand then, putting down her basket, she sat down to eat them. But when it was time to go on again the basket had disappeared and, though she looked everywhere, not a trace of it could she find. The more she hunted for it, the more frightened she got, and at last she began to cry. Then all at once she saw before her the yellow dwarf.
"What's the matter with you, my pretty one?" said he. "What are you crying about?"
"Alas!" she answered; "no wonder that I'm crying, seeing that I've lost the basket of cake that was to help me to get safely to the cave of the fairy of the desert."
"And what do you want with her, pretty one?" said the little monster, "for I'm a friend of hers, and, for the matter of that, I'm quite as clever as she is."
"The queen, my mother," replied the princess, "has lately fallen into such deep sadness that I fear that she'll die; and I'm afraid that perhaps I'm the cause of it, for she very much wishes me to be married, and I must tell you truly that as yet I haven't found anyone I consider worthy to be my husband. So for all these reasons I wished to talk to the fairy."
"Don't give yourself any further trouble, princess," answered the dwarf. "I can tell you all you want to know better than she could. The queen, your mother, has promised you in marriage -"
"Has promised me!" interrupted the princess. "Oh! no. I'm sure she has not. She would have told me if she had. I'm too much interested in the matter for her to promise anything without my consentyou must be mistaken."
"Beautiful princess," cried the dwarf suddenly, throwing himself on his knees before her, "I flatter myself that you won't be displeased at her choice when I tell you that it's to me she has promised the happiness of marrying you."
"You!" cried Rose, starting back. "My mother wishes me to marry you! How can you be so silly as to think of such a thing?"
"Oh! it isn't that I care much to have that honour," cried the dwarf angrily; "but here are the lions coming; they'll eat you up in three mouthfuls, and there will be an end of you and your pride."
And, indeed, at that moment the poor princess heard their dreadful howls coming nearer and nearer.
"What shall I do?" she cried. "Must all my happy days come to an end like this?"
The malicious dwarf looked at her and began to laugh spitefully. "At least," said he, "you have the satisfaction of dying unmarried. A lovely princess like you must surely prefer to die rather than be the wife of a poor little dwarf like myself."
"Oh, don't be angry with me," cried the princess, clasping her hands. "I'd rather marry all the dwarfs in the world than die in this horrible way."
"Look at me well, princess, before you give me your word," said he. "I don't want you to promise me in a hurry."
"Oh!" cried she, "the lions are coming. I've looked at you enough. I'm so frightened. Save me this minute, or I shall die of terror.
Indeed, as she spoke she fell down insensible, and when she recovered she found herself in her own little bed at home; how she got there she couldn't tell, but she was dressed in the most beautiful lace and ribbons, and on her finger was a little ring, made of a single red hair, which fitted so tightly that, try as she might, she couldn't get it off.
When the princess saw all these things, and remembered what had happened, she, too, fell into the deepest sadness, which surprised and alarmed the whole Court, and the queen more than anyone else. A hundred times she asked Rose if anything was the matter with her; but she always said that there was nothing
At last the chief men of the kingdom, anxious to see their princess married, sent to the queen to beg her to choose a husband for her as soon as possible. She replied that nothing would please her better, but that her daughter seemed so unwilling to marry, and she recommended them to go and talk to the princess about it themselves so this they at once did. Now Rose was much less proud since her adventure with the yellow dwarf, and she couldn't think of a better way of getting rid of the little monster than to marry some powerful king, therefore she replied to their request much more favourably than they had hoped, saying that, though she was very happy as she was, still, to please them, she would consent to marry the king of the Gold Mines. Now he was a very handsome and powerful prince, who had been in love with the princess for years, but had not thought that she would ever care about him at all. You can easily imagine how delighted he was when he heard the news, and how angry it made all the other kings to lose for ever the hope of marrying the princess; but, after all, Rose couldn't have married twenty kingsindeed, she had found it quite difficult enough to choose one, for her vanity made her believe that there was nobody in the world who was worthy of her.
Preparations were begun at once for the grandest wedding that had ever been held at the castle. The king of the Gold Mines sent such immense sums of money that the whole sea was covered with the ships that brought it. Messengers were sent to all the gayest and most refined Courts, particularly to the court of France, to seek out everything rare and precious to adorn the princess, although her beauty was so perfect that nothing she wore could make her look prettier. At least that's what the king of the Gold Mines thought, and he was never happy unless he was with her.
As for the princess, the more she saw of the king the more she liked him; he was so generous, so handsome and clever, that at last she was almost as much in love with him as he was with her. How happy they were as they wandered about in the beautiful gardens together, sometimes listening to sweet music! And the king used to write songs for Rose. This is one that she liked very much:
In the forest all is gay When my princess walks that way. All the blossoms then are found Downward fluttering to the ground, Hoping she may tread on them. And bright flowers on slender stem Gaze up at her as she passes Brushing lightly through the grasses. Oh! my princess, birds above Echo back our songs of love, As through this enchanted land Blithe we wander, hand in hand.
They really were as happy as the day was long. All the king's unsuccessful rivals had gone home in despair. They said good-by to the princess so sadly that she couldn't help being sorry for them.
"Ah! madam," the king of the Gold Mines said to her "how is this? Why do you waste your pity on these princes, who love you so much that all their trouble would be well repaid by a single smile from you?"
"I should be sorry," answered Rose, "if you had not noticed how much I pitied these princes who were leaving me for ever; but for you, sire, it's very different: you have every reason to be pleased with me, but they are going sorrowfully away, so you must not grudge them my compassion."
The king of the Gold Mines was quite overcome by the princess's good-natured way of taking his interference, and, throwing himself at her feet, he kissed her hand a thousand times and begged her to forgive him.
At last the happy day came. Everything was ready for Rose's wedding. The trumpets sounded, all the streets of the town were hung with flags and strewn with flowers, and the people ran in crowds to the great square before the castle. The queen was so overjoyed that she had hardly been able to sleep at all, and she got up before it was light to give the necessary orders and to choose the jewels that the princess was to wear. These were nothing less than diamonds, even to her shoes, which were covered with them, and her dress of silver brocade was embroidered with a dozen of the sun's rays. You may imagine how much these had cost; but then nothing could have been more brilliant, except the beauty of the princess! On her head she wore a splendid crown, her lovely hair waved nearly to her feet, and her stately figure could easily be distinguished among all the ladies who attended her.
The king of the Gold Mines was not less noble and splendid; it was easy to see by his face how happy he was, and everyone who went near him returned loaded with presents, for all round the great banqueting hall had been arranged a thousand barrels full of gold, and numberless bags made of velvet embroidered with pearls and filled with money, each one containing at least a hundred thousand gold pieces, which were given away to everyone who liked to hold out his hand, which numbers of people hastened to do, you may be sureindeed, some found this by far the most amusing part of the wedding festivities.
The queen and the princess were just ready to set out with the king when they saw, advancing toward them from the end of the long gallery, two great basilisks, dragging after them a very badly made box; behind them came a tall old woman, whose ugliness was even more surprising than her extreme old age. She wore a ruff of black taffeta, a red velvet hood, and a farthingale all in rags, and she leaned heavily on a crutch. This strange old woman, without saying a single word, hobbled three times round the gallery, followed by the basilisks, then stopping in the middle, and brandishing her crutch threateningly, she cried:
"Ho, ho, queen! Ho, ho, princess! Do you think you're going to break with impunity the promise that you made to my friend the yellow dwarf? I'm the fairy of the desert; without the yellow dwarf and his orange tree my great lions would soon have eaten you up, I can tell you, and in Fairyland we don't suffer ourselves to be insulted like this. Make up your minds at once what you'll do, for I vow that you shall marry the yellow dwarf. If you don't, may I burn my crutch!"
"Ah! princess," said the queen, weeping, "what's this that I hear? What have you promised?"
"Ah! my mother," replied Rose sadly, "what did you promise, yourself?"
The king of the Gold Mines, indignant at being kept from his happiness by this wicked old woman, went up to her, and threatening her with his sword, said:
"Get away out of my country at once, and for ever, miserable creature, or I take your life, and so rid myself of your malice."
He had hardly spoken these words when the lid of the box fell back on the floor with a terrible noise, and to their horror out sprang the yellow dwarf, mounted on a great Spanish cat. "Rash youth!" he cried, rushing between the fairy of the desert and the king. "Dare to lay a finger on this illustrious Fairy! Your quarrel is with me only. I'm your enemy and your rival. That faithless princess who would have married you is promised to me. See if she has not on her finger a ring made of one of my hairs. Just try to take it off, and you'll soon find out that I'm more powerful than you're!"
"Wretched little monster!" said the king; "do you dare to call yourself the princess's lover, and to lay claim to such a treasure? Do you know that you're a dwarfthat you're so ugly that one can't bear to look at youand that I should have killed you myself long before this if you had been worthy of such a glorious death?"
The yellow dwarf, deeply enraged at these words, set spurs to his cat, which yelled horribly, and leaped hither and thitherterrifying everybody except the brave king, who pursued the dwarf closely, till he, drawing a great knife with which he was armed, challenged the king to meet him in single combat, and rushed down into the courtyard of the castle with a terrible clatter. The king, quite provoked, followed him hastily, but they had hardly taken their places facing one another, and the whole Court had only just had time to rush out on the balconies to watch what was going on, when suddenly the sun became as red as blood, and it was so dark that they could scarcely see at all. The thunder crashed, and the lightning seemed as if it must burn up everything; the two basilisks appeared, one on each side of the bad dwarf, like giants, mountains high, and fire flew from their mouths and ears, till they looked like flaming furnaces. None of these things could terrify the noble young king, and the boldness of his looks and actions reassured those who were looking on, and perhaps even embarrassed the yellow dwarf himself; but even his courage gave way when he saw what was happening to his beloved princess. For the fairy of the desert, looking more terrible than before, mounted on a winged griffin, and with long snakes coiled round her neck, had given her such a blow with the lance she carried that Rose fell into the queen's arms bleeding and senseless. Her fond mother, feeling as much hurt by the blow as the princess herself, uttered such piercing cries and lamentations that the king, hearing them, entirely lost his courage and presence of mind. Giving up the combat, he flew toward the princess, to rescue or to die with her; but the yellow dwarf was too quick for him. Leaping with his Spanish cat on the balcony, he snatched Rose from the queen's arms, and before any of the ladies of the court could stop him he had sprung on the roof of the castle and disappeared with his prize.
The king, motionless with horror, looked on despairingly at this dreadful occurrence, which he was quite powerless to prevent, and to make matters worse his sight failed him, everything became dark, and he felt himself carried along through the air by a strong hand.
This new misfortune was the work of the wicked fairy of the desert, who had come with the yellow dwarf to help him carry off the princess, and had fallen in love with the handsome young king of the Gold Mines directly she saw him. She thought that if she carried him off to some frightful cavern and chained him to a rock, then the fear of death would make him forget Rose and become her slave. So, as soon as they reached the place, she gave him back his sight, but without releasing him from his chains, and by her magic power she appeared before him as a young and beautiful fairy, and pretended to have come there quite by chance.
"What do I see? she cried. "Is it you, dear prince? What misfortune has brought you to this dismal place?"
The king, who was quite deceived by her altered appearance, replied:
"Alas! beautiful Fairy, the fairy who brought me here first took away my sight, but by her voice I recognized her as the fairy of the desert, though what she should have carried me off for I can't tell you."
"Ah!" cried the pretended Fairy, "if you have fallen into her hands, you won't get away till you have married her. She has carried off more than one prince like this, and she'll certainly have anything she takes a fancy to." While she was thus pretending to be sorry for the king, he suddenly noticed her feet, which were like those of a griffin, and knew in a moment that this must be the fairy of the desert, for her feet were the one thing she couldn't change, however pretty she might make her face.
Without seeming to have noticed anything, he said, in a confidential way:
"Not that I've any dislike to the fairy of the desert, but I really can't endure the way in which she protects the yellow dwarf and keeps me chained here like a criminal. It's true that I love a charming princess, but if the fairy should set me free my gratitude would oblige me to love her only."
"Do you really mean what you say, prince?" said the fairy, quite deceived.
"Surely," replied the prince; "how could I deceive you? You see it's so much more flattering to my vanity to be loved by a fairy than by a simple princess. But, even if I'm dying of love for her, I shall pretend to hate her till I'm set free."
The fairy of the desert, quite taken in by these words, resolved at once to transport the prince to a pleasanter place. So, making him mount her chariot, to which she had harnessed swans instead of the bats which generally drew it, away she flew with him. But imagine the distress of the prince when, from the giddy height at which they were rushing through the air, he saw his beloved princess in a castle built of polished steel, the walls of which reflected the sun's rays so hotly that no one could approach it without being burnt to a cinder! Rose was sitting in a little thicket by a brook, leaning her head on her hand and weeping bitterly, but just as they passed she looked up and saw the king and the fairy of the desert. Now, the fairy was so clever that she couldn't only seem beautiful to the king, but even the poor princess thought her the most lovely being she had ever seen.
"What!" she cried; "was I not unhappy enough in this lonely castle to which that frightful yellow dwarf brought me? Must I also be made to know that the king of the Gold Mines ceased to love me as soon as he lost sight of me? But who can my rival be, whose fatal beauty is greater than mine?"
While she was saying this, the king, who really loved her as much as ever, was feeling terribly sad at being so rapidly torn away from his beloved princess, but he knew too well how powerful the fairy was to have any hope of escaping from her except by great patience and cunning.
The fairy of the desert had also seen Rose, and she tried to read in the king's eyes the effect that this unexpected sight had had on him.
"No one can tell you what you wish to know better than I can," said he. "This chance meeting with an unhappy princess for whom I once had a passing fancy, before I was lucky enough to meet you, has affected me a little, I admit, but you're so much more to me than she is that I would rather die than leave you."
"Ah, prince," she said, "can I believe that you really love me so much?"
"Time will show, madam," replied the king; "but if you wish to convince me that you have some regard for me, do not, I beg of you, refuse to aid Rose."
"Do you know what you're asking?" said the fairy of the desert, frowning, and looking at him suspiciously. "Do you want me to employ my art against the yellow dwarf, who is my best friend, and take away from him a proud princess whom I can but look on as my rival?"
The king sighed, but made no answerindeed, what was there to be said to such a clear-sighted person? At last they reached a vast meadow, gay with all sorts of flowers; a deep river surrounded it, and many little brooks murmured softly under the shady trees, where it was always cool and fresh. A little way off stood a splendid castle, the walls of which were of transparent emeralds. As soon as the swans which drew the fairy's chariot had alighted under a porch, which was paved with diamonds and had arches of rubies, they were greeted on all sides by thousands of beautiful beings, who came to meet them joyfully, singing these words:
"When love within a heart would reign,
The fairy of the desert was delighted to hear them sing of her triumphs; she led the king into the most splendid room that can be imagined, and left him alone for a little while, just that he might not feel that he was a prisoner; but he felt sure that she had not really gone quite away, but was watching him from some hiding- place. So walking up to a great mirror, he said to it, "Trusty counsellor, let me see what I can do to make myself agreeable to the charming Fairy of the desert; for I can think of nothing but how to please her."
And he at once set to work to curl his hair, and, seeing on a table a grander coat than his own, he put it on carefully. The fairy came back so delighted that she couldn't conceal her joy.
"I'm quite aware of the trouble you have taken to please me," said she, "and I must tell you that you have succeeded perfectly already. You see it's not difficult to do if you really care for me."
The king, who had his own reasons for wishing to keep the old Fairy in a good humor, didn't spare pretty speeches, and after a time he was allowed to walk by himself on the sea-shore. The fairy of the desert had by her enchantments raised such a terrible storm that the boldest pilot wouldn't venture out in it, so she was not afraid of her prisoner's being able to escape; and he found it some relief to think sadly over his terrible situation without being interrupted by his cruel captor.
Presently, after walking wildly up and down, he wrote these verses on the sand with his stick:
"At last may I on this shore
"And you, O raging, stormy Sea,
"My heart is still more wild than yours,
"O! lovely Nymphs, from ocean caves,
While he was still writing he heard a voice which attracted his attention in spite of himself. Seeing that the waves were rolling in higher than ever, he looked all round, and presently saw a lovely lady floating gently toward him on the crest of a huge billow, her long hair spread all about her; in one hand she held a mirror, and in the other a comb, and instead of feet she had a beautiful tail like a fish, with which she swam.
The king was struck dumb with astonishment at this unexpected sight; but as soon as she came within speaking distance, she said to him, "I know how sad you're at losing your princess and being kept a prisoner by the fairy of the desert; if you like I'll help you to escape from this fatal place, where you may otherwise have to drag on a weary existence for thirty years or more."
The king of the Gold Mines hardly knew what answer to make to this proposal. Not because he didn't wish very much to escape, but he was afraid that this might be only another device by which the fairy of the desert was trying to deceive him. As he hesitated the mermaid, who guessed his thoughts, said to him:
"You may trust me: I'm not trying to entrap you. I'm so angry with the yellow dwarf and the fairy of the desert that I'm not likely to wish to help them, especially since I constantly see your poor princess, whose beauty and goodness make me pity her so much; and I tell you that if you'll have confidence in me I'll help you to escape."
"I trust you absolutely," cried the king, "and I'll do whatever you tell me; but if you have seen my princess I beg of you to tell me how she is and what's happening to her.
"We must not waste time in talking," said she. "Come with me and I'll carry you to the Castle of Steel, and we will leave on this shore a figure so like you that even the fairy herself will be deceived by it."
So saying, she quickly collected a bundle of sea-weed, and, blowing it three times, she said:
"My friendly sea-weeds, I order you to stay here stretched on the sand till the fairy of the desert comes to take you away." And at once the sea-weeds became like the king, who stood looking at them in great astonishment, for they were even dressed in a coat like his, but they lay there pale and still as the king himself might have lain if one of the great waves had overtaken him and thrown him senseless on the shore. And then the mermaid caught up the king, and away they swam joyfully together.
"Now," said she, "I've time to tell you about the princess. In spite of the blow which the fairy of the desert gave her, the yellow dwarf compelled her to mount behind him on his terrible Spanish cat; but she soon fainted away with pain and terror, and didn't recover till they were within the walls of his frightful Castle of Steel. Here she was received by the prettiest girls it was possible to find, who had been carried there by the yellow dwarf, who hastened to wait on her and showed her every possible attention. She was laid on a couch covered with cloth of gold, embroidered with pearls as big as nuts."
"Ah!" interrupted the king of the Gold Mines, "if Rose forgets me, and consents to marry him, I shall break my heart."
"You need not be afraid of that," answered the mermaid, "the princess thinks of no one but you, and the frightful dwarf can't persuade her to look at him."
"Pray go on with your story," said the king.
"What more is there to tell you?" replied the mermaid. "Rose was sitting in the wood when you passed, and saw you with the fairy of the desert, who was so cleverly disguised that the princess took her to be prettier than herself; you may imagine her despair, for she thought that you had fallen in love with her."
"She believes that I love her!" cried the king. "What a fatal mistake! What's to be done to undeceive her?"
"You know best," answered the mermaid, smiling kindly at him. "When people are as much in love with one another as you two are, they don't need advice from anyone else."
As she spoke they reached the Castle of Steel, the side next the sea being the only one which the yellow dwarf had left unprotected by the dreadful burning walls.
"I know quite well," said the mermaid, "that the princess is sitting by the brook-side, just where you saw her as you passed, but as you'll have many enemies to fight with before you can reach her, take this sword; armed with it you may dare any danger, and overcome the greatest difficulties, only beware of one thingthat's, never to let it fall from your hand. Farewell; now I'll wait by that rock, and if you need my help in carrying off your beloved princess I won't fail you, for the queen, her mother, is my best friend, and it was for her sake that I went to rescue you."
So saying, she gave to the king a sword made from a single diamond, which was more brilliant than the sun. He couldn't find words to express his gratitude, but he begged her to believe that he fully appreciated the importance of her gift, and would never forget her help and kindness.
We must now go back to the fairy of the desert. When she found that the king didn't return, she hastened out to look for him, and reached the shore, with a hundred of the ladies of her train, loaded with splendid presents for him. Some carried baskets full of diamonds, others golden cups of wonderful workmanship, and amber, coral, and pearls, others, again, balanced on their heads bales of the richest and most beautiful stuffs, while the rest brought fruit and flowers, and even birds. But what was the horror of the fairy, who followed this gay troop, when she saw, stretched on the sands, the image of the king which the mermaid had made with the sea-weeds. Struck with astonishment and sorrow, she uttered a terrible cry, and threw herself down beside the pretended king, weeping, and howling, and calling on her eleven sisters, who were also fairies, and who came to her assistance. But they were all taken in by the image of the king, for, clever as they were, the mermaid was still cleverer, and all they could do was to help the fairy of the desert to make a wonderful monument over what they thought was the grave of the king of the Gold Mines. But while they were collecting jasper and porphyry, agate and marble, gold and bronze, statues and devices, to immortalize the king's memory, he was thanking the good Mermaid and begging her still to help him, which she graciously promised to do as she disappeared; and then he set out for the castle of steel. He walked fast, looking anxiously round him, and longing once more to see his darling Rose, but he had not gone far before he was surrounded by four terrible sphinxes who would very soon have torn him to pieces with their sharp talons if it had not been for the mermaid's diamond sword. For, no sooner had he flashed it before their eyes than down they fell at his feet quite helpless, and he killed them with one blow. But he had hardly turned to continue his search when he met six dragons covered with scales that were harder than iron. Frightful as this encounter was the king's courage was unshaken, and by the aid of his wonderful sword he cut them in pieces one after the other. Now he hoped his difficulties were over, but at the next turning he was met by one which he didn't know how to overcome. Four- and-twenty pretty and graceful nymphs advanced toward him, holding garlands of flowers, with which they barred the way.
"Where are you going, prince?" they said; "it's our duty to guard this place, and if we let you pass great misfortunes will happen to you and to us. We beg you not to insist on going on. Do you want to kill four-and- twenty girls who have never displeased you in any way?"
The king didn't know what to do or to say. It went against all his ideas as a knight to do anything a lady begged him not to do; but, as he hesitated, a voice in his ear said:
"Strike! strike! and don't spare, or your princess is lost for ever!"
So, without reply to the nymphs, he rushed forward instantly, breaking their garlands, and scattering them in all directions; and then went on without further hindrance to the little wood where he had seen Rose. She was seated by the brook looking pale and weary when he reached her, and he would have thrown himself down at her feet, but she drew herself away from him with as much indignation as if he had been the yellow dwarf
"Ah! princess," he cried, "don't be angry with me. Let me explain everything. I'm not faithless or to blame for what has happened. I'm a miserable wretch who has displeased you without being able to help himself."
"Ah!" cried Rose, "did I not see you flying through the air with the loveliest being imaginable? Was that against your will?"
"Indeed it was, princess," he answered; "the wicked Fairy of the desert, not content with chaining me to a rock, carried me off in her chariot to the other end of the earth, where I should even now be a captive but for the unexpected help of a friendly mermaid, who brought me here to rescue you, my princess, from the unworthy hands that hold you. Don't refuse the aid of your most faithful lover." So saying, he threw himself at her feet and held her by her robe. But, alas! in so doing he let fall the magic sword, and the yellow dwarf, who was crouching behind a lettuce, no sooner saw it than he sprang out and seized it, well knowing its wonderful power.
The princess gave a cry of terror on seeing the dwarf, but this only irritated the little monster; muttering a few magical words he summoned two giants, who bound the king with great chains of iron.
"Now," said the dwarf, "I'm master of my rival's fate, but I'll give him his life and permission to depart unharmed if you, princess, will consent to marry me."
"Let me die a thousand times rather," cried the unhappy king.
"Alas!" cried the princess, "must you die? Could anything be more terrible?"
"That you should marry that little wretch would be far more terrible," answered the king.
"At least," continued she, "let's die together."
"Let me have the satisfaction of dying for you, my Pprincess," said he.
"Oh, no, no!" she cried, turning to the dwarf; "rather than that I'll do as you wish."
"Cruel Pprincess!" said the king, "would you make my life horrible to me by marrying another before my eyes?"
"Not so," replied the yellow dwarf; "you're a rival of whom I'm too much afraid; you shall not see our marriage." So saying, in spite of Rose's tears and cries, he stabbed the king to the heart with the diamond sword.
The poor princess, seeing her lover lying dead at her feet, could no longer live without him; she sank down by him and died of a broken heart.
So ended these unfortunate lovers, whom not even the mermaid could help, because all the magic power had been lost with the diamond sword.
As to the wicked dwarf, he preferred to see the princess dead rather than married to the king of the Gold Mines; and the fairy of the desert, when she heard of the king's adventures, pulled down the grand monument which she had built, and was so angry at the trick that had been played her that she hated him as much as she had loved him before.
The kind mermaid, grieved at the sad fate of the lovers, caused them to be changed into two tall palm trees with interlacing branches.
[Madame d'Aulnoy - #3.6]