ONCE on a time there lived a king and queen who had two beautiful sons and one little daughter, who was so pretty that no one who saw her could help loving her. When it was time for the christening of the princess, the queen - as she always did - sent for all the fairies to be present at the ceremony, and afterwards invited them to a splendid banquet.
When it was over, and they were preparing to go away, the queen said to them:
"Don't forget your usual good custom. Tell me what's going to happen to Goldie."
For that was the name they had given the princess.
But the fairies said they had left their book of magic at home, and they would come another day and tell her.
"Ah!" said the queen, "I know very well what that means - you have nothing good to say; but at least I beg that you won't hide anything from me."
So, after a great deal of persuasion, they said:
"Madam, we fear that Goldie may be the cause of great misfortunes to her brothers; they may even meet with their death through her; that's all we have been able to foresee about your dear little daughter. We are very sorry to have nothing better to tell you."
Then they went away, leaving the queen very sad, so sad that the king noticed it, and asked her what was the matter.
The queen said that she had been sitting too near the fire, and had burnt all the flax that was on her distaff.
"Oh! is that all?" said the king, and he went up into the garret and brought her down more flax than she could spin in a hundred years. But the queen still looked sad, and the king asked her again what was the matter. She answered that she had been walking by the river and had dropped one of her green satin slippers into the water.
"Oh! if that's all," said the king, and he sent to all the shoe- makers in his kingdom, and they very soon made the queen ten thousand green satin slippers, but still she looked sad. So the king asked her again what was the matter, and this time she answered that in eating her porridge too hastily she had swallowed her wedding-ring. But it so happened that the king knew better, for he had the ring himself, and he said:
"Oh I you're not telling me the truth, for I've your ring here in my purse."
Then the queen was very much ashamed, and she saw that the king was vexed with her; so she told him all that the fairies had predicted about Goldie, and begged him to think how the misfortunes might be prevented.
Then it was the king's turn to look sad, and at last he said:
"I see no way of saving our sons except by having Goldie's head cut off while she is still little."
But the queen cried that she would far rather have her own head cut off, and that he had better think of something else, for she would never consent to such a thing. So they thought and thought, but they couldn't tell what to do, till at last the queen heard that in a great forest near the castle there was an old hermit, who lived in a hollow tree, and that people came from far and near to consult him; so she said:
"I had better go and ask his advice; perhaps he'll know what to do to prevent the misfortunes which the fairies foretold."
She set out very early the next morning, mounted on a pretty little white mule, which was shod with solid gold, and two of her ladies rode behind her on beautiful horses. When they reached the forest they dismounted, for the trees grew so thickly that the horses couldn't pass, and made their way on foot to the hollow tree where the hermit lived. At first when he saw them coming he was vexed, for he was not fond of ladies; but when he recognised the queen, he said:
"You're welcome, queen. What do you come to ask of me?"
Then the queen told him all the fairies had foreseen for Goldie, and asked what she should do, and the hermit answered that she must shut the princess up in a tower and never let her come out of it again. The queen thanked and rewarded him, and hastened back to the castle to tell the king. When he heard the news he had a great tower built as quickly as possible, and there the princess was shut up, and the king and queen and her two brothers went to see her every day that she might not be dull. The eldest brother was called "the great prince," and the second "the Little prince." They loved their sister dearly, for she was the sweetest, prettiest princess who was ever seen, and the least little smile from her was worth more than a hundred pieces of gold. When Goldie was fifteen years old the great prince went to the king and asked if it wouldn't soon be time for her to be married, and the Little prince put the same question to the queen.
Their majesties were amused at them for thinking of it, but did not make any reply, and soon after both the king and the queen were taken ill, and died on the same day. Everybody was sorry, Goldie especially, and all the bells in the kingdom were tolled.
Then all the dukes and counsellors put the great prince on a golden throne, and crowned him with a diamond crown, and they all cried, "Long live the king!" And after that there was nothing but feasting and rejoicing.
The new king and his brother said to one another:
"Now that we are the masters, let's take our sister out of that dull tower which she is so tired of."
They had only to go across the garden to reach the tower, which was very high, and stood up in a corner. Goldie was busy at her embroidery, but when she saw her brothers she got up, and taking the king's hand cried:
"Good morning, dear brother. Now that you're king, please take me out of this dull tower, for I'm so tired of it."
Then she began to cry, but the king kissed her and told her to dry her tears, as that was just what they had come for, to take her out of the tower and bring her to their beautiful castle, and the prince showed her the pocketful of sugar plums he had brought for her, and said:
"Make haste, and let's get away from this ugly tower, and very soon the king will arrange a grand marriage for you."
When Goldie saw the beautiful garden, full of fruit and flowers, with green grass and sparkling fountains, she was so astonished that not a word could she say, for she had never in her life seen anything like it before. She looked about her, and ran here and there gathering fruit and flowers, and her little dog Superb, who was bright green all over, and had but one ear, danced before her, crying "Bow-wow-wow," and turning head over heels in the most enchanting way.
Everybody was amused at Superb's antics, but all of a sudden he ran away into a little wood, and the princess was following him, when, to her great delight, she saw a peacock, who was spreading his tail in the sunshine. Goldie thought she had never seen anything so pretty. She couldn't take her eyes off him, and there she stood entranced till the king and the prince came up and asked what was amusing her so much. She showed them the peacock, and asked what it was, and they answered that it was a bird which people sometimes ate.
"What!" said the princess, "do they dare to kill that beautiful creature and eat it? I declare that I'll never marry anyone but the king of the Peacocks, and when I'm queen I'll take very good care that nobody eats any of my subjects."
At this the king was very much astonished.
"But, little sister," said he, "where shall we find the king of the Peacocks?"
"Oh! wherever you like, sire," she answered, "but I'll never marry anyone else."
After this they took Goldie to the beautiful castle, and the peacock was brought with her, and told to walk about on the terrace outside her windows, so that she might always see him, and then the ladies of the court came to see the princess, and they brought her beautiful presents - dresses and ribbons and sweetmeats, diamonds and pearls and dolls and embroidered slippers, and she was so well brought up, and said, "Thank you!" so prettily, and was so gracious, that everyone went away delighted with her.
Meanwhile the king and the prince were considering how they should find the king of the Peacocks, if there was such a person in the world. And first of all they had a portrait made of the princess, which was so like her that you really wouldn't have been surprised if it had spoken to you. Then they said to her:
"Since you won't marry anyone but the king of the Peacocks, we are going out together into the wide world to search for him. If we find him for you we shall be very glad. In the meantime, mind you take good care of our kingdom."
Goldie thanked them for all the trouble they were taking on her account, and promised to take great care of the kingdom, and only to amuse herself by looking at the peacock, and making Superb dance while they were away.
So they set out, and asked everyone they met -
"Do you know the king of the Peacocks?"
But the answer was always, "No, no."
Then they went on and on, so far that no one has ever been farther, and at last they came to the kingdom of the Cockchafers.
They had never before seen such a number of cockchafers, and the buzzing was so loud that the king was afraid he should be deafened by it. He asked the most distinguished-looking cockchafer they met if he knew where they could find the king of the Peacocks.
"Sire," replied the cockchafer, "his kingdom is thirty thousand leagues from this; you have come the longest way."
"And how do you know that?" said the king.
"Oh!" said the cockchafer, "we all know you very well, since we spend two or three months in your garden every year."
Thereupon the king and the prince made great friends with him, and they all walked arm-in-arm and dined together, and afterwards the cockchafer showed them all the curiosities of his strange country, where the tiniest green leaf costs a gold piece and more. Then they set out again to finish their journey, and this time, as they knew the way, they were not long on the road. It was easy to guess that they had come to the right place, for they saw peacocks in every tree, and their cries could be heard a long way off:
When they reached the city they found it full of men and women who were dressed entirely in peacocks" feathers, which were evidently thought prettier than anything else.
They soon met the king, who was driving about in a beautiful little golden carriage which glittered with diamonds, and was drawn at full speed by twelve peacocks. The king and the prince were delighted to see that the king of the Peacocks was as handsome as possible. He had curly golden hair and was very pale, and he wore a crown of peacocks" feathers.
When he saw Goldie's brothers he knew at once that they were strangers, and stopping his carriage he sent for them to speak to him. When they had greeted him they said:
"Sire, we have come from very far away to show you a beautiful portrait."
So saying they drew from their travelling bag the picture of Goldie.
The king looked at it in silence a long time, but at last he said:
"I couldn't have believed that there was such a beautiful princess in the world!"
"Indeed, she is really a hundred times as pretty as that," said her brothers.
"I think you must be making fun of me," replied the king of the Peacocks.
"Sire," said the prince, "my brother is a king, like yourself. He is called "the king," I'm called "the prince," and that's the portrait of our sister, the princess Goldie. We have come to ask if you would like to marry her. She is as good as she is beautiful, and we will give her a bushel of gold pieces for her dowry."
"Oh! with all my heart," replied the king, "and I'll make her very happy. She shall have whatever she likes, and I shall love her dearly; only I warn you that if she isn't as pretty as you have told me, I'll have your heads cut off."
"Oh! certainly, we quite agree to that," said the brothers in one breath.
"Very well. Off with you into prison, and stay there till the princess arrives," said the king of the Peacocks.
And the princes were so sure that Goldie was far prettier than her portrait that they went without a murmur. They were very kindly treated, and that they might not feel dull the king came often to see them. As for Goldie's portrait that was taken up to the castle, and the king did nothing but gaze at it all day and all night.
As the king and the prince had to stay in prison, they sent a letter to the princess telling her to pack up all her treasures as quickly as possible, and come to them, as the king of the Peacocks was waiting to marry her; but they didn't say that they were in prison, for fear of making her uneasy.
When Goldie received the letter she was so delighted that she ran about telling everyone that the king of the Peacocks was found, and she was going to marry him.
Guns were fired, and fireworks let off. Everyone had as many cakes and sweetmeats as he wanted. And for three days everybody who came to see the princess was presented with a slice of bread- and-jam, a nightingale's egg, and some hippocras. After having thus entertained her friends, she distributed her dolls among them, and left her brother's kingdom to the care of the wisest old men of the city, telling them to take charge of everything, not to spend any money, but save it all up till the king should return, and above all, not to forget to feed her peacock. Then she set out, only taking with her her nurse, and the nurse's daughter, and the little green dog Superb.
They took a boat and put out to sea, carrying with them the bushel of gold pieces, and enough dresses to last the princess ten years if she wore two every day, and they did nothing but laugh and sing. The nurse asked the boatman:
"Can you take us, can you take us to the kingdom of the peacocks?"
But he answered:
"Oh no! oh no!"
Then she said:
"You must take us, you must take us."
And he answered:
"Very soon, very soon."
Then the nurse said:
"Will you take us? will you take us?"
And the boatman answered:
Then she whispered in his ear:
"Do you want to make your fortune?"
And he said:
"Certainly I do."
"I can tell you how to get a bag of gold," said she.
"I ask nothing better," said the boatman.
"Well," said the nurse, "tonight, when the princess is asleep, you must help me to throw her into the sea, and when she is drowned I'll put her beautiful clothes on my daughter, and we will take her to the king of the Peacocks, who will be only too glad to marry her, and as your reward you shall have your boat full of diamonds."
The boatman was very much surprised at this proposal, and said:
"But what a pity to drown such a pretty princess!"
However, at last the nurse persuaded him to help her, and when the night came and the princess was fast asleep as usual, with Superb curled up on his own cushion at the foot of her bed, the wicked nurse fetched the boatman and her daughter, and between them they picked up the princess, feather bed, mattress, pillows, blankets and all, and threw her into the sea, without even waking her. Now, luckily, the princess's bed was entirely stuffed with phoenix feathers, which are very rare, and have the property of always floating on water, so Goldie went on swimming about as if she had been in a boat. After a little while she began to feel very cold, and turned round so often that she woke Superb, who started up, and, having a very good nose, smelt the soles and herrings so close to him that he began to bark. He barked so long and so loud that he woke all the other fish, who came swimming up round the princess's bed, and poking at it with their great heads. As for her, she said to herself:
"How our boat does rock on the water! I'm really glad that I'm not often as uncomfortable as I've been tonight."
The wicked nurse and the boatman, who were by this time quite a long way off, heard Superb barking, and said to each other:
"That horrid little animal and his mistress are drinking our health in sea-water now. Let's make haste to land, for we must be quite near the city of the king of the Peacocks."
The king had sent a hundred carriages to meet them, drawn by every kind of strange animal. There were lions, bears, wolves, stags, horses, buffaloes, eagles, and peacocks. The carriage intended for the princess Goldie had six blue monkeys, which could turn somersaults, and dance on a tight-rope, and do many other charming tricks. Their, harness was all of crimson velvet with gold buckles, and behind the carriage walked sixty beautiful ladies chosen by the king to wait on Goldie and amuse her.
The nurse had taken all the pains imaginable to deck out her daughter. She put on her Goldie's prettiest frock, and covered her with diamonds from head to foot. But she was so ugly that nothing could make her look nice, and what was worse, she was sulky and ill-tempered, and did nothing but grumble all the time.
When she stepped from the boat and the escort sent by the king of the Peacocks caught sight of her, they were so surprised that they couldn't say a single word.
"Now then, look alive," cried the false princess. "If you don't bring me something to eat I'll have all your heads cut off!"
Then they whispered one to another:
"Here's a pretty state of things! she is as wicked as she is ugly. What a bride for our poor king! She certainly was not worth bringing from the other end of the world!"
But she went on ordering them all about, and for no fault at all would give slaps and pinches to everyone she could reach.
As the procession was so long it advanced but slowly, and the nurse's daughter sat up in her carriage trying to look like a queen. But the peacocks, who were sitting on every tree waiting to salute her, and who had made up their minds to cry, "Long live our beautiful queen!" when they caught sight of the false bride couldn't help crying instead:
"Oh! how ugly she is!"
Which offended her so much that she said to the guards:
"Make haste and kill all these insolent peacocks who have dared to insult me."
But the peacocks only flew away, laughing at her.
The rogue of a boatman, who noticed all this, said softly to the nurse:
"This is a bad business for us, gossip; your daughter ought to have been prettier."
But she answered:
"Be quiet, stupid, or you'll spoil everything."
Now they told the king that the princess was approaching.
"Well," said he, "did her brothers tell me truly? Is she prettier than her portrait?"
"Sire," they answered, "if she were as pretty that would do very well."
"That's true," said the king; "I for one shall be quite satisfied if she is. Let's go and meet her." For they knew by the uproar that she had arrived, but they couldn't tell what all the shouting was about. The king thought he could hear the words:
"How ugly she is! How ugly she is!" and he fancied they must refer to some dwarf the princess was bringing with her. It never occurred to him that they could apply to the bride herself.
The princess Goldie's portrait was carried at the head of the procession, and after it walked the king surrounded by his courtiers. He was all impatience to see the lovely princess, but when he caught sight of the nurse's daughter he was furiously angry, and wouldn't advance another step. For she was really ugly enough to have frightened anybody.
"What!" he cried, "have the two rascals who are my prisoners dared to play me such a trick as this? Do they propose that I shall marry this hideous creature? Let her be shut up in my great tower, with her nurse and those who brought her here; and as for them, I'll have their heads cut off."
Meanwhile the king and the prince, who knew that their sister must have arrived, had made themselves smart, and sat expecting every minute to be summoned to greet her. So when the gaoler came with soldiers, and carried them down into a black dungeon which swarmed with toads and bats, and where they were up to their necks in water, nobody could have been more surprised and dismayed than they were.
"This is a dismal kind of wedding," they said; "what can have happened that we should be treated like this? They must mean to kill us."
And this idea annoyed them very much. Three days passed before they heard any news, and then the king of the Peacocks came and berated them through a hole in the wall.
"You have called yourselves king and prince," he cried, "to try and make me marry your sister, but you're nothing but beggars, not worth the water you drink. I mean to make short work with you, and the sword is being sharpened that will cut off your heads!"
"King of the Peacocks," answered the king angrily, "you had better take care what you're about. I'm as good a king as yourself, and have a splendid kingdom and robes and crowns, and plenty of good red gold to do what I like with. You're pleased to jest about having our heads cut off; perhaps you think we have stolen something from you?"
At first the king of the Peacocks was taken aback by this bold speech, and had half a mind to send them all away together; but his Prime Minister declared that it would never do to let such a trick as that pass unpunished, everybody would laugh at him; so the accusation was drawn up against them, that they were impostors, and that they had promised the king a beautiful princess in marriage who, when she arrived, proved to be an ugly peasant girl.
This accusation was read to the prisoners, who cried out that they had spoken the truth, that their sister was indeed a princess more beautiful than the day, and that there was some mystery about all this which they couldn't fathom. Therefore they demanded seven days in which to prove their innocence, The king of the Peacocks was so angry that he would hardly even grant them this favour, but at last he was persuaded to do so.
While all this was going on at court, let's see what had been happening to the real princess. When the day broke she and Superb were equally astonished at finding themselves alone on the sea, with no boat and no one to help them. The princess cried and cried, till even the fishes were sorry for her.
"Alas!" she said, "the king of the Peacocks must have ordered me to be thrown into the sea because he had changed his mind and didn't want to marry me. But how strange of him, when I should have loved him so much, and we should have been so happy together!"
And then she cried harder than ever, for she couldn't help still loving him. So for two days they floated up and down the sea, wet and shivering with the cold, and so hungry that when the princess saw some oysters she caught them, and she and Superb both ate some, though they didn't like them at all. When night came the princess was so frightened that she said to Superb:
"Oh! Do please keep on barking for fear the soles should come and eat us up!"
Now it happened that they had floated close in to the shore, where a poor old man lived all alone in a little cottage. When he heard Superb's barking he thought to himself:
"There must have been a shipwreck!" (for no dogs ever passed that way by any chance), and he went out to see if he could be of any use. He soon saw the princess and Superb floating up and down, and Goldie, stretching out her hands to him, cried:
"Oh! Good old man, do save me, or I shall die of cold and hunger!"
When he heard her cry out so piteously he was very sorry for her, and ran back into his house to fetch a long boat-hook. Then he waded into the water up to his chin, and after being nearly drowned once or twice he at last succeeded in getting hold of the princess's bed and dragging it on shore.
Goldie and Superb were joyful enough to find themselves once more on dry land, and the princess thanked the old man heartily; then, wrapping herself up in her blankets, she daintily picked her way up to the cottage on her little bare feet. There the old man lighted a fire of straw, and then drew from an old box his wife's dress and shoes, which the princess put on, and thus roughly clad looked as charming as possible, and Superb danced his very best to amuse her.
The old man saw that Goldie must be some great lady, for her bed coverings were all of satin and gold. He begged that she would tell him all her history, as she might safely trust him. The princess told him everything, weeping bitterly again at the thought that it was by the king's orders that she had been thrown overboard.
"And now, my daughter, what's to be done?" said the old man. "You're a great princess, accustomed to fare daintily, and I've nothing to offer you but black bread and radishes, which won't suit you at all. Shall I go and tell the king of the Peacocks that you're here? If he sees you he'll certainly wish to marry you."
"Oh no!" cried Goldie, "he must be wicked, since he tried to drown me. Don't let's tell him, but if you have a little basket give it to me."
The old man gave her a basket, and tying it round Superb's neck she said to him: "Go and find out the best cooking-pot in the town and bring the contents to me."
Away went Superb, and as there was no better dinner cooking in all the town than the king's, he adroitly took the cover off the pot and brought all it contained to the princess, who said:
"Now go back to the pantry, and bring the best of everything you find there."
So Superb went back and filled his basket with white bread, and red wine, and every kind of sweetmeat, till it was almost too heavy for him to carry.
When the king of the Peacocks wanted his dinner there was nothing in the pot and nothing in the pantry. All the courtiers looked at one another in dismay, and the king was terribly cross.
"Oh well! "he said, "if there is no dinner I can't dine, but take care that plenty of things are roasted for supper."
When evening came the princess said to Superb:
"Go into the town and find out the best kitchen, and bring me all the nicest morsels that are being roasted on the spit."
Superb did as he was told, and as he knew of no better kitchen than the king's, he went in softly, and when the cook's back was turned took everything that was on the spit, As it happened it was all done to a turn, and looked so good that it made him hungry only to see it. He carried his basket to the princess, who at once sent him back to the pantry to bring all the tarts and sugar plums that had been prepared for the king's supper.
The king, as he had had no dinner, was very hungry and wanted his supper early, but when he asked for it, lo and behold it was all gone, and he had to go to bed half-starved and in a terrible temper. The next day the same thing happened, and the next, so that for three days the king got nothing at all to eat, because just when the dinner or the supper was ready to be served it mysteriously disappeared. At last the prime minister began to be afraid that the king would be starved to death, so he resolved to hide himself in some dark corner of the kitchen, and never take his eyes off the cooking-pot. His surprise was great when he presently saw a little green dog with one ear slip softly into the kitchen, uncover the pot, transfer all its contents to his basket, and run off. The prime minister followed hastily, and tracked him all through the town to the cottage of the good old man; then he ran back to the king and told him that he had found out where all his dinners and suppers went. The king, who was very much astonished, said he should like to go and see for himself. So he set out, accompanied by the prime minister and a guard of archers, and arrived just in time to find the old man and the princess finishing his dinner.
The king ordered that they should be seized and bound with ropes, and Superb also.
When they were brought back to the castle some one told the king, who said:
"Today is the last day of the respite granted to those impostors; they shall have their heads cut off at the same time as these stealers of my dinner." Then the old man went down on his knees before the king and begged for time to tell him everything. While he spoke the king for the first time looked attentively at the princess, because he was sorry to see how she cried, and when he heard the old man saying that her name was Goldie, and that she had been treacherously thrown into the sea, he turned head over heels three times without stopping, in spite of being quite weak from hunger, and ran to embrace her, and untied the ropes which bound her with his own hands, declaring that he loved her with all his heart.
Messengers were sent to bring the princes out of prison, and they came very sadly, believing that they were to be executed at once: the nurse and her daughter and the boatman were brought also. As soon as they came in Goldie ran to embrace her brothers, while the traitors threw themselves down before her and begged for mercy. The king and the princess were so happy that they freely forgave them, and as for the good old man he was splendidly rewarded, and spent the rest of his days in the castle. The king of the Peacocks made ample amends to the king and prince for the way in which they had been treated, and did everything in his power to show how sorry he was.
The nurse restored to Goldie all her dresses and jewels, and the bushel of gold pieces; the wedding was held at once, and they all lived happily ever after - even to Superb, who enjoyed the greatest luxury, and never had anything worse than the wing of a partridge for dinner all the rest of his life.
[Madame d'Aulnoy - #6.3]
ONCE on a time there was a very rich and powerful king who had only two daughters, even though he had been married several times.
The elder was extremely plain she squinted and was hunchbacked; but at the same time she was very clever and amusing, so she was her father's favourite, even though at heart she was both spiteful and untruthful.
The younger princess on the other hand, was both lovely and sweet-tempered, and those who knew her well could hardly say what they preferred the most with her: her charming face or pleasant manners.
The neighbouring country was governed by a young king, who, though not much over twenty years of age, had shown great courage in battle. Had he wished it, he might perhaps have conquered a bigger part of the world. Luckily he preferred peace to war, and spent his time trying to rule his own kingdom well and wisely. His people were very anxious that he should marry, and as the two princesses were the only ladies to be heard of of suitable age and rank, the king sent envoys to their father's court to ask for the hand of one of them in marriage.
But as he was resolved to marry only a woman he could love and be happy with, he wanted to see the lady himself before making up his mind. So he set out in disguise not long after the departure of his ambassadors, and arrived at the castle very soon after they did. But as he had foolishly kept his plan secret, he found, when he reached the court, that they had already made proposals for the elder princess.
Now the king might just as well have gone openly, for his presence soon became known; and when the other king heard of it he prepared to receive him royally, though of course he had to pretend that he had no idea who he was. It was settled that the ambassadors should present their master under the name of one of the princes, and in this manner he was received by the king.
At night there was a grand ball where the young king was able to see the two princesses and get to know them. The ugly face and figure and spiteful remarks of the elder displeased him so greatly that he felt he could not marry her even if she owned ten kingdoms. But the sweet face and gentle manners of the younger sister charmed him so much that he would gladly have shared his throne with her had she been only a simple shepherdess.
He found it very difficult to conceal his thoughts and to pay the elder princess the amount of attention due to her, though he did his best to be polite; while all he saw or heard during the next few days only increased his love for her younger sister, and at last he confessed that his dearest wish was to make her his wife, if she and her father would grant his desire.
He had commanded his ambassadors to put off their farewell audience for a little time, hoping that the king might perceive the state of his feelings; but when it could be deferred no longer, he bade them propose in his name for the younger princess.
On hearing this news, so different from what he had been led to expect, the king, who as we have said before was devoted to his elder daughter and entirely under her influence, could hardly contain his displeasure. Directly the audience was over he sent for the princess and told her of the insolent proposal the young king had made for her sister. The princess was even more furious than her father, and after consulting together they decided to send the younger daughter to some distant place out of reach of the young king. Where this should be they did not quite know, but after they had racked their brains to find a suitable prison, they fixed on a lonely castle called the Desert Tower. There they thought she would be quite safe.
Meantime, it was thought best to let the court gaieties go on as usual, and orders were given for all sorts of splendid entertainments; and on the day that was fixed for carrying off the princess, the whole court was invited to a great hunt in the forest.
The young king and the young princess were counting the hours till this morning, which promised to be so delightful, should dawn. The king and his guest arrived together at the meeting place, but what was the surprise and distress of the young man at not seeing the object of his love among the ladies present. He waited anxiously, looking up and down, not hearing anything that the king said to him; and when the hunt began and she still was absent, he declined to follow, and spent the whole day seeking her, but in vain.
When he returned, one of his attendants told him that some hours before he had met the princess's carriage, escorted by a troop of soldiers who were riding on each side, so that no one could get speech of her. He had followed them at a distance, and saw them stop at the Desert Tower, and on its return he noticed that the carriage was empty. The king was deeply grieved by this news. He left the court at once, and ordered his ambassadors to declare war the very next day unless the king promised to set free the princess.
And more than this, no sooner had he reached his own country than he raised a large army, with which he seized the frontier towns, before his enemy had had time to collect any troops. But, before he quitted the court, he took care to write a letter to his beloved princess imploring her to have patience, and trust to him; and this he gave into the hands of his favourite officer attendant, who would, he knew, lay down his life in his service.
With many precautions the officer attendant managed to examine the surroundings of the tower, and at last discovered, not only where the princess lodged, but that a little window in her room looked out on a desolate plot full of brambles.
Now the unhappy princess was much annoyed that she was not even allowed to take the air at this little window, which was the only one in her room. Her keeper was her elder sister's former nurse, a woman whose eyes never slept. Not for an instant could she be induced to stir from the side of the princess, and she watched her slightest movement.
One day, however, the spy was for once busy in her room writing an account of the princess to her elder sister, and the poor prisoner seized the opportunity to lean out of the window. As she looked about her she noticed a man hidden among the bushes. He stepped forward as soon as he caught sight of her, and showed her a letter, which he took from his jerkin. She at once recognised him as one of the young king's attendants, and let down a long string, to which be tied the letter. You can fancy how quickly she drew it up again, and luckily she had just time to read it before her gaoler had finished her report and entered the room.
The princess's delight was great, and next day she managed to write an answer on a sheet of her notebook and to throw it down to the officer attendant, who hastened to carry it back to his master. The king was so happy at having news of his dear princess, that he resolved, at all risks, to visit the Desert Tower himself, if only to see her for a moment. He ordered his officer attendant to ask leave to visit her, and the princess replied that she should indeed rejoice to see him, but that she feared that her gaoler's watchfulness would make his journey useless, unless he came during the short time when the old woman was writing alone in her own room.
Naturally, the bare idea of difficulties only made the king more eager than ever. He was ready to run any risks, but, by the advice of the officer attendant, he decided to try cunning rather than force. In his next letter he enclosed a sleeping powder, which the princess managed to mix with her gaoler's supper, so that when the king reached the tower in the evening the princess appeared fearlessly at her window on hearing his signal. They had a long and delightful conversation, and parted in the fond hope that their meeting had not been observed. But they were wrong. The watchful eyes of the old nurse were proof against any sleeping draught she had seen and heard all; and lost no time in writing to report everything to her mistress.
The news made the spiteful little hunchback furious, and she resolved to be cruelly revenged for the contempt with which the king had treated her. She ordered her nurse to pretend not to notice what might be passing, and meantime she had a trap made so that if the king pushed his way through the brambles at the foot of the tower, it would not only catch him, as if he were a mouse, but would let loose a number of poisoned arrows, which would pierce him all over. When it was ready, the trap was hidden among the brambles without being observed by the princess.
That same evening the king hurried to the tower with all the impatience of love. As he came near he heard the princess break into a long, joyous peal of laughter. He advanced quickly to give the usual signal, when suddenly his foot trod on something, he knew not what. A sharp, stinging pain ran through him, and be turned white and faint, but, luckily, the trap had only opened a little way, and only a few of the arrows flew out. For a moment he staggered, and then fell to the ground covered with blood.
Had he been alone he would have died very shortly, but his faithful squire was close at hand, and carried his master off to the wood where the rest of his escort were waiting for him. His wounds were bound up, and some poles were cut to make a rough litter, and, almost unconscious, the king was borne away out of his enemy's country to his own castle.
All this time the princess was feeling very anxious. She had been whiling away the hours before this meeting by playing with a little pet monkey, which had been making such funny faces that, in spite of her troubles, she had burst into the hearty laugh overheard by the king. But by-and-by she grew restless, waiting for the signal which never came. Had she dared, would certainly have rebelled when her gaoler, whom she believed to be fast asleep, ordered her to go to bed at once.
A fortnight passed, which was spent in great anxiety by the poor girl, who grew thin and weak with the uncertainty. At the end of this period, when the nurse went to her room one morning as usual in order to write her daily report, she carelessly left the key in the door. This was perceived by the princess, who turned it on her so quickly and quietly that she never found out she was locked in till she had finished writing, and got up to seek her charge.
Finding herself free, the princess flew to the window, and to her horror saw the arrows lying about among the bloodstained brambles. Distracted with terror she slipped down the stairs and out of the tower, and ran for some time along a path, when with great good luck she met the husband of her own nurse, who had only just heard of her imprisonment, and was on his way to try to find out whether he could serve her.
The princess begged him to get her some men's clothes while she waited for him in a little wood close by. The good man was overjoyed to be of use, and started at once for the nearest town, where he soon discovered a shop where the court lackeys were accustomed to sell their masters' cast-off clothes. The princess dressed herself at once in the disguise he had brought, which was of rich material and covered with precious stones; and, putting her own garments into a bag, which her servant hung over his shoulders, they both set out on their journey.
This lasted longer than either of them expected. They walked by day as far as the princess could manage, and by night they slept in the open air. One evening they camped in a lovely valley watered by a rippling stream, and towards morning the princess was awakened by a charming voice singing one of the songs of her own childhood. Anxious to find out where the sound came from, she walked to a thicket of myrtles, where she saw a little boy with a quiver at his back and an ivory bow in his hand, singing softly to himself as he smoothed the feathers of his shafts.
"Are you surprised at seeing my eyes open?" he asked, with a smile. "Ah! I am not always blind! And sometimes it is well to know what sort of a heart needs piercing. It was I who sent out my darts the day that you and the king met, so, as I have caused the wound, I am in duty bound to find the cure!"
Then he gave her a little bottle full of a wonderful salve to dress the king's wounds with when she found him.
"In two days you can reach his castle," he said. "Don't waste time, for sometimes time is life."
The princess thanked the boy with tears in her eyes, and hastened to wake up her guide so that they might start, and set off at once on their way.
As the boy had foretold, in two days the tower and walls of the city came in sight, and her heart beat wildly at the thought that she would soon be face to face with her sweetheart, the king. But on asking after his health she learned, to her horror, that he was sinking fast. For a moment her grief was so great that she nearly betrayed herself. Then, calling all her courage to her aid, she announced that she was a doctor, and that if they would leave him in her charge for a few days she would promise to cure him.
Now, in order to make a good appearance at court the new doctor resolved to have an entire suit made of pale blue satin. She bought the richest, most splendid stuff to be had in the shops, and summoned a tailor to make it for her, engaging to pay him double if he would finish the work in two hours. Next she went to the market, where she bought a fine mule, bidding her servant see that its harness was adorned with trappings of blue satin also.
While all was being made ready the princess asked the woman in whose house she lived whether she knew any of the king's attendants, and found to her satisfaction that her cousin was his majesty's chief valet. The doctor then bade the woman inform everyone she met that on hearing of the king's illness a celebrated surgeon had hastened to attend him, and had undertaken to cure him entirely; declaring himself prepared to be burnt alive in case of failure.
The good woman, who loved nothing better than a bit of gossip, hurried to the castle with her news. Her story did not lose in telling. The court physicians were very scornful about the new-corner, but the king's attendants remarked that as, in spite of their remedies, his majesty was dying before their eyes, there could be no harm in consulting this stranger.
So the lord chamberlain begged the young doctor to come and prescribe for the royal patient without delay; and the doctor sent a message at once, that he would do himself the honour to present himself at the castle, and he lost no time in mounting his mule and setting out. As the people and soldiers saw him ride past they cried out:
"Here comes the Satin Surgeon! Look at the Satin Surgeon! Long live the Satin Surgeon!"
And, on arriving, he was announced by this name, and at once taken to the sick room of the dying man.
The young king was lying with his eyes closed and his face as white as the pillow itself; but directly he heard the new-corner's voice, he looked up and smiled, and signed that he wished the new doctor to remain near him.
Making a low bow, the Satin Surgeon assured the king that he felt certain of curing his malady, but insisted that everyone should leave the room except the king's favourite officer attendant. He then dressed the wounds with the magic salve which the boy had given him, and it so relieved the king's pain that he slept soundly all that night.
When morning broke, the courtiers and doctors hurried to the king's chamber, and were much surprised to find him free of pain. But they were promptly ordered out of the room by the Satin Surgeon, who renewed the dressings with such good results that next morning the king was nearly well and able to leave his bed.
As he grew stronger, his thoughts dwelt more and more on the cause of all his sufferings, and his spirits grew worse as his health grew better. The face and voice of his new doctor reminded him of the princess that he imagined had betrayed him and caused him such dreadful torture. Unable to bear the thought, his eyes filled with tears.
The doctor noticed the sad look on his face and did all he could to enliven his patient with cheerful talk and amusing stories, till at last he won the king's confidence and heard all the story of his love for a lady who had treated him cruelly, but whom, in spite of everything, he could not help loving. The Satin Surgeon listened with sympathy and tried to persuade the king that possibly the princess was not so much to blame as might appear; but, eager though the sick man was to believe this, it took a long while to persuade him of it.
At length a day came when the king was nearly well, and for the last time the doctor dressed the wounds with the precious salve. Then, both patient and surgeon, being wearied out with something they could not explain, fell asleep and slept for hours.
Early next morning, the princess, having decided to resume her own clothes which she had brought with her in a bag, dressed herself with great care and put on all her jewels so as to make herself look as lovely as possible. She had just finished when the king awoke, feeling so strong and well that he thought he must be dreaming, nor could he believe himself to be awake when he saw the princess draw aside his curtains.
For some minutes they gazed at each other, unable to speak, and then they only uttered little gasps of joy and thankfulness. By-and-by the princess told him the whole story of her adventures since their last interview at the Desert Tower; and the king, weak as he was, threw himself at her feet with vows of love and gratitude, without ever giving a thought to the fact that the household and court physicians were awaiting their summons in the ante-room.
The king, anxious to prove how much he owed to the Satin Surgeon, opened his door himself, and great was everyone's surprise and joy at seeing him in such perfect health. Like good courtiers, they hastened in to praise and compliment the Satin Surgeon, but what was their astonishment on finding that he had disappeared, leaving in his place the loveliest woman in the whole world.
"While thanking the surgeon for his miraculous cure, you might at the same time do homage to your queen," observed the king. He wished to have the marriage celebrated the same day, but the princess declared that she must wait to get her father's permission first.
Messengers were therefore at once despatched to the neighbouring capital, and soon returned with the king's consent, for he had lately discovered all the mischief caused by his elder daughter.
The spiteful princess was so furious at the failure of her plans that she took to her bed and died in a fit of rage and jealousy. No one grieved for her, and the king, being tired of the fatigues of government, gave up his crown to his younger daughter; so the two kingdoms from now on became one.
[From the Cabinet des Fees.]
ONCE on a time in a certain country there lived a king whose castle was surrounded by a spacious garden. But, though the gardeners were many and the soil was good, this garden yielded neither flowers nor fruits, not even grass or shady trees.
The king was in despair about it, when a wise old man said to him:
"Your gardeners don't understand their business: but what can you expect of men whose fathers were cobblers and carpenters? How should they have learned to cultivate your garden?"
"You're quite right," cried the king.
"Therefore," continued the old man, "you should send for a gardener whose father and grandfather have been gardeners before him, and very soon your garden will be full of green grass and gay flowers, and you'll enjoy its delicious fruit."
So the king sent messengers to every town, village, and hamlet in his dominions, to look for a gardener whose forefathers had been gardeners also, and after forty days one was found.
"Come with us and be gardener to the king," they said to him.
"How can I go to the king," said the gardener, "a poor wretch like me?"
"That's of no consequence," they answered. "Here are new clothes for you and your family."
"But I owe money to several people."
"We will pay your debts," they said.
So the gardener allowed himself to be persuaded, and went away with the messengers, taking his wife and his son with him; and the king, delighted to have found a real gardener, entrusted him with the care of his garden. The man found no difficulty in making the royal garden produce flowers and fruit, and at the end of a year the park was not like the same place, and the king showered gifts on his new servant.
The gardener, as you have heard already, had a son, who was a very handsome young man, with most agreeable manners, and every day he carried the best fruit of the garden to the king, and all the prettiest flowers to his daughter. Now this princess was wonderfully pretty and was just sixteen years old, and the king was beginning to think it was time that she should be married.
"My dear child," said he, "you're of an age to take a husband, therefore I'm thinking of marrying you to the son of my prime minister.
"Father," replied the princess, "I'll never marry the son of the minister."
"Why not?" asked the king.
"Because I love the gardener's son," answered the princess.
On hearing this the king was at first very angry, and then he wept and sighed, and declared that such a husband was not worthy of his daughter; but the young princess was not to be turned from her resolution to marry the gardener's son.
Then the king consulted his ministers. "This is what you must do," they said. "To get rid of the gardener you must send both suitors to a very distant country, and the one who returns first shall marry your daughter."
The king followed this advice, and the minister's son was presented with a splendid horse and a purse full of gold pieces, while the gardener's son had only an old lame horse and a purse full of copper money, and every one thought he would never come back from his journey.
The day before they started the princess met her lover and said to him:
"Be brave, and remember always that I love you. Take this purse full of jewels and make the best use you can of them for love of me, and come back quickly and demand my hand."
The two suitors left the town together, but the minister's son went off at a gallop on his good horse, and very soon was lost to sight behind the most distant hills. He travelled on for some days, and presently reached a fountain beside which an old woman all in rags sat on a stone.
"Good-day to you, young traveller," said she.
But the minister's son made no reply.
"Have pity on me, traveller," she said again. "I'm dying of hunger, as you see, and three days have I been here and no one has given me anything."
"Let me alone, old witch," cried the young man; "I can do nothing for you," and so saying he went on his way.
That same evening the gardener's son rode up to the fountain on his lame grey horse.
"Good-day to you, young traveller," said the beggar-woman.
"Good-day, good woman," answered he.
"Young traveller, have pity on me."
Take my purse, good woman," said he, "and mount behind me, for your legs can't be very strong."
The old woman didn't wait to be asked twice, but mounted behind him, and in this style they reached the chief city of a powerful kingdom. The minister's son was lodged in a grand inn, the gardener's son and the old woman dismounted at the inn for beggars.
The next day the gardener's son heard a great noise in the street, and the king's heralds passed, blowing all kinds of instruments, and crying:
The king, our master, is old and infirm. He'll give a great reward to whoever will cure him and give him back the strength of his youth."
Then the old beggar-woman said to her benefactor:
"This is what you must do to obtain the reward which the king promises. Go out of the town by the south gate, and there you'll find three little dogs of different colours; the first will be white, the second black, the third red. You must kill them and then burn them separately, and gather up the ashes. Put the ashes of each dog into a bag of its own colour, then go before the door of the castle and cry out, "A celebrated physician has come from Janina in Albania. He alone can cure the king and give him back the strength of his youth." The king's physicians will say, "This is an impostor, and not a learned man," and they will make all sorts of difficulties, but you'll overcome them all at last, and will present yourself before the sick king. You must then demand as much wood as three mules can carry, and a great cauldron, and must shut yourself up in a room with the Sultan, and when the cauldron boils you must throw him into it, and there leave him till his flesh is completely separated from his bones.
Then arrange the bones in their proper places, and throw over them the ashes out of the three bags. The king will come back to life, and will be just as he was when he was twenty years old. For your reward you must demand the bronze ring which has the power to grant you everything you desire. Go, my son, and don't forget any of my instructions."
The young man followed the old beggar-woman's directions. On going out of the town he found the white, red, and black dogs, and killed and burnt them, gathering the ashes in three bags. Then he ran to the castle and cried:
"A celebrated physician has just come from Janina in Albania. He alone can cure the king and give him back the strength of his youth."
The king's physicians at first laughed at the unknown wayfarer, but the Sultan ordered that the stranger should be admitted. They brought the cauldron and the loads of wood, and very soon the king was boiling away. Toward mid-day the gardener's son arranged the bones in their places, and he had hardly scattered the ashes over them before the old king revived, to find himself once more young and hearty.
"How can I reward you, my benefactor?" he cried. "Will you take half my treasures?"
"No," said the gardener's son.
"My daughter's hand?"
"Take half my kingdom."
"No. Give me only the bronze ring which can instantly grant me anything I wish for."
"Alas!" said the king, "I set great store by that marvellous ring; nevertheless, you shall have it." And he gave it to him.
The gardener's son went back to say good-by to the old beggar-woman; then he said to the bronze ring:
"Prepare a splendid ship in which I may continue my journey. Let the hull be of fine gold, the masts of silver, the sails of brocade; let the crew consist of twelve young men of noble appearance, dressed like kings. St. Nicholas will be at the helm. As to the cargo, let it be diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and carbuncles."
And immediately a ship appeared on the sea which resembled in every particular the description given by the gardener's son, and, stepping on board, he continued his journey. Presently he arrived at a great town and established himself in a wonderful castle. After several days he met his rival, the minister's son, who had spent all his money and was reduced to the disagreeable employment of a carrier of dust and rubbish. The gardener's son said to him:
"What's your name, what's your family, and from what country do you come?"
"I'm the son of the prime minister of a great nation, and yet see what a degrading occupation I'm reduced to."
"Listen to me; though I don't know anything more about you, I'm willing to help you. I'll give you a ship to take you back to your own country on one condition."
"Whatever it may be, I accept it willingly."
"Follow me to my castle."
The minister's son followed the rich stranger, whom he had not recognised. When they reached the castle the gardener's son made a sign to his slaves, who completely undressed the new-comer.
"Make this ring red-hot," commanded the master, "and mark the man with it on his back."
The slaves obeyed him.
"Now, young man," said the rich stranger, "I'm going to give you a vessel which will take you back to your own country."
And, going out, he took the bronze ring and said:
"Bronze ring, obey your master. Prepare me a ship of which the half-rotten timbers shall be painted black, let the sails be in rags, and the sailors infirm and sickly. One shall have lost a leg, another an arm, the third shall be a hunchback, another lame or club-footed or blind, and most of them shall be ugly and covered with scars. Go, and let my orders be executed."
The minister's son embarked in this old vessel, and thanks to favourable winds, at length reached his own country. In spite of the pitiable condition in which he returned they received him joyfully.
"I'm the first to come back," said he to the king; now fulfil your promise, and give me the princess in marriage.
So they at once began to prepare for the wedding festivities. As to the poor princess, she was sorrowful and angry enough about it.
The next morning, at daybreak, a wonderful ship with every sail set came to anchor before the town. The king happened at that moment to be at the castle window.
"What strange ship is this," he cried, "that has a golden hull, silver masts, and silken sails, and who are the young men like princes who man it? And do I not see St. Nicholas at the helm? Go at once and invite the captain of the ship to come to the castle."
His servants obeyed him, and very soon in came an enchantingly handsome young prince, dressed in rich silk, ornamented with pearls and diamonds.
"Young man," said the king, "you're welcome, whoever you may be. Do me the favour to be my guest as long as you remain in my capital."
"Many thanks, sire," replied the captain, "I accept your offer."
"My daughter is about to be married," said the king; "will you give her away?"
"I shall be charmed, sire."
Soon after came the princess and her betrothed.
"Why, how is this?" cried the young captain; "would you marry this charming princess to such a man as that?"
"But he is my prime minister's son!"
"What does that matter? I can't give your daughter away. The man she is betrothed to is one of my servants."
"Without doubt. I met him in a distant town reduced to carrying away dust and rubbish from the houses. I had pity on him and engaged him as one of my servants."
"It's impossible!" cried the king.
"Do you wish me to prove what I say? This young man returned in a vessel which I fitted out for him, an unsea-worthy ship with a black battered hull, and the sailors were infirm and crippled."
"It's quite true," said the king.
"It's false," cried the minister's son. "I don't know this man!"
"Sire," said the young captain, "order your daughter's betrothed to be stripped, and see if the mark of my ring isn't branded on his back."
The king was about to give this order, when the minister's son, to save himself from such an indignity, admitted that the story was true.
"And now, sire," said the young captain, "do you not recognise me?"
"I recognise you," said the princess; "you're the gardener's son whom I've always loved, and it's you I wish to marry."
"Young man, you shall be my son-in-law," cried the king. "The marriage festivities are already begun, so you shall marry my daughter this very day."
And so that very day the gardener's son married the beautiful princess.
Several months passed. The young couple were as happy as the day was long, and the king was more and more pleased with himself for having secured such a son-in-law.
But, presently, the captain of the golden ship found it necessary to take a long voyage, and after embracing his wife tenderly he embarked.
Now in the outskirts of the capital there lived an old man, who had spent his life in studying black artsalchemy, astrology, magic, and enchantment. This man found out that the gardener's son had only succeeded in marrying the princess by the help of the genii who obeyed the bronze ring.
"I'll have that ring," said he to himself. So he went down to the sea-shore and caught some little red fishes. Really, they were quite wonderfully pretty. Then he came back, and, passing before the princess's window, he began to cry out:
"Who wants some pretty little red fishes?"
The princess heard him, and sent out one of her slaves, who said to the old peddler:
"What will you take for your fish?"
"A bronze ring."
"A bronze ring, old simpleton! And where shall I find one?"
"Under the cushion in the princess's room."
The slave went back to her mistress.
The old madman will take neither gold nor silver," said she.
"What does he want then?"
"A bronze ring that's hidden under a cushion."
Find the ring and give it to him," said the princess.
And at last the slave found the bronze ring, which the captain of the golden ship had accidentally left behind and carried it to the man, who made off with it instantly.
Hardly had he reached his own house when, taking the ring, he said, "Bronze ring, obey your master. I desire that the golden ship shall turn to black wood, and the crew to hideous negroes; that St. Nicholas shall leave the helm and that the only cargo shall be black cats."
And the genii of the bronze ring obeyed him.
Finding himself on the sea in this miserable condition, the young captain understood that some one must have stolen the bronze ring from him, and he lamented his misfortune loudly; but that did him no good.
"Alas!" he said to himself, "whoever has taken my ring has probably taken my dear wife also. What good will it do me to go back to my own country?" And he sailed about from island to island, and from shore to shore, believing that wherever he went everybody was laughing at him, and very soon his poverty was so great that he and his crew and the poor black cats had nothing to eat but herbs and roots. After wandering about a long time he reached an island inhabited by mice. The captain landed on the shore and began to explore the country. There were mice everywhere, and nothing but mice. Some of the black cats had followed him, and, not having been fed for several days, they were fearfully hungry, and made terrible havoc among the mice.
Then the queen of the mice held a council.
"These cats will eat every one of us," she said, "if the captain of the ship does not shut the ferocious animals up. Let's send a deputation to him of the bravest among us."
Several mice offered themselves for this mission and set out to find the young captain.
"Captain," said they, "go away quickly from our island, or we shall perish, every mouse of us."
"Willingly," replied the young captain, "on one condition. That's that you shall first bring me back a bronze ring which some clever magician has stolen from me. If you don't do this I'll land all my cats on your island, and you shall be exterminated."
The mice withdrew in great dismay. "What's to be done?" said the queen. "How can we find this bronze ring?" She held a new council, calling in mice from every quarter of the globe, but nobody knew where the bronze ring was. Suddenly three mice arrived from a very distant country. One was blind, the second lame, and the third had her ears cropped.
"Ho, ho, ho!" said the new-comers. "We come from a far distant country."
"Do you know where the bronze ring is which the genii obey?"
"Ho, ho, ho! we know; an old sorcerer has taken possession of it, and now he keeps it in his pocket by day and in his mouth by night."
"Go and take it from him, and come back as soon as possible."
So the three mice made themselves a boat and set sail for the magician's country. When they reached the capital they landed and ran to the castle, leaving only the blind mouse on the shore to take care of the boat. Then they waited till it was night. The wicked old man lay down in bed and put the bronze ring into his mouth, and very soon he was asleep.
"Now, what shall we do?" said the two little animals to each other.
The mouse with the cropped ears found a lamp full of oil and a bottle full of pepper. So she dipped her tail first in the oil and then in the pepper, and held it to the sorcerer's nose.
"Atisha! atisha!" sneezed the old man, but he didn't wake, and the shock made the bronze ring jump out of his mouth. Quick as thought the lame mouse snatched up the precious talisman and carried it off to the boat.
Imagine the despair of the magician when he awoke and the bronze ring was nowhere to be found!
But by that time our three mice had set sail with their prize. A favouring breeze was carrying them toward the island where the queen of the mice was awaiting them. Naturally they began to talk about the bronze ring.
"Which of us deserves the most credit?" they cried all at once.
"I do," said the blind mouse, "for without my watchfulness our boat would have drifted away to the open sea."
"No, indeed," cried the mouse with the cropped ears; "the credit's mine. Did I not cause the ring to jump out of the man's mouth?"
"No, it's mine," cried the lame one, "for I ran off with the ring."
And from high words they soon came to blows, and, alas! when the quarrel was fiercest the bronze ring fell into the sea.
"How are we to face our queen," said the three mice "when by our folly we have lost the talisman and condemned our people to be utterly exterminated? We can't go back to our country; let's land on this desert island and there end our miserable lives." No sooner said than done. The boat reached the island, and the mice landed.
The blind mouse was speedily deserted by her two sisters, who went off to hunt flies, but as she wandered sadly along the shore she found a dead fish, and was eating it, when she felt something very hard. At her cries the other two mice ran up.
"It's the bronze ring! It's the talisman!" they cried joyfully, and, getting into their boat again, they soon reached the mouse island. It was time they did, for the captain was just going to land his cargo of cats, when a deputation of mice brought him the precious bronze ring.
"Bronze ring," commanded the young man, "obey your master. Let my ship appear as it was before."
Immediately the genii of the ring set to work, and the old black vessel became once more the wonderful golden ship with sails of brocade; the handsome sailors ran to the silver masts and the silken ropes, and very soon they set sail for the capital.
Ah! how merrily the sailors sang as they flew over the glassy sea!
At last the port was reached.
The captain landed and ran to the castle, where he found the wicked old man asleep. The princess clasped her husband in a long embrace. The magician tried to escape, but he was seized and bound with strong cords.
The next day the sorcerer, tied to the tail of a savage mule loaded with nuts, was broken into as many pieces as there were nuts on the mule's back.
[Traditions Populaires de l'Asie Mineure. Carnoy et Nicolaides. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1889 - #3.7]