Once there was a very rich man who had a son who could not tell a bean-pod from a cucumber. Unable to put up any longer with this, his father gave his son, Moscione, a good handful of crowns and sent him to trade in the Levant; for he figured that seeing various countries and mixing with divers people awaken the mind and sharpen the wits.
The son mounted his horse and rode away towards Venice, meaning to embark on board some vessel bound for Cairo. When he had travelled a good day's journey, he came upon a young man standing by a poplar tree, and said to him, "What is your name, my lad? Where do you come from? And what is your trade?"
The lad replied, "My name is Lightning; I am from Arrowland; and I can run like the wind."
"I should like to see a proof of it," said Moscione; and Lightning answered, "Wait a moment and you shall."
Suddenly a doe came bounding over the plain, and Lightning, letting her pass on some way to give her the more law, darted after her so rapidly and with so light a foot that, had the ground been strewn with flour, he would not have left the mark of his shoe. In four bounds he came up with her. Moscione, amazed at this exploit, asked if he would come and live with him, and promised to pay him royally.
Lightning consented, and they went on their way together; but they had not journeyed many miles when they met another youth, and Moscione said to him, "What is your name, comrade? What country are you from? And what is your trade?"
"My name," replied the lad, "is Hare's-Ear; I am from Vale-Curious; and when I put my ear to the ground I hear all that is passing in the world without stirring from the spot."
"If that be true," said Moscione, "tell me what they are now saying at my home."
The lad put his ear to the ground and replied, "An old man is talking to his wife, and saying, "Thank goodness! that fool of a son of mine, Moscione, is out of my sight. Good riddance! Perhaps he'll learn in his travels to be a man instead of a good-for-nothing idiot!"
"Stop! Stop!" said Moscione. "I believe you. No need to say more! So come along with me, for you have found the road to fortune."
"Well and good!" said the youth. So they all went on together and travelled ten miles farther, when they met another man. Moscione said to him, "What is your name, my brave fellow? Where were you born, and what can you do in the world?"
And the man answered, "My name is Shootstraight; I am from Castle Aimwell; and I can shoot with a crossbow so point-blank as to hit an apple in the middle."
"I should like to see a proof of it," said Moscione. So the lad charged his crossbow, took aim, and made a pea leap from the top of a stone; whereupon Moscione took him also into his company.
And they travelled on another day's journey, till they came to some people who were building a large pier in the scorching heat of the sun. So Moscione had compassion on them, and said, "My masters, how is it you can stand the heat of this furnace, which is fit to roast a buffalo?"
And one of them answered, "Oh, we are as cool as a rose; for we have a young man here who blows upon us from behind in such a manner that it seems just as if the west wind were blowing."
"Let me see him, I pray." cried Moscione. So the mason called the lad, and Moscione said to him, "Tell me, by the life of your father, what is your name? What country are you from? And what is your profession?"
The lad replied, "My name is Blowblast; I am from Windyland; and I can make all the winds with my mouth. If you wish for a zephyr, I will breathe one that will delight your soul. If you wish for a squall, I will throw down houses."
"Seeing is believing," said Moscione. Whereupon Blowblast breathed at first quite gently, so that it seemed to be a soft evening breeze. Then, changing suddenly, he sent forth such a furious blast that it uprooted a row of oaks.
When Moscione saw this he took Blowblast also as a companion; and travelling on, he met another lad. He said to him, "What is your name, if I may make so bold? From where do you come, if one may ask? And what is your trade, if it is a fair question?"
The youth answered, "My name is Strongback; I am from Valentino; and I have such strength that I can take a mountain on my back, and it seems to me only a feather."
"That sounds very fine," said Moscione. "But give me a proof."
Then Strongback began to load himself with masses of rock, trunks of trees, and so many other weights, that a thousand large wagons could not have carried them. When Moscione saw it, he begged the lad to join him.
So they travelled on, till they came to Fair-Flower. The king of the place had a daughter who ran like the wind, and could pass over the waving corn without bending an ear. And the king had issued a proclamation that whoever could overtake her in running should have her to wife, but whoever was left behind should lose his head.
When Moscione arrived in this country, and heard the proclamation, he went straight to the king and offered to run with his daughter. But in the morning he sent to inform him that he was taken ill, and being unable to run himself, he would send another young man in his place. "Come who will!" said Channetella, for that was the name of the king's daughter. "I do not care a fig. It is all one to me."
Soon the great square was filled with people come to see the race. The men swarmed like ants, and the windows and balconies were all as full as eggs, Lightning came out and took his station at the top of the square, waiting for the signal. And lo! forth came Channetella, dressed in a short gown to the knee, and neat and pretty little single-soled shoes. Then they placed themselves shoulder to shoulder; and as soon as the tarantara and too-too of the trumpets were heard, off they darted, running at such a rate that their heels touched their shoulders, so that they seemed like hares with the greyhounds after them.
But Lightning left the princess more than a hand's-breath behind him, and came first to the goal. Then you should have heard the hurraing and shouting, the cries and the uproar, the whistling and clapping of hands, and all the people bawling out,
"Hurra! Long life to the stranger!" Channetella's face turned very red, and she stood lost in shame and confusion at seeing herself vanquished. But as there were to be two heats to the race, she fell to planning how to be revenged for this affront; and going home she put a charm into a ring. Now this charm was so powerful that if anyone had the ring upon his finger his legs would totter so that he would not be able to walk, much less to run. Then she sent it as a present to Lightning, begging him to wear it on his finger for her sake.
Hare's-Ear heard the father and daughter plotting this trick, but said nothing, waiting to see the upshot of the affair. And when the sun rose they returned to the field, and at the usual signal the racing began once more. Again Channetella was like another Atalanta, but Lightning was like a foundered horse: not a step could he stir. Shootstraight, however, who saw his comrade's danger, and heard from Hare's-Ear how matters stood, laid hold on his crossbow and shot a bolt so exactly that it hit Lightning's finger. Out flew the stone from the ring in which the virtue of the charm lay; his legs that had been tied were set free, and with four goat-leaps he passed Channetella and won the race.
Now, according to the bargain, Moscione was to have the prize as the employer of the wonderful runner. But the king was displeased and tried to find a way out, so that he would escape giving his daughter to that fellow. He took counsel with the wise men of his court, who replied that Channetella was too fine a mouthful for such an idle fellow; and that he might offer Moscione a gift of crowns instead, without breaking his royal word.
This advice pleased the king, and he asked Moscione how much money he would take instead of the wife that had been promised him. Then Moscione, after consulting with the others, answered, "I will take as much gold and silver as one of my comrades can carry on his back."
The king consented; and then they brought Strongback. The king's men began to load bales of ducats, sacks of crowns, barrels of copper money, chests full of chains and rings on him. But the more they loaded him the firmer he stood, just like a tower, so that the treasury, the banks and the money-dealers of the city did not suffice, and the king sent to all the great people in every direction to borrow their silver candlesticks, basins, jugs, plates, trays and baskets; and yet all was not enough to make up the full load.
At length they went away, not fully laden, but tired and satisfied.
When the councillors saw what heaps and stores these four miserable dogs were carrying off, they said to the king that it was a great piece of folly to give away all the riches of his kingdom, and that it would be well to send people after them to lessen the precious load.
The king gave ear to this advice, and at once despatched a party of armed men, foot and horse, to overtake Moscione and his friends. But Hare's-Ear, who had heard this counsel, informed his comrades; and while the dust was rising to the sky from the trampling of those who were coming to unlade the rich cargo, Blowblast, seeing that things were come to a bad pass, began to blow at such a rate that he not only made their enemies fall flat on the ground, but he sent them flying more than a mile.
So without meeting any more hindrance, Moscione arrived at his father's house, where he shared the booty with his companions, since, as the saying goes, a good deed deserves a good meed. He sent them away content and happy; but he stayed on with his father, rich beyond measure, and happy, he too.
1. The Fairy Aurelia
A fisherman sat watching his wife baking a cake. It was a rich and pretty cake, not just one for an everyday.
"What are you making that for?" he asked.
"Surely you haven't forgotten that it is our youngest boy's birthday tomorrow," answered his wife. "Thirteen he is. How the years pass."
The husband grew suddenly pale. "I had forgotten." he said. "I had forgotten." He sat by the fireside dejected and sad. His face was hidden in his hands, and when his wife turned round she saw him shaken by sobs, and his tears fell on the hearth.
"What is the matter, my good Luca? What has come over you?"
For some time she could not get a word from him, but at last he told her his trouble. You remember the time before our youngest son Lionbruno was born? We were very poor. We were before often hungry. There seemed no fish left in the sea."
* I remember, I remember," she answered. "But we've been well off this many a year. What's the use of calling up old sorrows?"
"But did you never wonder how luck came to us so suddenly?"
"Yes," said the woman. "I did at first, but I got used to it."
"Well, listen," said Luca. "One day I was in sore straits. Out in my boat I kept thinking of you and the children with nothing to eat at home, and hardly a stick of furniture left. For a week or more I had not caught a fish that would fetch a penny. Then out of the sea there rose up a strange dark shape, very horrible to look at, and fear struck into my heart. The creature called me by my name, and asked what ailed me.
"Poverty, just poverty," I answered.
He told me that might be cured. My children should never want for a good meal on one condition. "What is the condition?" I demanded.
''You have sons enough and to spare," said he, "and I'm always in want of stout lads. Keep those you have, but give me the next son born to you, and luck will be yours for the rest of your life."
Well, it did not seem likely we should have any more children, but I would not promise at first. "My wife would never consent," said I. "Oh," answered the monster, "she would have him for thirteen years."
Then again I thought of all the hardships we suffered, and I promised. "Bring him to the seashore on his thirteenth birthday," he said, and vanished.
In less than a year after our dear Lionbruno was born, the best and handsomest of all our children. I dared not tell you his fate. I have tried to forget it, and not to count the years. But tomorrow he must go, for the monster will not forget. Ah me! Ah me! "
The mother wept, lamented, and protested. Next day she hid the boy, but his father, fearing some terrible calamity would befall the household if he failed to keep his promise, went in search of him, found him, and took him along to the seashore. He could not bear to see his son carried off, so leaving him there, without a word of farewell he hurried back to his grief-stricken home.
Lionbruno was playing in his father's boat, never guessing the fate that hung over him, when, suddenly, out of the water there rose a dark monster of terrible aspect. "The Ore!" he cried, but he did not budge.
"Come with me, my child." said a voice. "The hour has arrived."
But the lad looked the horrible creature in the face and said, "Come with you? No!"
It was not an easy thing to face the hideous Ore without flinching, and the creature was so much astonished that a mere child should resist him, that he paused a moment before he put out the claws that would clutch the boy and drag him down below the sea. That moment gave Lionbruno his great chance.
For just then the fairy princessAurelia was walking near, though unseen by either; and when she saw the little stripling prepare to resist her old enemy, the Black Ore, she was much pleased. "That's a lad of spirit," she said, "and he deserves a kinder fate. He'd better serve me than that odious monster." So she signed to an eagle who was in attendance on her, and next moment Lionbruno was seized by the hair of his head and carried to the fairy palace, which stood on a far-away seashore.
Think of the rage of the cheated monster! But he could do nothing, for the power of the fairy Aurelia was greater than his. He might trouble the waters and spoil the fishing, but with grown-up sons to work for him in the fields and vineyards, Luca was not much worse off than before.
In the fairy palace Lionbruno lived a happy, merry life. Sometimes he attended on the princess. At other times he played with the fairies and with those other mortal youths whom the princess had adopted. He rode, he hunted, he learned all kinds of knightly exercises, and when seven years had passed he had grown to be a tall, handsome, accomplished young man, the comeliest that ever was seen. Then the fairy Aurelia married him.
His happiness was almost perfect, but not quite; for he felt a great longing to see his old home, his parents and his brothers, and to share with them some of his good fortune. He did not need to tell his wish. Aurelia guessed it and granted him leave. Moreover, she gave him rich presents for all his kinsfolk, and sent him off splendidly clad, and with an equipage that the greatest prince might have envied.
And as he was taking leave of her, she brought him a precious ring with a flashing stone in it. "This ring is for you only," she said. "Rub this ring, and whatever you desire most at the moment shall be yours. Now, dear Lionbruno, hasten back. I give you but a month's leave. And, remember, that all will go well with you, on one condition. You must never boast of me. If you do, you will bitterly repent it."
Lionbruno promised, and away he went. In a second he was sped far on his way by her magic, so that in what part of the world stood the fairy palace was quite hidden from him. In his old village nobody knew him, but thought he was some great prince. Not even his mother recognised him, till he spoke of things that had happened in the days of his childhood. "And I thought you devoured by a monster!" she cried. Her joy was past description, and so was his father's. Then he brought out the presents for them, such things as they had never set eyes on before. Besides, he added to them by means of his magic ring. His father had now lands and a grand mansion; his mother ruled over a household of servants; and his brothers were fine gallants with jewelled swords by their sides.
But all their joy was turned to sorrow when they learned that Lionbruno could pay them only a short visit; and, indeed, it was hard for Lionbruno to tear himself away from them. But he thought of Aurelia, her commands and her goodness, and with promises of return he said farewell.
Now, on his way back to the fairy palace the horses knew the road and needed no directions Lionbruno heard a king's herald proclaim a great tournament. None but princes and knights of rare skill might enter the lists; but the prize was splendid nothing less than the hand of the king's daughter, the princess Claudia.
Of course Lionbruno did not want to marry any king's daughter; he had the loveliest bride in all the world. But he was tempted to show the court and all the assembled princes what a fine fellow he was; and then he was quite sure he could be victor, if he chose; for had he not his magic ring, obedient to his wishes? So he entered the lists.
Now, each competitor had to mount his horse, and, while riding, to throw his spear and pierce the jewelled eye of a bird that swung high in the air. Hundreds of fine knights made a trial; Lionbruno alone pierced the jewel. But at the end of the contest he had disappeared. The same thing happened the next day. And on the third he was again victor, but before he left the field the soldiers stopped him and led him before the king.
The king paid him many compliments on his skill and his modesty. "Now shall you have your reward," he said, and he called the princess Claudia to come forward. He was just going to put her hand in that of the victor when Lionbruno stepped back. Bowing low, he said, "Madam, I cannot have the honour. I have a bride at home."
"Why then did you enter the lists?" cried the king. "You have mocked us. But you have your punishment for insulting us. You will go back to some miserable, ugly creature whom you can never love again after having seen the beautiful lady whom you might have married."
"Your Majesty has, indeed, a lovely daughter," said Lionbruno, "but my wife surpasses her in beauty and every grace." (It was out of his mouth before he remembered his vow never to boast of the fairy Aurelia.)
There was an uproar at his words. "Let us see her then!" they cried on all sides. And the king's voice rose above the others, saying, "It is easy to make vain boasts. We command you to prove them. Send for your wife. If in three days she does not come, you shall die."
"She lives a long way off, your Majesty."
But they told him he was a liar, a braggart, and no true knight. So poor Lionbruno rubbed his ring hard, saying to it, "Tell my dear princess to come to me without delay." Aurelia refused; for had not he broken his word? Instead, she sent her kitchenmaid.
Suddenly she appeared in the hall before them all, a girl so beautiful that there was a general cry of "Oh! He spoke the truth! What a lovely creature!"
But Lionbruno was indignant. "That my lady?" he said. "I should think not. That is her kitchenmaid."
What must his lady be like then? But the king was suspicious. He again accused him of lying, and as his Majesty angrily left the hall, he once more reminded him of the punishment awaiting him if he could not prove his boast.
Next day Lionbruno was brought again into the king's presence. He rubbed the ring very hard, and in a low, pleading voice said, "Aurelia, my Princess, come to my help."
Suddenly there appeared a lady whom all eyes turned to look at, so fair she was and graceful. "There she is at last!" they cried. "After all he spoke the truth."
But Lionbruno cried out, "That my bride? Why, that's the goose-herd."
Oh! if the goose-herd was like that, what must her mistress be? But the king spoke sternly, and said, "No more vain boasting! I give you till tomorrow. If your wife comes not then, I deliver you over to the executioner. We will not be mocked." Then he sent him out of his presence.
Once more Lionbruno stood before the king. It was his last chance. He could see the gallows through the window. " Aurelia, my Aurelia," he pleaded, as he rubbed the ring, "come to the help of your Lionbruno, for death threatens."
The door swung open, and suddenly all eyes rested on a lady of such dazzling beauty as they had never seen before. Not a sound could be heard in the hall, and the king sat motionless as a statue in his astonishment and admiration. There could be no doubt this time. It was Aurelia.
She walked up to where Lionbruno stood, but instead of giving him the affectionate greeting he hoped for, she seized his hand, took off the ring from his finger, and flicked him scornfully on the cheek. "That for your broken promise!" she said. "If I am your beautiful wife, as you boast, come and find me!" And she vanished.
The king, seeing how she had repulsed Lionbruno, and taken away his ring, cried out to his guards, "Seize the impostor! Seize him! To the gallows with him!" And had not Lionbruno taken to his heels, slipped through the crowd like an eel, and made use of all the agility he had learned in the fairy palace, it would have been all over with him.
2. In the Shoes of Swiftness
He escaped, but he was now in a very bad case. His lady was offended. His ring was gone, and with it all his power. He was as poor as ever he had been; and he did not know in what part of the world her palace was. But not for a moment did he think of losing heart. He had to find Aurelia, and to gain her forgiveness.
So he set off to find her, and on foot, of course; for his horses and carriages had disappeared. He walked and he walked and he walked all day long, and every day, from dawn to nightfall, till he was weary, weary, weary. And of every one he met he asked the way to the palace of the princess Aurelia. "Never heard of such a person," was all the answer he ever got. He asked men; he asked beasts; he asked birds. But none of them could help him. And on he went again, and walked and walked. And the years passed. But he never once thought of giving up his search.
At last one day he came upon two ruffians who were quarrelling over a heap of things they had stolen. They couldn't agree at all about their shares; and seeing Lionbruno, who looked like an honest man, they asked him to judge between them. He consented. After examining the money and jewels, he divided them as fairly as possible, and gave to each his portion.
"But that is not all," they said. "There is this pair of shoes, and there is this mantle."
"They don't seem worth much," said Lionbruno.
"Oh, but they are!" cried the robbers. "These are the famous shoes of swiftness. Whoever puts them on can go as fast as the wind. And whoever puts on this mantle cannot be seen at all. Such things would be most useful in our trade." But they could not agree; for each wanted to have both. And again they asked Lionbruno to judge who should have what.
"But how can I judge unlesss I put them on, and see if they are really as valuable as you say, and find out which is the better of the two."
"Put them on!" cried the robbers. "And then divide them fairly between us." So Lionbruno threw the mantle over his arm, and put on the boots. In a second he was up the hill as if he had been the wind, far above the two rascals. "The boots are good!" he shouted down.
"Now for the mantle," they cried, as they began to toil up after him.
"Do you see me now?" he asked, as he proceeded to put the mantle over his head.
"We see your legs."
"Do you see me now?" he cried again, when it had fallen about him.
"No!" they called out.
"The objects do not belong to you, and you do not have in mind to use them for good. I'll take charge of them till the rightful owners appear, if ever. Goodbye," said Lionbruno. And off he set in the shoes of swiftness and the magic mantle. They could not even see in what direction he went.
When the two robbers knew that they were outwitted, each laid the blame on the other. Then they came to blows, and fought till they felt empty and bare.
But Lionbruno was far on his way by this time. He went like the wind; but neither shoes nor mantle could tell him the road back to his princess. And however far he went, the folks were no better informed. His was a weary life! At last one evening at the foot of a hill, he met an old woman, who looked very tousled and weather-beaten.
"Good evening, mother," he said. "Do you know if the princess Aurelia lives about these parts?"
What should I know of princesses?" she answered.
"Well, then, perhaps you could give me a lodging for the night and some supper, for I am very weary and quite famished."
"That I cannot." said the old woman. "My house is not my own. It belongs to my seven sons; and they would not welcome you."
"But, good mother, have pity! I have travelled twelve thousand miles since morning."
"Oh, that's nothing!" she said. "My sons do that any day. Now, don't keep me talking. I must hurry home to get their supper ready; and if they saw me talking to you, who knows but they would tear you in pieces. My sons are wild, and terribly strong."
Lionbruno slipped on his mantle, and said, "Do you see me, mother?"
"No!" she answered. "Where have you gone to?"
"Well, they won't see me either unless I please. Now take me home with you, and give me some food."
So she took him home with her to her house, which was no house, but a great roomy cavern on the hillside. She gave him food; and then he sat down in a corner to rest. Before long he heard strange sounds of puffing and panting and sighing and blowing; and suddenly he felt cold breaths striking on his face, from this side and that. The sand on the cavern floor whirled about; and Lionbruno had to tuck his mantle well about him lest it should be blown up over his head and some part of him should be seen. He wondered and wondered what was happening, for he hardly dared peep out of his corner; but at last he knew who were the old woman's sons. They were the seven winds.
"Good evening, my sons!" said the old woman. "Are you all here?"
"I am here," said the north wind, "and the west wind, my brother, is just round the corner. The others are coming. What a smell of human flesh!"
"Human flesh? A wind smelling? Nonsense!" said the old woman. "Your supper is now ready."
Then more puffing and panting, and in came the rest, hustling one another in the doorway.
"What a smell of human flesh!" cried the south wind. "If I could get my teeth into it!"
"Human flesh? Windy teeth? Nonsense!" said the old woman. "But now your supper is ready."
When they had all eaten, and were calmer, and almost falling asleep, the old woman said, "I know what you smelt when you came home. A man passed by today. He asked the way to the palace of the princess Aurelia."
"Did he?" said the north wind. "Well, he'll wear out many pairs of shoes before he gets there."
"Of course," said the east wind, "every wind that blows knows her palace. Only last week I was knocking at the doors and windows myself."
"And I this very morning," said the south wind. "I had a look in. But she isn't what she used to be. She is wasting away."
(Think how closely Lionbruno was listening in his corner!)
"What's the matter with her?" asked the old woman.
"Lost her husband, they say. She'll die if he does not come back."
(Lionbruno was listening, listening.)
Yes, that is so," said the wind of the south. "Only yesterday I tried a little jest on her, whirling her curtains about, and the curls on her head. Couldn't get a smile out of her. She is in a poor way. Well, I shall be going there again tomorrow, and I'll see if she is still alive." Then they all went to sleep.
What a long night it seemed to Lionbruno! But morning came at last; and just as the south wind shook himself awake, and was saying, "Good-bye, mother! I'm off for my day's work," he darted out of the cavern, pulled off his mantle and stood at the door.
"Good-morning, your windship! I'd be glad of your company on the road. I'm seeking the palace of the princess Aurelia, and am looking to you to show me the way."
Oh, how the south wind laughed! A mere man to talk of keeping company with a wind! He laughed and laughed again till Lionbruno was nearly blown over. But he stood his ground. "After me then!" said the south wind, and off he flew.
"Not after you!" cried Lionbruno, casting on his mantle, "With you!" And his boots were as good as the wings of the wind. Over hill and dale, over plain and forest he kept pace, till he came to the palace on the far seashore which he knew so well, and had feared he might never see again.
"At last!" shouted Lionbruno.
"Oh, you're there!" said the south wind. Lionbruno cast off his mantle; and there he was.
"What are men coming to?" said the wind. "But you're not inside yet. And if the row of lions that guard the door of the princess catch a glimpse of you, you'll be but a mouthful to them."
"But they shall not see me," and he put on his mantle once more. One step of his magic- booted feet and he was in at the door, another and he was upstairs and into the princess's chamber.
Aurelia was lying on the bed, pale and weak. Her servant had put down a basin of broth beside her, but she would not taste a drop.
"It smells good," thought Lionbruno to himself. He took it up, and gulped it down. To keep pace with the wind gives one an appetite.
"Who has eaten up my broth?" said Aurelia. And her maid when she came back exclaimed, "Dear me! She has actually eaten it all. She must be much better!" And she ran away to fetch more food, some chicken and jelly and grapes, which she set down on the table by the bedside. Next moment they were gone. Only the empty plates were left.
The maid cried out in alarm. "Someone very hungry is hiding in my room," said Aurelia. "I know nobody with such an appetite except my dear Lionbruno, that I shall never see again. Ah me! Ah me!"
Lionbruno could bear it no longer. He cast off his mantle, and stood before her, and then knelt by her bedside, saying, "My dear, I have travelled the world over to find you. Never a day have I stopped on the road. Will you forgive me?" She rose from her bed crying, "Lionbruno! Lionbruno! I have not had a moment's peace and happiness since I sent you away."
They embraced, and laughed, and cried. And the roses came back to Aurelia's face. Her beauty and her health returned on the spot. Hand in hand they went downstairs, and summoned the household, and told the great news. "Tomorrow we shall give a great feast to all our subjects," she said. And messengers were sent off, on the instant, north, south, east and west with the invitations.
"But the lions at your gate will frighten our guests," said Lionbruno.
Aurelia rubbed her ring; and in came the lions and knelt down at her feet. "I only gave them back their fierceness while I lay ill and the castle lacked my protection and yours. From now they are your docile servants;" and they fawned on Lionbruno, and owned him master from that moment.
"Have you no friends to invite to the feast?" said Aurelia.
"I would fain see my parents and my brothers."
She rubbed the ring, and, lo! Lionbruno's kinsfolk were all about him. They were the chief guests at the great feast next day.
They feasted, they danced,
There was once in the city of Black-Grotto an old man named Janor, who was so miserably poor that all he owned was a little cock that he had reared on bread-crumbs. But one morning, being pinched with hunger, he took it into his head to sell the cock. Taking it to the market, he there met two rascally magicians. With them he made a bargain, selling it to them for half-a-crown. So they told him to take it to their house and they would count him out the money. Then the magicians went their way.
But unknown to them, Janor followed them at a distance and overheard them whispering together and saying, "Who would have told us that we should meet with such a piece of good luck? This cock will make our fortune to a certainty by the stone he has in his pate; we will quickly have it set in a ring, and then we shall have everything we can ask for."
"Hush," answered the other, "I see myself rich and can hardly believe it; and I am longing to twist the cock's neck and get rich; for in this world virtue without money goes for nothing, and a man is judged of by his coat."
Janor, who had travelled about in the world and eaten bread from more than one oven, heard this talk and then turned on his heel and scampered off. Running home he twisted the cock's neck, and opening its head found the stone. At once he had the stone set in a brass ring. Then, to try its power, he said, "I wish to become eighteen years old."
Hardly had he uttered the words when his blood began to flow more quickly, his nerves became stronger, his limbs firmer, his flesh fresher, his eyes more fiery; his silver hairs were turned to gold; into his empty mouth came back all his teeth. and his beard, which had become hard and stubbly, grew fine and soft again. In short, he was changed to a most beautiful youth.
Then he went into the woods and said, "I wish for a splendid castle, and to marry the king's daughter."
At once appeared a great-looking castle there. In the great halls, supported by carved pillars, silver glittered everywhere; he trod on gold; beautiful pictures drew his eye; jewels dazzled him. Servants swarmed like ants about the place; and the horses and carriages could hardly be counted. There was such a display of riches that when the king came to see it he was amazed; and willingly gave his daughter in marriage to Janor. She died in a few years, but left a little daughter called Prettina.
Meanwhile the magicians discovered the great wealth of Janor and laid a plan to rob him of his good fortune. They thought they could get at her father's treasures through her. So they made a pretty little doll, which played and danced by clockwork and dressed themselves as merchants. Then they went to the castle when Janor was out and showed it to Prettina. Delighted with it, she asked what it cost; and they answered it was not to be bought for money, but that she might have it and welcome if she would only do them a favour, which was to let them see the ring that her father owned. They wished to take the model and make another like it. Then they would give her the doll without any payment at all.
Prettina, who had never heard the proverb, "Think well before you buy anything cheap," at once accepted this offer; and bidding them return the next morning she promised to ask her father to lend her the ring. So the magicians went away, and when her father returned home Prettina coaxed and caressed him, till at last she persuaded him to give her the ring, making the excuse that she was sad at heart and wished to divert her mind a little.
Next day the magicians returned; and no sooner had they the ring in their hands than they vanished. Not a trace of them was to be seen. The happening struck Prettina with terror.
When the magicians came to a wood they desired the ring to destroy the spell by which the old Janor had become young again. And at once Janor, who was just at that minute in the presence of the king, was suddenly seen to grow hoary, his hairs to whiten, his forehead to wrinkle, his eyebrows to grow bristly, his eyes to sink in, his face to be furrowed, his mouth to become toothless, his beard to grow bushy, his back to be humped, his legs to tremble, and above all, his glittering garments to turn to rags and tatters! The king ordered the miserable old fellow to be driven away with blows and hard words.
Janor went weeping to his daughter, and asked for the ring to set matters right again. When he heard of the trick played by the false merchants, he was ready to throw himself out of the window, for the ignorance of Prettina, had turned him into a scarecrow for the sake of a silly doll. Then set out for the merchants. He threw a cloak about his neck, slung a wallet on his back, drew his sandals on his feet, took a staff in his hand, and leaving his daughter stunned with how old he had become since the morning, he set out on his journey.
On and on he walked till he arrived at the kingdom of Deep-Hole. Mice lived there. They took him for a spy of the cats and at once led before Nibbler the king. Then the king asked him who he was, where he came from, and what he was about in that country. Janor first gave the king a cheese-paring in sign of tribute, and then related to him all his misfortunes, one by one. He concluded by saying that he was resolved to toil and travel on till he got tidings of those thievish villains who had robbed him.
At these words king Nibbler wished to comfort the poor man and summoned the mice elders to a council. He asked their opinions on the misfortunes of Janor, commanding them to use all diligence and endeavour to get some tidings of those false merchants.
Now, the mice Pecker and Skipjack had lived for six years at a tavern of great resort hard by there and were well used to the ways of the world. They said to Janor, "Be of good heart, comrade! matters will turn out better than you imagine. One day we were in a room in the hostelry of the "Horn", where the most famous men in the world lodge and make merry. Then two persons from Hook-Castle came in. After they had eaten their fill and had seen the bottom of their flagon, they fell to talking of a trick they had played on a certain old man of Black-Grotto, cheating him out of a stone of great value.
When Janor heard this, he told the two mice that if they would trust themselves in his company and come with him to the country where those rogues lived, and recover the ring for him, he would give them as much cheese and salt meat as ever they liked, which they might eat and enjoy with their king Nibbler. For such a reward the two mice were willing to go over seas and mountains; and taking leave of his mousy majesty they set out.
At last they arrived at Hook-Castle, where the mice told Janor to remain under some trees on the brink of a river while they went to seek the house of the magicians. As they knew Jennarone never took the ring from his finger they had to resort to a trick to get it from him. So they waited till the magicians had gone to bed and were fast asleep. Then Pecker began to nibble the finger that the ring was on; The magician felt smart and took the ring off and laid it on a table at the head of the bed. But as soon as Skipjack saw this he popped it into his mouth. Then they both ran back to find Janor.
Great was his joy; and as the ring gave him back his power, he at once turned the magicians into two donkeys. On one he rode. The other he loaded with cheese and bacon and set off towards Deep-Hole, where, having given presents to the king and his councillors, he thanked them for their help, praying that no mousetrap might ever lay hold of them and no cat ever mishandle them.
Janor returned to Black-Grotto even more handsome than before, and was received by the king and by his daughter Prettina with the greatest affection in the world. The two donkeys remained beasts of burden while he lived happily with Prettina till the end of his life. And he never took the ring from his finger again.