ONCE ON A TIME there lived a man who had only one son, a lazy, stupid boy, who would never do anything he was told. When the father was dying, he sent for his son and told him that he would soon be left alone in the world, with no possessions but the small cottage they lived in and a pear tree which grew behind it, and that, whether he liked it or not, he would have to work, or else he would starve. Then the old man died.
But the boy did not work; instead, he idled about as before, contenting himself with eating the pears off his tree, which, unlike other pear trees before or since, bore fruit the whole year round. Indeed, the pears were so much finer than any you could get even in the autumn, that one day, in the middle of the winter, they attracted the notice of a fox who was creeping by.
"Dear me; what lovely pears!" he said to the youth. "Do give me a basket of them. It will bring you luck!"
"Ah, little fox, but if I give you a basketful, what am I to eat?" asked the boy.
"Oh, trust me, and do what I tell you," said the fox; "I know it will bring you luck." So the boy got up and picked some of the ripest pears and put them into a rush basket. The fox thanked him, and, taking the basket in his mouth, trotted off to the king's palace and made his way straight to the king.
"Your Majesty, my master sends you a few of his best pears, and begs you will graciously accept them," he said, laying the basket at the feet of the king.
"Pears! at this season?" cried the king, peering down to look at them; "and, pray, who is your master?"
"The Count Piro," answered the fox.
"But how does he manage to get pears in midwinter?" asked the king.
"Oh, he has everything he wants," replied the fox; "he is richer even than you are, your Majesty."
"Then what can I send him in return for his pears?" said the king.
"Nothing, your Majesty, or you would hurt his feelings," answered the fox.
"Well, tell him how heartily I thank him, and how much I shall enjoy them." And the fox went away.
He trotted back to the cottage with his empty basket and told his tale, but the youth did not seem as pleased to hear as the fox was to tell.
"But, my dear little fox," said he, "you have brought me nothing in return, and I am so hungry!"
"Let me alone," replied the fox; "I know what I am doing. You will see, it will bring you luck."
A few days after this the fox came back again.
"I must have another basket of pears," said he.
"Ah, little fox, what shall I eat if you take away all my pears?" answered the youth.
"Be quiet, it will be all right," said the fox; and taking a bigger basket than before, he filled it quite full of pears. Then he picked it up in his mouth, and trotted off to the palace.
"Your Majesty, as you seemed to like the first basket of pears, I have brought you some more," said he, "with my master, the Count Piro's humble respects."
"Now, surely it is not possible to grow such pears with deep snow on the ground?" cried the king.
"Oh, that never affects them," answered the fox lightly; "he is rich enough to do anything. But to-day he sends me to ask if you will give him your daughter in marriage?"
"If he is so much richer than I am," said the king, "I shall be obliged to refuse. My honour would not permit me to accept his offer."
"Oh, your Majesty, you must not think that," replied the fox; "and do not let the question of a dowry trouble you. The Count Piro would not dream of asking anything but the hand of the princess."
"Is he really so rich that he can do without a dowry?" asked the king.
"Did I not tell your Majesty that he was richer than you?" answered the fox reproachfully.
"Well, beg him to come here, that we may talk together," said the king.
So the fox went back to the young man and said: "I have told the king that you are Count Piro, and have asked his daughter in marriage."
"Oh, little fox, what have you done?" cried the youth in dismay; "when the king sees me he will order my head to be cut off."
"Oh, no, he won't!" replied the fox; "just do as I tell you." And he went off to the town, and stopped at the house of the best tailor.
"My master, the Count Piro, begs that you will send him at once the finest coat that you have in your shop," said the fox, putting on his grandest air, "and if it fits him I will call and pay for it to-morrow! Indeed, as he is in a great hurry, perhaps it might be as well if I took it round myself." The tailor was not accustomed to serve counts, and he at once got out all the coats he had ready. The fox chose out a beautiful one of white and silver, bade the tailor tie it up in a parcel, and carrying the string in his teeth, he left the shop, and went to a horse-dealer's, whom he persuaded to send his finest horse round to the cottage, saying that the king had bidden his master to the palace.
Very unwillingly the young man put on the coat and mounted the horse, and rode up to meet the king, with the fox running before him.
"What am I to say to his Majesty, little fox?" he asked anxiously; "you know that I have never spoken to a king before."
"Say nothing," answered the fox, "but leave the talking to me. "Good morning, your Majesty," will be all that is necessary for you."
By this time they had reached the palace, and the king came to the door to receive Count Piro, and led him to the great hall, where a feast was spread. The princess was already seated at the table, but was as dumb as Count Piro himself.
"The Count speaks very little," the king said at last to the fox, and the fox answered: "He has so much to think about in the management of his property that he cannot afford to talk like ordinary people." The king was quite satisfied, and they finished dinner, after which Count Piro and the fox took leave.
The next morning the fox came round again.
"Give me another basket of pears," he said.
"Very well, little fox; but remember it may cost me my life," answered the youth.
"Oh, leave it to me, and do as I tell you, and you will see that in the end it will bring you luck," answered the fox; and plucking the pears he took them up to the king.
"My master, Count Piro, sends you these pears," he said, "and asks for an answer to his proposal."
"Tell the count that the wedding can take place whenever he pleases," answered the king, and, filled with pride, the fox trotted back to deliver his message.
"But I can't bring the princess here, little fox?" cried the young man in dismay.
"You leave everything to me," answered the fox; "have I not managed well so far?"
And up at the palace preparations were made for a grand wedding, and the youth was married to the princess.
After a week of feasting, the fox said to the king: "My master wishes to take his young bride home to his own castle."
"Very well, I will accompany them," replied the king; and he ordered his courtiers and attendants to get ready, and the best horses in his stable to be brought out for himself, Count Piro and the princess. So they all set out, and rode across the plain, the little fox running before them.
He stopped at the sight of a great flock of sheep, which was feeding peacefully on the rich grass. "To whom do these sheep belong?" asked he of the shepherd. "To an ogre," replied the shepherd.
"Hush," said the fox in a mysterious manner. "Do you see that crowd of armed men riding along? If you were to tell them that those sheep belonged to an ogre, they would kill them, and then the ogre would kill you! If they ask, just say the sheep belong to Count Piro; it will be better for everybody." And the fox ran hastily on, as he did not wish to be seen talking to the shepherd.
Very soon the king came up.
"What beautiful sheep!" he said, drawing up his horse. "I have none so fine in my pastures. Whose are they?"
"Count Piro's," answered the shepherd, who did not know the king.
"Well, he must be a very rich man," thought the king to himself, and rejoiced that he had such a wealthy son-in-law.
Meanwhile the fox had met with a huge herd of pigs, snuffling about the roots of some trees.
"To whom do these pigs belong?" he asked of the swineherd.
"To an ogre," replied he.
"Hush!" whispered the fox, though nobody could hear him; "do you see that troop of armed men riding towards us? If you tell them that the pigs belong to the ogre they will kill them, and then the ogre will kill you! If they ask, just say that the pigs belong to Count Piro; it will be better for everybody." And he ran hastily on.
Soon after the king rode up.
"What fine pigs!" he said, reining in his horse. "They are fatter than any I have got on my farms. Whose are they?"
"Count Piro's," answered the swineherd, who did not know the king; and again the king felt he was lucky to have such a rich son-in-law.
This time the fox ran faster than before, and in a flowery meadow he found a troop of horses feeding. "Whose horses are these?" he asked of the man who was watching them.
"An ogre's," replied he.
"Hush!" whispered the fox, "do you see that crowd of armed men coming towards us? If you tell them the horses belong to an ogre they will drive them off, and then the ogre will kill you! If they ask, just say they are Count Piro's; it will be better for everybody." And he ran on again.
In a few minutes the king rode up.
"Oh, what lovely creatures! how I wish they were mine!" he exclaimed. "Whose are they?"
Count Piro's," answered the man, who did not know the king; and the king's heart leapt as he thought that if they belonged to his rich son-in-law they were as good as his.
At last the fox came to the castle of the ogre himself. He ran up the steps, with tears falling from his eyes, and crying:
"Oh, you poor, poor people, what a sad fate is yours!"
"What has happened?" asked the ogre, trembling with fright.
"Do you see that troop of horsemen who are riding along the road? They are sent by the king to kill you!"
"Oh, dear little fox, help us, we implore you!" cried the ogre and his wife.
"Well, I will do what I can," answered the fox. "The best place is for you both to hide in the big oven, and when the soldiers have gone by I will let you out."
The ogre and ogress scrambled into the oven as quick as thought, and the fox banged the door on them; just as he did so the king came up.
"Do us the honour to dismount, your Majesty," said the fox, bowing low. "This is the palace of Count Piro!"
"Why it is more splendid than my own!" exclaimed the king, looking round on all the beautiful things that filled the hall. But why are there no servants?"
"His Excellency the Count Piro wished the princess to choose them for herself," answered the fox, and the king nodded his approval. He then rode on, leaving the bridal pair in the castle. But when it was dark and all was still, the fox crept downstairs and lit the kitchen fire, and the ogre and his wife were burned to death. The next morning the fox said to Count Piro:
"Now that you are rich and happy, you have no more need of me; but, before I go, there is one thing I must ask of you in return: when I die, promise me that you will give me a magnificent coffin, and bury me with due honours."
"Oh, little, little fox, don't talk of dying," cried the princess, nearly weeping, for she had taken a great liking to the fox.
After some time the fox thought he would see if the Count Piro was really grateful to him for all he had done, and went back to the castle, where he lay down on the door-step, and pretended to be dead. The princess was just going out for a walk, and directly she saw him lying there, she burst into tears and fell on her knees beside him.
"My dear little fox, you are not dead," she wailed; "you poor, poor little creature, you shall have the finest coffin in the world!"
"A coffin for an animal?" said Count Piro. "What nonsense! just take him by the leg and throw him into the ditch."
Then the fox sprang up and cried: "You wretched, thankless beggar; have you forgotten that you owe all your riches to me?"
Count Piro was frightened when he heard these words, as he thought that perhaps the fox might have power to take away the castle, and leave him as poor as when he had nothing to eat but the pears off his tree. So he tried to soften the fox's anger, saying that he had only spoken in joke, as he had known quite well that he was not really dead. For the sake of the princess, the fox let himself be softened, and he lived in the castle for many years, and played with Count Piro's children. And when he actually did die, his coffin was made of silver, and Count Piro and his wife followed him to the grave.
ONCE ON A TIME there lived a king and queen who longed to have a son. As none came, one day they made a vow at the shrine of St. James that if their prayers were granted the boy should set out on a pilgrimage as soon as he had passed his eighteenth birthday. And fancy their delight when one evening the king returned home from hunting and saw a baby lying in the cradle.
All the people came crowding round to peep at it, and declared it was the most beautiful baby that ever was seen. Of course that is what they always say, but this time it happened to be true. And every day the boy grew bigger and stronger till he was twelve years old, when the king died, and he was left alone to take care of his mother.
In this way six years passed by, and his eighteenth birthday drew near. When she thought of this the queen's heart sank within her, for he was the light of her eyes' and how was she to send him forth to the unknown dangers that beset a pilgrim? So day by day she grew more and more sorrowful, and when she was alone wept bitterly.
Now the queen imagined that no one but herself knew how sad she was, but one morning her son said to her, "Mother, why do you cry the whole day long?"
"Nothing, nothing, my son; there is only one thing in the world that troubles me."
"What is that one thing?" asked he. "Are you afraid your property is badly managed? Let me go and look into the matter."
This pleased the queen, and he rode off to the plain country, where his mother owned great estates; but everything was in beautiful order, and he returned with a joyful heart, and said, "Now, mother, you can be happy again, for your lands are better managed than anyone else's I have seen. The cattle are thriving; the fields are thick with corn, and soon they will be ripe for harvest."
"That is good news indeed," answered she; but it did not seem to make any difference to her, and the next morning she was weeping and wailing as loudly as ever.
"Dear mother," said her son in despair, "if you will not tell me what is the cause of all this misery I shall leave home and wander far through the world."
"Ah, my son, my son," cried the queen, "it is the thought that I must part from you which causes me such grief; for before you were born we vowed a vow to St. James that when your eighteenth birthday was passed you should make a pilgrimage to his shrine, and very soon you will be eighteen, and I shall lose you. And for a whole year my eyes will never be gladdened by the sight of you, for the shrine is far away."
"Will it take no longer than that to reach it?" said he. "Oh, don't be so wretched; it is only dead people who never return. As long as I am alive you may be sure I will come back to you."
After this manner he comforted his mother, and on his eighteenth birthday his best horse was led to the door of the palace, and he took leave of the queen in these words, "Dear mother, farewell, and by the help of fate I shall return to you as soon as I can."
The queen burst into tears and wept sore; then amidst her sobs she drew three apples from her pocket and held them out, saying, "My son, take these apples and give heed to my words. You will need a companion in the long journey on which you are going. If you come across a young man who pleases you beg him to accompany you, and when you get to an inn invite him to have dinner with you. After you have eaten cut one of these apples in two unequal parts, and ask him to take one. If he takes the larger bit, then part from him, for he is no true friend to you. But if he takes the smaller bit treat him as your brother, and share with him all you have." Then she kissed her son once more, and blessed him, and let him go.
The young man rode a long way without meeting a single creature, but at last he saw a youth in the distance about the same age as himself, and he spurred his horse till he came up with the stranger, who stopped and asked:
"Where are you going, my fine fellow?"
"I am making a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James, for before I was born my mother vowed that I should go forth with a thank offering on my eighteenth birthday."
"That is my case too," said the stranger, "and, as we must both travel in the same direction, let us bear each other company."
The young man agreed to this proposal, but he took care not to get on terms of familiarity with the new comer till he had tried him with the apple.
By-and-by they reached an inn, and at sight of it the king's son said, "I am very hungry. Let us enter and order something to eat." The other consented, and they were soon sitting before a good dinner.
When they had finished the king's son drew an apple from his pocket, and cut it into a big half and a little half, and offered both to the stranger, who took the biggest bit. "You are no friend of mine," thought the king's son, and in order to part company with him he pretended to be ill and declared himself unable to proceed on his journey.
"Well, I can't wait for you," replied the other; "I am in haste to push on, so farewell."
"Farewell," said the king's son, glad in his heart to get rid of him so easily. The king's son remained in the inn for some time, so as to let the young man have a good start; them he ordered his horse and rode after him. But he was very sociable and the way seemed long and dull by himself. "Oh, if I could only meet with a true friend," he thought, "so that I should have some one to speak to. I hate being alone."
Soon after he came up with a young man, who stopped and asked him, "Where are you going, my fine fellow?" The king's son explained the object of his journey, and the young man answered, as the other had done, that he also was fulfilling the vow of his mother made at his birth.
"Well, we can ride on together," said the king's son, and the road seemed much shorter now that he had some one to talk to.
At length they reached an inn, and the king's son exclaimed, "I am very hungry; let us go in and get something to eat."
When they had finished the king's son drew an apple out of his pocket and cut it in two; he held the big bit and the little bit out to his companion, who took the big bit at once and soon ate it up. "You are no friend of mine," thought the king's son, and began to declare he felt so ill he could not continue his journey. When he had given the young man a good start he set off himself, but the way seemed even longer and duller than before. "Oh, if I could only meet with a true friend he should be as a brother to me," he sighed sadly; and as the thought passed through his mind, he noticed a youth going the same road as himself.
The youth came up to him and said, "Which way are you going, my fine fellow?" And for the third time the king's son explained all about his mother's vow. Why, that is just like me," cried the youth.
"Then let us ride on together," answered the king's son.
Now the miles seemed to slip by, for the new comer was so lively and entertaining that the king's son could not help hoping that he indeed might prove to be the true friend.
More quickly than he could have thought possible they reached an inn by the road-side, and turning to his companion the king's son said, "I am hungry; let us go in and have something to eat." So they went in and ordered dinner, and when they had finished the king's son drew out of his pocket the last apple, and cut it into two unequal parts, and held both out to the stranger. And the stranger took the little piece, and the heart of the king's son was glad within him, for at last he had found the friend he had been looking for. "Good youth," he cried, "we will be brothers, and what is mine shall be thine, and what is thine shall be mine. And together we will push on to the shrine, and if one of us dies on the road the other shall carry his body there." And the stranger agreed to all he said, and they rode forward together.
It took them a whole year to reach the shrine, and they passed through many different lands on their way. One day they arrived tired and half-starved in a big city, and said to one another, "Let us stay here for a little and rest before we set forth again." So they hired a small house close to the royal castle, and took up their abode there.
The following morning the king of the country happened to step on to his balcony, and saw the young men in the garden, and said to himself, "Dear me, those are wonderfully handsome youths; but one is handsomer than the other, and to him will I give my daughter to wife;" and indeed the king's son excelled his friend in beauty.
In order to set about his plan the king asked both the young men to dinner, and when they arrived at the castle he received them with the utmost kindness, and sent for his daughter, who was more lovely than both the sun and moon put together. But at bed-time the king caused the other young man to be given a poisoned drink, which killed him in a few minutes, for he thought to himself, "If his friend dies the other will forget his pilgrimage, and will stay here and marry my daughter."
When the king's son awoke the next morning he inquired of the servants where his friend had gone, as he did not see him. "He died suddenly last night," said they, "and is to be buried immediately."
But the king's son sprang up, and cried, "If my friend is dead I can stay here no longer, and cannot linger an hour in this house."
"Oh, give up your journey and remain here," exclaimed the king, "and you shall have my daughter for your wife." "No," answered the king's son, "I cannot stay; but, I pray you, grant my request, and give me a good horse, and let me go in peace, and when I have fulfilled my vow then I will return and marry your daughter."
So the king, seeing no words would move him, ordered a horse to be brought round, and the king's son mounted it, and took his dead friend before him on the saddle, and rode away.
Now the young man was not really dead, but only in a deep sleep.
When the king's son reached the shrine of St. James he got down from his horse, took his friend in his arms as if he had been a child, and laid him before the altar. "St. James," he said, "I have fulfilled the vow my parents made for me. I have come myself to your shrine, and have brought my friend. I place him in your hands. Restore him to life, I pray, for though he be dead yet has he fulfilled his vow also." And, behold! while he yet prayed his friend got up and stood before him as well as ever. And both the young men gave thanks, and set their faces towards home.
When they arrived at the town where the king dwelt they entered the small house over against the castle. The news of their coming spread very soon, and the king rejoiced greatly that the handsome young prince had come back again, and commanded great feasts to be prepared, for in a few days his daughter should marry the king's son. The young man himself could imagine no greater happiness, and when the marriage was over they spent some months at the court making merry.
At length the king's son said, "My mother awaits me at home, full of care and anxiety. Here I must remain no longer, and to-morrow I will take my wife and my friend and start for home." And the king was content that he should do so, and gave orders to prepare for their journey.
Now in his heart the king cherished a deadly hate towards the poor young man whom he had tried to kill, but who had returned to him living, and in order to do him hurt sent him on a message to some distant spot. "See that you are quick," said he, "for your friend will await your return before he starts." The youth put spurs to his horse and departed, bidding the prince farewell, so that the king's message might be delivered the sooner. As soon as he had started the king went to the chamber of the prince, and said to him, "If you do not start immediately, you will never reach the place where you must camp for the night."
"I cannot start without my friend," replied the king's son.
"Oh, he will be back in an hour," replied the king, "and I will give him my best horse, so that he will be sure to catch you up." The king's son allowed himself to be persuaded and took leave of his father-in-law, and set out with his wife on his journey home.
Meanwhile the poor friend had been unable to get through his task in the short time appointed by the king, and when at last he returned the king said to him,
"Your comrade is a long way off by now; you had better see if you can overtake him."
So the young man bowed and left the king's presence, and followed after his friend on foot, for he had no horse. Night and day he ran, till at length he reached the place where the king's son had pitched his tent, and sank down before him, a miserable object, worn out and covered with mud and dust. But the king's son welcomed him with joy, and tended him as he would his brother.
And at last they came home again, and the queen was waiting and watching in the palace, as she had never ceased to do since her son had rode away. She almost died of joy at seeing him again, but after a little she remembered his sick friend, and ordered a bed to be made ready and the best doctors in all the country to be sent for. When they heard of the queen's summons they flocked from all parts, but none could cure him. After everyone had tried and failed a servant entered and informed the queen that a strange old man had just knocked at the palace gate and declared that he was able to heal the dying youth. Now this was a holy man, who had heard of the trouble the king's son was in, and had come to help.
It happened that at this very time a little daughter was born to the king's son, but in his distress for his friend he had hardly a thought to spare for the baby. He could not be prevailed on to leave the sick bed, and he was bending over it when the holy man entered the room. "Do you wish your friend to be cured?" asked the new comer of the king's son. "And what price would you pay?"
"What price?" answered the king's son; "only tell me what I can do to heal him."
"Listen to me, then," said the old man. "This evening you must take your child, and open her veins, and smear the wounds of your friend with her blood. And you will see, he will get well in an instant."
At these words the king's son shrieked with horror, for he loved the baby dearly, but he answered, "I have sworn that I would treat my friend as if he were my brother, and if there is no other way my child must be sacrificed."
As by this time evening had already fallen he took the child and opened its veins, and smeared the blood over the wounds of the sick man, and the look of death departed from him, and he grew strong and rosy once more. But the little child lay as white and still as if she had been dead. They laid her in the cradle and wept bitterly, for they thought that by the next morning she would be lost to them.
At sunrise the old man returned and asked after the sick man.
"He is as well as ever," answered the king's son.
"And where is your baby?"
"In the cradle yonder, and I think she is dead," replied the father sadly.
"Look at her once more," said the holy man, and as they drew near the cradle there lay the baby smiling up at them.
"I am St. James of Lizia,," said the old man, "and I have come to help you, for I have seen that you are a true friend. From henceforward live happily, all of you, together, and if troubles should draw near you send for me, and I will aid you to get through them."
With these words he lifted his hand in blessing and vanished.
And they obeyed him, and were happy and content, and tried to make the people of the land happy and contented too.
THERE WAS ONCE a man whose name was Don Giovanni de la Fortuna, and he lived in a beautiful house that his father had built, and spent a great deal of money. Indeed, he spent so much that very soon there was none left, and Don Giovanni, instead of being a rich man with everything he could wish for, was forced to put on the dress of a pilgrim, and to wander from place to place begging his bread.
One day he was walking down a broad road when he was stopped by a handsome man he had never seen before, who, little as Don Giovanni knew it, was the devil himself.
"Would you like to be rich," asked the devil, "and to lead a pleasant life?"
"Yes, of course I should," replied the Don.
"Well, here is a purse; take it and say to it, "Dear purse, give me some money," and you will get as much as you can want But the charm will only work if you promise to remain three years, three months, and three days without washing and without combing and without shaving your beard or changing your clothes. If you do all this faithfully, when the time is up you shall keep the purse for yourself, and I will let you off any other conditions."
Now Don Giovanni was a man who never troubled his head about the future. He did not once think how very uncomfortable he should be all those three years, but only that he should be able, by means of the purse, to have all sorts of things he had been obliged to do without; so he joyfully put the purse in his pocket and went on his way. He soon began to ask for money for the mere pleasure of it, and there was always as much as he needed. For a little while he even forgot to notice how dirty he was getting, but this did not last long, for his hair became matted with dirt and hung over his eyes, and his pilgrim's dress was a mass of horrible rags and tatters.
He was in this state when, one morning, he happened to be passing a fine palace; and, as the sun was shining bright and warm, he sat down on the steps and tried to shake off some of the dust which he had picked up on the road. But in a few minutes a maid saw him, and said to her master, "I pray you, sir, to drive away that beggar who is sitting on the steps, or he will fill the whole house with his dirt."
So the master went out and called from some distance off, for he was really afraid to go near the man, "You filthy beggar, leave my house at once!"
"You need not be so rude," said Don Giovanni; "I am not a beggar, and if I chose I could force you and your wife to leave your house."
"What is that you can do?" laughed the gentleman.
"Will you sell me your house?" asked Don Giovanni. "I will buy it from you on the spot."
"Oh, the dirty creature is quite mad!" thought the gentleman. "I shall just accept his offer for a joke." And aloud he said: "All right; follow me, and we will go to a lawyer and get him to make a contract." And Don Giovanni followed him, and an agreement was drawn up by which the house was to be sold at once, and a large sum of money paid down in eight days. Then the Don went to an inn, where he hired two rooms, and, standing in one of them, said to his purse, "Dear purse, fill this room with gold;" and when the eight days were up it was so full you could not have put in another sovereign.
When the owner of the house came to take away his money Don Giovanni led him into the room and said: "There, just pocket what you want." The gentleman stared with open mouth at the astonishing sight; but he had given his word to sell the house, so he took his money, as he was told, and went away with his wife to look for some place to live in. And Don Giovanni left the inn and dwelt in the beautiful rooms, where his rags and dirt looked sadly out of place. And every day these got worse and worse.
By-and-bye the fame of his riches reached the ears of the king, and, as he himself was always in need of money, he sent for Don Giovanni, as he wished to borrow a large sum. Don Giovanni readily agreed to lend him what he wanted, and sent next day a huge waggon laden with sacks of gold.
"Who can he be?" thought the king to himself. "Why, he is much richer than I!"
The king took as much as he had need of; then ordered the rest to be returned to Don Giovanni, who refused to receive it, saying, "Tell his majesty I am much hurt at his proposal. I shall certainly not take back that handful of gold, and, if he declines to accept it, keep it yourself."
The servant departed and delivered the message, and the king wondered more than ever how anyone could be so rich. At last he spoke to the queen: "Dear wife, this man has done me a great service, and has, besides, behaved like a gentleman in not allowing me to send back the money. I wish to give him the hand of our eldest daughter."
The queen was quite pleased at this idea, and again messenger was sent to Don Giovanni, offering him the hand of the eldest princess.
"His majesty is too good," he replied. "I can only humbly accept the honour."
The messenger took back this answer, but a second time returned with the request that Don Giovanni would present them with his picture, so that they might know what sort of a person to expect. But when it came, and the princess saw the horrible figure, she screamed out, "What! marry this dirty beggar? Never, never!"
"Ah, child," answered the king, "how could I ever guess that the rich Don Giovanni would ever look like that? But I have passed my royal word, and I cannot break it, so there is no help for you."
"No, father; you may cut off my head, if you choose, but marry that horrible beggarI never will!"
And the queen took her part, and reproached her husband bitterly for wishing his daughter to marry a creature like that.
Then the youngest daughter spoke: "Dear father, do not look so sad. As you have given your word, I will marry Don Giovanni." The king fell on her neck, and thanked her and kissed her, but the queen and the elder girl had nothing for her but laughs and jeers.
So it was settled, and then the king bade one of his lords go to Don Giovanni and ask him when the wedding day was to be, so that the princess might make ready.
"Let it be in two months," answered Don Giovanni, for the time was nearly up that the devil had fixed, and he wanted a whole month to himself to wash off the dirt of the past three years.
The very minute that the compact with the devil had come to an end his beard was shaved, his hair was cut, and his rags were burned, and day and night he lay in a bath of clear warm water. At length he felt he was clean again, and he put on splendid clothes, and hired a beautiful ship, and arrived in state at the king's palace.
The whole of the royal family came down to the ship to receive him, and the whole way the queen and the elder princess teased the sister about the dirty husband she was going to have. But when they saw how handsome he really was their hearts were filled with envy and anger, so that their eyes were blinded, and they fell over into the sea and were drowned. And the youngest daughter rejoiced in the good luck that had come to her, and they had a splendid wedding when the days of mourning for her mother and sister were ended.
Soon after the old king died, and Don Giovanni became king. And he was rich and happy to the end of his days, for he loved his wife, and his purse always gave him money.