"Beware," continued the prince, "lest you do that which afterward you would give your life not to have done."
By the time the prince had concluded this story it was nearly morning, and he went away, after rewarding the man.
The prince then visited the country belonging to his brother-in-law. He disguised himself as a jogi, and sitting down by a tree near the palace, pretended to be absorbed in worship. News of the man and of his wonderful piety reached the ears of the king. He felt interested in him, as his wife was very ill; and he had sought for hakims to cure her, but in vain. He thought that, perhaps, this holy man could do something for her. So he sent to him. But the jogi refused to tread the halls of a king, saying that his dwelling was the open air, and that if his Majesty wished to see him he must come himself and bring his wife to the place. Then the king took his wife and brought her to the jogi. The holy man bade her prostrate herself before him, and when she had remained in this position for about three hours, he told her to rise and go, for she was cured.
In the evening there was great consternation in the palace, because the queen had lost her pearl rosary, and nobody knew anything about it. At length some one went to the jogi, and found it on the ground by the place where the queen had prostrated herself. When the king heard this he was very angry and ordered the jogi to be executed. This stern order, however, was not carried out, as the prince bribed the men and escaped from the country. But he knew that the second bit of advice was true.
Clad in his own clothes, the prince was walking along one day when he saw a potter crying and laughing, alternately, with his wife and children. "O fool," said he, "what is the matter? If you laugh, why do you weep? If you weep, why do you laugh?"
"Do not bother me," said the potter. "What does it matter to you?"
"Pardon me," said the prince, "but I should like to know the reason."
"The reason is this, then," said the potter. "The king of this country has a daughter whom he is obliged to marry every day, because all her husbands die the first night of their stay with her. Nearly all the young men of the place have thus perished, and our son will be called on soon. We laugh at the absurdity of the thing—a potter's son marrying a princess, and we cry at the terrible consequence of the marriage. What can we do?"
"Truly a matter for laughing and weeping. But weep no more," said the prince. "I will exchange places with your son, and will be married to the princess instead of him. Only give me suitable garments, and prepare me for the occasion."
So the potter gave him beautiful raiment and ornaments, and the prince went to the palace. At night he was conducted to the apartment of the princess. "Dread hour!" thought he; "am I to die like the scores of young men before me?" He clenched his sword with firm grip, and lay down on his bed, intending to keep awake all the night and see what would happen. In the middle of the night he saw two Shahmars come out from the nostrils of the princess. They stole over toward him, intending to kill him, like the others who had been before him; but he was ready for them. He laid hold of his sword, and when the snakes reached his bed he struck at them and killed them. In the morning the king came as usual to inquire, and was surprised to hear his daughter and the prince talking gaily together. "Surely," said he, "this man must be her husband, as he only can live with her."
"Where do you come from? Who are you?" asked the king, entering the room.
"Oh king!" replied the prince, "I am the son of a king who rules over such-and-such a country."
When he heard this the king was very glad, and bade the prince to abide in his palace, and appointed him his successor to the throne. The prince remained at the palace for more than a year, and then asked permission to visit his own country, which was granted. The king gave him elephants, horses, jewels, and abundance of money for the expenses of the way and as presents for his father, and the prince started.
On the way he had to pass through the country belonging to his brother-in-law, whom we have already mentioned. Report of his arrival reached the ears of the king, who came with rope-tied hands and haltered neck to do him homage. He most humbly begged him to stay at his palace, and to accept what little hospitality could be provided. While the prince was staying at the palace he saw his sister, who greeted him with smiles and kisses. On leaving he told her how she and her husband had treated him at his first visit, and how he escaped; and then gave them two elephants, two beautiful horses, fifteen soldiers, and ten lacs of rupees' worth of jewels.
Afterward he went to his own home, and informed his mother and father of his arrival. Alas! his parents had both become blind from weeping about the loss of their son. "Let him come in," said the king, "and put his hands upon our eyes, and we shall see again." So the prince entered, and was most affectionately greeted by his old parents; and he laid his hands on their eyes, and they saw again.
Then the prince told his father all that had happened to him, and how he had been saved several times by attending to the advice that he had purchased from the Brahmani. Whereupon the king expressed his sorrow for having sent him away, and all was joy and peace again.
The Emperor's Nightingale
China, as you know, is ruled over by an Emperor, who is a Chinaman, and all his courtiers are Chinamen, too. Now, this little story that I am going to tell you happened ever so long ago, and that is why you ought to hear it now, before it is forgotten, for it is well worth hearing.
The Emperor lived in the most beautiful palace in the world and it was a very costly one, for it was made of the finest porcelain, and was so brittle that you had to be very careful if you touched it. It was surrounded by such a large garden that the gardener himself did not quite know where it ended. Lovely flowers grew in luxuriance, and, lest people should pass the most beautiful without noticing them, peals of silver bells were tied to their stems.
Truly, everything was carefully planned in the Emperor's garden. If you kept on far enough, you came to a mighty forest which stretched down so close to the margin of the sea that the poor fishermen in their boats could sail under the overhanging branches.
In one of these boughs a nightingale lived, and so beautiful was its song that the rough sailors would stop to listen on their way out to spread their nets.
"Ah, what beautiful music!" they would exclaim, and then they had to sail on, for they had their work to do. And again, when nightfall came, and the bird sang, and the boats came drifting home on the tide, they would say:
"Heavens! how gloriously that bird sings!"
Travellers came from all over the world to see the Emperor's city and his palace and garden; but when they heard the Nightingale, they would say:
"That is most beautiful of all."
And when the travellers reached their homes again, they told all their friends of the wonderful things they had seen and heard; and wise people wrote books, in which they did not forget to tell of the Nightingale, which was pronounced the loveliest among many lovely things. Even the poets wrote verses about this Nightingale that lived in the wood by the sea.
And then, one by one, the books travelled over the world, until some at last reached the hands of the Emperor, who sat in his golden chair and read them, nodding his head with pleasure; for he was charmed with the beautiful descriptions of his city and castle and garden. Then he read the words:
"The Nightingale is the most lovely thing of all!"
"What is this?" he said. "The Nightingale! I have never heard of such a bird, yet there seems to be one in my empire—and in my own garden! Imagine learning of such a thing for the first time from a book!"
Thereupon he summoned his Chamberlain, who was a very important person, and who never replied more than "Paugh!" to any inferior who dared to ask him anything. This, of course, was no answer at all.
"This book tells of a very remarkable bird called a Nightingale," said the Emperor. "They say it is the finest thing in my empire. Why has no one told me about it before?"
"I have never heard anyone mention it before, myself," replied the Chamberlain. "I don't remember that it has ever been presented at Court."
"I command it to appear at Court and sing before me to-night," said the Emperor. "All the world knows what I possess, it appears, except myself."
"I have never heard of such a thing before," answered the Chamberlain again, "but I will search until it is found."
But where was it? The Chamberlain searched up and down the palace, through corridors and up staircases, but he could not find anyone who had even heard of a nightingale. Then he hastened back to the Emperor to say that it must certainly be an invention of the man who had written the book.
"Your Imperial Majesty will scarcely credit the sort of things these people will write," he said. "It is all fiction and something called Black Art."
"But the great and mighty Mikado of Japan has sent me this book!" shouted the Emperor, very much annoyed, "and, therefore, there cannot be anything that is false in it. I must and shall hear the Nightingale, and I command it to be present this evening. It has my especial Royal favour, and if it is not here, the whole Court shall be trampled upon by camels after supper."
"Tching Pe!" exclaimed the Chamberlain, very much alarmed, and raced up and down stairs and through all the corridors again, accompanied now by half the Court, who were not at all anxious to be trampled upon, even after supper. It was a great search after this wonderful Nightingale, of which all the world had heard, except the Emperor and his courtiers.
At length they came to the kitchen, where a poor little scullery-maid at once exclaimed:
"Why, yes, I know it well; and it sings beautifully! Every evening I have permission to take the kitchen scraps to my sick mother, who lives down on the sea-shore, and often, as I come back, I rest in the wood and listen to the Nightingale, Its song makes my eyes fill with tears, and I seem to be able to feel my mother's kisses."
"Little girl," the Chamberlain said, "if you will take us straight to where the Nightingale lives you shall receive a high appointment in the Royal kitchen, and be allowed to see the Emperor dine every night. His Majesty has commanded it to sing before him this evening."
So the girl led the Chamberlain and all the Court to the wood where the Nightingale sang. When they were half-way there a cow began to low.
"Hark!" said all the courtiers. "What a beautiful note, and how powerful for such a tiny creature! I have certainly heard it before."
"No," said the maid, "that is only the lowing of a cow. We have a long way to go yet."
"Oh, how exquisite!" murmured the Chinese Court-chaplain, as he heard the frogs croaking in a marsh. "Now I can hear it; why, it resembles the chime of silver bells."
"No, those are only the marsh frogs," said the little maid. "But we shall soon be able to hear it now." And then, just as she spoke, the Nightingale commenced to sing.
"Ah, now!" said the girl. "Listen, listen! There it sits up in the branches," and she pointed to a tiny gray bird clinging to a spray of thorn.
"I should never have believed it would look like that," exclaimed the Chamberlain. "It looks so simple and so pale; it must be frightened at the sight of so many grand people."
"Dear Nightingale," called the little girl, "our most noble Emperor desires you to sing to him."
"Oh, certainly, with pleasure," replied the Nightingale; and it sang so beautifully it was a treat to hear it.
"It is like the sound of running water; and see how its tiny throat quivers, too," the Chamberlain said. "How strange that we have never heard it talked about before! It will be an immense success at Court."
"Would the Emperor like to hear another song?" asked the bird, for it thought the Emperor had been listening all the time.
"Most worthy Nightingale," the Chamberlain replied, "it is with great pleasure I command you to appear before his Majesty at a Court reception to-night, when you will charm his Majesty with your delightful singing."
"It sounds so much more beautiful out in the wood," said the bird; but still it promised willingly when it heard it was the Emperor's royal desire.
The palace was very elegant in its decorations. The porcelain walls and floors glittered and shone with the reflection from many lamps. Beautiful flowers, shaking their silvery bells, were banked in rich profusion on each side of the great staircase. Indeed, what with the passing of many feet and the great draught, the bells tinkled so loudly you could hardly hear yourself speak.
The Emperor sat on a jewelled throne in the centre of the great hall, and close beside him stood a golden perch for the Nightingale. All the courtiers were assembled, and the little scullery-maid, now raised to the rank of a real Court cook, had received permission to listen behind the door. Everyone stood dressed in his very best and gazed on the little gray bird, to whom the mighty Emperor had just nodded his head.
Then the Nightingale began to sing, and sang so gloriously that the Emperor's eyes so filled with tears that they overflowed and ran down his cheeks. And the bird sang on and on, till it reached one's very heart. The Emperor was so delighted that he said the Nightingale should wear his own golden slipper around its neck. But the Nightingale thanked him very politely and said it had already received sufficient reward.
"For," it said, "I have caused the Emperor's eyes to fill with tears, and an Emperor's tears have a mighty power. Heaven knows I have been sufficiently repaid." And again it burst into its beautiful song.
"Oh, what charming coquetry!" said the Court ladies, and each tried to keep their mouths full of water so that they might gurgle like the Nightingale when they spoke to anyone. Even the footmen and the ladies' maids expressed their perfect satisfaction, and that was a great deal, for they are generally the hardest to please. In short, the Nightingale had scored a great success.
It was so arranged that in future it should live at Court, in its own cage, with permission to fly out twice a day, and once during the night.
On these trips it was accompanied by twelve servants, each of whom held a silken cord attached to its leg, so that really there could not be the slightest pleasure for it in such a flight. As for the city, wherever you went, you met people talking of the wonderful bird. One had only to say the word "Nightin" when the other would answer "gale," and each would give a sigh and feel they perfectly understood each other. Eleven babies belonging to poor people were christened after the bird, and yet not one of them could sing a note.
One day a parcel arrived at the palace, addressed to the Emperor, with the words, "The Nightingale," written on the outside.
"Oh, this must be a fresh book about our famous bird," said the Emperor.
But it was not a book. A wonderful work of art lay within a casket, a clockwork nightingale, encrusted in diamonds and rubies and pearls, and fashioned in the shape of a real bird. When it had been wound up it sang one of the same songs that the real nightingale sang, and its glittering tail moved up and down in time to the notes. A ribbon hung around its neck, and on it these words were written: "The Emperor of Japan's Nightingale is nothing compared to that of the Emperor of China."
"How perfect!" everyone cried, and the Emperor immediately bestowed the title of the King's-Imperial-Nightingale-Bringer on the courier who had brought the bird.
"Now we must hear them sing a duet together. How beautiful it will sound!" they all said. But it did not sound so well as they had expected, for the real bird sang in a natural way, and just whatever came into its little throat, and the artificial bird could only sing waltzes.
"The new one sings quite correctly," said the chief Court musician. "It keeps perfect time, and understands my own method, I can hear." So then the new one had to sing by itself and obtained quite as much applause as the real one had done. Besides, it looked so much handsomer; glittering and glistening like bracelets and breast-pins.
Over and over again, for quite thirty-three times, it sang the same tune and yet was not tired. The courtiers would have liked to hear it again even, only the Emperor said "No, it's the real bird's turn now, let us ask it to sing."
But where was the Nightingale? Not a soul had seen it fly out of the open window back to its own green woods.
"Well, well! whatever has become of it?" exclaimed the Emperor. And all the courtiers united in saying it was a most ungrateful creature.
"After all," they said, "we still have the better bird," and with that the new one had to sing his song for the thirty-fourth time, and even then the courtiers had not caught the tune quite correctly, for it was very difficult and tricky. The Court musician, especially, praised the bird, and said, not only was its plumage much more handsome, but its inside was better made, too.
"For your Imperial Highness, and you, my noble lords and ladies, must see," he went on, "that with a real Nightingale you can never tell what is coming next, but with an imitation one everything is settled. One can open it and see exactly how it works, where the waltz comes from, and why the notes follow one after the other."
The courtiers all agreed with the Court musician, and the Emperor commanded him to show it to the people on the following Saturday, and let them hear it sing. This he did, and the Chinese people felt so pleased and happy they all nodded their heads and shook their forefingers and said "Ah!" Only the fishermen, who had heard the real bird sing, shook their heads and said it all sounded very nice, and very much alike, too; but somehow—they didn't quite know how—something seemed lacking.
And so the real Nightingale was sent into exile, and the imitation one slept on a satin cushion close to the Emperor's bed. All the jewels and precious stones that had been showered on it as presents were arranged around the edge of the cushion, and it was given the title of the Emperor's Own Court Singer and advanced to the very highest rank, that of First on the Left; for the left was thought to be the highest station, as the Emperor wore his heart on that side, just like ordinary people.
The Court musician wrote twenty-five volumes on the imitation bird. The work was very tedious and dull, and full of the longest Chinese words you can imagine; and people always said they had read it and pretended to have enjoyed it, or else they would have been thought stupid and have had their bodies trampled upon.
A whole year passed by in this fashion, and at last the Emperor and his Court and all the Chinese people knew every turn and trill of the Nightingale's song by heart, and this pleased them more than ever. They often sang with it, and the street-urchins, even, could sing "Tchoochoohuh juggjugg jugg," and the Emperor just the same. It was really delightful.
One evening the Emperor lay in his bed listening to the bird which was singing its very best. Suddenly it stopped with a jerk, and bang! something had snapped in its inside, and all its wheels ran down with a whirr, and then there was a dead silence.
The Emperor sprang out of bed and sent for the Court physician, but he could do nothing. Then a watchmaker was fetched in, and after he had talked a lot, and poked and examined the inside a great deal, he managed to put it in something like working order again.
"You must not use it too much," he said, "it is nearly worn out, and one can never put in fresh works again and be sure of the music being as good as before."
At this there was great mourning all over the country, for the imitation bird must only be allowed to sing once a year in future, and even that might prove too much for it.
And when these performances were given the Court musician made a short speech, full of very long words, proving that it sang as beautifully as ever, and so the Court thought it did and were very well content.
After five years had passed the Emperor fell very ill. All the people felt sad, for they were really extremely fond of him, and now it was said he could not possibly live. Already the new Emperor was selected, and the people stood about in the streets and begged to know from the Chamberlain how the old Emperor was.
But "Paugh!" was all he would say as he nodded his head.
White and cold the old Emperor lay in his great tall bed, and all the courtiers thought he was dead, and ran away to greet their new King. In the antechamber the pages gossiped with the maids-in-waiting as they ate a splendid tea. The palace was wrapped in silence, for carpets had been laid down in the hall and corridor, so that the noise of footsteps might be deadened. It was very, very still and solemn. And the Emperor, still alive, lay all cold and pale on the magnificent bed, with its heavy velvet draperies and gorgeous golden tassels. High up, through the open window, the moon shone in upon him and the imitation nightingale lying in its casket by the bed.
The poor old Emperor lay panting for breath; a terrible weight seemed pressing on his chest, and he opened his eyes at last to see Death sitting there, with the Emperor's crown upon his head and his sword and jewelled sceptre in his hands.
The Emperor's gaze travelled round, and he saw faces—some ugly and some smiling and gentle—peeping at him from among the velvet folds of the curtains; these were the Emperor's good and bad deeds looking down at him as Death pressed on his heart.
"Don't you remember this?" and "Can you recall that?" they all seemed to be whispering. And the cold sweat broke out on the Emperor's brow, at the recollections they brought to his mind.
"I do not remember—I cannot!" gasped the Emperor, then cried, "Music! music! Bring the great Chinese drum, that I may not hear what they say."
But still they whispered together, and Death nodded his head, like a Chinese mandarin, at all they said.
"Music, music, I say!" shrieked the old Emperor. "Oh precious jewelled bird, sing! I heaped upon you gold and precious stones, and even hung my golden slippers around your neck. Ah, heavens! sing! I say, sing!"
But the imitation bird was still and silent, for until someone wound it up, it could not sing, and there was no one by to do it. And Death still sat gazing at him with hollow, hungry eyes, and all around was terribly still.
Suddenly a silvery note floated in at the open window. It was the voice of the real Nightingale as it sat upon a bough outside. It had heard the Emperor was ill, and had come back to comfort him and fill him with hope.
And as its song gained strength and rose and fell in delicious trills, the ghostly faces faded away and the warm life blood began to flow anew in the Emperor's veins. Even Death raised his head and said, "Go on, go on, little Nightingale."
"Ah, but you will give me the Emperor's royal crown and his sword and jewelled sceptre, if I do?" asked the bird.
And Death exchanged each of these treasures for a song, and the Nightingale went on singing—of a peaceful churchyard, heavy with the scent of roses and elder blossom, where the grass lay thick with the dew of many tears shed by mortals over dear ones lying sleeping there. Then Death was filled with a yearning to be in his own garden, and passed like a gray mist out of the open window.
"Deep, deep thanks I give you," said the Emperor. "Merciful little bird! I know you again. It was you I banished from my presence and my kingdom. And yet, you have charmed the evil spectres from my bed and Death from my heart. How can I ever repay you?"
"I am already rewarded in that I drew tears from your eyes when first I sang to you. Those tears were jewels to crown the heart of any singer, and I shall never forget them. I will sing you to sleep now, a sleep from which you will awake fresh and strong again."
And the Emperor fell into a sweet, refreshing slumber, so deep and peaceful that he awoke strong and well in the warm sunlight. None of the courtiers were by him, for all believed he was dead, only the Nightingale was still singing a gentle, sweet song.
"You must never leave me," the Emperor said; "you shall only sing when you desire, and I will break the artificial bird into a million pieces."
"No, spare it," said the Nightingale. "It did its best as long as it was able, so keep it as before. I cannot build my nest within the castle, but I will often come to you at evening and sing, on the bough outside the window, songs that will make you glad, and at the same time sweetly melancholy. I will sing of happiness and sorrow, of the goodness and wickedness that lie close around you. The singing bird loves the fisherman's hut, the peasant's cot, and all that is far removed from palace and court. But I love your soul more than your crown. I will fly to you and sing my songs, but you must promise me one thing."
The Emperor stood in his royal robes, which he had put on with his own hands, and he pressed his sword-hilt to his breast as he said:
"Anything that I can, I will grant."
"I only ask of you this one thing. Do not let anyone know that you have a little bird that tells you all; it will be for the best."
So saying the Nightingale flew away.
Then the servants entered to attend to their dead Emperor, and when they saw him standing there strong and well, they started back aghast.
But the Emperor only said:
Once on a time there was a King and Queen in Ireland, and they had one son named Jack, and when Jack grew up to be man big, he rose up one day and said to his father and mother that he would go off and push his fortune.
All his father and mother could say to Jack, they could not keep him from going. So with his staff in his hand and his father's and mother's blessing on his head, off he started, and he travelled away far, farther than I could tell you, and twice as far as you could tell me. At length one day, coming up to a big wood, he met a gray-haired old man. The old man asked him, "Jack, where are you going?"
He says, "I am going to push my fortune."
"Well," says the old man, says he, "If 't is looking for service you are, there is a Giant who lives at the other side of that wood that they call the Giant of the Hundred Hills, and I believe he wants a fine strong, able, clever young fellow like you."
"Very well," says Jack, "I will push on to him."
Push on Jack did, away through the wood, until he got to the other side, and then he saw a big castle, and going up he knocked at the door, and a big Giant came out.
"Welcome, Jack," says he, "the King of Ireland's Son! Where are you going and what do you want?"
"I come," says Jack, "to push my fortune, and am looking for honest service. I have been told," he says to the Giant of the Hundred Hills, "that you wanted a clean, clever boy like me."
"Well," says the Giant, "I am the Giant of the Hundred Hills, and do want such a fine fellow as you. I have to go away every day," he says, "to battle with another giant at the other end of the world, and when I am away I want somebody to look after my house and place. If you will be of good, faithful service to me, and do everything I tell you, I will give you a bag of gold at the end of the time." Jack promised he would do all that. The Giant then gave him a hearty supper and a good bed, and well he slept that night. In the morning the Giant had him called up before the first lark was in the sky.
"Jack, my brave boy," says he, "I have got to be off to the other end of the world to-day to fight the Giant of the Four Winds, and it is time you were up and looking after your business. You have got to put this house in order, and look after everything in it until I come back to-night. To every room in the house and to every place about the house you can go, except the stable. My stable door is closed, and on the peril of your life, don't open it or go into the stable. Keep that in mind."
Jack said he certainly would. Then the Giant visited the stable, and started off; and as soon as he was gone, Jack went fixing and arranging the house and setting everything in order. And a wonderful house it was to Jack, so big and so great; and after that he went to the castle yard and into every house and building there, except the stable: and when he had visited all the rest of them, he stood before the stable and looked at it a long time. "And I wonder," says Jack, says he, "I wonder what can be in there, and what is the reason he wants me on the peril of my life not to go into it? I would like to go and peep in, and there certainly would be no harm."
Every door in and about the Giant's place was opened by a little ring turning on a pivot in the middle of the door. Forward to the stable door Jack then steps, turns the little ring, and the door flew open. Inside what does Jack see but a mare and a bear standing by the manger, and neither of them eating. There was hay before the bear and meat before the mare.
"Well," says Jack, "it is no wonder, poor creatures, you are not eatin'. That was a nice blunder of the Giant," and he stepped in and changed their food, putting hay before the mare and meat before the bear, and at once both of them fell to it and Jack went out and closed the stable door. As he did so his finger stuck in the ring, and he pulled and struggled to get it away, but he could not.
That was a fix for poor Jack, "And by this and by that," says he, "the Giant will be back and find me stuck here;" so he whips out his knife, and cuts off his finger, and leaves it there.
And when the Giant came home that night, says he to Jack, "Well, Jack, what sort of a day have you had this day, and how did you get along?"
"I had a fine day," says Jack, "and got along very well indeed."
"Jack," says he, "show me your two hands;" and when Jack held out his two hands, the Giant saw one of his fingers gone. He got black in the face with rage when he saw this, and he said, "Jack, did I not warn you on the peril of your life not to go into that stable?"
Poor Jack pleaded all he could, and said he did not mean to, but curiosity got the best of him, and he thought he would open the door and peep in.
Says the Giant, "No man before ever opened that stable door and lived to tell it, and you, too, would be a dead man this minute only for one thing. Your father's father did my father a great service once. I am the man who never forgets a good thing, and for that service," says he, "I give you your life and pardon this time; but if you ever do the like again, you won't live."
Jack, he promised that surely and surely he would never do the like again. His supper he got that night, and to bed. And at early morning again the Giant had him up, and, "Jack," says he, "I must be off to the other end of the world again and fight the Giant of the Four Winds. You know your duty is to look after this house and place and set everything in order about it, and go everywhere you like, only don't open the stable door or go into the stable, on the peril of your life."
"I will mind all that," says Jack.
Then that morning again the Giant visited the stable before he went away. And after he had gone, to his work went Jack, wandering through the house, cleaning and setting everything in order about it, and out into the yard he went, and fixed and arranged everything out there, except the stable. He stood before the stable door a good while this day, and says he to himself, "I wonder how the bear and the mare are doing, and what the Giant did when he went in to see them? I would give a great deal to know," says he. "I will take a peep in."
Into the ring of the door he put his finger, and turned it, and looked in, and there he saw the mare and the bear standing as on the day before and neither of them eating. In Jack steps. "And no wonder, poor creatures," says he, "you don't eat, when that is the way the Giant blundered," he says, after he saw the meat before the mare and the hay before the bear this time also.
Jack then changed the food, putting the hay before the mare and the meat before the bear, as it should be, and very soon both the mare and the bear were eating heartily; and then Jack went out. He closed the door, and when he did so, his finger stuck in the ring; and pull and struggle though Jack did, he could not get it out.
"Och, och, och," says Jack, says he, "I am a dead man to-day surely."
He whips out his knife, and cuts off his finger, and leaves it there, and 't was there when the Giant came home that night.
"Well, Jack, my fine boy," says he, "how have you got on to-day?"
"Oh, finely, finely," says Jack, says he, holding his hands behind his back all the same.
"Show me your hands, Jack," says the Giant, "till I see if you wash them and keep them clean always." And when Jack showed his hands, the Giant got black in the face with rage, and says he, "Didn't I forgive you your life yesterday for going into that stable, and you promised never to do it again, and here I find you out, once more?"
The Giant ranted and raged for a long time, and then says he, "Because your father's father did my father such a good turn, I suppose I will have to spare your life this second time; but, Jack," says he, "if you should live for a hundred years, and spend them all in my service, and if you should then again open that door and put your foot into my stable that day," says he, "you will be a dead man as sure as there is a head on you. Mind that!"
Jack, he thanked the Giant very much for sparing his life, and promised that he never, never would again disobey him.
The next morning the Giant had Jack up early, and told him he was going off this day to fight the Giant at the other end of the world, and gave Jack his directions, and warned him just as on the other days. Then he went into the stable before he went away. And when he was gone, Jack went through all the house, and through the whole yard, setting everything in order, and when everything was done, he stood before the stable door.
"I wonder," says Jack, "how the poor mare and the poor bear are getting along and what the Giant of the Hundred Hills was doing here to-day? I should very much like," says he, "to take one wee, wee peep in," and he opened the door.
Jack peeped in, and there the mare and the bear stood looking at each other again, and neither of them taking a morsel. And there was the meat before the mare and the hay before the bear, just as on the other days.
"Poor creatures," says Jack, "it is no wonder you are not eating, and hungry and hungry you must be." And forward he steps, and changes the food, putting it as it should be, the hay before the mare and the meat before the bear, and to it both of them fell.
And when he had done this, up speaks the mare, and "Poor Jack," says she, "I am sorry for you. This night you will be killed surely; and sorry for us, too, I am, for we will be killed as well as you."
"Oh, oh, oh!" says Jack, says he, "that is terrible. Is there nothing we can do?"
"Only one thing," says the mare.
"What is that?" says Jack.
"It's this," says the mare; "put that saddle and bridle on me, and let us start off and be away, far, far from this country, when the Giant comes back." And soon Jack had the saddle and bridle on the mare, and on her back he got to start off.
"Oh!" says the bear, speaking up, "both of you are going away to leave me in for all the trouble."
"No," says the mare, "we will not do that. Jack," says she, "take the chains and tie me to the bear."
Jack tied the mare to the bear with chains that were hanging by, and then the three of them, the mare and the bear and Jack, started, and on and on they went, as fast as they could gallop.
After a long time, says the mare: "Jack, look behind you, and see what you can see."
Jack looked behind him, and "Oh!" says he, "I see the Giant of the Hundred Hills coming like a raging storm. Very soon he will be on us, and we will all three be murdered."
Says the mare, says she, "We have a chance yet. Look in my left ear, and see what you can see;" and in her left ear Jack looked, and saw a little chestnut.
"Throw it over your left shoulder," says the mare.
Jack threw it over his left shoulder, and that minute there arose behind them a chestnut wood ten miles wide. On and on they went that day and that night; and till the middle of the next day, "Jack," says the mare, "look behind you, and see what you can see."
Jack looked behind him, and "Oh!" says he, "I see the Giant of the Hundred Hills coming tearing after us like a harvest hurricane."
"Do you see anything strange about him, Jack?" says the mare.
"Yes," says Jack, says he, "there are as many bushes on the top of his head, and as much fowl stuck about his feet and legs as will keep him in firewood and flesh for years to come. We are done for this time, entirely," says poor Jack.
"Not yet," says the mare; "there is another chance. Look into my right ear, and see what you can see."
In the mare's right ear Jack looked, and found a drop of water.
"Throw it over your left shoulder, Jack," says the mare, "and see what will happen."
Over his left shoulder Jack threw it, and all at once a lough sprung up between them and the Giant that was one hundred miles wide every way and one hundred miles deep.
"Now," says the mare, "he cannot reach us until he drinks his way through the lough, and very likely he will drink until he bursts, and then we shall be rid of him altogether."
Jack thanked God, and on he went. It was not long now until he reached the borders of Scotland, and there he saw a great wood.
"Now," says the mare and the bear, "this wood must be our hiding-place."
"And what about me?" says Jack.
"For you, Jack," says the mare, "you must push on and look for employment. The castle of the King of Scotland is near by, and I think you will be likely to get employment there; but first I must change you into an ugly little hookedy-crookedy fellow, because the King of Scotland has three beautiful daughters, and he won't take into his service a handsome fellow like you, for fear his daughters would fall in love with you."
Then the mare put her nostrils to Jack's breast and blew her breath over him, and Jack was turned into an ugly little hookedy-crookedy fellow.
"Jack," says the mare, "before you go, look into my left ear, and take what you see there."
Out of the mare's left ear Jack took a little cap.
"Jack," says she, "that is a wishing-cap, and every time you put it on and wish to have anything done, it will be done. Whenever you are in any trouble," the mare says, "come back to me, and I will do what I can for you, and now good-bye."
So Jack said good-bye to the mare and to the bear, and set off. When he got out of the wood, he soon saw a castle, and walked up to it and went in by the kitchen. A servant was busy scouring knives. He told her he wanted employment. She said the King of Scotland would employ no man in his house, so he might as well push on. But Jack insisted that the King would give him work, and at length the girl consented to go and let the King know.
When the girl had gone away, Jack put on his wishing-cap and wished the knives and forks scoured, and all at once the knives and forks, that were piled in a stack ten yards high, were scoured as brightly as new pins; and though the King of Scotland did not want to employ him, when he found how quickly Jack had scoured all the big stack of knives and forks, he agreed to keep him. But first he brought down his three daughters to see Jack, so that he could observe what impression Jack made upon them. When they came into the kitchen and saw the ugly little fellow, every one of the three fainted and had to be carried out.
"It is all right," says the King; "we will surely keep you," and Jack was employed, and sent out into the garden to work there.
Now at this time the King of the East declared war on the King of Scotland. The King of the East had a mighty army entirely, and he threatened to wipe the King of Scotland off the face of the earth.
The King of Scotland was very much troubled, and he consulted with his Grand Adviser what was best to be done, and his Grand Adviser counselled that he should at once give his three daughters in marriage to sons of kings, and in that way get great help for the war. The King said this was a grand idea.
So he sent out messengers to all parts of the world to say that his three beautiful daughters were ready for marriage. In a very short time the son of the King of Spain came and married the eldest daughter, and the son of the King of France came and married the second, and a whole lot of princes came looking for the youngest, who was the most beautiful of the three and whose name was Yellow Rose; but she would not take one of them, and for this the King ordered her never to come into his sight, nor into company, again.
Yellow Rose got very downhearted, and spent almost all her time now wandering in the garden, where the Hookedy-Crookedy lad was looking after the flowers, and she used to come around again and again, chatting to Hookedy-Crookedy. And so it was not long until he saw that the Yellow Rose was in love with him, and he got just as deeply in love with her, for she was a beautiful and charming girl.
The next thing the Grand Adviser counselled the King was that he should send his two new sons-in-law, the Prince of Spain and the Prince of France, to the Well of the World's End for bottles of Ioca to take to battle with them, that they might cure the wounded and dead men. So the King ordered his sons-in-law to go to the Well of the World's End and bring him back two bottles of Ioca.
[Footnote 2: Ioca was a liquid that cured all wounds and restored the dead to life.]
The Yellow Rose told Hookedy-Crookedy this, and when he had turned it over in his mind, he said to himself, "I will go and have a chat with the mare and the bear about this."
So off to the woods he went, and right glad the mare and the bear were to see him. He told them all that had happened, and then he told them how the King's two sons-in-law were to start to the Well of the World's End the next day, and asked the mare's advice about it.
"Well, Jack," says the mare, "I want you to go with them. Take an old hunter in the King's stable, an old bony, skinny animal that is past all work, and put an old straw saddle on him, and dress yourself in the most ragged dress you can get, and join the two men on the road, and say that you are going with them. They will be heartily ashamed of you, Jack, and your old horse, and they will do everything to get rid of you. When you come to the crossroads, one of them will propose to go in and have a drink; and while you are chatting over your drink, they will propose that the three of you separate and every one take a road by himself to go to the Well of the World's End, and that all three shall meet at the crossroads again, and whoever is back first with the bottle of water is to be the greatest hero of them all. You agree to this. When they start on their roads, they will not go many miles till they fill their bottles from spring wells by the roadside and hurry back to the meeting-place, and then continue on home to the King of Scotland and give him these bottles as bottles of Ioca from the Well of the World's End. But you will be before them. After you have set out on the road, and when you have gone around the first bend, put on your wishing-cap and wish for two bottles of Ioca from the Well of the World's End, and at once you will have them." And then the mare directed Jack fully all that he was to do after.
Jack thanked the mare, and bade good-bye to her, and went away.
The next day, when the King's two sons-in-law set out on their grand steeds to go to the Well of the World's End, they had not gone far when Jack, in a ragged old suit and sitting on a straw saddle on an old white skinny horse, joined them and told them he too was going with them for a bottle of Ioca. Right heartily ashamed were they of Jack and ready to do anything to get rid of him.
By and by, when they came to where the road divided into three, they proposed to have a drink, and as they set off to drink they proposed that each take a road for himself, and whoever got back first with a bottle of Ioca would be the greatest hero. All agreed, and each chose his own road and set out.
When Jack had got around the first bend, he put on his wishing-cap and wished for two bottles of Ioca from the Well of the World's End, and no sooner had he wished than he had them; and back again he came, and when the other two came riding up, surprised they were to find Jack there before them. They said that Jack had not been to the Well of the World's End and it was no Ioca he had with him, but some water from the roadside.
Said Jack, "Take care that is not your own story. Just test them; when the servant comes in, you cut off his head and then cure him with water from your bottles."
But both refused to do this, for they knew the water in their bottles could not cure anything, and they defied Jack to do it.
"Very soon I will do it," said Jack.
So when the servant came in with the bottles of Ioca, Jack drew his sword and whipped his head off him, and in a minute's time, with two drops from one of his bottles, he had the head on again.
Says they to Hookedy-Crookedy, "What will you take for your two bottles?"
Says Jack, "I will take the golden balls of your marriage pledge, and also you shall allow me to write something on your backs."
And they agreed to this. They handed over to Jack the two golden balls that were their marriage tokens, and they let Jack write on their bare backs; and what Jack wrote on each of them was, "This is an unlawfully married man." Then he gave them the bottles of Ioca, and they brought them to the King, and Jack returned to his garden again.
He did not tell the Yellow Rose where he had been and what doing, only said he was away on a message for her father. As soon as the King got the bottles of Ioca, he gave orders that his army should move to battle the next day.
The next morning early Jack was over to the wood to consult the mare. He told her what was going to happen that day. Says the mare, "Look in my left ear, Jack, and see what you will see."
Jack looked in the mare's left ear, and took out of it a grand soldier's dress. The mare told him to put it on and get on her back. On he put the dress, and at once Hookedy-Crookedy was transformed into a very handsome, dashing young fellow, and off went Jack and the mare and the bear, the three of them, away to the war. Every one saw them, and they admired Jack very much, he was such a handsome, clever-looking fellow, and the word was passed on to the King about the great Prince who was riding to the war—himself, the mare, and the bear. The King came to see him, too, and asked him on which side he was going to fight.
"I will strike no stroke this day," says Jack, "except on the side of the King of Scotland."
The King thanked him very heartily, and said he was sure they would win. So they went into the battle with Jack at their head, and Jack struck east and west and in all directions and at every blow of his sword the wind of his stroke tossed houses on the other side of the world, and in a very short time the King of the East ran off, with all his soldiers that were still left alive. Then the King of Scotland invited Jack to come home with him, as he was going to give a great feast in his honor, but Jack said no, he could not go.
"They don't know at home," said Jack, "where I am at all"—and neither they did—"so I must be off to them as quickly as possible."
"Then," says the King, "the least I can do is to give you a present. Here is a tablecloth," says he, "and every time you spread it out you will have it covered with eating and drinking of all sorts."
Jack took it, and thanked him, and rode away. He left the mare and the bear in their own wood, and became Hookedy-Crookedy again, and ran back to his garden. The Yellow Rose told him of the brave soldier that had won her father's battle that day.
"Well, well," says Jack, says he, "he must have been a grand fellow entirely. It is a pity I was not there, but I had to go on a message for the King."
"Poor Hookedy-Crookedy," says she, "what could you do if you were there yourself?"
Jack went to the wood again next morning, and consulted with the mare.
"Jack," said the mare, "look in the inside of my left ear, and see what you will see," and Jack took out of her left ear a soldier's suit, done off with silver, the grandest ever seen, and at the mare's advice he put the suit on, and mounted on her back, and the three of them went off to the battle. Every one was admiring the beautiful, dashing fellow that was riding to the battle this day, and word came to the King, and the King came to speak to him and welcomed him heartily.
He said, "Your brother came with us the last day we went into the battle. Your brother is a very handsome, fine-looking fellow. What side are you going to fight on?"
Says Jack, "I will strike no stroke on any side but yours this day."
The King thanked him very heartily, and into the battle they went with Jack at their head, and Jack struck east and west and in all directions, and the wind of the strokes blew down forests in the other end of the world, and very soon the King of the East, with all his soldiers that were still alive, drew off from the battle.
Then the King thanked Jack and invited him to his castle; where he would give a feast in his honor. But Jack said he could not go, for they did not know at home where he was, and they would be uneasy about him until he reached home again.
"Then," says the King, "the least I can do for you is to give you a present. Here is a purse, and no matter how often and how much you pay out of it, it will never be empty."
Jack took it, and thanked him, and rode away. In the wood he left the mare and the bear, and was again changed into Hookedy-Crookedy, and went home to his garden. The Yellow Rose came out, and told him about the great victory a brave and beautiful soldier, brother to the fine fellow of the day before, had won for her father.
"Well, well," says Jack, says he, "that was very wonderful entirely. I am sorry I was not there, but I had to be away on a message for your father."
"But, my poor Hookedy-Crookedy," says she, "it was better so, for what could you do?"
Three days after that the King of the East took courage to come to battle again. The morning of the battle Jack went to the wood to consult the mare.
"Look into my left ear, Jack, and see what you will see," and from the mare's left ear Jack drew out a most gorgeous soldier's suit, done off with gold braiding and ornaments of every sort. By the mare's advice he put it on, and himself, the mare, and the bear went off to the war.
The King soon heard of the wonderfully grand fellow that was riding to the war to-day with the mare and the bear, and he came to Jack and welcomed him and told him how his two brothers had won the last two victories for him. He asked Jack on what side he was going to fight.
"I will strike no stroke this day," says Jack, "only on the King of Scotland's side."
The King thanked him heartily, and said, "We will surely win the victory," and then into the battle they rode with Jack at their head, and Jack struck east and west and in all directions, and the wind of the strokes tumbled mountains at the other end of the world, and very soon the King of the East with all his soldiers that were left alive took to their heels and never stopped running until they went as far as the world would let them.
Then the King came to Jack and thanked him over and over again, and said he would never be able to repay him. He then invited him to come to his castle, where he would give a little feast in his honour, but Jack said they didn't know at home where he was and they would be uneasy about him, and so he could not go with the King.
"But," says he, "I and my brothers will come to the feast with you at any other time."
"What day will the three of you come?" said the King.
"Only one of us can leave home in one day," said Jack. "I will come to feast with you to-morrow, and my second brother the day after, and my third brother the day after that."
The King agreed to this and thanked him. "And now," said the King, "let me give you a present," and he gave him a comb, such that every time he combed his hair with it he would comb out of it bushels of gold and silver, and it would transform the ugliest man that ever was into the nicest and handsomest. Jack took it and thanked the King and rode away.
On this day, as on the other two days after the battle, they cured the dead and the wounded with the bottles of Ioca, and all were well again. When Jack went to the wood, he left the mare and the bear in it and became Hookedy-Crookedy again, and went home and to his garden. The Yellow Rose came to him and had wonderful news for him this day about the terrible grand fellow entirely, who had won the battle for her father that day; brother to the two brave fellows who had won the battles on the other two days.
"Well," says Jack, says he, "those must be wonderful chaps. I wish I had been there; but I had to be away on a message for your father all day."
"Oh, my poor Hookedy-Crookedy," says she, "it was better so, for what could you do?"
The next day, when it was near dinner time, he went off to the wood to the mare and the bear and got on the suit he had worn the day before in the battle, and mounted the mare and rode for the castle, and when he came there all the gates happened to be closed, but he put the mare at the walls, which were nine miles high, and leaped them.
The King scolded the gate-keepers, but Jack said a trifle like that didn't harm him or his mare. After dinner the King asked him what he thought of his two daughters and their husbands. Jack said they were very good and asked him if he had any more daughters in his family.
The King said he used to have another, the youngest, but she would not consent to marry as he wished, and he had banished her out of his sight.
Jack said he would like to see her.
The King said he never wished to let her enter company again, but he could not refuse Jack; so the Yellow Rose was sent for.
Jack fell a-chatting with her and used all his arts to win her; and of course, in this handsome Jack she did not recognize ugly little Hookedy-Crookedy. He told her he had heard that she had the very bad taste to fall in love with an ugly, crooked, wee fellow in her father's garden.
"I am a handsome fellow, and a rich prince," says Jack, "and I will give you myself and all I possess if you will only say you will accept me."
She was highly insulted, and she showed him that very quickly. She said, "I won't sit here and hear the man I love abused," and she got up to leave.
"Well," says Jack, "I admire your spirit; but before you go," says he, "let me make you a little present," and he handed her a tablecloth. "There," says he, "if you marry Hookedy-Crookedy, as long as you have this tablecloth, you will never want eating and drinking of the best."
The other two sisters grabbed to get the tablecloth from her but Jack put out his hands and pushed them back.
At dinner time the next day Jack came in the dress in which he had gone into the second battle, and with the mare he cleared the walls as on the day before.
The King was enraged at the gate-keepers and began to scold them, but Jack laughed at them and said a trifle like that was nothing to him or his mare.
After dinner was over the King asked what he thought of his two daughters and their husbands.
Jack said they were very good, and asked him if he had any more daughters in his family.
The King said, "I have no more except one who won't do as I wish and who has fallen in love with an ugly, crooked, wee fellow in my garden, and I ordered her never to come into my sight."
But Jack said he would very much like to see her.
The King said that on Jack's account he would break his vow and let her come in. So the Yellow Rose was brought in, and Jack fell to chatting with her. He did all he could to make her fall in love with him, and told her of all his great wealth and possessions and offered himself to her, and said if she only would marry him she should live in ease and luxury and happiness all the days of her life, as she never could do with Hookedy-Crookedy.
But Yellow Rose got very angry, and said: "I won't sit here and listen to such things," and she got up to leave the room.
"Well," says Jack, "I admire your spirit, and before you go let me make you a little present."
So he handed her a purse. "Here," says he, "is a purse, and all the days yourself and Hookedy-Crookedy live you will never want for money, for that purse will never be empty."
Her sisters made a grab to snatch it from her, but Jack shoved them back, and went out. And Jack rode away with the mare after dinner and left her in the wood.
When he came back to his garden he always came in the Hookedy-Crookedy shape and always pretended he had been off on a message for the King.
The third day he went to the wood again. He dressed in the suit in which he had gone to the first battle, and when he came back he went to the castle and cleared the walls, and when the King scolded the gate-keepers Jack told him never to mind, as that was a small trifle to him and his mare.
A very grand dinner indeed Jack had this day, and when they chatted after dinner the King asked him how he liked his two daughters and their husbands.
He said he liked them very well, and asked him if he had any more daughters in his family.
The King said no, except one foolish one who wouldn't do as he wished, and who had fallen in love with an ugly, crooked, wee fellow in his garden, and she was never to come within his sight again.
Says Jack, "I would like to see that girl."
The King said he could not refuse Jack any request he made; so he sent for the Yellow Rose. When she came in, Jack fell into chat with her, and did his very, very best to make her fall in love with him. But it was of no use. He told her of all his wealth and all his grand possessions, and said if she would marry him she should own all these, and all the days she should live she should be the happiest woman in the wide world, but if she married Hookedy-Crookedy, he said, she would never be free from want and hardships, besides having an ugly husband.
If the Yellow Rose was in a rage on the two days before, she was in a far greater rage now. She said she wouldn't sit there to listen. She told Jack that Hookedy-Crookedy was in her eyes a far more handsome and beautiful man than he or than any king's son she had ever seen. She said to Jack, that if he were ten times as handsome and a hundred times as wealthy, she wouldn't give Hookedy-Crookedy's little finger for himself or for all his wealth and possessions, and then she got up to leave the room.
"Well," says Jack, says he, "I admire your spirit very much and," says he, "I would like to make you a little present. Here is a comb," he said, "and it will comb out of your hair a bushel of gold and a bushel of silver every time you comb with it, and, besides," says he, "it will make handsome the ugliest man that ever was."
When the other sisters heard this they rushed to snatch the comb from her, but Jack threw them backwards so very roughly that their husbands sprang at him. With a back switch of his two hands Jack knocked the husbands down senseless. The King flew into a rage, and said, "How dare you do that to the two finest and bravest men of this world?"
"Fine and brave, indeed!" said Jack. "One and the other are worthless creatures, and not even your lawful sons-in-law."
"How dare you say that?" says the King.
"Strip their backs where they lie and see for yourself." And there the King saw written, "An unlawfully married man."
"What is the meaning of this?" says the King. "They were lawfully married to my two daughters, and they have the golden tokens of the marriage."
Jack drew out from his pocket the golden balls and handed them to the King, and said, "It is I who have the tokens."
The Yellow Rose had gone off to the garden in the middle of all this. Jack made the King sit down, and told him all his story, and how he came by the golden balls. He told him how he was Hookedy-Crookedy, and that it reflected a great deal of honour on his youngest daughter that she whom the King thought so worthless should refuse to give up Hookedy-Crookedy for the one she thought a wealthy prince. The King, you may be sure, was now highly delighted to grant him all he desired. A couple of drops of Ioca brought the King's two sons-in-law to their senses again, and at Jack's request, they were ordered to go and live elsewhere. Jack went off, left his mare in the wood, and came into the garden as Hookedy-Crookedy. He told the Yellow Rose he had been gathering bilberries.
"Oh," says she, "I have something grand for you. Let me comb your hair with this comb."
Hookedy-Crookedy put his head in her lap, and she combed out a bushel of gold and silver; and when he stood up again, she saw Hookedy-Crookedy no more, but instead the beautiful prince that had been trying to win her in her father's drawing-room for the last three days; and then and there to her Jack told his whole story, and it's Yellow Rose who was the delighted girl.
With little delay they were married. The wedding lasted a year and a day, and there were five hundred fiddlers, five hundred fluters and a thousand fifers at it, and the last day was better than the first.
Shortly after the marriage, Jack and his bride were out walking one day. A beautiful young woman crossed their path. Jack addressed her, but she gave him a very curt reply.
"Your manners are not so handsome as your looks," said Jack to her.
"And bad as they are, they are better than your memory, Hookedy-Crookedy," says she.
"What do you mean?" says Jack.
She led Jack aside, and she told him, "I am the mare who was so good to you. I was condemned to that shape for a number of years, and now my enchantment is over. I had a brother who was enchanted into a bear, and whose enchantment is over now also. I had hopes," she says, "that some day you would be my husband, but I see," she says, "that you quickly forgot all about me. No matter now," she says; "I couldn't wish you a better and handsomer wife than you have got. Go home to your castle, and be happy and live prosperous. I shall never see you, and you will never see me again."
Arndt's Night Underground
It was on a dreary winter's night, just such a one as it may be now—only you cannot see it for your closed shutters and curtains—that two children were coming home from their daily work, for their parents were poor, and Arndt and Reutha had already to use their little hands in labour. They were very tired, and as they came across the moor the wind blew in their faces, and the distant roaring of the Baltic sea, on whose shore they lived, sounded gloomy and terrible.
"Dear Arndt, let me sit down and rest for a minute, I can go no farther," said Reutha, as she sank down on a little mound that seemed to rise up invitingly, with its shelter of bushes, from the midst of the desolate moor.
The elder brother tried to encourage his little sister, as all kind brothers should do; he even tried to carry her a little way; but she was too heavy for him, and they went back to the mound. Just then the moon came out, and the little hillock looked such a nice resting-place, that Reutha longed more than ever to stay. It was not a cold night, so Arndt was not afraid; and at last he wrapped his sister up in her woollen cloak, and she sat down.
"I will just run a little farther and try if I can see the light in father's window," said Arndt. "You will not be afraid, Reutha?"
"Oh, no! I am never afraid."
"And you will not go to sleep?"
"Not I," said Reutha; and all the while she rubbed her eyes to keep them open, and leaned her head against a branch which seemed to her as soft and inviting as a pillow.
Arndt went a little way, until he saw the light which his father always placed so as to guide the children over the moor. Then he felt quite safe and at home, and went back cheerfully to his sister.
Reutha was not there! Beside the little mound and among the bushes did poor Arndt search in terror, but he could not find his sister. He called her name loudly—there was no answer. Not a single trace of her could be found; and yet he had not been five minutes away.
"Oh! what shall I do?" sobbed the boy; "I dare not go home without Reutha!" And there for a long time did Arndt sit by the hillock, wringing his hands and vainly expecting that his sister would hear him and come back. At last there passed by an old man, who travelled about the country selling ribbons and cloths.
"How you are grown since I saw you last, my little fellow!" said the man. "And where is your sister Reutha?"
Arndt burst into tears, and told his friend of all that had happened that night. The peddler's face grew graver and graver as the boy told him it was on this very spot that he lost his little sister.
"Arndt," whispered he, "did you ever hear of the Hill-men? It is they who have carried little Reutha away."
And then the old man told how in his young days he had heard strange tales of this same moor; for that the little mound was a fairy-hill, where the underground dwarfs lived, and where they often carried off young children to be their servants, taking them under the hill, and only leaving behind their shoes. "For," said the peddler, "the Hill-people are very particular, and will make all their servants wear beautiful glass shoes instead of clumsy leather."
So he and Arndt searched about the hill, and there, sure enough, they found Reutha's tiny shoes hidden under the long grass. At this her brother's tears burst forth afresh.
"Oh! what shall I do to bring back my poor sister? The Hill-men and women will kill her!"
"No," said the old man, "they are very good little people, and they live in a beautiful palace underground. Truly, you will never see Reutha again, for they will keep her with them a hundred years; and when she comes back you will be dead and buried, while she is still a beautiful child."
And then, to comfort the boy, the peddler told him wonderful stories of the riches and splendour of the Hill-people, how that sometimes they had been seen dancing at night on the mounds, and how they wore green caps, which, if any mortal man could get possession of, the dwarfs were obliged to serve him and obey him in everything. All this Arndt drank in with eager ears; and when the peddler went away he sat a long time thinking.
"I will do it," at last he said aloud. "I will try to get my dear Reutha safe back again."
And the boy stole noiselessly to the mound which the Hill-men were supposed to inhabit. He hid himself among the surrounding bushes, and there he lay in the silence and darkness, his young heart beating wildly, and only stilled by one thought that lay ever there, that of the lost Reutha. At last a sudden brightness flashed upon the boy's eyes; it could not be the moon, for she had long set. No; but it was a sight more glorious than Arndt had ever dreamed of.
The grassy hill opened, and through this aperture the boy saw a palace underground, glittering with gold and gems. The Hill-men danced about within it, dressed like tiny men and women. Arndt thought how beautiful they were, though they seemed no bigger than his own baby sister of six months old. One by one they rose out of the opening, and gambolled on the snow-covered mound; but wherever they trod flowers sprang up, and the air grew light and warm as summer. After a while they ceased dancing and began ball-playing, tossing their little green caps about in great glee. And lo and behold! one of these wonderful caps, being tossed farther than usual, lighted on the very forehead of the peeping boy!
In a moment he snatched it and held it fast, with a cry of triumph. The light faded—the scene vanished—only Arndt heard a small weak voice whispering, humbly and beseechingly in his ear.
"Please, noble gentleman, give me my cap again."
"No, no, good Hill-man," answered the courageous boy; "you have got my little sister, and I have got your cap, which I shall keep."
"I will give you a better cap for it—all gold and jewels—oh, so beautiful!" said the Hill-man, persuasively.
"I will not have it. What good would it do me? No, no, I am your master, good dwarf, as you very well know, and I command you to take me down in the hill with you, for I want to see Reutha."
There shone a dim light on the grass, like a glowworm, and then Arndt saw the elfin mound open again; but this time the palace looked like a dim, gloomy staircase. On the top stair stood the little Hill-man, holding the glowworm lamp, and making many low bows to his new master. Arndt glanced rather fearfully down the staircase; but then he thought of Reutha, and his love for her made him grow bold. He took upon himself a lordly air, and bade his little servant lead the way.
The Hill-man took him through beautiful galleries, and halls, and gardens, until the boy's senses were intoxicated with these lovely things. Every now and then he stopped, and asked for Reutha: but then there was always some new chamber to be seen, or some dainty banquet to be tasted; until, by degrees, Arndt's memory of his little sister grew dimmer, and he revelled in the delights of the fairy palace hour after hour. When night came—if so it could be called in that lovely place, where night was only day shadowed over and made more delicious—the boy felt himself lulled by sweet music to a soft dreaminess, which was all the sleep that was needed in that fairy paradise.
Thus, day after day passed in all gay delights, the elfin people were the merriest in the world, and they did all their little master desired. And Arndt knew not that while they surrounded him with delights it was only to make him forget his errand. But one day, when the boy lay on a green dell in the lovely fairy-garden, he heard a low, wailing song, and saw a troop of little mortal children at work in the distance. Some were digging ore, and others making jewellery, while a few stood in the stream that ran by, beating linen, as it seemed. And among these poor little maidens, who worked so hard and sang so mournfully, was his own sister Reutha.
"No one cares for me," she murmured; and her song had in it a plaintive sweetness, very different from the way in which the little Danish maiden spoke on earth. "Reutha is alone—her hands are sore with toil—her feet bleed—but no one pities her. Arndt sleeps in gorgeous clothes, while Reutha toils in rags. Arndt is the master—Reutha is the slave! Poor Reutha is quite alone!"
Even amidst the spells of fairyland that voice went to the brother's heart. He called the Hill-people, and bade them bring Reutha to him. Then he kissed her, and wept over her, and dressed her in his own beautiful robes, while the Hill-men dared not interfere. Arndt took his sister by the hand, and said—
"Now, let us go; we have stayed long enough. Good Hill-man, you shall have your cap again when you have brought Reutha and me to our own father's door."
But the Hill-man shook his tiny head, and made his most obsequious bow. "Noble master, anything but this! This little maid we found asleep on our hill, and she is ours for a hundred years."
Here Arndt got into a passion; for, convinced of the power the little green cap gave him over the dwarfs, he had long lost all fear of them. He stamped with his foot until the little man leaped up a yard high, and begged his master to be more patient.
"How dare you keep my sister? you ugly little creatures!" cried the boy, his former pleasant companion becoming at once hateful to him. But the Hill-people only gave him gentle answers; until at last he grew ashamed of being so angry with such tiny creatures. They led him to a palace, more beautiful than any he had yet seen, and showed him pearls and diamonds heaped up in basketfuls.
"You shall take all these away with you, noble sir!" said his little servant. "They will make you a rich man all the days of your life, and you will live in a palace as fine as ours. Is not that far better than having a poor helpless sister to work for?"
But Arndt caught a glimpse of Reutha, as she sat outside; weeping—she dared not enter with him—and he kicked the baskets over, and scattered the jewels like so many pebbles.
"Keep all your treasures, and give me my sister!" cried he.
Then the Hill-man tried him with something else. Arndt was a very handsome boy and everybody had told him so, until he was rather vain. Many a time, when he worked in the field, he used to look at himself in a clear, still pool, and think how golden his hair was, and how lithe and graceful his figure. Now the Hill-man knew all this; and so he led the boy to a crystal mirror and showed him his own beautiful form, set off with every advantage of rich dress. And then, by fairy spells, Arndt saw beside it the image of the little peasant as he was when he entered the hill.
"Think how different!" whispered the dwarf. He breathed on the mirror, and the boy saw himself as he would be when he grew up—a hard-working, labouring man; and opposite, the semblance of a young, graceful nobleman, whose face was the same which the stream had often told him was his own.
"We can make thee always thus handsome. Choose which thou wilt be," murmured the tempting voice.
The boy hesitated; but the same moment came that melancholy voice—"My brother is rich, and I am poor; he is clad in silk, and I in rags. Alas, for me!"
"It shall not be!" cried the noble boy. "I will go out of this place as poor as I came; but I will take Reutha with me. I will work all the days of my life; but Reutha shall not stay here. Hill-people! I want none of your treasures; but I command you to give me my sister, and let us go!"
Arndt folded his arms around Reutha, and walked with her through all the gorgeous rooms, the Hill-men and women following behind, and luring him with their sweetest songs and most bewitching smiles. But Reutha's voice and Reutha's smile had greatest power of all over her brother's heart.
They climbed the gloomy staircase, and stood at the opening in the hillock. Then the little Hill-man appealed once more to his master—
"Noble gentleman! remember, a life of labour with Reutha or one of continual pleasure alone! Think again!"
"No, not for a moment," said Arndt, as he felt the breezes of earth playing on his cheek. How sweet they were, even after the fragrant airs of elfin-land!
"At least, kind master, give me my cap!" piteously implored the Hill-man.
"Take it; and good-bye for evermore!" cried Arndt, as he clasped his sister in his arms and leaped out. The chasm closed, and the two children found themselves lying in a snow-drift, with the gray dawn of a winter's morning just breaking over them.
"Where have you been all night, my children?" cried the anxious mother, as they knocked at the door.
Had it, indeed, been only a single night, the months that seemed to have passed while they were under the hill? They could not tell, for they were now like all other children, and their wisdom learned in fairyland had passed away. It seemed only a dream, save that the brother and sister loved each other better than ever, and so they continued to do as long as they lived.
Fritz, Franz, and Hans were charcoal-burners. They lived with their mother in the depths of a forest, where they very seldom saw the face of another human being. Hans, the youngest, did not remember ever having lived anywhere else, but Fritz and Franz could just call to mind sunny meadows, in which they played as little children, plucking the flowers and chasing the butterflies. Indeed, Fritz was able to compare the present state of miserable poverty in which they lived with the ease and comfort they had enjoyed in years gone by.
Once upon a time they were well off. They had enough to eat every day; they lived in a comfortable house, surrounded by a nice garden, and with plenty of kind neighbours around them. Then came a change. Their father lost his money and was forced to leave this pleasant home, and to earn bread for his family by becoming a charcoal-burner. Everything now became different. Their house was a poor hut, composed of a few logs of wood knocked roughly together. Dry black bread with, occasionally, a few potatoes and lentils, and now and then, as a great treat, a little porridge, formed their food. And to secure even this they had to work hard from morning till night at their grimy trade. But their father was brave and patient, and, while he was alive, the wolf was kept some distance from the door. Besides, he could always put some heart into the boys when they began to flag, by a joke or a pleasant story. But he had died a year ago, owing to an accident he met with while chopping wood for the furnace, and since his death matters had been going from bad to worse with the family.
Fritz and Franz were, unfortunately, selfish, ill-conditioned lads, who made the worst instead of the best of their troubles, and who even grudged their mother and brother their share of the food. Hans, on the other hand, was a capital fellow. He always had a cheerful smile or word, and did all in his power to help his mother to keep in good spirits. One day, at dinner time, they were startled by a knock at the door. A knock at the door does not seem to us, perhaps, to be a very startling thing, but they, as I said, so seldom saw a strange face near their home that this knock at the door quite took away their breath. When it came, Fritz and Franz were sitting over the fire munching their last piece of black bread, and grumbling to each other as was their custom, while Hans, seated on the bed beside his mother, was telling her about what he saw and what he fancied when he was in the forest. Fritz was the first to recover himself, and he growled out, in his usual surly tone, "Come in." The door opened, and a gentleman entered. From his green dress, the gun that he carried in his hand, and the game-bag slung by his side, they saw that he was a huntsman, who had been amusing himself with shooting the game with which the forest abounded.
"Good morning, good friends," he said, in a cheerful tone. "Could you provide me with a cup of water and a mouthful of something to eat? I have forgotten to bring anything with me, and am ravenously hungry, and far from home."
Fritz and Franz first threw a scowling glance from under their eyebrows at the stranger by way of reply, then gave a grunt, and continued munching at their hunks of bread. Hans, however, was more polite. The only seats in the hut were occupied by Fritz and Franz, and as they showed no disposition to move, Hans dragged a log of wood from a corner and placed it before the visitor, and invited him to sit down. Then he produced a cup, scrupulously clean indeed, but sadly cracked and chipped, and, running outside, he filled it from a spring of delicious, cool water, which rose near the hut. As he had been busy talking to his mother, he had had no time to eat his share of the black bread, and so he handed his coarse crust to the stranger, saying he was sorry that there was nothing better to offer him.
"Thank you," said the stranger, courteously. "Hunger is the best sauce. There is no lunch I like so well as this." And he set to work with such a good will that, in a very short time, poor Hans's crust had vanished, and there was nothing left before the stranger but a few crumbs of bread on the table, and a few drops of water in the cup. These he kneaded carelessly together into a little pellet, about the size of a pea, while Hans told him, in answer to his questions, all about their lonely life in the forest, and the hardships which they had to endure.
When the stranger rose to go he said, "Well, I thank you heartily for your hospitality—now I will give you a word of advice. One of you lads should go and seek the sparkling golden water, which turns everything it touches into gold."
Fritz and Franz pricked up their ears at this, and both at once demanded where this sparkling golden water was to be found. The stranger turned toward them, courteously, although these were the first words they had spoken since his entrance, and replied:
"The sparkling golden water is to be found in the forest of dead trees, on the farther side of those blue mountains, which you may see on any clear day in the far distance. It is a three weeks' journey on foot from here."
Then, bowing to his hosts, he stepped toward the door. Hans, however, was there first, and opened it for him. Obeying a sign from the stranger, Hans followed him a little way from the hut. Then the stranger, taking from his pocket the little black bread pellet, said, "I know, because you gave me your dinner, that you will have to go hungry. I have no money to offer you, but here is something that will be of far greater value to you than money. Keep this pellet carefully, and when you seek the sparkling golden water, as I know you will, don't forget to bring it with you. Now go back: you must follow me no farther." So saying, the stranger waved his hand to Hans, and, plunging into the thicket, disappeared. Hans slipped the pellet into his pocket and re-entered the hut, where he found his brothers in loud dispute about the sparkling golden water. They were much too interested in the matter to pay any attention to Hans or to ask him, as he was afraid they would, whether the stranger had given him any money before he left. As he came in, he heard Fritz saying in a loud voice:
"I'm the eldest, and I will go first to get the sparkling golden water. When I've got it I will buy all the land hereabouts and become Count. I will hunt every day, and have lots of good wine; and sometimes, if I'm passing near here, I'll just look in to see how you all are, and to show you my fine clothes, and horses, and dogs, and servants." Fritz was, for him, almost gracious at the bright prospect before him.
"I don't care whether you're the eldest or not," growled Franz, stubbornly, "I shall go, too, to find the sparkling golden water. When I've found it I will buy the Burgomaster's office, and live in his house in the town yonder, and wear his fur robes and gold chain; and, best of all, walk at the head of all the grand processions. None of your wild hunting for me—give me ease and comfort."
At last it was decided, after a great deal of squabbling, that Fritz as the eldest should go first in search of the sparkling golden water, and accordingly next day he set out. Hans ventured to hint that the first thing to be done with this sparkling golden water when it was found should be to provide a comfortable home for their mother, but Fritz's only answer to this was a blow, and an angry order to Hans to mind his own business.
We cannot follow Fritz all the way on his journey. As he had no money he was forced to beg at the doors of the cottages and farmhouses which he passed, for food and shelter for the night. Now, this proved to be rather hard work, because nobody very much liked his looks or his manner; and people only gave him spare scraps now and then in order to get him to go away as soon as possible. However, he found himself, at last, approaching the forest of dead trees. He knew that it was the forest, although there was nobody there to tell him so. He had not, in fact, seen any human being for the last three days, but he felt that he could not be mistaken. A vast forest of enormous trees lifted leafless, sapless branches to the sky, and every breath of wind rattled them together like the bones of a skeleton. When he was about twenty yards from the forest a terrible sound came from it. It was as though a thousand horses were neighing and screaming all at once. Fritz's heart stood still. He wanted to run away, but his legs refused to move. As he stood there, shaking and quaking, there rushed out of the forest a huge unicorn with a spiral golden horn on his forehead.
"What seek you here?" asked the unicorn, in a voice of thunder. Fritz stammered out that he sought the sparkling golden water.
"What want you with the sparkling golden water, which is in my charge?" thundered the unicorn.
Fritz was almost too frightened to speak. He fell on his knees, put up his hands, and cried: "Oh, good Mr. Unicorn, oh, kind Mr. Unicorn, pray don't hurt me!"
The unicorn stamped furiously on the ground with his right forefoot. "Say this instant," he cried, "what it is that you want with the sparkling golden water!"
"I want to get money to buy land and become a Count," Fritz was just able to gasp out. The unicorn said nothing; he simply lowered his head, and with his golden horn tossed Fritz three hundred and forty-five feet in the air. Up went Fritz like a sky-rocket, and down he came like its stick, turning somersaults all the way. Fortunately for him, his fall was broken by the branches of one of the dead trees. If it had not been for this he would probably have been seriously hurt. Through these branches he crashed until he reached the point where they joined the trunk. The tree was hollow here, and Fritz tumbled down to the bottom of the trunk and found himself a prisoner. While he was feeling his arms and legs, to find out if any bones were broken or not, he had the satisfaction of hearing the unicorn, as he trotted back into the forest, muttering, loud enough for his words to pierce the bark and wood of Fritz's prison:—
"So much for you and your Countship!"
Fritz tried to get out, but in vain. The tree was too smooth and slippery and high for him to be able to clamber up, and he only hurt himself every time he attempted to escape. There was nothing for it, then, but for him to lie down and howl. He had to satisfy his hunger as best he might, by eating the stray worms and woodlice and fungi, which he found creeping, crawling, and growing round about the roots of the tree. We will leave him there for the present and return to the others.
Franz, Hans, and their mother waited and waited for Fritz to come back. Hans and his mother could not believe it possible that, when he had secured the sparkling golden water, he would leave them in their poverty. Franz, on the other hand, judging Fritz by himself, thought that nothing was more likely. And Franz was most probably right. Six weeks was the shortest time in which Fritz could be home again. "Unless," said Hans, "he buys a horse and rides back, as he will be very well able to do when he has got the sparkling golden water." But six weeks passed, and two months, and three months, and no Fritz, either on horseback or afoot. Then Franz's patience came to an end. He must needs go, too.
"I won't wait here starving any longer," said he; "Fritz has forgotten all about us. I'll get the sparkling golden water and become Burgomaster." So off he set, following the same road as Fritz, and meeting with much the same difficulties. They were, however, rather greater in his case than in his brother's. Folk remembered the ill-conditioned Fritz only too well, and Franz was so like him in looks and manner, that they shut the door in his face the moment he appeared, and ran upstairs and called out from the top windows of their houses, "Go away! There's nothing for you here. The big dog's loose in the yard. Go away, charcoal-burner."
However, by dint of perseverance, in which to say the truth he was not lacking, Franz, very hungry and sulky, reached the verge of the forest of dead trees. Out came the unicorn and asked his business. On Franz replying that he wanted the sparkling golden water in order to buy the house and post of Burgomaster, the unicorn tossed him into the air, and he tumbled into the same tree as Fritz. Then the unicorn trotted back into the forest, muttering, for Franz's benefit: "So much for you and your Burgomastership!"
When Fritz and Franz found themselves thus closely confined in the same prison, they, instead of making the best of each other's company, as sensible brothers would have done, fell to quarrelling and fighting, until at last neither would speak to the other, and that state of sulky silence they maintained all the time of their captivity.
The months passed by, but no news came to Hans and his mother of Fritz and Franz. Meanwhile Hans found that it became daily more difficult for him to earn enough money to support two people. Moreover, he saw that his mother was growing weaker, and he feared that she would die unless she had proper food and nourishment. At last he said:
"Mother, if there were only some one to take care of you, I would go in search of Fritz and Franz. You may be sure they have got the sparkling golden water by this time. They would never refuse me a few guldern, if I were to ask them and tell them how ill you are."
But Hans's mother did not at all like the idea of his leaving her, and she begged and prayed him not to go. He felt obliged, therefore, to submit, and stayed on for a little longer, until at last even his mother saw that they must either starve or do as Hans suggested. Most fortunately at this time there dropped in to see them another charcoal-burner, whom Hans used to call "Uncle Stoltz," although he was no uncle at all, but only a good-natured neighbour and an old friend of Hans's father. Uncle Stoltz strongly urged the mother to let her boy go in search of his brothers, adding, although he was nearly as poor as they were themselves:
"You come and live with me and my wife. While we have a crust to divide you shan't want."
So Hans's mother gave a reluctant consent, and went to live with Uncle Stoltz, while Hans went out in search of his brothers. By making inquiries he easily found the road which they had taken, but nobody ever thought of shutting the door in his face. On the contrary, his polite manners and cheerful looks made him a welcome guest at every cottage and farmstead at which he stopped. At last he, too, found himself on the verge of the forest of dead trees and face to face with the golden-horned unicorn. But Hans was not to be frightened as his brothers had been by the terrible voice and awe-striking appearance of the guardian of the fountain. In reply to the usual question, given in the usual tone of thunder: "What seek you here?" Hans replied, coolly, "I seek my brothers, Fritz and Franz."
"They are where you will never find them," said the unicorn, "so go home again."
"If I cannot find my brothers," said Hans, firmly, "I will not go home without the sparkling golden water."
"What want you with the sparkling golden water, which is in my charge?" asked the unicorn, in his terrible voice.
"I want to buy food and wine and comforts for my mother; who is very ill," answered Hans, undaunted. But his eyes filled with tears as he thought of his mother.
The unicorn spoke more gently.
"Have you," he asked, "the crystal ball? Because without it I cannot allow you to pass to the sparkling golden water."
"The crystal ball!" echoed Hans. "I never heard of such a thing."
"That's a pity," said the unicorn, gravely; "I'm afraid you will have to go home without the water; but, stay, feel in your pockets. You may have had the ball, and put it somewhere, and have forgotten all about it."
Hans smiled at the idea of the crystal ball lying, unknown to him, in his pockets, but he followed the suggestion of the unicorn; and found, as he knew he should find, nothing at all, except, indeed, the pellet of black bread which the stranger-huntsman had given him, and which he had not thought of from that day to this. "No," he said to the unicorn, "I have nothing in my pocket, except this pellet," and he was about to throw it away when the unicorn called out to him to stop.
"Let me see it," he said. "Why," he went on, "this is the crystal ball—look!"
Hans did look, and sure enough he found in his hand a tiny globe of crystal. He examined it with amazement. "Well," he said, "all I know is that a second ago it was a black-bread pellet."
"That may be," said the unicorn, carelessly; "anyhow, it is a crystal ball now, and the possession of it makes me your servant. It is my duty to carry you to the fountain of sparkling golden water, if you wish to go. Have you brought a flask with you?"