"No," said Hans. "Fritz took the only flask we had, and Franz an old bottle."
"Fritz, eh? Well, follow me a little way." So saying, the unicorn led Hans to the tree in which his brothers were imprisoned and, motioning him to be silent, cried out:
"Ho! Master Count, throw out the flask you have with you, if you please: it is wanted."
"'Shan't," growled Fritz's voice in reply, "unless you promise to let me out."
"Oh, you won't, won't you?" said the unicorn; "well, we'll see."
With that he drew back a few steps, and then, running forward, thrust his sharp horn into the side of the hollow trunk from which Fritz's voice had issued. A loud yell came from the spot, showing that the horn had run into some tender part of Fritz's body, and at the same instant, the flask appeared flying out of the hole in the tree by which Fritz and Franz had entered.
"That's right," said the unicorn, "now we shall do comfortably. Get on my back, grasp my mane tightly, hold your breath, and shut your eyes."
"If you please," said Hans, "will you set Fritz and Franz free first?"
The unicorn looked annoyed. "They are doing very well there," he said; "why should you disturb them? But you're my master, and I must do as you please. Only, take my word, you will be sorry for this afterward."
With that he went to the tree and, with one or two powerful blows with his horn, made a hole large enough for the unhappy prisoners to creep out. Two more sheepish, miserable wretches than those half-starved brothers of his, Hans had never seen. They fell at his feet and thanked him again and again for delivering them. They promised never to do anything unkind or selfish again, and each assured Hans that he had always liked him far more than he had liked the other brother.
Their protestations of affection rather disgusted Hans, only, as he was a good-hearted boy himself, he could not help being moved by them. He then told his brothers in what state he had left his mother, and how he was to be taken by the unicorn to get the sparkling golden water.
"Oh!" cried the brothers, "can't you take us, too?"
The unicorn thought it time to interfere. "No one can be taken there, but the owner of the crystal ball," he said. "Come, master, it is time for you to mount."
Hans clambered nimbly into his seat on the unicorn's back. "Wait for me here," he called out to his brothers. "I shall not be long." Then Hans shut his eyes, held his breath, and grasped the unicorn tightly by the mane. It was as well that he did so, for the unicorn gave a bound that carried him over the tops of the highest trees, and would certainly have thrown him off unless he had been very firmly seated. Three such bounds did he take, and then he paused and said to Hans, "Now you may open your eyes." Hans found himself in a desolate, rocky valley, without a trace of vegetation—unless the forest of dead trees, which clothed the valley on every side, might be taken as vegetation. In the midst of the valley there sprang up a fountain of water, which sparked with such intense brilliancy that Hans was unable at first to look upon it.
"There, master," said the unicorn, turning his head, "this is the fountain of sparkling golden water. Dismount, and fill your flask. But take care that you do not allow your hand to touch the water. If it does it will be turned into gold, and will never become flesh and blood again."
Hans slipped from his seat and, flask in hand, approached the fountain. The ground on which he walked was sand, but as he drew nearer the fountain, he noticed that the sand kept growing brighter until he felt that he was walking upon what he guessed rightly to be veritable gold dust Hans thrust a handful of this dust into his pocket, and also one or two moderate-sized stones that he found, which, like the sand, had been changed, by the spray coming from the fountain, into pure gold. He tried to be as careful as possible in filling the flask; but, notwithstanding all his care, the top joint of his little finger touched the water, and in an instant became gold. However, he had his flask full of sparkling golden water, the flask itself now, of course, golden, and he felt that the top joint of his little finger was a small price to pay for all this.
"Now, master," said the unicorn when Hans got back, "do you still intend to return to those brothers of yours? Or shall I put you out of the forest at some other point?"
"Certainly," replied Hans; "I intend to return to them. You heard them say how sorry they were for all the unkindness they had shown to my mother and me. I know they mean to do better for the future. Besides, I promised them to come back."
The unicorn said nothing, but grunted in a discouraging manner, and motioned to Hans to get on his back. When he was seated the unicorn said:
"Since this is your wish, you must have it. I have, however, three pieces of advice to give you. On your way home your brothers will offer to carry the flask—do not let them do so; also do not let them get behind you for a moment; and thirdly, guard the crystal ball with the utmost care. I can't go with you beyond the verge of the forest of dead trees. One visit, and only one, is permitted to the fountain. You therefore can never come here again. But if ever you need me sorely, crush the crystal ball, and I will be with you. Now shut your eyes, we must be off."
Three bounds brought them to the side of Fritz and Franz; and Hans having thanked the unicorn warmly for his kindness, the three brothers began to retrace their steps homeward. Now, during Hans's absence at the fountain, Fritz and Franz had been devising how they might rob him of the flask of sparkling golden water.
"It is disgusting," they said to one another, "that this wretched little Hans should beat us both. He will only waste the water in buying things for his mother, while it would make us Count and Burgomaster."
As soon, therefore, as they were out of sight of the unicorn, Fritz and Franz begged and prayed Hans to allow one of them to carry the flask.
"You've had all the trouble of getting the water," they said; "we ought at least to be allowed the honour of helping you carry it. Besides, are we not your servants now that you are so rich? It is not suitable for you to do all the work." But Hans remembered the unicorn's words, and held firmly to his flask.
"No," he said, "thank you; but I'll carry it myself." Then Fritz and Franz pretended to get sulky and tried to drop behind, but Hans would not allow this, either. The consequence was that the three made very slow progress homeward. Toward the evening they came to a deep stream, which they had to re-cross. It was only fordable at one point, as they all knew, because they had, of course, already crossed it before. Hans stood aside to allow Fritz and Franz to go on first, but each of them went in a little way, and ran back, saying that they were afraid of being drowned.
"What nonsense," said Hans, who was getting a little impatient at the delay; "it's quite shallow," and, forgetting the unicorn's warning, he entered the stream first. Fritz and Franz did not miss the opportunity. Each took a large stone and struck Hans violently on the head. Then as he fell back senseless into the water, Fritz snatched the flask from off the belt to which it was attached, and Franz thrust with his foot Hans's body farther into the river, so that the current should carry it away, and, laughing at their own cleverness, the two proceeded to cross the ford.
Now, naturally enough, lads like Fritz and Franz do not care to trust each other very far. As soon, therefore, as they reached the other side of the stream, Franz produced his bottle, and demanded of Fritz his share of the sparkling golden water. Fritz, who intended to keep it all to himself, proposed that they should put off sharing it till later. Franz would not hear of this. He knew, only too well, what Fritz intended. This led to a wrangle, which ended in a fight between the two, in which the sparkling golden water was spilled, partly over Fritz's right hand, and the remainder over Franz's left foot. The brothers first realized what had happened to them by Fritz finding that he could not close his fist to strike, and Franz finding that he could not raise his foot to kick. The discovery sobered them in an instant. There they stood, one with a hand and the other with a foot of solid gold, and the golden flask with them; but the water, the precious sparkling golden water, lost forever. Fritz was the first to recover himself.
"Well," he said, "thank goodness I have a couple of feet left me. I shall be off, I can't wait for you. You must hobble on as best you can, or stay here and starve," and he was on the point of leaving Franz to his fate, when the latter caught him by the collar.
"If I've only one foot, I have two hands," cried he, "and I don't intend to let you leave me behind. No, no; we must go together or not at all."
Fritz was obliged to submit, as it was a case of two hands against one; and he and Franz, arm in arm as though they were the most affectionate brothers, made their way slowly to the nearest town. There they had to submit to have hand and foot cut off. The operation hurt them very much indeed, but they sold the gold for a good sum of money to the goldsmith. With that, and with what they got for the flask, Fritz was able to buy his Countship, although he could never hunt owing to the loss of his right hand, and Franz was able to buy his Burgomastership, although the loss of his foot prevented his walking properly in processions. Neither of them, of course, gave a thought to their mother.
Now we must return to poor Hans, whom we left floating down the stream—senseless, and to all appearance dead. He was not dead, however, although the blows which his brothers had inflicted were very severe ones. He was only stunned, and fortunately he did not float far enough to be drowned. His body came into a back eddy of the stream and drifted gently on to a shelving bank of white sand. The cold water soon had the effect of bringing him to his senses so far as to enable him to crawl on to the land. It was, however, some hours before he was able to recall the past events. When he remembered them he gave way to despair. All the pains he had taken to win the sparkling golden water were thrown away. He might not return to get more—the unicorn had told him that. His mother would be as badly off as ever. Above all, he had the bitter disappointment of feeling that his brothers had deceived him. Then he bethought him of the crystal ball. Taking it from his pocket, he placed it on a large stone, and taking another stone struck it with all his force. A report like that of a cannon followed, and at the same instant the unicorn stood before him.
"I warned you of what would happen," he said to Hans. "You would have done much better if you had left your brothers in the tree. Now let me see what can be done for you. First of all, rub that dockleaf, which is touching your right hand, on the wound in your head." Hans did as he was told, and his head became as sound as ever. "Now," said the unicorn, "you must go straight home to your mother and bring her to the city of White Towers, and stay there till you hear from me again."
"But," said Hans, with tears in his eyes, "how can I do that? My mother is much too ill to move, and I have lost the sparkling golden water which was to have made her well and strong."
"Did not I see you," asked the unicorn, "put some sand and stones of pure gold into your pocket as you went to the fountain? There will be more than enough to meet all your expenses. Do as I tell you," and the unicorn, saying this, disappeared.
Hans, greatly cheered, set off once more, and finished his journey home without any further adventures. The gold that he had with him, not only enabled him to provide the comforts and necessaries which his mother required, but he was able also to reward Uncle Stoltz for his kindness. When his mother was strong enough to travel, Hans hired a wagon, and they set off by easy stages for the city of White Towers, there to await further news from the unicorn.
Now, the city of White Towers was at that time attracting from far and wide every one who wanted to make his fortune. The Princess of the city was the loveliest Princess in the world, and the richest and the most powerful. She had given out that she would marry any one, whoever it might be, king or beggar, who would tell her truly in the morning the dream that she had dreamed in the night. But whoever should compete and fail, was to forfeit all his fortune, be whipped through the streets and out of the gate, and banished from the city on pain of death. If, however, he had no fortune to forfeit, he was to be whipped back again and sold into slavery. The terms were hard; but many tried and failed, and many more, undeterred by the punishment which they constantly saw being inflicted on the others, were waiting their turn to compete. Among these latter were Count Fritz and Burgomaster Franz. These two met very often in the streets of the city, but they could never forget their quarrel over the sparkling golden water and when they met they always looked in opposite directions. Now, Fritz and Franz had made themselves hated by all with whom they had to deal; Fritz by his tyranny over the poor in the district in which his property lay, and Franz by his injustice as Burgomaster. The former used to grind down his people so as to extract the last penny from them; the latter used to make his judgments depend on the amount of bribe he received from the suitors. Everybody, therefore, hoped that both Fritz and Franz would fail to tell the Princess her dreams, and would have to pay the penalty.
Hans and his mother arrived at the city of White Towers on the evening before the day on which Fritz was to try his fortune. They heard on all sides that the "One-armed Count," as he was called, was to be the next competitor; but, of course, they had no idea that this "One-armed Count" was Fritz. The consequence was that, when they found themselves next day in the great square, where the whole population of the city assembled to see the trial, they were amazed beyond measure to see Fritz, marching jauntily along, quite confident of success, dressed in his very smartest clothes, to the platform on which the Princess and her ladies and her courtiers were assembled, Fritz felt sure that he would win, for this reason: There was an old woman living in a cottage near his castle, who was said to be a witch. Fritz had ordered her to be seized and put to the most cruel tortures, in order to force her to say what the Princess was going to dream on the night before the day fixed for his trial. This was very silly of him, as the old woman might be a witch ten times over, and yet not be able to tell him that. But cruel, wicked people often are silly. This poor old woman screamed out some nonsense in her agony which Fritz took to be the answer he required. He smiled, therefore, in a self-confident fashion as he bowed low before the princess and awaited her question. She asked it in a clear bell-like voice, which somehow caused Hans's heart, when he heard it, to beat a good deal quicker than before.
"Sir Count, what did I dream last night?"
"Your Highness dreamed," was the reply, "that the moon came down to earth and kissed you."
The princess gently shook her head, and in a moment Fritz found himself in the hands of her guards, with his coat stripped off his back, and his hands bound behind him. The first lash made him cry for mercy; but the Princess had already gone, and the soldiers, whose duty it was to inflict the whipping, were not much disposed to show mercy to the "One-armed Count." They laid on their blows well, driving the unlucky Fritz through the streets till the gate was reached, through which, with a final shower of blows, he was thrust, with the warning not to return thither, but to beg his way henceforth through the world. Of all who watched the proceedings, none seemed so delighted with the result as Franz. He followed, hobbling after his unhappy brother as close as the soldiers would allow, and kept jeering and laughing at him all the way. This was easy for him to do, notwithstanding the fact that he had to go on crutches, because good care was taken to make Fritz's progress through the streets as slow as possible. In addition, therefore, to the blows, Fritz had to endure the sight of Franz's grinning face, and to listen to such remarks as: "Who thought he was going to win the Princess?"—"Will your Highness remember your poor brother, the Burgomaster?"—"Who lost the sparkling golden water?"—and so on.
With very different feelings had Hans watched the proceedings. When he saw his brother stripped for beating, he forgot all about the wrongs he had sustained, and only thought what he could do to help the sufferer. He tried to bribe the soldiers to deal gently with Fritz; but when he found it was of no avail, he hastened to the city gate so as to meet his brother outside and comfort him when the punishment was over. Hans found Fritz, as indeed was natural under the circumstances, more surly and ill-tempered than ever. He appeared startled for a moment at seeing Hans, whom he thought dead, alive and well; but he set to work blubbering again immediately, and rubbing his back with his one hand. Hans gave him what money he could afford, which Fritz took without saying "Thank you," and went his way.
Next day it was Franz's turn to try and win the Princess. Franz felt just as certain of succeeding as Fritz had been. A certain necromancer in Franz's town had been a party in a suit which came before the Burgomaster's court. All the evidence which was brought forward told against him, but the necromancer promised Franz, as a bribe, if he would decide in his favour, to tell him by means of his art the true secret of the Princess's dream. Franz swallowed the bait greedily, and gave his unjust decision. Now, in order that the necromancer might not fail him, Franz had determined not to let him out of his sight till the day of trial. Very early in the morning of that day the necromancer came to Franz and said: "Last night the Princess dreamed so-and-so—will your worship allow me to go away now?" Franz, on hearing the dream, skipped with delight, forgetting about his one foot, and tumbled down on the floor. However, he did not mind that, and gave the necromancer leave to depart; which that worthy did in great haste. Franz was so impatient that he was in his place, in front of the platform, long before the Princess arrived. He could hardly wait for her to put the formal question before he blurted out:
"Your Highness dreamed that you were walking in your garden, and that all the trees and shrubs bore gold and silver leaves."
The Princess shook her head. "A very pretty dream," she said; "but it was not mine." So Franz had to suffer the same punishment as Fritz, and nobody was at all sorry. He was likewise thrust out of the city gate, bawling between his howls for some one to bring him the necromancer. Hans found him there, and tried to comfort him, as he had tried to comfort Fritz, and with about the same result. When Hans had returned to the inn, where he and his mother were staying, he was met with the news that a stranger was waiting to see him. He went in and found the huntsman who had given him the pellet which turned into the crystal ball.
"Hans," said the huntsman, as soon as Hans entered the room, "the unicorn has sent me to you. It's your turn now to try to win the Princess."
Hans turned pale at the thought.
"I would give my life to win her," he said, earnestly, "but I am certain to fail, and then what will my poor mother do? I have no property to be confiscated, and, of course, I shall be sold into slavery."
"Don't talk of failure," said the huntsman cheerily; "the way to success is to forget that there is such a word as failure. Now I'll tell you my plan. The Princess, as you know, or as you very likely don't know, is devoted to curious animals of all kinds. I will change you into a white mouse with a gold claw, and will offer you to the Princess for sale. She has never seen or heard of such a creature as a white mouse with a gold claw before, and will be sure to buy you. Then it will be your fault if matters don't go smoothly with you. You have only to keep your ears open and use your wits. Now, first of all, we must enter you for to-morrow's competition."
Hans longed to try his luck with the Princess, and as this plan seemed a promising one—indeed, it was the only one he could think of—he agreed to try it. However, he determined not to tell his mother anything about the matter, as he knew how terrified she would be at the thought of his failure. The first thing, as the huntsman had said, was for him to present himself to the Princess as candidate for her hand. He accordingly did so, and found her seated on her throne, surrounded by the lords and ladies of her court, glittering in jewels and dressed in magnificent apparel. Hans felt rather shy as he marched up the splendid room, amongst all these grandly dressed people, in his shabby old clothes; but he put as good a face on it as he could, and when he stopped before the throne and looked into the Princess's eyes, all his shyness vanished. He was conscious of nothing but a strong determination to win her for himself, or to perish in the attempt. The court usher announced his name and purpose in a loud tone.
"This is Hans, the charcoal-burner, who has undertaken to tell the Princess her dream to-morrow morning, or to pay the penalty."
When the Princess looked at Hans and saw what a nice, open-faced boy he was, she did all she could to persuade him to give up the attempt. She pointed out to him how many had tried and failed—how little chance there was of his succeeding. She could not bear, she said, to think of his being whipped publicly and sold into slavery. She offered him, if he would withdraw, the important post of general manager of the court menagerie. But neither this offer nor the prayers of the Princess could move Hans.
"Now, that I have seen you face to face, Princess," said he, "I would rather die twenty times over than give up the undertaking."
The Princess was obliged to allow Hans to enter his name for to-morrow's trial, although it made her very unhappy. Her heart told her that he was the one of all her suitors whom she would most wish to succeed; but she felt that he would be certain to fare as the others had done; and so when the formality was over, and Hans had left, she dismissed the court; shut herself up in her room, and said she would be at home to nobody for the rest of the day.
As soon as Hans got back, the huntsman took a cup of water, muttered some strange words over it, and sprinkled Hans with the contents. He was conscious of a curious change taking place in him, and before he could quite make out what it was, he found that he was a white mouse with a gold claw. The huntsman put him in a box and carried him to the palace to sell him to the Princess. When he arrived there the porter refused to admit him.
"No!" he said, "the Princess had given out that she would see no one that day. It was more than his place was worth to admit the stranger." However, by dint of flattering words and a handsome present slipped into his hands, the porter was persuaded to send for one of the Princess's ladies. When she came and saw the white mouse with the gold claw, she said she was sure that her mistress would be so delighted with his beautiful little curiosity that she would pardon having her orders disobeyed for once. Only, the huntsman must remain where he was; she would take the white mouse to the Princess herself. To this the Huntsman consented; and the long and short of it was that the Princess sent him a handsome sum for the mouse; and Hans found himself established as her newest favourite. The Princess was so pleased with her pet that, when she went to bed, she placed him in a cabinet in her room, the door of which she left open—because he was so tame that she had no fear of his attempting to run away. Hans was wondering how he was to find out the Princess's dream in this situation, when his mistress woke up, laughing heartily, and called for her lady in waiting to come to her.
"I've had such a curious dream," she said. "I dreamed that I was married to a man with a golden top-joint to his little finger. I suppose that it was the white mouse with the gold claw which put the idea into my head. But," and here the Princess's voice grew very sad, "how will that poor boy ever guess this dream to-morrow?"
Hans waited impatiently for all to be quiet, then he slipped out of his cabinet, and finding the door shut, ran up the curtain of the window, which was fortunately open, and getting on a rose which clambered up outside the wall, ran down it and made the best of his way to the inn. There he found the huntsman waiting for him, to whom he told all that had taken place, and who in a few seconds changed him back to his own shape.
An enormous concourse of people was assembled next day to see the trial. Very pale and sad the Princess looked as she sat prepared to put the question to Hans. He waited respectfully till she had spoken, and then, without saying a word, held out his hand to her. Her eye fell on the golden top-joint of his little finger. She cried out with delight, and, seizing his hand in hers, turned to the people and said: "Hans has guessed right, and he shall be my husband."
And all the people raised a glad shout, "Long live Prince Hans!"
"Oh!" said the Princess to Hans, "how I wish my brother were here to share our happiness!"
"He is here," said the huntsman, who had thrust his way to the front; and, throwing off his huntsman's disguise, he appeared dressed as a Prince. Then, turning to Hans, he said:
"A mighty magician, the enemy of our family, condemned me, because I would not give him my sister in marriage, to take the form of a unicorn, and to guard the sparkling golden water. Twice every year, for a fortnight at a time, I was allowed to resume my human shape. It was then that I came to your hut in the forest, and gave you the token by which to win your way to the fountain. The spell laid upon me was only to be raised when some one guessed aright my sister's dream, and so won her to wife. Thanks to you, brother Hans, the magician's power is at an end."
Hans and the Princess were married, and after the ceremony the Prince went off to his own kingdom. Hans's mother had a beautiful suite of apartments in the palace assigned to her, and Uncle Stoltz was not forgotten, but was provided for comfortably for life; and they all lived happily ever afterward.
As for Fritz and Franz, they were so selfish and cruel, that there was nothing to be done with them but to send them back into the forest again to burn charcoal; and for all I know they are burning charcoal there still.
Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived together in the same household. One attended to everything, while the other was an indolent fellow, who occupied himself only with eating and drinking. Their harvests were always magnificent; they had cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, bees, and all other things in great abundance.
The elder, who did everything about the estate, said to himself one day:
"Why should I toil for this lazy fellow? It would be better that we should separate. I will work for myself alone, and he can do whatever he pleases." So he said to his brother:
"Brother, it is unjust that I should take charge of all whilst thou wilt aid me in nothing, and thinkest only of eating and drinking. It is better that we should part."
The other tried to turn him from his project, saying:
"Brother, do not do this. We get on so well together. Thou hast all in thy hands—not only what is thine, but what is mine, and thou knowest that I am always contented with what thou doest, and with what thou orderest."
But the elder persisted in his resolution so firmly that the younger was obliged to give up, and said:
"Since it is so I have no ill-will toward thee. Make the division as seemeth good to thee."
The division made, each one ordered his life as he thought good. The indolent brother took a herder for his cattle and horses, a shepherd for his sheep, a goatherd for his goats, a swineherd for his pigs, a keeper for his bees, and said to each of them:
"I confide my goods to thee, and may God watch over thee."
And he continued to live in his house without any more care he had ever done.
The elder on the contrary laboured for his half of the property as much as he had ever done for the common good. He kept his herds himself, having an eye on everything, but in spite of all his care he had ill success on every side.
From day to day everything turned out badly with him, so that at last he became so poor that he had not even a pair of sandals, and was obliged to go barefooted. Then he said to himself:
"I will go to my brother's, and see how the world wags with him."
His way led him across a meadow where a flock of sheep was grazing, and as he drew near he saw that the sheep had no shepherd. Near them, however, a beautiful young girl was seated, spinning a thread of gold.
After having saluted the maiden with a "God protect thee," he asked her whose were the sheep, and she answered:
"To whom I belong, belong the sheep also."
"And who art thou?" he continued.
"I am thy brother's fortune," she answered.
Then the traveller was seized with wrath and envy, and cried out:
"And where is my fortune?"
The maiden answered him: "Ah, she is far from thee."
"Can I find her?" he asked.
She answered: "Thou canst find her—only look for her."
When he had heard these words, and saw that the sheep were so beautiful that nothing finer could be imagined, he did not care to go farther to see the other flocks, but went direct to his brother, who as soon as he had seen him took pity on him, and said, weeping:
"Why hast thou hidden thyself from me for so long a time?"
Then seeing that he was in rags and barefooted he gave him a pair of sandals and some money.
After having remained three days with his brother the poor fellow departed to return home, but once arrived at the house he threw a sack over his shoulders, put a morsel of bread in it, took a stick in his hand, and set out into the world to seek his fortune.
Having travelled a long time he found himself at last in a deep forest where he met a wretched old woman asleep in a thicket. He began to beat the ground with his stick to wake up the old woman, and at last gave her a blow on the back. However, she scarcely moved even then, and half opening her drowsy eyes, said to him:
"Thou mayest thank God that I was asleep, for if I had been awake thou wouldst not have had those sandals."
Then he said to her: "Who art thou then, who wouldst have hindered me from having these sandals?"
The old hag answered him: "I am thy fortune."
Hearing these words he beat his breast, crying: "What! thou art my fortune! May God exterminate thee! Who gave thee to me?"
And the old hag said to him: "It was Destiny."
"Where is Destiny?"
"Go and seek for him," she answered, going to sleep again.
Then he departed and went to seek for Destiny.
After a long, long journey he arrived at last at another wood, and in this wood he found a hermit of whom he asked if he could not give him some news of Destiny?
The hermit answered him: "Climb that mountain, and thou wilt arrive at his castle, but when thou reachest Destiny be careful not to speak to him. Do only what thou seest him do, until he speaks to thee."
The traveller thanked the hermit, took his way up the mountain, and when he had arrived at the castle of Destiny what wonderful things he saw!
The luxury was absolutely royal. There was a crowd of servants, always in motion and doing nothing. As for Destiny, he was supping at a magnificent table. When the stranger saw this he seated himself also at table and ate with the master of the house. After supper Destiny went to bed and the traveller did the same. Toward midnight terrible noise was heard in the castle, and in the midst of the noise a voice crying:
"Destiny, Destiny—so many souls have come into the world to-day. Give them something at thy good pleasure."
And Destiny arose, opened a golden coffer, and threw into the room a shower of shining ducats, saying:
"Such as I am to-day, so shall you be all your lives."
At daybreak the grand castle vanished, and there took its place an ordinary house, but one in which nothing was wanting. When evening came Destiny sat down to supper again, his guest did the same, and no one spoke a word. After supper both went to bed as before.
Toward midnight again commenced the terrible noise in the castle, and in the midst of the tumult a voice crying:
"Destiny, Destiny, so many souls have seen the light to-day. Give them something at thy good pleasure."
Destiny arose and opened a silver coffer, but this time there were no ducats in it, only silver money mixed with a few pieces of gold. Destiny threw this silver upon the ground, saying:
"Such as I am to-day, so shall you be all your lives."
At daybreak the house had vanished, and there appeared in its place another smaller one. So passed each night; each morning the house became smaller until at last it was only a miserable hut. Destiny then took a spade and began to dig up the earth; his guest did the same, and they dug all day long. When evening came Destiny took a crust of hard bread, broke it in two, and gave half to his companion. This was all their supper, and when they had eaten they went to bed.
Toward midnight again commenced the terrible noise, and in the midst of it a voice was heard, crying:
"Destiny, Destiny, so many souls have come into the world this night. Give them something at thy good pleasure."
Destiny arose, opened a coffer, and began to throw out pebbles among which were mixed some small money, saying as he did so:
"Such as I am to-day, so shall you be all your lives."
When morning came the hut was changed again to a grand palace as it had been on the first day. Then for the first time Destiny spoke to his guest, and said to him:
"Why hast thou come to me?"
The traveller then related his miseries in detail, and said that he had come to ask of Destiny himself, why he had given him so evil a fortune.
Destiny answered him:
"Thou didst see that the first night I sowed ducats and what followed thereon. Such as I am on the night when a man is born, such that man will be all his life. Thou wert born on a night of poverty, and thou wilt remain always poor. Thy brother, on the contrary, came into the world in a happy hour, and happy he will remain to the end. But since thou hast taken so much trouble to find me I will tell thee how thou mayst help thyself. Thy brother has a daughter named Miliza, who is as fortunate as her father. Take her for thy wife when thou shalt return to thine own country, and all that thou shalt acquire thereafter, be careful to say belongs to her."
The traveller thanked Destiny many times and departed.
When he had returned to his own country he went straight to his brother, and said to him:
"Brother, give me Miliza. Thou seest that without her I am alone in the world."
And the brother answered: "It pleases me well. Miliza is thine."
Straightway the bridegroom took his brother's daughter to his house, and he became very rich, but he was always careful to say: "All that I have belongs to Miliza."
One day he went into the fields to see his wheat, which was so fine that there was nothing like it in the whole country around. A traveller passed along the way, and said to him:
"Whose is this wheat?"
And the elder brother, without thinking, answered: "It is mine."
But scarcely had he spoken than a spark was seen in the wheat and in an instant it was all on fire. Quickly he ran after the traveller, and cried out:
"Stop, my friend, this wheat is not mine. It belongs to Miliza, my brother's daughter."
The fire was instantly extinguished, and thenceforth the elder brother was happy—thanks to Miliza.
The Queen of the Golden Mines
Once on a time there was a King of Ireland, and he had three sons, Teddy, Billy, and Jack. Teddy and Billy were the two eldest, and they were brave, able boys. But Jack was the youngest, a gauchy, dawnie sort of a lad that was good for nothing only feeding fowls and doing odd turns about the house. When they grew up to be men, Teddy and Billy one day said they'd go away to travel and see the world, for they'd only be good-for-nothing omadhauns if they'd stay here all their lives. Their father said that was good, and so off the both of them started. And that night when they halted from their travelling, who does they see coming up after them, but Jack; for it seems he commenced to think long, when he found them gone, and he was that lonesome that he couldn't stay behind them. And there he was dressed in his old tattered clothes, a spec-tacle for the world, and a disgrace to them; for of course, they were done off with the best of everything—rale gentlemen, as becomed their father's sons. They said to themselves they'd be long sorry to let that picthur with them—for he was a picthur, and no doubt of it—to be an upcast to them wherever they'd go. So before they started on again next mornin' they tied Jack to a millstone, and left him there. That night again, when they went to stop from their travellin', what would you have of it but there was me brave Jack once more, not a hundred parches behind them, and he dragging the millstone after him. Teddy and Billy said this was too bad entirely; and next day, before they started again, they tied another millstone to him, and they said, "Well, you'll not get away from here in a hurry anyhow, boy." So on they went again on their journey, laughing and cracking jokes, and telling passages, to pass the time; but that night again, when they went to stop from their journey, lo! and behold ye, who does they see coming tearing after them but my poor Jack, once more, with the two millstones dragging behind him. Then they were in a quandhary entirely, and they begun to consider what was best to do with him, for they saw there was no holdin' or tyin' of him, or keepin' him back at all, at all, for if they were to tie him to a mountain in the mornin', he'd be afther them with the mountain rattling at his heels again night. So they come to the conclusion that it was best to take Jack with them, and purtend him to be their hired boy, and not their brother at all. Of course, me poor Jack, that was always agreeable, was only too ready to go on these terms; and on the three of them went, afore them, till at length they reached the King of England's castle. When the King of England heard Teddy and Billy was the King of Ireland's two sons, he give them cead mile failte, was plaised and proud to see them, ordhered them to be made much of, then opened his hall door, an' asked in the nobility an' genthry of the whole counthry-side to a big dinner and ball that he gave in their honour. But what do you have of it, but in the middle of the ball doesn't Teddy have a fallout with the King of England's son, and sthruck him, and then that was the play! The hubbub and hooroosh got up, and the King ordhered the ball to be stopped, and had Teddy taken pris'ner, and Billy and Jack ordhered away out of the kingdom. Billy and Jack went away, vexed in their hearts at leaving Teddy in jail, and they travelled away till they came to France, and the King of France's castle. Here, when the King of France heard that Billy, the King of Ireland's son, had come to see him, he went out and welcomed him, an' asked in himself and Jack to come in and make a visit with him. And, like the King of England, he thought he couldn't make too much of the King of Ireland's sons, and threw open his hall door and asked in the whole nobility and clergy and genthry of all the counthry-side into a great dinner and ball given in Billy's honour. But lo! and behould ye, doesn't it turn up at this ball, too, that Billy had a squabble with the King of France's son and struck him, and the ball was stopped by the King's ordhers, and the people sent home, and Billy taken prisoner, and there was poor Jack now left all alone. The King of France, taking pity on Jack, employed him as a boy. And Jack was getting along very well at Court, and the king and him used to have very great yarns together entirely. At length a great war broke out betwixt France and Germany; and the King of France was in great trouble, for the Germans were slaughtering and conquering all before them. Says Jack, says he, to the King one day, "I wish I had only half a rajimint of your men, and you'd see what I would do." Instead of this the King gave him a whole army, and in less nor three days there wasn't a German alive in the whole kingdom of France. It was the king was the thankful man to Jack for this good action, and said he never could forget it to him. After that Jack got into great favour at court, and used to have long chats with the Queen herself. But Jack soon found that he never could come into the Queen's presence that he didn't put her in tears. He asked her one day what was the meaning of this, and she told him that it was because she never looked on him that he didn't put her in mind of her infant son that had, twelve months before, been carried away by the Queen of the Golden Mines, and who she had never heard tale or tidings of from that day to this.
[Footnote 3: Hundred thousand welcomes.]
"Well, be this and be that," says Jack, says he, "but I'm not the man to leave ye in your trouble if I can help it; and be this and be that over again," says he, "but I won't sleep two nights in the one bed, or eat two meals' meat in the one house, till I find out the Queen of the Golden Mines' Castle, and fetch back your infant son to ye—or else I 'll not come back livin'."
"Ah," says the Queen, "that would never do!" and "Ah," says the King, "that would never do at all, at all!" They pointed out and showed to him how a hundred great knights had gone on the same errand before him, and not one of them ever come back livin', and there was no use in him throwin' away his life, for they couldn't afford to lose him. But it was all no use; Jack was bound on going, and go he would. So, the very next morning he was up at cock-crow, and afther leavin' good-bye with the whole of them, and leavin' the King and the Queen in tears, he started on his journey. And he travelled away afore him, inquiring his way to the Castle of the Queen of the Golden Mines; and he travelled and tramped for many a weary day, and for many a weary week, and for many a weary month; till at last, when it was drawing on twelve months from the day he left the Castle of the King of France, one day tor'st evening he was travelling through a thick wood, when he fell in with an old man, resting, with a great bundle of sticks by his side; and "Me poor old man," says Jack, says he, "that's a mighty great load entirely for a poor man of your years to be carryin'. Sure, if ye'll allow me, I'll just take them with me for ye, as far as you're goin'."
"Blissin's on ye!" says the ould man; "an' an ould man's blissin' atop of that; an' thanky."
"Nobbut, thanky, yerself, for your good wishes," says Jack, says he, throwin' the bundle of sticks on his shoulder, an' marchin' on by the ould man's side. And they thravelled away through the wood till they come at last to the ould man's cabin. And the ould man axed Jack to come in and put up with him for the night, and such poor accommodations as he had, Jack was heartily welcome to them. Jack thanked him and went in and put up for the night with him, and in the morning Jack told the ould man the arrand he was on and axed if he'd diract him on his way to the Queen of the Golden Mines' Castle. Then the ould man took out Jack, and showed him a copper castle glancing in the sun, on a hill opposite, and told him that was his journey's end.
"But, me poor man," says he, "I would strongly advise ye not to go next or near it. A hundred knights went there afore you on the selfsame errand, and their heads are now stuck on a hundred spears right afore the castle; for there's a fiery dragon guards it that makes short work of the best of them."
But seeing Jack wasn't to be persuaded off his entherprise nohow, he took him in and gave him a sword that carried ten men's strength in it along with that of the man that wielded it. And he told Jack, if he was alive again' night, and not killed by the dhragon, to come back to his cabin. Jack thanked him for the sword, and promised this, and then he set out for the castle. But lo! and behold ye, no sooner did Jack come anear the castle than a terrible great monsther of a dhragon entirely, the wildest ever Jack seen or heard tell of, come out from the castle, and he opened his mouth as wide as the world from side to side, and let out a roar that started the old gray eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland. Poor Jack thrimbled from head to foot—and small wonder he did—but, not a bit daunted, he went on to meet the dhragon, and no sooner were they met than he to it and the dhragon to it, and they fought and sthrove long and hard, the wildest fight by far that poor Jack ever entered into, and they fought that way from early mornin' till the sun went down, at one time Jack seemin' to be gettin' the betther of the dhragon, and the next minute the dhragon gettin' the betther of Jack; and when the sun went down they called a truce of peace till next day; and Jack dragged himself back to the cabin in small hopes of being able to meet the dhragon more, for he was covered over with wounds from head to foot. But when he got to the cabin the ould man welcomed him back alive, and he took down a little bottle of ointment and rubbed it over Jack, and no sooner did he rub it over him than Jack's wounds were all healed as well as ever again. And Jack went out a new man the next mornin' to give the dhragon another try for it this day. And just as on the day afore the fiery dhragon come down the hill meeting poor Jack, and the dhragon opened his mouth as wide as the world, and gave a roar that shook the nails on the toes of the great gray eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland, and then he fell on Jack, and Jack fell on him, and the dhragon to it, and Jack to it; and the dhragon gave Jack his fill, and Jack gave the dhragon his fill; and if they fought hard the day afore they fought double as hard this day, and the dhragon put very sore on Jack entirely till the sun went down. Then again they agreed on a truce of peace till the next mornin', and Jack dragged himself back as best he could to the cabin again, all covered over with cuts and bruises, and streaming down with blood. And when he came there the ould man took down a little bottle of ointment and rubbed Jack over with it, and he was healed as well as ever again. Next morning Jack was up quite fresh and ready for another day's battling, and the ould man told Jack that, win or lose, this day was like to end the battle. And he said if Jack happened (as God send) to come off victorious, he was to go into the castle and there he would find a great number of beautiful virgins running about in great confusion to prevent Jack from discovering their mistress the Queen of the Golden Mines, and every one of them axing, "Is it me ye want? Is it me ye want?" But he told Jack he was to heed none of them, but press through room after room till he come to the sixth room, and there he would find the Queen herself asleep, with the little child by her side. So Jack went meeting the dhragon this third day again, and the dhragon come meeting Jack. And he opened his mouth as wide as the world, and let a roar that rattled the eyes in the sockets of the great gray eagle on top of Croaghpathrick mountain at home in Ireland, and then fell on Jack, and Jack fell on him; and he to it, and Jack to it, and both of them to it; and if the fight was wild and terrible the first two days it was ten times wilder and terribler this day. And harder and harder it was getting the more they warmed to the work; and one time it was Jack was getting the better of the dhragon, and the next time it was the dhragon was getting the better of poor Jack; and at last coming on tor'st night the dhragon was putting very hard on Jack entirely, and it was very nearly being all over with him, when he stepped back, and gathering all his strength mounted into the air with one spring, and come down atop of the dhragon's head, and struck his sword into his heart, leaving him over dead. Then Jack went into the castle, and no sooner did he go in than there was lots of the most beautiful virgins, running in great commotion, and asking Jack, "Is it me ye want?" "Is it me ye want?" But Jack never heeded thim till he come into the sixth room, where he saw the beautiful Queen of the Golden Mines asleep, with the Queen of France's child asleep beside her. Jack bent over her and gave her one kiss, for she was a lovely picthur. Then he took up the child in his arms, and picking up a beautiful garter all glancing with diamonds, that was lying by the Queen's bedside, and taking with him a loaf of bread that could never be eaten out, a bottle of wine that could never be drunk out, and a purse that could never be emptied, he started away. He stopped that night with the ould man, who took down his bottle of ointment and healed up all the wounds Jack got that day. In the morning Jack started for France, leaving with the ould man to keep till the Queen of the Golden Mines would call for it, the purse that never could be emptied. When Jack reached France, and presented back to the Queen her darling child, that was the rejoicement and the joy! There was a great faist given, and at the faist Jack said he had a little wondher he fetched with him, that he'd like to show; and he produced his bottle, and sent it round the prences, and nobility, and genthry that were all assembled at the faist, and axed them all to drink the Queen's health out of it. This they all did; and lo! and behold ye, when they had finished the bottle was as full as when they commenced; and they all said that bate all ever they knew or heerd tell of; and the King said it bate all ever he knew or heerd tell of, too, and that the same bottle would be of mighty great sarvice to him, to keep his troops in drink when he'd go to war, and axed Jack on what tarms he'd part with it. Jack said he couldn't part with it entirely, as it wasn't his own, but if the King relaised his brother he 'd leave the bottle with him till such times as the Queen of the Golden Mines might call for it. The Queen agreed to this. Jack's brother was relaised, and himself and Jack started off for England. When they were come there the King of England gave a great faist in their honour, too, and at this faist Jack said he 'd like to show them a little wonder he fetched with him, and he produced the loaf, and axed the King to divide all round. And the King cut off the loaf, and divided all round, over all the prences and nobility and gentry that was there; and when he had finished they were all lost in wondherment, for the loaf was still as big as when the King commenced to cut. The King said that would be the grand loaf for feeding his troops whenever he went to war, and axed Jack what would he take to part with it. Jack said the loaf wasn't his to part with, but if the King relaised his brother out of prison he'd give him the loaf till such times as the Queen of the Golden Mines might call for it. The King agreed to this, and relaised Jack's other brother, and then the three of them started for home together. And when they were come near home the two older brothers agreed that Jack, when he'd tell his story, would disgrace them, and they'd put him to death. But Jack agreed if they'd let him live he would go away and push his fortune, and never go back near home. They let him live on these conditions, and they pushed on home, where they were received with great welcomes, and told mortial great things entirely of all the great things they done while they were away. Jack come to the castle in disguise and got hired as a boy and lived there.
The Queen of the Golden Mines, when she woke up and learned of the young gentleman that had killed the dhragon, and carried off the child and the other things, and kissed her, said he must be a fine fellow entirely, and she would never marry another man if she couldn't find him out. She got no rest till she started, herself and her virgins, and away to find out Jack. She first come to the old man, where she got her purse, and he directed her to the King of France. When she come to the Court of the King of France she got her bottle, and he said Jack went from there to go to see the King of England. From the King of England she got her loaf, and he diracted her to Ireland, telling her that Jack was no other than the King of Ireland's son. She lost no time then reaching the Court of the King of Ireland, where she demanded his son who had killed the fiery dhragon. The King sent out his eldest son, and he said it was him that had killed the fiery dhragon, and she asked him for tokens, but he could give none, so she said he wasn't the man she wanted. Then the King's second son come out and said it was him killed the fiery dhragon. But he couldn't show her no tokens either, so he wouldn't do. Then the King said he had no other son, but a good-for-nothing droich who went away somewhere and never come back; but that it wasn't him anyhow, for he couldn't kill a cockroach. She said she'd have to see him, and converse with him, or otherwise she wouldn't go away till she'd pull down his castle. Then the whole house was upside down, and they didn't know what to do. And Jack, who was doing something about the yards axed what it was all about; and they told him, and he axed to have a minute's convarsing with her. But they all laughed at him; and one gave him a knock, and another gave him a push, and another gave him a kick. And Jack never minded them one bit, but went out and said it was him that kilt the fiery dhragon. They all set up another big roar of a laugh at this. Then the Queen asked him to show his tokens, and Jack fetched from his pocket the beautiful garter, all shining with jewels, and held it up, and the Queen came and threw her arms about Jack's neck and kissed him, and said he was the brave man she'd marry, and no other. And me brave Jack, to the astonishment of them all, confessed who he was, and got married to her, and was ever afther the King of the Golden Mines.
Once upon a time there was a deserter who was three times faithless to his colours. Twice had he undergone the punishment due to desertion; the third time he knew he was face to face with death. So he resolved to flee by night and hide himself by day in some ditch or thicket, for he was afraid that in the daylight he might be recognized and arrested.
[Footnote 4: From "The Russian Grandmother's Wonder Tales." Copyright, 1906, by Charles Scribner's Sons.]
One night, as he was hastening onward, he saw a glimmer of light in the distance, and thought to himself, "I will go toward that light; perhaps it will somehow help me out of my trouble."
When, however, he came up to that light all he saw was an opening just wide enough for him to creep into. The moment he was inside thick darkness fell upon him. He could find his way neither in nor out; but on groping around he at last came upon a staircase, up which he climbed and found himself in a passage-way. Through this passage-way he went for a long, long time, until at last he stumbled upon a door. He opened the door and stepped into a room, but it was pitch dark there too; so he groped all about until at last he stumbled upon another door and entered another room.
So on he went through eleven rooms, and finally reached the twelfth, where at last he found a lighted candle upon a table. The room was beautifully fitted up, and he thought within himself, "Come what come may, I shall make myself at home in this room."
So he stretched himself upon a couch. He lay there for a while lost in thought, when, lo and behold! the table began to lay itself. When the cloth was spread, all sorts of good cheer began to appear upon it.
"Come what come may," he thought to himself again, "I am hungry." So he fell to and ate to his heart's content. When he had eaten all that he could swallow he threw himself upon the couch again and began to consider.
Suddenly three women entered, clothed entirely in black. One seated herself at the piano, while the two others danced. Tired as he was, when he saw this he arose and skipped about with them. After this entertainment they began to talk with him, speaking of one thing and another, and finally came round to the question how he might break the spell that bound them.
They told him the very way and manner of doing it, saying that he had nothing more nor less to do than to pass the night in a certain room which they would show him. A ghost would come there and pester him with all sorts of questions—who he was, how he had come there, and other things. But he must not say a mortal word to all these questions, not though the ghost tormented him in all sorts of ways; if he could only hold out in silence the ghost would vanish, and then he would feel not the least pain from all the torments he had been enduring.
Our deserter fell in with the proposition without further words, and the ladies escorted him, with the sound of music, to the fateful room and left him there alone. When they were gone he undressed himself, bolted the door securely, and lay down in bed. But he could not sleep, for his head throbbed with expectation of what was about to happen.
At eleven o'clock a sudden knock was heard at the door. He dared not make a sound, for he was firmly resolved to ransom himself, the ladies, and the enchanted castle; so he kept as still as a mouse. Again the knocking came, but he made no answer. At the third knock the door flew open, and in walked a gigantic form all clothed in flames.
The giant placed himself at the bedside and began to ask the man who he was and why he had come; but the deserter never uttered a word. Then the giant seized him, threw him upon the floor, and began to torment him; but no sound passed the sufferer's lips. At the stroke of twelve the ghost departed, with the words:
"Though you wouldn't tell to-day, you will to-morrow, when we all three come."
He spoke, the door flew open, closed again, and he was gone. The young man arose from the floor, lay down upon his bed, and fell sweetly asleep, without feeling the least harm.
Next morning came the three ladies, all in white up to their knees, and led him, with sound of music, back to the room where he had been on the previous day. They placed a chair for him and set a delicious breakfast before him. When he had plentifully breakfasted he fell asleep and snored till evening.
When he awoke he asked how late it was. The ladies replied that it was nine o'clock; and they gave him a good supper and led him again to the same room to sleep.
At the stroke of eleven some one knocked at the door. He made no sound, but at the third knock the door flew open and three ghosts entered. The one who had been there the night before asked him the same questions as before, but received no better answer. Then one of them seized him and flung him into one corner, and another into another, and so they tossed him about until the poor fellow lay helpless against the wall, all covered with blood.
When the clock struck twelve the spokesman said to him, "Though you won't answer to-night, you will to-morrow, when we all four come." With these words they disappeared.
He again lifted himself up, lay down upon his bed, and felt no harm. In the morning the three ladies came, all in white up to their girdles, and escorted him, to the sound of music, into the other room, where, after breakfast, he again fell asleep.
At night they again escorted him to his chamber to sleep. When they were gone he did not go to bed as usual, but began to consider how he might avoid the fearful torment in store for him. First he looked out at a window, but his gaze fell upon a frightful abyss enclosed by rocky precipices. He went to the second window, but there it was no better, but seemed to be even more fearful. So nothing was left him but to heap all the furniture of the room before the door, in hope thus to escape his tormentors. But he soon gave up this hope, for about midnight the knocking began. He made no answer, but at the third knock the door flew open and all the furniture returned to its own place.
The ghost who had before questioned him now began to repeat his questions, commanding him to tell who he was and how he came there; but the young man was not to be made to speak. Then the spokesman ordered one of his comrades to go below and bring up an anvil and four hammers, and when these had been brought, one of the ghosts blew up a fire and threw the young man upon it. When he was heated to a glow they laid him upon the anvil and beat him with hammers until he was as flat as paper. But with all this he was not to be forced to speak.
The time was up and the ghosts must go. Before they went they told him that he and all around him were blessed; and then the door flew open and they vanished. He again arose, laid himself upon the bed, and sank at once into slumber.
Next morning the three ladies, all in white from head to foot, came, with the sound of music, to thank him for ransoming them, and they gave him to choose among them for a wife. Now the youngest of them had grown nearest his heart, and he declared himself ready to marry her, not at once, but later, for first he wished to see something of the world.
This being the case, they gave him a ham, a wooden flask of wine, a loaf of bread, three dogs, and a pipe which hung by a golden chain, and they told him that these dogs would come to his aid in every time of need; he had only to call them by means of his pipe. And should he be tired, he had only to seat himself upon one of them. So he took all these things and went forth to see the world.
One day when he was travelling through a forest he arrived at a castle and turned aside to enter. But the steps which led up were of such a kind that he could not climb them; so he seated himself upon one of his dogs and the animal carried him up. As he passed through the entrance he peeped through a window and saw a Tiger and his wife, who was combing his hair.
He went in to where they were, and the Tiger at once arose, led him from room to room, and showed him many wonderful things. Everything pleased the young man, except that the Tiger's wife kept the dogs shut up in a room apart.
When he entered the fourth room he went around it, gazing upon the many statues and paintings; and while thus doing he stepped upon a board which gave way and let him fall into a cellar where it was as dark as pitch. He groped around for a way of escape, but a damp, heavy wind seemed to sweep all around him, and first he would wound his hand and then his foot. So he thought to himself, "You won't come safely out of this!"
After a while the Tiger let himself down by a rope, butcher-knife in hand, intending to kill him. The young man begged for a half-hour's respite, that he might do penance for his sins. This was granted, but the time soon flew by, and the Tiger was already whetting his knife to stab him, when the young man sprang aside, and his hand met the chain upon which the pipe was hanging. He blew upon it, and quick as thought the dogs were on the spot. He set them upon the Tiger, but as they fell upon him the Tiger begged humbly for life, promising that his wife would draw him and his dogs up out of the cellar.
So it came to pass; but they were no sooner out than he again set the dogs upon the Tiger, who again began to beg, promising to give him a salve which had the power of fastening against the wall any one upon whose back it was rubbed, and keeping him there fast and firm until he chose to let him go.
The youth took the salve and went on farther, till he reached a city which was all shrouded in mourning. He entered and asked why every one was in mourning, and received answer that a fearful Dragon was to come that day and carry off the Emperor's daughter.
At this he laughed heartily, and said, "That may easily be helped; just go and announce to the Emperor that I am ready to ransom the Princess, if it is agreeable to him." This was announced, and the Emperor received him into the castle with great joy.
As the appointed time for the Dragon's coming had arrived, the young man placed himself in readiness. At the stroke of twelve the Dragon suddenly appeared, driving four horses. The young man was waiting for him, and as soon as the Dragon had taken the Princess by the hand to carry her off he spread the salve upon his back, pressed him against the wall, and set his dogs upon him. At the same time he belaboured him with the butt-end of his musket, till the Dragon was quite exhausted and began to beg off, promising to give a written agreement never again to molest the Princess. When he had written the paper in his own blood and signed it he vanished through the window.
Then the Emperor knew not what to do for joy. He offered his daughter to the soldier to wife, or, if he liked it better, the half of his kingdom. But the young man declined both offers and returned to his own ladies, where he married the youngest with the greatest festivities. As they came out of church to go to their house a new city sprang up along the roadside. The hilarity was great. I myself was among the guests, and after I had made merry to my heart's content I set out upon the way home to Varazdin.
The Two Melons
An Honest and poor old woman was washing clothes at a pool, when a bird that a hunter had disabled by a shot in the wing, fell down into the water before her. She gently took up the bird, carried it home with her, dressed its wound, and fed it until it was well, when it soared away. Some days later it returned, put before her an oval seed, and departed again. The woman planted the seed in her yard and when it came up she recognized the leaf as that of a melon. She made a trellis for it, and gradually a fruit formed on it, and grew to great size.
Toward the end of the year, the old dame was unable to pay her debts, and her poverty so weighed upon her that she became ill. Sitting one day at her door, feverish and tired, she saw that the melon was ripe, and looked luscious; so she determined to try its unknown quality. Taking a knife, she severed the melon from its stalk, and was surprised to hear it chink in her hands. On cutting it in two, she found it full of silver and gold pieces, with which she paid her debts and bought supplies for many days.
Among her neighbours was a busybody who craftily found out how the old woman had so suddenly become rich. Thinking there was no good reason why she should not herself be equally fortunate, she washed clothes at the pool, keeping a sharp lookout for birds until she managed to hit and maim one of a flock that was flitting over the water. She then took the disabled bird home, and treated it with care till its wing healed and it flew away. Shortly afterward it came back with a seed in its beak, laid it before her, and again took flight. The woman quickly planted the seed, saw it come up and spread its leaves, made a trellis for it, and had the gratification of seeing a melon form on its stalk. In prospect of her future wealth, she ate rich food, bought fine garments, and got so deeply into debt that, before the end of the year, she was harried by duns. But the melon grew apace, and she was delighted to find that, as it ripened, it became of vast size, and that when she shook it there was a great rattling inside. At the end of the year she cut it down, and divided it, expecting it to be a coffer of coins; but there crawled out of it two old, lame, hungry beggars, who told her they would remain and eat at her table as long as they lived.
The Iron Casket
In Bagdad, in the little lane by the Golden Bridge, lived, ages ago, a merchant named Kalif. He was a quiet, retiring man, who sat early and late in his little shop, and went but once a year to Mosul or Shiraz, where he bought embroidered robes in exchange for attar of roses.
On one of these journeys, chancing to have fallen a little in the rear of his caravan, he heard roarings and trampling of horse's hoofs in the thicket close by the roadside. Drawing his sword, which he wore on account of thieves, he entered the thicket. On a little green, surrounded by trees, he saw a horseman in a light blue mantle and a turban fastened by a flashing diamond. The horse, an Arab of purest blood, seemed to have lost its senses. Rearing upright with a piercing neigh, it struggled vainly to dislodge an enormous panther, which had fixed its great claws in its flanks. The rider had lost all control over it; blood and foam poured from its mouth and nostrils. Kalif sprang boldly out, with a mighty stroke split the panther's skull, and, flinging away his sword, ran to the horse's head, thereby enabling the rider to dismount. Having calmed the trembling animal, the horseman begged his rescuer to follow him.
"I had lost my way in the chase," he said, "and should have fallen a victim to the panther, if Allah had not sent you to my aid. I will reward you well for your bravery. Come! let us seek my companions; there, behind that wood, my camp must be."
"I did what any other would have done in my place," answered Kalif simply, "and expect no reward. But if you so will it, I will accompany you to your tents."
The stranger took his horse by the rein, and walked in silence at the merchant's side till they arrived at an opening in the trees. Here, surrounded by several smaller ones, stood one large tent of purple linen. A number of richly clad men threw themselves on their faces before the new-comer. Then Kalif knew whom he had saved: it was the Shah himself. He was about to fall at his feet, but the Shah seized his hand and led him into the tent. Inside, standing on five stools, were five caskets, the first of gold set with jewels, the second of gold alone, the third silver, the fourth copper, and the fifth of iron.
"Choose one of these caskets," said the Shah.
Kalif hesitated. At length he said:
"What I did is not worthy of any reward, but if you will it, O King of Kings, I will take one of these caskets to remind me of the day when my eyes were permitted to behold the Light of Asia."
He stooped and took the iron casket.
The Shah started. "Stranger," he said, "your modesty has met with its own reward. You have chosen the most valuable casket; for, look! the others are empty, but this one contains two jewels which possess the magic gift of bestowing undreamed-of power to their owner." He raised the lid and showed the wondering Kalif the two stones. "This one," he said, "is a lapis lazuli. Whosoever winds it in the folds of his turban, to him everything is known that has happened since the world began, and no secret can be hidden from him. But this stone," and he took a diamond the size of a dove's egg from the casket, "this stone brings all the riches he can think of to its owner. He has but to rub the stone and repeat his wish aloud." He replaced the stones in the casket, closed the lid, and handed it to the merchant, who thanked the Shah, hid the treasure in his robes, and hastened to rejoin his caravan.
Once again in his own house he often looked at the princely gift, and one day as he was rubbing the lid he noticed an inscription upon it, that had hitherto been unseen. It ran:—
"'Tis Allah's will that he who cherishes The precious gift that never perishes. Shall make the East to bend as low As palms that in the whirlwind blow."
Kalif never spoke of his adventure in the Kalaat Mountains, neither could he ever make up his mind to test the virtue of the stones, being a frugal man on the one hand, and unwilling to surpass his neighbours in wisdom on the other. But at length the news of the Shah's rescue by the merchant reached even Bagdad, together with the account of the Royal reward, and people jostled one another to call on the merchant and see with their own eyes the wonderful casket. In consequence Kalif had more customers in one day than he generally had in ten years, and his daily receipts testified to the worth of the casket. For many years he enjoyed the reward of his bravery, and at his death Ali Haitam, the eldest son, proposed that they should draw lots for the magic stones. He had great ideas of his own cleverness, and hoped from the bottom of his heart to win the lapis lazuli. Ali Hassuf, the second son, whose sole failing was insatiable greed, was quite agreeable, though in secret he was revolving in his own mind how to obtain the diamond in case it fell into the hands of the youngest son. But just as they were about to draw, Abdul Kassim, the youngest son, said: "Dear brothers, we are three, and there are but two stones. It would be better, therefore, for one to renounce his claim in order that no dispute may arise in our hitherto peace-loving family. I am the youngest, and therefore can have least claim on the stones. Throw to decide which stone shall fall to each. I resign!"
The other two were delighted and, as it happened, each got the stone he desired.
"But in order that I may have a keepsake of my dear father," continued Abdul Kassim, "permit me to take home the casket. It will be of no use to you, since you have divided the contents."
Ali Hassuf hesitated at first, but finally agreed to Kassim's wish.
The three brothers left the empty house, and went each to seek his fortune in his own way.
Ali Haitam bought a piece of muslin, folded it into a turban, sewed the lapis lazuli inside, and fixed it firmly on his head. Then he went to the bazaar and waited for an influx of wisdom, And see! The power of the stone set to work and his mind was filled with knowledge! He knew the origin of all things, and his eyes could see through walls five feet thick! He passed the Caliph's palace, and he could see that in the recesses of the cellars were hidden 9,000 sacks of gold, and that Fatma, the daughter of the Caliph, was the most lovely maiden in the East; and an idea occurred to him that dazzled him. "How would it be," he thought, "if I placed my wisdom at the Caliph's disposal, became his first adviser, and finally married the lovely Fatma?" But together with this dream came the longing to display to an admiring crowd some proofs of his wisdom.
He hurried back to the bazaar, mounted the highest steps at the gates, and cried: "You people of Bagdad, who believe that the sun moves round the earth, you are ignorant fools and sons of fools! Hear now what I preach to you. The sun stands still, but the earth moves!"
He intended to continue, but the cries of the bystanders interrupted him.
"Ali Haitam has gone mad," they cried; "listen to the nonsense he is talking. Come, let us hold him head first under the lion's mouth at the spring; that will restore him to reason!"
And one, a fruit dealer, took an orange, and crying, "Ali Haitam is right, the sun moves just as little as this orange!" flung the orange at the philosopher on the steps. The juicy fruit knocked the turban from Ali's head. He stooped to regain it, but in vain. The fruit dealer's throw was the signal for a general onslaught, so that he was obliged to take to his heels and fly for home. Dusty and panting he reached his hut, deeply grieved at the loss of his precious stone, and furious at the stupidity of the people, who showed so little understanding of the first principles of science.
The second brother started more cautiously. Since he had but seldom been farther than the end of the narrow street by the Golden Bridge, he was not in a position to think of anything very precious to wish for; he therefore first visited the bazaar and asked the price of everything he saw. At last he found something that, on account of its high price, made a great impression on him. It was a Turkish sword that a cunning jeweller had studded thickly with diamonds on handle and sheath. The dealer asked fifteen hundred golden coins for it, and the bystanders stared with open eyes at the man who dared to bargain for such costly possessions. Just as Ali Hassuf was weighing the precious sword in his hand, a palanquin was borne through the crowd. He turned, and through the drawn curtains caught sight of a maiden of wondrous beauty. When he heard that she was the Caliph's daughter, the desire awoke in his soul to marry this lovely creature, and it seemed to him not unlikely that the Caliph would give his daughter to a man of such note as he would become as the possessor of the magic diamond. He decided to buy the sword, and, armed with the same, to visit the Caliph the very next day.
"I shall come again the very first thing to-morrow morning," he said to the dealer. "I have not quite enough money with me now, but I shall procure it this evening. I had quite expected," he added boastingly, "that the sword would be expensive."
He turned and went home, where he saddled the thin ass and hung across its back two large panniers. When it grew dark he softly drove the beast through the yard and led it out into the desert. For about an hour he walked, and in imagination saw himself in possession of all the glories the talisman would bring him. He had not noticed that he was followed by three dark forms, who had never lost sight of him since his visit to the bazaar. He halted by a group of stunted palms, spread out a large cloth, and with trembling fingers began to rub the diamond, crying at the same time, "Spirit of the Stone! send me at once twenty shekels of golden coins!" He waited a moment, and listened in the darkness, thinking he heard whispering voices. But as all was silent he repeated his wish for the second and third time. He heard a noise as of the falling of soft, heavy weights, and, on stooping, found twenty well-filled sacks. He opened one, and felt inside. And, truly! it was really gold in bright new coins! With feverish haste he slung the sacks on the ass's back, and turned its head homeward. Suddenly he heard once more the same mysterious whisperings, this time in his immediate neighbourhood. He stood still and listened with bated breath. He felt himself seized by heavy hands and thrown to the ground, and saw another form seize the ass. Two men with blackened faces tore off his turban and robe and left him lying half-naked by the roadside, after having warned him to keep quiet as to this attack unless he wished to lose his life. Trembling with fright and rage, he saw the robbers disappear with his ass in the direction of the mountain. What pained him most was the loss of his diamond, which he had concealed in his robe. He reached home, where he lay hidden for weeks, too ashamed to show himself in the streets or at the bazaar. But once as he sat on the Golden Bridge fishing, to try and provide himself with a frugal meal, the weapon-dealer passed him by, and said: "Well, Ali Hassuf, when are you coming for your sword?"
But sword and Princess were forever lost to Ali Hassuf.
In the meantime, as the two elder brothers were mourning their losses, Abdul Kassim, the youngest, sat at home in his little house by the gardens, thinking with regret of his father, and wondering what he should do to earn himself his daily bread. Before him, on a little stool, stood the iron casket. There came a knock at the door, and Micha ben Jahzeel, the Jew, who had lent him money a month or two ago, walked in. Micha looked grave and said, "Abdul Kassim, times are bad, and ready money gets scarcer and scarcer. You know I lent you ten golden coins, and I have come to ask"—his eyes fell on the casket and he started, but collecting himself, went on: "I have come to tell you that I am not in an immediate hurry for the return of the loan. If you like you can keep it, or, as it is hardly worth mentioning, keep it for some months, or even years if you like. I only wanted to tell you you needn't trouble about it, there is no hurry at all." He bowed low to his debtor and withdrew.
Abdul Kassim marvelled at the change in the Jew's manner, but as he thought of the looks he had cast at the casket he couldn't help smiling.
On the same evening came his neighbour, the clothes dealer, who had not visited him for years, "Dear friend," he said, and placed a bundle on the floor before Kassim, "I have come to entreat your pardon that my horse should have splashed your robe with mud the other day; he is a young thing, and is not yet properly broken. I have brought you a new robe to replace it, which I hope will please you." Then he withdrew. The young man could not recollect having been splashed by his neighbour's horse, still less could he account for the generosity of one who was celebrated for his meanness, in presenting him with such an elaborately embroidered robe.
Next morning, just as he had put on his new robe, a distant relation arrived, bringing a magnificently caparisoned horse.
"Dear cousin," he said—formerly he had not even noticed him—"your appearance grieves me. I feared you were giving way too much to grief at the loss of your father, and it would give me great pleasure to cheer you a little. I have ventured to bring you this horse, which is overcrowding my stable; do me the favour to accept this little gift!"
Abdul Kassim would have refused, but the cousin had hurried away. There he stood, holding the beautiful animal by the bridle. He could not resist the temptation to mount him. He swung himself into the saddle and rode into the town. Every one bowed to him, and many stood still, saying: "There, I told you so! Abdul Kassim was always the favorite son, and he has inherited the casket!"
Next morning, as the barber sharpened his razor and began to shave the Caliph, the latter asked him: "Well, Harmos, what are my subjects talking about just now?"
The barber bowed to the ground and said: "What should they speak of, O King of the Faithful, if not of your goodness and wisdom?"
"Of your idiocy, very likely," shouted the Caliph, bored by the eternal flatteries of the barber. "Tell me, what are the people talking about?"
"They talk," began Harmos hesitatingly; "they talk of the luck of your servant, Abdul Kassim, whom they call the wisest and richest of your subjects."
"Abdul Kassim? I don't even know his name," said the Caliph.
"He is the son and heir of Kalif," continued the barber, more courageously; "the same Kalif whom the Shah once rewarded with a magic casket."
He related at length all about the magic stones. The Caliph listened attentively, dismissed the barber, and sent a message to the Grand Vizier to come at once. The Vizier came and confirmed the barber's tale. "Abdul Kassim," he said, "knows everything that goes on in the world, and whenever he has a wish, all he has to do to fulfil it is to rub the diamond and say what he wants."
The Caliph grew serious, "Do you think, Vizier, that this man could usurp my throne? How would it be if I gave him a palace and raised him to be the husband of my daughter?"
The Grand Vizier agreed to the proposal of his ruler, and undertook himself to convey to the astounded Abdul Kassim the tidings that the Commander of the Faithful had given him a palace and awaited his visit.
The same evening the new favourite of the Caliph packed all his few belongings on the horse's back, took the iron casket under his arm and, amid the cheers of the crowd, entered the palace.
A troop of negroes received him and threw themselves at his feet. An especially gorgeously arrayed slave led him into a room, where a banquet awaited him. Abdul Kassim had never fared so well in his life. But he did not forget to praise Allah for his goodness. Next morning he put on his gorgeous robe, bound on the magnificent sword he found in the great hall, and rode, accompanied by the negroes, to visit the Caliph.
The Commander of the Faithful sat on the throne and awaited his subject, who, when he appeared, was about to throw himself in the dust at the ruler's feet, but the Caliph descended the three steps of the throne, and took the young man's hand.
"Are you Abdul Kassim," he said, "son of Kalif, the merchant who lived by the Golden Bridge?"
"I am he, Caliph," answered Abdul; "permit me to express my thanks for the palace with which you have endowed your most humble servant."
"I have heard much good of you," said the Caliph, when he had ordered his suite to retire; "and pray you to show me the magic jewels that help you to such power and wisdom."
"Of which jewels are you speaking?" asked Abdul Kassim, amazed.
"Well," smiled the Caliph, "which jewels should I mean but those you have inherited from your father?"
The young man stared. So the Caliph, too, took him for the possessor of the magic stones? Without reserve he confessed that, to avoid disputes he had voluntarily retired and left the stones to his brothers.
"But," said the Caliph, "Micha ben Jahzeel, the Jew, saw the casket in your house!"
"The casket he may have seen," answered Abdul Kassim; "I begged it of my brothers in memory of my father."
The Caliph seemed still in doubt. He sent a slave to Abdul Kassim's palace to bring the casket. The messenger brought it, gave it to the Caliph, and retired. The Caliph opened the lid and looked inside. It was in truth empty! His gaze fell on the inscription:—
"'Tis Allah's will that he who cherishes The precious gift that never perishes, Shall make the East to bend as low As palms that in the whirlwind blow."
He read the verse and looked at the youth. "Abdul Kassim," he said, "you have jewels in your heart more precious than all the treasures of the earth. For love of your brothers you gave up the stones, and for love of your father you have preserved this seemingly worthless casket. But Allah has blessed you for your virtues and has, by means of this humble iron casket, raised you to power and wealth. I dare not refuse to assist you. I will give you the most priceless gift at my disposal—the hand of my only daughter."
He called the chief overseer of the harem and bade him lead Fatma to the throne-room. The maiden had passed the night in weeping, for she had heard that she was to be given in marriage to a strange man. She shuddered at the thought, for as only child of the Caliph she had been thoroughly spoiled, and hated the idea of leaving her father's roof.
Abdul Kassim, who until now had been struck utterly dumb with astonishment, could not refrain from a cry of admiration at the sight of the lovely Fatma. She seemed to him a hundred times more beautiful than any description he had heard of her in Bagdad.
In the midst of her grief Fatma retained her woman's curiosity, and on hearing the youth's voice, cast one glance at him over her father's shoulder. The first impression seemed not unfavourable. She eyed his slender form as he stood leaning on his sword, and gradually ceased her sobbing. She even raised herself and took hold of the Caliph's arm. "Father," she said, "do with me what you will; not without cause do the people call you 'The Wise One'."
So Fatma was married to Abdul. But neither she nor any other ever knew that the iron casket connected with her young lord's rise and power was empty. The Caliph advised his son-in-law to maintain the deepest silence as to the absence of the magic jewels.
In the fifth year of their wedded life the Caliph, feeling the weight of advancing years, abdicated in Abdul Kassim's favour, so the verse on the casket was fulfilled, and Abdul Kassim reigned many, many years over Bagdad, the best and wisest ruler who had ever ascended the throne. Allah's name be praised!
The Knights of the Fish
Once upon a time there was a poor cobbler, who, being unable to live by mending shoes, determined to buy a net and turn fisherman. He went a-fishing for several days, but could draw up nothing in his net but old boots and shoes, though few enough of them could he get hold of when he was a cobbler. At last he thought:
"This is the very last day I will go fishing. If I catch nothing I will go and hang myself."
He cast his net, and this time he found a fine fish in it. When he had taken the fish in his hand, it opened its mouth and said to him:
"Take me home to your house; cut me in six pieces and stew me with salt and pepper, cinnamon and cloves, laurel leaves and mint. Give two of the pieces to your wife, two to your mare, and the other two to the plant in the garden."
The cobbler did exactly what the fish had told him to do, such was the faith he had in its words. And he was duly rewarded, for several months afterward his wife presented him with two fine boys, and his mare with two colts, whilst the plant in his garden grew two lances which, instead of flowers, bore two shields, on which were to be seen a silver fish on an azure ground.
Everything went on so prosperously that in course of time, one fine day, might be seen two gallant youths issuing from the cobbler's house, mounted upon two superb chargers, and bearing slender lances and brilliant shields.
These two brothers were so much alike that they were known as The Double Knight; and each of them wishing, as was just, to preserve his own individuality, they determined to separate and each seek his own fortune. After embracing affectionately, the one took his way toward the West, and the other toward the East.
After travelling for some days the first arrived at Madrid, and found the royal city pouring bitter tears into the pure, sweet waters of her cherished river, the Manzanares. Everybody was weeping when our gallant youth arrived at the Spanish capital; he inquired the cause of this universal lamentation, and was informed that every year a fiery dragon came and carried off a beautiful maiden, and that this luckless year the lot had fallen upon their princess, the king's good and peerless daughter.
The knight at once inquired where the princess was to be found, and was informed, at about a quarter of a league's distance, where she was expecting the fiery one to appear and carry her off to his den. Then the knight started off at once to the place indicated, and found the princess bathed in tears, and trembling from head to foot.
"Fly away!" cried the princess, when she saw the Knight of the Fish approach; "fly away, rash one! the monster is coming here, and if he sees you, heaven help you!"
"I shall not go away," responded the gallant youth, "because I have come to save you."
"To save me! Is that possible?"
"I am going to see," responded the valiant champion. "Are there any German merchants in the city?"
"Yes," answered the princess in astonishment; "but why do you ask?"
"You will see," said the knight, and galloped off to the city of mourning.
He speedily returned with an immense mirror which he had purchased from a German dealer. This he rested against the trunk of a tree, and covered it with the princess's veil, placing her in front of it, and instructing her that when the dragon was near to her she was to pull off the veil and slip behind the glass. So saying, the knight retired behind an adjacent wall.
In a little while the fiery dragon appeared, and gradually drew near to the fair one, eying her with all the insolence and effrontery possible. When he was quite close, the princess, as she had been instructed by her champion, withdrew the veil, and slipping behind the mirror, disappeared from before the eyes of the fiery dragon, which remained stupefied at finding his amorous glances directed at a dragon similar to himself. He made a movement; his resemblance did the same. His eyes sparkled red and brilliant as two rubies; whilst those of his opponent gleamed like two carbuncles. This increased his fury; he erected his scales as a porcupine would its quills, and those of his rival likewise stood up. He opened his tremendous mouth, which would have been without parallel but for that of his opponent, who, far from being intimidated, opened an identical one. The dragon dashed furiously against his intrepid adversary, giving such an awful blow with his head against the mirror that he was completely stunned; and as he had broken the glass, and in every piece saw a piece of his own body, he fancied that with one blow he had dashed his rival to atoms.
The knight availed himself of this moment of confusion and stupefaction, and dashing forth impetuously from his retreat, with his good lance deprived the dragon of its life, and would have been ready to deprive it of a hundred lives had it possessed so many.
The delight and jubilation of the Madrid people may be imagined when they beheld the Knight of the Fish bearing on his saddle the beautiful princess, quite uninjured and as lively as a cricket, and the dragon, fastened by its neck to his sturdy charger, hanging dead and bloodless behind. It may, also, be readily guessed that after such an achievement they were unable to reward the gallant knight with anything but the princess's fair hand; and that they had wedding festivities, and banquets, and bull fights, and tilting matches, and all sorts of good things.
Some days after the marriage the Knight of the Fish said to his wife that he would like to look over the palace, which was so extensive that it covered a league of ground. They inspected the place together, and the task occupied them four days. On the fourth day they ascended the roof, and the knight was struck with amazement at the prospect. Never had he seen anything like it, nor ever could he have seen its equal, even if he had visited all Spain and the Empire of Morocco as well.
"What castle is that?" inquired the Knight of the Fish, "which I see standing in the distance, so solitary and sombre."
"That," responded the princess, "is the castle of Albastretch; it is enchanted, and no one is able to undo the enchantment; and no one of all those who have gone to it has ever been known to return."
The knight listened intently to this, and as he was valiant and adventurous, on the following morning he mounted his horse, seized his lance, and set out for the castle.
The castle was enough to set one's hair on end with fright to look at it; it was darker than a thunder-cloud, and as silent as death. But the Knight of the Fish knew nothing of fear, save by hearsay, and never turned his back on foe until he had conquered; so he took his cornet and blew it lustily. The sound startled all the slumbering echoes of the castle, so that they repeated it by heart, now nearer and now farther, sometimes softer and then louder; but no one stirred in the castle.
"Ah! what a castle!" shouted the knight. "Is there no one to see to a knight who craves shelter? Is there no governor, nor squire nor even a groom, to take my horse away?"
"Away! away! away!" clamoured the echoes.
"Why should I go away?" said the Knight of the Fish. "I shall not go back, no matter how much you sigh!"
"Ay! ay! ay! (Alas! alas! alas!)" groaned the echoes.
The knight grasped his spear and struck a loud blow on the door.
Then the portcullis was raised, and in the opening appeared the tip of an enormous nose, located between the sunken eyes and fallen-in mouth of an old woman uglier than sin.
"What do you want, impudent disturber?" she inquired, with a cracked voice.
"To enter," replied the knight. "Are you not able to afford me the enjoyment of some rest at this hour of the night? Yes or no?"
"No! no! no!" said the echoes.
Here the knight lifted his vizier, because he was warm; and the old woman, seeing how handsome he was, said to him:
"Come in, handsome youth; you shall be cared for and well looked after."
"After! after!" warned the echoes; but the knight was fear-less and entered, the old woman promising that he should fare well.
"Farewell, farewell!" sighed the echoes.
"Go on, old lady," said the knight.
"I am called Lady Berberisca," interposed the old woman, very crossly; "and I am the mistress of Albastretch."
"Wretch! wretch!" groaned the echoes.
"Won't you be silent, cursed chatterers?" exclaimed Lady Berberisca. "I am your humble servant," she continued, making a deep curtsey to the knight, "and if you like I will be your wife, and you shall live with me here as grand as a Pacha."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the echoes.
"Would you have me marry you? You must be a hundred. You are foolish, and mad as well."
"Well, well," said the echoes.
"What I want," said the knight, "is the registry of the castle, to examine and amend."
"Amen! amen!" sighed the echoes.
Lady Berberisca's pride was deeply wounded; she gave a hasty glance at the Knight of the Fish, and intimating to him that he should follow her, she showed him over the castle, where he beheld many strange things, but she did not afford him any opportunity of referring to them. The wicked old woman took him through an obscure corridor, where there was a trap-door, into which he fell and disappeared into an abyss, where his voice was added to the echoes, which were the voices of many other gallant and accomplished knights, whom the shameless old Berberisca had punished in the same manner for having despised her venerable charms.