* * * * *
Let us now turn to the other Knight of the Fish, who, after long travels, arrived at Madrid. As he entered the city gates the sentinels presented arms, the drums beat the royal march and several of the palace servitors surrounded him, saying that the princess was in constant tears through his prolonged absence, fearing that some misfortune had happened to him in the enchanted castle of Albastretch.
"It is necessary that I should pass for my brother," thought the knight, "to whom, it would appear, some good fortune has occurred. I must be quiet, and we shall see what will come to pass."
They carried him almost in triumph to the palace, where he found it easy to accept all the caresses and congratulations bestowed upon him by the king and the princess. They were eager to learn about his adventures, and what he had seen at the castle; but to the princess's inquiries he answered:
"I am not permitted to say a word about that until after I have been there once more."
"Are you thinking of revisiting that accursed castle? You are the only one who has yet returned from it."
"It is unavoidable; I am obliged to go there."
When they retired to rest, the knight placed his sword in the bed.
"Why do you do that?" inquired the princess.
"Because I have sworn not to sleep in a bed until after I have revisited Albastretch."
And on the following day he mounted his steed and took his way to the enchanted castle, much fearing that some misfortune had happened to his brother there. He arrived at the castle, and quickly saw the old woman's fiery nose appear at the portcullis.
No sooner did she see the knight than she became livid with fright, for she thought he was the dead knight come to life again. She began to invoke the object of her devotions, Beelzebub, most devoutly, and promised him all kinds of gifts if he would take from her view that vision of flesh and blood, drawn up from the abode of the dead.
"Ancient lady!" cried the recent arrival, "I have come to ask where a knight is who has been here?"
"Here! here! here!" responded the echoes.
"And what have you done with this knight, so accomplished in all things, and so skilled?"
"Killed! killed!" groaned the echoes.
On hearing this, and seeing the old hag running off, the Knight of the Fish, beside himself with rage, ran after her, and pierced her through with his sword, which remained fast in her body, so that she jumped about at the point of it like a parched pea in a frying-pan.
"Where is my brother, ugly old traitress?" demanded the knight.
"I can tell you," responded the witch, "but as I am at death's door, I will not let you know until you have resuscitated me."
"But how can I do this, perfidious witch?"
"Go to the garden," responded the old woman, "cut some evergreens, everlastings, and dragon's blood; with these plants make a decoction in a caldron, and then sprinkle some of it over me."
After saying this the old woman died, without uttering a prayer. The knight did all that the witch instructed him to do, and effectually resuscitated her, but uglier than ever, for her nose remained deadly white, and looked like an elephant's tusk. Then she was forced to tell the knight where his brother was; and down in the abyss he not only found him, but many other victims of the wicked Berberisca. He sprinkled them all with the decoction in the caldron, and they were all brought to life again, and to each person came an echo which had been his voice; and the first words they all uttered were:
"Accursed witch, merciless Berberisca!"
Then all those gallant knights, and many beautiful ladies whom the fiery old dragon—who was the witch's son—had carried there, gave thanks to the Knight of the Fish; and one of the most beautiful of the ladies gave him her hand; on seeing which, the wicked Berberisca died again with envy and spite.
Once on a time there was a rich couple who had twelve sons; but the youngest, when he was grown up, said he wouldn't stay any longer at home, but be off into the world to try his luck. His father and mother said he did very well at home, and had better stay where he was. But no, he couldn't rest; away he must and would go.
So at last they gave him leave. And when he had walked a good bit, he came to a king's palace, where he asked for a place, and got it.
Now, the daughter of the king of that land had been carried off into the hill by a Troll, and the king had no other children; so he and all his land were in great grief and sorrow, and the king gave his word that anyone who could set her free should have the Princess and half the kingdom. But there was no one who could do it, though many tried.
When the lad had been there a year or so, he longed to go home again, and see his father and mother, and back he went; but when he got home his father and mother were dead, and his brothers had shared all that the old people owned between them, so there was nothing left for the lad.
"Shan't I have anything at all, then, out of father's and mother's goods?" asked the lad.
"Who could tell you were still alive, when you've been wandering about so long?" said his brothers. "But all the same there are twelve mares up on the hill which we haven't yet shared amongst us; if you choose to take them for your share, you're welcome."
Yes, the lad was quite content; so he thanked his brothers, and went at once up on the hill, where the twelve mares were out at grass. And when he got up there he found them; and one of them had along with her a big dapple-gray foal, which was so sleek that the sun shone from its coat.
"A fine fellow you are, my little foal," said the lad.
"Yes," said the foal, "but you wait until another year has passed, and then see how big and sleek I'll be."
So the lad went home again, and when he came back the next year to look after his foal and mares, the foal was so sleek and fat that the sun shone from its coat, and it had grown so big the lad had hard work to mount it.
"Well, it's quite plain I lost nothing by leaving you to graze for a twelvemonth," said the lad to the yearling, "but now you're big enough to come along with me."
"No," said the colt, "I must bide here a year longer and then see how big and sleek I'll be by summer."
Yes, the lad did that; and next year when he went up on the hill to look after his colt and mares, each mare had her foal, but the dapple colt was so tall that the lad couldn't reach up to his crest when he wanted to feel how fat he was; and so sleek he was, too, that his coat glistened in the sunshine.
"Big and beautiful you were last year, my colt," said the lad, "but this year you're far grander. There's no such horse in the king's stable. But now you must come along with me."
"No," said Dapple again, "I must stay here one year more, to eat this beautiful grass, then just come and look at me when the summer comes."
So again the lad went away home.
But when he went up next year to look after Dapple and the mares, he was quite astonished. So tall, and stout, and sturdy, he never thought a horse could be; for Dapple had to lie down before the lad could bestride him, and it was hard work to climb up even then, although he lay flat; and his coat was so smooth and sleek that the sunbeams shone from it as from a looking-glass.
This time Dapple was willing enough to follow the lad, so he jumped up on his back, and when he came riding home to his brothers, they all clapped their hands and shouted, for such a horse they had never heard of or seen before.
"If you will only get me the best shoes you can for my horse, and the grandest saddle and bridle that are to be found," said the lad, "you may have my twelve mares that graze up on the hill yonder, and their twelve foals into the bargain." For you must know that this year every mare had her foal.
Yes, his brothers were ready to do that, and so the lad got such strong shoes under his horse that the stones flew high aloft as he rode away across the hills; and he had a golden saddle and a golden bridle, which gleamed and glistened a long way off.
"Now we're off to the king's palace," said Dapplegrim—that was his name; "and mind you ask the king for a good stable and fodder for me."
Yes, the lad said he would mind; he'd be sure not to forget; and when he rode off from his brothers' house, you may be sure it wasn't long, with such a horse under him, before he got to the king's palace.
When he came there the king was standing on the steps, and stared and stared at the man who came riding along.
"Nay, nay," said he, "such a man and such a horse I never saw in all my life."
But when the lad asked if he could resume his place in the king's household, the king was so glad he was ready to jump and dance as he stood on the steps.
There was no reason, the king said, why the lad should not come back.
"Ay," said the lad, "but I must have good stable-room for my horse, and fodder that one can trust."
Yes, he should have meadow-hay and oats, as much as his horse could cram, and all the other knights had to lead their steeds out of the stable that Dapplegrim might stand alone, and have it all to himself.
But it wasn't long before all the others in the king's household began to be jealous of the lad, and there was no end to the bad things they would have done to him, if they had only dared. At last they thought of telling the king that he had been boasting he was man enough to set the king's daughter free—whom the Troll had long since carried away into the hill—if he only chose. The king called the lad before him, and said he had heard what the lad had said, so now he must go and do it. If he succeeded, the king's daughter and half the kingdom should be his, and that promise would be faithfully kept; if he didn't, he should be killed.
The lad kept on saying he never said any such thing; but it was no good, the king wouldn't even listen to him; and so the end of it was he was forced to say he'd go and try.
So he went into the stable, down in the mouth and heavy-hearted, and then Dapplegrim asked him at once why he was in such doleful dumps.
Then the lad told him all, and how he couldn't tell which way to turn, and he said:
"As for setting the Princess free, that's downright nonsense."
"Oh, but it might be done, perhaps," said Dapplegrim. "But you must first have me well shod. You must go and ask for ten pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel for the shoes; and one smith to hammer and another to hold."
Yes, the lad did that, and got for answer, "Yes." He got both the iron and the steel, and the smith, and so Dapplegrim was shod both strong and well, and off went the lad from the courtyard in a cloud of dust.
But when he came to the hill into which the Princess had been carried, the pinch was how to get up the steep wall of rock where the Troll's cave was in which the Princess had been hid. For you must know the hill stood straight up and down right on end, as upright as a house wall, and as smooth as a sheet of glass.
The first time the lad went at it he got a little way up; but then Dapple's forelegs slipped, and down they went again, with a sound like thunder on the hill.
The second time he rode at it he got some way further up; but then one foreleg slipped, and down they went with a crash like a landslip.
But the third time Dapple said:
"Now we must show our mettle," and went at it again till the stones flew heaven-high about them, and so they got up.
Then the lad rode right into the cave at full speed, and caught up the Princess, and threw her over his saddle-bow, and out and down again before the Troll had time even to get on his legs; and so the Princess was freed.
When the lad came back to the palace the king was both happy and glad to get his daughter back, that you may well believe; but somehow or other, though I don't know how, the others about the court had so brought it about that the king was angry with the lad after all.
"Thanks you shall have for freeing my Princess," said he to the lad, when he brought the Princess into the hall and made his bow.
"She ought to be mine as well as yours; for you're a word-fast man, I hope," said the lad.
"Ay, ay!" said the king, "have her you shall, since I said it, but first of all you must make the sun shine into my palace hall."
Now you must know there was a high, steep ridge of rock close outside the windows, which threw such a shade over the hall that never a sunbeam shone into it.
"That wasn't in our bargain," answered the lad; "but I suppose I must do what you command. I must e'en go and try my luck, for the Princess I must and will have."
So down he went to Dapple, and told him what the king wanted; and Dapplegrim thought it might easily be done, but first of all he must be newly shod; and for that, ten pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel besides were needed; and two smiths, one to hammer and the other to hold, and then they'd soon get the sun to shine into the palace hall.
So when the lad asked for all these things, he got them at once—the king couldn't say nay for very shame; and so Dapplegrim got new shoes, and such shoes! Then the lad jumped upon his back, and off they went again; and for every leap that Dapplegrim gave, down sank the ridge fifteen feet into the earth, and so they went on till there was nothing left of the ridge for the king to see.
When the lad got back to the king's palace, he asked the king if the Princess was not his now; for now no one could say that the sun didn't shine into the hall. But then the others whispered to the king again, and he answered that the lad should have her, of course; he had never thought of anything else; but first of all he must get as grand a horse for the bride to ride on to church as the bridegroom had himself.
The lad said the king hadn't spoken a word about this before, and that he thought he had now fairly earned the Princess; but the king held to his own; and more, if the lad couldn't do that he should lose his life; that was what the king said. So the lad went down to the stable in doleful dumps, as you may well fancy, and there he told Dapplegrim all about it; how the king had laid that task upon him, to find the bride as good a horse as the bridegroom had himself, else he would lose his life.
"But that's not so easy," he said, "for your match isn't to be found in the wide world."
"Oh, yes, I have a match," said Dapplegrim; "but he lives a long way from here, and rules over a great country. Still, we'll try. And now you must go up to the king and ask for new shoes for me, ten pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel; and two smiths, one to hammer and one to hold; and mind you see that the points and ends of those shoes are sharp; and twelve sacks of rye, and twelve sacks of barley, and twelve roasted oxen we must have with us; and mind, we must have the twelve ox-hides, with twelve hundred spikes driven into each; and, let me see, a big tar-barrel—that's all we want."
So the lad went up to the king and asked for all that Dapplegrim required, and the king again thought he couldn't say nay, for shame's sake, and so the lad got all he wanted.
Well, he jumped up on Dapplegrim's back, and rode away from the palace, and when he had ridden far over hill and heath, Dapple asked:
"Do you hear anything?"
"Yes, I hear an awful hissing and rustling up in the air," said the lad; "I think I'm getting afraid."
"That's all the wild birds that fly through the wood. They are sent to stop us; but just cut a hole in the corn sacks, and then they'll have so much to do with the corn, they'll forget us, quite."
Yes, the lad did that; he cut holes in the corn sacks, so that the rye and the barley ran out on all sides. Then all the wild birds came flying round them so thick that the sunbeams grew dark, but as soon as they saw the corn they couldn't keep to their purpose, but flew down and began to pick and scratch at the rye and barley; and after that they began to fight amongst themselves. As for Dapplegrim and the lad, they forgot all about them, and did them no harm.
So the lad rode on and on—far, far over mountain and dale, over sand-hills and moor. Then Dapplegrim began to prick up his ears again, and at last he asked the lad if he heard anything.
"Yes, now I hear such an ugly rushing and howling in the wood all round, it makes me quite afraid."
"Ah!" said Dapplegrim, "that's all the wild beasts that range through the wood, and they're sent out to stop us. But just cast out the twelve carcasses of the oxen; that will give them enough to do, and so they'll forget us outright."
Yes, the lad cast out the carcasses, and then all the wild beasts in the wood—bears and wolves and lions—came after them. But when they saw the carcasses, they began to fight for them amongst themselves, till blood flowed in streams; but Dapple and the lad they quite forgot.
So the lad rode far away, and they changed the landscape many, many times, for Dapplegrim didn't let the grass grow under him, as you may imagine. At last Dapple gave a great neigh.
"Do you hear anything?" he said.
"Yes, I hear something like a colt neighing loudly a long, long way off," answered the lad.
"That's a full-grown colt, then," said Dapplegrim, "if we hear him neigh so loud such a long way off."
After that they travelled a good bit, changing the landscape once or twice, maybe. Then Dapplegrim gave another neigh.
"Now listen, and tell me if you hear anything," he said.
"Yes, now I hear a neigh like a full-grown horse," answered the lad.
"Ay, ay!" said Dapplegrim, "you'll hear him once again soon, and then you'll hear he's got a voice of his own."
So they travelled on and on, and changed the landscape once or twice, perhaps, and then Dapplegrim neighed the third time; but before he could ask the lad if he heard anything, something gave such a neigh across the heathery hillside, the lad thought hill and rock would surely be rent asunder.
"Now he's here!" said Dapplegrim; "make haste, now, and throw the ox-hides, with the spikes in them, over me, and throw down the tar-barrel on the plain; then climb up into that great spruce-fir yonder. When it comes, fire will flash out of both nostrils, and then the tar-barrel will catch fire. Now, mind what I say. If the flame rises, I win; if it falls, I lose; but if you see me winning, take and cast the bridle—you must take it off me—over its head, and then it will be tame enough."
So just as the lad had done throwing the ox-hides, with the spikes, over Dapplegrim, and had cast down the tar-barrel on the plain, and had got well up into the spruce-fir, up galloped a horse, with fire flashing out of its nostrils, and the flame caught the tar-barrel at once. Then Dapplegrim and the strange horse began to fight till the stones flew heaven-high. They fought and bit and kicked, both with fore feet and hind feet, and sometimes the lad could see them, and sometimes he couldn't; but at last the flame began to rise; for wherever the strange horse kicked or bit, he met the spiked hides, and at last he had to yield.
When the lad saw that, he wasn't long getting down from the tree and in throwing the bridle over its head, and then it was so tame you could hold it with a pack-thread.
And what do you think—that horse was dappled, too, and so like Dapplegrim, you couldn't tell which was which. Then the lad bestrode the new Dapple he had won, and rode home to the palace, and old Dapplegrim ran loose by his side. So when he got home, there stood the king out in the yard.
"Can you tell me, now," said the lad, "which is the horse I have caught and broken, and which is the one I had before? If you can't, I think your daughter is fairly mine."
Then the king went and looked at both Dapples, high and low, before and behind, but there wasn't a hair on one which wasn't on the other as well.
"No," said the king, "that I can't; and since you've got my daughter such a grand horse for her wedding, you shall have her with all my heart. But still we'll have one trial more, just to see whether you're fated to have her. First, she shall hide herself twice, and then you shall hide yourself twice. If you can find out her hiding-place, and she can't find out yours, why, then, you're fated to have her, and so you shall have her."
"That's not in the bargain, either," said the lad; "but we must try, since it must be so;" and so the Princess went off to hide herself first.
So she turned herself into a duck, and lay swimming on a pond that was close to the palace. But the lad only ran down to the stable, and asked Dapplegrim what she had done with herself.
"Oh, you only need take your gun," said Dapplegrim, "and go down to the brink of the pond, and aim at the duck which lies swimming about there, and she'll soon show herself."
So the lad snatched his gun and ran off to the pond.
"I'll just take a pop at this duck," he said, and began to aim at it.
"Nay, nay, dear friend, don't shoot. It's I," said the Princess.
So he found her once.
The second time the Princess turned herself into a loaf of bread, and laid herself on the table amongst four other loaves; and so like was she to the others, no one could say which was which.
But the lad went again down to the stable to Dapplegrim, and said how the Princess had hidden herself again, and he couldn't tell at all what had become of her.
"Oh, just take and sharpen a good bread-knife," said Dapplegrim, "and do as if you were going to cut in two the third loaf on the left hand of those four loaves which are lying on the dresser in the king's kitchen, and you'll find her soon enough."
Yes, the lad was down in the kitchen in no time, and began to sharpen the biggest bread-knife he could lay his hands on; then he caught hold of the third loaf on the left hand, and put the knife to it, as though he were going to cut it in two.
"I'll just have a slice off this loaf," he said.
"Nay, dear friend," said the Princess, "don't cut. It's I."
So he found her twice.
Then he was to go and hide but he and Dapplegrim had settled it so well beforehand, it wasn't easy to find him. First he turned himself into a fly, and hid himself in Dapplegrim's left nostril; and the Princess went about hunting for him everywhere, high and low. At last she wanted to go into Dapplegrim's stall, but he began to bite and kick, so that she daren't go near him, and so she couldn't find the lad.
"Well," she said, "since I cannot find you, you must show where you are yourself;" and in a trice the lad stood there on the stable floor.
The second time Dapplegrim told him just what to do; and then he turned into a clod of earth, and stuck himself between Dapple's hoof and shoe on the near forefoot. So the Princess hunted up and down, out and in, everywhere; at last she came into the stable, and wanted to go into Dapplegrim's loose box. This time he let her come up to him, and she pried high and low, but under his heels she couldn't come, for he stood firm as a rock on his feet, and so she couldn't find the lad.
"Well, you must just show yourself, for I'm sure I can't find you," said the Princess, and as she spoke the lad stood by her side on the stable floor.
"Now you are mine indeed," said the lad; "for now you can see I'm fated to have you." This he said both to the father and daughter.
"Yes; it is so fated," said the king; "so it must be."
Then everything was made ready for the wedding with great splendour and promptitude; and the lad got on Dapplegrim, and the Princess on Dapplegrim's match, and then you may guess they were not long on their way to church.
In the reign of King Moabdar there lived at Babylon a young man named Zadig. He was handsome, rich, and naturally good-hearted; and at the moment when this story opens, he was travelling on foot to see the world, and to learn philosophy and wisdom. But, hitherto, he had encountered so much misery, and endured so many terrible disasters, that he had become tempted to rebel against the will of Heaven, and to believe that the Providence which rules the world neglects the good and lets the evil prosper. In this unhappy spirit he was one day walking on the banks of the Euphrates, when he chanced to meet a venerable hermit, whose snowy beard descended to his girdle, and who carried in his hand a scroll which he was reading with attention. Zadig stopped, and made him a low bow. The hermit returned the salutation with an air so kindly, and so noble, that Zadig felt a curiosity to speak to him. He inquired what scroll was that which he was reading.
"It is the Book of Destiny," replied the hermit; "would you like to read it?"
He handed it to Zadig; but the latter, though he knew a dozen languages, could not understand a word of it. His curiosity increased.
"You appear to be in trouble," said the kindly hermit.
"Alas!" said Zadig, "I have cause to be so."
"If you will allow me," said the hermit, "I will accompany you. Perhaps I may be useful to you. I am sometimes able to console the sorrowful."
Zadig felt a deep respect for the appearance, the white beard, and the mysterious scroll of the old hermit, and perceived that his conversation was that of a superior mind. The old man spoke of destiny, of justice, of morality, of the chief good of life, of human frailty, of virtue, and of vice, with so much power and eloquence, that Zadig felt himself attracted by a kind of charm, and besought the hermit not to leave him until they should return to Babylon.
"I ask you the same favour," said the hermit. "Promise me that, whatever I may do, you will keep me company for several days."
Zadig gave the promise; and they set forth together.
That night the travellers arrived at a grand mansion. The hermit begged for food and lodging for himself and his companion. The porter, who might have been mistaken for a prince, ushered them in with a contemptuous air of welcome. The chief servant showed them the magnificent apartments; and they were then admitted to the bottom of the table, where the master of the mansion did not condescend to cast a glance at them. They were, however, served with delicacies in profusion, and, after dinner, washed their hands in a golden basin set with emeralds and rubies. They were then conducted for the night into a beautiful apartment; and the next morning, before they left the castle, a servant brought them each a piece of gold.
"The master of the house," said Zadig, as they went their way, "appears to be a generous man, although a trifle haughty. He practises a noble hospitality." As he spoke he perceived that a kind of large pouch which the hermit carried appeared singularly distended; within it was the golden basin, set with precious stones, which the old man had purloined. Zadig was amazed; but he said nothing.
At noon the hermit stopped before a little house, in which lived a wealthy miser, and once more asked for hospitality. An old valet in a shabby coat received them very rudely, showed them into the stable, and set before them a few rotten olives, some moldy bread, and beer which had turned sour. The hermit ate and drank with as much content as he had shown the night before; then, addressing the old valet, who had kept his eye upon them to make sure that they stole nothing, he gave him the two gold pieces which they had received that morning, and thanked him for his kind attention. "Be so good," he added, "as to let me see your master."
The astonished valet showed them in.
"Most mighty signor," said the hermit, "I can only render you my humble thanks for the noble manner in which you have received us. I beseech you to accept this golden basin as a token of my gratitude."
The miser almost fell backwards with amazement. The hermit, without waiting for him to recover, set off with speed with his companion.
"Holy Father," said Zadig, "what does all this mean? You seem to me to resemble other men in nothing. You steal a golden basin set with jewels from a signor who receives you with magnificence, and you give it to a curmudgeon who treats you with indignity."
"My son," replied the hermit, "this mighty lord, who only welcomes travellers through vanity, and to display his riches, will henceforth grow wiser, while the miser will be taught to practise hospitality. Be amazed at nothing, and follow me."
Zadig knew not whether he was dealing with the most foolish or the wisest of all men. But the hermit spoke with such ascendancy that Zadig, who, besides, was fettered by his promise, had no choice except to follow him.
That night they came to an agreeable house, of simple aspect, and showing signs neither of prodigality nor avarice. The owner was a philosopher, who had left the world, and who studied peacefully the rules of virtue and of wisdom, and who yet was happy and contented. He had built this calm retreat to please himself, and he received the strangers in it with a frankness which displayed no sign of ostentation. He conducted them himself to a comfortable chamber, where he made them rest awhile; then he returned to lead them to a dainty little supper. During their conversation they agreed that the affairs of this world are not always regulated by the opinions of the wisest men, but the hermit still maintained that the ways of Providence are wrapped in mystery, and that men do wrong to pass judgment on a universe of which they only see the smallest part. Zadig wondered how a person who committed such mad acts could reason so correctly.
At length, after a conversation as agreeable as instructive, the host conducted the two travellers to their apartment, and thanked Heaven for sending him two visitors so wise and virtuous. He offered them some money, but so frankly that they could not feel offended. The old man declined, and desired to say farewell, as he intended to depart for Babylon at break of day. They therefore parted on the warmest terms, and Zadig, above all, was filled with kindly feelings toward so amiable a man.
When the hermit and himself were in their chamber, they spent some time in praises of their host. At break of day the old man woke his comrade.
"We must be going," he remarked. "But while every one is still asleep, I wish to leave this worthy man a pledge of my esteem." With these words he took a torch and set the house on fire.
Zadig burst forth into cries of horror, and would have stopped the frightful act. But the hermit, by superior strength, drew him away. The house was in a blaze; and the old man, who was now a good way off with his companion, looked back calmly at the burning pile.
"Heaven be praised!" he cried, "our kind host's house is destroyed from top to bottom."
At these words Zadig knew not whether he should burst out laughing, call the reverend father an old rascal, knock him down, or run away. But he did neither. Still subdued by the superior manner of the hermit, he followed him against his will to their next lodging.
This was the dwelling of a good and charitable widow, who had a nephew of fourteen, her only hope and joy. She did her best to use the travellers well; and the next morning she bade her nephew guide them safely past a certain bridge, which, having recently been broken, had become dangerous to cross over. The youth, eager to oblige them, led the way.
"Come," said the hermit, when they were half across the bridge, "I must show my gratitude toward your aunt;" and as he spoke he seized the young man by the hair and threw him into the river. The youth fell, reappeared for an instant on the surface, and then was swallowed by the torrent.
"Oh, monster!" exclaimed Zadig, "ah, most detestable of men—"
"You promised me more patience," interrupted the old man. "Listen! Beneath the ruins of that house which Providence saw fit to set on fire, the owner will discover an enormous treasure; while this young man, whose existence Providence cut short, would have killed his aunt within a year, and you yourself in two."
"Who told you so, barbarian?" cried Zadig; "and even if you read the issue in your Book of Destiny, who gave you power to drown a youth who never injured you?"
While he spoke, he saw that the old man had a beard no longer, and that his face had become fair and young; his hermit's frock had disappeared; four white wings covered his majestic form, and shone with dazzling lustre.
"Angel of heaven," cried Zadig, "you are then descended from the skies to teach an erring mortal to submit to the eternal laws."
"Men," replied the angel Jezrael, "judge all things without knowledge; and you, of all men, most deserved to be enlightened. The world imagines that the youth who has just perished fell by chance into the water, and that by a like chance the rich man's house was set on fire. But there is no such thing as chance; all is trial, or punishment, or foresight. Feeble mortal, cease to argue and rebel against what you ought to adore!"
As he spoke these words the angel took his flight to heaven, and Zadig fell upon his knees.
The Watch-tower Between Earth and Heaven
Once upon a time there was a King who had three sons and one daughter. He kept the daughter in a cage and guarded her as the eyes in his head.
[Footnote 5: From "The Russian Grandmother's Wonder Tales." Copyright, 1906, by Charles Scribner's Sons.]
When the maiden was grown up she begged her father one evening to let her go out and take a walk before the castle with her brothers. The father consented, but hardly was she out of the door when suddenly a Dragon came swooping down from the sky, seized the maiden from among her brothers, and carried her away with him high into the clouds.
The brothers rushed headlong back to their father, told him of their misfortune, and begged permission to go and seek their stolen sister. The father consented, gave them each a horse and everything needful for a journey, and they set out.
After many wanderings they came across a watch-tower which stood neither on earth nor in heaven. When they reached the place it occurred to them that their sister might be within, and they at once began to take counsel among themselves as to how they should reach it.
After long consultation they decided to kill one of their horses, cut his skin into a long strap, fasten the end to an arrow, and shoot it up into some place in the watch-tower where it would hold securely. Then they could easily climb up. The two younger brothers asked the eldest to sacrifice his horse, but he would not; nor would the second brother. So the youngest brother slew his horse, cut the hide into a long strap, bound one end to his arrow, and with his bow shot it up into the tower.
But now, when it came to climbing up by the strap, the eldest and second brothers declined, whereupon the youngest undertook the adventure. Arriving at the tower, he went from room to room, until at last he came to one where he saw his sister sitting, with the Dragon's head in her lap, the Dragon being fast asleep.
When the sister perceived her brother she was greatly terrified, and softly entreated him to flee before the Dragon should awake. This he would not do, but seized his cudgel, struck out boldly, and dealt the Dragon a heavy blow upon the head. The Dragon, without awaking, put his hand up to the spot, murmuring, "Something hit me right here."
As he said this the Prince fetched him a second blow upon the head, and again the Dragon murmured, "Something hit me here." But now, as the brother made ready to strike a third time, the sister made a sign showing the Dragon's vulnerable spot; and the brother, giving a powerful blow, killed him as dead as a mouse.
Then the Princess pushed him from her, flew into her brother's arms, and smothered him with kisses. After this she took him by the hand and began to lead him through all the rooms. First she led him into a room in which a black fox, with a harness of pure silver, was standing before a manger. Then she led him into another room, where a white horse, with a harness of pure gold, stood before another manger. Finally she led him into a third room, where a brown horse stood before a manger, his harness all studded with diamonds.
When they had gone through these rooms, the sister led her brother into a chamber where a maiden sat before a golden embroidery frame, working with golden threads. From this room she led him into another, where a second maiden was spinning gold thread, and at last into a room where a third maiden was stringing pearls, while at her feet a golden hen, with a brood of chickens, was picking up pearls from a golden basin.
When they had gone through all these rooms and seen all they wanted to see, they went back into the room where the dead Dragon lay, dragged him out, and threw him head-foremost down to the earth. When the other brothers saw him they were almost convulsed with terror. But now the youngest brother let down to them first their sister and then the three maidens, one after another, each with her work. As he let them down he allotted one to each of his brothers, and when he let down the third, that is, the one with the hen and chickens, he reserved her to himself.
But his brothers, filled with envy because he was the hero who had discovered all these things and rescued their sister, cut the strap to make it impossible for him to return. Then they rode away, and coming upon a shepherd boy with his sheep, they dressed him like their brother and brought him home to their father, forbidding their sister and the maidens, with fearful threats, under any circumstances to reveal the secret.
After a time word came to the youngest brother in the tower that his brothers and the shepherd were about to marry those three maidens. On the day appointed for the eldest brother's wedding he mounted the white horse and flew down into the midst of the wedding-guests just as they were leaving the church, and struck his brother lightly upon the back with his club. The brother fell from his horse and the other flew back to his watch-tower.
When the second brother's wedding-day came he again flew down upon his steed, gave the second brother a blow upon the back, so that he fell from his horse, and again flew away. But when he at last heard that the shepherd was about to marry the third maiden he again mounted his steed, flew among the wedding-guests just as they were coming out of the church, and dealt the bridegroom such a blow upon the head with his club that the fellow lay dead upon the spot.
In a trice the Prince was surrounded by the wedding-guests, who were determined that he should not escape this time. He made no attempt to do so, however, but remained where he was, made himself known as the King's youngest son, revealed the trick his brothers had played upon him by means of the shepherd, and told how they had left him in the watch-tower where he had found his sister and killed the Dragon.
His sister and the maidens bore witness to the truth of his story, and when the King heard all this he banished the two elder brothers from his presence, married the youngest to the maiden of his choice, and decreed that he should be heir to the throne after his own decease.
The Lucky Coin
Many years ago there lived in a hermitage a holy monk. From all the villages around, the people, mostly poor labourers, were in the habit of coming to him on Sundays and festivals to hear him say mass for them. These good people used to bring little offerings of food for the support of the hermit during the week.
One Sunday, after his congregation had departed, the monk perceived a man, laden with traps and nets for catching birds, crossing the field before the hermitage. The good monk went out to him.
"Where do you come from?" he inquired; "and what are you going to do, my son?"
"I live some miles from here, good father," he replied, "and I have borrowed a few nets and traps to try to catch some doves to sell, so as to get a little butter for our bread; for with that and a draught of water from the spring my wife and I are satisfied; or else to get some work to do, that I may earn enough for our support, for we have neither bread nor a single farthing to buy it."
The hermit took the man into his hermitage, and gave him the little offerings of food which had been brought that morning by the villagers, leaving Providence to provide for his own simple wants.
"Brother," he said, "take this for yourself and your wife; and if you want money I will give you some. But you must first tell me which you choose, to earn a single coin honestly, or a hundred, dishonestly."
The poor man hesitated, for great was the temptation.
"I will consult with my wife," he said at last, "and return to-morrow to inform you."
With the food in his hands he returned to his miserable home, where he and his wife made an excellent meal, for which they returned thanks to Heaven. They then consulted together about the money, and, though the temptation was great to take the hundred coins, yet, being God-fearing folks, they decided upon taking the one coin honestly acquired and let alone the hundred.
The man accordingly returned to the hermit, and told him what they had decided.
The good monk gave him two half reals.
"Take this money," he said; "and may Heaven prosper you."
Full of joy, the man departed. But on the road home, in a solitary spot, he encountered two lads fighting desperately; they were dealing each other terrible blows, and blood was streaming down their faces. The man rushed up to separate them, but all his efforts only served to make them fiercer.
"Why do you fight like this?" he cried.
"We are fighting for that stone," replied one of the lads; "I saw it first!"
"No, you didn't," replied the other; "it was I, and it belongs to me!" and once more they fell to blows more desperate than before.
The poor man, fearing that the quarrel might end fatally, cried out to them—
"Here, take each of you one of these coins, and let alone the stone; it is of no value, for it is no bigger than a walnut. And be off with you!"
The lads were glad to take the money, and ran away, thinking themselves lucky to make so good a bargain.
His wife was at the cottage door impatiently awaiting her husband. Great was her disappointment when all he brought her was a stone.
"Well, to be sure!" she cried, after he had recounted what had taken place, "I am disappointed." And, taking the little stone, she threw it into a corner of the room.
"Dear wife," replied the man, "do not take it so to heart. The money was spent in a good work; in making peace between the children of our neighbours."
His wife at length became more reconciled to the loss, considering that after all he had done right to make peace between their neighbours' sons at any cost. Not many minutes after, the parents of the two lads came to thank the man for having separated the boys. They also thanked him for the money he had given to the boys, for they knew he sorely needed it himself. Each of the parents gave him a present for his friendly service; and from that day they always treated him most kindly, and often gave him little jobs to do, so that the poor couple never wanted bread.
Not long afterwards, it happened that the King's Ambassador passed that way, with a great retinue of officials, secretaries, and servitors; and it fell out that, night coming on, the Ambassador decided upon taking his quarters in the village.
The village inns were small, and could not afford accommodation for so large a retinue, and the various cottagers were asked to take in one or more of the servants. Among those who gave lodgings to the retinue were our good couple, who took in a lodger, for whom they were paid handsomely. The wife quickly prepared a clean, tidy bed, and did her best to make things comfortable.
The guest, being tired, was soon fast asleep. Toward morning he awoke, and was surprised to see the chamber bathed in a resplendent light. Knowing well that the people of the house could not afford a lamp or candles, he arose to find out whence proceeded this unusual brilliancy. Great was his astonishment to find that it proceeded from a small stone in the corner of the room, which, as the sun struck on it, sent out rays of vivid light. He took up the stone, and, believing it to be of great value, took it to the Ambassador.
When the nobleman examined the stone, he admired it greatly, and desired its owner to be sent for in order to learn all particulars about it.
"Please, your Excellency," said the poor man, "it is of no use to us, and if it pleases you, take it, for it cost me only a small coin"; and he proceeded to relate how it had come into his possession.
The Ambassador drew forth a heavy bag of money, and taking out a handful of gold pieces, gave them to the man.
"My good fellow," he said, "since you offer me the stone, I accept it gladly; but as I am leaving the kingdom, and my expenses are very heavy, I cannot give you all that it is worth. If it please Heaven, I will return this way, and I will pay you then."
The poor man did not like to accept so much gold for what he judged to be a worthless stone; but on the nobleman's entreaty he took the money, and ran back to his wife, full of joy at his good fortune. Both husband and wife then went at once to the hermit to recount to him all that had taken place, and to offer him a tenth of the money. This he refused to take, but bade them return to the village and distribute it in alms to the poor. They returned to the village accordingly and did as the monk had bidden them. They also gave part of the money to the parents of the lads who had fought so desperately for the possession of the stone. The rest the man spent in purchasing a piece of land.
This little plot of ground proved very fertile, and whatever the owner planted produced a hundredfold. His trees were borne down by the weight of the fruit, which always fetched a good price.
Years passed ere the Ambassador returned from the foreign country, where he had gained high honours and wealth. On passing the village again where he had obtained the stone, he inquired for the good man, and was told how he had prospered with the money he had given him, and that he was now a person of importance.
On arriving at the Court of his sovereign he recounted to the King all that had taken place. The King was greatly pleased with the history of the honestly earned coin, and had the stone valued by the first jewellers of the kingdom, who all pronounced it to be a singularly valuable gem. A large sum was given to the Ambassador for it, and he was loaded with distinctions and honours. The nobleman, wishing to show his gratitude for the honours conferred on him, sent handsome presents to the good man and his wife.
And so it came to pass that they who had been honest were now prosperous as well.
The Jackal, the Barber and the Brahmin
A barber and a Jackal once struck up a great friendship, which might have continued to this day, had not the Jackal been so clever that the Barber never felt quite on equal terms with him, and suspected his friend of playing him many tricks. But this he was not able to prove.
One day the Jackal said to the Barber, "It would be a nice thing for us to have a garden of our own, in which we might grow as many cucumbers, pumpkins and melons as we like. Why should we not buy one?"
The Barber answered, "Very well; here is money. Do you go and buy us a garden." So the Jackal took the Barber's money, and with it bought a fine garden, in which were cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, figs, and many other good fruits and vegetables. And he used to go there every day and feast to his heart's content. When, however, the Barber said to him, "What is the garden like which you bought with the money I gave you?" he answered, "There are very fine plants in it, but there is no fruit upon them; when the fruit is ripe I will let you know." This reply satisfied the Barber, who inquired no further at that time.
A little while afterward, the Barber again asked the Jackal about the garden, saying, "I see you go down to that garden every day; is the fruit getting ripe?"
"Oh dear no, not yet," answered the Jackal; "why, the plants are only just coming into blossom."
But all this time there was a great deal of fruit in the garden, and the Jackal went there every day and ate as much as he could.
Again, a third time, when some weeks had passed, the Barber said to him, "Is there no ripe fruit in our garden yet?"
"No," said the Jackal; "the blossoms have only just fallen, but the fruit is forming. In time we shall have a fine show of melons and figs there."
Then the Barber began to think the Jackal was deceiving him, and determined to see and judge for himself. So next day, without saying anything about it, he followed him down to the garden.
Now it happened that very day the Jackal had invited all his friends to come and feast there. All the animals in the neighbouring jungle had accepted the invitation; there they came trooping by hundreds and dozens, and were very merry indeed—running here and there, and eating all the melons and cucumbers and figs and pumpkins in the place.
The Barber peeped over the hedge, and saw the assembled wild beasts, and his friend the Jackal entertaining them—talking to this one, laughing with that, and eating with all. The good man did not dare to attack the intruders, as they were many and powerful. But he went home at once, very angry, muttering to himself, "I'll be the death of that young jackanapes; he shall play no more pranks in my garden." And, watching his opportunity, he returned there when the Jackal and all his friends had left, and tied a long knife to the largest of the cucumbers that still remained; then he went home and said nothing of what he had seen.
Early next morning the Jackal thought to himself, "I'll just run down to the garden and see if there are no cucumbers or melons left." So he went there, and, picking out the largest of the cucumbers, began to eat it. Quick as thought, the long knife, that was concealed by the cucumber leaves, ran into him, cutting his muzzle, his neck and his side.
"Ah, that nasty Barber!" he cried; "this must be his doing!" And instead of going home, he ran as fast as he could, very far, far, away into the jungle, and stretching himself out on a great flat rock, prepared to die.
But he did not die. Only for three whole days the pain in his neck and side was so great that he could not move; moreover, he felt very weak from loss of blood.
At the end of the third day he tried to get up, but his own blood had sealed him to the stone! He endeavoured to move it by his struggles, but could not succeed. "Oh dear! oh dear!" he murmured; "to think that I should recover from my wound, only to die such a horrible death as this! Ah, me! here is the punishment of dishonesty!" And, having said this, he began to weep. It chanced, however, that the god of Rain heard his lamentations, and taking pity on the unfortunate animal, he sent a kindly shower, which, wetting the stone, effected his release.
No sooner was the Jackal set free than he began to think what he could do to earn a livelihood, since he did not dare return to the Barber's house. It was not long before a feasible plan struck him: all around was the mud made by the recent rain; he placed a quantity of it in a small chattee, covered the top over carefully with leaves (as people do jars of fresh butter), and took it into a neighbouring village to sell.
At the door of one of the first houses to which he came stood a woman, to whom the Jackal said, "Mahi, here is butter—beautiful fresh butter! won't you buy some fresh butter?"
She answered, "Are you sure it is quite fresh? Let me see it."
But he replied, "It is perfectly fresh; but if you open the chattee now, it will be all spoiled by the time you want it. If you like to buy it, you may take it; if not, I will sell it to some one else."
The woman did want some fresh butter, and the chattee the Jackal carried on his head was carefully fastened up, as if what it contained was of the best; and she knew if she opened it, it might spoil before her husband returned home; besides, she thought, if the Jackal had intended to deceive her, he would have been more pressing in asking her to buy it. So she said, "Very well, give me the chattee; here is money for you. You are sure it is the best butter?"
"It is the best of its kind," answered the Jackal; "only be sure you put it in some cool place, and don't open it till it is wanted." And taking the money, he ran away.
A short time afterward the woman discovered how she had been cheated, and was very angry, but the Jackal was by that time far away, out of reach of punishment.
When his money was spent, the Jackal felt puzzled as to how to get a living, since no one would give him food and he could buy none. Fortunately for him, just then one of the bullocks belonging to the village died. The Jackal found it lying dead by the roadside, and he began to eat it, and ate, and ate so much that at last he had got too far into the animal's body to be seen by passers-by. Now, the weather was hot and dry. Whilst the Jackal was in it, the bullock's skin crinkled up so tightly with the heat that it became too hard for him to bite through, and so he could not get out again.
The Mahars of the village all came out to bury the dead bullock. The Jackal, who was inside it, feared that if they caught him they would kill him, and that if they did not discover him, he would be buried alive; so on their approach he called out, "People, people, take care how you touch me, for I am a great saint." The poor people were very much frightened when they heard the dead bullock talking, and thought that some mighty spirit must indeed possess it.
"Who are you, sir, and what do you want?" they cried.
"I," answered the Jackal, "am a very holy saint. I am also the god of your village, and I am very angry with you because you never worship me nor bring me offerings."
"O my Lord," they cried, "what offerings will please you? Tell us only, and we will bring you whatever you like."
"Good," he replied. "Then you must fetch here plenty of rice, plenty of flowers and a nice fat chicken; place them as an offering beside me, and pour a great deal of water over them, as you do at your most solemn feasts, and I will forgive you your sins." The Mahars did as they were commanded. They placed some rice and flowers, and the best chicken they could procure, beside the bullock, and poured water over it and the offering. Then, no sooner did the dry, hard Bullock's skin get wetted than it split in many places, and to the surprise of all his worshippers, the Jackal jumped out, seized the chicken in his mouth, and ran away with it through the midst of them into the jungle. The Mahars ran after him over hedges and ditches for many, many miles, but he got away in spite of them all.
On, on he ran—on, on, for a very long way—until at last he came to a place where a little kid lived under a little sicakai tree. All her relations and friends were away, and when she saw him coming she thought to herself, "Unless I frighten this Jackal, he will eat me." So she ran as hard as she could up against the sicakai tree, which made all the branches shake and the leaves go rustle, rustle, rustle. And when the Jackal heard the rustling noise he got frightened, and thought it was all the little kid's friends coming to help her. And she called out to him, "Run away, Jackal, run away. Thousands and thousands of Jackals have run away at that sound—run away for your life." And the Jackal was so frightened that he ran away. So, he who had deceived so many was outwitted by a simple little kid!
After this the Jackal found his way back to his own village, where the Barber lived, and there for some time he used to prowl round the houses every night and live upon any bones he could find. The villagers did not like his coming, but did not know how to catch him, until one night his old friend the Barber (who had never forgiven him for stealing the fruit from the garden) caught him in a great net, having before made many unsuccessful attempts to do so. "Aha!" cried the Barber, "I've got you at last, my friend. You did not escape death from the cucumber-knife for nothing! you won't get away this time. Here, wife! wife! see what a prize I've got." The Barber's wife came running to the door, and the Barber gave her the Jackal (after he had tied all his four legs firmly together with a strong rope), and said to her, "Take this animal into the house, and be sure you don't let him escape, while I go and get a knife to kill him with."
The Barber's wife did as she was bid, and taking the Jackal into the house, laid him down on the floor. But no sooner had the Barber gone than the Jackal said to her, "Ah, good woman, your husband will return directly and put me to death. For the love of heaven, loosen the rope round my feet before he comes, for one minute only, and let me drink a little water from that puddle by the door, for my throat is parched with thirst."
"No, no, friend Jackal," answered the Barber's wife. "I know well enough what you'll do. No sooner shall I have untied your feet than you will run away, and when my husband returns and finds you are gone, he will beat me."
"Indeed, indeed, I will not run away," he replied. "Ah, kind mother, have pity on me, only for one little moment."
Then the Barber's wife thought, "Well, it is hard not to grant the poor beast's last request; he will not live long enough to have many more pleasures." So she untied the Jackal's legs and held him by a rope, that he might drink from the puddle. But quick as possible, he gave a jump and a twist and a pull, and, jerking the rope out of her hand, escaped once more into the jungle.
For some time he roamed up and down, living on what he could get in this village or that, until he had wandered very far away from the country where the Barber lived. At last one day, by chance, he passed a certain cottage, in which there dwelt a very poor Brahmin, who had seven daughters.
As the Jackal passed by, the Brahmin was saying to himself, "Oh, dear me! what can I do for my seven daughters? I shall have to support them all my life, for they are much too poor ever to get married. If a dog or a jackal were to offer to take one off my hands, he should have her."
Next day the Jackal called on the Brahmin, and said to him, "You said yesterday, if a Jackal or a dog were to offer to marry one of your daughters, you would let him have her; will you, therefore accept me as a son-in-law?"
The poor Brahmin felt very much embarrassed, but it was certain he had said the words, and therefore he felt in honour bound not to retract, although he had little dreamed of ever being placed in such a predicament. Just at that moment all the seven daughters began crying for bread, and the father had no bread to give them.
Observing this, the Jackal continued, "Let me marry one of your seven daughters and I will take care of her. It will at least leave you one less to provide for, and I will see that she never needs food."
Then the Brahmin's heart was softened, and he gave the Jackal his eldest daughter in marriage, and the Jackal took her home to his den in the high rocks.
Now you will say there never was a Jackal so clever as this. Very true, for this was not a common Jackal, or he could never have done all that I have told you. This Jackal was, in fact, a great Rajah in disguise, who, to amuse himself, took the form of a Jackal; for he was a great magician as well as a great prince.
The den to which he took the Brahmin's daughter looked like quite a common hole in the rocks on the outside, but inside it was a splendid palace, adorned with silver, and gold, and ivory and precious stones. But even his own wife did not know that he was not always a Jackal, for the Rajah never took his human form except every morning very early, when he used to take off the Jackal skin and wash it and brush it, and put it on again.
After he and his wife, the Brahmin's daughter, had lived up in their home in the rocks happily for some time, who should the Jackal see one day but his father-in-law, the old Brahmin, climbing up the hill to come and pay him a visit. The Jackal was vexed to see the Brahmin, for he knew he was very poor, and thought he had most likely come to beg; and so it was. The Brahmin said to him, "Son-in-law, let me come into your cave and rest a little while. I want to ask you to help me, for I am very poor and much in need of help."
"Don't go into my cave," said the Jackal; "it is but a poor hole, not fit for you to enter" (for he did not wish his father-in-law to see his fine palace); "but I will call my wife, that you may see I have not eaten her up, and she and you and I will talk over the matter, and see what we can do for you."
So the Brahmin, the Brahmin's daughter and the Jackal all sat down on the hillside together, and the Brahmin said, "I don't know what to do to get food for myself, my wife, and my six daughters. Son-in-law Jackal, cannot you help me?"
"It is a difficult business," answered the Jackal, "but I'll do what I can for you;" and he ran to his cave and fetched a large melon, and gave it to the Brahmin, saying, "Father-in-law, you must take this melon, and plant it in your garden, and when it grows up sell all the fruit you find upon it, and that will bring you in some money." So the Brahmin took the melon home with him and planted it in his garden.
By next day the melon that the Jackal had given him had grown up in the Brahmin's garden into a fine plant, covered with hundreds of beautiful ripe melons. The Brahmin, his wife and family were overjoyed at the sight. And all the neighbours were astonished, and said, "How fast that fine melon plant has grown in the Brahmin's garden!"
Now it chanced that a woman who lived in a house close by wanted some melons, and seeing what fine ones these were, she went down at once to the Brahmin's house and bought two or three from the Brahmin's wife. She took them home with her and cut them open; but then, lo and behold! marvel of marvels! what a wonderful sight astonished her! Instead of the thick white pulp she expected to see, the whole of the inside of the melon was composed of diamonds, rubies and emeralds; and all the seeds were enormous pearls. She immediately locked her door, and taking with her all the money she had, ran back to the Brahmin's wife and said to her, "Those were very good melons you sold me; I like them so much that I will buy all the others on your melon plant." And giving her the money she took home all the rest of the melons. Now this cunning woman told none of her friends of the treasure she had found, and the poor, stupid Brahmin and his family did not know what they had lost, for they had never thought of opening any of the melons; so that for all the precious stones they sold they only got a few pice, which was very hard. Next day, when they looked out of the window, the melon plant was again covered with fine ripe melons, and again the woman who had bought those which had grown the day before came and bought them all. And this went on for several days. There were so many melons; and all the melons were so full of precious stones, that the woman who bought them had enough to fill the whole of one room in her house with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls.
At last, however, the wonderful melon plant began to wither, and when the woman came to buy melons one morning, the Brahmin's wife was obliged to say to her, in a sad voice, "Alas! there are no more melons on our melon plant." And the woman went back to her own house very much disappointed.
That day the Brahmin and his wife and children had no money in the house to buy food with, and they all felt very unhappy to think that the fine melon plant had withered. But the Brahmin's youngest daughter, who was a clever girl, thought, "Though there are no more melons fit to sell on our melon plant, perhaps I may be able to find one or two shriveled ones, which, if cooked, will give us something for dinner." So she went out to look, and searching carefully amongst the thick leaves, found two or three withered little melons still remaining. These she took into the house and began cutting them up to cook, when—more wonderful than wonderful!—within each little melon she found a number of small emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls! The girl called her father and mother and her five sisters, crying, "See what I have found! See these precious stones and pearls. I dare say, inside all the melons we sold there were as good or better than these. No wonder that woman was so anxious to buy them all! See, father—see, mother—see, sisters!"
Then they were all overjoyed to see the treasure, but the Brahmin said, "What a pity we have lost all the benefit of my son-in-law the Jackal's good gift by not knowing its worth! I will go at once to that woman, and try and make her give us back the melons she took."
So he went to the melon-buyer's house, and said to her, "Give me back the melons you took from me, who did not know their worth."
She answered, "I don't know what you mean."
He replied. "You were very deceitful; you bought melons full of precious stones from us poor people, who did not know what they were worth, and you only paid for them the price of common melons; give me some of them back, I pray you."
But she said, "I bought common melons from your wife, and made them all into common soup long ago; therefore talk no further nonsense about jewels, but go about your business." And she turned him out of the house. Yet all this time she had a whole roomful of the emeralds, diamonds, rubies and pearls that she had found in the melons the Brahmin's wife had sold her.
The Brahmin returned home and said to his wife, "I cannot make that woman give me back any of the melons you sold her; but give me the precious stones our daughter has just found, and I will sell them to a jeweller and bring home some money." So he went to the town, and took the precious stones to a jeweller, and said to him, "What will you give me for these?"
But no sooner did the jeweller see them than he said, "How could such a poor man as you become possessed of such precious stones? You must have stolen them: you are a thief! You have stolen these from my shop, and now come to sell them to me!"
"No, no, sir; indeed no, sir," cried the Brahmin.
"Thief, thief!" shouted the jeweller.
"In truth, no sir," said the Brahmin; "my son-in-law, the Jackal, gave me a melon plant, and in one of the melons I found these jewels."
"I don't believe a word you say," screamed the jeweller (and he began beating the Brahmin, whom he held by the arm); "give up those jewels which you have stolen from my shop."
"No, I won't," roared the Brahmin; "oh! oh-o! oh-o-o! don't beat me so; I didn't steal them." But the jeweller was determined to get the jewels; so he beat the Brahmin and called the police, who came running up to his assistance, and shouted till a great crowd of people had collected round his shop. Then he said to the Brahmin, "Give me up the jewels you stole from me, or I'll give you to the police, and you shall be put in jail." The Brahmin tried to tell his story about his son-in-law, the Jackal but of course nobody believed him; and he was obliged to give the precious stones to the jeweller in order to escape the police, and to run home as fast as he could. And every one thought the jeweller was very kind to let him off so easily.
All his family were very unhappy when they heard what had befallen him. But his wife said, "You had better go again to our son-in-law, the Jackal, and see what he can do for us."
So next day the Brahmin climbed the hill again, as he had done before, and went to call upon the Jackal. When the Jackal saw him coming he was not very well pleased. So he went to meet him, and said, "Father-in-law, I did not expect to see you again so soon."
"I merely came to see how you were," answered the Brahmin, "and to tell you how poor we are; and how glad we should be of any help you can give us."
"What have you done with all the melons I gave you?" asked the Jackal.
"Ah," answered the Brahmin, "that is a sad story!" And beginning at the beginning, he related how they had sold almost all the melons without knowing their value; and how the few precious stones they had found had been taken from him by the jeweller.
When the Jackal heard this he laughed very much, and said; "I see it is no use giving such unfortunate people as you gold or jewels, for they will only bring you into trouble. Come, I'll give you a more useful present."
So, running into his cave, he fetched thence a small chattee, and gave it to the Brahmin, saying, "Take this chattee; whenever you or any of the family are hungry, you will always find in it as good a dinner as this." And putting his paw into the chattee, he extracted thence currie and rice, pilau, and all sorts of good things, enough to feast a hundred men; and the more he took out of the chattee, the more remained inside.
When the Brahmin saw the chattee and smelt the good dinner, his eyes glistened for joy; and he embraced the Jackal, saying, "Dear son-in-law, you are the only support of our house." And he took his new present carefully home with him.
After this, for some time, the whole family led a very happy life, for they never wanted good food; every day the Brahmin, his wife and his six daughters found inside the chattee a most delicious dinner; and every day, when they had dined, they placed it on a shelf, to find it replenished when next it was needed.
But it happened that hard by there lived another Brahmin, a very great man, who was much in the Rajah's confidence; and this man smelt daily the smell of a very nice dinner, which puzzled him a great deal. The rich Brahmin thought it smelt even nicer than his own dinner, for which he paid so much, and yet it seemed to come from the poor Brahmin's little cottage. So one day he determined to find out all about it; and, going to call on his neighbour, he said to him, "Every day, at about twelve o'clock, I smell such a very nice dinner—much nicer than my own; and it seems to come from your house. You must live on very good things, I think, although you seem to every one to be so very poor."
Then, in the pride of his heart, the poor Brahmin invited his rich neighbour to come and dine with him, and lifting the magic chattee down from the shelf, took out of it such delicate fare as the other had never before tasted. And in an evil hour he proceeded to tell his friend of the wondrous properties of the chattee, which his son-in-law, the Jackal, had given him, and how it never was empty. No sooner had the great man learned all this than he went to the Rajah, and said to him, "There is a poor Brahmin in the town who possesses a wonderful chattee, which is always filled with the most delicious dinner. I should not feel authorized to deprive him of it; but if it pleased your Highness to take it from him, he could not complain."
The Rajah, hearing this, determined to see and taste for himself. So he said, "I should very much like to see this chattee with my own eyes." And he accompanied the rich Brahmin to the poor Brahmin's house. The poor Brahmin was overjoyed at being noticed by the Rajah himself, and gladly exhibited the various excellences of the chattee; but no sooner did the Rajah taste the dinner it contained than he ordered his guards to seize it and take it away to the palace, in spite of the Brahmin's tears and protestations. Thus, for a second time, he lost the benefit of his son-in-law's gift.
When the Rajah had gone, the Brahmin said to his wife; "There is nothing to be done but to go again to the Jackal, and see if he can help us."
"If you don't take care, you'll put him out of all patience at last," answered she. "I can't think why you need have gone talking about our chattee!"
When the Jackal heard the Brahmin's story, he became very cross, and said, "What a stupid old man you were to say anything about the chattee! But see, here is another, which may aid you to get back the first. Take care of it, for this is the last time I will help you." And he gave the Brahmin a chattee, in which was a stout stick tied to a very strong rope. "Take this," he said, "into the presence of those who deprived you of my other gifts, and when you open the chattee, command the stick to beat them; this it will do so effectually that they will gladly return you what you have lost; only take care not to open the chattee when you are alone, or the stick that is in it will punish your rashness."
The Brahmin thanked his son-in-law, and took away the chattee, but he found it hard to believe all that had been said. So, going through the jungle on his way home, he uncovered it, just to peep in and see if the stick were really there. No sooner had he done this than out jumped the rope, out jumped the stick; the rope seized him and bound him to a tree, and the stick beat him, and beat him, and beat him, until he was nearly killed.
"Oh dear! oh dear!" screamed the Brahmin; "what an unlucky man I am! Oh dear! oh dear! stop, please, stop! good stick, stop! what a very good stick this is!" But the stick would not stop, but beat him so much that he could hardly crawl home again.
Then the Brahmin put the rope and stick back again into the chattee, and sent to his rich neighbour and to the Rajah, and said to them, "I have a new chattee, much better than the old one; do come and see what a fine one it is." And the rich Brahmin and the Rajah thought, "This is something good; doubtless there is a choice dinner in this chattee also, and we will take it from this foolish man, as we did the other." So they went down to meet the Brahmin in the jungle, taking with them all their followers and attendants. Then the Brahmin uncovered his chattee, saying, "Beat, stick, beat! beat them every one!" and the stick jumped out, and the rope jumped out, and the rope caught hold of the Rajah and the rich Brahmin and all their attendants, and tied them fast to the trees that grew around, and the stick ran from one to another, beating, beating, beating—beating the Rajah, beating his courtiers—beating the rich Brahmin, beating his attendants, and beating all their followers; while the poor Brahmin cried with all his might, "Give me back my chattee! give me back my chattee!"
At this the Rajah and his people were very much frightened, and thought they were going to be killed. And the Rajah said to the Brahmin, "Take away your stick, only take away your stick, and you shall have back your chattee." So the Brahmin put the stick and rope back into the chattee, and the Rajah returned him the dinner-making chattee. And all the people felt very much afraid of the Brahmin, and respected him very much.
Then he took the chattee containing the rope and stick to the house of the woman who had bought the melons, and the rope caught her and the stick beat her; and the Brahmin cried, "Return me those melons! return me those melons!"
And the woman said, "Only make your stick stop beating me and you shall have back all the melons." So he ordered the stick back into the chattee, and she returned them to him forthwith—a whole roomful of melons full of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and rubies.
The Brahmin took them home to his wife, and going into the town, with the help of his good stick, forced the jeweller who had deprived him of the little emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls he had taken to sell to give them back to him again, and having accomplished this, he returned to his family, and from that time they all lived very happily. Then, one day, the Jackal's wife invited her six sisters to come and pay her a visit. Now the youngest sister was more clever than any of the others; and it happened that, very early in the morning, she saw her brother-in-law, the Jackal, take off the Jackal skin and wash it and brush it, and hang it up to dry; and when he had taken off the jackal-skin coat, he looked the handsomest prince that ever was seen. Then his little sister-in-law ran, quickly and quietly, and stole away the Jackal-skin coat, and threw it on the fire and burned it. And she awoke her sister, and said, "Sister, sister, your husband is no longer a jackal: see, that is he standing by the door."
So the Jackal Rajah's wife ran to the door to meet her husband, and because the jackal's skin was burned, and he could wear it no longer, he continued to be a man for the rest of his life, and gave up playing all jackal-like pranks; and he and his wife, and his father and mother and sisters-in-law, lived very happily all the rest of their days.
The Bird of Truth
Once upon a time there was a very poor fisherman, who lived in a little hut on the banks of a river. This river, although deep, was calm and clear, and, gliding from the sun and noise, would hide itself among the trees, reeds, and brambles, in order to listen to the birds who delighted it with their songs.
One day when the fisherman went out in his boat to cast his nets, he saw a casket of crystal slowly drifting along with the stream. He rowed toward it, but what was his horror at seeing two little babies, apparently twins, lying in it upon a bundle of cotton! The poor fisherman pitied them, took them out, and carried them home to his wife.
"What have you got there?" she exclaimed, as he presented them to her. "We have eight children already, and as if that were not enough, you must bring me some more!"
"Wife," replied the poor fisherman, "what could I do? I found these dear little creatures floating on the river below, and they would have died of hunger, or have been drowned, if I had not rescued them. Heaven, which has sent us these two more children, will assist us to provide for them."
And so it proved; and the little ones, a boy and a girl, grew up healthy and robust, together with the eight other children. They were both so good, so docile, and so peaceable, that the fisherman and his wife loved them exceedingly, and always held them up as examples to the other children; but they, envious and enraged, did them a thousand injustices and injuries. To escape from these cruelties, the twins would take refuge together among the thickets and on the river's banks; there they would divert themselves with the birds, and carry crumbs of bread to them; and the birds, grateful to them for their kindness, would fly to meet them, and teach them the bird-language. The children learned to converse with the birds very quickly, and thus they could amuse themselves with their feathered friends, who also taught them many other very good and useful things, one of them being how to get up early in the morning, and another, how to sing. One day when the fisherman's children were more annoying than they had ever been before, they said to the twins:
"We are the true-born children of Christians, but you, with all your neatness and superiority, are but castaways, without any other father or mother than the river, and belong to the toads and frogs!"
Upon receiving this insult the poor brother and sister were so filled with shame and distress that they determined to go right away from home and travel in search of their real parents At the early dawn next day they got up and went forth without any one knowing it, and began their journey, travelling they knew not whither.
Half the day passed by, and they had not perceived as yet any abode, nor seen a single living being. They were hungry, thirsty, and tired, when on turning round a hillside, they discovered a little house and, on reaching it, they found it empty and its inhabitants absent.
Thoroughly disheartened, they seated themselves on a bench in the doorway to rest. After a little while they noticed a number of swallows collected together under the eaves of the roof, and as these birds are such chatter-boxes, they began to prattle with one another. Having learned the language of birds, the children knew what the swallows said.
"Holloa! my lady friend," said one of the birds, who had a somewhat rustic air about it, to another that was of a very elegant and distinguished mien, "my eyes are glad to see you once more! I thought you had forgotten your country friends. How do you live in the palace?"
"I possess the nest of my ancestors," replied the other, "and as yet they have not disinherited me, although, like yours, it is a century old. But tell me before all," continued she with admirable finesse, "how you and all your family are."
"Well, thank heaven, for although I have had my little Mariguita laid up with an inflammation of the eyes that was within an ace of leaving her blind, when I obtained our old remedy, the pito-real, it cured her as if by magic."
"But what news have you to relate to me, friend Beatrice? Does the nightingale still sing well? Does the lark soar as high as of yore? Does the linnet still prune itself?"
"Sister," responded the swallow, "I have nothing but downright scandals to tell you of. Our flock, which formerly was so innocent and temperate, is utterly lost, and has quite taken to the manners of mankind. It is heartbreaking!"
"What! Simple customs and innocence not to be found in the country, nor among birds? My dear friend, what do you tell me?"
"The pure truth and nothing more. Just figure to yourself that on our arrival here, whom should we meet but those chattering linnets, who went off in search of cold and storm when the spring came with long days and bright flowers! We tried to dissuade the crazy creatures, but they answered us with the utmost insolence."
"What did they say?"
"They said to us—
'Whither do we go? Whence come you, gossips, Who travel so little And talk so much?'
This was their reply to us, and on hearing it, we made them march to double-quick time."
"What do I hear!" exclaimed the interlocutor. "That any one has dared to accuse us, the most truthful and discreet of birds, of being gossips?"
"Then what will you think when I tell you," said the first speaker, "that the lark, who was so timid and ladylike, has become an insolent pilferer, and that—
The lady lark upon her flight Pilfers pulse and pilfers maize Before the very sower's sight, And at his anger pertly says, 'Sower, sower, more seed sow, As that sown can never grow'?"
"I am astounded!"
"That is only half my story. When we arrived here, and I wished to enter my nest, I found a shameless sparrow making himself quite at home in it. 'This nest is mine,' I said to him. 'Yours?' he answered rudely, and began to laugh. 'Mine and mine only.' 'Property is robbery,' piped he quite coolly. 'Sir, are you crazy?' I said to him. 'My ancestors built this nest, my parents educated me in it, and in it I mean to bring up my children.' Then at seeing me fainting, all my companions began to weep. By the time I recovered my consciousness; our husbands had put an end to the thieving rascal. But you, sister, never see such scandals in the palace."
"Don't we! Ah, if you only knew!"
"Do tell us! do tell us!" exclaimed all the swallows with one voice. When silence had been re-established, thanks to a loud and prolonged hus-s-s-sh, uttered by an elder, the court dame began her story in these terms.
"You must know that the king fell in love with the youngest daughter of a tailor who lived near the palace, and married her; the girl deserved his love, for she was as good as she was beautiful, and as modest as she was discreet. It so happened that the king had to go to the wars and leave his poor wife in the saddest and most perplexed position, for his ministers and courtiers who were very indignant at having a tailor's daughter for their queen, conspired to ruin her. And they availed themselves of the first opportunity. During the king's absence beautiful twins were born, a boy and a girl; but the wicked conspirators sent to tell him that the queen had for children a cat and a serpent.
"When the king received this intelligence, he was furious and sent off a royal mandate that the queen should be entombed alive, and the children cast into the river. This was done: the beautiful queen was shut up in a stone vault, and her little darling twins were placed in a crystal coffer, and left to the mercy of the stream."
When they heard the fate of the poor queen and her innocent babes, the swallows, who are very kind and affectionate, began to lament most heartily, whilst the twins looked at each other in amazement, suspecting it to be very probable that they themselves were the castaway children.
The city swallow continued her narrative:
"But now hear how God frustrated the plots of these traitors. The queen was entombed; but her attendant, who was very devoted to her, contrived to make a hole in the wall, and supplied her with food through it, as we do to our little ones through our nests, and thus the lady lives, although a life of misery. Her children were rescued by a good fisherman, who has brought them up, so a friend of mine, Martin Fisher, who lives on the banks of the river, has informed me."
The twins, who had heard the whole story, were delighted that they had learned the language of birds; which indeed, is a proof that we should never neglect any opportunity of learning for, when least we think it, what we have learned may prove of great utility to us.
"So then," said the swallows joyfully, "when these children are older, they will be able to regain their place at their father's side, and liberate their mother."
"That is not so easy," said the narrator, "because they will not be able to prove their identity, nor prove their mother's innocence, nor the malice of the Ministry. There is only one method by which they would be able to undeceive the king."
"And what is that? What is that?" cried all the swallows together. "And how do you know it?"
"I know it," responded the narrator, "because one day when I was passing by the palace garden, I met and had a chat with a cuckoo, who, as you know, is a conjuror, and can foretell what will happen. As we were discoursing with each other on the affairs of the palace, he said to me—"
The children and the swallows were listening now with redoubled attention, and even the young swallows were thrusting their little bald heads so far out of their nests, that they were in great peril of falling.
"'The only one who is able to persuade the king,' said the cuckoo to me, 'is the Bird of Truth, who speaks the language of men, although they for the most part do not know truth, and do not wish to understand it.' 'And this bird, where is it?' I asked the cuckoo. 'This bird,' he answered, 'is in the castle of Go and Return Not; the castle is guarded by a ferocious giant who only sleeps one quarter of an hour in the day. If when he wakes up any one should be within reach of his tremendous arm, he seizes and swallows him as we should a mosquito.'"
"And where is this castle?" inquired the inquisitive Beatrice.
"That is what I do not know," responded her friend; "all that I know about it is, that not far from it is a tower in which dwells a wicked witch, who knows the way and will point it out to any one who will bring her from the fountain that flows there, the Water of Many Colours, which water she makes use of in her enchantments. But I should also tell you that she would like to destroy the Bird of Truth, though as no one is able to kill this bird, what she and her friend, the giant, do is to keep it a prisoner guarded by the Birds of Falsehood who will not let it speak a single word."
"Then will nobody be able to inform the poor queen's son where they have hidden the Bird of Truth?" inquired the country swallows.
"Nobody," replied the city bird, "but a pious red owl, who lives as a hermit in the desert, but who knows no more of the language of men then the word 'Cross,' which he learned when, at Calvary, he beheld the Crucifixion of the Redeemer, and which he has never ceased from sorrowfully repeating. And thus he will not be able to understand the prince, even supposing the impossible event should ever happen of the boy finding him out. But, my dear friends, I must say good-bye, for I have spent the whole afternoon in this pleasant chat. The sun is seeking his nest in the depths of the sea, and I am going to seek mine, where my little ones will be wondering what has happened to me. Good-bye, friend Beatrice."
So saying, the swallow took to flight, and the children in their joy, feeling neither hunger nor fatigue, got up and pursued their way in the same direction that the bird had flown.
At the hour of evening service the children arrived at a city which they imagined must be that in which the king, their father, dwelt. They begged a good woman to give them shelter for the night, and this, seeing they were so well-spoken and well-mannered, she kindly granted.
The following morning had scarcely dawned when the girl arose and tidied the house, and the boy drew the water and watered the garden, so that when the good woman got up she found all the housework done. She was so pleased with this that she proposed to the children that they should remain and live with her. The boy said that his sister might, but that it was necessary for him to arrange some business matters, for which he had come to the city. So he departed, and followed a chance road, praying to heaven to guide his steps and bring his enterprise to a successful ending.
For three days he followed various byways, but without seeing any vestige of the tower; on the fourth, sad and weary he seated himself under the shadow of a tree. After a short time he saw a little turtle-dove arrive and rest among the branches of the tree; so he said to it in its own language:
"Little turtle-dove, I wish you could tell me where the castle of Go and Return Not is?"
"Poor boy," responded the turtle-dove, "who bore you such ill-will as to send you there?"
"It is my good or my evil fortune," replied the boy.
"Then if you wish to know it," said the bird, "follow the Wind, which to-day blows toward it!"
Then the boy thanked the turtle-dove and recommenced his journey, following the course of the wind as it changed and chopped about to different points of the compass. The country gradually grew sadder and more arid; and, as night approached, the path led between bare and sombre rocks, a vast black mass among them being the tower wherein dwelt the witch whom the boy was in search of. The sight of the hideous place terrified him at first; but as he was brave—like every one whose aim is the furtherance of a good work—he advanced boldly. When he reached the tower, he picked up a big stone and struck the gate with it three times; the hollows of the rocks reverberated with the sounds, as if sighs were uttered from their very entrails.
Then the door opened, and there appeared in the doorway an old woman carrying a candle that lit up her face, which was so wrinkled and so frightful that the poor boy recoiled in horror. Quite an army of beetles, lizards, salamanders, spiders and other vermin surrounded the witch.
"How dare you disturb me, impudent beggar," she exclaimed, "by coming to knock at my door? What do you want? Speak quickly!"
"Madam," said the boy, "knowing that you alone know the way which leads to the castle of Go and Return Not, I come to ask you, if you please, to point it out to me."
The old woman made a grimace, intended for a mocking smile, and answered:
"Very well; but now it is too late. You shall go to-morrow. Come in, and you shall sleep with these little insects."
"I am not able to stay," replied the boy. "It is necessary that I should go at once, as I have to return by daybreak to the place whence I came."
"May dogs worry you, and cats tear you, you stubborn boy," growled the old witch angrily. "If I tell you the way," she added, "it will only be upon condition that you bring me this jar full of the Water of Many Colours, which flows from the fountain in the courtyard of the castle; and if you do not bring it to me, I will change you into a lizard for all eternity."
"Agreed!" cried the boy in return.
Then the old woman called a poor dog, which looked very thin and wretched, and said to it:
"Up! conduct this good-for-naught to the castle of Go and Return Not, and be careful that you inform my friend of his arrival."
The dog snarled, shook himself savagely, and set forth. At the end of about two hours they arrived in front of a very black, enormous, and gloomy castle, whose portals stood wide open, though neither light nor sound gave any indication that it was inhabited; even the rays of the moon, as they were reflected upon the sombre and lifeless mass, seemed to make it still more horrible.
As he went forward the dog began to howl; but the boy, who knew not whether this was the giant's hour for sleep, stopped and rested himself timorously against the trunk of a withered and leafless wild olive, which was the only tree to be found in that parched and naked district.
"Heaven help me!" exclaimed the boy.
"Cross! cross!" responded a sad voice among the branches of the olive. Joyfully the boy recognized the hermit owl which the swallow had mentioned, and said to it in the language of birds:
"Poor little owl, I beg you will help and guide me. I am come in search of the Bird of Truth, and I have to carry the Water of Many Colours to the witch of the tower."
"Do not do that," responded the owl; "but when you have filled the jar with the clear, pure water that flows from a spring at the foot of the fountain of Water of Many Colours, go in quickly to the aviary, which you will find in front of the doorway; do not take any notice of the various coloured birds that will come to meet you and deafen you by all shouting out together that they are the Bird of Truth; then seize a little white bird which the others thrust on one side and persecute ceaselessly, but cannot kill, because it cannot die. But go quickly, for at this moment the giant is just going to sleep, and his sleep only lasts for a quarter of an hour!"
The boy began to run; he entered into the courtyard, where he found that the fountain had many spouts whence poured waters of different colours, but he did not look at them; he filled his jar at the spring of pure, clear water which flowed from the spring at the foot of the fountain, and then made his way to the aviary. Scarcely had he entered it, when he was surrounded by a troop of birds, some plovers, some black ravens, and others gorgeous peacocks, each one declaring itself to be the Bird of Truth. The boy did not linger with them, but went right forward, and finding the white bird he was in search of huddled in the corner, he took it, placed it in his bosom, and went forth, not however, without distributing a few good blows among the enemies of the Bird of Truth.
The boy did not cease running until he reached the witch's tower. When he arrived, the old wretch seized the jar and flung all the contents at him, thinking that it was the water of many colours, and that he would be changed by it into a parrot; but as it was pure and clear water, the boy only became handsomer than he was before.
At the same time she had drenched all the insects, who were really people that had arrived there with the same intention as the little prince, and who were immediately changed back into their original forms—the beetles into knights errant, the lizards into princesses, grasshoppers into dancers, crickets into musicians, flies into journalists, spiders into young ladies, curianas (black flies) into students, the weevils into boys, and so forth. When the old witch saw this, she seized a broom and flew away. Then the disenchanted people, the ladies, gentlemen, girls and boys thanked their liberator and accompanied him on his way back to the city.
You may imagine how delighted his sister was when she saw the young prince return with the Bird of Truth. But a very great difficulty still remained, and that was, how the bird could be got into the presence of the king without the knowledge of the courtiers, who were interested in preventing him from discovering the crime which they had committed. And what was more, the Court having learned that the Bird of Truth had been found, the news inspired such dread that few were able to sleep tranquilly in their beds. All kinds of weapons were prepared against it; some sharpened, others envenomed; hawks were trained to pursue it; cages were prepared in which to imprison it, if it were found impossible to kill it; they slandered it, saying that its whiteness was an artificial paint, with which it coated its black plumage; they satirized and ridiculed it in every possible manner. At last so much was said about the Bird of Truth, that it reached the king's ears, who wished to see it; and the more that the courtiers intrigued to prevent it, the more he desired to view the bird. Finally, his Majesty issued a proclamation, that whoever had the Bird of Truth in his possession, was to present himself without delay to the king.
This was the very thing that the boy had wished for. So he hastened to the palace, carrying the Bird of Truth in his bosom; but, as you can imagine, the courtiers would not allow him to enter. Then the bird, taking flight, entered into the royal household by a window, and presenting itself before the king, said:
"Sir, I am the Bird of Truth; the boy who brought me here in his bosom has not been allowed by the courtiers to enter."
The king commanded that the boy should be brought in at once, and he entered with his sister, who had accompanied him to the palace. When they came into the royal presence the king inquired who they were.
"That the Bird of Truth can tell your Majesty," said the boy.
And, questioned by the king, the bird answered that the children were his Majesty's own, and informed him of all that had happened. As soon as the king heard the story of the treason, with tears of joy he clasped the children in his arms, and ordered masons to open the vault in which the good queen had been so many years entombed. When the poor lady came forth she was so white that she looked like a statue of marble; but as soon as she beheld her children, the blood rushed from her heart to her cheeks, and she became again as beautiful as she had ever been before. The king embraced her, and seated her on the throne with her children by her side. Then he ordered the good fisherman to be fetched, and created him chief of the Ministry of Fishing; and the queen's faithful attendant, who had saved her mistress's life, he pensioned off, and created a duchess, and he distributed many other gifts and benefits to celebrate the most joyful occasion of his life.