From the Danish.
There once lived in Denmark a peasant and his wife who owned a very good farm, but had no children. They often lamented to each other that they had no one of their own to inherit all the wealth that they possessed. They continued to prosper, and became rich people, but there was no heir to it all.
One year it happened that they owned a pretty little bull-calf, which they called Peter. It was the prettiest little creature they had ever seen—so beautiful and so wise that it understood everything that was said to it, and so gentle and so full of play that both the man and his wife came to be as fond of it as if it had been their own child.
One day the man said to his wife, 'I wonder, now, whether our parish clerk could teach Peter to talk; in that case we could not do better than adopt him as our son, and let him inherit all that we possess.'
'Well, I don't know,' said his wife, 'our clerk is tremendously learned, and knows much more than his Paternoster, and I could almost believe that he might be able to teach Peter to talk, for Peter has a wonderfully good head too. You might at least ask him about it.'
Off went the man to the clerk, and asked him whether he thought he could teach a bull-calf that they had to speak, for they wished so much to have it as their heir.
The clerk was no fool; he looked round about to see that no one could overhear them, and said, 'Oh, yes, I can easily do that, but you must not speak to anyone about it. It must be done in all secrecy, and the priest must not know of it, otherwise I shall get into trouble, as it is forbidden. It will also cost you something, as some very expensive books are required.'
That did not matter at all, the man said; they would not care so very much what it cost. The clerk could have a hundred dollars to begin with to buy the books. He also promised to tell no one about it, and to bring the calf round in the evening.
He gave the clerk the hundred dollars on the spot, and in the evening took the calf round to him, and the clerk promised to do his best with it. In a week's time he came back to the clerk to hear about the calf and see how it was thriving. The clerk, however, said that he could not get a sight of it, for then Peter would long after him and forget all that he had already learned. He was getting on well with his learning, but another hundred dollars were needed, as they must have more books. The peasant had the money with him, so he gave it to the clerk, and went home again with high hopes.
In another week the man came again to learn what progress Peter had made now.
'He is getting on very well,' said the clerk.
'I suppose he can't say anything yet?' said the man.
'Oh, yes,' said the clerk, 'he can say "Moo" now.'
'Do you think he will get on with his learning?' asked the peasant.
'Oh, yes,' said the clerk, 'but I shall want another hundred dollars for books. Peter can't learn well out of the ones that he has got.'
'Well, well,' said the man, 'what must be spent shall be spent.'
So he gave the clerk the third hundred dollars for books, and a cask of good old ale for Peter. The clerk drank the ale himself, and gave the calf milk, which he thought would be better for it.
Some weeks passed, during which the peasant did not come round to ask after the calf, being frightened lest it should cost him another hundred dollars, for he had begun to squirm a bit at having to part with so much money. Meanwhile the clerk decided that the calf was as fat as it could be, so he killed it. After he had got all the beef out of the way he went inside, put on his black clothes, and made his way to the peasant's house.
As soon as he had said 'Good-day' he asked, 'Has Peter come home here?'
'No, indeed, he hasn't,' said the man; 'surely he hasn't run away?'
'I hope,' said the clerk, 'that he would not behave so contemptibly after all the trouble I have had to teach him, and all that I have spent upon him. I have had to spend at least a hundred dollars of my own money to buy books for him before I got him so far on. He could say anything he liked now, so he said to-day that he longed to see his parents again. I was willing to give him that pleasure, but I was afraid that he wouldn't be able to find the way here by himself, so I made myself ready to go with him. When we had got outside the house I remembered that I had left my stick inside, and went in again to get it. When I came out again Peter had gone off on his own account. I thought he would be here, and if he isn't I don't know where he is.'
The peasant and his wife began to lament bitterly that Peter had run away in this fashion just when they were to have so much joy of him, and after they had spent so much on his education. The worst of it was that now they had no heir after all. The clerk comforted them as best he could; he also was greatly distressed that Peter should have behaved in such a way just when he should have gained honour from his pupil. Perhaps he had only gone astray, and he would advertise him at church next Sunday, and find out where anyone had seen him. Then he bade them 'Good-bye,' and went home nad dined on a good fat veal roast.
Now it so happened that the clerk took in a newspaper, and one day he chanced to read in its columns of a new merchant who had settled in a town at some distance, and whose name was 'Peter Bull.' He put the newspaper in his pocket, and went round to the sorrowing couple who had lost their heir. He read the paragraph to them, and added, 'I wonder, now, whether that could be your bull-calf Peter?'
'Yes, of course it is,' said the man; 'who else would it be?'
His wife then spoke up and said, 'You must set out, good man, and see about him, for it is him, I am perfectly certain. Take a good sum of money with you, too; for who knows but what he may want some cash now that he has turned a merchant!'
Next day the man got a bag of money on his back and a sandwich in his pocket, and his pipe in his mouth, and set out for the town where the new merchant lived. It was no short way, and he travelled for many days before he finally arrived there. He reached it one morning, just at daybreak, found out the right place, and asked if the merchant was at home. Yes, he was, said the people, but he was not up yet.
'That doesn't matter,' said the peasant, 'for I am his father. Just show me up to his bedroom.'
He was shown up to the room, and as soon as he entered it, ad caught sight of the merchant, he recognised him at once. He had the same broad forehead, the same thick neck, and same red hair, but in other respects he was now like a human being. The peasant rushed straight up to him and took a firm hold of him. 'O Peter,' said he, 'what a sorrow you have caused us, both myself and your mother, by running off like this just as we had got you well educated! Get up, now, so that I can see you properly, and have a talk with you.'
The merchant thought that it was a lunatic who had made his way in to him, and thought it best to take things quietly.
'All right,' said he, 'I shall do so at once.' He got out of bed and made haste to dress himself.
'Ay,' said the peasant, 'now I can see how clever our clerk is. He has done well by you, for now you look just like a human being. If one didn't know it, one would never think that it was you we got from the red cow; will you come home with me now?'
'No,' said the merchant, 'I can't find time just now. I have a big business to look after.'
'You could have the farm at once, you know,' said the peasant, 'and we old people would retire. But if you would rather stay in business, of course you may do so. Are you in want of anything?'
'Oh, yes,' said the merchant; 'I want nothing so much as money. A merchant has always a use for that.'
'I can well believe that,' said the peasant, 'for you had nothing at all to start with. I have brought some with me for that very end.' With that he emptied his bag of money out upon the table, so that it was all covered with bright dollars.
When the merchant saw what kind of man he had before him he began to speak him fair, and invited him to stay with him for some days, so that they might have some more talk together.
'Very well,' said the peasant, 'but you must call me "Father."'
'I have neither father nor mother alive,' said Peter Bull.
'I know that,' said the man; 'your real father was sold at Hamburg last Michaelmas, and your real mother died while calving in spring; but my wife and I have adopted you as our own, and you are our only heir, so you must call me "Father."'
Peter Bull was quite willing to do so, and it was settled that he should keep the money, while the peasant made his will and left to him all that he had, before he went home to his wife, and told her the whole story.
She was delighted to hear that it was true enough about Peter Bull—that he was no other than their own bull-calf.
'You must go at once and tell the clerk,' said she, 'and pay him the hundred dollars of his own money that he spent upon our son. He has earned them well, and more besides, for all the joy he has given us in having such a son and heir.'
The man agreed with this, and thanked the clerk for all he had done, and gave him two hundred dollars. Then he sold the farm, and removed with his wife to the town where their dear son and heir was living. To him they gave all their wealth, and lived with him till their dying day.
The Bird 'Grip'
Translated from the Swedish.
It happened once that a king, who had a great kingdom and three sons, became blind, and no human skill or art could restore to him his sight. At last there came to the palace an old woman, who told him that in the whole world there was only one thing that could give him back his sight, and that was to get the bird Grip; his song would open the King's eyes.
When the king's eldest son heard this he offered to bring the bird Grip, which was kept in a cage by a king in another country, and carefully guarded as his greatest treasure. The blind king was greatly rejoiced at his son's resolve, fitted him out in the best way he could, and let him go. When the prince had ridden some distance he came to an inn, in which there were many guests, all of whom were merry, and drank and sang and played at dice. This joyous life pleased the prince so well that he stayed in the inn, took part in the playing and drinking, and forgot both his blind father and the bird Grip.
Meanwhile the king waited with both hope and anxiety for his son's return, but as time went on and nothing was heard of him, the second prince asked leave to go in search of his brother, as well as to bring the bird Grip. The king granted his request, and fitted him out in the finest fashion. But when the prince came to the inn and found his brother among his merry companions, he also remained there and forgot both the bird Grip and his blind father.
When the king noticed that neither of his sons returned, although a long time had passed since the second one set out, he was greatly distressed, for not only had he lost all hope of getting back his sight, but he had also lost his two eldest sons. The youngest now came to him, and offered to go in search of his brothers and to bring the bird Grip; he was quite certain that he would succeed in this. The king was unwilling to risk his third son on such an errand, but he begged so long that his father had at last to consent. This prince also was fitted out in the finest manner, like his brothers, and so rode away.
He also turned into the same inn as his brothers, and when these saw him they assailed him with many entreaties to remain with them and share their merry life. But he answered that now, when he had found them, his next task was to get the bird Grip, for which his blind father was longing, and so he had not a single hour to spare with them in the inn. He then said farewell to his brothers, and rode on to find another inn in which to pass the night. When he had ridden a long way, and it began to grow dark, he came to a house which lay deep in the forest. Here he was received in a very friendly manner by the host, who put his horse into the stable, and led the prince himself into the guest-chamber, where he ordered a maid-servant to lay the cloth and set down the supper. It was now dark, and while the girl was laying the cloth and setting down the dishes, and the prince had begun to appease his hunger, he heard the most piteous shrieks and cries from the next room. He sprang up from the table and asked the girl what those cries were, and whether he had fallen into a den of robbers. The girl answered that these shrieks were heard every night, but it was no living being who uttered them; it was a dead man, who life the host had taken because he could not pay for the meals he had had in the inn. The host further refused to bury the dead man, as he had left nothing to pay the expenses of the funeral, and every night he went and scourged the dead body of his victim.
When she had said this she lifted the cover off one of the dishes, and the prince saw that there lay on it a knife and an axe. He understood then that the host meant to ask him by this what kind of death he preferred to die, unless he was willing to ransom his life with his money. He then summoned the host, gave him a large sum for his own life, and paid the dead man's debt as well, besides paying him for burying the body, which the murderer now promised to attend to.
The prince, however, felt that his life was not safe in this murderer's den, and asked the maid to help him to escape that night. She replied that the attempt to do so might cost her her own life, as the key of the stable in which the prince's horse stood lay under the host's pillow; but, as she herself was a prisoner there, she would help him to escape if he would take her along with him. He promised to do so, and they succeeded in getting away from the inn, and rode on until they came to another far away from it, where the prince got a good place for the girl before proceeding on his journey.
As he now rode all alone through a forest there met him a fox, who greeted him in a friendly fashion, and asked him where he was going, and on what errand he was bent. The prince answered that his errand was too important to be confided to everyone that he met.
'You are right in that,' said the fox, 'for it relates to the bird Grip, which you want to take and bring home to your blind father; I could help you in this, but in that case you must follow my counsel.'
The prince thought that this was a good offer, especially as the fox was ready to go with him and show him the way to the castle, where the bird Grip sat in his cage, and so he promised to obey the fox's instructions. When they had traversed the forest together they saw the castle at some distance. Then the fox gave the prince three grains of gold, one of which he was to throw into the guard-room, another into the room where the bird Grip sat, and the third into its cage. He could then take the bird, but he must beware of stroking it; otherwise it would go ill with him.
The prince took the grains of gold, and promised to follow the fox's directions faithfully. When he came to the guard-room of the castle he threw one of the grains in there, and the guards at once fell asleep. The same thing happened with those who kept watch in the room beside the bird Grip, and when he threw the third grain into its cage the bird also fell asleep. When the prince got the beautiful bird into his hand he could not resist the temptation to stroke it, whereupon it awoke and began to scream. At this the whole castle woke up, and the prince was taken prisoner.
As he now sat in his prison, and bitterly lamented that his own disobedience had brought himself into trouble, and deprived his father of the chance of recovering his sight, the fox suddenly stood in front of him. The prince was very pleased to see it again, and received with great meekness all its reproaches, as well as promised to be more obedient in the future, if the fox would only help him out of his fix. The fox said that he had come to assist him, but he could do no more than advise the prince, when he was brought up for trial, to answer 'yes' to all the judge's questions, and everything would go well. The prince faithfully followed his instructions, so that when the judge asked him whether he had meant to steal the bird Grip he said 'Yes,' and when the judge asked him if he was a master-thief he again answered 'Yes.'
When the king heard that he admitted being a master-thief, he said that he would forgive him the attempt to steal the bird if he would go to the next kingdom and carry off the world's most beautiful princess, and bring her to him. To this also the prince said 'Yes.'
When he left the castle he met the fox, who went along with him to the next kingdom, and when they came near the castle there, gave him three grains of gold—one to throw into the guard-room, another into the princess's chamber, and the third into her bed. At the same time he strictly warned him not to kiss the princess. The prince went into the castle, and did with the grains of gold as the fox had told him, so that sleep fell upon everyone there; but when he had taken the princess into his arms he forgot the fox's warning, at the sight of her beauty, and kissed her. Then both she and all the others in the castle woke; the prince was taken prisoner, and put into a strong dungeon.
Here the fox again came to him and reproached him with his disobedience, but promised to help him out of this trouble also if he would answer 'yes' to everything they asked him at his trial. The prince willingly agreed to this, and admitted to the judge that he had meant to steal the princess, and that he was a master-thief.
When the king learned this he said he would forgive his offence if he would go to the next kingdom and steal the horse with the four golden shoes. To this also the prince said 'Yes.'
When he had gone a little way from the castle he met the fox, and they continued on their journey together. When they reached the end of it the prince for the third time received three grains of gold from the fox, with directions to throw one into the guard-chamber, another into the stable, and the third into the horse's stall. But the fox told him that above the horse's stall hung a beautiful golden saddle, which he must not touch, if he did not want to bring himself into new troubles worse than those he had escaped from, for then the fox could help him no longer.
The prince promised to be firm this time. He threw the grains of gold in the proper places, and untied the horse, but with that he caught sight of the golden saddle, and thought that none but it could suit so beautiful a horse, especially as it had golden shoes. But just as he stretched out his hand to take it he received from some invisible being so hard a blow on the arm that it was made quite numb. This recalled to him his promise and his danger, so he led out the horse without looking at the golden saddle again.
The fox was waiting for him outside the castle, and the prince confessed to him that he had very nearly given way to temptation this time as well. 'I know that,' said the fox, 'for it was I who struck you over the arm.'
As they now went on together the prince said that he could not forget the beautiful princess, and asked the fox whether he did not think that she ought to ride home to his father's palace on this horse with the golden shoes. The fox agreed that this would be excellent; if the prince would now go and carry her off he would give him three grains of gold for that purpose. The prince was quite ready, and promised to keep better command of himself this time, and not kiss her.
He got the grains of gold and entered the castle, where he carried off the princess, set her on the beautiful horse, and held on his way. When they came near to the castle where the bird Grip sat in his cage he again asked the fox for three grains of gold. These he got, and with them he was successful in carrying off the bird.
He was now full of joy, for his blind father would now recover his sight, while he himself owned the world's most beautiful princess and the horse with the golden shoes.
The prince and princess travelled on together with mirth and happiness, and the fox followed them until they came to the forest where the prince first met with him.
'Here our ways part,' said the fox. 'You have now got all that your heart desired, and you will have a prosperous journey to your father's palace if only you do not ransom anyone's life with money.'
The prince thanked the fox for all his help, promised to give heed to his warning, said farewell to him, and rode on, with the princess by his side and the bird Grip on his wrist.
They soon arrived at the inn where the two eldest brothers had stayed, forgetting their errand. But now no merry song or noise of mirth was heard from it. When the prince came nearer he saw two gallows erected, and when he entered the inn along with the princess he saw that all the rooms were hung with black, and that everything inside foreboded sorrow and death. He asked the reason of this, and was told that two princes were to be hanged that day for debt; they had spent all their money in feasting and playing, and were now deeply in debt to the host, and as no one could be found to ransom their lives they were about to be hanged according to the law.
The prince knew that it was his two brothers who had thus forfeited their lives and it cut him to the heart to think that two princes should suffer such a shameful death; and, as he had sufficient money with him, he paid their debts, and so ransomed their lives.
At first the brothers were grateful for their liberty, but when they saw the youngest brother's treasures they became jealous of his good fortune, and planned how to bring him to destruction, and then take the bird Grip, the princess, and the horse with the golden shoes, and convey them to their blind father. After they had agreed on how to carry out their treachery they enticed the prince to a den of lions and threw him down among them. Then they set the princess on horseback, took the bird Grip, and rode homeward. The princess wept bitterly, but they told her that it would cost her her life if she did not say that the two brothers had won all the treasures.
When they arrived at their father's palace there was great rejoicing, and everyone praised the two princes for their courage and bravery.
When the king inquired after the youngest brother they answered that he had led such a life in the inn that he had been hanged for debt. The king sorrowed bitterly over this, because the youngest prince was his dearest son, and the joy over the treasures soon died away, for the bird Grip would not sing so that the king might recover his sight, the princess wept night and day, and no one dared to venture so close to the horse as to have a look at his golden shoes.
Now when the youngest prince was thrown down into the lions' den he found the fox sitting there, and the lions, instead of tearing him to pieces, showed him the greatest friendliness. Nor was the fox angry with him for having forgot his last warning. He only said that sons who could so forget their old father and disgrace their royal birth as those had done would not hesitate to betray their brother either. Then he took the prince up out of the lion's den and gave him directions what to do now so as to come by his rights again.
The prince thanked the fox with all his heart for his true friendship, but the fox answered that if he had been of any use to him he would now for his own part ask a service of him. The prince replied that he would do him any service that was in his power.
'I have only one thing to ask of you,' said the fox, 'and that is, that you should cut off my head with your sword.'
The prince was astonished, and said that he could not bring himself to cut the had off his truest friend, and to this he stuck in spite of all the fox's declarations that it was the greatest service he could do him. At this the fox became very sorrowful, and declared that the prince's refusal to grant his request now compelled him to do a deed which he was very unwilling to do—if the prince would not cut off his head, then he must kill the prince himself. Then at last the prince drew his good sword and cut off the fox's head, and the next moment a youth stood before him.
'Thanks,' said he, 'for this service, which has freed me from a spell that not even death itself could loosen. I am the dead man who lay unburied in the robber's inn, where you ransomed me and gave me honourable burial, and therefore I have helped you in your journey.'
With this they parted and the prince, disguising himself as a horse-shoer, went up to his father's palace and offered his services there.
The king's men told him that a horse-shoer was indeed wanted at the palace, but he must be one who could lift up the feet of the horse with the golden shoes, and such a one they had not yet been able to find. The prince asked to see the horse, and as soon as he entered the stable the steed began to neigh in a friendly fashion, and stood as quiet and still as a lamb while the prince lifted up his hoofs, one after the other, and showed the king's men the famous golden shoes.
After this the king's men began to talk about the bird Grip, and how strange it was that he would not sing, however well he was attended to. The horse-shoer then said that he knew the bird very well; he had seen it when it sat in its cage in another king's palace, and if it did not sing now it must be because it did not have all that it wanted. He himself knew so much about the bird's ways that if he only got to see it he could tell at once what it lacked.
The king's men now took counsel whether they ought to take the stranger in before the king, for in his chamber sat the bird Grip along with the weeping princess. It was decided to risk doing so, and the horse-shoer was led into the king's chamber, where he had no sooner called the bird by its name than it began to sing and the princess to smile. Then the darkness cleared away from the king's eyes, and the more the bird sang the more clearly did he see, till at last in the strange horse-shoer he recognised his youngest son. Then the princess told the king how treacherously his eldest sons had acted, and he had them banished from his kingdom; but the youngest prince married the princess, and got the horse with the golden shoes and half the kingdom from his father, who kept for himself so long as he lived the bird Grip, which now sang with all its heart to the king and all his court.
Slavonic story. Contes Populaires Slaves, traduits par Louis Leger. Paris: Leroux, Editeur.
Once upon a time there lived a peasant called Ivan, and he had a wife whose name was Marie. They would have been quite happy except for one thing: they had no children to play with, and as they were now old people they did not find that watching the children of their neighbours at all made up to them for having one of their own.
One winter, which nobody living will ever forget, the snow lay so deep that it came up to the knees of even the tallest man. When it had all fallen, and the sun was shining again, the children ran out into the street to play, and the old man and his wife sat at their window and gazed at them. The children first made a sort of little terrace, and stamped it hard and firm, and then they began to make a snow woman. Ivan and Marie watched them, the while thinking about many things.
Suddenly Ivan's face brightened, and, looking at his wife, he said, 'Wife, why shouldn't we make a snow woman too?'
'Why not?' replied Marie, who happened to be in a very good temper; 'it might amuse us a little. But there is no use making a woman. Let us make a little snow child, and pretend it is a living one.'
'Yes, let us do that,' said Ivan, and he took down his cap and went into the garden with his old wife.
Then the two set to work with all their might to make a doll out of the snow. They shaped a little body and two little hands and two little feet. On top of all they placed a ball of snow, out of which the head was to be.
'What in the world are you doing?' asked a passer-by.
'Can't you guess?' returned Ivan.
'Making a snow-child,' replied Marie.
They had finished the nose and the chin. Two holes were left for the eyes, and Ivan carefully shaped out the mouth. No sooner had he done so than he felt a warm breath upon his cheek. He started back in surprise and looked—and behold! the eyes of the child met his, and its lips, which were as red as raspberries, smiled at him!
'What is it?' cried Ivan, crossing himself. 'Am I mad, or is the thing bewitched?'
The snow-child bent its head as if it had been really alive. It moved its little arms and its little legs in the snow that lay about it just as the living children did theirs.
'Ah! Ivan, Ivan,' exclaimed Marie, trembling with joy, 'heaven has sent us a child at last!' And she threw herself upon Snowflake (for that was the snow-child's name) and covered her with kisses. And the loose snow fell away from Snowflake as an egg shell does from an egg, and it was a little girl whom Marie held in her arms.
'Oh! my darling Snowflake!' cried the old woman, and led her into the cottage.
And Snowflake grew fast; each hour as well as each day made a difference, and every day she became more and more beautiful. The old couple hardly knew how to contain themselves for joy, and thought of nothing else. The cottage was always full of village children, for they amused Snowflake, and there was nothing in the world they would not have done to amuse her. She was their doll, and they were continually inventing new dresses for her, and teaching her songs or playing with her. Nobody knew how clever she was! She noticed everything, and could learn a lesson in a moment. Anyone would have taken her for thirteen at least! And, besides all that, she was so good and obedient; and so pretty, too! Her skin was as white as snow, her eyes as blue as forget-me-nots, and her hair was long and golden. Only her cheeks had no colour in them, but were as fair as her forehead.
So the winter went on, till at last the spring sun mounted higher in the heavens and began to warm the earth. The grass grew green in the fields, and high in the air the larks were heard singing. The village girls met and danced in a ring, singing, 'Beautiful spring, how came you here? How came you here? Did you come on a plough, or was it a harrow?' Only Snowflake sat quite still by the window of the cottage.
'What is the matter, dear child?' asked Marie. 'Why are you so sad? Are you ill? or have they treated you unkindly?'
'No,' replied Snowflake, 'it is nothing, mother; no one has hurt me; I am well.'
The spring sun had chased away the last snow from its hiding place under the hedges; the fields were full of flowers; nightingales sang in the trees, and all the world was gay. But the gayer grew the birds and the flowers the sadder became Snowflake. She hid herself from her playmates, and curled herself up where the shadows were deepest, like a lily amongst its leaves. Her only pleasure was to lie amid the green willows near some sparkling stream. At the dawn and at twilight only she seemed happy. When a great storm broke, and the earth was white with hail, she became bright and joyous as the Snowflake of old; but when the clouds passed, and the hail melted beneath the sun, Snowflake would burst into tears and weep as a sister would weep over her brother.
The spring passed, and it was the eve of St. John, or Midsummer Day. This was the greatest holiday of the year, when the young girls met in the woods to dance and play. They went to fetch Snowflake, and said to Marie: 'Let her come and dance with us.'
But Marie was afraid; she could not tell why, only she could not bear the child to go. Snowflake did not wish to go either, but they had no excuse ready. So Marie kissed the girl and said: 'Go, my Snowflake, and be happy with your friends, and you, dear children, be careful of her. You know she is the light of my eyes to me.'
'Oh, we will take care of her,' cried the girls gaily, and they ran off to the woods. There they wore wreaths, gathered nosegays, and sang songs some sad, some merry. And whatever they did Snowflake did too.
When the sun set they lit a fire of dry grass, and placed themselves in a row, Snowflake being the last of all. 'Now, watch us,' they said, 'and run just as we do.'
And they all began to sing and to jump one after another across the fire.
Suddenly, close behind them, they heard a sigh, then a groan. 'Ah!' They turned hastily and looked at each other. There was nothing. They looked again. Where was Snowflake? She has hidden herself for fun, they thought, and searched for her everywhere. 'Snowflake! Snowflake!' But there was no answer. 'Where can she be? Oh, she must have gone home.' They returned to the village, but there was no Snowflake.
For days after that they sought her high and low. They examined every bush and every hedge, but there was no Snowflake. And long after everyone else had given up hope Ivan and Marie would wander through the woods crying 'Snowflake, my dove, come back, come back!' And sometimes they thought they heard a call, but it was never the voice of Snowflake.
And what had become of her? Had a fierce wild beast seized her and dragged her into his lair in the forest? Had some bird carried her off across the wide blue sea?
No, no beast had touched her, no bird had borne her away. With the first breath of flame that swept over her when she ran with her friends Snowflake had melted away, and a little soft haze floating upwards was all that remained of her.
I Know What I Have Learned
From the Danish.
There was once a man who had three daughters, and they were all married to trolls, who lived underground. One day the man thought that he would pay them a visit, and his wife gave him some dry bread to eat by the way. After he had walked some distance he grew both tired and hungry, so he sat down on the east side of a mound and began to eat his dry bread. The mound then opened, and his youngest daughter came out of it, and said, 'Why, father! why are you not coming in to see me?'
'Oh,' said he, 'if I had known that you lived here, and had seen any entrance, I would have come in.'
Then he entered the mound along with her.
The troll came home soon after this, and his wife told him that her father was come, and asked him to go and buy some beef to make broth with.
'We can get it easier than that!' said the troll.
He fixed an iron spike into one of the beams of the roof, and ran his head against this till he had knocked several large pieces off his head. He was just as well as ever after doing this, and they got their broth without further trouble.
The troll then gave the old man a sackful of money, and laden with this he betook himself homewards. When he came near his home he remembered that he had a cow about to calve, so he laid down the money on the ground, ran home as fast as he could, and asked his wife whether the cow had calved yet.
'What kind of a hurry is this to come home in?' said she. 'No, the cow has not calved yet.'
'Then you must come out and help me in with a sackful of money,' said the man.
'A sackful of money?' cried his wife.
'Yes, a sackful of money,' said he. 'Is that so very wonderful?'
His wife did not believe very much what he told her, but she humoured him, and went out with him.
When they came to the spot where he had left it there was no money there; a thief had come along and stolen it. His wife then grew angry and scolded him heartily.
'Well, well!' said he, 'hang the money! I know what I have learned.'
'What have you learned?' said she.
'Ah! I know that,' said the man.
After some time had passed the man had a mind to visit his second eldest daughter. His wife again gave him some dry bread to eat, and when he grew tired and hungry he sat down on the east side of a mound and began to eat it. As he sat there his daughter came up out of the mound, and invited him to come inside, which he did very willingly.
Soon after this the troll came home. It was dark by that time, and his wife bade him go and buy some candles.
'Oh, we shall soon get a light,' said the troll. With that he dipped his fingers into the fire, and they then gave light without being burned in the least.
The old man got two sacks of money here, and plodded away homewards with these. When he was very nearly home he again thought of the cow that was with calf, so he laid down the money, ran home, and asked his wife whether the cow had calved yet.
'Whatever is the matter with you?' said she. 'You come hurrying as if the whole house was about to fall. You may set your mind at rest: the cow has not calved yet.'
The man now asked her to come and help him home with the two sacks of money. She did not believe him very much, but he continued to assure her that it was quite true, till at last she gave in and went with him. When they came to the spot there had again been a thief there and taken the money. It was no wonder that the woman was angry about this, but the man only said, 'Ah, if you only knew what I have learned.'
A third time the man set out—to visit his eldest daughter. When he came to a mound he sat down on the east side of it and ate the dry bread which his wife had given him to take with him. The daughter then came out of the mound and invited her father to come inside.
In a little the troll came home, and his wife asked him to go and buy some fish.
'We can get them much more easily than that,' said the troll. 'Give me your dough trough and your ladle.'
They seated themselves in the trough, and rowed out on the lake which was beside the mound. When they had got out a little way the troll said to his wife, 'Are my eyes green?'
'No, not yet,' said she.
He rowed on a little further and asked again, 'Are my eyes not green yet?'
'Yes,' said his wife, 'they are green now.'
Then the troll sprang into the water and ladled up so many fish that in a short time the trough could hold no more. They then rowed home again, and had a good meal off the fish.
The old man now got three sacks full of money, and set off home with them. When he was almost home the cow again came into his head, and he laid down the money. This time, however, he took his wooden shoes and laid them above the money, thinking that no one would take it after that. Then he ran home and asked his wife whether the cow had calved. It had not, and she scolded him again for behaving in this way, but in the end he persuaded her to go with him to help him with the three sacks of money.
When they came to the spot they found only the wooden shoes, for a thief had come along in the meantime and taken all the money. The woman was very angry, and broke out upon her husband; but he took it all very quietly, and only said, 'Hang the money! I know what I have learned.'
'What have you learned I should like to know?' said his wife.
'You will see that yet,' said the man.
One day his wife took a fancy for broth, and said to him, 'Oh, go to the village, and buy a piece of beef to make broth.'
'There's no need of that,' said he; 'we can get it an easier way.' With that he drove a spike into a beam, and ran his head against it, and in consequence had to lie in bed for a long time afterwards.
After he had recovered from this his wife asked him one day to go and buy candles, as they had none.
'No,' he said, 'there's no need for that;' and he stuck his hand into the fire. This also made him take to bed for a good while.
When he had got better again his wife one day wanted fish, and asked him to go and buy some. The man, however, wished again to show what he had learned, so he asked her to come along with him and bring her dough trough and a ladle. They both seated themselves in this, and rowed upon the lake. When they had got out a little way the man said, 'Are my eyes green?'
'No,' said his wife; 'why should they be?'
They rowed a little further out, and he asked again, 'Are my eyes not green yet?'
'What nonsense is this?' said she; 'why should they be green?'
'Oh, my dear,' said he, 'can't you just say that they are green?'
'Very well,' said she, 'they are green.'
As soon as he heard this he sprang out into the water with the ladle for the fishes, but he just got leave to stay there with them!
The Cunning Shoemaker
Once upon a time there lived a shoemaker who could get no work to do, and was so poor that he and his wife nearly died of hunger. At last he said to her, 'It is no use waiting on here—I can find nothing; so I shall go down to Mascalucia, and perhaps there I shall be more lucky.'
So down he went to Mascalucia, and walked through the streets crying, 'Who wants some shoes?' And very soon a window was pushed up, and a woman's head was thrust out of it.
'Here are a pair for you to patch,' she said. And he sat down on her doorstep and set about patching them.
'How much do I owe you?' she asked when they were done.
'Here is eighteen pence, and good luck to you.' And he went his way. He turned into the next street and set up his cry again, and it was not long before another window was pushed up and another head appeared.
'Here are some shoes for you to patch.'
And the shoemaker sat down on the doorstep and patched them.
'How much do I owe you?' asked the woman when the shoes were finished.
'Here is a crown piece, and good luck to you.' And she shut the window.
'Well,' thought the shoemaker, 'I have done finely. But I will not go back to my wife just yet, as, if I only go on at this rate, I shall soon have enough money to buy a donkey.'
Having made up his mind what was best to do, he stayed in the town a few days longer till he had four gold pieces safe in his purse. Then he went to the market and for two of them he bought a good strong donkey, and, mounting on its back, he rode home to Catania. But as he entered a thick wood he saw in the distance a band of robbers who were coming quickly towards him.
'I am lost,' thought he; 'they are sure to take from me all the money that I have earned, and I shall be as poor as ever I was. What can I do?' However, being a clever little man and full of spirit, he did not lose heart, but, taking five florins, he fastened them out of sight under the donkey's thick mane. Then he rode on.
Directly the robber came up to him they seized him exactly as he had foretold and took away all his money.
'Oh, dear friends!' he cried, wringing his hands, 'I am only a poor shoemaker, and have nothing but this donkey left in the world.'
As he spoke the donkey gave himself a shake, and down fell the five florins.
'Where did that come from?' asked the robbers.
'Ah,' replied the shoemaker, 'you have guessed my secret. The donkey is a golden donkey, and supplies me with all my money.'
'Sell him to us,' said the robbers. 'We will give you any price you like.'
The shoemaker at first declared that nothing would induce him to sell him, but at last he agreed to hand him over to the robbers for fifty gold pieces. 'But listen to what I tell you,' said he. 'You must each take it in turn to own him for a night and a day, or else you will all be fighting over the money.'
With these words they parted, the robbers driving the donkey to their cave in the forest and the shoemaker returning home, very pleased with the success of his trick. He just stopped on the way to pick up a good dinner, and the next day spent most of his gains in buying a small vineyard.
Meanwhile the robbers had arrived at the cave where they lived, and the captain, calling them all round him, announced that it as his right to have the donkey for the first night. His companions agreed, and then he told his wife to put a mattress in the stable. She asked if he had gone out of his mind, but he answered crossly, 'What is that to you? Do as you are bid, and to-morrow I will bring you some treasures.'
Very early the captain awoke and searched the stable, but could find nothing, and guessed that Master Joseph had been making fun of them. 'Well,' he said to himself, 'if I have been taken in, the others shall not come off any better.'
So, when one of his men arrived and asked him eagerly how much money he had got, he answered gaily, 'Oh, comrade, if you only knew! But I shall say nothing about it till everyone has had his turn!'
One after another they all took the donkey, but no money was forthcoming for anybody. At length, when all the band had been tricked, they held a council, and resolved to march to the shoemaker's house and punish him well for his cunning. Just as before, the shoemaker saw them a long way off, and began to think how he could outwit them again. When he had hit upon a plan he called his wife, and said to her, 'Take a bladder and fill it with blood, and bind it round your neck. When the robbers come and demand the money they gave me for the donkey I shall shout to you and tell you to get it quickly. You must argue with me, and decline to obey me, and then I shall plunge my knife into the bladder, and you must fall to the ground as if you were dead. There you must lie till I play on my guitar; then get up and begin to dance.'
The wife made haste to do as she was bid, and there was no time to lose, for the robbers were drawing very near the house. They entered with a great noise, and overwhelmed the shoemaker with reproaches for having deceived them about the donkey.
'The poor beast must have lost its power owing to the change of masters,' said he; 'but we will not quarrel about it. You shall have back the fifty gold pieces that you gave for him. 'Aite,' he cried to his wife, 'go quickly to the chest upstairs, and bring down the money for these gentlemen.'
'Wait a little,' answered she; 'I must first bake this fish. It will be spoilt if I leave it now.'
'Go this instant, as you are bid,' shouted the shoemaker, stamping as if he was in a great passion; but, as she did not stir, he drew his knife, and stabbed her in the neck. The blood spurted out freely, and she fell to the ground as if she was dead.
'What have you done?' asked the robbers, looking at him in dismay. 'The poor woman was doing nothing.'
'Perhaps I was hasty, but it is easily set right,' replied the shoemaker, taking down his guitar and beginning to play. Hardly had he struck the first notes than his wife sat up; then got on her feet and danced.
The robbers stared with open mouths, and at last they said, 'Master Joseph, you may keep the fifty gold pieces. But tell us what you will take for your guitar, for you must sell it to us?'
'Oh, that is impossible!' replied the shoemaker, 'for every time I have a quarrel with my wife I just strike her dead, and so give vent to my anger. This has become such a habit with me that I don't think I could break myself of it; and, of course, if I got rid of the guitar I could never bring her back to life again.'
However, the robbers would not listen to him, and at last he consented to take forty gold pieces for the guitar.
Then they all returned to their cave in the forest, delighted with their new purchase, and longing for a chance of trying its powers. But the captain declared that the first trial belonged to him, and after that the others might have their turn.
That evening he called to his wife and said, 'What have you got for supper?'
'Macaroni,' answered she.
'Why have you not boiled a fish?' he cried, and stabber in the neck so that she fell dead. The captain, who was not in the least angry, seized the guitar and began to play; but, let him play as loud as he would, the dead woman never stirred. 'Oh, lying shoemaker! Oh, abominable knave! Twice has he got the better of me. But I will pay him out!'
So he raged and swore, but it did him no good. The fact remained that he had killed his wife and could not bring her back again.
The next morning came one of the robbers to fetch the guitar, and to hear what had happened.
'Well, how have you got on?'
'Oh, splendidly! I stabbed my wife, and then began to play, and now she is as well as ever.'
'Did you really? Then this evening I will try for myself.'
Of course the same thing happened over again, till all the wives had been killed secretly, and when there were no more left they whispered to each other the dreadful tale, and swore to be avenged on the shoemaker.
The band lost no time in setting out for his house, and, as before, the shoemaker saw them coming from afar. He called to his wife, who was washing in the kitchen: 'Listen, Aita: when the robbers come and ask for me say I have gone to the vineyard. Then tell the dog to call me, and chase him from the house.'
When he had given these directions he ran out of the back door and hid behind a barrel. A few minutes later the robbers arrived, and called loudly for the shoemaker.
'Alas! good gentlemen, he is up in the vineyard, but I will send the dog after him at once. Here! now quickly to the vineyard, and tell your master some gentlemen are here who wish to speak to him. Go as fast as you can.' And she opened the door and let the dog out.
'You can really trust the dog to call your husband?' asked the robbers.
'Dear me, yes! He understands everything, and will always carry any message I give him.'
By-and-bye the shoemaker came in and said, 'Good morning, gentlemen; the dog tells me you wish to speak to me.'
'Yes, we do,' replied the robber; 'we have come to speak to you about that guitar. It is your fault that we have murdered all our wives; and, though we played as you told us, none of them ever came back to life.'
'You could not have played properly,' said the shoemaker. 'It was your own fault.'
'Well, we will forget all about it,' answered the robbers, 'if you will only sell us your dog.'
'Oh, that is impossible! I should never get on without him.'
But the robbers offered him forty gold pieces, and at last he agreed to let them have the dog.
So they departed, taking the dog with them, and when they got back to their cave the captain declared that it was his right to have the first trial.
He then called his daughter, and said to her, 'I am going to the inn; if anybody wants me, loose the dog, and send him to call me.'
About an hour after some one arrived on business, and the girl untied the dog and said, 'Go to the inn and call my father!' The dog bounded off, but ran straight to the shoemaker.
When the robber got home and found no dog he thought 'He must have gone back to his old master,' and, though night had already fallen, he went off after him.
'Master Joseph, is the dog here?' asked he.
'Ah! yes, the poor beast is so fond of me! You must give him time to get accustomed to new ways.'
So the captain brought the dog back, and the following morning handed him over to another of the band, just saying that the animal really could do what the shoemaker had said.
The second robber carefully kept his own counsel, and fetched the dog secretly back from the shoemaker, and so on through the whole band. At length, when everybody had suffered, they met and told the whole story, and next day they all marched off in fury to the man who had made game of them. After reproaching him with having deceived them, they tied him up in a sack, and told him they were going to throw him into the sea. The shoemaker lay quite still, and let them do as they would.
They went on till they came to a church, and the robbers said, 'The sun is hot and the sack is heavy; let us leave it here and go in and rest.' So they put the sack down by the roadside, and went into the church.
Now, on a hill near by there was a swineherd looking after a great herd of pigs and whistling merrily.
When Master Joseph heard him he cried out as loud as he could, 'I won't; I won't, I say.'
'What won't you do?' asked the swineherd.
'Oh,' replied the shoemaker. 'They want me to marry the king's daughter, and I won't do it.'
'How lucky you are!' sighed the swineherd. 'Now, if it were only me!'
'Oh, if that's all!' replied the cunning shoemaker, 'get you into this sack, and let me out.'
Then the swineherd opened the sack and took the place of the shoemaker, who went gaily off, driving the pigs before him.
When the robbers were rested they came out of the church, took up the sack, and carried it to the sea, where they threw it in, and it sank directly. As they came back they met the shoemaker, and stared at him with open mouths.
'Oh, if you only knew how many pigs live in the sea,' he cried. 'And the deeper you go the more there are. I have just brought up these, and mean to return for some more.'
'There are still some left there?'
'Oh, more than I could count,' replied the shoemaker. 'I will show you what you must do.' Then he led the robbers back to the shore. 'Now,' said he, 'you must each of you tie a stone to your necks, so that you may be sure to go deep enough, for I found the pigs that you saw very deep down indeed.'
Then the robbers all tied stones round their necks, and jumped in, and were drowned, and Master Joseph drove his pigs home, and was a rich man to the end of his days.
The King Who Would Have a Beautiful Wife
Fifty years ago there lived a king who was very anxious to get married; but, as he was quite determined that his wife should be as beautiful as the sun, the thing was not so easy as it seemed, for no maiden came up to his standard. Then he commanded a trusty servant to search through the length and breadth of the land till he found a girl fair enough to be queen, and if he had the good luck to discover one he was to bring her back with him.
The servant set out at once on his journey, and sought high and low-in castles and cottages; but though pretty maidens were plentiful as blackberries, he felt sure that none of them would please the king.
One day he had wandered far and wide, and was feeling very tired and thirsty. By the roadside stood a tiny little house, and here he knocked and asked for a cup of water. Now in this house dwelt two sisters, and one was eighty and the other ninety years old. They were very poor, and earned their living by spinning. This had kept their hands very soft and white, like the hands of a girl, and when the water was passed through the lattice, and the servant saw the small, delicate fingers, he said to himself: 'A maiden must indeed be lovely if she has a hand like that.' And he made haste back, and told the king.
'Go back at once,' said his majesty, 'and try to get a sight of her.'
The faithful servant departed on his errand without losing any time, and again he knocked at the door of the little house and begged for some water. As before, the old woman did not open the door, but passed the water through the lattice.
'Do you live here alone?' asked the man.
'No,' replied she, 'my sister lives with me. We are poor girls, and have to work for our bread.'
'How old are you?'
'I am fifteen, and she is twenty.'
Then the servant went back to the king, and told him all he knew. And his majesty answered: 'I will have the fifteen-year-old one. Go and bring her here.'
The servant returned a third time to the little house and knocked at the door. In reply to his knock the lattice window was pushed open, and a voice inquired what it was he wanted.
'The king has desired me to bring back the youngest of you to become his queen,' he replied.
'Tell his majesty I am ready to do his bidding, but since my birth no ray of light has fallen upon my face. If it should ever do so I shall instantly grow black. Therefore beg, I pray you, his most gracious majesty to send this evening a shut carriage, and I will return in it to the castle.
When the king heard this he ordered his great golden carriage to be prepared, and in it to be placed some magnificent robes; and the old woman wrapped herself in a thick veil, and was driven to the castle.
The king was eagerly awaiting her, and when she arrived he begged her politely to raise her veil and let him see her face.
But she answered: 'Here the tapers are too bright and the light too strong. Would you have me turn black under your very eyes?'
And the king believed her words, and the marriage took place without the veil being once lifted. Afterwards, when they were alone, he raised the corner, and knew for the first time that he had wedded a wrinkled old woman. And, in a furious burst of anger, he dashed open the window and flung her out. But, luckily for her, her clothes caught on a nail in the wall, and kept her hanging between heaven and earth.
While she was thus suspended, expecting every moment to be dashed to the ground, four fairies happened to pass by.
'Look, sisters,' cried one, 'surely that is the old woman that the king sent for. Shall we wish that her clothes may give way, and that she should be dashed to the ground?'
'Oh no! no!' exclaimed another. 'Let us wish her something good. I myself will wish her youth.'
'And I beauty.'
'And I wisdom.'
'And I a tender heart.'
So spake the fairies, and went their way, leaving the most beautiful maiden in the world behind them.
The next morning when the king looked from his window he saw this lovely creature hanging on the nail. 'Ah! what have I done? Surely I must have been blind last night!'
And he ordered long ladders to be brought and the maiden to be rescued. Then he fell on his knees before her, and prayed her to forgive him, and a great feast was made in her honour.
Some days after came the ninety-year-old sister to the palace and asked for the queen.
'Who is that hideous old witch?' said the king.
'Oh, an old neighbour of mine, who is half silly,' she replied.
But the old woman looked at her steadily, and knew her again, and said: 'How have you managed to grow so young and beautiful? I should like to be young and beautiful too.'
This question she repeated the whole day long, till at length the queen lost patience and said: 'I had my old head cut off, and this new head grew in its place.'
Then the old woman went to a barber, and spoke to him, saying, 'I will give you all you ask if you will only cut off my head, so that I may become young and lovely.'
'But, my good woman, if I do that you will die!'
But the old woman would listen to nothing; and at last the barber took out his knife and struck the first blow at her neck.
'Ah!' she shrieked as she felt the pain.
'Il faut souffrir pour etre belle,' said the barber, who had been in France.
And at the second blow her head rolled off, and the old woman was dead for good and all.
Catherine and Her Destiny
Sicilianische Mahrchen von Laura Gonzenbach. Leipzig, Engelmann, 1870.
Long ago there lived a rich merchant who, besides possessing more treasures than any king in the world, had in his great hall three chairs, one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds. But his greatest treasure of all was his only daughter, who was called Catherine.
One day Catherine was sitting in her own room when suddenly the door flew open, and in came a tall and beautiful woman holding in her hands a little wheel.
'Catherine,' she said, going up to the girl, 'which would you rather have-a happy youth or a happy old age?'
Catherine was so taken by surprise that she did not know what to answer, and the lady repeated again, 'Which would you rather have-a happy youth or a happy old age?'
Then Catherine thought to herself, 'If I say a happy youth, then I shall have to suffer all the rest of my life. No, I would bear trouble now, and have something better to look forward to.' So she looked up and replied, 'Give me a happy old age.'
'So be it,' said the lady, and turned her wheel as she spoke, vanishing the next moment as suddenly as she had come.
Now this beautiful lady was the Destiny of poor Catherine.
Only a few days after this the merchant heard the news that all his finest ships, laden with the richest merchandise, had been sunk in a storm, and he was left a beggar. The shock was too much for him. He took to his bed, and in a short time he was dead of his disappointment.
So poor Catherine was left alone in the world without a penny or a creature to help her. But she was a brave girl and full of spirit, and soon made up her mind that the best thing she could do was to go to the nearest town and become a servant. She lost no time in getting herself ready, and did not take long over her journey; and as she was passing down the chief street of the town a noble lady saw her out of the window, and, struck by her sad face, said to her: 'Where are you going all alone, my pretty girl?'
'Ah, my lady, I am very poor, and must go to service to earn my bread.'
'I will take you into my service,' said she; and Catherine served her well.
Some time after her mistress said to Catherine, 'I am obliged to go out for a long while, and must lock the house door, so that no thieves shall get in.'
So she went away, and Catherine took her work and sat down at the window. Suddenly the door burst open, and in came her Destiny.
'Oh! so here you are, Catherine! Did you really think I was going to leave you in peace?' And as she spoke she walked to the linen press where Catherine's mistress kept all her finest sheets and underclothes, tore everything in pieces, and flung them on the floor. Poor Catherine wrung her hands and wept, for she thought to herself, 'When my lady comes back and sees all this ruin she will think it is my fault,' and starting up, she fled through the open door. Then Destiny took all the pieces and made them whole again, and put them back in the press, and when everything was tidy she too left the house.
When the mistress reached home she called Catherine, but no Catherine was there. 'Can she have robbed me?' thought the old lady, and looked hastily round the house; but nothing was missing. She wondered why Catherine should have disappeared like this, but she heard no more of her, and in a few days she filled her place.
Meanwhile Catherine wandered on and on, without knowing very well where she was going, till at last she came to another town. Just as before, a noble lady happened to see her passing her window, and called out to her, 'Where are you going all alone, my pretty girl?'
And Catherine answered, 'Ah, my lady, I am very poor, and must go to service to earn my bread.'
'I will take you into my service,' said the lady; and Catherine served her well, and hoped she might now be left in peace. But, exactly as before, one day that Catherine was left in the house alone her Destiny came again and spoke to her with hard words: 'What! are you here now?' And in a passion she tore up everything she saw, till in sheer misery poor Catherine rushed out of the house. And so it befell for seven years, and directly Catherine found a fresh place her Destiny came and forced her to leave it.
After seven years, however, Destiny seemed to get tired of persecuting her, and a time of peace set in for Catherine. When she had been chased away from her last house by Destiny's wicked pranks she had taken service with another lady, who told her that it would be part of her daily work to walk to a mountain that overshadowed the town, and, climbing up to the top, she was to lay on the ground some loaves of freshly baked bread, and cry with a loud voice, 'O Destiny, my mistress,' three times. Then her lady's Destiny would come and take away the offering. 'That will I gladly do,' said Catherine.
So the years went by, and Catherine was still there, and every day she climbed the mountain with her basket of bread on her arm. She was happier than she had been, but sometimes, when no one saw her, she would weep as she thought over her old life, and how different it was to the one she was now leading. One day her lady saw her, and said, 'Catherine, what is it? Why are you always weeping?' And then Catherine told her story.
'I have got an idea,' exclaimed the lady. 'To-morrow, when you take the bread to the mountain, you shall pray my Destiny to speak to yours, and entreat her to leave you in peace. Perhaps something may come of it!'
At these words Catherine dried her eyes, and next morning, when she climbed the mountain, she told all she had suffered, and cried, 'O Destiny, my mistress, pray, I entreat you, of my Destiny that she may leave me in peace.'
And Destiny answered, 'Oh, my poor girl, know you not your Destiny lies buried under seven coverlids, and can hear nothing? But if you will come to-morrow I will bring her with me.'
And after Catherine had gone her way her lady's Destiny went to find her sister, and said to her, 'Dear sister, has not Catherine suffered enough? It is surely time for her good days to begin?'
And the sister answered, 'To-morrow you shall bring her to me, and I will give her something that may help her out of her need.'
The next morning Catherine set out earlier than usual for the mountain, and her lady's Destiny took the girl by the hand and led her to her sister, who lay under the seven coverlids. And her Destiny held out to Catherine a ball of silk, saying, 'Keep this—it may be useful some day;' then pulled the coverings over her head again.
But Catherine walked sadly down the hill, and went straight to her lady and showed her the silken ball, which was the end of all her high hopes.
'What shall I do with it?' she asked. 'It is not worth sixpence, and it is no good to me!'
'Take care of it,' replied her mistress. 'Who can tell how useful it may be?'
A little while after this grand preparations were made for the king's marriage, and all the tailors in the town were busy embroidering fine clothes. The wedding garment was so beautiful nothing like it had ever been seen before, but when it was almost finished the tailor found that he had no more silk. The colour was very rare, and none could be found like it, and the king made a proclamation that if anyone happened to possess any they should bring it to the court, and he would give them a large sum.
'Catherine!' exclaimed the lady, who had been to the tailors and seen the wedding garment, 'your ball of silk is exactly the right colour. Bring it to the king, and you can ask what you like for it.'
Then Catherine put on her best clothes and went to the court, and looked more beautiful than any woman there.
'May it please your majesty,' she said, 'I have brought you a ball of silk of the colour you asked for, as no one else has any in the town.'
'Your majesty,' asked one of the courtiers, 'shall I give the maiden its weight in gold?'
The king agreed, and a pair of scales were brought; and a handful of gold was placed in one scale and the silken ball in the other. But lo! let the king lay in the scales as many gold pieces as he would, the silk was always heavier still. Then the king took some larger scales, and heaped up all his treasures on one side, but the silk on the other outweighed them all. At last there was only one thing left that had not been put in, and that was his golden crown. And he took it from his head and set it on top of all, and at last the scale moved and the ball had founds its balance.
'Where got you this silk?' asked the king.
'It was given me, royal majesty, by my mistress,' replied Catherine.
'That is not true,' said the king, 'and if you do not tell me the truth I will have your head cut off this instant.'
So Catherine told him the whole story, and how she had once been as rich as he.
Now there lived at the court a wise woman, and she said to Catherine, 'You have suffered much, my poor girl, but at length your luck has turned, and I know by the weighing of the scales through the crown that you will die a queen.'
'So she shall,' cried the king, who overheard these words; 'she shall die my queen, for she is more beautiful than all the ladies of the court, and I will marry no one else.'
And so it fell out. The king sent back the bride he had promised to wed to her own country, and the same Catherine was queen at the marriage feast instead, and lived happy and contented to the end of her life.
How the Hermit Helped to Win the King's Daughter
Long ago there lived a very rich man who had three sons. When he felt himself to be dying he divided his property between them, making them share alike, both in money and lands. Soon after he died the king set forth a proclamation through the whole country that whoever could build a ship that should float both on land and sea should have his daughter to wife.
The eldest brother, when he heard it, said to the other, 'I think I will spend some of my money in trying to build that ship, as I should like to have the king for my father-in-law.' So he called together all the shipbuilders in the land, and gave them orders to begin the ship without delay. And trees were cut down, and great preparations made, and in a few days everybody knew what it was all for; and there was a crowd of old people pressing round the gates of the yard, where the young man spent the most of his day.
'Ah, master, give us work,' they said, 'so that we may earn our bread.'
But he only gave them hard words, and spoke roughly to them. 'You are old, and have lost your strength; of what use are you?' And he drove them away. Then came some boys and prayed him, "master, give us work,' but he answered them, 'Of what use can you be, weaklings as you are! Get you gone!' And if any presented themselves that were not skilled workmen he would have none of them.
At last there knocked at the gate a little old man with a long white beard, and said, 'Will you give me work, so that I may earn my bread?' But he was only driven away like the rest.
The ship took a long while to build, and cost a great deal of money, and when it was launched a sudden squall rose, and it fell to pieces, and with it all the young man's hopes of winning the princess. By this time he had not a penny left, so he went back to his two brothers and told his tale. And the second brother said to himself as he listened, 'Certainly he has managed very badly, but I should like to see if I can't do better, and win the princess for my own self.' So he called together all the shipbuilders throughout the country, and gave them orders to build a ship which should float on the land as well as on the sea. But his heart was no softer than his brother's, and every man that was not a skilled workman was chased away with hard words. Last came the white-bearded man, but he fared no better than the rest.
When the ship was finished the launch took place, and everything seemed going smoothly when a gale sprang up, and the vessel was dashed to pieces on the rocks. The young man had spent his whole fortune on it, and now it was all swallowed up, was forced to beg shelter from his youngest brother. When he told his story the youngest said to himself, 'I am not rich enough to support us all three. I had better take my turn, and if I manage to win the princess there will be her fortune as well as my own for us to live on.' So he called together all the shipbuilders in the kingdom, and gave orders that a new ship should be built. Then all the old people came and asked for work, and he answered cheerfully, 'Oh, yes, there is plenty for everybody;' and when the boys begged to be allowed to help he found something that they could do. And when the old man with the long white beard stood before him, praying that he might earn his bread, he replied, 'Oh, father, I could not suffer you to work, but you shall be overseer, and look after the rest.'
Now the old man was a holy hermit, and when he saw how kind-hearted the youth was he determined to do all he could for him to gain the wish of his heart.
By-and-bye, when the ship was finished, the hermit said to his young friend, 'Now you can go and claim the king's daughter, for hte ship will float both by land and sea.'
'Oh, good father,' cried the young man, 'you will not forsake me? Stay with me, I pray you, and lead me to the king!'
'If you wish it, I will,' said the hermit, 'on condition that you will give me half of anything you get.'
'Oh, if that is all,' answered he, 'it is easily promised!' And they set out together on the ship.
After they had gone some distance they saw a man standing in a thick fog, which he was trying to put into a sack.
'Oh, good father,' exclaimed the youth, 'what can he be doing?'
'Ask him,' said the old man.
'What are you doing, my fine fellow?'
'I am putting the fog into my sack. That is my business.'
'Ask him if he will come with us,' whispered the hermit.
And the man answered: 'If you will give me enough to eat and drink I will gladly stay with you.'
So they took him on their ship, and the youth said, as they started off again, 'Good father, before we were two, and now we are three!'
After they had travelled a little further they met a man who had torn up half the forest, and was carrying all the trees on his shoulders.
'Good father,' exclaimed the youth, 'only look! What can he have done that for?'
'Ask him why he has torn up all those trees.'
And the man replied, 'Why, I've merely been gathering a handful of brushwood.'
'Beg him to come with us,' whispered the hermit.
And the strong man answered: 'Willingly, as long as you give me enough to eat and drink.' And he came on the ship.
And the youth said to the hermit, 'Good father, before we were three, and now we are four.'
The ship travelled on again, and some miles further on they saw a man drinking out of a stream till he had nearly drunk it dry.
'Good father,' said the youth, 'just look at that man! Did you ever see anybody drink like that?'
'Ask him why he does it,' answered the hermit.
'Why, there is nothing very odd in taking a mouthful of water!' replied the man, standing up.
'Beg him to come with us.' And the youth did so.
'With pleasure, as long as you give me enough to eat and drink.'
And the youth whispered to the hermit, 'Good father, before we were four, and now we are five.'
A little way along they noticed another man in the middle of a stream, who was shooting into the water.
'Good father,' said the youth, 'what can he be shooting at?'
'Ask him,' answered the hermit.
'Hush, hush!' cried the man; 'now you have frightened it away. In the Underworld sits a quail on a tree, and I wanted to shoot it. That is my business. I hit everything I aim at.'
'Ask him if he will come with us.'
And the man replied, 'With all my heart, as long as I get enough to eat and drink.'
So they took him into the ship, and the young man whispered, 'Good father, before we were five, and now we are six.'
Off they went again, and before they had gone far they met a man striding towards them whose steps were so long that while one foot was on the north of the island the other was right down in the south.
'Good father, look at him! What long steps he takes!'
'Ask him why he does it,' replied the hermit.
'Oh, I am only going out for a little walk,' answered he.
'Ask him if he will come with us.'
'Gladly, if you will give me as much as I want to eat and drink,' said he, climbing up into the ship.
And the young man whispered, 'Good father, before we were six, and now we are seven.' But the hermit knew what he was about, and why he gathered these strange people into the ship.
After many days, at last they reached the town where lived the king and his daughter. They stopped the vessel right in front of the palace, and the young man went in and bowed low before the king.
'O Majesty, I have done your bidding, and now is the ship built that can travel over land and sea. Give me my reward, and let me have your daughter to wife.'
But the king said to himself, 'What! am I to wed my daughter to a man of whom I know nothing. Not even whether he be rich or poor—a knight or a beggar.'
And aloud he spake: It is not enough that you have managed to build the ship. You must find a runner who shall take this letter to the ruler of the Underworld, and bring me the answer back in an hour.'
'That is not in the bond,' answered the young man.
'Well, do as you like,' replied the king, 'only you will not get my daughter.'
The young man went out, sorely troubled, to tell his old friend what had happened.
'Silly boy!' cried the hermit, 'Accept his terms at once. And send off the long-legged man with the letter. He will take it in no time at all.'
So the youth's heard leapt for joy, and he returned to the king. 'Majesty, I accept your terms. HEre is the messenger who will do what you wish.'
The king had no choice but to give the man the letter, and he strode off, making short work of the distance that lay between the palace and the Underworld. He soon found the ruler, who looked at the letter, and said to him, 'Wait a little while i write the answer;' but the man was soo tired with his quick walk that he went sound asleep and forgot all about his errand.
All this time the youth was anxiously counting the minutes till he could get back, and stood with his eyes fixed on the road down which his messenger must come.
'What can be keeping him,' he said to the hermit when the hour was nearly up. Then the hermit sent for the man who could hit everything he aimed at, and said to him, 'Just see why the messenger stays so long.'
'Oh, he is sound asleep in the palace of the Underworld. However, I can wake him.'
Then he drew his bow, and shot an arrow straight into the man's knee. The messenger awoke with such a start, and when he saw that the hour had almost run out he snatched up the answer and rushed back with such speed that the clock had not yet struck when he entered the palace.
Now the young man thought he was sure of his bride, but the king said, "Still you have not done enough. Before I give you my daughter you must find a man who can drink half the contents of my cellar in one day.'
'That is not in the bond,' complained the poor youth.
'Well, do as you like, only you will not get my daughter.'
The young man went sadly out, and asked the hermit what he was to do.
'Silly boy!' said he. 'Why, tell the man to do it who drinks up everything.'
So they sent for the man and said, 'Do you think you are able to drink half the royal cellar in one day?'
'Dear me, yes, and as much more as you want,' answered he. 'I am never satisfied.'
The king was not pleased at the young man agreeing so readily, but he had no choice, and ordered the servant to be taken downstairs. Oh, how he enjoyed himself! All day long he drank, and drank, and drank, till instead of half the cellar, he had drunk the whole, and there was not a cask but what stood empty. And when the king saw this he said to the youth, 'You have conquered, and I can no longer withhold my daughter. But, as her dowry, I shall only give so much as one man can carry away.'
'But,' answered he, 'let a man be ever so strong, he cannot carry more than a hundredweight, and what is that for a king's daughter?'
'Well, do as you like; I have said my say. It is your affair—not mine.'
The young man was puzzled, and did not know what to reply, for, though he would gladly have married the princess without a sixpence, he had spent all his money in building the ship, and knew he could not give her all she wanted. So he went to the hermit and said to him, 'The king will only give for her dowry as much as a man can carry. I have no money of my own left, and my brothers have none either.'
'Silly boy! Why, you have only got to fetch the man who carried half the forest on his shoulders.'
And the youth was glad, and called the strong man, and told him what he must do. 'Take everything you can, till you are bent double. Never mind if you leave the palace bare.'
The strong man promised, and nobly kept his word. He piled all he could see on his back—chairs, tables, wardrobes, chests of gold and silver—till there was nothing left to pile. At last he took the king's crown, and put it on the top. He carried his burden to the ship and stowed his treasures away, and the youth followed, leading the king's daughter. But the king was left raging in his empty palace, and he called together his army, and got ready his ships of war, in order that he might go after the vessel and bring back what had been taken away.
And the king's ships sailed very fast, and soon caught up the little vessel, and the sailors all shouted for joy. Then the hermit looked out and saw how near they were, and he said to the youth, 'Do you see that?'
The youth shrieked and cried, 'Ah, good father, it is a fleet of ships, and they are chasing us, and in a few moments they will be upon us.'
But the hermit bade him call the man who had the fog in his sack, and the sack was opened and the fog flew out, and hung right round the king's ships, so that they could see nothing. So they sailed back to the palace, and told the king what strange things had happened. Meanwhile the young man's vessel reached home in safety.
'Well, here you are once more' said the hermit; 'and now you can fulfil the promise you made me to give me the half of all you had.'
'That will I do with all my heart,' answered the youth, and began to divide all his treasures, putting part on one side for himself and setting aside the other for his friend. 'Good father, it is finished,' said he at length; 'there is nothing more left to divide.'
'Nothing more left!' cried the hermit. 'Why, you have forgotten the best thing of all!'
'What can that be?' asked he. 'We have divided everything.'
'And the king's daughter?' said the hermit.
Then the young man's heart stood still, for he loved her dearly. But he answered, 'It is well; I have sworn, and I will keep my word,' and drew his sword to cut her in pieces. When the hermit saw that he held his honour dearer than his wife he lifted his hand and cried, 'Hold! she is yours, and all the treasures too. I gave you my help because you had pity on those that were in need. And when you are in need yourself, call upon me, and I will come to you.'
As he spoke he softly touched their heads and vanished.
The next day the wedding took place, and the two brothers came to the house, and they all lived happily together, but they never forgot the holy man who had been such a good friend.
The Water of Life
Cuentos Populars Catalans, per lo Dr. D. Francisco de S. Maspous y Labros. Barcelona, 1885.
Three brothers and one sister lived together in a small cottage, and they loved one another dearly. One day the eldest brother, who had never done anything but amuse himself from sunrise to sunset, said to the rest, 'Let us all work hard, and perhaps we shall grow rich, and be able to build ourselves a palace.'
And his brothers and sister answered joyfully, 'Yes, we will all work!'
So they fell to working with all their might, till at last they became rich, and were able to build themselves a beautiful palace; and everyone came from miles round to see its wonders, and to say how splendid it was. No one thought of finding any faults, till at length an old woman, who had been walking through the rooms with a crowd of people, suddenly exclaimed, 'Yes, it is a splendid palace, but there is still something it needs!'
'And what may that be?'
When they heard this the brothers set to work again to earn some more money, and when they had got enough they set about building a church, which should be as large and beautiful as the palace itself.
And after the church was finished greater numbers of people than ever flocked to see the palace and the church and vast gardens and magnificent halls.
But one day, as the brothers were as usual doing the honours to their guests, an old man turned to them and said, 'Yes, it is all most beautiful, but there is still something it needs!'
'And what may that be?'
'A pitcher of the water of life, a branch of the tree the smell of whose flowers gives eternal beauty, and the talking bird.'
'And where am I to find all those?'
'Go to the mountain that is far off yonder, and you will find what you seek.'
After the old man had bowed politely and taken farewell of them the eldest brother said to the rest, 'I will go in search of the water of life, and the talking bird, and the tree of beauty.'
'But suppose some evil thing befalls you?' asked his sister. 'How shall we know?'
'You are right,' he replied; ' I had not thought of that!'
Then they followed the old man, and said to him, 'My eldest brother wishes to seek for the water of life, and the tree of beauty, and the talking bird, that you tell him are needful to make our palace perfect. But how shall we know if any evil thing befall him?'
So the old man took them a knife, and gave it to them, saying, 'Keep this carefully, and as long as the blade is bright all is well; but if the blade is bloody, then know that evil has befallen him.'
The brothers thanked him, and departed, and went straight to the palace, where they found the young man making ready to set out for the mountain where the treasures he longed for lay hid.
And he walked, and he walked, and he walked, till he had gone a great way, and there he met a giant.
'Can you tell me how much further I have still to go before I reach that mountain yonder?'
'And why do you wish to go there?'
'I am seeking the water of life, the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty.'
'Many have passed by seeking those treasures, but none have ever come back; and you will never come back either, unless you mark my words. Follow this path, and when you reach the mountain you will find it covered with stones. Do not stop to look at them, but keep on your way. As you go you will hear scoffs and laughs behind you; it will be the stones that mock. Do not heed them; above all, do not turn round. If you do you will become as one of them. Walk straight on till you get to the top, and then take all you wish for.'
The young man thanked him for his counsel, and walked, and walked, and walked, till he reached the mountain. And as he climbed he heard behind him scoffs and jeers, but he kept his ears steadily closed to them. At last the noise grew so loud that he lost patience, and he stooped to pick up a stone to hurl into the midst of the clamour, when suddenly his arm seemed to stiffen, and the next moment he was a stone himself!
That day his sister, who thought her brother's steps were long in returning, took out the knife and found the blade was red as blood. Then she cried out to her brothers that something terrible had come to pass.
'I will go and find him,' said the second. And he went.
And he walked, and he walked, and he walked, till he met the giant, and asked him if he had seen a young man travelling towards the mountain.
And the giant answered, 'Yes, I have seen him pass, but I have not seen him come back. The spell must have worked upon him.'
'Then what can I do to disenchant him, and find the water of life, the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty?'
'Follow this path, and when you reach the mountain you will find it covered with stones. Do not stop to look at them, but climb steadily on. Above all, heed not the laughs and scoffs that will arise on all sides, and never turn round. And when you reach the top you can then take all you desire.'
The young man thanked him for his counsel, and set out for the mountain. But no sooner did he reach it than loud jests and gibes broke out on every side, and almost deafened him. For some time he let them rail, and pushed boldly on, till he had passed the place which his brother had gained; then suddenly he thought that among the scoffing sounds he heard his brother's voice. He stopped and looked back; and another stone was added to the number.
Meanwhile the sister left at home was counting the days when her two brothers should return to her. The time seemed long, and it would be hard to say how often she took out the knife and looked at its polished blade to make sure that this one at least was still safe. The blade was always bright and clear; each time she looked she had the happiness of knowing that all was well, till one evening, tired and anxious, as she frequently was at the end of the day, she took it from its drawer, and behold! the blade was red with blood. Her cry of horror brought her youngest brother to her, and, unable to speak, she held out the knife!
'I will go,' he said.
So he walked, and he walked, and he walked, until he met the giant, and he asked, 'Have two young men, making for yonder mountain, passed this way?'
And the giant answered, 'Yes, they have passed by, but they never came back, and by this I know that the spell has fallen upon them.'
'Then what must I do to free them, and to get the water of life, and the talking bird, and the branch of the tree of beauty?'
'Go to the mountain, which you will find so thickly covered with stones that you will hardly be able to place your feet, and walk straight forward, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and paying no heed to the laughs and scoffs which will follow you, till you reach the top, and then you may take all that you desire.'
The young man thanked the giant for his counsel, and set forth to the mountain. And when he began to climb there burst forth all around him a storm of scoffs and jeers; but he thought of the giant's words, and looked neither to the right hand nor to the left, till the mountain top lay straight before him. A moment now and he would have gained it, when, through the groans and yells, he heard his brothers' voices. He turned, and there was one stone the more.
And all this while his sister was pacing up and down the palace, hardly letting the knife out of her hand, and dreading what she knew she would see, and what she did see. The blade grew red before her eyes, and she said, 'Now it is my turn.'
So she walked, and she walked, and she walked till she came to the giant, and prayed him to tell her if he had seen three young men pass that way seeking the distant mountain.
'I have seen them pass, but they have never returned, and by this I know that the spell has fallen upon them.'
'And what must I do to set them free, and to find the water of life, and the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty?'
'You must go to that mountain, which is so full of stones that your feet will hardly find a place to tread, and as you climb you will hear a noise as if all the stones in the world were mocking you; but pay no heed to anything you may hear, and, once you gain the top, you have gained everything.'
The girl thanked him for his counsel, and set out for the mountain; and scarcely had she gone a few steps upwards when cries and screams broke forth around her, and she felt as if each stone she trod on was a living thing. But she remembered the words of the giant, and knew not what had befallen her brothers, and kept her face steadily towards the mountain top, which grew nearer and nearer every moment. But as she mounted the clamour increased sevenfold: high above them all rang the voices of her three brothers. But the girl took no heed, and at last her feet stood upon the top.
Then she looked round, and saw, lying in a hollow, the pool of the water of life. And she took the brazen pitcher that she had brought with her, and filled it to the brim. By the side of the pool stood the tree of beauty, with the talking bird on one of its boughs; and she caught the bird, and placed it in a cage, and broke off one of the branches.
After that she turned, and went joyfully down the hill again, carrying her treasures, but her long climb had tired her out, and the brazen pitcher was very heavy, and as she walked a few drops of the water spilt on the stones, and as it touched them they changed into young men and maidens, crowding about her to give thanks for their deliverance.
So she learnt by this how the evil spell might be broken, and she carefully sprinkled every stone till there was not one left—only a great company of youths and girls who followed her down the mountain.
When they arrived at the palace she did not lose a moment in planting the branch of the tree of beauty and watering it with the water of life. And the branch shot up into a tree, and was heavy with flowers, and the talking bird nestled in its branches.
Now the fame of these wonders was noised abroad, and the people flocked in great numbers to see the three marvels, and the maiden who had won them; and among the sightseers came the king's son, who would not go till everything was shown him, and till he had heard how it had all happened. And the prince admired the strangeness and beauty of the treasures in the palace, but more than all he admired the beauty and courage of the maiden who had brought them there. So he went home and told his parents, and gained their consent to wed her for his wife.
Then the marriage was celebrated in the church adjoining the palace. Then the bridegroom took her to his own home, where they lived happy for ever after.
The Wounded Lion
Cuentos Populars Catalans.
There was once a girl so poor that she had nothing to live on, and wandered about the world asking for charity. One day she arrived at a thatched cottage, and inquired if they could give her any work. The farmer said he wanted a cowherd, as his own had left him, and if the girl liked the place she might take it. So she became a cowherd.
One morning she was driving her cows through the meadows when she heard near by a loud groan that almost sounded human. She hastened to the spot from which the noise came, and found it proceeded from a lion who lay stretched upon the ground.
You can guess how frightened she was! But the lion seemed in such pain that she was sorry for him, and drew nearer and nearer till she saw he had a large thorn in one foot. She pulled out the thorn and bound up the place, and the lion was grateful, and licked her hand by way of thanks with his big rough tongue.
When the girl had finished she went back to find the cows, but they had gone, and though she hunted everywhere she never found them; and she had to return home and confess to her master, who scolded her bitterly, and afterwards beat her. Then he said, 'Now you will have to look after the asses.'
So every day she had to take the asses to the woods to feed, until one morning, exactly a year after she had found the lion, she heard a groan which sounded quite human. She went straight to the place from which the noise came, and, to her great surprise, beheld the same lion stretched on the ground with a deep wound across his face.
This time she was not afraid at all, and ran towards him, washing the wound and laying soothing herbs upon it; and when she had bound it up the lion thanked her in the same manner as before.
After that she returned to her flock, but they were nowhere to be seen. She searched here and she searched there, but they had vanished completely!
Then she had to go home and confess to her master, who first scolded her and afterwards beat her. 'Now go,' he ended, 'and look after the pigs!'
So the next day she took out the pigs, and found them such good feeding grounds that they grew fatter every day.
Another year passed by, and one morning when the maiden was out with her pigs she heard a groan which sounded quite human. She ran to see what it was, and found her old friend the lion, wounded through and through, fast dying under a tree.