Prince Ivan agreed to these terms. The Baba Yaga gave him food and drink, and bade him set about his business. But the moment he had driven the mares afield, they cocked up their tails, and away they tore across the meadows in all directions. Before the Prince had time to look round they were all out of sight. Thereupon he began to weep and to disquiet himself, and then he sat down upon a stone and went to sleep. But when the sun was near its setting the outlandish bird came flying up to him, and awakened him, saying:
'Arise, Prince Ivan! The mares are at home now.'
The Prince arose and returned home. There the Baba Yaga was storming and raging at her mares, and shrieking:
'Whatever did ye come home for?'
'How could we help coming home?' said they. 'There came flying birds from every part of the world, and all but pecked our eyes out.'
'Well, well! to-morrow don't go galloping over the meadows, but disperse amid the thick forests.'
Prince Ivan slept all night. In the morning the Baba Yaga says to him:
'Mind, Prince! if you don't take good care of the mares, if you lose merely one of them—your bold head will be stuck on that pole!'
He drove the mares afield. Immediately they cocked up their tails and dispersed among the thick forests. Again did the Prince sit down on the stone, weep and weep, and then go to sleep. The sun went down behind the forest. Up came running the lioness.
'Arise, Prince Ivan! The mares are all collected.'
Prince Ivan arose and went home. More than ever did the Baba Yaga storm at her mares and shriek:
'Whatever did ye come back home for?'
'How could we help coming back? Beasts of prey came running at us from all parts of the world, and all but tore us utterly to pieces.'
'Well, to-morrow run off into the blue sea.'
Again did Prince Ivan sleep through the night. Next morning the Baba Yaga sent him forth to watch the mares.
'If you don't take good care of them,' says she, 'your bold head will be stuck on that pole!'
He drove the mares afield. Immediately they cocked up their tails, disappeared from sight, and fled into the blue sea. There they stood, up to their necks in water. Prince Ivan sat down on the stone, wept, and fell asleep. But when the sun had set behind the forest, up came flying a bee, and said:
'Arise, Prince! The mares are all collected. But when you get home, don't let the Baba Yaga set eyes on you, but go into the stable and hide behind the mangers. There you will find a sorry colt rolling in the muck. Do you steal it, and at the dead of night ride away from the house.'
Prince Ivan arose, slipped into the stable, and lay down behind the mangers, while the Baba Yaga was storming away at her mares and shrieking:
'Why did ye come back?'
'How could we help coming back? There came flying bees in countless numbers from all parts of the world, and began stinging us on all sides till the blood came!'
The Baba Yaga went to sleep. In the dead of the night Prince Ivan stole the sorry colt, saddled it, jumped on its back, and galloped away to the fiery river. When he came to that river he waved the handkerchief three times on the right hand, and suddenly, springing goodness knows whence, there hung across the river, high in the air, a splendid bridge. The Prince rode across the bridge and waved the handkerchief twice only on the left hand; there remained across the river a thin, ever so thin a bridge!
When the Baba Yaga got up in the morning the sorry colt was not to be seen! Off she set in pursuit. At full speed did she fly in her iron mortar, urging it on with the pestle, sweeping away her traces with the broom. She dashed up to the fiery river, gave a glance, and said, 'A capital bridge!' She drove on to the bridge, but had only got half-way when the bridge broke in two, and the Baba Yaga went flop into the river. There truly did she meet with a cruel death!
Prince Ivan fattened up the colt in the green meadows, and it turned into a wondrous steed. Then he rode to where Marya Morevna was. She came running out, and flung herself on his neck, crying:
'By what means has God brought you back to life?'
'Thus and thus,' says he. 'Now come along with me.'
'I am afraid, Prince Ivan! If Koshchei catches us you will be cut in pieces again.'
'No, he won't catch us! I have a splendid heroic steed now; it flies just like a bird.' So they got on its back and rode away.
Koshchei the Deathless was returning home when his horse stumbled beneath him.
'What art thou stumbling for, sorry jade? Dost thou scent any ill?'
'Prince Ivan has come and carried off Marya Morevna.'
'Can we catch them?'
'God knows! Prince Ivan has a horse now which is better than I.'
'Well, I can't stand it,' says Koshchei the Deathless. 'I will pursue.'
After a time he came up with Prince Ivan, lighted on the ground, and was going to chop him up with his sharp sword. But at that moment Prince Ivan's horse smote Koshchei the Deathless full swing with its hoof, and cracked his skull, and the Prince made an end of him with a club. Afterwards the Prince heaped up a pile of wood, set fire to it, burnt Koshchei the Deathless on the pyre, and scattered his ashes to the wind. Then Marya Morevna mounted Koshchei's horse and Prince Ivan got on his own, and they rode away to visit first the Raven, and then the Eagle, and then the Falcon. Wherever they went they met with a joyful greeting.
'Ah, Prince Ivan! why, we never expected to see you again. Well, it wasn't for nothing that you gave yourself so much trouble. Such a beauty as Marya Morevna one might search for all the world over—and never find one like her!'
And so they visited, and they feasted; and afterwards they went off to their own realm.(3)
THE BLACK THIEF AND KNIGHT OF THE GLEN.
IN times of yore there was a King and a Queen in the south of Ireland who had three sons, all beautiful children; but the Queen, their mother, sickened unto death when they were yet very young, which caused great grief throughout the Court, particularly to the King, her husband, who could in no wise be comforted. Seeing that death was drawing near her, she called the King to her and spoke as follows:
'I am now going to leave you, and as you are young and in your prime, of course after my death you will marry again. Now all the request I ask of you is that you will build a tower in an island in the sea, wherein you will keep your three sons until they are come of age and fit to do for themselves; so that they may not be under the power or jurisdiction of any other woman. Neglect not to give them education suitable to their birth, and let them be trained up to every exercise and pastime requisite for king's sons to learn. This is all I have to say, so farewell.'
The King had scarce time, with tears in his eyes, to assure her she should be obeyed in everything, when she, turning herself in her bed, with a smile gave up the ghost. Never was greater mourning seen than was throughout the Court and the whole kingdom; for a better woman than the Queen, to rich and poor, was not to be found in the world. She was interred with great pomp and magnificence, and the King, her husband, became in a manner inconsolable for the loss of her. However, he caused the tower to be built and his sons placed in it, under proper guardians, according to his promise.
In process of time the lords and knights of the kingdom counselled the King (as he was young) to live no longer as he had done, but to take a wife; which counsel prevailing, they chose him a rich and beautiful princess to be his consort—a neighbouring King's daughter, of whom he was very fond. Not long after, the Queen had a fine son, which caused great feasting and rejoicing at the Court, insomuch that the late Queen, in a manner, was entirely forgotten. That fared well, and King and Queen lived happy together for several years.
At length the Queen, having some business with the hen-wife, went herself to her, and, after a long conference passed, was taking leave of her, when the hen-wife prayed that if ever she should come back to her again she might break her neck. The Queen, greatly incensed at such a daring insult from one of her meanest subjects, demanded immediately the reason, or she would have her put to death.
'It was worth your while, madam,' says the hen-wife, 'to pay me well for it, for the reason I prayed so on you concerns you much.'
'What must I pay you?' asked the Queen.
'You must give me,' says she, 'the full of a pack of wool, and I have an ancient crock which you must fill with butter, likewise a barrel which you must fill for me full of wheat.'
'How much wool will it take to the pack?' says the Queen.
'It will take seven herds of sheep,' said she, 'and their increase for seven years.'
'How much butter will it take to fill your crock?'
'Seven dairies,' said she, 'and their increase for seven years.'
'And how much will it take to fill the barrel you have?' says the Queen.
'It will take the increase of seven barrels of wheat for seven years.'
'That is a great quantity,' says the Queen; 'but the reason must be extraordinary, and before I want it, I will give you all you demand.'
'Well,' says the hen-wife, 'it is because you are so stupid that you don't observe or find out those affairs that are so dangerous and hurtful to yourself and your child.'
'What is that?' says the Queen.
'Why,' says she, 'the King your husband has three fine sons he had by the late Queen, whom he keeps shut up in a tower until they come of age, intending to divide the kingdom between them, and let your son push his fortune; now, if you don't find some means of destroying them; your child and perhaps yourself will be left desolate in the end.'
'And what would you advise me to do?' said she; 'I am wholly at a loss in what manner to act in this affair.'
'You must make known to the King,' says the hen-wife, 'that you heard of his sons, and wonder greatly that he concealed them all this time from you; tell him you wish to see them, and that it is full time for them to be liberated, and that you would be desirous he would bring them to the Court. The King will then do so, and there will be a great feast prepared on that account, and also diversions of every sort to amuse the people; and in these sports,' said she, 'ask the King's sons to play a game at cards with you, which they will not refuse. Now,' says the hen-wife, 'you must make a bargain, that if you win they must do whatever you command them, and if they win, that you must do whatever they command you to do; this bargain must be made before the assembly, and here is a pack of cards,' says she, 'that I am thinking you will not lose by.'
The Queen immediately took the cards, and, after returning the hen-wife thanks for her kind instruction, went back to the palace, where she was quite uneasy until she got speaking to the King in regard of his children; at last she broke it off to him in a very polite and engaging manner, so that he could see no muster or design in it. He readily consented to her desire, and his sons were sent for to the tower, who gladly came to Court, rejoicing that they were freed from such confinement. They were all very handsome, and very expert in all arts and exercises, so that they gained the love and esteem of all that had seen them.
The Queen, more jealous with them than ever, thought it an age until all the feasting and rejoicing was over, that she might get making her proposal, depending greatly on the power of the hen-wife's cards. At length this royal assembly began to sport and play at all kinds of diversions, and the Queen very cunningly challenged the three Princes to play at cards with her, making bargain with them as she had been instructed.
They accepted the challenge, and the eldest son and she played the first game, which she won; then the second son played, and she won that game likewise; the third son and she then played the last game, and he won it, which sorely grieved her that she had not him in her power as well as the rest, being by far the handsomest and most beloved of the three.
However, everyone was anxious to hear the Queen's commands in regard to the two Princes, not thinking that she had any ill design in her head against them. Whether it was the hen-wife instructed her, or whether it was from her own knowledge, I cannot tell; but she gave out they must go and bring her the Knight of the Glen's wild Steed of Bells, or they should lose their heads.
The young Princes were not in the least concerned, not knowing what they had to do; but the whole Court was amazed at her demand, knowing very well that it was impossible for them ever to get the steed, as all that ever sought him perished in the attempt. However, they could not retract the bargain, and the youngest Prince was desired to tell what demand he had on the Queen, as he had won his game.
'My brothers,' says he, 'are now going to travel, and, as I understand, a perilous journey wherein they know not what road to take or what may happen them. I am resolved, therefore, not to stay here, but to go with them, let what will betide; and I request and command, according to my bargain, that the Queen shall stand on the highest tower of the palace until we come back (or find out that we are certainly dead), with nothing but sheaf corn for her food and cold water for her drink, if it should be for seven years and longer.'
All things being now fixed, the three princes departed the Court in search of the Knight of the Glen's palace, and travelling along the road they came up with a man who was a little lame, and seemed to be somewhat advanced in years; they soon fell into discourse, and the youngest of the princes asked the stranger his name, or what was the reason he wore so remarkable a black cap as he saw on him.
'I am called,' said he, 'the Thief of Sloan, and sometimes the Black Thief from my cap; 'and so telling the prince the most of his adventures, he asked him again where they were bound for, or what they were about.
The prince, willing to gratify his request, told him their affairs from the beginning to the end. 'And now,' said he, 'we are travelling, and do not know whether we are on the right road or not.'
'Ah! my brave fellows,' says the Black Thief, 'you little know the danger you run. I am after that steed myself these seven years, and can never steal him on account of a silk covering he has on him in the stable, with sixty bells fixed to it, and whenever you approach the place he quickly observes it and shakes himself; which, by the sound of the bells, not only alarms the prince and his guards, but the whole country round, so that it is impossible ever to get him, and those that are so unfortunate as to be taken by the Knight of the Glen are boiled in a red-hot fiery furnace.'
'Bless me,' says the young prince, 'what will we do? If we return without the steed we will lose our heads, so I see we are ill fixed on both sides.'
'Well,' says the Thief of Sloan, 'if it were my case I would rather die by the Knight than by the wicked Queen; besides, I will go with you myself and show you the road, and whatever fortune you will have, I will take chance of the same.'
They returned him sincere thanks for his kindness, and he, being well acquainted with the road, in a short time brought them within view of the knight's castle.
'Now,' says he, 'we must stay here till night comes; for I know all the ways of the place, and if there be any chance for it, it is when they are all at rest; for the steed is all the watch the knight keeps there.'
Accordingly, in the dead hour of the night, the King's three sons and the Thief of Sloan attempted the Steed of Bells in order to carry him away, but before they could reach the stables the steed neighed most terribly and shook himself so, and the bells rung with such noise, that the knight and all his men were up in a moment.
The Black Thief and the King's sons thought to make their escape, but they were suddenly surrounded by the knight's guards and taken prisoners; where they were brought into that dismal part of the palace where the knight kept a furnace always boiling, in which he threw all offenders that ever came in his way, which in a few moments would entirely consume them.
'Audacious villains!' says the Knight of the Glen, 'how dare you attempt so bold an action as to steal my steed? See, now, the reward of your folly; for your greater punishment I will not boil you all together, but one after the other, so that he that survives may witness the dire afflictions of his unfortunate companions.'
So saying he ordered his servants to stir up the fire: 'We will boil the eldest-looking of these young men first,' said he, 'and so on to the last, which will be this old champion with the black cap. He seems to be the captain, and looks as if he had come through many toils.'
'I was as near death once as the prince is yet,' says the Black Thief, 'and escaped; and so will he too.'
'No, you never were,' said the knight; 'for he is within two or three minutes of his latter end.'
'But,' says the Black Thief, 'I was within one moment of my death, and I am here yet.'
'How was that?' says the knight; 'I would be glad to hear it, for it seems impossible.'
'If you think, sir knight,' says the Black Thief, 'that the danger I was in surpasses that of this young man, will you pardon him his crime?'
'I will,' says the knight, 'so go on with your story.'
'I was, sir,' says he, 'a very wild boy in my youth, and came through many distresses; once in particular, as I was on my rambling, I was benighted and could find no lodging. At length I came to an old kiln, and being much fatigued I went up and lay on the ribs. I had not been long there when I saw three witches coming in with three bags of gold. Each put their bags of gold under their heads, as if to sleep. I heard one of them say to the other that if the Black Thief came on them while they slept, he would not leave them a penny. I found by their discourse that everybody had got my name into their mouth, though I kept silent as death during their discourse. At length they fell fast asleep, and then I stole softly down, and seeing some turf convenient, I placed one under each of their heads, and off I went, with their gold, as fast as I could.
'I had not gone far,' continued the Thief of Sloan, 'until I saw a grey-hound, a hare, and a hawk in pursuit of me, and began to think it must be the witches that had taken the shapes in order that I might not escape them unseen either by land or water. Seeing they did not appear in any formidable shape, I was more than once resolved to attack them, thinking that with my broad sword I could easily destroy them. But considering again that it was perhaps still in their power to become alive again, I gave over the attempt and climbed with difficulty up a tree, bringing my sword in my hand and all the gold along with me. However, when they came to the tree they found what I had done, and making further use of their hellish art, one of them was changed into a smith's anvil and another into a piece of iron, of which the third soon made a hatchet. Having the hatchet made, she fell to cutting down the tree, and in the course of an hour it began to shake with me. At length it began to bend, and I found that one or two blows at the most would put it down. I then began to think that my death was inevitable, considering that those who were capable of doing so much would soon end my life; but just as she had the stroke drawn that would terminate my fate, the cock crew, and the witches disappeared, having resumed their natural shapes for fear of being known, and I got safe off with my bags of gold.
'Now, sir,' says he to the Knight of the Glen, 'if that be not as great an adventure as ever you heard, to be within one blow of a hatchet of my end, and that blow even drawn, and after all to escape, I leave it to yourself.'
'Well, I cannot say but it is very extraordinary,' says the Knight of the Glen, 'and on that account pardon this young man his crime; so stir up the fire, till I boil this second one.'
'Indeed,' says the Black Thief, 'I would fain think he would not die this time either.'
'How so?' says the knight; 'it is impossible for him to escape.'
'I escaped death more wonderfully myself,' says the Thief of Sloan, 'than if you had him ready to throw into the furnace, and I hope it will be the case with him likewise.'
'Why, have you been in another great danger?' says the knight. 'I would be glad to hear the story too, and if it be as wonderful as the last, I will pardon this young man as I did the other.'
'My way of living, sir,' says the Black Thief, 'was not good, as I told you before; and being at a certain time fairly run out of cash, and meeting with no enterprise worthy of notice, I was reduced to great straits. At length a rich bishop died in the neighbourhood I was then in, and I heard he was interred with a great deal of jewels and rich robes upon him, all which I intended in a short time to be master of. Accordingly that very night I set about it, and coming to the place, I understood he was placed at the further end of a long dark vault, which I slowly entered. I had not gone in far until I heard a foot coming towards me with a quick pace, and although naturally bold and daring, yet, thinking of the deceased bishop and the crime I was engaged in, I lost courage, and ran towards the entrance of the vault. I had retreated but a few paces when I observed, between me and the light, the figure of a tall black man standing in the entrance. Being in great fear and not knowing how to pass, I fired a pistol at him, and he immediately fell across the entrance. Perceiving he still retained the figure of a mortal man, I began to imagine that it could not be the bishop's ghost; recovering myself therefore from the fear I was in, I ventured to the upper end of the vault, where I found a large bundle, and upon further examination I found that the corpse was already rifled, and that which I had taken to be a ghost was no more than one of his own clergy. I was then very sorry that I had the misfortune to kill him, but it then could not be helped. I took up the bundle that contained everything belonging to the corpse that was valuable, intending to take my departure from this melancholy abode; but just as I came to the mouth of the entrance I saw the guards of the place coming towards me, and distinctly heard them saying that they would look in the vault, for that the Black Thief would think little of robbing the corpse if he was anywhere in the place. I did not then know in what manner to act, for if I was seen I would surely lose my life, as everybody had a look-out at that time, and because there was no person bold enough to come in on me. I knew very well on the first sight of me that could be got, I would be shot like a dog. However, I had not time to lose. I took and raised up the man which I had killed, as if he was standing on his feet, and I, crouching behind him, bore him up as well as I could, so that the guards readily saw him as they came up to the vault. Seeing the man in black, one of the men cried that was the Black Thief, and, presenting his piece, fired at the man, at which I let him fall, and crept into a little dark corner myself, that was at the entrance of the place. When they saw the man fall, they ran all into the vault, and never stopped until they were at the end of it, for fear, as I thought, that there might be some others along with him that was killed. But while they were busy inspecting the corpse and the vault to see what they could miss, I slipped out, and, once away, and still away; but they never had the Black Thief in their power since.'
'Well, my brave fellow,' says the Knight of the Glen, 'I see you have come through many dangers: you have freed these two princes by your stories; but I am sorry myself that this young prince has to suffer for all. Now, if you could tell me something as wonderful as you have told already, I would pardon him likewise; I pity this youth and do not want to put him to death if I could help it.'
'That happens well,' says the Thief of Sloan, 'for I like him best myself, and have reserved the most curious passage for the last on his account.'
'Well, then,' says the knight, 'let us hear it.'
'I was one day on my travels,' says the Black Thief, 'and I came into a large forest, where I wandered a long time, and could not get out of it. At length I came to a large castle, and fatigue obliged me to call in the same, where I found a young woman and a child sitting on her knee, and she crying. I asked her what made her cry, and where the lord of the castle was, for I wondered greatly that I saw no stir of servants or any person about the place.
'"It is well for you," says the young woman, "that the lord of this castle is not at home at present; for he is a monstrous giant, with but one eye on his forehead, who lives on human flesh. He brought me this child," says she, "I do not know where he got it, and ordered me to make it into a pie, and I cannot help crying at the command."
'I told her that if she knew of any place convenient that I could leave the child safely I would do it, rather than it should be killed by such a monster.
'She told me of a house a distance off where I would get a woman who would take care of it. "But what will I do in regard of the pie?"
'"Cut a finger off it," said I, "and I will bring you in a young wild pig out of the forest, which you may dress as if it was the child, and put the finger in a certain place, that if the giant doubts anything about it you may know where to turn it over at the first, and when he sees it he will be fully satisfied that the pie is made of the child."
'She agreed to the scheme I proposed, and, cutting off the child's finger, by her direction I soon had it at the house she told me of, and brought her the little pig in the place of it. She then made ready the pie, and after eating and drinking heartily myself, I was just taking my leave of the young woman when we observed the giant coming through the castle gates.
'"Bless me," said she, "what will you do now? Run away and lie down among the dead bodies that he has in the room (showing me the place), and strip off your clothes that he may not know you from the rest if he has occasion to go that way."
'I took her advice, and laid myself down among the rest, as if dead, to see how he would behave. The first thing I heard was him calling for his pie. When she set it down before him he swore it smelled like swine's flesh, but knowing where to find the finger, she immediately turned it up, which fairly convinced him of the contrary. The pie only served to sharpen his appetite, and I heard him sharpening his knife and saying he must have a collop or two, for he was not near satisfied. But what was my terror when I heard the giant groping among the bodies, and, fancying myself, cut the half of my hip off, and took it with him to be roasted. You may be certain I was in great pain, but the fear of being killed prevented me from making any complaint. However, when he had eaten all he began to drink hot liquors in great abundance, so that in a short time he could not hold up his head, but threw himself on a large creel he had made for the purpose, and fell fast asleep. When I heard him snoring, as I was I went up and caused the woman to bind my wound with a handkerchief; and, taking the giant's spit, reddened it in the fire, and ran it through the eye, but was not able to kill him.
'However, I left the spit sticking in his head, and took to my heels; but I soon found he was in pursuit of me, although blind; and having an enchanted ring he threw it at me, and it fell on my big toe and remained fastened to it.
'The giant then called to the ring, where it was, and to my great surprise it made him answer on my foot; and he, guided by the same, made a leap at me which I had the good luck to observe, and fortunately escaped the danger. However, I found running was of no use in saving me, as long as I had the ring on my foot; so I took my sword and cut off the toe it was fastened on, and threw both into a large fish-pond that was convenient. The giant called again to the ring, which by the power of enchantment always made him answer; but he, not knowing what I had done, imagined it was still on some part of me, and made a violent leap to seize me, when he went into the pond, over head and ears, and was drowned. Now, sir knight,' says the Thief of Sloan, 'you see what dangers I came through and always escaped; but, indeed, I am lame for the want of my toe ever since.'
'My lord and master,' says an old woman that was listening all the time, 'that story is but too true, as I well know, for I am the very woman that was in the giant's castle, and you, my lord, the child that I was to make into a pie; and this is the very man that saved your life, which you may know by the want of your finger that was taken off, as you have heard, to deceive the giant.'
The Knight of the Glen, greatly surprised at what he had heard the old woman tell, and knowing he wanted his finger from his childhood, began to understand that the story was true enough.
'And is this my deliverer?' says he. 'O brave fellow, I not only pardon you all, but will keep you with myself while you live, where you shall feast like princes, and have every attendance that I have myself.'
They all returned thanks on their knees, and the Black Thief told him the reason they attempted to steal the Steed of Bells, and the necessity they were under in going home.
'Well,' says the Knight of the Glen, 'if that's the case I bestow you my steed rather than this brave fellow should die; so you may go when you please, only remember to call and see me betimes, that we may know each other well.'
They promised they would, and with great joy they set off for the King their father's palace, and the Black Thief along with them.
The wicked Queen was standing all this time on the tower, and, hearing the bells ringing at a great distance off, knew very well it was the princes coming home, and the steed with them, and through spite and vexation precipitated herself from the tower and was shattered to pieces.
The three princes lived happy and well during their father's reign, and always keeping the Black Thief along with them; but how they did after the old King's death is not known.(4)
(4) The Hibernian Tales.
THE MASTER THIEF
THERE was once upon a time a husbandman who had three sons. He had no property to bequeath to them, and no means of putting them in the way of getting a living, and did not know what to do, so he said that they had his leave to take to anything they most fancied, and go to any place they best liked. He would gladly accompany them for some part of their way, he said, and that he did. He went with them till they came to a place where three roads met, and there each of them took his own way, and the father bade them farewell and returned to his own home again. What became of the two elder I have never been able to discover, but the youngest went both far and wide.
It came to pass, one night, as he was going through a great wood, that a terrible storm came on. It blew so hard and rained so heavily that he could scarcely keep his eyes open, and before he was aware of it he had got quite out of the track, and could neither find road nor path. But he went on, and at last he saw a light far away in the wood. Then he thought he must try and get to it, and after a long, long time he did reach it. There was a large house, and the fire was burning so brightly inside that he could tell that the people were not in bed. So he went in, and inside there was an old woman who was busy about some work.
'Good evening, mother!' said the youth.
'Good evening!' said the old woman.
'Hutetu! it is terrible weather outside to-night,' said the young fellow.
'Indeed it is,' said the old woman.
'Can I sleep here, and have shelter for the night?' asked the youth.
'It wouldn't be good for you to sleep here,' said the old hag, 'for if the people of the house come home and find you, they will kill both you and me.'
'What kind of people are they then, who dwell here?' said the youth.
'Oh! robbers, and rabble of that sort,' said the old woman; 'they stole me away when I was little, and I have had to keep house for them ever since.'
'I still think I will go to bed, all the same,' said the youth. 'No matter what happens, I'll not go out to-night in such weather as this.'
'Well, then, it will be the worse for yourself,' said the old woman.
The young man lay down in a bed which stood near, but he dared not go to sleep: and it was better that he didn't, for the robbers came, and the old woman said that a young fellow who was a stranger had come there, and she had not been able to get him to go away again.
'Did you see if he had any money?' said the robbers.
'He's not one to have money, he is a tramp! If he has a few clothes to his back, that is all.'
Then the robbers began to mutter to each other apart about what they should do with him, whether they should murder him, or what else they should do. In the meantime the boy got up and began to talk to them, and ask them if they did not want a man-servant, for he could find pleasure enough in serving them.
'Yes,' said they, 'if you have a mind to take to the trade that we follow, you may have a place here.'
'It's all the same to me what trade I follow,' said the youth, 'for when I came away from home my father gave me leave to take to any trade I fancied.'
'Have you a fancy for stealing, then?' said the robbers.
'Yes,' said the boy, for he thought that was a trade which would not take long to learn.
Not very far off there dwelt a man who had three oxen, one of which he was to take to the town to sell. The robbers had heard of this, so they told the youth that if he were able to steal the ox from him on the way, without his knowing, and without doing him any harm, he should have leave to be their servant-man. So the youth set off, taking with him a pretty shoe with a silver buckle that was lying about in the house. He put this in the road by which the man must go with his ox, and then went into the wood and hid himself under a bush. When the man came up he at once saw the shoe.
'That's a brave shoe,' said he. 'If I had but the fellow to it, I would carry it home with me, and then I should put my old woman into a good humour for once.'
For he had a wife who was so cross and ill-tempered that the time between the beatings she gave him was very short. But then he bethought himself that he could do nothing with one shoe if he had not the fellow to it, so he journeyed onwards and let it lie where it was. Then the youth picked up the shoe and hurried off away through the wood as fast as he was able, to get in front of the man, and then put the shoe in the road before him again.
When the man came with the ox and saw the shoe, he was quite vexed at having been so stupid as to leave the fellow to it lying where it was, instead of bringing it on with him.
'I will just run back again and fetch it now,' he said to himself, 'and then I shall take back a pair of good shoes to the old woman, and she may perhaps throw a kind word to me for once.'
So he went and searched and searched for the other shoe for a long, long time, but no shoe was to be found, and at last he was forced to go back with the one which he had.
In the meantime the youth had taken the ox and gone off with it. When the man got there and found that his ox was gone, he began to weep and wail, for he was afraid that when his old woman got to know she would be the death of him. But all at once it came into his head to go home and get the other ox, and drive it to the town, and take good care that his old wife knew nothing about it. So he did this; he went home and took the ox without his wife's knowing about it, and went on his way to the town with it. But the robbers they knew it well, because they got out their magic. So they told the youth that if he could take this ox also without the man knowing anything about it, and without doing him any hurt, he should then be on an equality with them.
'Well, that will not be a very hard thing to do,' thought the youth.
This time he took with him a rope and put it under his arms and tied himself up to a tree, which hung over the road that the man would have to take. So the man came with his ox, and when he saw the body hanging there he felt a little queer.
'What a hard lot yours must have been to make you hang yourself!' said he. 'Ah, well! you may hang there for me; I can't breathe life into you again.'
So on he went with his ox. Then the youth sprang down from the tree, ran by a short cut and got before him, and once more hung himself up on a tree in the road before the man.
'How I should like to know if you really were so sick at heart that you hanged yourself there, or if it is only a hobgoblin that's before me!' said the man. 'Ah, well! you may hang there for me, whether you are a hobgoblin or not,' and on he went with his ox.
Once more the youth did just as he had done twice already; jumped down from the tree, ran by a short cut through the wood, and again hanged himself in the very middle of the road before him.
But when the man once more saw this he said to himself, 'What a bad business this is! Can they all have been so heavy-hearted that they have all three hanged themselves? No, I can't believe that it is anything but witchcraft! But I will know the truth,' he said; 'if the two others are still hanging there it is true but if they are not it's nothing else but witchcraft.'
So he tied up his ox and ran back to see if they really were hanging there. While he was going, and looking up at every tree as he went, the youth leapt down and took his ox and went off with it. Any one may easily imagine what a fury the man fell into when he came back and saw that his ox was gone. He wept and he raged, but at last he took comfort and told himself that the best thing to do was to go home and take the third ox, without letting his wife know anything about it, and then try to sell it so well that he got a good sum of money for it. So he went home and took the third ox, and drove it off without his wife knowing anything about it. But the robbers knew all about it, and they told the youth that if he could steal this as he had stolen the two others, he should be master of the whole troop. So the youth set out and went to the wood, and when the man was coming along with the ox he began to bellow loudly, just like a great ox somewhere inside the wood. When the man heard that he was right glad, for he fancied he recognised the voice of his big bullock, and thought that now he should find both of them again. So he tied up the third, and ran away off the road to look for them in the wood. In the meantime the youth went away with the third ox. When the man returned and found that he had lost that too, he fell into such a rage that there was no bounds to it. He wept and lamented, and for many days he did not dare to go home again, for he was afraid that the old woman would slay him outright. The robbers, also, were not very well pleased at this, for they were forced to own that the youth was at the head of them all. So one day they made up their minds to set to work to do something which it was not in his power to accomplish, and they all took to the road together, and left him at home alone. When they were well out of the house, the first thing that he did was to drive the oxen out on the road, whereupon they all ran home again to the man from whom he had stolen them, and right glad was the husbandman to see them. Then he brought out all the horses the robbers had, and loaded them with the most valuable things which he could find—vessels of gold and of silver, and clothes and other magnificent things—and then he told the old woman to greet the robbers from him and thank them from him, and say that he had gone away, and that they would have a great deal of difficulty in finding him again, and with that he drove the horses out of the courtyard. After a long, long time he came to the road on which he was travelling when he came to the robbers. And when he had got very near home, and was in sight of the house where his father lived, he put on a uniform which he had found among the things he had taken from the robbers, and which was made just like a general's, and drove into the yard just as if he were a great man. Then he entered the house and asked if he could find a lodging there.
'No, indeed you can't!' said his father. 'How could I possibly be able to lodge such a great gentleman as you? It is all that I can do to find clothes and bedding for myself, and wretched they are.'
'You were always a hard man,' said the youth, 'and hard you are still if you refuse to let your own son come into your house.'
'Are you my son?' said the man.
'Do you not know me again then?' said the youth.
Then he recognised him and said, 'But what trade have you taken to that has made you such a great man in so short a time?'
'Oh, that I will tell you,' answered the youth. 'You said that I might take to anything I liked, so I apprenticed myself to some thieves and robbers, and now I have served my time and have become Master Thief.'
Now the Governor of the province lived by his father's cottage, and this Governor had such a large house and so much money that he did not even know how much it was, and he had a daughter too who was both pretty and dainty, and good and wise. So the Master Thief was determined to have her to wife, and told his father that he was to go to the Governor, and ask for his daughter for him. 'If he asks what trade I follow, you may say that I am a Master Thief,' said he.
'I think you must be crazy,' said the man, 'for you can't be in your senses if you think of anything so foolish.'
'You must go to the Governor and beg for his daughter—there is no help,' said the youth.
'But I dare not go to the Governor and say this. He is so rich and has so much wealth of all kinds,' said the man.
'There is no help for it,' said the Master Thief; 'go you must, whether you like it or not. If I can't get you to go by using good words, I will soon make you go with bad ones.'
But the man was still unwilling, so the Master Thief followed him, threatening him with a great birch stick, till he went weeping and wailing through the door to the Governor of the province.
'Now, my man, and what's amiss with you?' said the Governor.
So he told him that he had three sons who had gone away one day, and how he had given them permission to go where they chose, and take to whatsoever work they fancied. 'Now,' he said, 'the youngest of them has come home, and has threatened me till I have come to you to ask for your daughter for him, and I am to say that he is a Master Thief,' and again the man fell a-weeping and lamenting.
'Console yourself, my man,' said the Governor, laughing. 'You may tell him from me that he must first give me some proof of this. If he can steal the joint off the spit in the kitchen on Sunday, when every one of us is watching it, he shall have my daughter. Will you tell him that?'
The man did tell him, and the youth thought it would be easy enough to do it. So he set himself to work to catch three hares alive, put them in a bag, clad himself in some old rags so that he looked so poor and wretched that it was quite pitiable to see him, and in this guise on Sunday forenoon he sneaked into the passage with his bag, like any beggar boy. The Governor himself and every one in the house was in the kitchen, keeping watch over the joint. While they were doing this the youth let one of the hares slip out of his bag, and off it set and began to run round the yard.
'Just look at that hare,' said the people in the kitchen, and wanted to go out and catch it.
The Governor saw it too, but said, 'Oh, let it go! it's no use to think of catching a hare when it's running away.'
It was not long before the youth let another hare out, and the people in the kitchen saw this too, and thought that it was the same. So again they wanted to go out and catch it, but the Governor again told them that it was of no use to try.
Very soon afterwards, however, the youth let slip the third hare, and it set off and ran round and round the courtyard. The people in the kitchen saw this too, and believed that it was still the same hare that was running about, so they wanted to go out and catch it.
'It's a remarkably fine hare!' said the Governor. 'Come and let us see if we can get hold of it.' So out he went, and the others with him, and away went the hare, and they after it, in real earnest.
In the meantime, however, the Master Thief took the joint and ran off with it, and whether the Governor got any roast meat for his dinner that day I know not, but I know that he had no roast hare, though he chased it till he was both hot and tired. At noon came the Priest, and when the Governor had told him of the trick played by the Master Thief there was no end to the ridicule he cast on the Governor.
'For my part,' said the Priest, 'I can't imagine myself being made a fool of by such a fellow as that!'
'Well, I advise you to be careful,' said the Governor, 'for he may be with you before you are at all aware.'
But the Priest repeated what he had said, and mocked the Governor for having allowed himself to be made such a fool of.
Later in the afternoon the Master Thief came and wanted to have the Governor's daughter as he had promised.
'You must first give some more samples of your skill,' said the Governor, trying to speak him fair, 'for what you did to-day was no such very great thing after all. Couldn't you play off a really good trick on the Priest? for he is sitting inside there and calling me a fool for having let myself be taken in by such a fellow as you.'
'Well, it wouldn't be very hard to do that,' said the Master Thief. So he dressed himself up like a bird, and threw a great white sheet over himself; broke off a goose's wings, and set them on his back; and in this attire climbed into a great maple tree which stood in the Priest's garden. So when the Priest returned home in the evening the youth began to cry, 'Father Lawrence! Father Lawrence! 'for the Priest was called Father Lawrence.
'Who is calling me?' said the Priest.
'I am an angel sent to announce to thee that because of thy piety thou shalt be taken away alive into heaven,' said the Master Thief. 'Wilt thou hold thyself in readiness to travel away next Monday night? for then will I come and fetch thee, and bear thee away with me in a sack, and thou must lay all thy gold and silver, and whatsoever thou may 'st possess of this world's wealth, in a heap in thy best parlour.'
So Father Lawrence fell down on his knees before the angel and thanked him, and the following Sunday he preached a farewell sermon, and gave out that an angel had come down into the large maple tree in his garden, and had announced to him that, because of his righteousness, he should be taken up alive into heaven, and as he thus preached and told them this everyone in the church, old or young, wept.
On Monday night the Master Thief once more came as an angel, and before the Priest was put into the sack he fell on his knees and thanked him; but no sooner was the Priest safely inside it than the Master Thief began to drag him away over stocks and stones.
'Oh! oh! 'cried the Priest in the sack. 'Where are you taking me?'
'This is the way to heaven. The way to heaven is not an easy one,' said the Master Thief, and dragged him along till he all but killed him.
At last he flung him into the Governor's goose-house, and the geese began to hiss and peck at him, till he felt more dead than alive.
'Oh! oh! oh! Where am I now?' asked the Priest.
'Now you are in Purgatory,' said the Master Thief, and off he went and took the gold and the silver and all the precious things which the Priest had laid together in his best parlour.
Next morning, when the goose-girl came to let out the geese, she heard the Priest bemoaning himself as he lay in the sack in the goose-house.
'Oh, heavens! who is that, and what ails you?' said she.
'Oh,' said the Priest, 'if you are an angel from heaven do let me out and let me go back to earth again, for no place was ever so bad as this—the little fiends nip me so with their tongs.'
'I am no angel,' said the girl, and helped the Priest out of the sack. 'I only look after the Governor's geese, that's what I do, and they are the little fiends which have pinched your reverence.'
'This is the Master Thief's doing! Oh, my gold and my silver and my best clothes!' shrieked the Priest, and, wild with rage, he ran home so fast that the goose-girl thought he had suddenly gone mad.
When the Governor learnt what had happened to the Priest he laughed till he nearly killed himself, but when the Master Thief came and wanted to have his daughter according to promise, he once more gave him nothing but fine words, and said, 'You must give me one more proof of your skill, so that I can really judge of your worth. I have twelve horses in my stable, and I will put twelve stable boys in it, one on each horse. If you are clever enough to steal the horses from under them, I will see what I can do for you.'
'What you set me to do can be done,' said the Master Thief, 'but am I certain to get your daughter when it is?'
'Yes; if you can do that I will do my best for you,' said the Governor.
So the Master Thief went to a shop, and bought enough brandy to fill two pocket flasks, and he put a sleeping drink into one of these, but into the other he poured brandy only. Then he engaged eleven men to lie that night in hiding behind the Governor's stable. After this, by fair words and good payment, he borrowed a ragged gown and a jerkin from an aged woman, and then, with a staff in his hand and a poke on his back, he hobbled off as evening came on towards the Governor's stable. The stable boys were just watering the horses for the night, and it was quite as much as they could do to attend to that.
'What on earth do you want here?' said one of them to the old woman.
'Oh dear! oh dear! How cold it is!' she said, sobbing, and shivering with cold. 'Oh dear! oh dear! it's cold enough to freeze a poor old body to death!' and she shivered and shook again, and said, 'For heaven's sake give me leave to stay here and sit just inside the stable door.'
'You will get nothing of the kind! Be off this moment! If the Governor were to catch sight of you here, he would lead us a pretty dance,' said one.
'Oh! what a poor helpless old creature!' said another, who felt sorry for her. 'That poor old woman can do no harm to anyone. She may sit there and welcome.'
The rest of them thought that she ought not to stay, but while they were disputing about this and looking after the horses, she crept farther and farther into the stable, and at last sat down behind the door, and when once she was inside no one took any more notice of her.
As the night wore on the stable boys found it rather cold work to sit still on horseback.
'Hutetu! But it is fearfully cold!' said one, and began to beat his arms backwards and forwards across his breast.
'Yes, I am so cold that my teeth are chattering,' said another.
'If one had but a little tobacco,' said a third.
Well, one of them had a little, so they shared it among them, though there was very little for each man, but they chewed it. This was some help to them, but very soon they were just as cold as before.
'Hutetu!' said one of them, shivering again.
'Hutetu!' said the old woman, gnashing her teeth together till they chattered inside her mouth; and then she got out the flask which contained nothing but brandy, and her hands trembled so that she shook the bottle about, and when she drank it made a great gulp in her throat.
'What is that you have in your flask, old woman?' asked one of the stable boys.
'Oh, it's only a little drop of brandy, your honour,' she said.
'Brandy! What! Let me have a drop! Let me have a drop!' screamed all the twelve at once.
'Oh, but what I have is so little,' whimpered the old woman. 'It will not even wet your mouths.'
But they were determined to have it, and there was nothing to be done but give it; so she took out the flask with the sleeping drink and put it to the lips of the first of them; and now she shook no more, but guided the flask so that each of them got just as much as he ought, and the twelfth had not done drinking before the first was already sitting snoring. Then the Master Thief flung off his beggar's rags, and took one stable boy after the other and gently set him astride on the partitions which divided the stalls, and then he called his eleven men who were waiting outside, and they rode off with the Governor's horses.
In the morning when the Governor came to look after his stable boys they were just beginning to come to again. They were driving their spurs into the partition till the splinters flew about, and some of the boys fell off, and some still hung on and sat looking like fools. 'Ah, well,' said the Governor, 'it is easy to see who has been here; but what a worthless set of fellows you must be to sit here and let the Master Thief steal the horses from under you!' And they all got a beating for not having kept watch better.
Later in the day the Master Thief came and related what he had done, and wanted to have the Governor's daughter as had been promised. But the Governor gave him a hundred dollars, and said that he must do something that was better still.
'Do you think you can steal my horse from under me when I am out riding on it?' said he.
'Well, it might be done,' said the Master Thief, 'if I were absolutely certain that I should get your daughter.'
So the Governor said that he would see what he could do, and then he said that on a certain day he would ride out to a great common where they drilled the soldiers.
So the Master Thief immediately got hold of an old worn-out mare, and set himself to work to make a collar for it of green withies and branches of broom; bought a shabby old cart and a great cask, and then he told a poor old beggar woman that he would give her ten dollars if she would get into the cask and keep her mouth wide-open beneath the tap-hole, into which he was going to stick his finger. No harm should happen to her, he said; she should only be driven about a little, and if he took his finger out more than once, she should have ten dollars more. Then he dressed himself in rags, dyed himself with soot, and put on a wig and a great beard of goat's hair, so that it was impossible to recognise him, and went to the parade ground, where the Governor had already been riding about a long time.
When the Master Thief got there the mare went along so slowly and quietly that the cart hardly seemed to move from the spot. The mare pulled it a little forward, and then a little back, and then it stopped quite short. Then the mare pulled a little forward again, and it moved with such difficulty that the Governor had not the least idea that this was the Master Thief. He rode straight up to him, and asked if he had seen anyone hiding anywhere about in a wood that was close by.
'No,' said the man, 'that have I not.'
'Hark you,' said the Governor. 'If you will ride into that wood, and search it carefully to see if you can light upon a fellow who is hiding in there, you shall have the loan of my horse and a good present of money for your trouble.'
'I am not sure that I can do it,' said the man, 'for I have to go to a wedding with this cask of mead which I have been to fetch, and the tap has fallen out on the way, so now I have to keep my finger in the tap-hole as I drive.'
'Oh, just ride off,' said the Governor, 'and I will look after the cask and the horse too.'
So the man said that if he would do that he would go, but he begged the Governor to be very careful to put his finger into the tap-hole the moment he took his out.
So the Governor said that he would do his very best, and the Master Thief got on the Governor's horse.
But time passed, and it grew later and later, and still the man did not come back, and at last the Governor grew so weary of keeping his finger in the tap-hole that he took it out.
'Now I shall have ten dollars more!' cried the old woman inside the cask; so he soon saw what kind of mead it was, and set out homewards. When he had gone a very little way he met his servant bringing him the horse, for the Master Thief had already taken it home.
The following day he went to the Governor and wanted to have his daughter according to promise. But the Governor again put him off with fine words, and only gave him three hundred dollars, saying that he must do one more masterpiece of skill, and if he were but able to do that he should have her.
Well, the Master Thief thought he might if he could hear what it was.
'Do you think you can steal the sheet off our bed, and my wife's night-gown?' said the Governor.
'That is by no means impossible,' said the Master Thief. 'I only wish I could get your daughter as easily.'
So late at night the Master Thief went and cut down a thief who was hanging on the gallows, laid him on his own shoulders, and took him away with him. Then he got hold of a long ladder, set it up against the Governor's bedroom window, and climbed up and moved the dead man's head up and down, just as if he were some one who was standing outside and peeping in.
'There's the Master Thief, mother!' said the Governor, nudging his wife. 'Now I'll just shoot him, that I will!'
So he took up a rifle which he had laid at his bedside.
'Oh no, you must not do that,' said his wife; 'you yourself arranged that he was to come here.'
'Yes, mother, I will shoot him,' said he, and lay there aiming, and then aiming again, for no sooner was the head up and he caught sight of it than it was gone again. At last he got a chance and fired, and the dead body fell with a loud thud to the ground, and down went the Master Thief too, as fast as he could.
'Well,' said the Governor, 'I certainly am the chief man about here, but people soon begin to talk, and it would be very unpleasant if they were to see this dead body; the best thing that I can do is to go out and bury him.'
'Just do what you think best, father,' said his wife.
So the Governor got up and went downstairs, and as soon as he had gone out through the door, the Master Thief stole in and went straight upstairs to the woman.
'Well, father dear,' said she, for she thought it was her husband. 'Have you got done already?'
'Oh yes, I only put him into a hole,' said he, 'and raked a little earth over him; that's all I have been able to do to-night, for it is fearful weather outside. I will bury him better afterwards, but just let me have the sheet to wipe myself with, for he was bleeding, and I have got covered with blood with carrying him.'
So she gave him the sheet.
'You will have to let me have your night-gown too,' he said, 'for I begin to see that the sheet won't be enough.'
Then she gave him her night-gown, but just then it came into his head that he had forgotten to lock the door, and he was forced to go downstairs and do it before he could lie down in bed again. So off he went with the sheet, and the night-gown too.
An hour later the real Governor returned.
'Well, what a time it has taken to lock the house door, father!' said his wife, 'and what have you done with the sheet and the night-gown?'
'What do you mean?' asked the Governor.
'Oh, I am asking you what you have done with the night-gown and sheet that you got to wipe the blood off yourself with,' said she.
'Good heavens!' said the Governor, 'has he actually got the better of me again?'
When day came the Master Thief came too, and wanted to have the Governor's daughter as had been promised, and the Governor dared do no otherwise than give her to him, and much money besides, for he feared that if he did not the Master Thief might steal the very eyes out of his head, and that he himself would be ill spoken of by all men. The Master Thief lived well and happily from that time forth, and whether he ever stole any more or not I cannot tell you, but if he did it was but for pastime.
(5) From P. C. Asbjornsen.
BROTHER AND SISTER
BROTHER took sister by the hand and said: 'Look here; we haven't had one single happy hour since our mother died. That stepmother of ours beats us regularly every day, and if we dare go near her she kicks us away. We never get anything but hard dry crusts to eat—why, the dog under the table is better off than we are. She does throw him a good morsel or two now and then. Oh dear! if our own dear mother only knew all about it! Come along, and let us go forth into the wide world together.'
So off they started through fields and meadows, over hedges and ditches, and walked the whole day long, and when it rained sister said:
'Heaven and our hearts are weeping together.'
Towards evening they came to a large forest, and were so tired out with hunger and their long walk, as well as all their trouble, that they crept into a hollow tree and soon fell fast asleep.
Next morning, when they woke up, the sun was already high in the heavens and was shining down bright and warm into the tree. Then said brother:
'I'm so thirsty, sister; if I did but know where to find a little stream, I'd go and have a drink. I do believe I hear one.' He jumped up, took sister by the hand, and they set off to hunt for the brook.
Now their cruel stepmother was in reality a witch, and she knew perfectly well that the two children had run away. She had crept secretly after them, and had cast her spells over all the streams in the forest.
Presently the children found a little brook dancing and glittering over the stones, and brother was eager to drink of it, but as it rushed past sister heard it murmuring:
'Who drinks of me will be a tiger! who drinks of me will be a tiger!'
So she cried out, 'Oh! dear brother, pray don't drink, or you'll be turned into a wild beast and tear me to pieces.'
Brother was dreadfully thirsty, but he did not drink.
'Very well,' said he, 'I'll wait till we come to the next spring.'
When they came to the second brook, sister heard it repeating too:
'Who drinks of me will be a wolf I who drinks of me will be a wolf!'
And she cried, 'Oh! brother, pray don't drink here either, or you'll be turned into a wolf and eat me up.'
Again brother did not drink, but he said:
'Well, I'll wait a little longer till we reach the next stream, but then, whatever you may say, I really must drink, for I can bear this thirst no longer.'
And when they got to the third brook, sister heard it say as it rushed past:
'Who drinks of me will be a roe! who drinks of me will be a roe!'
And she begged, 'Ah! brother, don't drink yet, or you'll become a roe and run away from me.'
But her brother was already kneeling by the brook and bending over it to drink, and, sure enough, no sooner had his lips touched the water than he fell on the grass transformed into a little Roebuck.
Sister cried bitterly over her poor bewitched brother, and the little Roe wept too, and sat sadly by her side. At last the girl said:
'Never mind, dear little fawn, I will never forsake you,' and she took off her golden garter and tied it round the Roe's neck.
Then she plucked rushes and plaited a soft cord of them, which she fastened to the collar. When she had done this she led the Roe farther and farther, right into the depths of the forest.
After they had gone a long, long way they came to a little house, and when the girl looked into it she found it was quite empty, and she thought 'perhaps we might stay and live here.'
So she hunted up leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the little Roe, and every morning and evening she went out and gathered roots, nuts, and berries for herself, and tender young grass for the fawn. And he fed from her hand, and played round her and seemed quite happy. In the evening, when sister was tired, she said her prayers and then laid her head on the fawn's back and fell sound asleep with it as a pillow. And if brother had but kept his natural form, really it would have been a most delightful kind of life.
They had been living for some time in the forest in this way, when it came to pass that the King of that country had a great hunt through the woods. Then the whole forest rang with such a blowing of horns, baying of dogs, and joyful cries of huntsmen, that the little Roe heard it and longed to join in too.
'Ah!' said he to sister, 'do let me go off to the hunt! I can't keep still any longer.'
And he begged and prayed till at last she consented.
'But,' said she, 'mind you come back in the evening. I shall lock my door fast for fear of those wild huntsmen; so, to make sure of my knowing you, knock at the door and say, "My sister dear, open; I'm here." If you don't speak I shan't open the door.'
So off sprang the little Roe, and he felt quite well and happy in the free open air.
The King and his huntsmen soon saw the beautiful creature and started in pursuit, but they could not come up with it, and whenever they thought they were sure to catch it, it bounded off to one side into the bushes and disappeared. When night came on it ran home, and knocking at the door of the little house cried:
'My sister dear, open; I'm here.' The door opened, and he ran in and rested all night on his soft mossy bed.
Next morning the hunt began again, and as soon as the little Roe heard the horns and the 'Ho! ho! 'of the huntsmen, he could not rest another moment, and said:
'Sister, open the door, I must get out.'
So sister opened the door and said, 'Now mind and get back by nightfall, and say your little rhyme.'
As soon as the King and his huntsmen saw the Roe with the golden collar they all rode off after it, but it was far too quick and nimble for them. This went on all day, but as evening came on the huntsmen had gradually encircled the Roe, and one of them wounded it slightly in the foot, so that it limped and ran off slowly.
Then the huntsman stole after it as far as the little house, and heard it call out, 'My sister dear, open; I'm here,' and he saw the door open and close immediately the fawn had run in.
The huntsman remembered all this carefully, and went off straight to the King and told him all he had seen and heard.
'To-morrow we will hunt again,' said the King.
Poor sister was terribly frightened when she saw how her little Fawn had been wounded. She washed off the blood, bound up the injured foot with herbs, and said: 'Now, dear, go and lie down and rest, so that your wound may heal.'
The wound was really so slight that it was quite well next day, and the little Roe did not feel it at all. No sooner did it hear the sounds of hunting in the forest than it cried:
'I can't stand this, I must be there too; I'll take care they shan't catch me.'
Sister began to cry, and said, 'They are certain to kill you, and then I shall be left all alone in the forest and forsaken by everyone. I can't and won't let you out.'
'Then I shall die of grief,' replied the Roe, 'for when I hear that horn I feel as if I must jump right out of my skin.'
So at last, when sister found there was nothing else to be done, she opened the door with a heavy heart, and the Roe darted forth full of glee and health into the forest.
As soon as the King saw the Roe, he said to his huntsman, 'Now then, give chase to it all day till evening, but mind and be careful not to hurt it.'
When the sun had set the King said to his huntsman, 'Now come and show me the little house in the wood.'
And when he got to the house he knocked at the door and said, 'My sister dear, open; I'm here.' Then the door opened and the King walked in, and there stood the loveliest maiden he had ever seen.
The girl was much startled when instead of the little Roe she expected she saw a man with a gold crown on his head walk in. But the King looked kindly at her, held out his hand, and said, 'Will you come with me to my castle and be my dear wife?'
'Oh yes!' replied the maiden, 'but you must let my Roe come too. I could not possibly forsake it.'
'It shall stay with you as long as you live, and shall want for nothing,' the King promised.
In the meantime the Roe came bounding in, and sister tied the rush cord once more to its collar, took the end in her hand, and so they left the little house in the forest together.
The King lifted the lonely maiden on to his horse, and led her to his castle, where the wedding was celebrated with the greatest splendour. The Roe was petted and caressed, and ran about at will in the palace gardens.
Now all this time the wicked stepmother, who had been the cause of these poor children's misfortunes and trying adventures, was feeling fully persuaded that sister had been torn to pieces by wild beasts, and brother shot to death in the shape of a Roe. When she heard how happy and prosperous they were, her heart was filled with envy and hatred, and she could think of nothing but how to bring some fresh misfortune on them. Her own daughter, who was as hideous as night and had only one eye, reproached her by saying, 'It is I who ought to have had this good luck and been Queen.'
'Be quiet, will you,' said the old woman; 'when the time comes I shall be at hand.'
Now after some time it happened one day when the King was out hunting that the Queen gave birth to a beautiful little boy. The old witch thought here was a good chance for her; so she took the form of the lady in waiting, and, hurrying into the room where the Queen lay in her bed, called out, 'The bath is quite ready; it will help to make you strong again. Come, let us be quick, for fear the water should get cold.' Her daughter was at hand, too, and between them they carried the Queen, who was still very weak, into the bath-room and laid her in the bath; then they locked the door and ran away.
They took care beforehand to make a blazing hot fire under the bath, so that the lovely young Queen might be suffocated.
As soon as they were sure this was the case, the old witch tied a cap on her daughter's head and laid her in the Queen's bed. She managed, too, to make her figure and general appearance look like the Queen's, but even her power could not restore the eye she had lost; so she made her lie on the side of the missing eye, in order to prevent the King's noticing anything.
In the evening, when the King came home and heard the news of his son's birth, he was full of delight, and insisted on going at once to his dear wife's bedside to see how she was getting on. But the old witch cried out, 'Take care and keep the curtains drawn; don't let the light get into the Queen's eyes; she must be kept perfectly quiet.' So the King went away and never knew that it was a false Queen who lay in the bed.
When midnight came and everyone in the palace was sound asleep, the nurse who alone watched by the baby's cradle in the nursery saw the door open gently, and who should come in but the real Queen. She lifted the child from its cradle, laid it on her arm, and nursed it for some time. Then she carefully shook up the pillows of the little bed, laid the baby down and tucked the coverlet in all round him. She did not forget the little Roe either, but went to the corner where it lay, and gently stroked its back. Then she silently left the room, and next morning when the nurse asked the sentries if they had seen any one go into the castle that night, they all said, 'No, we saw no one at all.'
For many nights the Queen came in the same way, but she never spoke a word, and the nurse was too frightened to say anything about her visits.
After some little time had elapsed the Queen spoke one night, and said:
'Is my child well? Is my Roe well? I'll come back twice and then farewell.'
The nurse made no answer, but as soon as the Queen had disappeared she went to the King and told him all. The King exclaimed, 'Good heavens! what do you say? I will watch myself to-night by the child's bed.'
When the evening came he went to the nursery, and at midnight the Queen appeared and said:
'Is my child well? Is my Roe well? I'll come back once and then farewell.'
And she nursed and petted the child as usual before she disappeared. The King dared not trust himself to speak to her, but the following night he kept watch again.
That night when the Queen came she said:
'Is my child well? Is my Roe well? I've come this once, and now farewell.'
Then the King could restrain himself no longer, but sprang to her side and cried, 'You can be no one but my dear wife!'
'Yes,' said she, 'I am your dear wife!' and in the same moment she was restored to life, and was as fresh and well and rosy as ever. Then she told the King all the cruel things the wicked witch and her daughter had done. The King had them both arrested at once and brought to trial, and they were condemned to death. The daughter was led into the forest, where the wild beasts tore her to pieces, and the old witch was burnt at the stake.
As soon as she reduced to ashes the spell was taken off the little Roe, and he was restored to his natural shape once more, and so brother and sister lived happily ever after.(6)
ONCE upon a time there lived a King and Queen who had two beautiful sons and one little daughter, who was so pretty that no one who saw her could help loving her. When it was time for the christening of the Princess, the Queen—as she always did—sent for all the fairies to be present at the ceremony, and afterwards invited them to a splendid banquet.
When it was over, and they were preparing to go away, the Queen said to them:
'Do not forget your usual good custom. Tell me what is going to happen to Rosette.'
For that was the name they had given the Princess.
But the fairies said they had left their book of magic at home, and they would come another day and tell her.
'Ah!' said the Queen, 'I know very well what that means—you have nothing good to say; but at least I beg that you will not hide anything from me.'
So, after a great deal of persuasion, they said:
'Madam, we fear that Rosette may be the cause of great misfortunes to her brothers; they may even meet with their death through her; that is all we have been able to foresee about your dear little daughter. We are very sorry to have nothing better to tell you.'
Then they went away, leaving the Queen very sad, so sad that the King noticed it, and asked her what was the matter.
The Queen said that she had been sitting too near the fire, and had burnt all the flax that was upon her distaff.
'Oh! is that all?' said the King, and he went up into the garret and brought her down more flax than she could spin in a hundred years. But the Queen still looked sad, and the King asked her again what was the matter. She answered that she had been walking by the river and had dropped one of her green satin slippers into the water.
'Oh! if that's all,' said the King, and he sent to all the shoe-makers in his kingdom, and they very soon made the Queen ten thousand green satin slippers, but still she looked sad. So the King asked her again what was the matter, and this time she answered that in eating her porridge too hastily she had swallowed her wedding-ring. But it so happened that the King knew better, for he had the ring himself, and he said:
'Oh I you are not telling me the truth, for I have your ring here in my purse.'
Then the Queen was very much ashamed, and she saw that the King was vexed with her; so she told him all that the fairies had predicted about Rosette, and begged him to think how the misfortunes might be prevented.
Then it was the King's turn to look sad, and at last he said:
'I see no way of saving our sons except by having Rosette's head cut off while she is still little.'
But the Queen cried that she would far rather have her own head cut off, and that he had better think of something else, for she would never consent to such a thing. So they thought and thought, but they could not tell what to do, until at last the Queen heard that in a great forest near the castle there was an old hermit, who lived in a hollow tree, and that people came from far and near to consult him; so she said:
'I had better go and ask his advice; perhaps he will know what to do to prevent the misfortunes which the fairies foretold.'
She set out very early the next morning, mounted upon a pretty little white mule, which was shod with solid gold, and two of her ladies rode behind her on beautiful horses. When they reached the forest they dismounted, for the trees grew so thickly that the horses could not pass, and made their way on foot to the hollow tree where the hermit lived. At first when he saw them coming he was vexed, for he was not fond of ladies; but when he recognised the Queen, he said:
'You are welcome, Queen. What do you come to ask of me?'
Then the Queen told him all the fairies had foreseen for Rosette, and asked what she should do, and the hermit answered that she must shut the Princess up in a tower and never let her come out of it again. The Queen thanked and rewarded him, and hastened back to the castle to tell the King. When he heard the news he had a great tower built as quickly as possible, and there the Princess was shut up, and the King and Queen and her two brothers went to see her every day that she might not be dull. The eldest brother was called 'the Great Prince,' and the second 'the Little Prince.' They loved their sister dearly, for she was the sweetest, prettiest princess who was ever seen, and the least little smile from her was worth more than a hundred pieces of gold. When Rosette was fifteen years old the Great Prince went to the King and asked if it would not soon be time for her to be married, and the Little Prince put the same question to the Queen.
Their majesties were amused at them for thinking of it, but did not make any reply, and soon after both the King and the Queen were taken ill, and died on the same day. Everybody was sorry, Rosette especially, and all the bells in the kingdom were tolled.
Then all the dukes and counsellors put the Great Prince upon a golden throne, and crowned him with a diamond crown, and they all cried, 'Long live the King!' And after that there was nothing but feasting and rejoicing.
The new King and his brother said to one another:
'Now that we are the masters, let us take our sister out of that dull tower which she is so tired of.'
They had only to go across the garden to reach the tower, which was very high, and stood up in a corner. Rosette was busy at her embroidery, but when she saw her brothers she got up, and taking the King's hand cried:
'Good morning, dear brother. Now that you are King, please take me out of this dull tower, for I am so tired of it.'
Then she began to cry, but the King kissed her and told her to dry her tears, as that was just what they had come for, to take her out of the tower and bring her to their beautiful castle, and the Prince showed her the pocketful of sugar plums he had brought for her, and said:
'Make haste, and let us get away from this ugly tower, and very soon the King will arrange a grand marriage for you.'
When Rosette saw the beautiful garden, full of fruit and flowers, with green grass and sparkling fountains, she was so astonished that not a word could she say, for she had never in her life seen anything like it before. She looked about her, and ran hither and thither gathering fruit and flowers, and her little dog Frisk, who was bright green all over, and had but one ear, danced before her, crying 'Bow-wow-wow,' and turning head over heels in the most enchanting way.
Everybody was amused at Frisk's antics, but all of a sudden he ran away into a little wood, and the Princess was following him, when, to her great delight, she saw a peacock, who was spreading his tail in the sunshine. Rosette thought she had never seen anything so pretty. She could not take her eyes off him, and there she stood entranced until the King and the Prince came up and asked what was amusing her so much. She showed them the peacock, and asked what it was, and they answered that it was a bird which people sometimes ate.
'What!' said the Princess, 'do they dare to kill that beautiful creature and eat it? I declare that I will never marry any one but the King of the Peacocks, and when I am Queen I will take very good care that nobody eats any of my subjects.'
At this the King was very much astonished.
'But, little sister,' said he, 'where shall we find the King of the Peacocks?'
'Oh! wherever you like, sire,' she answered, 'but I will never marry any one else.'
After this they took Rosette to the beautiful castle, and the peacock was brought with her, and told to walk about on the terrace outside her windows, so that she might always see him, and then the ladies of the court came to see the Princess, and they brought her beautiful presents—dresses and ribbons and sweetmeats, diamonds and pearls and dolls and embroidered slippers, and she was so well brought up, and said, 'Thank you!' so prettily, and was so gracious, that everyone went away delighted with her.
Meanwhile the King and the Prince were considering how they should find the King of the Peacocks, if there was such a person in the world. And first of all they had a portrait made of the Princess, which was so like her that you really would not have been surprised if it had spoken to you. Then they said to her:
'Since you will not marry anyone but the King of the Peacocks, we are going out together into the wide world to search for him. If we find him for you we shall be very glad. In the meantime, mind you take good care of our kingdom.'
Rosette thanked them for all the trouble they were taking on her account, and promised to take great care of the kingdom, and only to amuse herself by looking at the peacock, and making Frisk dance while they were away.