One winter's day when there was a hard frost, and mountain and valley were covered with snow, the woman made a dress of paper, and calling the girl to her said:
'There, put on this dress and go out into the wood and fetch me a basket of strawberries!'
'Now Heaven help us,' replied her stepdaughter; 'strawberries don't grow in winter; the earth is all frozen and the snow has covered up everything; and why send me in a paper dress? it is so cold outside that one's very breath freezes; the wind will whistle through my dress, and the brambles tear it from my body.'
'How dare you contradict me!' said her stepmother; 'be off with you at once, and don't show your face again till you have filled the basket with strawberries.'
Then she gave her a hard crust of bread, saying:
'That will be enough for you to-day,' and she thought to herself: 'The girl will certainly perish of hunger and cold outside, and I shan't be bothered with her any more.'
The girl was so obedient that she put on the paper dress and set out with her little basket. There was nothing but snow far and near, and not a green blade of grass to be seen anywhere. When she came to the wood she saw a little house, and out of it peeped three little dwarfs. She wished them good-day, and knocked modestly at the door. They called out to her to enter, so she stepped in and sat down on a seat by the fire, wishing to warm herself and eat her breakfast. The Dwarfs said at once: 'Give us some of your food!'
'Gladly,' she said, and breaking her crust in two, she gave them the half.
Then they asked her what she was doing in the depths of winter in her thin dress.
'Oh,' she answered, 'I have been sent to get a basketful of strawberries, and I daren't show my face again at home till I bring them with me.'
When she had finished her bread they gave her a broom and told her to sweep away the snow from the back door. As soon as she left the room to do so, the three little men consulted what they should give her as a reward for being so sweet and good, and for sharing her last crust with them.
The first said: 'Every day she shall grow prettier.'
The second: 'Every time she opens her mouth a piece of gold shall fall out.'
And the third: 'A King shall come and marry her.'
The girl in the meantime was doing as the Dwarfs had bidden her, and was sweeping the snow away from the back door, and what do you think she found there?—heaps of fine ripe strawberries that showed out dark red against the white snow. She joyfully picked enough to fill her basket, thanked the little men for their kindness, shook hands with them, and ran home to bring her stepmother what she had asked for. When she walked in and said; Good evening,' a piece of gold fell out of her mouth. Then she told what had hap-pened to her in the wood, and at every word pieces of gold dropped from her mouth, so that the room was soon covered with them.
'She's surely more money than wit to throw gold about like that,' said her stepsister, but in her secret heart she was very jealous, and determined that she too would go to the wood and look for strawberries. But her mother refused to let her go, saying:
'My dear child, it is far too cold; you might freeze to death.'
The girl however left her no peace, so she was forced at last to give in, but she insisted on her putting on a beautiful fur cloak, and she gave her bread and butter and cakes to eat on the way.
The girl went straight to the little house in the wood, and as before the three little men were looking out of the window. She took no notice of them, and without as much as 'By your leave,' or 'With your leave,' she flounced into the room, sat herself down at the fire, and began to eat her bread and butter and cakes.
'Give us some,' cried the Dwarfs.
But she answered: 'No, I won't, it's hardly enough for myself; so catch me giving you any.'
When she had finished eating they said:
'There's a broom for you, go and clear up our back door.'
'I'll see myself further,' she answered rudely. 'Do it yourselves; I'm not your servant.'
When she saw that they did not mean to give her anything, she left the house in no amiable frame of mind. Then the three little men consulted what they should do to her, because she was so bad and had such an evil, covetous heart, that she grudged everybody their good fortune.
The first said: 'She shall grow uglier every day.'
The second: 'Every time she speaks a toad shall jump out of her mouth.'
And the third: 'She shall die a most miserable death.'
The girl searched for strawberries, but she found none, and returned home in a very bad temper. When she opened her mouth to tell her mother what had befallen her in the wood, a toad jumped out, so that everyone was quite disgusted with her.
Then the stepmother was more furious than ever, and did nothing but plot mischief against the man's daughter, who was daily growing more and more beautiful. At last, one day the wicked woman took a large pot, put it on the fire and boiled some yarn in it. When it was well scalded she hung it round the poor girl's shoulder, and giving her an axe, she bade her break a hole in the frozen river, and rinse the yarn in it. Her stepdaughter obeyed as usual, and went and broke a hole in the ice. When she was in the act of wringing out the yarn a magnificent carriage passed, and the King sat inside. The carriage stood still, and the King asked her:
'My child, who are you, and what in the wide world are you doing here?'
'I am only a poor girl,' she answered, 'and am rinsing out my yarn in the river.' Then the King was sorry for her, and when he saw how beautiful she was he said:
'Will you come away with me?'
'Most gladly,' she replied, for she knew how willingly she would leave her stepmother and sister, and how glad they would be to be rid of her.
So she stepped into the carriage and drove away with the King, and when they reached his palace the wedding was celebrated with much splendour. So all turned out just as the three little Dwarfs had said. After a year the Queen gave birth to a little son. When her stepmother heard of her good fortune she came to the palace with her daughter by way of paying a call, and took up her abode there. Now one day, when the King was out and nobody else near, the bad woman took the Queen by her head, and the daughter took her by her heels, and they dragged her from her bed, and flung her out of the window into the stream which flowed beneath it. Then the stepmother laid her ugly daughter in the Queen's place, and covered her up with the clothes, so that nothing of her was seen. When the King came home and wished to speak to his wife the woman called out:
'Quietly, quietly I this will never do; your wife is very ill, you must let her rest all to-day.' The King suspected no evil, and didn't come again till next morning. When he spoke to his wife and she answered him, instead of the usual piece of gold a toad jumped out of her mouth. Then he asked what it meant, and the old woman told him it was nothing but weakness, and that she would soon be all right again.
But that same evening the scullion noticed a duck swimming up the gutter, saying as it passed:
'What does the King, I pray you tell, Is he awake or sleeps he well?'
and receiving no reply, it continued:
'And all my guests, are they asleep?'
and the Scullion answered:
'Yes, one and all they slumber deep.'
Then the Duck went on:
'And what about my baby dear?'
and he answered:
'Oh, it sleeps soundly, never fear.'
Then the Duck assumed the Queen's shape, went up to the child's room, tucked him up comfortably in his cradle, and then swam back down the gutter again, in the likeness of a Duck. This was repeated for two nights, and on the third the Duck said to the Scullion:
'Go and tell the King to swing his sword three times over me on the threshold.'
The Scullion did as the creature bade him, and the King came with his sword and swung it three times over the bird, and lo and behold! his wife stood before him once more, alive, and as blooming as ever.
The King rejoiced greatly, but he kept the Queen in hiding till the Sunday on which the child was to be christened. After the christening he said:
'What punishment does that person deserve who drags another out of bed, and throws him or her, as the case may be, into the water?'
Then the wicked old stepmother answered:
'No better fate than to be put into a barrel lined with sharp nails, and to be rolled in it down the hill into the water.'
'You have pronounced your own doom,' said the King; and he ordered a barrel to be made lined with sharp nails, and in it he put the bad old woman and her daughter. Then it was fastened down securely, and the barrel was rolled down the hill till it fell into the river.(19)
THERE was once upon a time a couple of rich folks who had twelve sons, and when the youngest was grown up he would not stay at home any longer, but would go out into the world and seek his fortune. His father and mother said that they thought he was very well off at home, and that he was welcome to stay with them; but he could not rest, and said that he must and would go, so at last they had to give him leave. When he had walked a long way, he came to a King's palace. There he asked for a place and got it.
Now the daughter of the King of that country had been carried off into the mountains by a Troll, and the King had no other children, and for this cause both he and all his people were full of sorrow and affliction, and the King had promised the Princess and half his kingdom to anyone who could set her free; but there was no one who could do it, though a great number had tried. So when the youth had been there for the space of a year or so, he wanted to go home again to pay his parents a visit; but when he got there his father and mother were dead, and his brothers had divided everything that their parents possessed between themselves, so that there was nothing at all left for him.
'Shall I, then, receive nothing at all of my inheritance?' asked the youth.
'Who could know that you were still alive—you who have been a wanderer so long?' answered the brothers. 'However, there are twelve mares upon the hills which we have not yet divided among us, and if you would like to have them for your share, you may take them.'
So the youth, well pleased with this, thanked them, and at once set off to the hill where the twelve mares were at pasture. When he got up there and found them, each mare had her foal, and by the side of one of them was a big dapple-grey foal as well, which was so sleek that it shone again.
'Well, my little foal, you are a fine fellow!' said the youth.
'Yes, but if you will kill all the other little foals so that I can suck all the mares for a year, you shall see how big and handsome I shall be then!' said the Foal.
So the youth did this—he killed all the twelve foals, and then went back again.
Next year, when he came home again to look after his mares and the foal, it was as fat as it could be, and its coat shone with brightness, and it was so big that the lad had the greatest difficulty in getting on its back, and each of the mares had another foal.
'Well, it's very evident that I have lost nothing by letting you suck all my mares,' said the lad to the yearling; 'but now you are quite big enough, and must come away with me.'
'No,' said the Colt, 'I must stay here another year; kill the twelve little foals, and then I can suck all the mares this year also, and you shall see how big and handsome I shall be by summer.'
So the youth did it again, and when he went up on the hill next year to look after his colt and the mares, each of the mares had her foal again; but the dappled colt was so big that when the lad wanted to feel its neck to see how fat it was, he could not reach up to it, it was so high? and it was so bright that the light glanced off its coat.
'Big and handsome you were last year, my colt, but this year you are ever so much handsomer,' said the youth; 'in all the King's court no such horse is to be found. But now you shall come away with me.'
'No,' said the dappled Colt once more; 'here I must stay for another year. Just kill the twelve little foals again, so that I can suck the mares this year also, and then come and look at me in the summer.'
So the youth did it—he killed all the little foals, and then went home again.
But next year, when he returned to look after the dappled colt and the mares, he was quite appalled. He had never imagined that any horse could become so big and overgrown, for the dappled horse had to lie down on all fours before the youth could get on his back, and it was very hard to do that even when it was lying down, and it was so plump that its coat shone and glistened just as if it had been a looking-glass. This time the dappled horse was not unwilling to go away with the youth, so he mounted it, and when he came riding home to his brothers they all smote their hands together and crossed themselves, for never in their lives had they either seen or heard tell of such a horse as that.
'If you will procure me the best shoes for my horse, and the most magnificent saddle and bridle that can be found,' said the youth, 'you may have all my twelve mares just as they are standing out on the hill, and their twelve foals into the bargain.' For this year also each mare had her foal. The brothers were quite willing to do this; so the lad got such shoes for his horse that the sticks and stones flew high up into the air as he rode away over the hills, and such a gold saddle and such a gold bridle that they could be seen glittering and glancing from afar.
'And now we will go to the King's palace,' said Dapplegrim—that was the horse's name, 'but bear in mind that you must ask the King for a good stable and excellent fodder for me.'
So the lad promised not to forget to do that. He rode to the palace, and it will be easily understood that with such a horse as he had he was not long on the way.
When he arrived there, the King was standing out on the steps, and how he did stare at the man who came riding up!
'Nay,' said he, 'never in my whole life have I seen such a man and such a horse.'
And when the youth inquired if he could have a place in the King's palace, the King was so delighted that he could have danced on the steps where he was standing, and there and then the lad was told that he should have a place.
'Yes; but I must have a good stable and most excellent fodder for my horse,' said he.
So they told him that he should have sweet hay and oats, and as much of them as the dappled horse chose to have, and all the other riders had to take their horses out of the stable that Dapplegrim might stand alone and really have plenty of room.
But this did not last long, for the other people in the King's Court became envious of the lad, and there was no bad thing that they would not have done to him if they had but dared. At last they bethought themselves of telling the King that the youth had said that, if he chose, he was quite able to rescue the Princess who had been carried off into the mountain a long time ago by the Troll.
The King immediately summoned the lad into his presence, and said that he had been informed that he had said that it was in his power to rescue the Princess, so he was now to do it. If he succeeded in this, he no doubt knew that the King had promised his daughter and half the kingdom to anyone who set her free, which promise should be faithfully and honourably kept, but if he failed he should be put to death. The youth denied that he had said this, but all to no purpose, for the King was deaf to all his words; so there was nothing to be done but say that he would make the attempt.
He went down into the stable, and very sad and full of care he was. Then Dapplegrim inquired why he was so troubled, and the youth told him, and said that he did not know what to do, 'for as to setting the Princess free, that was downright impossible.'
'Oh, but it might be done,' said Dapplegrim. 'I will help you; but you must first have me well shod. You must ask for ten pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel for the shoeing, and one smith to hammer and one to hold.'
So the youth did this, and no one said him nay. He got both the iron and the steel, and the smiths, and thus was Dapplegrim shod strongly and well, and when the youth went out of the King's palace a cloud of dust rose up behind him. But when he came to the mountain into which the Princess had been carried, the difficulty was to ascend the precipitous wall of rock by which he was to get on to the mountain beyond, for the rock stood right up on end, as steep as a house side and as smooth as a sheet of glass. The first time the youth rode at it he got a little way up the precipice, but then both Dapplegrim's fore legs slipped, and down came horse and rider with a sound like thunder among the mountains. The next time that he rode at it he got a little farther up, but then one of Dapplegrim's fore legs slipped, and down they went with the sound of a landslip. But the third time Dapplegrim said: 'Now we must show what we can do,' and went at it once more till the stones sprang up sky high, and thus they got up. Then the lad rode into the mountain cleft at full gallop and caught up the Princess on his saddle-bow, and then out again before the Troll even had time to stand up, and thus the Princess was set free.
When the youth returned to the palace the King was both happy and delighted to get his daughter back again, as may easily be believed, but somehow or other the people about the Court had so worked on him that he was angry with the lad too. 'Thou shalt have my thanks for setting my Princess free,' he said, when the youth came into the palace with her, and was then about to go away.
She ought to be just as much my Princess as she is yours now, for you are a man of your word,' said the youth.
'Yes, yes,' said the King. 'Have her thou shalt, as I have said it; but first of all thou must make the sun shine into my palace here.'
For there was a large and high hill outside the windows which overshadowed the palace so much that the sun could not shine in.
'That was no part of our bargain,' answered the youth. 'But as nothing that I can say will move you, I suppose I shall have to try to do my best, for the Princess I will have.'
So he went down to Dapplegrim again and told him what the King desired, and Dapplegrim thought that it might easily be done; but first of all he must have new shoes, and ten pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel must go to the making of them, and two smiths were also necessary, one to hammer and one to hold, and then it would be very easy to make the sun shine into the King's palace.
The lad asked for these things and obtained them instantly, for the King thought that for very shame he could not refuse to give them, and so Dapplegrim got new shoes, and they were good ones. The youth seated himself on him, and once more they went their way, and for each hop that Dapplegrim made, down went the hill fifteen ells into the earth, and so they went on until there was no hill left for the King to see.
When the youth came down again to the King's palace he asked the King if the Princess should not at last be his, for now no one could say that the sun was not shining into the palace. But the other people in the palace had again stirred up the King, and he answered that the youth should have her, and that he had never intended that he should not; but first of all he must get her quite as good a horse to ride to the wedding on as that which he had himself. The youth said that the King had never told him he was to do that, and it seemed to him that he had now really earned the Princess; but the King stuck to what he had said, and if the youth were unable to do it he was to lose his life, the King said. The youth went down to the stable again, and very sad and sorrowful he was, as anyone may well imagine. Then he told Dapplegrim that the King had now required that he should get the Princess as good a bridal horse as that which the bridegroom had, or he should lose his life. 'But that will be no easy thing to do,' said he, 'for your equal is not to be found in all the world.'
'Oh yes, there is one to match me,' said Dapplegrim. 'But it will not be easy to get him, for he is underground. However, we will try. Now you must go up to the King and ask for new shoes for me, and for them we must again have ten pounds of iron, twelve pounds of steel, and two smiths, one to hammer and one to hold, but be very particular to see that the hooks are very sharp. And you must also ask for twelve barrels of rye, and twelve slaughtered oxen must we have with us, and all the twelve ox-hides with twelve hundred spikes set in each of them; all these things must we have, likewise a barrel of tar with twelve tons of tar in it. The youth went to the King and asked for all the things that Dapplegrim had named, and once more, as the King thought that it would be disgraceful to refuse them to him, he obtained them all.
So he mounted Dapplegrim and rode away from the Court, and when he had ridden for a long, long time over hills and moors, Dapplegrim asked: 'Do you hear anything?'
'Yes; there is such a dreadful whistling up above in the air that I think I am growing alarmed,' said the youth.
'That is all the wild birds in the forest flying about; they are sent to stop us,' said Dapplegrim. 'But just cut a hole in the corn sacks, and then they will be so busy with the corn that they will forget us.'
The youth did it. He cut holes in the corn sacks so that barley and rye ran out on every side, and all the wild birds that were in the forest came in such numbers that they darkened the sun. But when they caught sight of the corn they could not refrain from it, but flew down and began to scratch and pick at the corn and rye, and at last they began to fight among themselves, and forgot all about the youth and Dapplegrim, and did them no harm.
And now the youth rode onwards for a long, long time, over hill and dale, over rocky places and morasses, and then Dapplegrim began to listen again, and asked the youth if he heard anything now.
'Yes; now I hear such a dreadful crackling and crashing in the forest on every side that I think I shall be really afraid,' said the youth.
'That is all the wild beasts in the forest,' said Dapplegrim; 'they are sent out to stop us. But just throw out the twelve carcasses of the oxen, and they will be so much occupied with them that they will quite forget us.' So the youth threw out the carcasses of the oxen, and then all the wild beasts in the forest, both bears and wolves, and lions, and grim beasts of all kinds, came. But when they caught sight of the carcasses of the oxen they began to fight for them till the blood flowed, and they entirely forgot Dapplegrim and the youth.
So the youth rode onwards again, and many and many were the new scenes they saw, for travelling on Dapplegrim's back was not travelling slowly, as may be imagined, and then Dapplegrim neighed.
'Do you hear anything? he said.
'Yes; I heard something like a foal neighing quite plainly a long, long way off,' answered the youth.
'That's a full-grown colt,' said Dapplegrim, 'if you hear it so plainly when it is so far away from us.'
So they travelled onwards a long time, and saw one new scene after another once more. Then Dapplegrim neighed again.
'Do you hear anything now?' said he.
'Yes; now I heard it quite distinctly, and it neighed like a full-grown horse,' answered the youth.
'Yes, and you will hear it again very soon,' said Dapplegrim; 'and then you will hear what a voice it has.' So they travelled on through many more different kinds of country, and then Dapplegrim neighed for the third time; but before he could ask the youth if he heard anything, there was such a neighing on the other side of the heath that the youth thought that hills and rocks would be rent in pieces.
'Now he is here!' said Dapplegrim. 'Be quick, and fling over me the ox-hides that have the spikes in them, throw the twelve tons of tar over the field, and climb up into that great spruce fir tree. When he comes, fire will spurt out of both his nostrils, and then the tar will catch fire. Now mark what I say—if the flame ascends I conquer, and if it sinks I fail; but if you see that I am winning, fling the bridle, which you must take off me, over his head, and then he will become quite gentle.'
Just as the youth had flung all the hides with the spikes over Dapplegrim, and the tar over the field, and had got safely up into the spruce fir, a horse came with flame spouting from his nostrils, and the tar caught fire in a moment; and Dapplegrim and the horse began to fight until the stones leapt up to the sky. They bit, and they fought with their fore legs and their hind legs, and sometimes the youth looked at them. And sometimes he looked at the tar, but at last the flames began to rise, for wheresoever the strange horse bit or wheresoever he kicked he hit upon the spikes in the hides, and at length he had to yield. When the youth saw that, he was not long in getting down from the tree and flinging the bridle over the horse's head, and then he became so tame that he might have been led by a thin string.
This horse was dappled too, and so like Dapplegrim that no one could distinguish the one from the other. The youth seated himself on the dappled horse which he had captured, and rode home again to the King's palace, and Dapplegrim ran loose by his side. When he got there, the King was standing outside in the courtyard.
'Can you tell me which is the horse I have caught, and which is the one I had before?' said the youth. 'If you can't, I think your daughter is mine.'
The King went and looked at both the dappled horses; he looked high and he looked low, he looked before and he looked behind, but there was not a hair's difference between the two.
'No,' said the King; 'that I cannot tell thee, and as thou hast procured such a splendid bridal horse for my daughter thou shalt have her; but first we must have one more trial, just to see if thou art fated to have her. She shall hide herself twice, and then thou shalt hide thyself twice. If thou canst find her each time that she hides herself, and if she cannot find thee in thy hiding-places, then it is fated, and thou shalt have the Princess.'
'That, too, was not in our bargain,' said the youth. 'But we will make this trial since it must be so.'
So the King's daughter was to hide herself first.
Then she changed herself into a duck, and lay swimming in a lake that was just outside the palace. But the youth went down into the stable and asked Dapplegrim what she had done with herself.
'Oh, all that you have to do is to take your gun, and go down to the water and aim at the duck which is swimming about there, and she will soon discover herself,' said Dapplegrim.
The youth snatched up his gun and ran to the lake. 'I will just have a shot at that duck,' said he, and began to aim at it.
'Oh, no, dear friend, don't shoot! It is I,' said the Princess. So he had found her once.
The second time the Princess changed herself into a loaf, and laid herself on the table among four other loaves; and she was so like the other loaves that no one could see any difference between them.
But the youth again went down to the stable to Dapplegrim, and told him that the Princess had hidden herself again, and that he had not the least idea what had become of her.
'Oh, just take a very large bread-knife, sharpen it, and pretend that you are going to cut straight through the third of the four loaves which are lying on the kitchen table in the King's palace—count them from right to left—and you will soon find her,' said Dapplegrim.
So the youth went up to the kitchen, and began to sharpen the largest bread-knife that he could find; then he caught hold of the third loaf on the left-hand side, and put the knife to it as if he meant to cut it straight in two. 'I will have a bit of this bread for myself,' said he.
'No, dear friend, don't cut, it is I!' said the Princess again; so he had found her the second time.
And now it was his turn to go and hide himself; but Dapplegrim had given him such good instructions that it was not easy to find him. First he turned himself into a horse-fly, and hid himself in Dapplegrim's left nostril. The Princess went poking about and searching everywhere, high and low, and wanted to go into Dapplegrim's stall too, but he began to bite and kick about so that she was afraid to go there, and could not find the youth. 'Well,' said she, 'as I am unable to find you, you must show yourself; 'whereupon the youth immediately appeared standing there on the stable floor.
Dapplegrim told him what he was to do the second time, and he turned himself into a lump of earth, and stuck himself between the hoof and the shoe on Dapplegrim's left fore foot. Once more the King's daughter went and sought everywhere, inside and outside, until at last she came into the stable, and wanted to go into the stall beside Dapplegrim. So this time he allowed her to go into it, and she peered about high and low, but she could not look under his hoofs, for he stood much too firmly on his legs for that, and she could not find the youth.
'Well, you will just have to show where you are yourself, for I can't find you,' said the Princess, and in an instant the youth was standing by her side on the floor of the stable.
'Now you are mine!' said he to the Princess.
'Now you can see that it is fated that she should be mine,' he said to the King.
'Yes, fated it is,' said the King. 'So what must be, must.'
Then everything was made ready for the wedding with great splendour and promptitude, and the youth rode to church on Dapplegrim, and the King's daughter on the other horse. So everyone must see that they could not be long on their way thither.(20)
(20) From J. Moe.
THE ENCHANTED CANARY
ONCE upon a time, in the reign of King Cambrinus, there lived at Avesnes one of his lords, who was the finest man—by which I mean the fattest—in the whole country of Flanders. He ate four meals a day, slept twelve hours out of the twenty-four, and the only thing he ever did was to shoot at small birds with his bow and arrow.
Still, with all his practice he shot very badly, he was so fat and heavy, and as he grew daily fatter, he was at last obliged to give up walking, and be dragged about in a wheel-chair, and the people made fun of him, and gave him the name of my Lord Tubby.
Now, the only trouble that Lord Tubby had was about his son, whom he loved very much, although they were not in the least alike, for the young Prince was as thin as a cuckoo. And what vexed him more than all was, that though the young ladies throughout all his lands did their best to make the Prince fall in love with them, he would have nothing to say to any of them, and told his father he did not wish to marry.
Instead of chatting with them in the dusk, he wandered about the woods, whispering to the moon. No wonder the young ladies thought him very odd, but they liked him all the better for that; and as he had received at his birth the name of Desire, they all called him d'Amour Desire.
'What is the matter with you?' his father often said to him. 'You have everything you can possibly wish for: a good bed, good food, and tuns full of beer. The only thing you want, in order to become as fat as a pig, is a wife that can bring you broad, rich lands. So marry, and you will be perfectly happy.'
'I ask nothing better than to marry,' replied Desire, 'but I have never seen a woman that pleases me. All the girls here are pink and white, and I am tired to death of their eternal lilie and roses.
'My faith!' cried Tubby; 'do you want to marry a negress, and give me grandchildren as ugly as monkeys and as stupid as owls?'
'No, father, nothing of the sort. But there must be women somewhere in the world who are neither pink nor white, and I tell you, once for all, that I will never marry until I have found one exactly to my taste.'
Some time afterwards, it happened that the Prior of the Abbey of Saint Amand sent to the Lord of Avesnes a basket of oranges, with a beautifully-written letter saying that these golden fruit, then unknown in Flanders, came straight from a land where the sun always shone.
That evening Tubby and his son ate the golden apples at supper, and thought them delicious.
Next morning as the day dawned, Desire went down to the stable and saddled his pretty white horse. Then he went, all dressed for a journey, to the bedside of Tubby, and found him smoking his first pipe.
'Father,' he said gravely, 'I have come to bid you farewell. Last night I dreamed that I was walking in a wood, where the trees were covered with golden apples. I gathered one of them, and when I opened it there came out a lovely princess with a golden skin. That is the wife I want, and I am going to look for her.'
The Lord of Avesnes was so much astonished that he let his pipe fall to the ground; then he became so diverted at the notion of his son marrying a yellow woman, and a woman shut up inside an orange, that he burst into fits of laughter.
Desire waited to bid him good-bye until he was quiet again; but as his father went on laughing and showed no signs of stopping, the young man took his hand, kissed it tenderly, opened the door, and in the twinkling of an eye was as at the bottom of the staircase. He jumped lightly on his horse, and was a mile from home before Tubby had ceased laughing.
'A yellow wife! He must be mad! fit for a strait waistcoat!' cried the good man, when he was able to speak. 'Here! quick! bring him back to me.'
The servants mounted their horses and rode after the Prince; but as they did not know which road he had taken, they went all ways except the right one, and instead of bringing him back they returned themselves when it grew dark, with their horses worn out and covered with dust.
When Desire thought they could no longer catch him, he pulled his horse into a walk, like a prudent man who knows he has far to go. He travelled in this way for many weeks, passing by villages, towns, mountains, valleys, and plains, but always pushing south, where every day the sun seemed hotter and more brilliant.
At last one day at sunset Desire felt the sun so warm, that he thought he must now be near the place of his dream. He was at that moment close to the corner of a wood where stood a little hut, before the door of which his horse stopped of his own accord. An old man with a white beard was sitting on the doorstep enjoying the fresh air. The Prince got down from his horse and asked leave to rest.
'Come in, my young friend,' said the old man; 'my house is not large, but it is big enough to hold a stranger.'
The traveller entered, and his host put before him a simple meal. When his hunger was satisfied the old man said to him:
'If I do not mistake, you come from far. May I ask where you are going?'
'I will tell you,' answered Desire, 'though most likely you will laugh at me. I dreamed that in the land of the sun there was a wood full of orange trees, and that in one of the oranges I should find a beautiful princess who is to be my wife. It is she I am seeking.'
'Why should I laugh?' asked the old man. 'Madness in youth is true wisdom. Go, young man, follow your dream, and if you do not find the happiness that you seek, at any rate you will have had the happiness of seeking it.'
The next day the Prince arose early and took leave of his host.
'The wood that you saw in your dream is not far from here,' said the old man. 'It is in the depth of the forest, and this road will lead you there. You will come to a vast park surrounded by high walls. In the middle of the park is a castle, where dwells a horrible witch who allows no living being to enter the doors. Behind the castle is the orange grove. Follow the wall till you come to a heavy iron gate. Don't try to press it open, but oil the hinges with this,' and the old man gave him a small bottle.
'The gate will open of itself,' he continued, 'and a huge dog which guards the castle will come to you with his mouth wide open, but just throw him this oat cake. Next, you will see a baking woman leaning over her heated oven. Give her this brush. Lastly, you will find a well on your left; do not forget to take the cord of the bucket and spread it in the sun. When you have done this, do not enter the castle, but go round it and enter the orange grove. Then gather three oranges, and get back to the gate as fast as you can. Once out of the gate, leave the forest by the opposite side.
'Now, attend to this: whatever happens, do not open your oranges till you reach the bank of a river, or a fountain. Out of each orange will come a princess, and you can choose which you like for your wife. Your choice once made, be very careful never to leave your bride for an instant, and remember that the danger which is most to be feared is never the danger we are most afraid of.'
Desire thanked his host warmly, and took the road he pointed out. In less than an hour he arrived at the wall, which was very high indeed. He sprang to the ground, fastened his horse to a tree, and soon found the iron gate. Then he took out his bottle and oiled the hinges, when the gate opened of itself, and he saw an old castle standing inside. The Prince entered boldly into the courtyard.
Suddenly he heard fierce howls, and a dog as tall as a donkey, with eyes like billiard balls, came towards him, showing his teeth, which were like the prongs of a fork. Desire flung him the oat cake, which the great dog instantly snapped up, and the young Prince passed quietly on.
A few yards further he saw a huge oven, with a wide, red-hot gaping mouth. A woman as tall as a giant was leaning over the oven. Desire gave her the brush, which she took in silence.
Then he went on to the well, drew up the cord, which was half rotten, and stretched it out in the sun.
Lastly he went round the castle, and plunged into the orange grove. There he gathered the three most beautiful oranges he could find, and turned to go back to the gate.
But just at this moment the sun was darkened, the earth trembled, and Desire heard a voice crying:
'Baker, baker, take him by his feet, and throw him into the oven!'
'No,' replied the baker; 'a long time has passed since I first began to scour this oven with my own flesh. YOU never cared to give me a brush; but he has given me one, and he shall go in peace.'
'Rope, O rope!' cried the voice again, 'twine yourself round his neck and strangle him.'
'No,' replied the rope; 'you have left me for many years past to fall to pieces with the damp. He has stretched me out in the sun. Let him go in peace.'
'Dog, my good dog,' cried the voice, more and more angry, 'jump at his throat and eat him up.'
'No,' replied the dog; 'though I have served you long, you never gave me any bread. He has given me as much as I want. Let him go in peace.'
'Iron gate, iron gate,' cried the voice, growling like thunder, 'fall on him and grind him to powder.'
'No,' replied the gate; 'it is a hundred years since you left me to rust, and he has oiled me. Let him go in peace.'
Once outside, the young adventurer put his oranges into a bag that hung from his saddle, mounted his horse, and rode quickly out of the forest.
Now, as he was longing to see the princesses, he was very anxious to come to a river or a fountain, but, though he rode for hours, a river or fountain was nowhere to be seen. Still his heart was light, for he felt that he had got through the most difficult part of his task, and the rest was easy.
About mid-day he reached a sandy plain, scorching in the sun. Here he was seized with dreadful thirst; he took his gourd and raised it to his lips.
But the gourd was empty; in the excitement of his joy he had forgotten to fill it. He rode on, struggling with his sufferings, but at last he could bear it no longer.
He let himself slide to the earth, and lay down beside his horse, his throat burning, his chest heaving, and his head going round. Already he felt that death was near him, when his eyes fell on the bag where the oranges peeped out.
Poor Desire, who had braved so many dangers to win the lady of his dreams, would have given at this moment all the princesses in the world, were they pink or golden, for a single drop of water.
'Ah!' he said to himself. 'If only these oranges were real fruit—fruit as refreshing as what I ate in Flanders! And, after all, who knows?'
This idea put some life into him. He had the strength to lift himself up and put his hand into his bag. He drew out an orange and opened it with his knife.
Out of it flew the prettiest little female canary that ever was seen.
'Give me something to drink, I am dying of thirst,' said the golden bird.
'Wait a minute,' replied Desire, so much astonished that he forgot his own sufferings; and to satisfy the bird he took a second orange, and opened it without thinking what he was doing. Out of it flew another canary, and she too began to cry:
'I am dying of thirst; give me something to drink.'
Then Tubby's son saw his folly, and while the two canaries flew away he sank on the ground, where, exhausted by his last effort, he lay unconscious.
When he came to himself, he had a pleasant feeling of freshness all about him. It was night, the sky was sparkling with stars, and the earth was covered with a heavy dew.
The traveller having recovered, mounted his horse, and at the first streak of dawn he saw a stream dancing in front of him, and stooped down and drank his fill.
He hardly had courage to open his last orange. Then he remembered that the night before he had disobeyed the orders of the old man. Perhaps his terrible thirst was a trick of the cunning witch, and suppose, even though he opened the orange on the banks of the stream, that he did not find in it the princess that he sought?
He took his knife and cut it open. Alas! out of it flew a little canary, just like the others, who cried:
'I am thirsty; give me something to drink.'
Great was the disappointment of Desire. However, he was determined not to let this bird fly away; so he took up some water in the palm of his hand and held it to its beak.
Scarcely had the canary drunk when she became a beautiful girl, tall and straight as a poplar tree, with black eyes and a golden skin. Desire had never seen anyone half so lovely, and he stood gazing at her in delight.
On her side she seemed quite bewildered, but she looked about her with happy eyes, and was not at all afraid of her deliverer.
He asked her name. She answered that she was called the Princess Zizi; she was about sixteen years old, and for ten years of that time the witch had kept her shut up in an orange, in the shape of a canary.
'Well, then, my charming Zizi,' said the young Prince, who was longing to marry her, 'let us ride away quickly so as to escape from the wicked witch.'
But Zizi wished to know where he meant to take her.
'To my father's castle,' he said.
He mounted his horse and took her in front of him, and, holding her carefully in his arms, they began their journey.
Everything the Princess saw was new to her, and in passing through mountains, valleys, and towns, she asked a thousand questions. Desire was charmed to answer them. It is so delightful to teach those one loves!
Once she inquired what the girls in his country were like.
'They are pink and white,' he replied, 'and their eyes are blue.'
'Do you like blue eyes?' said the Princess; but Desire thought it was a good opportunity to find out what was in her heart, so he did not answer.
'And no doubt,' went on the Princess, 'one of them is your intended bride?'
Still he was silent, and Zizi drew herself up proudly.
'No,' he said at last. 'None of the girls of my own country are beautiful in my eyes, and that is why I came to look for a wife in the land of the sun. Was I wrong, my lovely Zizi?'
This time it was Zizi's turn to be silent.
Talking in this way they drew near to the castle. When they were about four stone-throws from the gates they dismounted in the forest, by the edge of a fountain.
'My dear Zizi,' said Tubby's son, 'we cannot present ourselves before my father like two common people who have come back from a walk. We must enter the castle with more ceremony. Wait for me here, and in an hour I will return with carriages and horses fit for a princess.'
'Don't be long,' replied Zizi, and she watched him go with wistful eyes.
When she was left by herself the poor girl began to feel afraid. She was alone for the first time in her life, and in the middle of a thick forest.
Suddenly she heard a noise among the trees. Fearing lest it should be a wolf, she hid herself in the hollow trunk of a willow tree which hung over the fountain. It was big enough to hold her altogether, but she peeped out, and her pretty head was reflected in the clear water.
Then there appeared, not a wolf, but a creature quite as wicked and quite as ugly. Let us see who this creature was.
Not far from the fountain there lived a family of bricklayers. Now, fifteen years before this time, the father in walking through the forest found a little girl, who had been deserted by the gypsies. He carried her home to his wife, and the good woman was sorry for her, and brought her up with her own sons. As she grew older, the little gypsy became much more remarkable for strength and cunning than for sense or beauty. She had a low forehead, a flat nose, thick lips, coarse hair, and a skin not golden like that of Zizi, but the colour of clay.
As she was always being teased about her complexion, she got as noisy and cross as a titmouse. So they used to call her Titty.
Titty was often sent by the bricklayer to fetch water from the fountain, and as she was very proud and lazy the gypsy disliked this very much.
It was she who had frightened Zizi by appearing with her pitcher on her shoulder. Just as she was stooping to fill it, she saw reflected in the water the lovely image of the Princess.
'What a pretty face!' she exclaimed, 'Why, it must be mine! How in the world can they call me ugly? I am certainly much too pretty to be their water carrier!'
So saying, she broke her pitcher and went home.
'Where is your pitcher?' asked the bricklayer.
'Well, what do you expect? The pitcher may go many times to the well....'
'But at last it is broken. Well, here is a bucket that will not break.'
The gypsy returned to the fountain, and addressing once more the image of Zizi, she said:
'No; I don't mean to be a beast of burden any longer.' And she flung the bucket so high in the air that it stuck in the branches of an oak.
'I met a wolf,' she told the bricklayer, 'and I broke the bucket across his nose.'
The bricklayer asked her no more questions, but took down a broom and gave her such a beating that her pride was humbled a little.
Then he handed to her an old copper milk-can, and said:
'If you don't bring it back full, your bones shall suffer for it.'
Titty went off rubbing her sides; but this time she did not dare to disobey, and in a very bad temper stooped down over the well. It was not at all easy to fill the milk-can, which was large and round. It would not go down into the well, and the gypsy had to try again and again.
At last her arms grew so tired that when she did manage to get the can properly under the water she had no strength to pull it up, and it rolled to the bottom.
On seeing the can disappear, she made such a miserable face that Zizi, who had been watching her all this time, burst into fits of laughter.
Titty turned round and perceived the mistake she had made; and she felt so angry that she made up her mind to be revenged at once.
'What are you doing there, you lovely creature?' she said to Zizi.
'I am waiting for my lover,' Zizi replied; and then, with a simplicity quite natural in a girl who so lately had been a canary, she told all her story.
The gypsy had often seen the young Prince pass by, with his gun on his shoulder, when he was going after crows. She was too ugly and ragged for him ever to have noticed her, but Titty on her side had admired him, though she thought he might well have been a little fatter.
'Dear, dear!' she said to herself. 'So he likes yellow women! Why, I am yellow too, and if I could only think of a way——'
It was not long before she did think of it.
'What!' cried the sly Titty, 'they are coming with great pomp to fetch you, and you are not afraid to show yourself to so many fine lords and ladies with your hair down like that? Get down at once, my poor child, and let me dress your hair for you!'
The innocent Zizi came down at once, and stood by Titty. The gypsy began to comb her long brown locks, when suddenly she drew a pin from her stays, and, just as the titmouse digs its beak into the heads of linnets and larks, Titty dug the pin into the head of Zizi.
No sooner did Zizi feel the prick of the pin than she became a bird again, and, spreading her wings, she flew away.
'That was neatly done,' said the gypsy. 'The Prince will be clever if he finds his bride.' And, arranging her dress, she seated herself on the grass to await Desire.
Meanwhile the Prince was coming as fast as his horse could carry him. He was so impatient that he was always full fifty yards in front of the lords and ladies sent by Tubby to bring back Zizi.
At the sight of the hideous gypsy he was struck dumb with surprise and horror.
'Ah me!' said Titty, 'so you don't know your poor Zizi? While you were away the wicked witch came, and turned me into this. But if you only have the courage to marry me I shall get back my beauty.' And she began to cry bitterly.
Now the good-natured Desire was as soft-hearted as he was brave.
'Poor girl,' he thought to himself. 'It is not her fault, after all, that she has grown so ugly, it is mine. Oh! why did I not follow the old man's advice? Why did I leave her alone? And besides, it depends on me to break the spell, and I love her too much to let her remain like this.'
So he presented the gypsy to the lords and ladies of the Court, explaining to them the terrible misfortune which had befallen his beautiful bride.
They all pretended to believe it, and the ladies at once put on the false princess the rich dresses they had brought for Zizi.
She was then perched on the top of a magnificent ambling palfrey, and they set forth to the castle.
But unluckily the rich dress and jewels only made Titty look uglier still, and Desire could not help feeling hot and uncomfortable when he made his entry with her into the city.
Bells were pealing, chimes ringing, and the people filling the streets and standing at their doors to watch the procession go by, and they could hardly believe their eyes as they saw what a strange bride their Prince had chosen.
In order to do her more honour, Tubby came to meet her at the foot of the great marble staircase. At the sight of the hideous creature he almost fell backwards.
'What!' he cried. 'Is this the wonderful beauty?'
'Yes, father, it is she,' replied Desire with a sheepish look. 'But she has been bewitched by a wicked sorceress, and will not regain her beauty until she is my wife.'
'Does she say so? Well, if you believe that, you may drink cold water and think it bacon,' the unhappy Tubby answered crossly.
But all the same, as he adored his son, he gave the gypsy his hand and led her to the great hall, where the bridal feast was spread.
The feast was excellent, but Desire hardly touched anything. However, to make up, the other guests ate greedily, and, as for Tubby, nothing ever took away his appetite.
When the moment arrived to serve the roast goose, there was a pause, and Tubby took the opportunity to lay down his knife and fork for a little. But as the goose gave no sign of appearing, he sent his head carver to find out what was the matter in the kitchen.
Now this was what had happened.
While the goose was turning on the spit, a beautiful little canary hopped on to the sill of the open window.
'Good-morning, my fine cook,' she said in a silvery voice to the man who was watching the roast.
'Good-morning, lovely golden bird,' replied the chief of the scullions, who had been well brought up.
'I pray that Heaven may send you to sleep,' said the golden bird, 'and that the goose may burn, so that there may be none left for Titty.'
And instantly the chief of the scullions fell fast asleep, and the goose was burnt to a cinder.
When he awoke he was horrified, and gave orders to pluck another goose, to stuff it with chestnuts, and put it on the spit.
While it was browning at the fire, Tubby inquired for his goose a second time. The Master Cook himself mounted to the hall to make his excuses, and to beg his lord to have a little patience. Tubby showed his patience by abusing his son.
'As if it wasn't enough,' he grumbled between his teeth, 'that the boy should pick up a hag without a penny, but the goose must go and burn now. It isn't a wife he has brought me, it is Famine herself.'
While the Master Cook was upstairs, the golden bird came again to perch on the window-sill, and called in his clear voice to the head scullion, who was watching the spit:
'Good-morning, my fine Scullion!'
'Good-morning, lovely Golden Bird,' replied the Scullion, whom the Master Cook had forgotten in his excitement to warn.
'I pray Heaven,' went on the Canary, 'that it will send you to sleep, and that the goose may burn, so that there may be none left for Titty.'
And the Scullion fell fast asleep, and when the Master Cook came back he found the goose as black as the chimney.
In a fury he woke the Scullion, who in order to save himself from blame told the whole story.
'That accursed bird,' said the Cook; 'it will end by getting me sent away. Come, some of you, and hide yourselves, and if it comes again, catch it and wring its neck.'
He spitted a third goose, lit a huge fire, and seated himself by it.
The bird appeared a third time, and said: 'Good-morning, my fine Cook.'
'Good-morning, lovely Golden Bird,' replied the Cook, as if nothing had happened, and at the moment that the Canary was beginning, 'I pray Heaven that it may send,' a scullion who was hidden outside rushed out and shut the shutters. The bird flew into the kitchen. Then all the cooks and scullions sprang after it, knocking at it with their aprons. At length one of them caught it just at the very moment that Tubby entered the kitchen, waving his sceptre. He had come to see for himself why the goose had never made its appearance.
The Scullion stopped at once, just as he was about to wring the Canary's neck.
'Will some one be kind enough to tell me the meaning of all this?' cried the Lord of Avesnes.
'Your Excellency, it is the bird,' replied the Scullion, and he placed it in his hand.
'Nonsense! What a lovely bird!' said Tubby, and in stroking its head he touched a pin that was sticking between its feathers. He pulled it out, and lo! the Canary at once became a beautiful girl with a golden skin who jumped lightly to the ground.
'Gracious! what a pretty girl!' said Tubby.
'Father! it is she! it is Zizi!' exclaimed Desire, who entered at this moment.
And he took her in his arms, crying: 'My darling Zizi, how happy I am to see you once more!'
'Well, and the other one?' asked Tubby.
The other one was stealing quietly to the door.
'Stop her! called Tubby. 'We will judge her cause at once.'
And he seated himself solemnly on the oven, and condemned Titty to be burned alive. After which the lords and cooks formed themselves in lines, and Tubby betrothed Desire to Zizi.
The marriage took place a few days later. All the boys in the country side were there, armed with wooden swords, and decorated with epaulets made of gilt paper.
Zizi obtained Titty's pardon, and she was sent back to the brick-fields, followed and hooted at by all the boys. And this is why to-day the country boys always throw stones at a titmouse.
On the evening of the wedding-day all the larders, cellars, cupboards and tables of the people, whether rich or poor, were loaded as if by enchantment with bread, wine, beer, cakes and tarts, roast larks, and even geese, so that Tubby could not complain any more that his son had married Famine.
Since that time there has always been plenty to eat in that country, and since that time, too, you see in the midst of the fair-haired blue-eyed women of Flanders a few beautiful girls, whose eyes are black and whose skins are the colour of gold. They are the descendants of Zizi.(21)
(21) Charles Deulin, Contes du Roi Gambrinus.
THE TWELVE BROTHERS
THERE were once upon a time a King and a Queen who lived happily together, and they had twelve children, all of whom were boys. One day the King said to his wife:
'If our thirteenth child is a girl, all her twelve brothers must die, so that she may be very rich and the kingdom hers alone.'
Then he ordered twelve coffins to be made, and filled them with shavings, and placed a little pillow in each. These he put away in an empty room, and, giving the key to his wife, he bade her tell no one of it.
The Queen grieved over the sad fate of her sons and refused to be comforted, so much so that the youngest boy, who was always with her, and whom she had christened Benjamin, said to her one day:
'Dear mother, why are you so sad?'
'My child,' she answered, 'I may not tell you the reason.'
But he left her no peace, till she went and unlocked the room and showed him the twelve coffins filled with shavings, and with the little pillow laid in each.
Then she said: 'My dearest Benjamin, your father has had these coffins made for you and your eleven brothers, because if I bring a girl into the world you are all to be killed and buried in them.'
She wept bitterly as she spoke, but her son comforted her and said:
'Don't cry, dear mother; we'll manage to escape somehow, and will fly for our lives.'
'Yes,' replied his mother, 'that is what you must do—go with your eleven brothers out into the wood, and let one of you always sit on the highest tree you can find, keeping watch on the tower of the castle. If I give birth to a little son I will wave a white flag, and then you may safely return; but if I give birth to a little daughter I will wave a red flag, which will warn you to fly away as quickly as you can, and may the kind Heaven have pity on you. Every night I will get up and pray for you, in winter that you may always have a fire to warm yourselves by, and in summer that you may not languish in the heat.'
Then she blessed her sons and they set out into the wood. They found a very high oak tree, and there they sat, turn about, keeping their eyes always fixed on the castle tower. On the twelfth day, when the turn came to Benjamin, he noticed a flag waving in the air, but alas! it was not white, but blood red, the sign which told them they must all die. When the brothers heard this they were very angry, and said:
'Shall we forsooth suffer death for the sake of a wretched girl? Let us swear vengeance, and vow that wherever and whenever we shall meet one of her sex, she shall die at our hands.'
Then they went their way deeper into the wood, and in the middle of it, where it was thickest and darkest, they came upon a little enchanted house which stood empty.
'Here,' they said, 'let us take up our abode, and you, Benjamin, you are the youngest and weakest, you shall stay at home and keep house for us; we others will go out and fetch food.' So they went forth into the wood, and shot hares and roe-deer, birds and wood-pigeons, and any other game they came across. They always brought their spoils home to Benjamin, who soon learnt to make them into dainty dishes. So they lived for ten years in this little house, and the time slipped merrily away.
In the meantime their little sister at home was growing up quickly. She was kind-hearted and of a fair countenance, and she had a gold star right in the middle of her forehead. One day a big washing was going on at the palace, and the girl looking down from her window saw twelve men's shirts hanging up to dry, and asked her mother:
'Who in the world do these shirts belong to? Surely they are far too small for my father?'
And the Queen answered sadly: 'Dear child, they belong to your twelve brothers.'
'But where are my twelve brothers?' said the girl. 'I have never even heard of them.'
'Heaven alone knows in what part of the wide world they are wandering,' replied her mother.
Then she took the girl and opened the locked-up room; she showed her the twelve coffins filled with shavings, and with the little pillow laid in each.
'These coffins,' she said, 'were intended for your brothers, but they stole secretly away before you were born.'
Then she to tell her all that had happened, and when she had finished her daughter said:
'Do not cry, dearest mother; I will go and seek my brothers till I find them.'
So she took the twelve shirts and went on straight into the middle of the big wood. She walked all day long, and came in the evening to the little enchanted house. She stepped in and found a youth who, marvelling at her beauty, at the royal robes she wore, and at the golden star on her forehead, asked her where she came from and whither she was going.
'I am a Princess,' she answered, 'and am seeking for my twelve brothers. I mean to wander as far as the blue sky stretches over the earth till I find them.'
Then she showed him the twelve shirts which she had taken with her, and Benjamin saw that it must be his sister, and said:
'I am Benjamin, your youngest brother.'
So they wept for joy, and kissed and hugged each other again and again. After a time Benjamin said:
'Dear sister, there is still a little difficulty, for we had all agreed that any girl we met should die at our hands, because it was for the sake of a girl that we had to leave our kingdom.'
'But,' she replied, 'I will gladly die if by that means I can restore my twelve brothers to their own.'
'No,' he answered, 'there is no need for that; only go and hide under that tub till our eleven brothers come in, and I'll soon make matters right with them.'
She did as she was bid, and soon the others came home from the chase and sat down to supper.
'Well, Benjamin, what's the news?' they asked. But he replied, 'I like that; have you nothing to tell me?'
'No,' they answered.
Then he said: 'Well, now, you've been out in the wood all the day and I've stayed quietly at home, and all the same I know more than you do.'
'Then tell us,' they cried.
But he answered: 'Only on condition that you promise faithfully that the first girl we meet shall not be killed.'
'She shall be spared,' they promised, 'only tell us the news.'
Then Benjamin said: 'Our sister is here!' and he lifted up the tub and the Princess stepped forward, with her royal robes and with the golden star on her forehead, looking so lovely and sweet and charming that they all fell in love with her on the spot.
They arranged that she should stay at home with Benjamin and help him in the house work, while the rest of the brothers went out into the wood and shot hares and roe-deer, birds and wood-pigeons. And Benjamin and his sister cooked their meals for them. She gathered herbs to cook the vegetables in, fetched the wood, and watched the pots on the fire, and always when her eleven brothers returned she had their supper ready for them. Besides this, she kept the house in order, tidied all the rooms, and made herself so generally useful that her brothers were delighted, and they all lived happily together.
One day the two at home prepared a fine feast, and when they were all assembled they sat down and ate and drank and made merry.
Now there was a little garden round the enchanted house, in which grew twelve tall lilies. The girl, wishing to please her brothers, plucked the twelve flowers, meaning to present one to each of them as they sat at supper. But hardly had she plucked the flowers when her brothers were turned into twelve ravens, who flew croaking over the wood, and the house and garden vanished also.
So the poor girl found herself left all alone in the wood, and as she looked round her she noticed an old woman standing close beside her, who said:
'My child, what have you done? Why didn't you leave the flowers alone? They were your twelve brothers. Now they are changed for ever into ravens.'
The girl asked, sobbing: 'Is there no means of setting them free?'
'No,' said the old woman, 'there is only one way in the whole world, and that is so difficult that you won't free them by it, for you would have to be dumb and not laugh for seven years, and if you spoke a single word, though but an hour were wanting to the time, your silence would all have been in vain, and that one word would slay your brothers.'
Then the girl said to herself: 'If that is all I am quite sure I can free my brothers.' So she searched for a high tree, and when she had found one she climbed up it and spun all day long, never laughing or speaking one word.
Now it happened one day that a King who was hunting in the wood had a large greyhound, who ran sniffing to the tree on which the girl sat, and jumped round it, yelping and barking furiously. The King's attention was attracted, and when he looked up and beheld the beautiful Princess with the golden star on her forehead, he was so enchanted by her beauty that he asked her on the spot to be his wife. She gave no answer, but nodded slightly with her head. Then he climbed up the tree himself, lifted her down, put her on his horse and bore her home to his palace.
The marriage was celebrated with much pomp and ceremony, but the bride neither spoke nor laughed.
When they had lived a few years happily together, the King's mother, who was a wicked old woman, began to slander the young Queen, and said to the King:
'She is only a low-born beggar maid that you have married; who knows what mischief she is up to? If she is deaf and can't speak, she might at least laugh; depend upon it, those who don't laugh have a bad conscience.' At first the King paid no heed to her words, but the old woman harped so long on the subject, and accused the young Queen of so many bad things, that at last he let himself be talked over, and condemned his beautiful wife to death.
So a great fire was lit in the courtyard of the palace, where she was to be burnt, and the King watched the proceedings from an upper window, crying bitterly the while, for he still loved his wife dearly. But just as she had been bound to the stake, and the flames were licking her garments with their red tongues, the very last moment of the seven years had come. Then a sudden rushing sound was heard in the air, and twelve ravens were seen flying overhead. They swooped downwards, and as soon as they touched the ground they turned into her twelve brothers, and she knew that she had freed them.
They quenched the flames and put out the fire, and, unbinding their dear sister from the stake, they kissed and hugged her again and again. And now that she was able to open her mouth and speak, she told the King why she had been dumb and not able to laugh.
The King rejoiced greatly when he heard she was innocent, and they all lived happily ever afterwards.(22)
ONCE upon a time there lived a man and his wife who were very unhappy because they had no children. These good people had a little window at the back of their house, which looked into the most lovely garden, full of all manner of beautiful flowers and vegetables; but the garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to enter it, for it belonged to a witch of great power, who was feared by the whole world. One day the woman stood at the window overlooking the garden, and saw there a bed full of the finest rampion: the leaves looked so fresh and green that she longed to eat them. The desire grew day by day, and just because she knew she couldn't possibly get any, she pined away and became quite pale and wretched. Then her husband grew alarmed and said:
'What ails you, dear wife?'
'Oh,' she answered, 'if I don't get some rampion to eat out of the garden behind the house, I know I shall die.'
The man, who loved her dearly, thought to himself, 'Come! rather than let your wife die you shall fetch her some rampion, no matter the cost.' So at dusk he climbed over the wall into the witch's garden, and, hastily gathering a handful of rampion leaves, he returned with them to his wife. She made them into a salad, which tasted so good that her longing for the forbidden food was greater than ever. If she were to know any peace of mind, there was nothing for it but that her husband should climb over the garden wall again, and fetch her some more. So at dusk over he got, but when he reached the other side he drew back in terror, for there, standing before him, was the old witch.
'How dare you,' she said, with a wrathful glance, 'climb into my garden and steal my rampion like a common thief? You shall suffer for your foolhardiness.'
'Oh!' he implored, 'pardon my presumption; necessity alone drove me to the deed. My wife saw your rampion from her window, and conceived such a desire for it that she would certainly have died if her wish had not been gratified.' Then the Witch's anger was a little appeased, and she said:
'If it's as you say, you may take as much rampion away with you as you like, but on one condition only—that you give me the child your wife will shortly bring into the world. All shall go well with it, and I will look after it like a mother.'
The man in his terror agreed to everything she asked, and as soon as the child was born the Witch appeared, and having given it the name of Rapunzel, which is the same as rampion, she carried it off with her.
Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old the Witch shut her up in a tower, in the middle of a great wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor doors, only high up at the very top a small window. When the old Witch wanted to get in she stood underneath and called out:
'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your golden hair,'
for Rapunzel had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine as spun gold. Whenever she heard the Witch's voice she unloosed her plaits, and let her hair fall down out of the window about twenty yards below, and the old Witch climbed up by it.
After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one day that a Prince was riding through the wood and passed by the tower. As he drew near it he heard someone singing so sweetly that he stood still spell-bound, and listened. It was Rapunzel in her loneliness trying to while away the time by letting her sweet voice ring out into the wood. The Prince longed to see the owner of the voice, but he sought in vain for a door in the tower. He rode home, but he was so haunted by the song he had heard that he returned every day to the wood and listened. One day, when he was standing thus behind a tree, he saw the old Witch approach and heard her call out:
'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your golden hair.'
Then Rapunzel let down her plaits, and the Witch climbed up by them.
'So that's the staircase, is it?' said the Prince. 'Then I too will climb it and try my luck.'
So on the following day, at dusk, he went to the foot of the tower and cried:
'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your golden hair,'
and as soon as she had let it down the Prince climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man came in, for she had never seen one before; but the Prince spoke to her so kindly, and told her at once that his heart had been so touched by her singing, that he felt he should know no peace of mind till he had seen her. Very soon Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he asked her to marry him she consented at once. 'For,' she thought, 'he is young and handsome, and I'll certainly be happier with him than with the old Witch.' So she put her hand in his and said:
'Yes, I will gladly go with you, only how am I to get down out of the tower? Every time you come to see me you must bring a skein of silk with you, and I will make a ladder of them, and when it is finished I will climb down by it, and you will take me away on your horse.'
They arranged that till the ladder was ready, he was to come to her every evening, because the old woman was with her during the day. The old Witch, of course, knew nothing of what was going on, till one day Rapunzel, not thinking of what she was about, turned to the Witch and said:
'How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up than the young Prince? He is always with me in a moment.'
'Oh! you wicked child,' cried the Witch. 'What is this I hear? I thought I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in spite of it you have managed to deceive me.'
In her wrath she seized Rapunzel's beautiful hair, wound it round and round her left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in her right, snip snap, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. And, worse than this, she was so hard-hearted that she took Rapunzel to a lonely desert place, and there left her to live in loneliness and misery.
But on the evening of the day in which she had driven poor Rapunzel away, the Witch fastened the plaits on to a hook in the window, and when the Prince came and called out:
'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your golden hair,'
she let them down, and the Prince climbed up as usual, but instead of his beloved Rapunzel he found the old Witch, who fixed her evil, glittering eyes on him, and cried mockingly:
'Ah, ah! you thought to find your lady love, but the pretty bird has flown and its song is dumb; the cat caught it, and will scratch out your eyes too. Rapunzel is lost to you for ever—you will never see her more.'
The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he jumped right down from the tower, and, though he escaped with his life, the thorns among which he fell pierced his eyes out. Then he wandered, blind and miserable, through the wood, eating nothing but roots and berries, and weeping and lamenting the loss of his lovely bride. So he wandered about for some years, as wretched and unhappy as he could well be, and at last he came to the desert place where Rapunzel was living. Of a sudden he heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to him. He walked eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when he was quite close, Rapunzel recognised him and fell on his neck and wept. But two of her tears touched his eyes, and in a moment they became quite clear again, and he saw as well as he had ever done. Then he led her to his kingdom, where they were received and welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily ever after.(23)
THE NETTLE SPINNER
ONCE upon a time there lived at Quesnoy, in Flanders, a great lord whose name was Burchard, but whom the country people called Burchard the Wolf. Now Burchard had such a wicked, cruel heart, that it was whispered how he used to harness his peasants to the plough, and force them by blows from his whip to till his land with naked feet.
His wife, on the other hand, was always tender and pitiful to the poor and miserable.
Every time that she heard of another misdeed of her husband's she secretly went to repair the evil, which caused her name to be blessed throughout the whole country-side. This Countess was adored as much as the Count was hated.
One day when he was out hunting the Count passed through a forest, and at the door of a lonely cottage he saw a beautiful girl spinning hemp.
'What is your name?' he asked her.
'Renelde, my lord.'
'You must get tired of staying in such a lonely place?'
'I am accustomed to it, my lord, and I never get tired of it.'
'That may be so; but come to the castle, and I will make you lady's maid to the Countess.'
'I cannot do that, my lord. I have to look after my grandmother, who is very helpless.'
'Come to the castle, I tell you. I shall expect you this evening,' and he went on his way.
But Renelde, who was betrothed to a young wood-cutter called Guilbert, had no intention of obeying the Count, and she had, besides, to take care of her grandmother.
Three days later the Count again passed by.
'Why didn't you come?' he asked the pretty spinner.
'I told you, my lord, that I have to look after my grandmother.' 'Come to-morrow, and I will make you lady-in-waiting to the Countess,' and he went on his way.
This offer produced no more effect than the other, and Renelde did not go to the castle.
'If you will only come,' said the Count to her when next he rode by, 'I will send away the Countess, and will marry you.'
But two years before, when Renelde's mother was dying of a long illness, the Countess had not forgotten them, but had given help when they sorely needed it. So even if the Count had really wished to marry Renelde, she would always have refused.
Some weeks passed before Burchard appeared again.
Renelde hoped she had got rid of him, when one day he stopped at the door, his duck-gun under his arm and his game-bag on his shoulder. This time Renelde was spinning not hemp, but flax.
'What are you spinning?' he asked in a rough voice.
'My wedding shift, my lord.'
'You are going to be married, then?'
'Yes, my lord, by your leave.'
For at that time no peasant could marry without the leave of his master.
'I will give you leave on one condition. Do you see those tall nettles that grow on the tombs in the churchyard? Go and gather them, and spin them into two fine shifts. One shall be your bridal shift, and the other shall be my shroud. For you shall be married the day that I am laid in my grave.' And the Count turned away with a mocking laugh.
Renelde trembled. Never in all Locquignol had such a thing been heard of as the spinning of nettles.
And besides, the Count seemed made of iron and was very proud of his strength, often boasting that he should live to be a hundred.
Every evening, when his work was done, Guilbert came to visit his future bride. This evening he came as usual, and Renelde told him what Burchard had said.
'Would you like me to watch for the Wolf, and split his skull with a blow from my axe?'
'No,' replied Renelde, 'there must be no blood on my bridal bouquet. And then we must not hurt the Count. Remember how good the Countess was to my mother.'
An old, old woman now spoke: she was the mother of Renelde's grandmother, and was more than ninety years old. All day long she sat in her chair nodding her head and never saying a word.
'My children,' she said, 'all the years that I have lived in the world, I have never heard of a shift spun from nettles. But what God commands, man can do. Why should not Renelde try it?'
Renelde did try, and to her great surprise the nettles when crushed and prepared gave a good thread, soft and light and firm. Very soon she had spun the first shift, which was for her own wedding. She wove and cut it out at once, hoping that the Count would not force her to begin the other. Just as she had finished sewing it, Burchard the Wolf passed by.
'Well,' said he, 'how are the shifts getting on?'
'Here, my lord, is my wedding garment,' answered Renelde, showing him the shift, which was the finest and whitest ever seen.
The Count grew pale, but he replied roughly, 'Very good. Now begin the other.'
The spinner set to work. As the Count returned to the castle, a cold shiver passed over him, and he felt, as the saying is, that some one was walking over his grave. He tried to eat his supper, but could not; he went to bed shaking with fever. But he did not sleep, and in the morning could not manage to rise.
This sudden illness, which every instant became worse, made him very uneasy. No doubt Renelde's spinning-wheel knew all about it. Was it not necessary that his body, as well as his shroud, should be ready for the burial?
The first thing Burchard did was to send to Renelde and to stop her wheel.
Renelde obeyed, and that evening Guilbert asked her:
'Has the Count given his consent to our marriage?'
'No,' said Renelde.
'Continue your work, sweetheart. It is the only way of gaining it. You know he told you so himself.'
The following morning, as soon as she had put the house in order, the girl sat down to spin. Two hours after there arrived some soldiers, and when they saw her spinning they seized her, tied her arms and legs, and carried her to the bank of the river, which was swollen by the late rains.
When they reached the bank they flung her in, and watched her sink, after which they left her. But Renelde rose to the surface, and though she could not swim she struggled to land.
Directly she got home she sat down and began to spin.
Again came the two soldiers to the cottage and seized the girl, carried her to the river bank, tied a stone to her neck and flung her into the water.
The moment their backs were turned the stone untied itself. Renelde waded the ford, returned to the hut, and sat down to spin.
This time the Count resolved to go to Locquignol himself; but, as he was very weak and unable to walk, he had himself borne in a litter. And still the spinner spun.
When he saw her he fired a shot at her, as he would have fired at a wild beast. The bullet rebounded without harming the spinner, who still spun on.
Burchard fell into such a violent rage that it nearly killed him. He broke the wheel into a thousand pieces, and then fell fainting on the ground. He was carried back to the castle, unconscious.
The next day the wheel was mended, and the spinner sat down to spin. Feeling that while she was spinning he was dying, the Count ordered that her hands should be tied, and that they should not lose sight of her for one instant.
But the guards fell asleep, the bonds loosed themselves, and the spinner spun on.
Burchard had every nettle rooted up for three leagues round. Scarcely had they been torn from the soil when they sowed themselves afresh, and grew as you were looking at them.
They sprung up even in the well-trodden floor of the cottage, and as fast as they were uprooted the distaff gathered to itself a supply of nettles, crushed, prepared, and ready for spinning.
And every day Burchard grew worse, and watched his end approaching.
Moved by pity for her husband, the Countess at last found out the cause of his illness, and entreated him to allow himself to be cured. But the Count in his pride refused more than ever to give his consent to the marriage.
So the lady resolved to go without his knowledge to pray for mercy from the spinner, and in the name of Renelde's dead mother she besought her to spin no more. Renelde gave her promise, but in the evening Guilbert arrived at the cottage. Seeing that the cloth was no farther advanced than it was the evening before, he inquired the reason. Renelde confessed that the Countess had prayed her not to let her husband die.
'Will he consent to our marriage?'
'Let him die then.'
'But what will the Countess say?'
'The Countess will understand that it is not your fault; the Count alone is guilty of his own death.'
'Let us wait a little. Perhaps his heart may be softened.'
So they waited for one month, for two, for six, for a year. The spinner spun no more. The Count had ceased to persecute her, but he still refused his consent to the marriage. Guilbert became impatient.
The poor girl loved him with her whole soul, and she was more unhappy than she had been before, when Burchard was only tormenting her body.
'Let us have done with it,' said Guilbert.
'Wait a little still,' pleaded Renelde.
But the young man grew weary. He came more rarely to Locquignol, and very soon he did not come at all. Renelde felt as if her heart would break, but she held firm.
One day she met the Count. She clasped her hands as if in prayer, and cried:
'My lord, have mercy!'
Burchard the Wolf turned away his head and passed on.
She might have humbled his pride had she gone to her spinning-wheel again, but she did nothing of the sort.
Not long after she learnt that Guilbert had left the country. He did not even come to say good-bye to her, but, all the same, she knew the day and hour of his departure, and hid herself on the road to see him once more.
When she came in she put her silent wheel into a corner, and cried for three days and three nights.
So another year went by. Then the Count fell ill, and the Countess supposed that Renelde, weary of waiting, had begun her spinning anew; but when she came to the cottage to see, she found the wheel silent.
However, the Count grew worse and worse till he was given up by the doctors. The passing bell was rung, and he lay expecting Death to come for him. But Death was not so near as the doctors thought, and still he lingered.
He seemed in a desperate condition, but he got neither better nor worse. He could neither live nor die; he suffered horribly, and called loudly on Death to put an end to his pains.
In this extremity he remembered what he had told the little spinner long ago. If Death was so slow in coming, it was because he was not ready to follow him, having no shroud for his burial.
He sent to fetch Renelde, placed her by his bedside, and ordered her at once to go on spinning his shroud.
Hardly had the spinner begun to work when the Count began to feel his pains grow less.
Then at last his heart melted; he was sorry for all the evil he had done out of pride, and implored Renelde to forgive him. So Renelde forgave him, and went on spinning night and day.
When the thread of the nettles was spun she wove it with her shuttle, and then cut the shroud and began to sew it.
And as before, when she sewed the Count felt his pains grow less, and the life sinking within him, and when the needle made the last stitch he gave his last sigh.
At the same hour Guilbert returned to the country, and, as he had never ceased to love Renelde, he married her eight days later.
He had lost two years of happiness, but comforted himself with thinking that his wife was a clever spinner, and, what was much more rare, a brave and good woman.(24)
(24) Ch. Denlin.
THERE was once upon a time a man and a woman who had an only son, and he was called Jack. The woman thought that it was his duty to go out to service, and told her husband that he was to take him somewhere.
'You must get him such a good place that he will become master of all masters,' she said, and then she put some food and a roll of tobacco into a bag for them.
Well, they went to a great many masters, but all said that they could make the lad as good as they were themselves, but better than that they could not make him. When the man came home to the old woman with this answer, she said, 'I shall be equally well pleased whatever you do with him; but this I do say, that you are to have him made a master over all masters.' Then she once more put some food and a roll of tobacco into the bag, and the man and his son had to set out again.
When they had walked some distance they got upon the ice, and there they met a man in a carriage who was driving a black horse.
'Where are you going?' he said.
'I have to go and get my son apprenticed to someone who will be able to teach him a trade, for my old woman comes of such well-to-do folk that she insists on his being taught to be master of all masters,' said the man.
'We are not ill met, then,' said the man who was driving, 'for I am the kind of man who can do that, and I am just looking out for such an apprentice. Get up behind with you,' he said to the boy, and off the horse went with them straight up into the air.
'No, no, wait a little!' screamed the father of the boy. 'I ought to know what your name is and where you live.'
'Oh, I am at home both in the north and the south and the east and the west, and I am called Farmer Weatherbeard,' said the master. 'You may come here again in a year's time, and then I will tell you if the lad suits me.' And then they set off again and were gone.
When the man got home the old woman inquired what had become of the son.
'Ah! Heaven only knows what has become of him!' said the man. 'They went up aloft.' And then he told her what had happened.
But when the woman heard that, and found that the man did not at all know either when their son would be out of his apprentice-ship, or where he had gone, she packed him off again to find out, and gave him a bag of food and a roll of tobacco to take away with him.
When he had walked for some time he came to a great wood, and it stretched before him all day long as he went on, and when night began to fall he saw a great light, and went towards it. After a long, long time he came to a small hut at the foot of a rock, outside which an old woman was standing drawing water up from a well with her nose, it was so long.
'Good-evening, mother,' said the man.
'Good-evening to you too,' said the old woman. 'No one has called me mother this hundred years.'
'Can I lodge here to-night?' said the man.
'No,' said the old woman. But the man took out his roll of tobacco, lighted a little of it, and then gave her a whiff. Then she was so delighted that she began to dance, and thus the man got leave to stay the night there. It was not long before he asked about Farmer Weatherbeard.
She said that she knew nothing about him, but that she ruled over all the four-footed beasts, and some of them might know him. So she gathered them all together by blowing a whistle which she had, and questioned them, but there was not one of them which knew anything about Farmer Weatherbeard.
'Well,' said the old woman, 'there are three of us sisters; it may be that one of the other two knows where he is to be found. You shall have the loan of my horse and carriage, and then you will get there by night; but her house is three hundred miles off, go the nearest way you will.'
The man set out and got there at night. When he arrived, this old woman also was standing drawing water out of the well with her nose.
'Good-evening, mother,' said the man.
'Good-evening to you,' said the old woman. 'No one has ever called me mother this hundred years.'
'Can I lodge here to-night?' said the man.
'No,' said the old woman.
Then he took out the roll of tobacco, took a whiff, and gave the old woman some snuff on the back of her hand. Then she was so delighted that she began to dance, and the man got leave to stay all night. It was not long before he began to ask about Farmer Weatherbeard.
She knew nothing about him, but she ruled over all the fishes, she said, and perhaps some of them might know something. So she gathered them all together by blowing a whistle which she had, and questioned them, but there was not one of them which knew anything about Farmer Weatherbeard.
'Well,' said the old woman, 'I have another sister; perhaps she may know something about him. She lives six hundred miles off, but you shall have my horse and carriage, and then you will get there by nightfall.'
So the man set off and he got there by nightfall. The old woman was standing raking the fire, and she was doing it with her nose, so long it was.
'Good-evening, mother,' said the man.
'Good-evening to you,' said the old woman. 'No one has called me mother this hundred years.'
'Can I lodge here to-night?' said the man.
'No,' said the old woman. But the man pulled out his roll of tobacco again, and filled his pipe with some of it, and gave the old woman enough snuff to cover the back of her hand. Then she was so delighted that she began to dance, and the man got leave to stay in her house. It was not long before he asked about Farmer Weatherbeard. She knew nothing at all about him, she said, but she governed all the birds; and she gathered them together with her whistle. When she questioned them all, the eagle was not there, but it came soon afterwards, and when asked, it said that it had just come from Farmer Weatherbeard's. Then the old woman said that it was to guide the man to him. But the eagle would have something to eat first, and then it wanted to wait until the next day, for it was so tired with the long journey that it was scarcely able to rise from the earth.
When the eagle had had plenty of food and rest, the old woman plucked a feather out of its tail, and set the man in the feather's place, and then the bird flew away with him, but they did not get to Farmer Weatherbeard's before midnight.
When they got there the Eagle said: 'There are a great many dead bodies lying outside the door, but you must not concern yourself about them. The people who are inside the house are all so sound asleep that it will not be easy to awake them; but you must go straight to the table-drawer, and take out three bits of bread, and if you hear anyone snoring, pluck three feathers from his head; he will not waken for that.'
The man did this; when he had got the bits of bread he first plucked out one feather.
'Oof!' screamed Farmer Weatherbeard.
So the man plucked out another, and then Farmer Weatherbeard shrieked 'Oof!' again; but when the man had plucked the third, Farmer Weatherbeard screamed so loudly that the man thought that brick and mortar would be rent in twain, but for all that he went on sleeping. And now the Eagle told the man what he was to do next, and he did it. He went to the stable door, and there he stumbled against a hard stone, which he picked up, and beneath it lay three splinters of wood, which he also picked up. He knocked at the stable door and it opened at once. He threw down the three little bits of bread and a hare came out and ate them. He caught the hare. Then the Eagle told him to pluck three feathers out of its tail, and put in the hare, the stone, the splinters of wood and himself instead of them, and then he would be able to carry them all home.
When the Eagle had flown a long way it alighted on a stone.
'Do you see anything?' it asked.
'Yes; I see a flock of crows coming flying after us,' said the man.
'Then we shall do well to fly on a little farther,' said the Eagle, and off it set.
In a short time it asked again, 'Do you see anything now?'
'Yes; now the crows are close behind us,' said the man.
'Then throw down the three feathers which you plucked out of his head,' said the Eagle.
So the man did this, and no sooner had he flung them down than the feathers became a flock of ravens, which chased the crows home again. Then the Eagle flew on much farther with the man, but at length it alighted on a stone for a while.
'Do you see anything?' it said.
'I am not quite certain,' said the man, 'but I think I see something coming in the far distance.'
'Then we shall do well to fly on a little farther,' said the Eagle, and away it went.
'Do you see anything now?' it said, after some time had gone by.
'Yes; now they are close behind us,' said the man.
'Then throw down the splinters of wood which you took from beneath the gray stone by the stable door,' said the Eagle. The man did this, and no sooner had he flung them down than they grew up into a great thick wood, and Farmer Weatherbeard had to go home for an axe to cut his way through it. So the Eagle flew on a long, long way, but then it grew tired and sat down on a fir tree.
'Do you see anything?' it asked.
'Yes; I am not quite certain,' said the man, 'but I think I can catch a glimpse of something far, far away.'
'Then we shall do well to fly on a little farther,' said the Eagle, and it set off again.
'Do you see anything now?' it said after some time had gone by.
'Yes; he is close behind us now,' said the man.
'Then you must fling down the great stone which you took away from the stable door,' said the Eagle.
The man did so, and it turned into a great high mountain of stone, which Farmer Weatherbeard had to break his way through before he could follow them. But when he had got to the middle of the mountain he broke one of his legs, so he had to go home to get it put right.