EDMUND DULAC'S FAIRY-BOOK
FAIRY TALES OF THE ALLIED NATIONS
NEW YORK GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
EDMUND DULAC'S FAIRY-BOOK
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
SNEGOROTCHKA: A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE 1
THE BURIED MOON: AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE 7
WHITE CAROLINE AND BLACK CAROLINE: A FLEMISH FAIRY TALE 15
THE SEVEN CONQUERORS OF THE QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI: A BELGIAN FAIRY TALE 23
THE SERPENT PRINCE: AN ITALIAN FAIRY TALE 31
THE HIND OF THE WOOD: A FRENCH FAIRY TALE 45
IVAN AND THE CHESTNUT HORSE: A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE 63
THE QUEEN OF THE MANY-COLOURED BEDCHAMBER: AN IRISH FAIRY TALE 73
THE BLUE BIRD: A FRENCH FAIRY TALE 81
BASHTCHELIK (OR, REAL STEEL): A SERBIAN FAIRY TALE 95
THE FRIAR AND THE BOY: AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE 119
THE GREEN SERPENT: A FRENCH FAIRY TALE 129
URASHIMA TARO: A JAPANESE FAIRY TALE 145
THE FIRE BIRD: A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE 159
THE STORY OF THE BIRD FENG: A CHINESE FAIRY TALE 171
SNEGOROTCHKA A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE
The daintiest, prettiest little maiden they had ever seen Frontispiece
THE BURIED MOON AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE
In her frantic struggles the hood of her cloak fell back from her dazzling golden hair, and immediately the whole place was flooded with light 8
WHITE CAROLINE AND BLACK CAROLINE A FLEMISH FAIRY TALE
And, when he saw White Caroline, he started to play on his organ the most beautiful airs that it was possible to hear, and the three little dogs commenced to dance together 16
THE SEVEN CONQUERORS OF THE QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI A BELGIAN FAIRY TALE
'Hi! friend! Take the whole castle, with the Queen and all that it contains, on your shoulders!' 24
THE SERPENT PRINCE AN ITALIAN FAIRY TALE
When Grannmia saw her strange lover, she alone remained calm and courageous 32
THE HIND OF THE WOOD A FRENCH FAIRY TALE
Giroflee thanked the fairy and went ... far into the wood; and there, sure enough, she saw a hut and an old woman sitting outside 56
IVAN AND THE CHESTNUT HORSE A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE
The chestnut horse seemed to linger in the air at the top of its leap while that kiss endured 64
THE BLUE BIRD A FRENCH FAIRY TALE
The Prince took a carriage drawn by three great frogs with great big wings.... Truitonne came out mysteriously by a little door 88
BASHTCHELIK (OR, REAL STEEL) A SERBIAN FAIRY TALE
The Prince, looking out, saw him snatch up the Princess ... and soar rapidly away 104
The Palace of the Dragon King 112
THE FRIAR AND THE BOY AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE
The Friar, bound fast to the post, squirmed and wriggled, showing plainly that he would foot it if he could 128
THE GREEN SERPENT A FRENCH FAIRY TALE
Laideronnette kissed and embraced the good Fairy Protectress 144
URASHIMA TARO A JAPANESE FAIRY TALE
Urashima was so enchanted that he could not speak a word 152
THE FIRE BIRD A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE
There he found the Princess asleep, and saw that her face was the face he had seen in the portrait 160
With a scream the Princess rushed forward, and, before her wicked sister could prevent her, she had upset the cauldron with a crash 168
THE STORY OF THE BIRD FENG A CHINESE FAIRY TALE
The wonderful bird, like a fire of many colours come down from heaven, alighted before the Princess, dropping at her feet the portrait 172
A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE
The old wife sang merrily as she sat in the inglenook stirring the soup, for she had never felt so sad. Many, many years had come and gone, leaving the weight of their winters on her shoulders and the touch of snow on her hair without ever bringing her a little child. This made her and her dear old husband very sad, for there were many children outside, playing in the snow. It seemed hard that not even one among them was their very own. But alas! there was no hope for such a blessing now. Never would they see a little fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece, nor two little shoes drying by the fire.
The old husband brought in a bundle of wood and set it down. Then, as he heard the children laughing and clapping their hands outside, he looked out at the window. There they were, dancing with glee round a snow man they had made. He smiled as he saw that it was evidently meant to look like the Mayor of the village, it was so fat and pompous.
'Look, Marusha!' he cried to the old wife. 'Come and see the snow man they've made.'
As they stood together at the window, they laughed to see what fun the children got out of it. Suddenly the old man turned to her with a bright idea.
'Let's go out and see if we can't make a little snow man.'
But Marusha laughed at him. 'What would the neighbours say? They would poke fun at us; it'd be the joke of the village. Besides, we're too old to play like children.'
'But only a little one, Marusha; only a teeny-weeny little snow man,—and I'll manage it that nobody sees us.'
'Well, well,' she said, laughing; 'have your own way, as you always did, Youshko.'
With this she took the pot from the fire, put on her bonnet, and they went out together. As they passed the children, they stopped to play with them a while, for they now felt almost like children themselves. Then they trudged on through the snow till they came to a clump of trees, and, behind this, where the snow was nice and white, and nobody could see them, they set to work to make their little man.
The old husband insisted that it must be very small, and the old wife agreed that it should be almost as small as a new-born babe. Kneeling down in the snow, they fashioned the little body in next to no time. Now there remained only the head to finish. Two fat handfuls of snow for the cheeks and face, and a big one on top for the head. Then they put on a wee dab for the nose and poked two holes, one on each side, for the eyes.
It was soon done, and they were already standing back looking at it, and laughing and clapping their hands like children. Then suddenly they stopped. What had happened? A very strange thing indeed! Out of the two holes they saw looking at them two wistful blue eyes. Then the face of the little snow man was no longer white. The cheeks became rounded and smooth and radiant, and two rosy lips began to smile up at them. A breath of wind brushed the snow from the head, and it all fell down round the shoulders in flaxen ringlets escaping from a white fur cap. At the same time some snow, loosened from the little body, fell down and took the shape of a pretty white garment. Then, suddenly, before they could open and shut their mouths, their snow mannikin was gone, and in his place stood the daintiest, prettiest little maiden they had ever seen.
They gave each other a look out of the corners of their eyes, and scratched their heads in wonderment. But it was as true as true. There stood the little girl, all pink and white before them. She was really alive, for she ran to them; and, when they stooped down to lift her up, she put one arm round the old wife's neck and the other round the old man's, and gave them each a hug and a kiss.
They laughed and cried for joy; then, suddenly remembering how real some dreams can seem, they pinched each other in turn. Still they were not sure, for the pinches might have been a part of the dream. So, in fear lest they might wake and spoil the whole thing, they wrapped the little girl up quickly and hastened back home.
On the way they met the children, still playing round their snow man; and the snowballs with which they pelted them in the back were very real; but there again, the snowballs might have belonged to the dream. But when they were inside the house, and saw the inglenook, with the soup in the pot by the fire and the bundle of wood near by, and everything just as they had left it, they looked at each other with tears in their eyes and no longer feared that it was all a dream. In another minute there was a little white fur cap hanging on the corner of the mantelpiece and two little shoes drying by the fire, while the old wife took the little girl on her lap and crooned a lullaby over her.
The old man put his hand on his wife's shoulder and she looked up.
'At last we have a little girl! We made her out of the snow, so we will call her Snegorotchka.'
The old wife nodded her head, and then they kissed each other. When they had all had supper, they went to bed, the old husband and wife feeling sure that they would wake early in the morning to find the child still with them. And they were not disappointed. There she was, sitting up between them, prattling and laughing. But she had grown bigger, and her hair was now twice as long as at first. When she called them 'Little Father' and 'Little Mother' they were so delighted that they felt like dancing as nimbly as they had in their young days. But, instead of dancing, they just kissed each other, and wept for joy.
That day they held a big feast. The old wife was busy all the morning cooking all kinds of dainties, while the old man went round the village and collected the fiddlers. All the boys and girls of the village were invited, and they ate and sang and danced and had a merry time till daybreak. As they went home, the girls all talked at once about how much they had enjoyed themselves, but the boys were very silent;—they were thinking of the beautiful Snegorotchka with the blue eyes and the golden hair.
Every day after that Snegorotchka played with the other children, and taught them how to make castles and palaces of snow, with marble halls and thrones and beautiful fountains. The snow seemed to let her do whatever she liked with it, and to build itself up under her tiny fingers as if it knew exactly what shape it was to take. They were all greatly delighted with the wonderful things she made; but when she showed them how to dance as the snowflakes do, first in a brisk whirl, and then softly and lightly, they could think of nothing else but Snegorotchka. She was the little fairy queen of the children, the delight of the older people, and the very breath of life to old Marusha and Youshko.
And now the winter months moved on. With slow and steady stride they went from mountain top to mountain top, around the circle of the sky-line. The earth began to clothe itself in green. The great trees, holding out their naked arms like huge babies waiting to be dressed, were getting greener and greener, and last year's birds sat in their branches singing this year's songs. The early flowers shed their perfume on the breeze, and now and then a waft of warm air, straying from its summer haunts, caressed the cheek and breathed a glowing promise in the ear. The forests and the fields were stirring. A beautiful spirit brooded over the face of nature;—spring was trembling on the leash and tugging to be free.
One afternoon Marusha was sitting in the inglenook stirring the soup and singing a mournful song, because she had never felt so full of joy. The old man Youshko had just brought in a bundle of wood and laid it on the hearth. It seemed just the same as on that winter's afternoon when they saw the children dancing round their snow man; but what made all the difference was Snegorotchka, the apple of their eye, who now sat by the window, gazing out at the green grass and the budding trees.
Youshko had been looking at her; he had noticed that her face was pale and her eyes a shade less blue than usual. He grew anxious about her.
'Are you not feeling well, Snegorotchka?' he asked.
'No, Little Father,' she replied sadly. 'I miss the white snow,—oh! so much; the green grass is not half as beautiful. I wish the snow would come again.'
'Oh! yes; the snow will come again,' replied the old man. 'But don't you like the leaves on the trees and the blossoms and the flowers, my darling?'
'They are not so beautiful as the pure, white snow.' And Snegorotchka shuddered.
The next day she looked so pale and sad that they were alarmed, and glanced at one another anxiously.
'What ails the child?' said Marusha.
Youshko shook his head and looked from Snegorotchka to the fire, and then back again.
'My child,' he said at last, 'why don't you go out and play with the others? They are all enjoying themselves among the flowers in the forest; but I've noticed you never play with them now. Why is it, my darling?'
'I don't know, Little Father, but my heart seems to turn to water when the soft warm wind brings the scent of the blossoms.'
'But we will come with you, my child,' said the old man. 'I will put my arm about you and shield you from the wind. Come, we will show you all the pretty flowers in the grass, and tell you their names, and you will just love them,—all of them.'
So Marusha took the pot off the fire and then they all went out together, Youshko with his arm round Snegorotchka to shield her from the wind. But they had not gone far when the warm perfume of the flowers was wafted to them on the breeze, and the child trembled like a leaf. They both comforted her and kissed her, and then they went on towards the spot where the flowers grew thickly in the grass. But, as they passed a clump of big trees, a bright ray of sunlight struck through like a dart and Snegorotchka put her hand over her eyes and gave a cry of pain.
They stood still and looked at her. For a moment, as she drooped upon the old man's arm, her eyes met theirs; and on her upturned face were swiftly running tears which sparkled in the sunlight as they fell. Then, as they watched her, she grew smaller and smaller, until, at last, all that was left of Snegorotchka was a little patch of dew shining on the grass. One tear-drop had fallen into the cup of a flower. Youshko gathered that flower—very gently—and handed it to Marusha without a word.
They both understood now. Their darling was just a little girl made of snow, and she had melted away in the warmth of the sunlight.
THE BURIED MOON
AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE
In my old Granny's days, long, long—oh, so long ago, Carland was just a collection of bogs. Pools of black water lay in the hollows, and little green rivulets scurried away here and there like long lizards trying to escape from their tails, while every tuft that you trod upon would squirt up at you like anything. Oh! it was a nice place to be in on a dark night, I give you my word.
Now, I've heard my Granny say that a long time before her day the Moon got trapped and buried in the bog. I'll tell you the tale as she used to tell it to me.
On some nights the beautiful Moon rose up in the sky and shone brighter and brighter, and the people blessed her because by her wonderful light they could find their way home at night through the treacherous bogs. But on other nights she did not come, and then it was so dark that the traveller could not find his way; and, besides, the Evil Things that feared the light—toads and creepy, crawly things, to say nothing of Bogles and Little Bad People—came out in the darkness to do all the harm they could, for they hated the people and were always trying to lead them astray. Many a poor man going home in the dark had been enticed by these malevolent things into quicksands and mud pools. When the Moon was away and the night was black, these vile creatures had their will.
When the Moon learned about this, she was very grieved, for she is a sweet, kind body, who spends nights without sleep, so as to show a light for people going home. She was troubled about it all, and said to herself, 'I'll just go down and see how matters stand.'
So, when the dark end of the month came round, she stepped down out of the sky, wrapped from head to foot in her black travelling cloak with the hood drawn over her bright golden hair. For a moment she stood at the edge of the marshes, looking this way and that. Everywhere, as far as she could see, was the dismal bog, with pools of black water, and gnarled, fantastic-looking snags sticking up here and there amid the dank growth of weeds and grasses. There was no light save the feeble glimmer of the stars reflected in the gloomy pools; but, upon the grass where she stood, a bright ring of moonlight shone from her feet beneath her cloak.
She saw this and drew her garments closer about her. It was cold, and she was trembling. She feared that vast expanse of bog and its evil creatures, but she was determined to face the matter out and see exactly how the thing stood.
Guided by the light that streamed from her feet, she advanced into the bog. As the summer wind stirs one tussock after another, so she stepped onward between the slimy ponds and deadly quagmires. Now she reached a jet-black pool, and all too late she saw the stars shining in its depths. Her foot tripped and all she could do was to snatch at an overhanging branch of a snag as she fell forward. To this she clung, but, fast as she gripped it, faster still some tendrils from the bough whipped round her wrists like manacles and held her there a prisoner. She struggled and wrenched and tugged with all her might and main, but the tendrils only tightened and cut into her wrists like steel bands.
As she stood there shivering in the dark and wondering how to free herself, she heard far away in the bog a voice calling through the night. It was a wailing cry, dying away in despair. She listened and listened, and the repeated cry came nearer; then she heard footsteps—halting, stumbling and slipping. At last, by the dim light of the stars, she saw a haggard, despairing face with fearful eyes; and then she knew it was a poor man who had lost his way and was floundering on to his death. Now he caught sight of a gleam of light from the captive Moon, and made his uncertain way towards it, thinking it meant help. As he came nearer and nearer the pool, the Moon saw that her light was luring him to his death, and she felt so very sorry for him, and so angry with herself that she struggled fiercely at the cords that held her. It was all in vain, but, in her frantic struggles, the hood of her cloak fell back from her dazzling golden hair, and immediately the whole place was flooded with light, which fell on muddy pools and quicks and quags, glinting on the twisted roots and making the whole place as clear as day.
How glad the wayfarer was to see the light! How pleased he was to see all the Evil Things of the dark scurrying back into their holes! He could now find his way, and he made for the edge of the treacherous marsh with such haste that he had not time to wonder at the strange thing that had happened. He did not know that the blessed light that showed him his path to safety shone from the radiant hair of the Moon, bound fast to a snag and half buried in the bog. And the Moon herself was so glad he was safe, that she forgot her own danger and need. But, as she watched him making good his escape from the terrible dangers of the marshes, she was overcome by a great longing to follow him. This made her tug and strain again like a demented creature, until she sank exhausted, but not free, in the mud at the foot of the snag. As she did so, her head fell forward on her breast, and the hood of her cloak again covered her shining hair.
At that moment, just as suddenly as the light had shone out before, the darkness came down with a swish, and all the vile things that loved it came out of their hiding-places with a kind of whispering screech which grew louder and louder as they swarmed abroad on the marshes. Now they gathered round the poor Moon, snarling and scratching at her and screaming hateful mockeries at her. At last they had her in their power—their old foe whose light they could not endure; the Bright One whose smile of light sent them scurrying away into their crevices and defeated their fell designs.
'Hell roast thee!' cried an ugly old witch-thing; 'thou'rt the meddlesome body that spoils all our brews.'
'Out on thee!' shrieked the bogle-bodies; 'if 'twere not for thee we'd have the marsh to ourselves.'
And there was a great clamour—as out-of-tune as out-of-tune could be. All the things of darkness raised their harsh and cracked voices against the Bright One of the sky. 'Ha, ha!' and 'Ho, ho!' and 'He, he!' mingled with chuckles of fiendish glee, until it seemed as if the very trickles and gurgles of the bog were joining in the orgy of hate.
'Burn her with corpse-lights!' yelled the witch.
'Ha, ha! He, he!' came the chorus of evil creatures.
'Truss her up and stifle her!' screamed the creeping things. 'Spin webs round her!' And the spiders of the night swarmed all over her.
'Sting her to death!' said the Scorpion King at the head of his brood.
'Ho, ho! He, he!' And, as each vile thing had something to say about it, a horrible, screeching dispute arose, while the captive Moon crouched shuddering at the foot of the snag and gave herself up as lost.
The dim grey light of the early dawn found them still hissing and clawing and screeching at one another as to the best way to dispose of the captive. Then, when the first rosy ray shot up from the Sun, they grew afraid. Some scuttled away, but those who remained hastened to do something—anything that would smother the light of the Moon. The only thing they could think of now was to bury her in the mud,—bury her deep. They were all agreed on this as the quickest way.
So they clutched her with skinny fingers and pushed her down into the black mud beneath the water at the foot of the snag. When they had all stamped upon her, the bogle-bodies ran quickly and fetched a big black stone which they hurled on top of her to keep her down. Then the old witch called two will-o'-the-wisps from the darkest part of the marshes, and, when they came dancing and glancing above the pools and quicks, she bade them keep watch by the grave of the Moon, and, if she tried to get out, to sound an alarm.
Then the horrid things crept away from the morning light, chuckling to themselves over the funeral of the Moon, and only wishing they could bury the Sun in the same way; but that was a little too much to hope for, and besides, all respectable Horrors of the Bog ought to be asleep in bed during the Sun's journey across the sky.
The poor Moon was now buried deep in the black mud, with a heavy stone on top of her. Surely she could never again thwart their plans of evil, hatched and nurtured in the foul darkness of the quags. She was buried deep; they had left no sign; who would know where to look for her?
Day after day passed by until the time of the New Moon was eagerly looked for by the good folk who dwelt around the marshes, for they knew they had no friend like the Moon, whose light enabled them to find the pathways through the bog-land, and drove away all the vile things into their dark holes and corners. So they put lucky pennies in their pouches and straws in their hats, and searched for the crescent Moon in the sky. But evening twilight brought no Moon, which was not strange, for she was buried deep in the bog.
The nights were pitch dark, and the Horrors held frolic in the marshes and swarmed abroad in ever-increasing numbers, so that no traveller was safe. The poor people were so frightened and dumbfounded at being forsaken by the friendly Moon, that some of them went to the old Wise Woman of the Mill and besought her to find out what was the matter.
The Wise Woman gazed long into her magic mirror, and then made a brew of herbs, into which she looked just as long, muttering words that nobody but herself could understand.
'It's very strange,' she said at last; 'but there's nought to say what has become of her. I'll look again later on; meantime if ye do learn anything, let me know.'
So they went away more mystified than ever, and, as the following nights brought no Moon, they could do nothing but stand about in groups in the streets discussing the strange thing. The disappearance of the Moon was the one topic. By the fireside, at the work-bench, in the inn and all about, their tongues went nineteen to the dozen; and no wonder, for who had ever heard of the Moon being lost, stolen or strayed?
But it chanced one day that a man from the other side of the marshes was sitting in the inn, smoking his pipe and listening to the talk of the other inmates, when all of a sudden he sat bolt upright, slapped his thigh and cried out, 'I' fegs! Now I mind where that there Moon be!'
Then he told them how one night he had got lost in the marshes and was frightened to death; how he went blundering on in the dark with all the Evil Things after him, and, at last, how a great bright light burst out of a pool and showed him the way to go.
When they heard this they all took the shortest cut to the Wise Woman, and told her the man's story. After a long look in the mirror and the pot, she wagged her head slowly and said, 'It's all dark, children. You see, being as there's no Moon to conjure by, I can't tell ye where she's gone or what's made off with her—which same I could tell ye fine if she was in her right place. But mebbe, if ye do what I'm going to tell ye, then ye may hap on her yourselves. Listen now! Just before the darklings come, each of ye take a stone in your mouth and a twig of the witch-hazel in your hands, and go into the marshes without fear. Speak no word, for fear of your lives, but keep straight on till ye come to a spot where ye'll see a coffin with a cross and a candle on it. That's where ye'll find your Moon, I'm thinking, if ye're lucky.
So the next night as the dark began to fall they all trooped out into the marshes, each with a stone in his mouth and a twig of the witch-hazel in his hands. Never a word they spoke, but kept straight on; and, I'm telling you, there was not one among them but had the creeps and the starts. They could see nothing around them but bogs and pools and snags; but strange sighing whispers brushed past their ears, and cold wet hands sought theirs and tugged at the hazel twigs. But all at once, while looking everywhere for the coffin with the cross and the candle, they espied the big, strange stone, and it looked just like a coffin; while at the head of it was a black cross formed by the branches of the snag, and on this cross flickered a tiny light just like a candle.
When they saw these things they all knew that what the Wise Woman had told them was true: they were not far from their beloved Moon. But, being mighty feared of Bogles and the other Evil Things, they all went down on their knees in the mud and said the Lord's Prayer, once forwards, in keeping with the cross, and once backwards to keep off the Horrors of the Darkness. All this they said in their minds, without saying a word aloud, for they well knew what would happen to them if they neglected the Wise Woman's advice.
Then they rose up and laid hands on the great stone and heaved it up. And my Granny says, that as they did it, some of them saw, just for one tiddy-widdy little waste of a minute, the most beautiful face in the world gazing up at them with wistful eyes like—like—I really can't remember how my Granny described them, but it was either 'pools of gratitude' or 'lakes of love.' At all events, this is exactly what happened when the stone was rolled right over, and it was said so quickly that not one of them could describe it afterwards: 'Thanks, brave folk! I shall never forget your kindness,' as the Moon stepped up out of the black pool into her place in the sky.
Then they were all astonished beyond words, for, suddenly, all around was the silver light, making the safe ways between the bogs as clear as day. There was a sudden rush of weird things to their lairs, and then all was still and bright. Looking up, they saw with delight the full Moon sailing in the sky and smiling down upon them. She was there to light them home again. She was there to stampede the Evil Things—the Bogles and the Bad Little People—back into their vile dens. And, as the people looked around and wondered, it almost seemed to them that this time she had killed the Horrors dead—never to come to life again.
WHITE CAROLINE AND BLACK CAROLINE
A FLEMISH FAIRY TALE
Come, come, Caroline, White, white, child o' mine! I hate you, HATE you, And, at any rate, you Are no child o' mine!
Come, come, Caroline, Black, black, child o' mine! I bore you, adore you, Will give whatever more you Want, O child o' mine!
Once upon a time there was a mother who had two daughters, both named Caroline. People called one 'White Caroline,' because she was so beautiful. But her mother could not see it, because the child was not really her own. The other was called 'Black Caroline' by the people, because she was so ugly. Black Caroline was the favourite of her mother, and received everything she could desire.
Now one day it so happened that an old shepherd was passing by, and with him he had three little lambs; and he smiled on seeing White Caroline, and he caressed her head, and the little lambs came close and rubbed themselves against her little white dress. White Caroline was exceedingly pleased with all this. Now Black Caroline, standing on the winding stairs, also wanted to see; and, coming to the door, she half opened it. But as soon as the old shepherd saw her face, he turned and started on his way, and the three little lambs bleated and beat their heads together, because Black Caroline was so ugly;—but she was good all the same!
And their mother, in her heart, could not stand this, so she said:
'White Caroline must die, cost what it will!'
And so she thought and thought during seven days how she could get rid of White Caroline. Then, one day, she went behind a hedge and said:
'Hedge, Thorn-hedge, give me a dozen deadly thorns, each one an inch long!'
And the hedge gave her a dozen deadly thorns, each thorn an inch long. Then their mother returned home, and showed them to Black Caroline.
'Pay attention, Black Caroline,' she said; 'this evening when you go to bed you must sleep at the edge, and the inside place must be for White Caroline; because I am going to conceal all the little thorns in her pillow; and she will die when she puts her head upon her pillow, and then you, alone, shall be more than ever the pet child of your mother!'
And Black Caroline said, 'Very well!'
But that evening, when White Caroline was about to get into bed, Black Caroline took her by the arm and said:
'White Caroline, I love you very much; and you must not tell mother; but she is trying to kill you. There are a dozen deadly thorns in your pillow; go to sleep all the same, but we'll put our heads at the foot of the bed!'
And White Caroline, full of joy, took Black Caroline in her little arms and they slept together!'
The following morning they heard a rat-a-tat on the stairs.
'Here! Black Caroline! Are you there?'
It was their mother calling from the bottom of the stairs.
'Yes, my dear little mother, I am here!' said White Caroline.
Their mother was in a terrible rage because White Caroline was not dead. She at once mounted the stairs to see if Black Caroline was alive. But even then she could not understand how it was that White Caroline was not dead, and once again rage overcame her!
Now it happened that one day a musician was passing by their house: and he had with him three little dogs; and, when he saw White Caroline, he started to play on his organ the most beautiful airs that it was possible to hear, and the three little dogs commenced to dance together. White Caroline was exceedingly pleased! But Black Caroline, who was on the winding stairs, came down and half opened the door because she wanted to see also. But, as soon as the musician saw the face of Black Caroline, he ceased to play, and the three little dogs hid their heads under a sack because Black Caroline was so ugly—but she was also very good.
And their mother, in her heart, could not stand that, so she said:
'White Caroline must die, cost what it will!'
She thought and thought during seven days how she could rid herself of White Caroline. At last she went to an old witch, and bought the most violent poison that could be got.
On arriving home she called Black Caroline and said:
'Pay attention, Black Caroline; when at dinner to-day, do not eat of the little meat-balls. Say you have a pain in your head; because I am going to put this poison in the meat, and then White Caroline will eat it, and she will die; and then you will be more than ever the pet of your mother!'
And Black Caroline said, 'Very well!'
But, at dinner time, when White Caroline was about to eat from her plate, she took her by the arm and said:
'White Caroline, I love you very much, but you must not tell mother; she wishes your death, and she has put poison in your meat. Tell her that we will eat our dinner outside the house, so that the cat may not eat the birds and so that the crows may not eat the grain. Then you can throw your portion away.'
Then White Caroline, full of joy, took Black Caroline in her little arms and they went out together.
A little while after they heard a rat-a-tat at the garden door.
'Here! Black Caroline! Are you there?'
It was their mother calling from the inside of the house.
'Yes, my dear little mother, I am here!' said White Caroline.
And their mother was in a great rage because White Caroline was not dead. Then she went out to see if Black Caroline was still alive. And she had still her plate full of meat, and she was shedding tears of blood, because she had such a bad headache. And their mother could not understand how it was that White Caroline was not dead, and she boiled with rage.
And one day it happened that a tradesman was passing the house with sweets and cakes in his van, and when he saw White Caroline, he showed her all the sweets and cakes and nuts. White Caroline was so happy, because the tradesman gave her nuts and sweets for nothing, just because she was so pretty. But Black Caroline, who was coming down the winding stairs, came out to see.
As soon as the man saw Black Caroline, he mounted his van and drove away at full gallop, because she was so ugly—but she was good all the same.
And her mother could not stand that, so she said:
'White Caroline must die, cost what it will!'
Then she went to an old miller and asked him if he could place the mill against four little sticks, so that whoever touched the mill it would fall on them and crush them. And the old miller said: 'Yes, it can be done very well, and the mill will be placed thus in fourteen days. I will see to it at once.'
Their mother was very pleased, and she showed Black Caroline how the mill would be placed, and said to her:
'Pay attention, Black Caroline: when you go with the sack of flour to the mill, you must let it drag and be overcome, before you arrive near the little sticks that support the mill. White Caroline must take it all alone. As soon as she touches the little sticks she will be crushed by the mill, and then you will be more than ever the pet of your mother!'
And Black Caroline said, 'Very well!'
But the next day, when White Caroline walked near the little sticks, Black Caroline stopped her and said:
'White Caroline, I love you very much, and you must not tell mother; but she intends that you shall die, and she has caused these little sticks to be placed like that, so that the mill will fall on you and crush you. Throw the sack on the sticks—so!'
And White Caroline, full of joy, took Black Caroline in her little arms, and so they went back. And it was well they did, for there were five little rats in that sack of flour, and all those five were killed when the mill fell down.
Then they heard a rat-a-tat, and the voice of their mother calling: 'Here! Black Caroline! Are you there?'
'Yes, little mother, I am here,' answered White Caroline.
And the mother was very cross to find that White Caroline was not dead. And she ran quickly to the mill to see if Black Caroline was alive. And, when she came back and found her, she was crying tears of blood because she ached in every limb and could not walk. And her mother could not understand how it was that White Caroline was not dead, and she boiled with rage.
She took Black Caroline home and put her in her little bed. Then she set out to find White Caroline with intent to kill her; but White Caroline had gone far away where her mother could not get at her.
On her journey she came to a great stretch of water and she could not cross over. But suddenly she saw many arms, as black as pitch, held out over the water so that they formed a bridge. White Caroline did not know whether to pass over this bridge or to go back. She began to cry bitterly; then, plucking up courage, she made the sign of the cross and ran upon them.
When she came to the middle, the arms gave way, and White Caroline would have been drowned had she not been held by the heels of her little wooden shoes. And the water-nymphs and vampires were all around her.
Then, suddenly, a beautiful woman all in white came running to her aid. And, though the claws of the Evil Things were now pulling her down by the heels of her little shoes, the White Woman was in time to save her just as she was on the point of being drowned.
Then the White Woman turned to the water-nymphs and vampires:
'Be still, all of you! Down to your dens, and say I sent ye!'
Then she led White Caroline to the other side of the water. And there she looked at her, and kissed her, and loved her as her own, because she was so beautiful.
This White Woman was the Queen of all the water and the woods, and was able, in her domain, to grant anything that any one desired. In her great love for White Caroline, she told her that she could have whatever she wished.
'Would you like to eat some beautiful grapes, White Caroline?' said she. Then with her wand she tapped a vine, and behold, immediately there hung beautiful grapes upon it!
'Would you like a beautiful dress of silk, White Caroline?' And she tapped again with her little wand, and, immediately, from a chrysalis hanging from the vine, a lovely dress of sky-blue silk was unfolded before her, all ready to put on.
And the nymphs and the vampires were more than ever afraid to come near White Caroline, and she was very glad of that indeed.
'Would you like a voyage?' said the White Woman. And, immediately, with a wave of her wand, she pointed it at a little nautilus sailing on the water, and there, in another moment, stood a beautiful barque with all sail set. And so White Caroline had everything she could desire, and was very happy.
But one day a King came by, and the sound of his trumpet rang over the length of the water and through the woods. Quick—so quick—the White Woman ran to White Caroline and said to her:
'White Caroline, the time has come, and we must part; and you will never see me again. But, before I go, you can wish for two things; and whatever you wish, it shall be granted you!'
With that the White Woman vanished.
Then White Caroline wished to have Black Caroline with her. And immediately there was a rustling among the trees, and Black Caroline stood beside her!
The two Carolines were now reunited. But White Caroline was sad because Black Caroline was not as pretty as she herself, and, remembering the White Woman's promise, she resolved to wish that they might both be exactly the same.
Then she wished that both of them should be changed into something exactly alike!
Immediately they began to change. Little white feathers appeared on their shoulders and spread until they were entirely covered; and there they stood together, two beautiful white swans! And ever after they swam up and down on the peaceful water and no one could tell one from the other. And never again did the nymphs and the vampires come near to harm them.
THE SEVEN CONQUERORS OF THE QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI
A BELGIAN FAIRY TALE
Once upon a time there was a boy who was ambitious. One day he said to his mother: 'Give me a muffin and patch my trousers, for I am going to set out to win the Queen of the Mississippi.'
So the mother gave him a muffin and patched his trousers, and the boy went off.
He had not gone very far when he came to a mountain path, on which was a great cross, beneath which stood a man holding a bow with an arrow fixed on the string.
This man looked down at the boy as if to say, 'What are you doing here?'
The boy immediately answered his unspoken question by demanding, 'Hello, friend! What are you doing there?'
'You see that fly on that cross?' said the man, pointing to a minute speck on one of its arms. 'Wait then, and watch me! I will put out one of its eyes.'
With this, while the boy watched, he drew his bow to the full, and let the arrow fly.
It was a wonderful shot, for one of the eyes of the fly fell on the ground at the foot of the cross.
The boy was so taken with this, that he seemed to grow two whole years in half a minute. To look at him, you would have thought he was no longer a boy. He drew himself up proudly to his full height, and said in the voice of a young man:
'Will you travel with me, my pippy?'
Then it was question and answer between them:
'Come, travel with me, my pippy.' 'Oh! Whither away? To old Mandalay?' 'But no; to the far Mississippi, Where a beautiful Queen holds sway: And I'll marry that Queen some day.' 'I am yours! And the bounty?' 'Give it a name: I will pay.'
Then the young man took his muffin, and, breaking off a little bit of it, handed it to the man with the bow and arrow.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
So they journeyed on together. When they had gone some distance, they came to a high field, and in the middle of this stood a man stock still, gazing at the sun. As soon as the young man saw him, he shouted out at the top of his voice: 'Hi! What are you doing there, my good fellow?'
'I am just waiting for it to get a little more dazzling,' replied the man, still keeping his eyes fixed on the midday sun.
As soon as the young man heard this he seemed to grow still more in stature. Indeed, he seemed to be almost a man.
'Will you travel with me?' he said.
Then it was question and answer between them:
'Come, travel with me, my pippy.' 'Oh! Whither away? To the land of Cathay?' 'But no; to the far Mississippi, Where a beautiful Queen hath sway, Who has stolen my heart away.' 'I am yours! And the bounty?' 'What you will: it's a pleasure to pay.'
Then the young man took his muffin, and, breaking off a little bit of it, handed it to the man who gazed at the sun.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
So they journeyed on together. When they had gone some distance further, they saw a man who had tied his legs together.
'Hello! What are you doing there, my friend?'
'I want to catch that hare over yonder; but unless I tied my legs together there would be no sport in it.'
'Will you travel with me?'
'Will you travel with me, my pippy?' 'Oh! Whither away? To Botany Bay?' 'But no; to the far Mississippi, Where a Queen—tooral-ooral-i-ay— Is waiting for what I'm to say. 'I am yours! And the bounty?' 'Either here or in Botany Bay!'
Then the boy took his muffin, and, breaking off a little piece, handed it to him.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
So they journeyed on together. But they had travelled scarce a league when they met a man who was carrying ten great trees in his arms. And when the boy, who had grown into a young man, saw this, he was immediately full grown.
'Hi! my friend! What are you doing there?'
'My mother wants some wood,' replied the man, picking a few branches off the trees and flinging them idly on the roadside, 'so I am just taking her some.'
'Will you travel with me?'
'Will you travel with me, my pippy?' 'Oh! Whither away? To Rome or Pompeii?' 'But no; to the far Mississippi: There's a Queen of great beauty that way, And there's no one but Cupid to pay.' 'I am yours! And the bounty?' 'Name your price: it shall be as you say.'
Then the young man took his muffin, and, breaking off a little bit of it, handed it to the man who carried the trees.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
So they journeyed on together. They were still a long way from the Mississippi when they came across a man with a mouth large enough to swallow a river. When the boy, who had become a young man and was now full grown, set his eyes on him, his beard and moustache began to sprout.
'Will you travel with me?'
'Come, travel with me, my pippy. (Sing merry-ton-ton-ta-lay.) To the land of the far Mississippi Where the crystalline fountains play; There's a Queen who will not say me nay.' 'I am yours! But the bounty?' 'We're picking it up on the way.'
Then the young man took his muffin, and, breaking off a little bit of it, handed it to the man with the mouth as large as a river.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
So they journeyed on together. On and on they went until at last they came to a great hill-top, and there, standing on the crest of it, they looked down into an immense valley where they saw a man engaged in eating up the whole earth. As soon as he saw this gigantic meal going on, the boy, who had become a young man and was now full grown with moustache and beard, appeared like a knight errant. One could see that, from the spurs which had grown upon his heels.
'Hi! What are you doing there?'
'I am so terribly hungry that nothing less than the whole earth can appease my appetite.'
'Will you travel with me?'
'Come, travel with me, my pippy.' 'Oh! Whither? Madras or Bombay?' 'But no; to that far Mississippi, Which flows from the gates of the day; Where a Queen all in purple array Waits for me——' 'I am yours! And the bounty?' 'Wouldn't go in a twenty-ton dray!'
Then the young man took his muffin, and, breaking off a little bit, handed it to the man who was eating up the earth.
'Keep it,' said he; 'it's a pledge of good faith.'
They were still a long way from their destination when they came to a beautiful castle of burnished gold, surrounded by a very deep moat over which was a drawbridge; and on the bridge was a golden portcullis. As soon as they arrived, their leader rang the bell. When the door was opened, the travellers entered, and the hero asked to see the King.
'What do you want with the King?' replied an attendant, richly attired.
'I have come to ask for the hand of his daughter, the Queen of the Mississippi,' said the hero.
'That is all very well; but consider well before you start on such an undertaking; for many have come as you have come and have lost their lives.'
'That is nothing,' they all replied. 'We are not afraid!'
Then they were led before the Queen, and all were completely dazzled by her beauty. It was a long time before they realised that she was speaking to them. At last they understood her to say:
'Here is my servant. See if you can eat more than he does.'
And the servant sat down in front of a table covered with dishes crowded with large joints of meat. And behold, he ate the whole lot up.
'Oh! that is nothing at all,' said the young hero. And, turning to the man who ate up the earth, he said:
'Sit down there, my friend.' Then turning again to the servant, he ordered him to bring in the biggest bull they could find.
They obeyed, and set it down in front of the man who ate the earth. And, in presence of the Queen, he swallowed the bull whole, head and tail and everything; and it was alive!
But the Queen said, 'You have not won me yet!'
And then she called in a second servant and said:
'Here is my servant. See if you can drink more than he can!'
And immediately the servant took hold of a whole cask of wine, and in one mouthful drank the whole lot up.
The young hero said, 'That is nothing at all!' Then, turning to the man with a mouth as big as a river, he added:
'Come here, my friend. Place yourself on your stomach on the moat, and drink well!'
And the man with the mouth as large as a river placed himself on his stomach, with his mouth to the water of the great moat outside, and in one second he had drunk up the whole moat, fishes and all, absolutely dry.
But the Queen still said they had not won her!
And she beckoned another servant. Then, turning to the young man, she said: 'See if you can run better than he can. There,' she said, 'at the top of that high mountain, just near the sun, lives a hermit. Go and ask him what it is he wishes to say to me. Then come back and tell me.'
'Oh! that is nothing at all,' said the young hero. And, turning to the man who ran like a hare, he said: 'Go to the top of the mountain and come back with the message.'
And the man who ran like a hare was out of sight in a second, and before they could count three he had returned to the Queen with the message that the hermit was dead, which the Queen had known all the time.
And the young man said to the King:
'You have submitted us to the test, and we have carried out all that you wished: we have now gained the Queen, and I am going to take her.'
Then the King got very angry and called out all his soldiers.
The young man, hearing this, said to the man with the strong arms:
'Hi! friend! Take the whole castle, with the Queen and all that it contains, on your shoulders!'
The man obeyed and they went on their way!
They had not gone a great distance when the man who had gazed at the sun cried out:
'In the distance I can see that we are being pursued by an army; they want to take the Queen!'
The King and his army approached rapidly, and demanded the Queen.
Then the man of the strong arm killed the King and every one of his army with a single blow.
Then he departed with the Queen and the castle to the home of the young man; and as soon as they got there the hero married the Queen, and, with her and his mother, they lived very happily to a good old age.
THE SERPENT PRINCE
AN ITALIAN FAIRY TALE
Once, a very long time ago, before aeroplanes emulated eagles and motor cars ran along swifter than the foxes, there lived on the outskirts of a great forest an old couple who were poor and childless and lonely.
Matteo was the name of this worthy pair, and the old man was called Cola and his wife was known as Sapatella. Now Matteo was a forester, and, because his duties kept him roaming from early morn until late in the evening through the deep dark glades of the forest, his wife, who had to stay at home and mind the cottage and prepare the meals, and never go out, not even to see the pictures on Saturday evenings, was very lonely indeed and wished more than ever that she had a son, so that he could go to the pictures and tell her all about them when he came home.
But wishes do not make horses or sons, nor even daughters, and so this poor old woman had to live a very lonely life indeed, which gave her a great deal of time to think and to envy
The old woman who lived in a shoe, Who had so many children she didn't know what to do,
who lived about the same time in another part of the country.
One evening, when the days were growing short and the nights were correspondingly long and chilly, Matteo was on his way back to the cottage, when he remembered that Sapatella had asked him to bring home some faggots with him to cook with and to keep them warm, because, of course, when you are a forester and live in a forest, you cannot expect to have coal to burn in your grates, like those who live in towns and villages.
There was plenty of brushwood, and heaps of twigs and fallen boughs lying about, and, as he had his axe with him, which all good foresters carry to clear a path for themselves through the dense undergrowths, it was not long before Matteo had collected a great bundle of faggots which was just as much as he could carry on his back.
But Matteo carried home with him on his back more than a mere bundle of dry boughs and twigs, although he did not know it. Neither did Sapatella, not until the next morning after Matteo had gone off to his work, when she went to the wood pile to get some sticks to put under her pot to boil the nice rabbit which Matteo had shot for her the day before. She picked up a bundle and was about to place it on the fire when a tiny serpent, oh, ever so tiny! slithered and wriggled its way out of the twigs and coiled itself up on the rug.
Being a forester's wife, Sapatella was not the least bit frightened of serpents or mice or beetles or other dreadful beasts; besides, it was such a tiny serpent, all yellow as can be; and, when the firelight danced on it, it shone bright and gleaming like gold.
'Ah me, said the good woman with a sigh, 'even the serpents have their young ones, but I have no one.'
Then the serpent uncoiled and stretched itself out towards her and spoke. All kinds of animals spoke in those days, as you will notice if you read the story through, though not so frequently but that the good woman was surprised and startled to hear it.
'You may have me for your child if you will,' it said.
'Keep me warm and feed me well, And fortune will upon you dwell.'
Sapatella was, as I have already said, considerably startled to hear a baby serpent talk like that; but she was a kind-hearted woman and very, very lonely, and she quickly made up her mind to adopt the little serpent and bring it up as her own.
The forester, her husband, who was also kind-hearted, agreed to let her have her own way in the matter, and so the little serpent found a home and care and affection.
They kept him warm and fed him well, And fortune did upon them dwell.
From that time on, peace and contentment and prosperity brightened the little cottage. Everything went smoothly and comfortably, though whether the little serpent had really anything to do with it or not, I cannot say.
Serpents grow up very quickly, and, what with the warmth and the good food and the affection, the little serpent soon grew to be a big one, oh, monstrous big! so that when he lay in front of the fire he took up the whole of the rug, and Sapatella had to scold him in order to make room so that she could attend to her cooking.
One day when she had nearly tripped over his tail and fallen with a pot of boiling water in her hands, Sapatella said to it: 'You are grown too big to be lying about before the fire all day. You must get up and do something.'
'Very well, mother,' said the serpent—it always called her mother, and Cola it called father, just as a son would. 'Find me a wife and I will get married and settle down.'
Sapatella did not very well know how to set about finding a wife for a serpent, even an adopted one; but she agreed to speak to Matteo her husband about the matter when he came home that night.
After supper, accordingly, she put the serpent's request to the forester.
'Our serpent wants to get married, Cola,' she said; 'so you must find him a wife.'
'Very well,' said Matteo. 'I will hunt through the forest when I am out, and try and find another serpent for him to mate with.'
'Oh, that will not do at all,' said the serpent, who had been listening very intently to its adopted parents' conversation, though it seemed to be sleeping peacefully all over the floor in front of the fire. 'I do not mate with serpents. You must get the King's daughter for me. To-morrow you must set out to the palace, and tell the King that I require his daughter in marriage.'
Naturally Matteo did not at all care about his errand; but his wife entreated him to go, and so on the morrow the good man set forth, the serpent watching him depart from the cottage door, chanting all the while:
'To the King my message tell, And fortune will upon you dwell.'
Well, Matteo walked along through the forest on his way to the King's palace, and the nearer he got to his journey's end the more difficult and dangerous his errand seemed to grow. He thought the King would be sure to be very angry, and he might even order him to be hanged for a knave, or beaten off the palace grounds for a fool.
But he kept thinking of what the serpent had said, and, as good fortune dwelling upon us is something we all like to have, the forester kept on his way and resolved faithfully to carry out his errand.
He came at last to the palace gates, and as, in those days, in that country, any one who wanted to could walk in and speak to the King, this simple old fellow passed in with the crowd who were going to seek help or justice, and in due time he came before the King.
'O great King!' he said, 'a serpent who is my adopted son has sent me to ask your daughter's hand in marriage.'
The King stared, and then he frowned, and then he stared again. Kings are accustomed to receiving strange requests; but never anything so strange as this.
Fortunately for Cola, the King was a good-humoured, easy-going man, and, thinking that he had to do with some harmless old lunatic, he only laughed, as did all the courtiers and people who stood about him.
'Very well,' he said. 'I will grant your request, only your adopted son must first of all turn all the fruit in my orchard into gold. Then will I give him my daughter in marriage.'
Matteo thanked the King for his great clemency and kindness in not having him hanged or beaten out of the palace, and then started off home again.
'I am well out of that,' he thought to himself; 'but my adopted son will have to be contented with a wife of less degree. Who ever heard of turning apples and flowers and cherries into gold? Why, they can only make copper and silver of them in Covent Garden.'
But the serpent didn't seem in the least bit concerned when the forester told him the result of his errand.
'That is a small matter,' it said. 'To-morrow morning you must go into the city with a basket, and gather up all the fruit-stones you can find, and take them and scatter them in the orchard.
'Do this thing and do it well, And fortune will upon you dwell.'
So Matteo went once more to the town and did exactly as the serpent had told him. Not knowing anything of magic, he did not in the least expect anything to happen; so you may imagine his surprise when not only the fruit, but every tree and leaf and bough in the whole orchard, turned into solid gold, and glittered so in the sunlight that one could scarcely bear to look at them.
It chanced that the King was walking on the terrace with his courtiers when Matteo entered the orchard.
'There is that silly old man come back again who wants me to wed my daughter to a serpent,' he said. 'Is he going to turn my fruit into gold by stealing it and selling it in the market-place?'
The courtiers laughed at this excellent jest, as courtiers will; but the next moment they stopped laughing, and each one rubbed his eyes and ejaculated in astonishment and delight at the marvellous beauty and value of the King's orchards.
The King himself could say nothing, and he said nothing, until Matteo came before him and humbly begged his Majesty to fulfil his promise now that the serpent, his adopted son, had done the task assigned to him.
The King was in a quandary. He was not greedy or avaricious; but to have a serpent for a son-in-law was, for a king, clearly impossible.
'Softly,' he said. 'You have fulfilled your task, it is true; but so fair an orchard requires a better setting. Golden trees should not grow out of common ground and be enclosed by common walls. Let your adopted son first turn all the ground and the walls into diamonds and rubies and precious stones, so that I may have orchards whereof the like is not known in all the world, and then will I give him my daughter to wife.'
The forester again thanked his Majesty for his great condescension and retired, while the King and his courtiers went into the orchard and picked golden apples and plums and peaches from golden boughs, and marvelled at the wonderful thing that had been done before their eyes.
It was in the King's mind that this could be no common or forest serpent, and he was troubled to think what his position would be if the second task was performed as readily and thoroughly as the first had been.
When Matteo reached home and told the serpent what had befallen him, the serpent shook his tail and seemed about to fly into a passion.
'You see how well kings keep their word,' it said angrily. 'But it is a small matter after all. Do you go again to the town on the morrow, and gather all the broken bits of china and glass you can find. These you must take in a basket, and lay a piece on each wall and between each tree and bush.
'Do this thing and do it well, And fortune will upon you dwell.'
So Matteo set out at daybreak, and did exactly as the serpent had told him. He had no difficulty in finding plenty of material for his purpose, and it was still early when he reached the orchard with a heavy load of broken tea-cups and plates and oddments of basins and teapots and water-jugs.
Early as it was, it was not too early for the King to be present. The wonder of this new possession had kept his Majesty awake nearly all night, and he was impatient until he could get into the orchard and satisfy himself that it was all really and actually true.
When he saw Matteo approach and lay down his fragments of china, he grew thoughtful, for he realised that it was all true enough, and that the second condition would be likely to be performed. But he said nothing, and Matteo walked from tree to tree, dropping here a piece of cup, there a fragment of plate; and, wherever the china fell, the ground between the trees turned to diamond or sapphire or ruby. With the walls it was just the same. Every kind of precious stone known and unknown was to be found in that wonderful orchard, even to a carbuncle which grew on a courtier's toe in consequence of his incautious action in putting his foot just where Matteo was dropping a tiny bit of china.
The King was delighted and depressed at the same time. He had got orchards surpassing in beauty and value anything that was known to be in the whole world; also he had to give his daughter in marriage to a serpent, and the last seemed to the poor King of greater consideration than the former.
'Tell the serpent, your adopted son, that, although he has accomplished the task I set him, yet will I not give him my daughter to wed unless he also turns my palace into gold,' he said to Matteo, and again the forester thanked the King for his great clemency and condescension, and returned to his home.
Again the serpent grew angry and said shrewd things concerning the value of the word of kings, and the trust which is not to be found in princes—not even German princes.
'But,' said he, 'it is a small matter. Do you go at daybreak and gather in the forest herbs of this kind and that, and make them into a broom, and sweep therewith the whole length of the palace walls, and so shall it be even as the King wishes.
'Go do this thing and do it well, And fortune shall upon you dwell.'
So Matteo went into the forest and gathered herbs of this kind and that, and swept the palace well round as the serpent had directed, and when the King and his courtiers and the servants—even down to the scullery wench—arose, the whole palace was golden from the front step of the main entrance to the topmost ridge of the chimney. And it was not gold plate either: it was all solid gold of the purest kind.
This time the King saw that there was no way of escape when Matteo asked for the fulfilment of the royal promise, so he called his daughter to him and told her of the matter.
'My dear Grannmia,' he said, for that was her name, 'for your sake I have twice broken my royal pledge, and now I greatly fear you must keep it. It is a small matter—just to marry a serpent, the adopted son of a poor forester.'
The Princess, who was very young and very dutiful, and surpassingly fair to look upon, agreed cheerfully, as though marrying serpents was quite an ordinary everyday duty like laying foundation stones and receiving bouquets.
So the King told Matteo to send the serpent along and marry his daughter, and for goodness' sake not to bother him any further with golden palaces, and jewelled orchards, and carbuncles on his favourite courtier's big toe.
When the serpent heard this from Matteo, it seemed beside itself with joy, and there and then set off for the palace. But before it left the humble cottage in which it had received so much care and affection, it bade farewell to Sapatella and Matteo, and thanked them very heartily for all their goodness, finishing up with these words:
'Now my task you have done full well, Good fortune shall upon you dwell.'
And it did; for, from that time till the day they died, both Sapatella and Matteo were happy and contented and prosperous, and never ailed or suffered pain or disappointment.
When Grannmia saw her strange lover, she alone remained calm and courageous—the only one in the palace who did. All the servants ran shrieking when they saw the great golden monster entering the doors, and, when it got to the presence-chamber, the King and Queen fled in one direction and the courtiers in another. Only the Princess remained, trembling with astonishment, and awaited the pleasure of the serpent.
Slowly it came gliding towards her, and then, when it was almost near enough for her to touch it, it reared up—the golden skin fell apart, and a young and most handsome Prince stood bowing before her.
Now, of course, everything would have been happy and joyous if it had not been for the silly old King, who, partly out of anxiety for his daughter, but chiefly from curiosity, stole back and peeped into the room just as the Prince emerged from the golden skin which had disguised him as a serpent.
He did just what you should never do with disenchanted princes: rushed forward and threw the discarded skin into the fire, where it flashed and burned like a resinous torch.
At the sound of the crackling the Prince turned, and, when he saw what had happened, he was furiously angry, more angry, in fact, than he had been when, as a serpent, he had reflected on the unreliability of the promises of kings. Then, with a sad look at the Princess, he turned to the King and said:
'This act of yours renews the spell, May fortune never with you dwell.'
And, turning himself into a dove, he circled three times round the Princess and then flew through the window. At least, he would have flown through the window, only it did not happen to be open. In consequence he broke the pane and very nearly his own head; but he got out, and flew straight away over the golden orchard, while the Princess, who had rushed to the window, stood gazing after him until he could no longer be seen. Then she turned and gave the unhappy King her views of his meddlesome prying. Then she burst into tears and cried until the sun went down, so that the tears formed a stream and ran down into the fountain-court, and all the poor little goldfish died because of too much salt in their fresh water.
But crying does not help any one, so, after all the palace servants had gone to bed, she gathered up all her treasures and set out to find her elusive husband, who had come to her as a serpent with a wriggly tail, and flown away as a dove with a bit of a broken window-pane in his head.
When she got out of the palace grounds into the woods behind, she met a fox who was also looking for a dove, or a fowl, or any other winged thing.
The fox said, 'Good evening, pretty Princess. May I travel with you for company?'
'Yes, do,' said the Princess. 'I am not used to the woods at night, and I may not be able to find my way.'
So the fox led her through the wood and far away from the palace until they had gone miles and miles, and the Princess was so tired that she would not go another step, not even to find a dove with a bandaged head. So they both lay down and went to sleep.
It was late in the morning when she awoke and heard the birds singing all around her.
Their song pleased her very much, and the fox, noticing this, remarked: 'Ah, if you could only understand what they are saying you would be much more pleased.'
'Oh, do tell me, dear fox,' pleaded the Princess; and, after he had made her ask him a sufficient number of times, the fox replied:
'Well, they are saying that the King's son, who was turned into a serpent by his godmother to spite his father, has met with an accident that now threatens his life. The spell lasted for seven years, and, on the very day it ended, he was about to marry the daughter of another king, when her father rashly burnt the skin and thus caused him to be turned into a dove. In flying from the palace he has cut his head against a window-pane, and is now at his father's palace lying so sadly hurt that none of the doctors can do anything for him.'
The Princess was greatly concerned at hearing this story.
'But listen, dear fox, and hear if the birds say whether there is any way of curing this poor Prince,' she said.
So the fox listened intently, and by and by he said to the Princess: 'The blackbirds are saying there is no way, but the wrens say there is one. Whoever would cure the Prince must obtain the blood from these very birds and pour it on the head of the Prince, when he will immediately recover and be as well as he ever was.'
The Princess began to grow hopeful, and begged of the fox to catch the birds for her so that she might obtain the remedy and restore the Prince to health. She added a promise of reward for his assistance, and the fox agreed to help her.
So they waited under the trees until the sun had gone in and the birds were all asleep in their nests, and then the fox climbed stealthily into the trees and gathered the birds one after the other, just like a naughty schoolboy stealing apples from a farmer's orchard.
Having obtained what she required, the Princess set forth eagerly to carry the remedy to the Prince's palace.
But the fox, who had taken care to keep well out of her reach, suddenly sat down and began to laugh.
'Why do you laugh, dear fox?' asked the Princess. 'Is it that you are overjoyed to think that the Prince who is to be my husband will soon be restored to health? But let us hurry: we may be too late!'
'No, it is not that,' said the fox, laughing again. 'It is to think that your remedy will be of no avail without the other ingredient, which is the blood of a fox, and as I am not minded to supply it, I will skip the reward you promised and be off.'
Thereupon he started away, pelting as hard as he could go.
The Princess saw that her only hope was to outwit the fox, and she immediately thought of a plan to gain her end.
'Dear fox, do not run,' she said; 'that would be a pity now that the remedy is in our own hands. The King is certain to reward us lavishly, and surely there are plenty of other foxes among whom we can find one willing to spare his blood to save the King's son. Let us go on, then, and trust to our fortune.'
The fox, proud of the fact of being the most artful animal alive, never thought for one moment that he could be exceeded in cunning by a simple maiden, so he came back to the Princess, and together they walked through the forest to the far end where the palace of the King showed in the near distance.
'That is the place,' said the fox; 'but we haven't got the other ingredient!'
'Oh yes, we have,' said the Princess, and, before the fox could be any more artful, she hit him on the head with a stout branch she had picked up, and with such force that he did not in the least object to the necessary addition to the Prince's medicine being drawn from his own veins.
Of course the Princess was sorry to have to do this. The fox had helped her a great deal; and besides, she was a tender-hearted little thing, and she wept like anything all the while she was compounding the remedy; but princes are of more importance than foxes, particularly when they are handsome princes who have been serpents and are wanted to make handsome husbands.
So the Princess took the phial containing the very strange cure for wounded heads, and proceeded straight to the King's palace.
They were all so disturbed, with the servants running about distractedly, and the doctors quarrelling with each other, and the courtiers standing about trying not to look bored, that no one took the least notice of the Princess; but she was a pushing young lady, and seeing the palace doors all open, she made her way from room to room until at last she found the King himself.
'And it please your Majesty,' she said, dropping him a curtsy, 'I have come to save the Prince.'
'But how can you save the Prince when all the great doctors in my kingdom cannot?' demanded the King.
'The birds told me, The fox helped me, And I can save your son. But, if I do, I ask of you To marry me to him when I've done,'
chanted the Princess.
The King was so overcome with grief and anxiety that he was ready to promise anything to anybody who could help him, so he gave the Princess the required promise, and, without more ado, she caused herself to be led into the chamber of the Prince, and poured the contents of the phial over his wound.
The Prince, who had been so nearly at the point of death that no one would have believed to see him that there was any life in him at all, immediately sat up, recovered and well.
He did not recognise the Princess, and when the King, his father, told him the terms on which she had saved his life, and presented the maiden to him, he refused.
'For the great service you have rendered me I am grateful indeed,' he said; 'but I cannot marry you. My heart is already given to another, and not even for my life will I be false to my word.'
When she heard this the Princess was secretly overjoyed; but she pretended to be greatly displeased, and she disdainfully rejected all other offers of reward that were made to her by the King and the Prince.
'Tell me who this other is, and I will go to her and get her to relinquish you in my favour,' she said at length. 'When she learns what I have done for you, I am sure she will agree that my claim is greater than hers.'
'It is the Princess Grannmia; but that I am sure she will never do,' said the Prince proudly. 'Even if she would, I will not. What is life without love? and I would rather be a serpent again, and live in the cottage of a poor forester all my days, than rule this kingdom without my beloved Princess.'
On hearing this the Princess could no longer keep her secret.
'You must love me indeed, dear Prince,' she said, 'if you do not recognise me when I come pleading to you to carry out your promise after saving your life, and marry me as you would have done when the King, my father, drove you away from me.'
Then the Prince recognised her, and he embraced her so heartily that the Princess wondered whether he was still a serpent or only just a strong young man who was very much in love with her, while the King went out and gave immediate orders to set the bells a-ringing, and have preparations made on the most lavish scale for the wedding feast.
THE HIND OF THE WOOD
A FRENCH FAIRY TALE
Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen whose marriage was as happy as happy could be; they loved each other tenderly, and, in turn, their subjects loved them; but one thing clouded their life: and that was that they had no children, no heir. The Queen thought that the King would love her much more if she had a child. So she made up her mind to drink of the water of a certain spring. People came there in thousands from afar to drink of this special kind of water; and one saw so many that it looked as though all the world and his wife were there.
Now there were many, many lovely fountains in the wood where the Queen and other people went to drink at the spring; so the Queen asked her ladies to lead the others away to these fountains to amuse themselves, and leave her alone. Then, when they had all withdrawn, she bewailed in a plaintive voice.
'Am I not unhappy,' she said, 'to have no children! The poor women, who can badly afford them, have plenty; but here it is now five years that I have begged heaven to give me one. Oh! am I to die without ever having a little child? Never! Never! Nev——'
She broke off suddenly, for she saw that the water of the fountain was troubled. Then a big Crayfish came up and climbed on to the bank and spoke to her:
'Great Queen, you shall have your desire. Near here is the grand palace which the fairies built, but it is impossible for you to find it, because it is surrounded by strong fairy barricades, through which no mortal eye could ever see, nor mortal footstep pass without a guide. But I am your humble servant, and, if you will trust yourself to me, I will take you there.'
The Queen listened without interrupting, for hearing a big Crayfish talk—and talk so nicely too—was a great surprise to her. But there was a still greater surprise in store. The Crayfish waved its feelers in the air, and, before she could count three, it had taken the form of a beautiful little old woman, with pretty snow-white hair and a dainty shepherdess costume. She bowed low, and then spoke.
'Well, madam,' said she, 'always look upon me as one of your friends, for I wish nothing but what would be for your good.'
She was so sweet and charming that the Queen kissed her, and then by common consent they went off hand in hand through the wood by a way which surprised the Queen.
It was the way by which the fairies came from the palace to the fountains. As they went the Queen paused to look at a strange thing which made her heart beat very fast. At a certain spot the bushes overhead were full of roses and orange blossoms, entwined and laced in such a way as to form a cradle covered with leaves. The earth beneath was a carpet of violets, and, in the giant cedars above, thousands of little birds, each one a different colour, sang their songs; and the meaning of their melody was this: that cradle, woven by fairy fingers, was not there for nothing.
The Queen had not got over this surprise before she saw in the distance a castle that dazzled her vision, so splendid did it shine. To tell the truth, the walls and the ceilings were of nothing but diamonds, and all the benches—even the balcony and terraces—all were pure diamonds scintillating with flashes beyond the strength of human eyes to bear. The Queen gave a great cry of joy as she covered her eyes with her hand. Then, as they came to the gate of the castle, she asked the little old woman if what she saw were real, or if she were dreaming?
'Nothing is more real, madam,' the fairy replied. And at that moment the door of the castle opened and six other fairies came out. But what fairies! They were the most beautiful ever seen. They all made a low bow to the Queen, and each one presented her with a branch flowering with petals of precious stones, to make herself a bouquet. One bore roses, another tulips, another rare wild-flowers, and the rest budded with carnations and pomegranates.
'Madam,' they said, 'we could not give you a greater mark of our friendship for you, than to invite you here. We are pleased to be able to tell you that you shall have a lovely little Princess whom you shall call Desiree. Be sure not to forget that, when she is born, you summon us, because we wish to endow her with all the good qualities possible. All you will have to do is to take the branches of the bouquet, and, in naming each flower, think of the fairy of that name; rest assured that we shall be in your room immediately.'
The Queen, full of joy, threw her arms around each one's neck in turn, and kissed them all, over and over again, for half an hour. After that they begged the Queen to go through their palace, and the diamonds were so bright that the Queen could not keep her eyes open. Then they took her through their garden. Never was there such lovely fruit; the apricots were larger than her head, and she could only eat a quarter of one, and the taste was so lovely that the Queen resolved never to eat anything else as long as she lived. She remained in the palace until the evening, and then, having thanked the fairies for all they had done for her, she returned with the Fairy of the Fountain.
Now, when the Queen went home, she found that they were all very upset, and had been searching for her, and could not think where she had gone. Some had thought that, as she was so beautiful and young, some stranger had taken her away: which was reasonable, for she spoke so nicely to every one. But now at last they had found her, and the King was himself again.
The Queen soon found that what the fairies had said was true. On a certain day she had a little daughter, and she called her Desiree. Then, remembering their words, she at once took the bouquet and named each flower and thought of the fairies one after the other, and lo! immediately they were all there. Their arms were crammed full of presents. And, after they had kissed the Queen and the little Princess, they began to distribute the presents. There was beautiful lace with the history of the world worked into it; then came a lovely cover all marked in gold representing all the toys that children play with. The cot was then shown, and the Queen went into raptures over it: it surely was the nicest ever made; it was of beautiful, rare wood, with a canopy of blue silk, inwrought with diamonds and rubies.
Then the fairies took the little Princess on their knees, and kissed her and hugged her because she was so good and beautiful. Each fairy wished her a good quality. One wished her to be wise; another wished that she might be good; another wished her to be virtuous; another to be beautiful; another to possess a good fortune; and the fifth asked for her a long life and good health. Then came the last, and she wished that Desiree might obtain all that she herself could ever wish for.
The Queen thanked them a hundred times for all the good things they had given her little daughter, and, while she was doing so, all gave a sudden start, for the door opened and a tremendous Crayfish—so large that it could hardly get through the door—came in, waving its feelers in the air.
'O ungrateful Queen!' said the Crayfish, 'you did not trouble to ask me here. Is it possible that you have so soon forgotten the Fairy of the Fountain and the good services I did in taking you to my sisters. Why, you have invited all of them, and I am the only one forgotten.'
The Queen was terribly upset at her error, and begged the Fairy to forgive her. She hastened to assure her that she had not for a moment forgotten her great obligation to her; and she begged her not to go back on her friendship, and particularly to be good to the little Princess.
The others thought that the Fairy of the Fountain would wish evil to the baby Princess, so they said to her: 'Dear sister, do not be cross with the Queen; she is good and never would offend you.'
Now, as the Fairy of the Fountain liked to be spoken to nicely, this softened her a little, and she said:
'Very well, I will not wish her all the harm I was going to; I will lessen it a little. But take care that she never sees the light of day until she is fifteen, or she and you will have reason to regret it. That is all I have to say.' Then, suddenly changing into the little old woman with the white hair and shepherdess dress, she pirouetted through the wall, staff in hand. And the cries of the Queen and the prayers of the good fairies did not matter a bit.