THE LAUGHING PRINCE
A book of Jugoslav Fairy Tales and Folk Tales.
RETOLD BY PARKER FILLMORE
With illustrations and decorations by Jay Van Everen.
When Mr. Fillmore started his study of the folk lore of Eastern Europe, he tapped a mine of treasure for children. The gorgeousness of the imagery in the stories, their rollicking humor, the adventures, were entirely new to child and adult readers. The stories in this third volume reflect the folk lore of many races, for the country now known as Jugoslavia has been one of the great highways and battlefields of the world where Orient and Occident, Greek and Roman, Turk and Slav have fought out their national aspirations. Basically, it has the Slavic exuberance of imagination and humor, but it has also absorbed much of the spirit and tales of the Near and Far East.
Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 757 THIRD AVENUE, NEW YORK 17, N. Y.
BY PARKER FILLMORE
CZECHOSLOVAK FAIRY TALES THE SHOEMAKER'S APRON
Illustrated by Jan Matulka
THE LAUGHING PRINCE
A Book of Jugoslav Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND DECORATIONS
JAY VAN EVEREN
HARCOURT, BRACE & WORLD, INC.
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY
RENEWED BY LOUISE FILLMORE
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In calling this A Book of Jugoslav Fairy Tales and Folk Tales I have used the word Jugoslav in its literal sense of Southern Slav. The Bulgars are just as truly Southern Slavs as the Serbs or Croats or any other of the Slav peoples now included within the state of Jugoslavia. Moreover in this case it would be particularly difficult to make the literary boundaries conform strictly to the political boundaries since much the same stories and folk tales are current among all these Slav peoples of the Balkan Peninsula. The special student taking the variants of the same story might discover special differences that would mark each variant as the product of some one locality. The work of such a student would have philological and ethnological value but not a very strong appeal to the general reader. My appeal is first of all to the general reader—to the child who loves fairy tales and to the adult who loves them. I hope they will both find these stories entertaining and amusing quite aside from any interest in their source.
Yet these tales as presented do give the reader a true idea of the amazing vigor and the artistic inventiveness of the Jugoslav imagination, and also of the various influences, Oriental and Northern as well as Slavic, which have made that imagination what it is to-day. Here are gay picaresque tales of adventure—how they go on and on and on!—charming little stories of sentiment, a few folk tales of stark simplicity and grim humor, one story showing a superficial Turkish influence, and one spiritual allegory as deep and moving as anything in the Russian.
The renderings in every case are my own and are not in any sense translations. I have taken the old stories and retold them in a new language. To do them justice in this new language I have found it necessary to present them with a new selection of detail and with an occasional shifting of emphasis. I do not mean by this that I have invented detail in any unwarranted fashion. I haven't had to for any folk tale, however bald, contains all sorts of things by implication. The true story teller, it seems to me, is he who is able to grasp these implications and turn them to his own use.
I must confess that the setting in which I have placed the famous old Serbian nonsense story, In my young days when I was an old, old man, is my own invention. The nonsense story needs a setting and as it chanced I had one ready as I have long wanted to tell the world what was back of the determination of that princess who refused to eat until some one had made her laugh.
So far as I know most of these stories are not familiar to English readers—certainly not in this form. Madame Mijatovich uses one of them in her Serbian Fairy Tales, but I make no apology for offering a sprightlier version. Nor do I apologize for presenting any stories that may have been included somewhere among the indifferent translations to which Andrew Lang lent his name.
I am of course deeply indebted to the various people who told me these stories in the first place and to many scholarly folklorists, Jugoslav, Czechoslovak, Bulgarian, German, and English whose books and reports I have studied.
Decoration Day, 1921.
THE LAUGHING PRINCE: The Story of the Boy Who Could Talk Nonsense 1
BEAUTY AND THE HORNS: The Story of an Enchanted Maiden 27
THE PIGEON'S BRIDE: The Story of a Princess Who Kissed and Told 51
THE LITTLE LAME FOX: The Story of the Youngest Brother Who Found the Magic Grape-Vine and Married the Golden Maiden 73
THE ENCHANTED PEAFOWL: The Story of the Golden Apples, the Wicked Dragon, and the Magic Horse 107
THE DRAGON'S STRENGTH: The Story of the Youngest Prince Who Killed the Sparrow 139
THE LITTLE SINGING FROG: The Story of a Girl Whose Parents were Ashamed of Her 161
THE NIGHTINGALE IN THE MOSQUE: The Story of the Sultan's Youngest Son and the Princess Flower o' the World 171
THE GIRL IN THE CHEST: The Story of the Third Sister Who was Brave and Good 201
THE WONDERFUL HAIR: The Story of a Poor Man Who Dreamed of an Angel 219
THE BEST WISH: The Story of Three Brothers and an Angel 229
THE VILAS' SPRING: The Story of the Brother Who Knew that Good was Stronger than Evil 241
LORD AND MASTER: The Story of the Man Who Understood the Language of the Animals 253
THE SILVER TRACKS: The Story of the Poor Man Who Befriended a Beggar 267
THE LAUGHING PRINCE
The Story of the Boy Who Could Talk Nonsense
THE LAUGHING PRINCE
There was once a farmer who had three sons and one little daughter. The eldest son was a studious boy who learned so much out of books that the farmer said:
"We must send Mihailo to school and make a priest of him."
The second boy was a trader. Whatever you had he would get it from you by offering you something else for it. And always what he gave you was worth less than what you gave him.
"Jakov will make a fine peddler," the farmer said. "He's industrious and sharp and some day he will probably be a rich man."
But Stefan, the farmer's youngest son, had no special talent and because he didn't spend all his time with his nose in a book and because he never made the best of a bargain his brothers scorned him. Militza, his little sister, loved him dearly for he was kind and jolly and in the evening he was always ready to tell her stories and play with her. But the farmer, of course, listened to the older brothers.
"I don't know about poor Stefan," he used to say. "He's a good boy but he talks nonsense. I suppose he'll have to stay on the farm and work."
Now the truth is the farm was a fine place for Stefan for he was strong and lusty and he liked to plow and harvest and he had a wonderful way with the animals. He talked to them as if they were human beings and the horses all whinnied when he came near, and the cows rubbed their soft noses against his shoulder, and as for the pigs—they loved him so much that whenever they saw him they used to run squealing between his legs.
"Stefan is nothing but a farmer!" Mihailo used to say as though being a farmer was something to be ashamed of.
And Jakov said:
"If the village people could see the pigs following him about, how they'd laugh at him! I hope when I go to the village to live he won't be visiting me all the time!"
Another thing the older brothers couldn't understand about Stefan was why he was always laughing and joking. He did the work of two men but whether he was working or resting you could always hear him cracking his merry jokes and laughing his jolly laugh.
"I think he's foolish!" Mihailo said.
Jakov hoped that the village people wouldn't hear about his carryings on.
"They'd laugh at him," he said, "and they'd laugh at us, too, because we're his brothers."
But Stefan didn't care. The more they frowned at him, the louder he laughed, and in spite of their dark looks he kept on cracking his merry jokes and talking nonsense. And every evening after supper his little sister, Militza, clapped her hands and cried:
"Now, Stefan, tell me a story! Tell me a story!"
"Father," Mihailo would say, "you ought to make him keep quiet! He's foolish and all he does is fill Militza's head with nonsense!"
This always made Militza very indignant and she would stamp her little foot and say:
"He isn't foolish! He knows more than any one! And he can do more things than any one else and he's the handsomest brother in the world!"
You see Militza loved Stefan dearly and when you love a person of course you think that person is wonderful. But the father supposed that Mihailo must be right for Mihailo studied in books. So he shook his head and sighed every time he thought of Stefan.
Now the kingdom in which the three brothers lived was ruled over by a great Tsar who had an only daughter. In disappointment that he had no son, the Tsar was having his daughter brought up as though she were a boy. He sent all over the world for tutors and teachers and had the poor girl taught statecraft and law and philosophy and all the other things that the heir to the throne ought to know.
The Princess because she was an obedient girl and because she loved her father tried to spend all her time in study. But the dry old scholars whom the Tsar employed as teachers were not amusing companions for a young girl and the first lady-in-waiting who was in constant attendance was scarcely any better for she, too, was old and thin and very prim.
If the poor little Princess between her geography lesson and her arithmetic lesson would peep for a moment into a mirror, the first lady-in-waiting would tap her arm reprovingly and say:
"My dear, vanity is not becoming in a princess!"
One day the little Princess lost her temper and answered sharply:
"But I'm a girl even if I am a princess and I love to look in mirrors and I love to make myself pretty and I'd love to go to a ball every night of my life and dance with handsome young men!"
"You talk like the daughter of a farmer!" the first lady-in-waiting said.
Then the Princess, because she lost her temper still further, said something she should not have said.
"I wish I were the daughter of a farmer!" she declared. "Then I could wear pretty ribbons and go dancing and the boys would come courting me! As it is I have to spend all my time with funny old men and silly old women!"
Now even if her tutors and teachers were funny looking old men, even if the first lady-in-waiting was a silly old woman, the Princess should not have said so. It hurt the feelings of the first lady-in-waiting and made her angry and she ran off to the Tsar at once and complained most bitterly.
"Is this my reward after all my years of loving service to your daughter?" she asked. "It is true that I've grown old and thin looking after her manners and now she calls me a silly old woman! And all the learned wise men and scholars that you have gathered from the far corners of the earth—she points her finger at them and calls them funny old men!"
The fact is they were funny looking, most of them, but yet the first lady-in-waiting was right: the Princess should not have said so.
"And think of her ingratitude to yourself, O Tsar!" the first lady-in-waiting continued. "You plan to make her the heir to your throne and yet she says she wishes she were a farmer's daughter so that she could deck herself out in ribbons and have the boys come courting her! A nice thing for a princess to say!"
The Tsar when he heard this fell into an awful rage. (The truth is whatever temper the Princess had she inherited direct from her father.)
"Wow! Wow!" he roared, just that way. "Send the Princess to me at once. I'll soon have her singing another tune!"
So the first lady-in-waiting sent the Princess to her father and as soon as he saw her he began roaring again and saying:
"Wow! Wow! What do you mean—funny old men and silly old women?"
Now whenever the Tsar began roaring and saying, "Wow! Wow!" the Princess always stiffened, and instead of being the sweet and obedient daughter she usually was she became obstinate. Her pretty eyes would flash and her soft pretty face would harden and people would whisper: "Mercy on us, how much she looks like her father!"
"That's just what I mean!" the Princess said. "They're a lot of funny old men and silly old women and I'm tired of them! I want to be amused! I want to laugh!"
"Wow! Wow! Wow!" roared the Tsar. "A fine princess you are! Go straight back to the schoolroom and behave yourself!"
So the little Princess marched out of the throne room holding her head very high and looking so much like the Tsar that the first lady-in-waiting was positively frightened.
The Princess went back to the schoolroom but she did not behave herself. She was really very naughty. When the poor man who knew more than anybody in the world about the influence of the stars upon the destinies of nations came to give her a lesson, she threw his book out the window. When the superannuated old general who was teaching her military manoeuvers offered her a diagram on which the enemy was represented by a series of black dots and our soldiers by a series of red dots, she took the paper and tore it in two. And worst of all when the old scholar who was teaching her Turkish—for a princess must be able to speak all languages—dropped his horn spectacles on the floor, she deliberately stepped on them and broke them.
When the Tsar heard all these things he just wow-wowed something terrible.
"Lock that young woman in her chamber!" he ordered. "Feed her on bread and water until she's ready to apologize!"
But the Princess, far from being frightened by this treatment, calmly announced:
"I won't eat even your old bread and water until you send me some one who will make me laugh!"
Now this frightened the Tsar because he knew how obstinate the Princess could be on occasions. (He ought to know, too, for the Princess had that streak of obstinacy direct from himself.)
"This will never do!" he said.
He hurried to the Princess's chamber. He found her in bed with her pretty hair spread out on the pillow like a golden fan.
"My dear," the Tsar said, "I was joking. You don't have to eat only bread and water. You may have anything you want."
"Thank you," the Princess said, "but I'll never eat another bite of anything until you send me some one who will make me laugh. I'm tired of living in this gloomy old castle with a lot of old men and old women who do nothing but instruct me and with a father who always loses his temper and says, 'Wow! Wow!'"
"But it's a beautiful castle!" the poor Tsar said. "And I'm sure we're all doing our very best to educate you!"
"But I want to be amused as well as educated!" the little Princess said. And then, because she felt she was going to cry, she turned her face to the wall and wouldn't say another word.
What was the Tsar to do? He called together his councilors and asked them how was the Princess to be made to laugh. The councilors were wise about state matters but not one of them could suggest a means of amusing the Princess. The Master of Ceremonies did indeed begin to say something about a nice young man but instantly the Tsar roared out such a wrathful, "Wow! Wow!" that the Master of Ceremonies coughed and pretended he hadn't spoken.
Then the Tsar called together the scholars and the teachers and the first lady-in-waiting. He glared at them savagely and roared:
"Wow! Wow! A nice lot you are! I put you in charge of my daughter and not one of you has sense enough to know that the poor child needs a little amusement! I have a good mind to have you all thrown into the dungeon!"
"But, Your Majesty," quavered one poor old scholar, "I was not employed as a buffoon but as a teacher of astrology!"
"And I," another said, "as a teacher of languages!"
"And I as a teacher of philosophy!"
"Silence!" roared the Tsar. "Between you all you have about killed my poor child! Now I ask you: With all your learning doesn't one of you know how to make a young girl laugh?"
Apparently not one of them did, for no one answered.
"Not even you?" the Tsar said, looking at the first lady-in-waiting.
"When you called me to Court," the first lady-in-waiting answered, drawing herself up in a most refined manner, "you said you wished me to teach your daughter etiquette. As you said nothing about amusement, quite naturally I confined myself to the subject of behavior. If I do say it myself, no one has ever been more devoted to duty than I. I am constantly saying to her: 'That isn't the way a princess should act!' In fact for years there has hardly been a moment in the day when I haven't corrected her for something!"
"Poor child!" groaned the Tsar. "No wonder she wants a change! Oh, what fools you all are in spite of your learning! Don't you know that a young girl is a young girl even if she is a Princess!"
Well, the scholars weren't any more help to the Tsar than the councilors, and finally in desperation he sent heralds through the land to announce that to any one who could make the Princess laugh he would give three bags of gold.
Three bags of gold don't grow on the bushes every day and instantly all the youths and men and old men who had stories that their sweethearts and their wives and their daughters laughed at hurried to the castle.
One by one they were admitted to the Princess's chamber. They entered hopefully but when they saw the Tsar sitting at one side of the door muttering, "Wow! Wow!" in his beard, and the old first lady-in-waiting at the other side of the door watching them scornfully, and the Princess herself in bed with her lovely hair spread out like a golden fan on the pillow, they forgot their funny stories and hemmed and hawed and stammered and had finally, one after another, to be turned out in disgrace.
One day went by and two and three and still the Princess refused to eat. In despair the Tsar sent out his heralds again. This time he said that to any one who would make the Princess laugh he would give the Princess's hand in marriage and make him joint heir to the kingdom.
"I had expected to wed her to the son of some great Tsar," he sighed, "but I'd rather marry her to a farmer than see her die of starvation!"
The heralds rode far and wide until every one, even the people on the most distant farms, had heard of the Tsar's offer.
"I won't try again," said Mihailo, the oldest son of the farmer I've already told you about. "When I went there the day before yesterday I began telling her a funny story out of my Latin book but instead of laughing she said: 'Oh, send him away!' So now she'll have to starve to death for all of me!"
"Me, too!" said Jakov, the second son. "When I tried to tell her that funny story of how I traded the moldy oats for the old widow's fat pig, instead of laughing she looked me straight in the face and said: 'Cheat!'"
"Stefan ought to go," Mihailo suggested. "Maybe she'd laugh at him! Everybody else does!"
He spoke sneeringly but Stefan only smiled.
"Who knows? Perhaps I will go. If I do make her laugh then, O my brothers, the laugh will be on you for I shall become Tsar and you two will be known as my two poor brothers. Ho! Ho! Ho! What a joke that would be!"
Stefan laughed loud and heartily and his little sister joined him, but his brothers looked at him sourly.
"He grows more foolish all the time!" they told each other.
When they were gone to bed, Militza slipped over to Stefan and whispered in his ear:
"Brother, you must go to the Princess. Tell her the story that begins: In my young days when I was an old, old man.... I think she'll just have to laugh, and if she laughs then she can eat and she must be very hungry by this time."
At first Stefan said no, he wouldn't go, but Militza insisted and finally, to please her, he said he would.
So early the next morning he dressed himself in his fine Sunday shirt with its blue and red embroidery. He put on his bright red Sunday sash and his long shiny boots. Then he mounted his horse and before his brothers were awake rode off to the Tsar's castle.
There he awaited his turn to be admitted to the Princess's chamber. When he came in he was so young and healthy and vigorous that he seemed to bring with him a little of the freshness of outdoors. The first lady-in-waiting looked at him askance for without doubt he was a farmer lad and his table manners probably were not good. Well, he was a farmer lad and for that reason he didn't know that she was first lady-in-waiting. He glanced at her once and thought: "What an ugly old woman!" and thereafter he didn't think of her at all. He glanced likewise at the Tsar and the Tsar reminded him of a bull of his own. He wasn't afraid of the bull, so why be afraid of the Tsar?
Suddenly he saw the Princess lying in bed with her lovely hair spread out on the pillow like a golden fan and for a moment he couldn't speak. Then he knelt beside the bed and kissed her hand.
"Princess," he said, "I'm not learned and I'm not clever and I don't suppose I can succeed where so many wise men have failed. And even if I do make you laugh you won't have to marry me unless you want to because the reason I really came was to please Militza."
"Yes, Princess, my little sister, Militza. She loves me very much and so she thinks the stories I tell are funny and she laughs at them. Last night she said to me: 'Stefan, you must go to the Princess and tell her the story that begins: In my young days when I was an old, old man.... I think she'll just have to laugh and if she laughs then she can eat and she must be very hungry by this time.'"
"I am," the Princess said, with a catch in her voice. Then she added: "I think I like that little sister of yours and I think I like you, too. I wish you would tell me the story that begins: In my young days when I was an old, old man...."
"But, Princess, it's a very foolish story."
"The foolisher, the better!"
Just here the first lady-in-waiting tried to correct the Princess for of course she should have said: "The more foolish, the better!" but the Tsar shut her up with a black frown and one fierce, "Wow!"
"Well, then," Stefan began:
In my young days when I was an old, old man I used to count my bees every morning. It was easy enough to count the bees but not the beehives because I had too many hives. One day when I finished counting I found that my best bee was missing. At once I saddled a rooster and set out to find him.
"Father!" cried the Princess. "Did you hear what Stefan said? He said he saddled his rooster!"
"Umph!" muttered the Tsar, and the first lady-in-waiting said severely:
"Princess, do not interrupt! Young man, continue."
His track led to the sea which I rode across on a bridge. The first thing I saw on the other side of the sea was my bee. There he was in a field of millet harnessed to a plow. "That's my bee!" I shouted to the man who was driving him. "Is that so?" the man said, and without any words he gave me back my bee and handed me a bag of millet to pay for the plowing. I took the bag and tied it securely on the bee. Then I unsaddled the rooster and mounted the bee. The rooster, poor thing, was so tired that I had to take him by the hand and lead him along beside us.
"Father!" the Princess cried, "did you hear that? He took the rooster by the hand! Isn't that funny!"
"Umph!" grunted the Tsar, and the first lady-in-waiting whispered:
"Hush! Let the young man finish!"
Whilst we were crossing the bridge, the string of the bag broke and all my millet spilled out. When night came I tied the rooster to the bee and lay down on the seashore to sleep. During the night some wolves came and killed my bee and when I woke up I found that all the honey had run out of his body. There was so much honey that it rose up and up until it reached the ankles of the valleys and the knees of the mountains. I took a hatchet and swam down to a forest where I found two deer leaping about on one leg. I shot at the deer with my hatchet, killed them, and skinned them. With the skins I made two leather bottles. I filled these with the honey and strapped them over the rooster's back. Then I rode home. I no sooner arrived home than my father was born. "We must have holy water for the christening," I said. "I suppose I must go to heaven to fetch some." But how was I to get there? I thought of my millet. Sure enough the dampness had made it grow so well that its tops now reached the sky. So all I had to do was to climb a millet stalk and there I was in heaven. Up there they had mown down some of my millet which they baked into a loaf and were eating with boiled milk. "That's my millet!" I said. "What do you want for it?" they asked me. "I want some holy water to christen my father who has just been born." So they gave me some holy water and I prepared to descend again to earth. But on earth there was a violent storm going on and the wind carried away my millet. So there I was with no way of getting down. I thought of my hair. It was so long that when I stood up it covered my ears and when I lay down it reached all the way to earth. So I pulled out a hair, tied it to a tree of heaven, and began descending by it. When it grew dark I made a knot in the hair and just sat where I was. It was cold, so I took a needle which I happened to have in my coat, split it up, and lighted a fire with the chips.
"Oh, father!" the Princess cried, "Stefan says he split a needle into kindling wood! Isn't he funny!"
"If you ask me—" the first lady-in-waiting began, but before she could say more the Tsar reached over and stepped on her toe so hard that she was forced to end her sentence with a little squeally, "Ouch!" The Princess, you see, was smiling and the Tsar was hoping that presently she would burst into a laugh. So he motioned Stefan to continue.
Then I lay down beside the fire and fell asleep. While I slept a spark from the fire fell on the hair and burned it through. I fell to earth with such force that I sank into the ground up to my chest. I couldn't budge, so I was forced to go home and get a spade and dig myself out. On the way home I crossed a field where the reapers were cutting corn. The heat was so great that they had to stop work. "I'll get our mare," I said, "and then you'll feel cooler." You know our mare is two days long and as broad as midnight and she has willow trees growing on her back. So I ran and got her and she cast such a cool shadow that the reapers were at once able to go back to work. Now they wanted some fresh drinking water, but when they went to the river they found it had frozen over. They came back to me and asked me would I get them some water. "Certainly," I said. I went to the river myself, then I took off my head and with it I broke a hole in the ice. After that it was easy enough to fetch them some water. "But where is your head?" they asked. "Oh!" I said, "I must have forgotten it!"
"Oh, father!" the Princess cried with a loud laugh, "he says he forgot his head! Then, Stefan, what did you do? What did you do?"
I ran back to the river and got there just as a fox was sniffing at my skull. "Hi, there!" I said, pulling the fox's tail. The fox turned around and gave me a paper on which was written these words: NOW THE PRINCESS CAN EAT FOR SHE HAS LAUGHED AND STEFAN AND HIS LITTLE SISTER ARE VERY HAPPY.
"What nonsense!" the first lady-in-waiting murmured with a toss of her head.
"Yes, beautiful nonsense!" the Princess cried, clapping her hands and going off into peal after peal of merry laughter. "Isn't it beautiful nonsense, father? And isn't Stefan a dear lad? And, father, I'm awfully hungry! Please have some food sent in at once and Stefan must stay and eat with me."
So the Tsar had great trays of food brought in: roast birds and vegetables and wheaten bread and many kinds of little cakes and honey and milk and fruit. And Stefan and the Princess ate and made merry and the Tsar joined them and even the first lady-in-waiting took one little cake which she crumbled in her handkerchief in a most refined manner.
Then Stefan rose to go and the Tsar said to him:
"Stefan, I will reward you richly. You have made the Princess laugh and besides you have not insisted on her marrying you. You are a fine lad and I shall never forget you."
"But, father," the Princess said, "I don't want Stefan to go. He amuses me and I like him. He said I needn't marry him unless I wanted to but, father, I think I want to."
"Wow! Wow!" the Tsar roared. "What! My daughter marry the son of a farmer!"
"Now, father," the Princess said, "it's no use your wow-wowing at me and you know it isn't. If I can't marry Stefan I won't marry any one. And if I don't marry any one I'm going to stop eating again. So that's that!" And still holding Stefan's hand, the Princess turned her face to the wall.
What could the poor Tsar do? At first he fumed and raged but as usual after a day or two he came around to the Princess's way of thinking. In fact it soon seemed to him that Stefan had been his choice from the first and when one of his councilors remarked: "Then, Your Majesty, there's no use sending word to the neighboring kings that the Princess has reached a marriageable age and would like to look over their sons," the Tsar flew into an awful temper and roared:
"Wow! Wow! You blockhead! Neighboring kings, indeed, and their good-for-nothing sons! No, siree! The husband I want for my daughter is an honest farmer lad who knows how to work and how to play! That's the kind of son-in-law we need in this kingdom!"
So Stefan and the little Princess were married and from that day the castle was no longer gloomy but rang with laughter and merriment. Presently the people of the kingdom, following the example of their rulers, were laughing, too, and cracking jokes and, strange to say, they soon found they were working all the better for their jollity.
Laughter grew so fashionable that even Mihailo and Jakov were forced to take it up. They didn't do it very well but they practised at it conscientiously. Whenever people talked about Stefan, they always pushed forward importantly and said:
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Do you mean Stefan, the Laughing Prince? Ha! Ha! Ha! Why, do you know, he's our own brother!"
As for Militza, the Princess had her come to the castle and said to her:
"I owe all my happiness to you, my dear, for you it was who knew that of course I would laugh at Stefan's nonsense! What sensible girl wouldn't?"
BEAUTY AND THE HORNS
The Story of an Enchanted Maiden
BEAUTY AND THE HORNS
There was once a rich man who when he was dying called his son to his bedside and said:
"Danilo, my son, I am leaving you my riches. The only thing I ask of you is this: close your ears to all reports of an enchanted maiden who is known as Peerless Beauty and when the time comes that you wish to marry choose for wife some quiet sensible girl of your native village."
Now if the father had not mentioned Peerless Beauty all might have been well. Danilo might never have heard of her and after a time he would probably have fallen in love with a girl of his native village and married her. As it was, after his father's death he kept saying to himself:
"Peerless Beauty, the enchanted maiden of whom my father warned me! I wonder is she really as beautiful as all that! I wonder where she lives!"
He thought about her until he could think of nothing else.
"Peerless Beauty! Peerless Beauty! Oh, I must see this enchanted maiden even if it costs me my life!"
His father had a brother, a wise old man, who was supposed to know everything in the world.
"I will go to my uncle," the young man said. "Perhaps he will tell me where I can find Peerless Beauty."
So he went to his uncle and said:
"My dear uncle, my father as he lay dying told me about a wonderful maiden called Peerless Beauty. Can you tell me where she lives because I want to see her for myself and judge whether she is as beautiful as my father said."
His uncle looked at him gravely and shook his head.
"My poor boy, how can I tell you where that enchanted maiden lives when I know it would mean death to you if ever you saw her? Think no more about her but go, find some suitable maid in the village, and marry her like a sensible young man."
But his uncle's words, far from dissuading Danilo, only excited him the more.
"If my uncle knows where Peerless Beauty lives," he thought, "other men also know."
So one by one he went to all the old men in the village and asked them what they knew of Peerless Beauty. One by one they shook their heads and told him that Peerless Beauty was no maiden for him to be thinking about.
"Put her out of your mind," they said. "These enchanted maidens are a snare to young men. What you want to do is marry some quiet industrious girl here in the village and settle down like a sensible young man."
But the oftener Danilo heard this advice, the more firmly convinced he became that it was just what he did not want to do.
"Time enough to settle down after I've seen Peerless Beauty," he told himself. "She must be beautiful indeed, or all these old men would not be so anxious to keep me from seeing her. Well, if they won't tell me where she is, I'll go out in the world and find her for myself."
So he put on rich clothes as befitted his wealth, took a bag of the gold his father had left him, mounted his horse, and rode off into the world. Everywhere he went he made inquiries about Peerless Beauty and everywhere he found old men who knew about the enchanted maiden but would tell him nothing. Every one of them advised him to go home like a sensible young man and think no more about her. But all they said only made him the more determined to see the maiden for himself.
Finally one day as evening approached he came to a little hut in the woods. At the door of the hut sat a poor old woman. She held out her hand as he passed and begged an alms. Danilo, being a kind hearted young man, gave her a gold piece.
"May God reward you!" the old woman said.
"Granny," Danilo asked, "can you tell me the way to Peerless Beauty?"
"Aye, my son, that I can but he is a rash youth who seeks that maiden! It were better for you to turn back than to go on!"
"But I'm not going to turn back!" Danilo declared. "Whatever the outcome I'm going to find Peerless Beauty and see for myself why all men fear her."
When the old woman saw that Danilo was determined, she gave up pleading with him and pointed out a faint trail in the forest which, she told him, would lead him to Peerless Beauty's castle.
He slept that night in the old woman's hut and early next morning set out on the forest trail. By afternoon he reached the castle.
"What do you want?" the guards demanded roughly.
"I want to see Peerless Beauty."
"Have you gold?" they asked him.
Danilo showed them his bag of ducats.
They led him into a hall of the castle and told him to put his gold on a table. If he did so, perhaps Peerless Beauty would show herself and perhaps she wouldn't.
Danilo did as the guards directed and then faced a curtain behind which, they told him, Peerless Beauty was seated. The curtain opened a little, but instead of showing her face Peerless Beauty extended only one finger. However, that finger was so ravishingly beautiful that Danilo almost fainted with delight. He would have stayed gazing on that one enchanting finger for hours if the guards had not taken him roughly by the shoulders and thrown him out of the castle.
"Come again when you've got more gold!" they shouted after him.
Like a man in a dream Danilo rode back to the old woman's hut.
"Now, my son, are you satisfied?" she asked him. "Are you ready now to go home and settle down like a sensible young man?"
"Oh, granny!" Danilo raved. "Such a finger! I must see that finger again if it cost me my whole fortune!"
He slept that night in the old woman's hut and the next day returned to his native village. There he got another bag of the golden ducats which his father had left him and at once started back to the castle of Peerless Beauty.
This time that heartless maiden stripped him again of his gold, showed him two of her enchanting fingers, and as before had her guards throw him out of the castle.
"Come again when you've got more gold!" they shouted after him.
That's exactly what the poor young man did. He went back and back until the fortune that his father had left him was entirely squandered. And all he had seen of Peerless Beauty up to that time were the fingers of one hand! Shouldn't you suppose that now with all his wealth lost he would get over his foolish infatuation? Well, he didn't.
"I must go back again!" he kept telling himself.
His gold was gone but he still had his father's house. It was a big old house with garrets and cellars.
"Perhaps if I hunt I shall find some treasures hidden away in odd corners," Danilo said.
So he hunted upstairs and down. He opened old boxes and rummaged about among the dark rafters. One day he came upon a funny looking little cap.
"I wonder whose this was," he thought to himself.
He went to a mirror and tried the cap on. Then a strange thing happened. The moment the cap touched his head, Danilo disappeared.
"Ah!" he cried, "it's a magic cap and the moment I put it on I become invisible! Now I can slip into Peerless Beauty's chamber and see her lovely face!"
With his magic cap pulled tightly down over his forehead, he set off once more for Peerless Beauty's castle. Sure enough he was able to pass unseen the guards at the gate, he was able to go boldly into the great hall, and beyond it through the curtain into Peerless Beauty's own chamber.
The Beauty was seated with her back to the curtain and a serving maid was combing out her hair for the night. It was lovely hair and it fell down over Beauty's shoulders like a mantle of gold. At mere sight of it Danilo was so overcome with emotion that he sighed.
"What's that?" Beauty cried. "There's some one in my chamber!"
The serving maid looked under the bed and behind the chairs and in the corners.
"There's no one here, my lady."
"That's strange!" Beauty said. "I feel as though some one were looking at me."
When Danilo saw the actual face of the enchanted maiden, it was all he could do to keep from crying aloud. She was so unutterably beautiful that he almost swooned away in ecstacy.
Presently the maiden went to bed and fell into an uneasy sleep. The light of a single candle shed a faint radiance over her face making it lovelier than ever. Through all the long hours of night Danilo stood perfectly still, gazing at her, afraid almost to breathe lest he should disturb her.
"Unless I win her for wife," he thought to himself, "I shall nevermore be happy!"
When morning came the maiden awoke with a start and said:
"There's some one looking at me! Who is it? Who is it?"
"It's only your poor Danilo," a voice answered.
"Danilo? Who is Danilo?"
"The youth whom you have been treating so cruelly. But though you have treated me cruelly, I love you still!"
"If you love me still," the maiden said, "let me see you."
Danilo took off the magic cap and there he stood, a handsome youth, at the foot of her bed. Then the crafty maiden spoke him fair and Danilo told her about the magic cap, and when she said to him that she repented having treated him so cruelly and asked him to let her see the cap, the poor young man was so dazzled by her beauty and her seeming kindness that he handed it to her at once.
Instantly she clapped it on her head and disappeared. Then she laughed in derision and called out loudly to the guards:
"Ho, there! Take out this young man and drive him forth! Let him return when he has another treasure to offer me!"
So the guards dragged Danilo out and drove him away.
With no more gold, with no more magic cap, Danilo returned to his father's house.
"Perhaps there are other treasures hidden away," he thought. "I'll search further."
In his search he came upon an old pitcher and thinking it might be silver he began rubbing it. Instantly there was a clap of thunder and a company of soldiers appeared. Their captain saluted Danilo respectfully and said:
"We are the servants of that magic pitcher. What does our master wish?"
"Magic pitcher?" stammered Danilo. "And am I your master?"
"Yes," said the captain, "you are our master as long as you hold the magic pitcher in your hands."
"You may disappear now," Danilo said. "I will rub the pitcher when I need you."
Delighted with this unexpected good fortune, he hurried off to the woods to the hut of the old woman who had befriended him before. He showed her the pitcher and demonstrated for her how it worked. Then he asked her to carry a message to Peerless Beauty.
"Tell her," he said, "that unless she consents to marry me at once I'll lead a mighty army against her, take her captive, and then send her off in exile to that howling wilderness which people call the Donkeys' Paradise."
"I will deliver your message," the old woman said, "on condition that you promise me to be on your guard this time. Don't let the maiden trick you again. She is under an enchantment that makes her cruel and crafty and the enchantment will never be broken until she meets a man upon whom her wiles have no effect."
"Trust me this time," Danilo said. "I've had my lesson."
So the old woman delivered the message and when Peerless Beauty received it with scorn, Danilo at once set out for the castle with the magic pitcher in his hand. He began rubbing and every time he rubbed a company of soldiers appeared. Soon the castle was surrounded by a great army and in fright and dismay Peerless Beauty sent out word that she was ready to make an unconditional surrender.
When Danilo entered the castle he found her humble and meek.
"I have treated you cruelly," she said. "Now I am in your power, do with me what you will." And she began weeping softly until the sight of her tears drove Danilo distracted.
"Weep no more, dear lady!" he cried. "You have nothing to fear from me! I love you! I am your slave!"
The Peerless one slowly dried her tears.
"If you love me as you say you do, you will tell me by what magic you have raised this great army."
Then Danilo, forgetting the old woman's warning, took the magic pitcher out of his shirt and showed the maiden how it worked.
"Ah!" she murmured wonderingly. "It looks like any old pitcher! Please, Danilo, let me see it in my own hands."
Danilo handed her the pitcher and, quick as a flash, she rubbed it. There was a clap of thunder, a company of soldiers appeared, and their captain saluting her respectfully said:
"What does the mistress of the pitcher want?"
"Nay!" cried Danilo, "it is I who own the pitcher, not she!"
"We are the servants," the captain said, "of whoever holds the pitcher."
At that Peerless Beauty laughed loud and scornfully until the castle rang with her merriment.
"Seize that wretch!" she said, pointing to Danilo. "Tie his hands and drive him out in exile to the Donkeys' Paradise! Let him stay there until he has another treasure to present me!"
So they drove Danilo out to the wilderness and left him there.
He wandered about for many days hungry and thirsty, subsisting on roots and berries, and having for drink only the water that collected in the hoof prints of the wild beasts.
"See what I've come to!" he cried aloud. "Why didn't I heed the old woman's warning! If I had, I should have broken the evil enchantment that binds my Peerless Beauty and all would have been well!"
One day as he wandered about he came upon a vine that was laden with great clusters of luscious red grapes. He fell upon them ravenously and ate bunch after bunch. Suddenly he felt something in his hair and lifting his hands he found that horns had grown out all over his head.
"Fine grapes these are!" he exclaimed, "to bring out horns on a person's head!"
However, he was so hungry that he kept on eating until his head was one mass of horns.
The next day he found a vine that had clusters of white grapes. He began eating the white grapes and he hadn't finished a bunch before the horns all fell off his head.
"Ha!" he said. "The red grapes put horns on and the white grapes take them off! That's a trick worth knowing!"
He took some reeds and fashioned two baskets one of which he filled with red grapes and the other with white grapes. Then staining his face with the dark juice of a leaf until he looked brown and sunburned like a countryman, he went back to Peerless Beauty's castle. There he marched up and down below the Peerless one's window crying his wares like a huckster:
"Sweet grapes for sale! Who wants my fresh sweet grapes!"
Now it was not the season for grapes, so Peerless Beauty when she heard the cry was surprised and said to her serving maid:
"Go quickly and buy me some grapes from that huckster and mind you don't eat one yourself!"
The serving maid hurried out to Danilo and he sold her some of the red grapes. As she carried them in, she couldn't resist the temptation of slipping a few into her mouth. Instantly some horns grew out on her head.
"That's to punish me for disobeying my mistress!" the poor girl cried. "Oh, dear, what shall I do?"
She was afraid to show herself to Peerless Beauty, so she pretended she was taken sick and she went to bed and pulled the sheet over her head and sent in the grapes by another serving maid.
Peerless Beauty ate them all before she discovered their frightful property. Then there was a great to-do, and cries of anger and of fright, and a quick sending out of the guards to find the huckster. But the huckster had disappeared.
What could Peerless Beauty do now? She tried to pull the horns out but they wouldn't come. She tried to cut them off but they resisted the edge of the sharpest knife. She was too proud to show herself with horns, so she swathed her head with jewels and ribbons and pretended she was wearing an elaborate head-dress.
Then she sent heralds through the land offering a huge reward to any one who could cure her serving maid of some strange horns that had grown out on her head. You see she thought if she could get hold of some one who would cure the maid, then she could make him cure her, too.
Well, doctors and quacks and all sorts of people came and tried every kind of remedy, but all in vain. The horns stayed firmly rooted.
A whole week went by and when the last of the quacks had come and gone, Danilo, disguised as an old physician, presented himself and craved audience with the Peerless one. He carried two small jars in his hands one of which was filled with a conserve made from the white grapes and the other with a conserve made from the red grapes.
Peerless Beauty, her horns swathed in silk and gleaming with jewels, received him coldly.
"Are you one more quack?" she asked.
"Not a quack," he said, bowing low, "but a man who has happened upon a strange secret of nature. I can cure your serving maid of her horns provided she confess to me all her misdeeds and hand over to me anything she has that does not belong to her."
Peerless Beauty had him shown to the room where the serving maid lay in bed. The poor frightened girl at once confessed that she had stolen a few of her mistress's grapes and eaten them. Danilo spoke kindly to her, gave her some of the white grape conserve, and as soon as she had tasted it the horns of course dropped off.
Thereupon Peerless Beauty led Danilo to her own chamber, ordered all her people out, and then acknowledged that she, too, was suffering from horns.
"I am sure I can cure you," Danilo told her, "provided you confess to me all your misdeeds and hand over to me whatever you have that belongs to some one else."
"I cheated a foolish young man out of five bags of gold," Peerless Beauty said. "Here they are in this chest. Take them."
Danilo opened the chest and took out his own five bags of gold.
"Is that all?" he asked.
"Yes, that is all."
Danilo gave her some of the red grape conserve and of course, instead of the horns already on her head falling off, more grew on.
"You're not telling me the truth," Danilo said, "and I can't cure you. There's no use my treating you further."
He turned to go and Peerless Beauty, in great fright, begged him to stay.
"I do remember another misdeed," she confessed. "I took by trickery a magic pitcher from the same foolish young man."
She gave Danilo the pitcher and he hid it in his shirt.
"Is that all?"
"Yes, that is all."
Danilo gave her some more of the red grape conserve and, of course, more horns grew out on her head. Then he pretended to get angry.
"How can you expect to be cured when you don't tell me the truth? I told you I could not cure you unless you confessed all!"
Peerless Beauty wanted much to keep the magic cap but when the strange physician thundered and scowled and threatened again to leave her, more horned than ever, she acknowledged that she had taken the cap, too, and handed it over.
This time Danilo gave her some of the white grape conserve and as soon as she had eaten it all the horns fell off and her head shimmered and shone as of old with her beautiful hair.
Then Danilo told her who he was and at once the maiden sought to ensnare him again with her wiles.
"What a wonderful man you are, Danilo! I could love you now if you loved me, but I know of course that you will never love me again after the cruel way I have treated you!"
"But I do love you!" Danilo cried. "I do love you!"
"No, you don't!" she said, and she pretended to weep. "If you did love me, you'd tell me where you found those red grapes and what this magic conserve is made of. But of course you don't love me enough to tell me."
Because she looked more beautiful than ever with the tears on her lovely cheeks, Danilo was about to tell her what she wanted to know when he remembered the old woman's warning. That was enough. He hardened his heart and declared:
"No! I'll never tell you! Do you hear me: I'll never tell you!"
She wept and implored him and used all her wiles, but Danilo remembering the past was firm. And presently he had the reward that a man always has when he's firm, for as soon as it was evident that she could no longer befool him, the evil enchantment that bound her broke with a snap and Peerless Beauty became a human maiden as gentle and sweet and loving as she was beautiful.
She knelt at Danilo's feet and humbly begged his pardon and promised, if he would still marry her, to make him the most dutiful wife in the world.
So Danilo married Peerless Beauty and with the servants of the magic pitcher transported her and her castle and her riches together with the old woman who had befriended them both to his own native village. There he still lives happy and prosperous.
His uncle and all the old men in the village take credit to themselves for the success of his adventures.
"It is due entirely to us," they tell any one who will listen to them, "that Danilo went out in search of Peerless Beauty in the first place. When he came to us and asked our advice we said to him: 'Go, by all means! You're young and brave and of course you'll win her!' If we hadn't urged him to go, he would probably have settled down here at home, married some quiet village girl, and never be heard of again!"
That's how the old men talk now, but we know what they really did say at the time!
Yet after all that doesn't matter. All that matters is that Danilo and Peerless Beauty love each other and are happy.
THE PIGEON'S BRIDE
The Story of a Princess Who Kissed and Told
THE PIGEON'S BRIDE
There was once a King who had an only daughter. She was as lovely as a princess ought to be and by the time she reached a marriageable age the fame of her beauty had spread far and wide over all the world. Neighboring kings and even distant ones were already sending envoys to her father's court begging permission to offer their sons as suitors to the Princess's hand. As he had no son of his own the Princess's father was delighted that the day was fast approaching when he might have a son-in-law, and long before even the name of any particular prince was discussed the Princess's mother had planned the wedding down to its last detail.
The Princess alone was uninterested.
"I'm not ready to get married yet," she'd say to her parents every day when they'd begin telling her about the various princes who were anxious to gain her favor. "Why such haste? I'm young and there's plenty of time. Besides, just now I'm too busy with my embroidery to be bothered with a crowd of young men."
With that, before the King could reprove her, the Princess would throw her arms about his neck, kiss him under the corner of his mustache, and go flying off to the tower-room where she had her embroidery frame.
Her mother, the Queen, was much upset by the Princess's attitude.
"In my youth," she said, "girls were not like this. We were brought up to think that courtship and marriage were the most important events in our lives. I don't know what's getting into the heads of the young girls nowadays!"
But the King, who was still smiling from the tickling little kiss which the Princess had planted under the corner of his mustache, always answered:
"Tut! Tut! We needn't worry yet! Take my word for it when some particular young man comes along she'll be interested fast enough!"
At this the Queen, ending the discussion every day with the same words, would shake her head and declare:
"I tell you it isn't natural for a girl to be more interested in embroidery than in a long line of handsome young suitors!"
The Princess was interested in her embroidery—there's no doubt about that. She spent every moment she could in the tower-room, working and singing. The tower was high up among the treetops. It was reached by winding stairs so narrow and so many that no one any older than the Princess would care to climb them. The Princess flew up them like a bird, scarcely pausing for breath. At the top of the stairs was a trap-door which was the only means of entrance into the tower-room. Once in the tower-room with the bolt of the trap-door securely fastened, the Princess was safe from interruption and could work away at her embroidery to her heart's content. The tower had windows on all sides, so the Princess as she sat at her embroidery frame could look out north, east, south, and west.
The clouds sailed by in the sky, the wind blew and at once the leaves in the treetops began murmuring and whispering among themselves, and the birds that went flying all over the world would often alight on some branch near the tower and sing to the Princess as she worked or chatter some exciting story that she could almost understand.
"What!" the Princess would think to herself as she looked out north, east, south, and west. "Leave my tower and my beautiful embroidery to become the wife of some conceited young man! Never!"
From this remark you can understand perfectly well that the particular young man of whom her father spoke had not yet come along. And I'm sure you'll also know that shutting herself up in the tower-room and bolting the trap-door was not going to keep him away when it was time for him to come. Yet I don't believe that you'd have recognized him when he did come any more than the Princess did. This is how it happened:
One afternoon when as usual she was working at her embroidery and singing as she worked, suddenly there was a flutter of wings at the eastern window and a lovely Pigeon came flying into the room. It circled three times about the Princess's head and then alighted on the embroidery frame. The Princess reached out her hand and the bird, instead of taking fright, allowed her to stroke its gleaming neck. Then she took it gently in her hands and fondled it to her bosom, kissing its bill and smoothing its plumage with her lips.
"You beautiful thing!" she cried. "How I love you!"
"If you really love me," the Pigeon said, "have a bowl of milk here at this same hour to-morrow and then we'll see what we'll see."
With that the bird spread its wings and flew out the western window.
The Princess was so excited that for the rest of the afternoon she forgot her embroidery.
"Did the Pigeon really speak?" she asked herself as she stood staring out the western window, "or have I been dreaming?"
The next day when she climbed the winding stairs she went slowly for she carried in her hands a brimming bowl of milk.
"Of course it won't come again!" she said, and she made herself sit down quietly before the embroidery frame and work just as though she expected nothing.
But exactly at the same hour as the day before there was a flutter of wings at the eastern window, the sound of a gentle coo! coo! and there was the Pigeon ready to be loved and caressed.
"You beautiful creature!" the Princess cried, kissing its coral beak and smoothing its neck with her lips, "how I love you! And see, I have brought you the bowl of milk that you asked for!"
The bird flew over to the bowl, poised for a moment on its brim, then splashed into the milk as though to take a bath.
The Princess laughed and clapped her hands and then, as she looked, she saw a strange thing happen. The bird's feathers opened like a shirt and out of the feather shirt stepped a handsome youth.
(You remember I told you how surprised the Princess was going to be. And you're surprised, too, aren't you?)
He was so handsome that all the Princess could say was, "Oh!"
He came slowly towards her and knelt before her.
"Dear Princess," he said, "do not be frightened. If it had not been for your sweet words yesterday when you said you loved me I should never have been able to leave this feather shirt. Do not turn from me now because I am a man and not a pigeon. Love me still if you can, for I love you. It was because I fell in love with you yesterday when I saw you working at your embroidery that I flew in by the open window and let you caress me."
For a long time the Princess could only stare at the kneeling youth, too amazed to speak. He was so handsome that she forgot all about the pigeon he used to be, she forgot her embroidery, she forgot everything. She hadn't supposed that any young man in the whole world could be so handsome! Why, just looking at him, she could be happy forever and ever and ever!
"Would you rather I were still a pigeon?" the young man asked.
"No! No! No!" the Princess cried. "I like you ever so much better this way!"
The young man gravely bowed his head and kissed her hand and the Princess blushed and trembled and wished he would do it again. She had never imagined that any kiss could be so wonderful!
They passed the afternoon together and it seemed to the Princess it was the happiest afternoon of all her life. As the sun was sinking the youth said:
"Now I must leave you and become a pigeon again."
"But you'll come back, won't you?" the Princess begged.
"Yes, I'll come back to-morrow but on one condition: that you don't tell any one about me. I'll come back every day at the same hour but if ever you tell about me then I won't be able to come back any more."
"I'll never tell!" the Princess promised.
Then the youth kissed her tenderly, dipped himself in the milk, went back into his feather shirt, and flew off as a pigeon.
The next day he came again and the next and the next and the Princess fell so madly in love with him that all day long and all night long, too, she thought of nothing else. She no longer touched her embroidery but day after day sat idle in the tower-room just awaiting the hour of his arrival. And every day it seemed to the King and the Queen and all the people about the Court that the Princess was becoming more and more beautiful. Her cheeks kept growing pinker, her eyes brighter, her lovely hair more golden.
"I must say sitting at that foolish embroidery agrees with her," the King said.
"No, it isn't that," the Queen told him. "It's the big bowl of milk she drinks every afternoon. You know milk is very good for the complexion."
"Milk indeed!" murmured the Princess to herself, and she blushed rosier than ever at thought of her wonderful secret.
But a princess can't keep growing more and more beautiful without everybody in the world hearing about it. The neighboring kings soon began to feel angry and suspicious.
"What ails this Princess?" they asked among themselves. "Isn't one of our sons good enough for her? Is she waiting for the King of Persia to come as a suitor or what? Let us stand together on our rights and demand to know why she won't consider one of our sons!"
So they sent envoys to the Princess's father and he saw at once that the matter had become serious.
"My dear," he said to the Princess, "your mother and I have humored you long enough. It is high time that you had a husband and I insist that you allow the sons of neighboring kings to be presented to you next week."
"I won't do it!" the Princess declared. "I'm not interested in the sons of the neighboring kings and that's all there is about it!"
Her father looked at her severely.
"Is that the way for a princess to talk? Persist in this foolishness and you may embroil your country in war!"
"I don't care!" the Princess cried, bursting into tears. "I can't marry any of them, so why let them be presented?"
"Why can't you marry any of them?"
"I just can't!" the Princess insisted.
At first, in spite of the pleadings of both parents, she would tell them no more, but her mother kept questioning her until at last in self-defense the Princess confessed that she had a true love who came to her in the tower every afternoon in the form of a pigeon.
"He's a prince," she told them, "the son of a distant king. At present he is under an enchantment that turns him into a pigeon. When the enchantment is broken he is coming as a prince to marry me."
"My poor child!" the Queen cried. "Think no more about this Pigeon Prince! The enchantment may last a hundred years and then where will you be!"
"But he is my love!" the Princess declared, "and if I can't have him I won't have any one!"
When the King found that nothing they could say would move her from this resolution, he sighed and murmured:
"Very well, my dear. If it must be so, it must be. This afternoon when your lover comes, bring him down to me that I may talk to him."
But that afternoon the Pigeon did not come. Nor the next afternoon either, nor the next, and then too late the Princess remembered his warning that if she told about him he could never come back.
So now she sat in the tower-room idle and heartbroken, reproaching herself that she had betrayed her lover and praying God to forgive her and send him back to her. And the roses faded from her cheeks and her eyes grew dull and the people about the Court began wondering why they had ever thought her the most beautiful princess in the world.
At last she went to the King, her father, and said:
"As my love can no longer come back to me because I forgot my promise and betrayed him, I must go out into the world and hunt him. Unless I find him life will not be worth the living. So do not oppose me, father, but help me. Have three pairs of iron shoes made for me and three iron staffs. I will wander over the wide world until these are worn out and then, if by that time I have not found him, I will come home to you."
So the King had three pairs of iron shoes made for the Princess and three iron staffs and she set forth on her quest. She traveled through towns and cities and many kingdoms, over rough mountains and desert places, looking everywhere for her enchanted love. But nowhere could she find any trace of him.
At the end of the first year she had worn out the first pair of iron shoes and the first iron staff. At the end of the second year she had worn out the second pair of iron shoes and the second iron staff. At the end of the third year, when she had worn out the third pair of iron shoes and the third staff, she returned to her father's palace looking thin and worn and sad.
"My poor child," the King said, "I hope now you realize that the Pigeon Prince is gone forever. Think no more about him. Go back to your embroidery and when the roses begin blooming in your cheeks again we'll find some young prince for you who isn't enchanted."
But the Princess shook her head.
"Let me try one thing more, father," she begged, "and then if I don't find my love I'll do as you say."
The King agreed to this.
"Well, then," the Princess said, "build a public bath-house and have the heralds proclaim that the King's daughter will sit at the entrance and will allow any one to bathe free of charge who will tell her the story of the strangest thing he has ever heard or seen."
So the King built the bath-house and sent out his heralds far and wide. Men and women from all over the world came and bathed and told the Princess stories of this marvel and that, but never, alas, a word of an enchanted pigeon.
The days went by and the Princess grew more and more discouraged.
"Isn't it sad," the courtiers began whispering, "how the Princess has lost her looks! Do you suppose she ever was really beautiful or did we just imagine it?"
And the neighboring kings when they heard this remarked softly among themselves:
"It's just as well we didn't hurry one of our sons into a marriage with this young woman!"
Now there was a poor widow who lived near the bath-house. She had a daughter, a pretty young girl, who used to sit at the window and watch the Princess as people came and told her their stories.
"Mother," the girl said one day, "every one in the world goes to the bath-house and I want to go, too!"
"Nonsense!" the mother said. "What story could you tell the Princess?"
"But everybody else goes and I don't see why I can't!"
"Well, my dear," the mother promised, "you may just as soon as you see or hear something strange. Talk no more about it now but go, fetch me a pitcher of water from the town well."
The girl obediently took an empty pitcher and went to the town well. Just as she had filled the pitcher she heard some one say:
"Mercy me, I fear I'll be late!"
She turned around and what do you think she saw? A rooster in wooden shoes with a basket under his wing!
"I fear I'll be late! I fear I'll be late!" the rooster kept repeating as he hurried off making a funny little clatter with his wooden shoes.
"How strange!" the girl thought to herself. "A rooster with wooden shoes! I'm sure the Princess would love to hear about him! I'll follow him and see what he does."
He went to a garden where he filled his basket with fresh vegetables—with onions and beans and garlic. Then he hurried home to a little house. The girl slipped in after him and hid behind the door.
"Thank goodness, I'm on time!" the rooster murmured.
He put a big bowl on the table and filled it with milk.
"There!" he said. "Now I'm ready for them!"
Presently twelve beautiful pigeons came flying in by the open door. Eleven of them dipped in the bowl of milk, their feather shirts opened, and out they stepped eleven handsome youths. But the Twelfth Pigeon perched disconsolately on the windowsill and remained a pigeon. The eleven laughed at him and said:
"Poor fellow, your bride betrayed you, didn't she? So you have to remain shut up in your feather shirt while we go off and have a jolly time!"
"Yes," the Twelfth Pigeon said, "she broke her promise and now she goes wandering up and down the world hunting for me. If she doesn't find me I shall nevermore escape the feather shirt but shall have to fly about forever as a pigeon. But I know she will find me for she will never stop until she does. And when she finds me, then the enchantment will be broken forever and I can marry her!"
The eleven youths went laughing arm in arm out of the house and in a few moments the solitary Pigeon flew after them. Instantly the girl slipped out from behind the door and hurried home with her pitcher of water. Then she ran quickly across to the bath-house and all out of breath she cried to the Princess:
"O Princess, I have such a wonderful story to tell you all about a rooster with wooden shoes and twelve pigeons only eleven of them are not pigeons but handsome young men and the twelfth one has to stay in his feather shirt because—"
At mention of the enchanted pigeons, the Princess turned pale. She held up her hand and made the girl pause until she had her breath, then she questioned her until she knew the whole story.
"It must be my love!" the Princess thought to herself. "Thank God I have found him at last!"
The next day at the same hour she went with the girl to the town well and when the rooster clattered by in his wooden shoes they followed him home and slipping into the house they hid behind the door and waited. Presently twelve pigeons flew in. Eleven of them dipped in the milk and came out handsome young men. The Twelfth sat disconsolately on the window sill and remained a pigeon. The eleven laughed at him and twitted him with having had a bride that had betrayed him. Then the eleven went away laughing arm in arm. Before the Twelfth could fly after them, the Princess ran out from behind the door and cried:
"My dear one, I have found you at last!"
The Pigeon flew into her hands and she took him and kissed his coral beak and smoothed his gleaming plumage with her lips. Then she put him in the milk and the feather shirt opened and her own true love stepped out.
She led him at once to her father and when the King found him well trained in all the arts a prince should know he accepted him as his future son-in-law and presented him to the people.
So after all the Princess's mother was able to give her daughter the gorgeous wedding she had planned for years and years. Preparations were begun at once but the Queen insisted on making such vast quantities of little round cakes and candied fruits and sweetmeats of all kinds that it was three whole months before the wedding actually took place. By that time the roses were again blooming in the Princess's cheeks, her eyes were brighter than before, and her long shining hair was more golden than ever.
All the neighboring kings were invited to the wedding and when they saw the bride they shook their heads sadly and said among themselves:
"Lost her looks indeed! What did people mean by saying such a thing? Why, she's the most beautiful princess in the world! What a pity she didn't marry one of our sons!"
But when they met the Prince of her choice, they saw at once why the Princess had fallen in love with him.
"Any girl would!" they said.
It was a big wedding, as I told you before, and the only guest present who was not a king or a queen or a royal personage of some sort was the poor girl who saw the rooster with wooden shoes in the first place. The Queen, of course, had wanted only royalty but the Princess declared that the poor girl was her dear friend and would have to be invited. So the Queen, when she saw that the Princess was set on having her own way, had the poor girl come to the palace before the wedding and decked her out in rich clothes until people were sure that she was some strange princess whom the bride had met on her travels.
"My dear," whispered the Princess as they sat down beside each other at the wedding feast, "how beautiful you look!"
"But I'm not as beautiful as you!" the girl said.
The Princess laughed.
"Of course not! No one can be as beautiful as I am because I have the secret of beauty!"
"Dear Princess," the poor girl begged, "won't you tell me the secret of beauty?"
The Princess leaned over and whispered something in the poor girl's ear.
It was only one word:
THE LITTLE LAME FOX
The Story of the Youngest Brother Who Found the Magic Grape-Vine and Married the Golden Maiden
THE LITTLE LAME FOX
There was once a wealthy farmer who had three sons. The oldest was a selfish overbearing fellow. The second was a weak chap who always did everything his brother suggested. The youngest whose name was Janko was not as bright and clever as his brothers but he was honest and, moreover, he had a good heart and in this world a good heart, you know, is more likely to bring its owner happiness than wicked brains.
"That booby!" the oldest brother would say whenever he saw Janko. And the second would snicker and repeat the ugly word, "Booby!"
The father was proud of his three sons and happy to see them grow up strong and healthy.
"They're good boys," he'd say to himself, "and I'm a fortunate father."
Now there was one very curious thing about this farmer that nobody understood. One of his eyes was always laughing and the other was always weeping.
"What's the matter with your father's eyes?" people used to ask the sons.
The sons didn't know any more than any one else. One day they were in the garden discussing the matter among themselves.
"Why don't we just go and ask him?" Janko suggested.
"If anybody is to ask him, I will!" declared the oldest brother importantly.
So he went indoors to his father and said:
"Father, people are forever talking about your eyes. Now I wish you would tell me why one of them is always laughing and the other always weeping."
"My eyes, indeed!" cried the farmer, and in a rage he snatched up a knife and hurled it straight at his son. The young man dodged aside and fled and the knife stuck in the door jamb.
All out of breath the oldest brother returned to the others but of course he was ashamed to tell them what had happened. So he said to them:
"If you want to know what's the matter with father's eyes, you'll have to ask him yourselves."
So the second brother went in to the farmer and he had exactly the same experience. When he came out he gave his older brother a wink and said to Janko:
"Now it is your turn, Booby. Father is waiting for you."
So Janko went in to his father and said:
"You have told my brothers why one of your eyes is always laughing and the other always weeping. Now please tell me for I, too, want to know."
In a rage the farmer snatched up the knife again and lifted his arm to hurl it. But Janko stood perfectly still. Why should he turn and run away as though he had done something wrong? He had only asked his father a civil question and if his father did not wish to answer it, he could tell him so.
The farmer when he saw that the boy was not to be frightened smiled and laid the knife aside.
"Thank God," he said, "I have one son who is not a coward! I have been waiting these many years to have my sons ask me this very question. My right eye laughs because God has blessed me and made me rich and has allowed my three sons to grow to manhood, strong and healthy. My left eye weeps because I can never forget a Magic Grape-Vine which once grew in my garden. It used to give me a bucket of wine every hour of the twenty-four! One night a thief came and stole my Magic Vine and I have never heard of it since. Do you wonder that my left eye weeps at the memory of this wonderful Vine? Alas, the bucket of wine that used to flow out of it every hour of the day and night—I have never tasted its like since!"
"Father," Janko said, "dry your weeping eye! I and my brothers will go out into the world and find your Magic Grape-Vine wherever it is hidden!"
With that Janko ran out to his brothers and when they heard what he had to say they laughed and called him, "Booby!" and asked him didn't he suppose that they had already planned to do just this thing. Of course they hadn't, but they were so jealous and ill-natured that they couldn't bear the thought of his being the first to suggest anything.
"We mustn't lose any more time," Janko said.
"It doesn't matter how much time you lose, Mr. Booby! As for us we two are going to start out to-morrow at sunrise."
"But, brothers," Janko begged, "please let me go, too!"
"No!" they told him shortly. "You can stay home and look after the farm!"
But their father when he heard the discussion said, no, Janko was also to go as he was the bravest of them all. After that the brothers, because they didn't want their father to tell how they had been afraid and run away, had to agree.
So the next morning early the three of them started out, each with a wallet well-stocked with food.
"How are we going to get rid of the Booby?" the second one whispered.
"Trust me!" the oldest one whispered back with a wink.
Presently they came to a crossroads where three roads branched. Now the oldest brother knew that after a short distance two of the roads came together again. So he motioned the second brother slyly that he was to take the middle road. Then he said:
"Brothers, let us part here and each take a different road. Do you agree?"
"Yes," the other two said, "we agree."
"Then suppose Janko take the left-hand road."
"And I'll take the middle road," the second cried.
"And I," the eldest said, "will take the one that's left. So farewell, brothers, and let us meet here in a year's time."
"God bless us all," Janko called out, "and grant that one of us may find our dear father's Magic Grape-Vine."
The two older brothers of course met in a short time when their roads joined and they had a good laugh to think how they had outwitted the Booby.
"Time enough to look for that old Grape-Vine when we've had a little fun!" the eldest said. "Let us sit down here and eat a bite and then push on to the next village. There's an inn there where we can try our luck at cards."
So they sat down by the roadside, opened their wallets, and laid out some bread and cheese. Just then a Little Lame Fox came limping up on three feet, and whimpering and fawning it begged for something to eat.
"Get out!" bawled the older brother and the second, picking up a handful of stones, threw them at the Fox.
The little animal shied and then came timidly back, again begging for something to eat.
"Let's kill it!" cried one of the brothers.
They both jumped up and tried to strike the little creature with their sticks. The Fox limped off and they followed, hitting at it as they ran and always just missing it. It was so weak and lame that they expected every minute to overtake it and so kept on chasing it until it had led them pretty far into the woods. Then suddenly it disappeared and there was nothing left for the brothers to do but make their way back to the roadside grumbling and cursing. In their absence some shepherd dogs had found their open wallets and eaten all their food. So now they really had something to curse about.
Janko meanwhile had been trudging along steadily on the third road. At last when he began to feel hungry, he sat down by the wayside and opened his wallet. Instantly the same Little Lame Fox came limping up and whimpered and fawned and begged for something to eat.
"You poor little creature," Janko said, "are you hungry?"
He held out his hand coaxingly and the animal gave it a timid sniff.
"Of course I'll give you something to eat," Janko said. "There's enough for both of us."
With that he divided his bread and cheese and gave the Little Fox half. Then they ate together and the Little Fox allowed Janko to pat her head.
When they finished eating the Fox sat up on her haunches and said:
"Now, Janko, tell me about yourself. Who are you and where are you going?"
The Fox seemed such a sensible little person that it didn't surprise Janko in the least to have her sit up and talk. Janko's brothers would have said that he hadn't sense enough to be surprised. But he had a good heart, Janko had, and as you'll soon hear a good heart is a much better guide for conduct than wicked brains.
Janko answered the Fox simply and truthfully. He told about his father and his two brothers and about his father's weeping eye and the Magic Grape-Vine for which he and his brothers were gone in search.
"You've been good to me," the Little Fox said. "You've shared your bread with me and that makes us friends. So from now on if you'll be a brother to me, I'll be a little sister to you."
Goodness knows Janko's own brothers weren't very good to him, but Janko understood what the Little Fox meant and he agreed.
"Well then, brother," the Fox said, "I know where that Grape-Vine is and I'm going to help you to get it. If you do just as I say I don't believe you'll have any trouble. Now take hold of my tail and away we'll go."
So Janko took hold of the Little Fox's tail and sure enough away they went. Whether they sailed through the air or just ran fleetly along the ground I don't know. But I do know that they went a great distance and that when they stopped Janko didn't feel in the least tired or breathless.
"Now, my brother," the Little Fox said, "listen carefully to what I tell you. The king of this country has a wonderful garden. In the midst of it your father's Grape-Vine is planted. We are close to the garden now. It is protected by twelve watches each of which is composed of twelve guards. To get to the Grape-Vine you will have to pass them all. Now as you approach each watch look carefully. If the eyes of all the guards are open and staring straight at you, have no fear. They sleep with their eyes open and they won't see you. But if their eyes are closed, then be careful for when their eyes are closed they are awake and ready to see you. You will find the Grape-Vine in the very center of the garden. Standing near it you will see two spades, a wooden spade and a golden spade. Take the wooden spade and dig up the Vine as quickly as you can. Under no condition touch the golden spade. Now, Janko, do you understand?"
Yes, Janko thought he understood. He slipped into the garden and the first thing he saw were twelve fierce looking guards who were staring at him with great round eyes. He was much frightened until he remembered that the Little Fox had said that if their eyes were open they were fast asleep. So he picked up courage and walked straight by them and sure enough they didn't see him. He passed watch after watch in the same way and at last reached the center of the garden. He saw the Grape-Vine at once. There was no mistaking it for at that very moment it was pouring out wine of itself into a golden bucket. Near it were two spades, Janko in great excitement snatched up the first that came to his hand and began to dig. Alas, it was the golden spade and as Janko drove it into the earth it sent out a loud ringing sound that instantly woke the guards. They came running from all directions with their eyes tightly closed for now, of course, they were awake. They caught Janko and dragged him to the king to whom they said:
"A thief! A thief! We found him trying to steal your Magic Grape-Vine!"
"My Magic Grape-Vine!" thundered the king. "Young man, what do you mean trying to steal my Magic Grape-Vine?"
"Well, you see," Janko answered simply, "the Grape-Vine really belongs to my father. It was stolen from him years ago and ever since then his left eye has wept over the loss of it. Give me the Vine, O king, for if you don't I shall have to come back and try again to steal it for it belongs to my father and I have sworn to get it!"
The king frowned in thought and at last he said:
"I can't give away my precious Grape-Vine for nothing, young man, but I tell you what I'll do: I'll give it to you provided you get for me the Golden Apple-Tree that bears buds, blossoms, and golden fruit every twenty-four hours."
With that Janko was dismissed and turned out of the garden.
The Little Fox was waiting for him and Janko had the shame of confessing that he had forgotten the warning about the golden spade and had been caught.
"But the king says he will give me the Grape-Vine provided I get for him the Golden Apple-Tree that bears buds, blossoms, and golden fruit every twenty-four hours."
"Well, brother," the Little Fox said, "you were good to me, so I'll help you again. Take hold of my tail and away we'll go."
Janko took hold of the Little Fox's tail and away they went a greater distance than before. In spite of going so quickly it took them a long time but whether it was weeks or months I don't know. Whichever it was when they stopped Janko didn't feel in the least tired or breathless.
"Now, brother," the Little Fox said, "here we are in another country close to the king's garden where the Golden Apple-Tree grows. To reach it you will have to pass twenty-four watches of twelve guards each. Take care that you pass each guard as before when his eyes are wide open and staring straight at you for that means he is asleep. When you reach the Golden Apple-Tree you will see two long poles on the ground—a wooden pole and a golden pole. Take the wooden pole and beat down some of the golden fruit. Don't touch the golden pole. Remember!"