Part 5 out of 6
golden ball into the lion's lap, and composed himself to sleep
For a long while the lion tossed it up and down gaily, feeling
that, however sound asleep the boy-brother might LOOK, he was
sure to have one eye open; but gradually he began to edge closer
to the opening, and at last gave such a toss that the ball went
up high into the air, and he could not see what became of it.
'Oh, how stupid of me!' he cried, as the cat sprang up angrily,
'let us go at once and search for it. It can't really have
fallen very far.' But though they searched that day and the
next, and the next after that, they never found it, because it
never came down.
After the loss of his ball the cat refused to live with the lion
any longer, but wandered away to the north, always hoping he
might meet with his ball again. But months passed, and years
passed, and though he travelled over hundreds of miles, he never
saw any traces of it.
At length, when he was getting quite old, he came to a place
unlike any that he had ever seen before, where a big river rolled
right to the foot of some high mountains. The ground all about
the river bank was damp and marshy, and as no cat likes to wet
its feet, this one climbed a tree that rose high above the water,
and thought sadly of his lost ball, which would have helped him
out of this horrible place. Suddenly he saw a beautiful ball,
for all the world like his own, dangling from a branch of the
tree he was on. He longed to get at it; but was the branch
strong enough to bear his weight? It was no use, after all he
had done, getting drowned in the water. However, it could do no
harm, if he was to go a little way; he could always manage to get
So he stretched himself at full length upon the branch, and
wriggled his body cautiously along. To his delight it seemed
thick and stout. Another movement, and, by stretching out his
paw, he would be able to draw the string towards him, when the
branch gave a loud crack, and the cat made haste to wriggle
himself back the way he had come.
But when cats make up their minds to do anything they generally
DO it; and this cat began to look about to see if there was
really no way of getting at his ball. Yes! there was, and it was
much surer than the other, though rather more difficult. Above
the bough where the ball was hung was another bough much thicker,
which he knew could not break with his weight; and by holding on
tight to this with all his four paws, he could just manage to
touch the ball with his tail. He would thus be able to whisk the
ball to and fro till, by-and-by, the string would become quite
loose, and it would fall to the ground. It might take some time,
but the lion's little brother was patient, like most cats.
Well, it all happened just as the cat intended it should, and
when the ball dropped on the ground the cat ran down the tree
like lightning, and, picking it up, tucked it away in the snake's
skin round his neck. Then he began jumping along the shore of
the Big Water from one place to another, trying to find a boat,
or even a log of wood, that would take him across. But there was
nothing; only, on the other side, he saw two girls cooking, and
though he shouted to them at the top of his voice, they were too
far off to hear what he said. And, what was worse, the ball
suddenly fell out of its snake's skin bag right into the river.
Now, it is not at all an uncommon thing for balls to tumble into
rivers, but in that case they generally either fall to the bottom
and stay there, or else bob about on the top of the water close
to where they first touched it. But this ball, instead of doing
either of these things, went straight across to the other side,
and there one of the girls saw it when she stooped to dip some
water into her pail.
'Oh! what a lovely ball!' cried she, and tried to catch it in her
pail; but the ball always kept bobbing just out of her reach.
'Come and help me!' she called to her sister, and after a long
while they had the ball safe inside the pail. They were
delighted with their new toy, and one or the other held it in her
hand till bedtime came, and then it was a long time before they
could make up their minds where it would be safest for the night.
At last they locked it in a cupboard in one corner of their room,
and as there was no hole anywhere the ball could not possibly get
out. After that they went to sleep.
In the morning the first thing they both did was to run to the
cupboard and unlock it, but when the door opened they started
back, for, instead of the ball, there stood a handsome young man.
'Ladies,' he said, 'how can I thank you for what you have done
for me? Long, long ago, I was enchanted by a wicked fairy, and
condemned to keep the shape of a ball till I should meet with two
maidens, who would take me to their own home. But where was I to
meet them? For hundreds of years I have lived in the depths of
the forest, where nothing but wild beasts ever came, and it was
only when the lion threw me into the sky that I was able to fall
to earth near this river. Where there is a river, sooner or
later people will come; so, hanging myself on a tree, I watched
and waited. For a moment I lost heart when I fell once more into
the hands of my old master the wild cat, but my hopes rose again
as I saw he was making for the river bank opposite where you were
standing. That was my chance, and I took it. And now, ladies, I
have only to say that, if ever I can do anything to help you, go
to the top of that high mountain and knock three times at the
iron door at the north side, and I will come to you.'
So, with a low bow, he vanished from before them, leaving the
maidens weeping at having lost in one moment both the ball and
[Adapted from North American Indian Legends.]
Which was the Foolishest?
In a little village that stood on a wide plain, where you could
see the sun from the moment he rose to the moment he set, there
lived two couples side by side. The men, who worked under the
same master, were quite good friends, but the wives were always
quarrelling, and the subject they quarrelled most about was--
which of the two had the stupidest husband.
Unlike most women--who think that anything that belongs to them
must be better than what belongs to anyone else--each thought her
husband the more foolish of the two.
'You should just see what he does!' one said to her neighbour.
'He puts on the baby's frock upside down, and, one day, I found
him trying to feed her with boiling soup, and her mouth was
scalded for days after. Then he picks up stones in the road and
sows them instead of potatoes, and one day he wanted to go into
the garden from the top window, because he declared it was a
shorter way than through the door.'
'That is bad enough, of course,' answered the other; 'but it is
really NOTHING to what I have to endure every day from MY
husband. If, when I am busy, I ask him to go and feed the
poultry, he is certain to give them some poisonous stuff instead
of their proper food, and when I visit the yard next I find them
all dead. Once he even took my best bonnet, when I had gone away
to my sick mother, and when I came back I found he had given it
to the hen to lay her eggs in. And you know yourself that, only
last week, when I sent him to buy a cask of butter, he returned
driving a hundred and fifty ducks which someone had induced him
to take, and not one of them would lay.'
'Yes, I am afraid he IS trying,' replied the first; 'but let us
put them to the proof, and see which of them is the most
So, about the time that she expected her husband home from work,
she got out her spinning-wheel, and sat busily turning it, taking
care not even to look up from her work when the man came in. For
some minutes he stood with his mouth open watching her, and as
she still remained silent, he said at last:
'Have you gone mad, wife, that you sit spinning without anything
on the wheel?'
'YOU may think that there is nothing on it,' answered she, 'but I
can assure you that there is a large skein of wool, so fine that
nobody can see it, which will be woven into a coat for you.'
'Dear me!' he replied, 'what a clever wife I have got! If you had
not told me I should never have known that there was any wool on
the wheel at all. But now I really do seem to see something.'
The woman smiled and was silent, and after spinning busily for an
hour more, she got up from her stoop, and began to weave as fast
as she could. At last she got up, and said to her husband: 'I am
too tired to finish it to-night, so I shall go to bed, and to-
morrow I shall only have the cutting and stitching to do.'
So the next morning she got up early, and after she had cleaned
her house, and fed her chickens, and put everything in its place
again, she bent over the kitchen table, and the sound of her big
scissors might be heard snip! snap! as far as the garden. Her
husband could not see anything to snip at; but then he was so
stupid that was not surprising!
After the cutting came the sewing. The woman patted and pinned
and fixed and joined, and then, turning to the man, she said:
'Now it is ready for you to try on.' And she made him take off
his coat, and stand up in front of her, and once more she patted
an pinned and fixed and joined, and was very careful in smoothing
out every wrinkle.
'It does not feel very warm,' observed the man at last, when he
had borne all this patiently for a long time.
'That is because it is so fine,' answered she; 'you do not want
it to be as thick as the rough clothes you wear every day.'
He DID, but was ashamed to say so, and only answered: 'Well, I am
sure it must be beautiful since you say so, and I shall be
smarter than anyone in the whole village. "What a splendid
coat!" they will exclaim when they see me. But it is not
everybody who has a wife as clever as mine.'
Meanwhile the other wife was not idle. As soon as her husband
entered she looked at him with such a look of terror that the
poor man was quite frightened.
'Why do you stare at me so? Is there anything the matter?' asked
'Oh! go to bed at once,' she cried; 'you must be very ill indeed
to look like that!'
The man was rather surprised at first, as he felt particularly
well that evening; but the moment his wife spoke he became quite
certain that he had something dreadful the matter with him, and
grew quite pale.
'I dare say it would be the best place for me,' he answered,
trembling; and he suffered his wife to take him upstairs, and to
help him off with his clothes.
'If you sleep well during the might there MAY be a chance for
you,' said she, shaking her head, as she tucked him up warmly;
'but if not--' And of course the poor man never closed an eye
till the sun rose.
'How do you feel this morning?' asked the woman, coming in on
tip-toe when her house-work was finished.
'Oh, bad; very bad indeed,' answered he; 'I have not slept for a
moment. Can you think of nothing to make me better?'
'I will try everything that is possible,' said the wife, who did
not in the least wish her husband to die, but was determined to
show that he was more foolish that the other man. 'I will get
some dried herbs and make you a drink, but I am very much afraid
that it is too late. Why did you not tell me before?'
'I thought perhaps the pain would go off in a day or two; and,
besides, I did not want to make you unhappy,' answered the man,
who was by this time quite sure he had been suffering tortures,
and had borne them like a hero. 'Of course, if I had had any
idea how ill I really was, I should have spoken at once.'
'Well, well, I will see what can be done,' said the wife, 'but
talking is not good for you. Lie still, and keep yourself warm.'
All that day the man lay in bed, and whenever his wife entered
the room and asked him, with a shake of the head, how he felt, he
always replied that he was getting worse. At last, in the
evening, she burst into tears, and when he inquired what was the
matter, she sobbed out:
'Oh, my poor, poor husband, are you really dead? I must go to-
morrow and order your coffin.'
Now, when the man heard this, a cold shiver ran through his body,
and all at once he knew that he was as well as he had ever been
in his life.
'Oh, no, no!' he cried, 'I feel quite recovered! Indeed, I think
I shall go out to work.'
'You will do no such thing,' replied his wife. 'Just keep quite
quiet, for before the sun rises you will be a dead man.'
The man was very frightened at her words, and lay absolutely
still while the undertaker came and measured him for his coffin;
and his wife gave orders to the gravedigger about his grave.
That evening the coffin was sent home, and in the morning at nine
o'clock the woman put him on a long flannel garment, and called
to the undertaker's men to fasten down the lid and carry him to
the grave, where all their friends were waiting them. Just as
the body was being placed in the ground the other woman's husband
came running up, dressed, as far as anyone could see, in no
clothes at all. Everybody burst into shouts of laughter at the
sight of him, and the men laid down the coffin and laughed too,
till their sides nearly split. The dead man was so astonished at
this behaviour, that he peeped out of a little window in the side
of the coffin, and cried out:
'I should laugh as loudly as any of you, if I were not a dead
When they heard the voice coming from the coffin the other people
suddenly stopped laughing, and stood as if they had been turned
into stone. Then they rushed with one accord to the coffin, and
lifted the lid so that the man could step out amongst them.
'Were you really not dead after all?' asked they. 'And if not,
why did you let yourself be buried?'
At this the wives both confessed that they had each wished to
prove that her husband was stupider than the other. But the
villagers declared that they could not decide which was the most
foolish-- the man who allowed himself to be persuaded that he was
wearing fine clothes when he was dressed in nothing, or the man
who let himself be buried when he was alive and well.
So the women quarrelled just as much as they did before, and no
one ever knew whose husband was the most foolish.
[Adapted from the Neuislandische Volksmarchen.]
Asmund and Signy
Long, long ago, in the days when fairies, witches, giants and
ogres still visited the earth, there lived a king who reigned
over a great and beautiful country. He was married to a wife
whom he dearly loved, and had two most promising children--a son
called Asmund, and a daughter who was named Signy.
The king and queen were very anxious to bring their children up
well, and the young prince and princess were taught everything
likely to make them clever and accomplished. They lived at home
in their father's palace, and he spared no pains to make their
Prince Asmund dearly loved all outdoor sports and an open-air
life, and from his earliest childhood he had longed to live
entirely in the forest close by. After many arguments and
entreaties he succeeded in persuading the king to give him two
great oak trees for his very own.
'Now,' said he to his sister, 'I will have the trees hollowed
out, and then I will make rooms in them and furnish them so that
I shall be able to live out in the forest.'
'Oh, Asmund!' exclaimed Signy, 'what a delightful idea! Do let me
come too, and live in one of your trees. I will bring all my
pretty things and ornaments, and the trees are so near home we
shall be quite safe in them.'
Asmund, who was extremely fond of his sister, readily consented,
and they had a very happy time together, carrying over all their
pet treasures, and Signy's jewels and other ornaments, and
arranging them in the pretty little rooms inside the trees.
Unfortunately sadder days were to come. A war with another
country broke out, and the king had to lead his army against
their enemy. During his absence the queen fell ill, and after
lingering for some time she died, to the great grief of her
children. They made up their minds to live altogether for a time
in their trees, and for this purpose they had provisions enough
stored up inside to last them a year.
Now, I must tell you, in another country a long way off, there
reigned a king who had an only son named Ring. Prince Ring had
heard so much about the beauty and goodness of Princess Signy
that he determined to marry her if possible. So he begged his
father to let him have a ship for the voyage, set sail with a
favourable wind, and after a time landed in the country where
The prince lost no time in setting out for the royal palace, and
on his way there he met such a wonderfully lovely woman that he
felt he had never seen such beauty in all his life. He stopped
her and at once asked who she was.
'I am Signy, the king's daughter,' was the reply.
Then the prince inquired why she was wandering about all by
herself, and she told him that since her mother's death she was
so sad that whilst her father was away she preferred being alone.
Ring was quite deceived by her, and never guessed that she was
not Princess Signy at all, but a strong, gigantic, wicked witch
bent on deceiving him under a beautiful shape. He confided to
her that he had travelled all the way from his own country for
her sake, having fallen in love with the accounts he had heard of
her beauty, and he then and there asked her to be his wife.
The witch listened to all he said and, much pleased, ended by
accepting his offer; but she begged him to return to his ship for
a little while as she wished to go some way further into the
forest, promising to join him later on.
Prince Ring did as she wished and went back to his ship to wait,
whilst she walked on into the forest till she reached the two oak
Here she resumed her own gigantic shape, tore up the trees by
their roots, threw one of them over her back and clasped the
other to her breast, carried them down to the shore and waded out
with them to the ship.
She took care not to be noticed as she reached the ship, and
directly she got on board she once more changed to her former
lovely appearance and told the prince that her luggage was now
all on board, and that they need wait for nothing more.
The prince gave orders to set sail at once, and after a fine
voyage landed in his own country, where his parents and his only
sister received him with the greatest joy and affection.
The false Signy was also very kindly welcomed. A beautiful house
was got ready for her, and Prince Ring had the two oaks planted
in the garden just in front of her windows so that she might have
the pleasure of seeing them constantly. He often went to visit
the witch, whom he believed to be Princess Signy, and one day he
asked: 'Don't you think we might be married before long?'
'Yes,' said she, quite pleased, 'I am quite ready to marry you
whenever you like.'
'Then,' replied Ring, 'let us decide on this day fortnight. And
see, I have brought you some stuff to make your wedding-dress
of.' So saying he gave her a large piece of the most beautiful
brocade, all woven over with gold threads, and embroidered with
pearls and other jewels.
The prince had hardly left her before the witch resumed her
proper shape and tore about the room, raging and storming and
flinging the beautiful silk on the floor.
'What was SHE to do with such things?' she roared. 'SHE did not
know how to sew or make clothes, and she was sure to die of
starvation into the bargain if her brother Ironhead did not come
soon and bring her some raw meat and bones, for she really could
eat nothing else.'
As she was raving and roaring in this frantic manner part of the
floor suddenly opened and a huge giant rose up carrying a great
chest in his arms. The witch was enchanted at this sight, and
eagerly helped her brother to set down and open the chest, which
was full of the ghastly food she had been longing for. The
horrid pair set to and greedily devoured it all, and when the
chest was quite empty the giant put it on his shoulder and
disappeared as he had come, without leaving any trace of his
But his sister did not keep quiet for long, and tore and pulled
at the rich brocade as if she wanted to destroy it, stamping
about and shouting angrily.
Now, all this time Prince Asmund and his sister sat in their
trees just outside the window and saw all that was going on.
'Dear Signy,' said Asmund, 'do try to get hold of that piece of
brocade and make the clothes yourself, for really we shall have
no rest day or night with such a noise.'
'I will try,' said Signy; 'it won't be an easy matter, but it's
worth while taking some trouble to have a little peace.'
So she watched for an opportunity and managed to carry off the
brocade the first time the witch left her room. Then she set to
work, cutting out and sewing as best she could, and by the end of
six days she had turned it into an elegant robe with a long train
and a mantle. When it was finished she climbed to the top of her
tree and contrived to throw the clothes on to a table through the
How delighted the witch was when she found the clothes all
finished! The next time Prince Ring came to see her she gave them
to him, and he paid her many compliments on her skilful work,
after which he took leave of her in the most friendly manner.
But he had scarcely left the house when the witch began to rage
as furiously as ever, and never stopped till her brother Ironhead
When Asmund saw all these wild doings from his tree he felt he
could no longer keep silence. He went to Prince Ring and said:
'Do come with me and see the strange things that are happening in
the new princess's room.'
The prince was not a little surprised, but he consented to hide
himself with Asmund behind the panelling of the room, from where
they could see all that went on through a little slit. The witch
was raving and roaring as usual, and said to her brother:
'Once I am married to the king's son I shall be better off than
now. I shall take care to have all that pack of courtiers put to
death, and then I shall send for all my relations to come and
live here instead. I fancy the giants will enjoy themselves very
much with me and my husband.'
When Prince Ring heard this he fell into such a rage that he
ordered the house to be set on fire, and it was burnt to the
ground, with the witch and her brother in it.
Asmund then told the prince about the two oak trees and took him
to see them. The prince was quite astonished at them and at all
their contents, but still more so at the extreme beauty of Signy.
He fell in love with her at once, and entreated her to marry him,
which, after a time, she consented to do. Asmund, on his side,
asked for the hand of Prince Ring's sister, which was gladly
granted him, and the double wedding was celebrated with great
After this Prince Asmund and his bride returned to his country to
live with the king his father. The two couples often met, and
lived happily for many, many years. And that is the end of the
[From Islandische Mahrchen.]
Over all the vast under-world the mountain Gnome Rubezahl was
lord; and busy enough the care of his dominions kept him. There
were the endless treasure chambers to be gone through, and the
hosts of gnomes to be kept to their tasks. Some built strong
barriers to hold back the fiery vapours to change dull stones to
precious metal, or were hard at work filling every cranny of the
rocks with diamonds and rubies; for Rubezahl loved all pretty
things. Sometimes the fancy would take him to leave those gloomy
regions, and come out upon the green earth for a while, and bask
in the sunshine and hear the birds sing. And as gnomes live many
hundreds of years he saw strange things. For, the first time he
came up, the great hills were covered with thick forests, in
which wild animals roamed, and Rubezahl watched the fierce fights
between bear and bison, or chased the grey wolves, or amused
himself by rolling great rocks down into the desolate valleys, to
hear the thunder of their fall echoing among the hills. But the
next time he ventured above ground, what was his surprise to find
everything changed! The dark woods were hewn down, and in their
place appeared blossoming orchards surrounding cosy-looking
thatched cottages; for every chimney the blue smoke curled
peacefully into the air, sheep and oxen fed in the flowery
meadows, while from the shade of the hedges came the music of the
shepherd's pipe. The strangeness and pleasantness of the sight
so delighted the gnome that he never thought of resenting the
intrusion of these unexpected guests, who, without saying 'by
your leave' or 'with your leave,' had made themselves so very
much at home upon is hills; nor did he wish to interfere with
their doings, but left them in quiet possession of their homes,
as a good householder leaves in peace the swallows who have built
their nests under his eaves. He was indeed greatly minded to
make friends with this being called 'man,' so, taking the form of
an old field labourer, he entered the service of a farmer. Under
his care all the crops flourished exceedingly, but the master
proved to be wasteful and ungrateful, and Rubezahl soon left him,
and went to be shepherd to his next neighbour. He tended the
flock so diligently, and knew so well where to lead the sheep to
the sweetest pastures, and where among the hills to look for any
who strayed away, that they too prospered under his care, and not
one was lost or torn by wolves; but this new master was a hard
man, and begrudged him his well-earned wages. So he ran away and
went to serve the judge. Here he upheld the law with might and
main, and was a terror to thieves and evildoers; but the judge
was a bad man, who took bribes, and despised the law. Rubezahl
would not be the tool of an unjust man, and so he told his
master, who thereupon ordered him to be thrown in prison. Of
course that did not trouble the gnome at all, he simply got out
through the keyhole, and went away down to his underground
palace, very much disappointed by his first experience of
mankind. But, as time went on, he forgot the disagreeable things
that had happened to him, and thought he would take another look
at the upper world.
So he stole into the valley, keeping himself carefully hidden in
copse or hedgerow, and very soon met with an adventure; for,
peeping through a screen of leaves, he saw before him a green
lawn where stood a charming maiden, fresh as the spring, and
beautiful to look upon. Around her upon the grass lay her young
companions, as if they had thrown themselves down to rest after
some merry game. Beyond them flowed a little brook, into which a
waterfall leapt from a high rock, filling the air with its
pleasant sound, and making a coolness even in the sultry
noontide. The sight of the maiden so pleased the gnome that, for
the first time, he wished himself a mortal; and, longing for a
better view of the gay company, he changed himself into a raven
and perched upon an oaktree which overhung the brook. But he
soon found that this was not at all a good plan. He could only
see with a raven's eyes, and feel as a raven feels; and a nest of
field-mice at the foot of the tree interested him far more than
the sport of the maidens. When he understood this he flew down
again in a great hurry into the thicket, and took the form of a
handsome young man--that was the best way--and he fell in love
with the girl then and there. The fair maiden was the daughter
of the king of the country, and she often wandered in the forest
with her play fellows gathering the wild flowers and fruits, till
the midday heat drove the merry band to the shady lawn by the
brook to rest, or to bathe in the cool waters. On this
particular morning the fancy took them to wander off again into
the wood. This was Master Rubezahl's opportunity. Stepping out
of his hiding-place he stood in the midst of the little lawn,
weaving his magic spells, till slowly all about him changed, and
when the maidens returned at noon to their favourite resting-
place they stood lost in amazement, and almost fancied that they
must be dreaming. The red rocks had become white marble and
alabaster; the stream that murmured and struggled before in its
rocky bed, flowed in silence now in its smooth channel, from
which a clear fountain leapt, to fall again in showers of diamond
drops, now on this side now on that, as the wandering breeze
Daisies and forget-me-nots fringed its brink, while tall hedges
of roses and jasmine ringed it round, making the sweetest and
daintiest bower imaginable. To the right and left of the
waterfall opened out a wonderful grotto, its walls and arches
glittering with many-coloured rock-crystals, while in every niche
were spread out strange fruits and sweetmeats, the very sight of
which made the princess long to taste them. She hesitated a
while, however, scarcely able to believe her eyes, and not
knowing if she should enter the enchanted spot or fly from it.
But at length curiosity prevailed, and she and her companions
explored to their heart's content, and tasted and examined
everything, running hither and thither in high glee, and calling
merrily to each other.
At last, when they were quite weary, the princess cried out
suddenly that nothing would content her but to bathe in the
marble pool, which certainly did look very inviting; and they all
went gaily to this new amusement. The princess was ready first,
but scarcely had she slipped over the rim of the pool when down--
down--down she sank, and vanished in its depths before her
frightened playmates could seize her by so much as a lock of her
floating golden hair!
Loudly did they weep and wail, running about the brink of the
pool, which looked so shallow and so clear, but which had
swallowed up their princess before their eyes. They even sprang
into the water and tried to dive after her, but in vain; they
only floated like corks in the enchanted pool, and could not keep
under water for a second.
They saw at last that there was nothing for it but to carry to
the king the sad tidings of his beloved daughter's disappearance.
And what great weeping and lamentation there was in the palace
when the dreadful news was told! The king tore his robes, dashed
his golden crown from his head, and hid his face in his purple
mantle for grief and anguish at the loss of the princess. After
the first outburst of wailing, however, he took heart and hurried
off to see for himself the scene of this strange adventure,
thinking, as people will in sorrow, that there might be some
mistake after all. But when he reached the spot, behold, all was
changed again! The glittering grotto described to him by the
maidens had completely vanished, and so had the marble bath, the
bower of jasmine; instead, all was a tangle of flowers, as it had
been of old. The king was so much perplexed that he threatened
the princess's playfellows with all sorts of punishments if they
would not confess something about her disappearance; but as they
only repeated the same story he presently put down the whole
affair to the work of some sprite or goblin, and tried to console
himself for his loss by ordering a grand hunt; for kings cannot
bear to be troubled about anything long.
Meanwhile the princess was not at all unhappy in the palace of
her elfish lover.
When the water-nymphs, who were hiding in readiness, had caught
her and dragged her out of the sight of her terrified maidens,
she herself had not had time to be frightened. They swam with
her quickly by strange underground ways to a palace so splendid
that her father's seemed but a poor cottage in comparison with
it, and when she recovered from her astonishment she found
herself seated upon a couch, wrapped in a wonderful robe of satin
fastened with a silken girdle, while beside her knelt a young man
who whispered the sweetest speeches imaginable in her ear. The
gnome, for he it was, told her all about himself and his great
underground kingdom, and presently led her through the many rooms
and halls of the palace, and showed her the rare and wonderful
things displayed in them till she was fairly dazzled at the sight
of so much splendour. On three sides of the castle lay a lovely
garden with masses of gay, sweet flowers, and velvet lawns all
cool and shady, which pleased the eye of the princess. The fruit
trees were hung with golden and rosy apples, and nightingales
sang in every bush, as the gnome and the princess wandered in the
leafy alleys, sometimes gazing at the moon, sometimes pausing to
gather the rarest flowers for her adornment. And all the time he
was thinking to himself that never, during the hundreds of years
he had lived, had he seen so charming a maiden. But the princess
felt no such happiness; in spite of all the magic delights around
her she was sad, though she tried to seem content for fear of
displeasing the gnome. However, he soon perceived her
melancholy, and in a thousand ways strove to dispel the cloud,
but in vain. At last he said to himself: 'Men are sociable
creatures, like bees or ants. Doubtless this lovely mortal is
pining for company. Who is there I can find for her to talk to?'
Thereupon he hastened into the nearest filed and dug up a dozen
or so of different roots--carrots, turnips, and radishes--and
laying them carefully in an elegant basket brought them to the
princess, who sat pensive in the shade of the rose-bower.
'Loveliest daughter of earth,' said the gnome, 'banish all
sorrow; no more shall you be lonely in my dwelling. In this
basket is all you need to make this spot delightful to you. Take
this little many-coloured wand, and with a touch give to each
root the form you desire to see.'
With this he left her, and the princess, without an instant's
delay, opened the basket, and touching a turnip, cried eagerly:
'Brunhilda, my dear Brunhilda! come to me quickly!' And sure
enough there was Brunhilda, joyfully hugging and kissing her
beloved princess, and chattering as gaily as in the old days.
This sudden appearance was so delightful that the princess could
hardly believe her own eyes, and was quite beside herself with
the joy of having her dear playfellow with her once more. Hand
in hand they wandered about the enchanted garden, and gathered
the golden apples from the trees, and when they were tired of
this amusement the princess led her friend through all the
wonderful rooms of the palace, until at last they came to the one
in which were kept all the marvellous dresses and ornaments the
gnome had given to his hoped-for bride. There they found so much
to amuse them that the hours passed like minutes. Veils,
girdles, and necklaces were tried on and admired, the imitation
Brunhilda knew so well how to behave herself, and showed so much
taste that nobody would ever have suspected that she was nothing
but a turnip after all. The gnome, who had secretly been keeping
an eye upon them, was very pleased with himself for having so
well understood the heart of a woman; and the princess seemed to
him even more charming than before. She did not forget to touch
the rest of the roots with her magic wand, and soon had all her
maidens about her, and even, as she had two tiny radishes to
spare, her favourite cat, and her little dog whose name was Beni.
And now all went cheerfully in the castle. The princess gave to
each of the maidens her task, and never was mistress better
served. For a whole week she enjoyed the delight of her pleasant
company undisturbed. They all sang, they danced, they played
from morning to night; only the princess noticed that day by day
the fresh young faces of her maidens grew pale and wan, and the
mirror in the great marble hall showed her that she alone still
kept her rosy bloom, while Brunhilda and the rest faded visibly.
They assured her that all was well with them; but, nevertheless,
they continued to waste away, and day by day it became harder to
them to take part in the games of the princess, till at last, one
fine morning, when the princess started from bed and hastened out
to join her gay playfellows, she shuddered and started back at
the sight of a group of shrivelled crones, with bent backs and
trembling limbs, who supported their tottering steps with staves
and crutches, and coughed dismally. A little nearer to the
hearth lay the once frolicsome Beni, with all four feet stretched
stiffly out, while the sleek cat seemed too weak to raise his
head from his velvet cushion.
The horrified princess fled to the door to escape from the sight
of this mournful company, and called loudly for the gnome, who
appeared at once, humbly anxious to do her bidding.
'Malicious Sprite,' she cried, 'why do you begrudge me my
playmates --the greatest delight of my lonely hours? Isn't this
solitary life in such a desert bad enough without your turning
the castle into a hospital for the aged? Give my maidens back
their youth and health this very minute, or I will never love
'Sweetest and fairest of damsels,' cried the gnome, 'do not be
angry; everything that is in my power I will do--but do not ask
the impossible. So long as the sap was fresh in the roots the
magic staff could keep them in the forms you desired, but as the
sap dried up they withered away. But never trouble yourself
about that, dearest one, a basket of fresh turnips will soon set
matters right, and you can speedily call up again every form you
wish to see. The great green patch in the garden will prove you
with a more lively company.'
So saying the gnome took himself off. And the princess with her
magic wand touched the wrinkled old women, and left them the
withered roots they really were, to be thrown upon the rubbish
heap; and with light feet skipped off across to the meadow to
take possession of the freshly filled basket. But to her
surprise she could not find it anywhere. Up and down the garden
she searched, spying into every corner, but not a sign of it was
to be found. By the trellis of grape vines she met the gnome,
who was so much embarrassed at the sight of her that she became
aware of his confusion while he was still quite a long way off.
'You are trying to tease me,' she cried, as soon as she saw him.
'Where have you hidden the basket? I have been looking for it at
least an hour.'
'Dear queen of my heart,' answered he, 'I pray you to forgive my
carelessness. I promised more than I could perform. I have
sought all over the land for the roots you desire; but they are
gathered in, and lie drying in musty cellars, and the fields are
bare and desolate, for below in the valley winter reigns, only
here in your presence spring is held fast, and wherever your foot
is set the gay flowers bloom. Have patience for a little, and
then without fail you shall have your puppets to play with.'
Almost before the gnome had finished, the disappointed princess
turned away, and marched off to her own apartments, without
deigning to answer him.
The gnome, however, set off above ground as speedily as possible,
and disguising himself as a farmer, bought an ass in the nearest
market-town, and brought it back loaded with sacks of turnip,
carrot, and radish seed. With this he sowed a great field, and
sent a vast army of his goblins to watch and tend it, and to
bring up the fiery rivers from the heart of the earth near enough
to warm and encourage the sprouting seeds. Thus fostered they
grew and flourished marvellously, and promised a goodly crop.
The princess wandered about the field day by day, no other plants
or fruits in all her wonderful garden pleased her as much as
these roots; but still her eyes were full of discontent. And,
best of all, she loved to while away the hours in a shady fir-
wood, seated upon the bank of a little stream, into which she
would cast the flowers she had gathered and watch them float
The gnome tried hard by every means in his power to please the
princess and win her love, but little did he guess the real
reason of his lack of success. He imagined that she was too
young and inexperienced to care for him; but that was a mistake,
for the truth was that another image already filled her heart.
The young Prince Ratibor, whose lands joined her father's, had
won the heart of the princess; and the lovers had been looking
forward to the coming of their wedding-day when the bride's
mysterious disappearance took place. The sad news drove Ratibor
distracted, and as the days went on, and nothing could be heard
of the princess, he forsook his castle and the society of men,
and spent his days in the wild forests, roaming about and crying
her name aloud to the trees and rocks. Meanwhile, the maiden, in
her gorgeous prison, sighed in secret over her grief, not wishing
to arouse the gnome's suspicions. In her own mind she was
wondering if by any means she might escape from her captivity,
and at last she hit upon a plan.
By this time spring once more reigned in the valley, and the
gnome sent the fires back to their places in the deeps of the
earth, for the roots which they had kept warm through all the
cruel winter hand now come to their full size. Day by day the
princess pulled up some of them, and made experiments with them,
conjuring up now this longed-for person, and now that, just for
the pleasure of seeing them as they appeared; but she really had
another purpose in view.
One day she changed a tiny turnip into a bee, and sent him off to
bring her some news of her lover.
'Fly, dear little bee, towards the east,' said she, 'to my
beloved Ratibor, and softly hum into his ear that I love him
only, but that I am a captive in the gnome's palace under the
mountains. Do not forget a single word of my greeting, and bring
me back a message from my beloved.'
So the bee spread his shining wings and flew away to do as he was
bidden; but before he was out of sight a greedy swallow made a
snatch at him, and to the great grief of the princess her
messenger was eaten up then and there.
After that, by the power of the wonderful wand she summoned a
cricket, and taught him this greeting:
'Hop, little cricket, to Ratibor, and chirp in his ear that I
love him only, but that I am held captive by the gnome in his
palace under the mountains.'
So the cricket hopped off gaily, determined to do his best to
deliver his message; but, alas! a long-legged stork who was
prancing along the same road caught him in her cruel beak, and
before he could say a word he had disappeared down her throat.
These two unlucky ventures did not prevent the princess from
trying once more.
This time she changed the turnip into a magpie.
'Flutter from tree to tree, chattering bird,' said she, 'till you
come to Ratibor, my love. Tell him that I am a captive, and bid
him come with horses and men, the third day from this, to the
hill that rises from the Thorny Valley.'
The magpie listened, hopped awhile from branch to branch, and
then darted away, the princess watching him anxiously as far as
she could see.
Now Prince Ratibor was still spending his life in wandering about
the woods, and not even the beauty of the spring could soothe his
One day, as he sat in the shade of an oak tree, dreaming of his
lost princess, and sometimes crying her name aloud, he seemed to
hear another voice reply to his, and, starting up, he gazed
around him, but he could see no one, and he had just made up his
mind that he must be mistaken, when the same voice called again,
and, looking up sharply, he saw a magpie which hopped to and fro
among the twigs. Then Ratibor heard with surprise that the bird
was indeed calling him by name.
'Poor chatterpie,' said he; 'who taught you to say that name,
which belongs to an unlucky mortal who wishes the earth would
open and swallow up him and his memory for ever?'
Thereupon he caught up a great stone, and would have hurled it at
the magpie, if it had not at that moment uttered the name of the
This was so unexpected that the prince's arm fell helplessly to
his side at the sound, and he stood motionless.
But the magpie in the tree, who, like all the rest of his family,
was not happy unless he could be for ever chattering, began to
repeat the message the princess had taught him; and as soon as he
understood it, Prince Ratibor's heart was filed with joy. All
his gloom and misery vanished in a moment, and he anxiously
questioned the welcome messenger as to the fate of the princess.
But the magpie knew no more than the lesson he had learnt, so he
soon fluttered away; while the prince hurried back to his castle
to gather together a troop of horsemen, full of courage for
whatever might befall.
The princess meanwhile was craftily pursuing her plan of escape.
She left off treating the gnome with coldness and indifference;
indeed, there was a look in her eyes which encouraged him to hope
that she might some day return his love, and the idea pleased him
mightily. The next day, as soon as the sun rose, she made her
appearance decked as a bride, in the wonderful robes and jewels
which the fond gnome had prepared for her. Her golden hair was
braided and crowned with myrtle blossoms, and her flowing veil
sparkled with gems. In these magnificent garments she went to
meet the gnome upon the great terrace.
'Loveliest of maidens,' he stammered, bowing low before her, 'let
me gaze into your dear eyes, and read in them that you will no
longer refuse my love, but will make me the happiest being the
sun shines upon.'
So saying he would have drawn aside her veil; but the princess
only held it more closely about her.
'Your constancy has overcome me,' she said; 'I can no longer
oppose your wishes. But believe my words, and suffer this veil
still to hide my blushes and tears.'
'Why tears, beloved one?' cried the gnome anxiously; 'every tear
of yours falls upon my heart like a drop of molten gold. Greatly
as I desire your love, I do not ask a sacrifice.'
'Ah!' cried the false princess, 'why do you misunderstand my
tears? My heart answers to your tenderness, and yet I am
fearful. A wife cannot always charm, and though YOU will never
alter, the beauty of mortals is as a flower that fades. How can
I be sure that you will always be as loving and charming as you
'Ask some proof, sweetheart,' said he. 'Put my obedience and my
patience to some test by which you can judge of my unalterable
'Be it so,' answered the crafty maiden. 'Then give me just one
proof of your goodness. Go! count the turnips in yonder meadow.
My wedding feast must not lack guests. They shall provide me
with bride-maidens too. But beware lest you deceive me, and do
not miss a single one. That shall be the test of your truth
Unwilling as the gnome was to lose sight of his beautiful bride
for a moment, he obeyed her commands without delay, and hurried
off to begin his task. He skipped along among the turnips as
nimble as a grasshopper, and had soon counted them all; but, to
be quite certain that he had made no mistake, he thought he would
just run over them again. This time, to his great annoyance, the
number was different; so he reckoned them for the third time, but
now the number was not the same as either of the previous ones!
And this was hardly to be wondered at, as his mind was full of
the princess's pretty looks and words.
As for the maiden, no sooner was her deluded lover fairly out of
sight than she began to prepare for flight. She had a fine fresh
turnip hidden close at hand, which she changed into a spirited
horse, all saddled and bridled, and, springing upon its back, she
galloped away over hill and dale till she reached the Thorny
Valley, and flung herself into the arms of her beloved Prince
Meanwhile the toiling gnome went through his task over and over
again till his back ached and his head swam, and he could no
longer put two and two together; but as he felt tolerably certain
of the exact number of turnips in the field, big and little
together, he hurried back eager to prove to his beloved one what
a delightful and submissive husband he would be. He felt very
well satisfied with himself as he crossed the mossy lawn to the
place where he had left her; but, alas! she was no longer there.
He searched every thicket and path, he looked behind every tree,
and gazed into every pond, but without success; then he hastened
into the palace and rushed from room to room, peering into every
hole and corner and calling her by name; but only echo answered
in the marble halls--there was neither voice nor footstep.
Then he began to perceive that something was amiss, and, throwing
off the mortal form that encumbered him, he flew out of the
palace, and soared high into the air, and saw the fugitive
princess in the far distance just as the swift horse carried her
across the boundary of his dominions.
Furiously did the enraged gnome fling two great clouds together,
and hurl a thunderbolt after the flying maiden, splintering the
rocky barriers which had stood a thousand years. But his fury
was vain, the thunderclouds melted away into a soft mist, and the
gnome, after flying about for a while in despair, bewailing to
the four winds his unhappy fate, went sorrowfully back to the
palace, and stole once more through every room, with many sighs
and lamentations. He passed through the gardens which for him
had lost their charm, and the sight of the princess's footprints
on the golden sand of the pathway renewed his grief. All was
lonely, empty, sorrowful; and the forsaken gnome resolved that he
would have no more dealings with such false creatures as he had
found men to be.
Thereupon he stamped three times upon the earth, and the magic
palace, with all its treasures, vanished away into the
nothingness out of which he had called it; and the gnome fled
once more to the depths of his underground kingdom.
While all this was happening, Prince Ratibor was hurrying away
with his prize to a place of safety. With great pomp and triumph
he restored the lovely princess to her father, and was then and
there married to her, and took her back with him to his own
But long after she was dead, and her children too, the villagers
would tell the tale of her imprisonment underground, as they sat
carving wood in the winter nights.
[Volksmahrchen der Deutschen.]
Story Of The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate
Once upon a time, far away in the east country, there lived a
king who loved hunting so much that, when once there was a deer
in sight, he was careless of his own safety. Indeed, he often
became quite separated from his nobles and attendants, and in
fact was particularly fond of lonely adventures. Another of his
favourite amusements was to give out that he was not well, and
could not be seen; and then, with the knowledge only of his
faithful Grand Wazeer, to disguise himself as a pedlar, load a
donkey with cheap wares, and travel about. In this way he found
out what the common people said about him, and how his judges and
governors fulfilled their duties.
One day his queen presented him with a baby daughter as beautiful
as the dawn, and the king himself was so happy and delighted
that, for a whole week, he forgot to hunt, and spent the time in
public and private rejoicing.
Not long afterwards, however, he went out after some deer which
were to be found in a far corner of his forests. In the course
of the beat his dogs disturbed a beautiful snow-white stag, and
directly he saw it the king determined that he would have it at
any cost. So he put the spurs to his horse, and followed it as
hard as he could gallop. Of course all his attendants followed
at the best speed that they could manage; but the king was so
splendidly mounted, and the stag was so swift, that, at the end
of an hour, the king found that only his favourite hound and
himself were in the chase; all the rest were far, far behind and
out of sight.
Nothing daunted, however, he went on and on, till he perceived
that he was entering a valley with great rocky mountains on all
sides, and that his horse was getting very tired and trembled at
every stride. Worse than all evening was already drawing on, and
the sun would soon set. In vain had he sent arrow after arrow at
the beautiful stag. Every shot fell short, or went wide of the
mark; and at last, just as darkness was setting in, he lost sight
altogether of the beast. By this time his horse could hardly
move from fatigue, his hound staggered panting along beside him,
he was far away amongst mountains where he had never been before,
and had quite missed his way, and not a human creature or
dwelling was in sight.
All this was very discouraging, but the king would not have
minded if he had not lost that beautiful stag. That troubled him
a good deal, but he never worried over what he could not help, so
he got down from his horse, slipped his arm through the bridle,
and led the animal along the rough path in hopes of discovering
some shepherd's hut, or, at least, a cave or shelter under some
rock, where he might pass the night.
Presently he heard the sound of rushing water, and made towards
it. He toiled over a steep rocky shoulder of a hill, and there,
just below him, was a stream dashing down a precipitous glen,
and, almost beneath his feet, twinkling and flickering from the
level of the torrent, was a dim light as of a lamp. Towards this
light the king with his horse and hound made his way, sliding and
stumbling down a steep, stony path. At the bottom the king found
a narrow grassy ledge by the brink of the stream, across which
the light from a rude lantern in the mount of a cave shed a broad
beam of uncertain light. At the edge of the stream sat an old
hermit with a long white beard, who neither spoke nor moved as
the king approached, but sat throwing into the stream dry leaves
which lay scattered about the ground near him.
'Peace be upon you,' said the king, giving the usual country
'And upon you peace,' answered the hermit; but still he never
looked up, nor stopped what he was doing.
For a minute or two the king stood watching him. He noticed that
the hermit threw two leaves in at a time, and watched them
attentively. Sometimes both were carried rapidly down by the
stream; sometimes only one leaf was carried off, and the other,
after whirling slowly round and round on the edge of the current,
would come circling back on an eddy to the hermit's feet. At
other times both leaves were held in the backward eddy, and
failed to reach the main current of the noisy stream
'What are you doing?' asked the king at last, and the hermit
replied that he was reading the fates of men; every one's fate,
he said, was settled from the beginning, and, whatever it were,
there was no escape from it. The king laughed.
'I care little,' he said, 'what my fate may be; but I should be
curious to know the fate of my little daughter.'
'I cannot say,' answered the hermit.
'Do you not know, then?' demanded the king.
'I might know,' returned the hermit, 'but it is not always wisdom
to know much.'
But the king was not content with this reply, and began to press
the old man to say what he knew, which for a long time he would
not do. At last, however, the king urged him so greatly that he
'The king's daughter will marry the son of a poor slave-girl
called Puruna, who belongs to the king of the land of the north.
There is no escaping from Fate.'
The king was wild with anger at hearing these words, but he was
also very tired; so he only laughed, and answered that he hoped
there would be a way out of THAT fate anyhow. Then he asked if
the hermit could shelter him and his beasts for the night, and
the hermit said 'Yes'; so, very soon the king had watered and
tethered his horse, and, after a supper of bread and parched
peas, lay down in the cave, with the hound at his feet, and tried
to go to sleep. But instead of sleeping he only lay awake and
thought of the hermit's prophecy; and the more he thought of it
the angrier he felt, until he gnashed his teeth and declared that
it should never, never come true.
Morning came, and the king got up, pale and sulky, and, after
learning from the hermit which path to take, was soon mounted and
found his way home without much difficulty. Directly he reached
his palace he wrote a letter to the king of the land of the
north, begging him, as a favour, to sell him his slave girl
Puruna and her son, and saying that, if he consented, he would
send a messenger to receive them at the river which divided the
For five days he awaited the reply, and hardly slept or ate, but
was as cross as could be all the time. On the fifth day his
messenger returned with a letter to say that the king of the land
of the north would not sell, but he would give, the king the
slave girl and her son. The king was overjoyed. He sent for his
Grand Wazeer and told him that he was going on one of his lonely
expeditions, and that the Wazeer must invent some excuse to
account for his absence. Next he disguised himself as an
ordinary messenger, mounted a swift camel, and sped away to the
place where the slave girl was to be handed over to him. When he
got there he gave the messengers who brought her a letter of
thanks and a handsome present for their master and rewards for
themselves; and then without delay he took the poor woman and her
tiny baby-boy up on to his camel and rode off to a wild desert.
After riding for a day and a night, almost without stopping, he
came to a great cave where he made the woman dismount, and,
taking her and the baby into the cave, he drew his sword and with
one blow chopped her head off. But although his anger made him
cruel enough for anything so dreadful, the king felt that he
could not turn his great sword on the helpless baby, who he was
sure must soon die in this solitary place without its mother; so
he left it in the cave where it was, and, mounting his camel,
rode home as fast as he could.
Now, in a small village in his kingdom there lived an old widow
who had no children or relations of any kind. She made her
living mostly by selling the milk of a flock of goats; but she
was very, very poor, and not very strong, and often used to
wonder how she would live if she got too weak or ill to attend to
her goats. Every morning she drove the goats out into the desert
to graze on the shrubs and bushes which grew there, and every
evening they came home of themselves to be milked and to be shut
up safely for the night.
One evening the old woman was astonished to find that her very
best nanny-goat returned without a drop of milk. She thought
that some naughty boy or girl was playing a trick upon her and
had caught the goat on its way home and stolen all the milk. But
when evening after evening the goat remained almost dry she
determined to find out who the thief was. So the next day she
followed the goats at a distance and watched them while they
grazed. At length, in the afternoon, the old woman noticed this
particular nanny-goat stealing off by herself away from the herd
and she at once went after her. On and on the goat walked for
some way, and then disappeared into a cave in the rocks. The old
woman followed the goat into the cave and then, what should she
see but the animal giving her milk to a little boy-baby, whilst
on the ground near by lay the sad remains of the baby's dead
mother! Wondering and frightened, the old woman thought at last
that this little baby might be a son to her in her old age, and
that he would grow up and in time to come be her comfort and
support. So she carried home the baby to her hut, and next day
she took a spade to the cave and dug a grave where she buried the
Years passed by, and the baby grew up into a find handsome lad,
as daring as he was beautiful, and as industrious as he was
brave. One day, when the boy, whom the old woman had named Nur
Mahomed, was about seventeen years old, he was coming from his
day's work in the fields, when he saw a strange donkey eating the
cabbages in the garden which surround their little cottage.
Seizing a big stick, he began to beat the intruder and to drive
him out of his garden. A neighbour passing by called out to him-
-'Hi! I say! why are you beating the pedlar's donkey like that?'
'The pedlar should keep him from eating my cabbages,' said Nur
Mahomed; 'if he comes this evening here again I'll cut off his
tail for him!'
Whereupon he went off indoors, whistling cheerfully. It happened
that this neighbour was one of those people who make mischief by
talking too much; so, meeting the pedlar in the 'serai,' or inn,
that evening, he told him what had occurred, and added: 'Yes; and
the young spitfire said that if beating the donkey would not do,
he would beat you also, and cut your nose off for a thief!'
A few days later, the pedlar having moved on, two men appeared in
the village inquiring who it was who had threatened to ill-treat
and to murder an innocent pedlar. They declared that the pedlar,
in fear of his life, had complained to the king; and that they
had been sent to bring the lawless person who had said these
things before the king himself. Of course they soon found out
about the donkey eating Nur Mahomed's cabbages, and about the
young man's hot words; but although the lad assured them that he
had never said anything about murdering anyone, they replied they
were ordered to arrest him, and bring him to take his trial
before the king. So, in spite of his protests, and the wails of
his mother, he was carried off, and in due time brought before
the king. Of course Nur Mahomed never guessed that the supposed
pedlar happened to have been the king himself, although nobody
But as he was very angry at what he had been told, he declared
that he was going to make an example of this young man, and
intended to teach him that even poor travelling pedlars could get
justice in HIS country, and be protected from such lawlessness.
However, just as he was going to pronounce some very heavy
sentence, there was a stir in the court, and up came Nur
Mahomed's old mother, weeping and lamenting, and begging to be
heard. The king ordered her to speak, and she began to plead for
the boy, declaring how good he was, and how he was the support of
her old age, and if he were put in prison she would die. The
king asked her who she was. She replied that she was his mother.
'His mother?' said the king; 'you are too old, surely, to have so
young a son!'
Then the old woman, in her fright and distress, confessed the
whole story of how she found the baby, and how she rescued and
brought him up, and ended by beseeching the king for mercy.
It is easy to guess how, as the story came out, the king looked
blacker and blacker, and more and more grim, until at last he was
half fainting with rage and astonishment. This, then, was the
baby he had left to die, after cruelly murdering his mother!
Surely fate might have spared him this! He wished he had
sufficient excuse to put the boy to death, for the old hermit's
prophecy came back to him as strongly as ever; and yet the young
man had done nothing bad enough to deserve such a punishment.
Everyone would call him a tyrant if he were to give such an
order--in fact, he dared not try it!
At length he collected himself enough to say:--'If this young man
will enlist in my army I will let him off. We have need of such
as him, and a little discipline will do him good.' Still the old
woman pleaded that she could not live without her son, and was
nearly as terrified at the idea of his becoming a soldier as she
was at the thought of his being put in prison. But at length the
king-- determined to get the youth into his clutches--pacified
her by promising her a pension large enough to keep her in
comfort; and Nur Mahomed, to his own great delight, was duly
enrolled in the king's army.
As a soldier Nur Mahomed seemed to be in luck. He was rather
surprised, but much pleased, to find that he was always one of
those chosen when any difficult or dangerous enterprise was
afoot; and, although he had the narrowest escapes on some
occasions, still, the very desperateness of the situations in
which he found himself gave him special chances of displaying his
courage. And as he was also modest and generous, he became a
favourite with his officers and his comrades.
Thus it was not very surprising that, before very long, he became
enrolled amongst the picked men of the king's bodyguard. The
fact is, that the king had hoped to have got him killed in some
fight or another; but, seeing that, on the contrary, he throve on
hard knocks, he was now determined to try more direct and
One day, soon after Nur Mahomed had entered the bodyguard, he was
selected to be one of the soldiers told off to escort the king
through the city. The procession was marching on quite smoothly,
when a man, armed with a dagger, rushed out of an alley straight
towards the king. Nur Mahomed, who was the nearest of the
guards, threw himself in the way, and received the stab that had
been apparently intended for the king. Luckily the blow was a
hurried one, and the dagger glanced on is breastbone, so that,
although he received a severe wound, his youth and strength
quickly got the better of it. The king was, of course, obliged
to take some notice of this brave deed, and as a reward made him
one of his own attendants.
After this the strange adventures the young man passed through
were endless. Officers of the bodyguard were often sent on all
sorts of secret and difficult errands, and such errands had a
curious way of becoming necessary when Nur Mahomed was on duty.
Once, while he was taking a journey, a foot-bridge gave way under
him; once he was attacked by armed robbers; a rock rolled down
upon him in a mountain pass; a heavy stone coping fell from a
roof at his feet in a narrow city alley. Altogether, Nur Mahomed
began to think that, somewhere or other, he had made an enemy;
but he was light-hearted, and the thought did not much trouble
him. He escaped somehow every time, and felt amused rather than
anxious about the next adventure.
It was the custom of that city that the officer for the day of
the palace guards should receive all his food direct from the
king's kitchen. One day, when Nur Mahomed's turn came to be on
duty, he was just sitting down to a delicious stew that had been
sent in from the palace, when one of those gaunt, hungry dogs,
which, in eastern countries, run about the streets, poked his
nose in at the open guard-room door, and looked at Nur Mahomed
with mouth watering and nostrils working. The kind-hearted young
man picked out a lump of meat, went to the door, and threw it
outside to him. The dog pounced upon it, and gulped it down
greedily, and was just turning to go, when it staggered, fell,
rolled over, and died. Nur Mahomed, who had been lazily watching
him, stood still for a moment, then he came back whistling
softly. He gathered up the rest of his dinner and carefully
wrapped it up to carry away and bury somewhere; and then he sent
back the empty plates.
How furious the king was when, at the next morning's durbar, Nur
Mahomed appeared before him fresh, alert and smiling as usual.
He was determined, however, to try once more, and bidding the
young man come into his presence that evening, gave orders that
he was to carry a secret despatch to the governor of a distant
province. 'Make your preparations at once,' added he, 'and be
ready to start in the morning. I myself will deliver you the
papers at the last moment.'
Now this province was four or five days' journey from the palace,
and the governor of it was the most faithful servant the king
had. He could be silent as the grave, and prided himself on his
obedience. Whilst he was an old and tried servant of the king's,
his wife had been almost a mother to the young princess ever
since the queen had died some years before. It happened that, a
little before this time, the princess had been sent away for her
health to another remote province; and whilst she was there her
old friend, the governor's wife, had begged her to come and stay
with them as soon as she could.
The princess accepted gladly, and was actually staying in the
governor's house at the very time when the king made up his mind
to send Nur Mahomed there with the mysterious despatch.
According to orders Nur Mahomed presented himself early the next
morning at the king's private apartments. His best horse was
saddled, food placed in is saddle-bag, and with some money tied
up in his waist-band, he was ready to start. The king handed
over to him a sealed packet, desiring him to give it himself only
into the hands of the governor, and to no one else. Nur Mahomed
hid it carefully in his turban, swung himself into the saddle,
and five minutes later rode out of the city gates, and set out on
his long journey.
The weather was very hot; but Nur Mahomed thought that the sooner
his precious letter was delivered the better; so that, by dint of
riding most of each night and resting only in the hottest part of
the day, he found himself, by noon on the third day, approaching
the town which was his final destination.
Not a soul was to be seen anywhere; and Nur Mahomed, stiff, dry,
thirsty, and tired, looked longingly over the wall into the
gardens, and marked the fountains, the green grass, the shady
apricot orchards, and giant mulberry trees, and wished he were
At length he reached the castle gates, and was at once admitted,
as he was in the uniform of the king's bodyguard. The governor
was resting, the soldier said, and could not see him until the
evening. So Nur Mahomed handed over his horse to an attendant,
and wandered down into the lovely gardens he had seen from the
road, and sat down in the shade to rest himself. He flung
himself on his back and watched the birds twittering and
chattering in the trees above him. Through the branches he could
see great patches of sky where the kites wheeled and circled
incessantly, with shrill whistling cried. Bees buzzed over the
flowers with a soothing sound, and in a few minutes Nur Mahomed
was fast asleep.
Every day, through the heat of the afternoon, the governor, and
his wife also, used to lie down for two or three hours in their
own rooms, and so, for the matter of that, did most people in the
palace. But the princess, like many other girls, was restless,
and preferred to wander about the garden, rather than rest on a
pile of soft cushions. What a torment her stout old attendants
and servants sometime thought her when she insisted on staying
awake, and making them chatter or do something, when they could
hardly keep their eyes open! Sometimes, however, the princess
would pretend to go to sleep, and then, after all her women had
gladly followed her example, she would get up and go out by
herself, her veil hanging loosely about her. If she was
discovered her old hostess scolded her severely; but the princess
only laughed, and did the same thing next time.
This very afternoon the princess had left all her women asleep,
and, after trying in vain to amuse herself indoors, she had
slipped out into the great garden, and rambled about in all her
favourite nooks and corners, feeling quite safe as there was not
a creature to be seen. Suddenly, on turning a corner, she
stopped in surprise, for before her lay a man fast asleep! In her
hurry she had almost tripped over him. But there he was, a young
man, tanned and dusty with travel, in the uniform of an officer
of the king's guard. One of the few faults of this lovely
princess was a devouring curiosity, and she lived such an idle
life that she had plenty of time to be curious. Out of one of
the folds of this young man's turban there peeped the corner of a
letter! She wondered what the letter was--whom it was for! She
drew her veil a little closer, and stole across on tip-toe and
caught hold of the corner of the letter. Then she pulled it a
little, and just a little more! A great big seal came into view,
which she saw to be her father's, and at the sight of it she
paused for a minute half ashamed of what she was doing. But the
pleasure of taking a letter which was not meant for her was more
than she could resist, and in another moment it was in her hand.
All at once she remembered that it would be death to this poor
officer if he lost the letter, and that at all hazards she must
put it back again. But this was not so easy; and, moreover, the
letter in her hand burnt her with longing to read it, and see
what was inside. She examined the seal. It was sticky with
being exposed to the hot sun, and with a very little effort it
parted from the paper. The letter was open and she read it! And
this was what was written:
'Behead the messenger who brings this letter secretly and at
once. Ask no questions.'
The girl grew pale. What a shame! she thought. SHE would not
let a handsome young fellow like that be beheaded; but how to
prevent it was not quite clear at the moment. Some plan must be
invented, and she wished to lock herself in where no one could
interrupt her, as might easily happen in the garden. So she
crept softly to her room, and took a piece of paper and wrote
upon it: 'Marry the messenger who brings this letter to the
princess openly at once. Ask no questions.' And even contrived
to work the seals off the original letter and to fix them to
this, so that no one could tell, unless they examined it closely,
that it had ever been opened. Then she slipped back, shaking
with fear and excitement, to where the young officer still lay
asleep, thrust the letter into the fold so his turban, and
hurried back to her room. It was done!
Late in the afternoon Nur Mahomed woke, and, making sure that the
precious despatch was still safe, went off to get ready for his
audience with the governor. As soon as he was ushered into his
presence he took the letter from his turban and placed it in the
governor's hands according to orders. When he had read it the
governor was certainly a little astonished; but he was told in
the letter to 'ask no questions,' and he knew how to obey orders.
He sent for his wife and told her to get the princess ready to be
married at once.
'Nonsense!' said his wife, 'what in the world do you mean?'
'These are the king's commands,' he answered; 'go and do as I bid
you. The letter says "at once," and "ask no questions." The
marriage, therefore, must take place this evening.'
In vain did his wife urge every objection; the more she argued,
the more determined was her husband. 'I know how to obey
orders,' he said, 'and these are as plain as the nose on my
face!' So the princess was summoned, and, somewhat to their
surprise, she seemed to take the news very calmly; next Nur
Mahomed was informed, and he was greatly startled, but of course
he could but be delighted at the great and unexpected honour
which he thought the king had done him. Then all the castle was
turned upside down; and when the news spread in the town, THAT
was turned upside down too. Everybody ran everywhere, and tried
to do everything at once; and, in the middle of it all, the old
governor went about with his hair standing on end, muttering
something about 'obeying orders.'
And so the marriage was celebrated, and there was a great feast
in the castle, and another in the soldiers' barracks, and
illuminations all over the town and in the beautiful gardens.
And all the people declared that such a wonderful sight had never
been seen, and talked about it to the ends of their lives.
The next day the governor despatched the princess and her
bridegroom to the king, with a troop of horsemen, splendidly
dressed, and he sent a mounted messenger on before them, with a
letter giving the account of the marriage to the king.
When the king got the governor's letter, he grew so red in the
face that everyone thought he was going to have apoplexy. They
were all very anxious to know what had happened, but he rushed
off and locked himself into a room, where he ramped and raved
until he was tired. Then, after awhile, he began to think he had
better make the best of it, especially as the old governor had
been clever enough to send him back his letter, and the king was
pretty sure that this was in the princess's handwriting. He was
fond of his daughter, and though she had behaved badly, he did
not wish to cut HER head off, and he did not want people to know
the truth because it would make him look foolish. In fact, the
more he considered the matter, the more he felt that he would be
wise to put a good face on it, and to let people suppose that he
had really brought about the marriage of his own free will.
So, when the young couple arrived, the king received them with
all state, and gave his son-in-law a province to govern. Nur
Mahomed soon proved himself as able and honourable a governor as
he was a brave soldier; and, when the old king died, he became
king in his place, and reigned long and happily.
Nur Mahomed's old mother lived for a long time in her 'son's'
palace, and died in peace. The princess, his wife, although she
had got her husband by a trick, found that she could not trick
HIM, and so she never tried, but busied herself in teaching her
children and scolding her maids. As for the old hermit, no trace
of him was ever discovered; but the cave is there, and the leaves
lie thick in front of it unto this day.
[Told the writer by an Indian.]
Story of Wali Dad the Simple-Hearted
Once upon a time there lived a poor old man whose name was Wali
Dad Gunjay, or Wali Dad the Bald. He had no relations, but lived
all by himself in a little mud hut some distance from any town,
and made his living by cutting grass in the jungle, and selling
it as fodder for horses. He only earned by this five halfpence a
day; but he was a simple old man, and needed so little out of it,
that he saved up one halfpenny daily, and spent the rest upon
such food and clothing as he required.
In this way he lived for many years until, one night, he thought
that he would count the money he had hidden away in the great
earthen pot under the floor of his hut. So he set to work, and
with much trouble he pulled the bag out on to the floor, and sat
gazing in astonishment at the heap of coins which tumbled out of
it. What should he do with them all? he wondered. But he never
thought of spending the money on himself, because he was content
to pass the rest of his days as he had been doing for ever so
long, and he really had no desire for any greater comfort or
At last he threw all the money into an old sack, which he pushed
under his bead, and then, rolled in his ragged old blanket, he
went off to sleep.
Early next morning he staggered off with his sack of money to the
shop of a jeweller, whom he knew in the town, and bargained with
him for a beautiful little gold bracelet. With this carefully
wrapped up in his cotton waistband he went to the house of a rich
friend, who was a travelling merchant, and used to wander about
with his camels and merchandise through many countries. Wali Dad
was lucky enough to find him at home, so he sat down, and after a
little talk he asked the merchant who was the most virtuous and
beautiful lady he had ever met with. The merchant replied that
the princess of Khaistan was renowned everywhere as well for the
beauty of her person as for the kindness and generosity of her
'Then,' said Wali Dad, 'next time you go that way, give her this
little bracelet, with the respectful compliments of one who
admires virtue far more than he desires wealth.'
With that he pulled the bracelet from his waistband, and handed
it to his friend. The merchant was naturally much astonished,
but said nothing, and made no objection to carrying out his
Time passed by, and at length the merchant arrived in the course
of his travels at the capital of Khaistan. As soon as he had
opportunity he presented himself at the palace, and sent in the
bracelet, neatly packed in a little perfumed box provided by
himself, giving at the same time the message entrusted to him by
The princess could not think who could have bestowed this present
on her, but she bade her servant to tell the merchant that if he
would return, after he had finished his business in the city, she
would give him her reply. In a few days, therefore, the merchant
came back, and received from the princess a return present in the
shape of a camel-load or rich silks, besides a present of money
for himself. With these he set out on his journey.
Some months later he got home again from his journeyings, and
proceeded to take Wali Dad the princess's present. Great was the
perplexity of the good man to find a camel-load of silks tumbled
at his door! What was he to do with these costly things? But,
presently, after much thought, he begged the merchant to consider
whether he did not know of some young prince to whom such
treasures might be useful.
'Of course,' cried the merchant, greatly amused; 'from Delhi to
Baghdad, and from Constantinople to Lucknow, I know them all; and
there lives none worthier than the gallant and wealthy young
prince of Nekabad.'
'Very well, then, take the silks to him, with the blessing of an
old man,' said Wali Dad, much relieved to be rid of them.
So, the next time that the merchant journeyed that way he carried
the silks with him, and in due course arrived at Nekabad, and
sought an audience of the prince. When he was shown into his
presence he produced the beautiful gift of silks that Wali Dad
had sent, and begged the young man to accept them as a humble
tribute to his worth and greatness. The prince was much touched
by the generosity of the giver, and ordered, as a return present,
twelve of the finest breed of horses for which his country was
famous to be delivered over to the merchant, to whom also, before
he took his leave, he gave a munificent reward for his services.
As before, the merchant at last arrived at home; and next day, he
set out for Wali Dad's house with the twelve horses. When the
old man saw them coming in the distance he said to himself:
'Here's luck! a troop of horses coming! They are sure to want
quantities of grass, and I shall sell all I have without having
to drag it to market.' Thereupon he rushed off and cut grass as
fast he could. When he got back, with as much grass as he could
possibly carry, he was greatly discomfited to find that the
horses were all for himself. At first he could not think what to
do with them, but, after a little, a brilliant idea struck him!
He gave two to the merchant, and begged him to take the rest to
the princess of Khaistan, who was clearly the fittest person to
possess such beautiful animals.
The merchant departed, laughing. But, true to his old friend's
request, he took the horses with him on his next journey, and
eventually presented them safely to the princess. This time the
princess sent for the merchant, and questioned him about the
giver. Now, the merchant was usually a most honest man, but he
did not quite like to describe Wali Dad in his true light as an
old man whose income was five halfpence a day, and who had hardly
clothes to cover him. So he told her that his friend had heard
stories of her beauty and goodness, and had longed to lay the
best he had at her feet. The princess then took her father into
her confidence, and begged him to advise her what courtesy she
might return to one who persisted in making her such presents.
'Well,' said the king, 'you cannot refuse them; so the best thing
you can do is to send this unknown friend at once a present so
magnificent that he is not likely to be able to send you anything
better, and so will be ashamed to send anything at all!' Then he
ordered that, in place of each of the ten horses, two mules laden
with silver should be returned by her.
Thus, in a few hours, the merchant found himself in charge of a
splendid caravan; and he had to hire a number of armed men to
defend it on the road against the robbers, and he was glad indeed
to find himself back again in Wali Dad's hut.
'Well, now,' cried Wali Dad, as he viewed all the wealth laid at
his door, 'I can well repay that kind prince for his magnificent
present of horses; but to be sure you have been put to great
expenses! Still, if you will accept six mules and their loads,
and will take the rest straight to Nekabad, I shall thank you
The merchant felt handsomely repaid for his trouble, and wondered
greatly how the matter would turn out. So he made no difficulty
about it; and as soon as he could get things ready, he set out
for Nekabad with this new and princely gift.
This time the prince, too, was embarrassed, and questioned the
merchant closely. The merchant felt that his credit was at
stake, and whilst inwardly determining that he would not carry
the joke any further, could not help describing Wali Dad in such
glowing terms that the old man would never have known himself had
he heard them. The prince, like the king of Khaistan, determined
that he would send in return a gift that would be truly royal,
and which would perhaps prevent the unknown giver sending him
anything more. So he made up a caravan on twenty splendid horses
caparisoned in gold embroidered cloths, with fine morocco saddles
and silver bridles and stirrups, also twenty camels of the best
breed, which had the speed of race-horses, and could swing along
at a trot all day without getting tired; and, lastly, twenty
elephants, with magnificent silver howdahs and coverings of silk
embroidered with pearls. To take care of these animals the
merchant hired a little army of men; and the troop made a great
show as they travelled along.
When Wali Dad from a distance saw the cloud of dust which the
caravan made, and the glitter of its appointments, he said to
himself: 'By Allah! here's a grand crowd coming! Elephants, too!
Grass will be selling well to-day!' And with that he hurried off
to the jungle and cut grass as fast as he could. As soon as he
got back he found the caravan had stopped at his door, and the
merchant was waiting, a little anxiously, to tell him the news
and to congratulate him upon his riches.
'Riches!' cried Wali Dad, 'what has an old man like me with one
foot in the grave to do with riches? That beautiful young
princess, now! She'd be the one to enjoy all these fine things!
Do you take for yourself two horses, two camels, and two
elephants, with all their trappings, and present the rest to
The merchant at first objected to these remarks, and pointed out
to Wali Dad that he was beginning to feel these embassies a
little awkward. Of course he was himself richly repaid, so far
as expenses went; but still he did not like going so often, and
he was getting nervous. At length, however he consented to go
once more, but he promised himself never to embark on another
So, after a few days' rest, the caravan started off once more for
The moment the king of Khaistan saw the gorgeous train of men and
beasts entering his palace courtyard, he was so amazed that he
hurried down in person to inquire about it, and became dumb when
he heard that these also were a present from the princely Wali
Dad, and were for the princess, his daughter. He went hastily
off to her apartments, and said to her: 'I tell you what it is,
my dear, this man wants to marry you; that is the meaning of all
these presents! There is nothing for it but that we go and pay
him a visit in person. He must be a man of immense wealth, and
as he is so devoted to you, perhaps you might do worse than marry
The princess agreed with all that her father said, and orders
were issued for vast numbers of elephants and camels, and
gorgeous tents and flags, and litters for the ladies, and horses
for the men, to be prepared without delay, as the king and
princess were going to pay a visit to the great and munificent
prince Wali Dad. The merchant, the king declared, was to guide
The feelings of the poor merchant in this sore dilemma can hardly
be imagined. Willingly would he have run away; but he was
treated with so much hospitality as Wali Dad's representative,
that he hardly got an instant's real peace, and never any
opportunity of slipping away. In fact, after a few days, despair
possessed him to such a degree that he made up his mind that all
that happened was fate, and that escape was impossible; but he
hoped devoutly some turn of fortune would reveal to him a way out
of the difficulties which he had, with the best intentions, drawn
On the seventh day they all started, amidst thunderous salutes
from the ramparts of the city, and much dust, and cheering, and
blaring of trumpets.
Day after day they moved on, and every day the poor merchant felt
more ill and miserable. He wondered what kind of death the king
would invent for him, and went through almost as much torture, as
he lay awake nearly the whole of every night thinking over the
situation, as he would have suffered if the king's executioners
were already setting to work upon his neck.
At last they were only one day's march from Wali Dad's little mud
home. Here a great encampment was made, and the merchant was
sent on to tell Wali Dad that the King and Princess of Khaistan
had arrived and were seeking an interview. When the merchant
arrived he found the poor old man eating his evening meal of
onions and dry bread, and when he told him of all that had
happened he had not the heart to proceed to load him with the
reproaches which rose to his tongue. For Wali Dad was
overwhelmed with grief and shame for himself, for his friend, and
for the name and honour of the princess; and he wept and plucked
at his beard, and groaned most piteously. With tears he begged
the merchant to detain them for one day by any kind of excuse he
could think of, and to come in the morning to discuss what they
As soon as the merchant was gone Wali Dad made up his mind that
there was only one honourable way out of the shame and distress
that he had created by his foolishness, and that was--to kill
himself. So, without stopping to ask any one's advice, he went
off in the middle of the night to a place where the river wound
along at the base of steep rocky cliffs of great height, and
determined to throw himself down and put an end to his life.
When he got to the place he drew back a few paces, took a little
run, and at the very edge of that dreadful black gulf he stopped
short! He COULD not do it!
From below, unseen in the blackness of the deep night shadows,
the water roared and boiled round the jagged rocks--he could
picture the place as he knew it, only ten times more pitiless and
forbidding in the visionless darkness; the wind soughed through
the gorge with fearsome sighs, and rustlings and whisperings, and
the bushes and grasses that grew in the ledges of the cliffs
seemed to him like living creatures that danced and beckoned,
shadowy and indistinct. An owl laughed 'Hoo! hoo!' almost in his
face, as he peered over the edge of the gulf, and the old man
threw himself back in a perspiration of horror. He was afraid!
He drew back shuddering, and covering his face in his hands he
Presently he was aware of a gentle radiance that shed itself
before him. Surely morning was not already coming to hasten and
reveal his disgrace! He took his hands from before his face, and
saw before him two lovely beings whom his instinct told him were
not mortal, but were Peris from Paradise.
'Why do you weep, old man?' said one, in a voice as clear and
musical as that of the bulbul.
'I weep for shame,' replied he.
'What do you here?' questioned the other.
'I came here to die,' said Wali Dad. And as they questioned him,
he confessed all his story.
Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand upon his shoulder,
and Wali Dad began to feel that something strange--what, he did
not know--was happening to him. His old cotton rags of clothes
were changed to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth; on his
hard, bare feet were warm, soft shoes, and on his head a great
jewelled turban. Round his neck there lay a heavy golden chain,
and the little old bent sickle, which he cut grass with, and
which hung in his waistband, had turned into a gorgeous scimetar,
whose ivory hilt gleamed in the pale light like snow in
moonlight. As he stood wondering, like a man in a dream, the
other peri waved her hand and bade him turn and see; and, lo!
before him a noble gateway stood open. And up an avenue of giant
place trees the peris led him, dumb with amazement. At the end
of the avenue, on the very spot where his hut had stood, a
gorgeous palace appeared, ablaze with myriads of lights. Its
great porticoes and verandahs were occupied by hurrying servants,
and guards paced to and fro and saluted him respectfully as he
drew near, along mossy walks and through sweeping grassy lawns
where fountains were playing and flowers scented the air. Wali
Dad stood stunned and helpless.
'Fear not,' said one of the peris; 'go to your house, and learn
that God rewards the simple-hearted.'
With these words they both disappeared and left him. He walked
on, thinking still that he must be dreaming. Very soon he
retired to rest in a splendid room, far grander than anything he
had ever dreamed of.
When morning dawned he woke, and found that the palace, and
himself, and his servants were all real, and that he was not
dreaming after all!
If he was dumbfounded, the merchant, who was ushered into his
presence soon after sunrise, was much more so. He told Wali Dad
that he had not slept all night, and by the first streak of
daylight had started to seek out his friend. And what a search
he had had! A great stretch of wild jungle country had, in the
night, been changed into parks and gardens; and if it had not
been for some of Wali Dad's new servants, who found him and
brought him to the palace, he would have fled away under the
impression that his trouble had sent him crazy, and that all he
saw was only imagination.
Then Wali Dad told the merchant all that had happened. By his
advice he sent an invitation to the king and princess of Khaistan
to come and be his guests, together with all their retinue and
servants, down to the very humblest in the camp.
For three nights and days a great feast was held in honour of the
royal guests. Every evening the king and his nobles were served
on golden plates and from golden cups; and the smaller people on
silver plates and from silver cups; and each evening each guest
was requested to keep the places and cups that they had used as a
remembrance of the occasion. Never had anything so splendid been
seen. Besides the great dinners, there were sports and hunting,
and dances, and amusements of all sorts.
On the fourth day the king of Khaistan took his host aside, and
asked him whether it was true, as he had suspected, that he
wished to marry his daughter. But Wali Dad, after thanking him
very much for the compliment, said that he had never dreamed of
so great an honour, and that he was far too old and ugly for so
fair a lady; but he begged the king to stay with him until he
could send for the Prince of Nekabad, who was a most excellent,
brave, and honourable young man, and would surely be delighted to
try to win the hand of the beautiful princess.
To this the king agreed, and Wali Dad sent the merchant to
Nekabad, with a number of attendants, and with such handsome
presents that the prince came at once, fell head over ears in
love with the princess, and married her at Wali Dad's palace
amidst a fresh outburst of rejoicings.
And now the King of Khaistan and the Prince and Princess of
Nekabad, each went back to their own country; and Wali Dad lived
to a good old age, befriending all who were in trouble and
preserving, in his prosperity, the simple-hearted and generous
nature that he had when he was only Wali Dad Gunjay, the grass
[Told the author by an Indian.]
Tale of a Tortoise and of a Mischievous Monkey
Once upon a time there was a country where the rivers were
larger, and the forests deeper, than anywhere else. Hardly any
men came there, and the wild creatures had it all to themselves,
and used to play all sorts of strange games with each other. The
great trees, chained one to the other by thick flowering plants
with bright scarlet or yellow blossoms, were famous hiding-places
for the monkeys, who could wait unseen, till a puma or an
elephant passed by, and then jump on their backs and go for a
ride, swinging themselves up by the creepers when they had had
enough. Near the rivers huge tortoises were to be found, and
though to our eyes a tortoise seems a dull, slow thing, it is
wonderful to think how clever they were, and how often they
outwitted many of their livelier friends.
There was one tortoise in particular that always managed to get
the better of everybody, and many were the tales told in the
forest of his great deeds. They began when he was quite young,
and tired of staying at home with his father and mother. He left
them one day, and walked off in search of adventures. In a wide
open space surrounded by trees he met with an elephant, who was
having his supper before taking his evening bath in the river
which ran close by. 'Let us see which of us two is strongest,'
said the young tortoise, marching up to the elephant. 'Very
well,' replied the elephant, much amused at the impertinence of
the little creature; 'when would you like the trial to be?'
'In an hour's time; I have some business to do first,' answered
the tortoise. And he hastened away as fast as his short legs
would carry him.
In a pool of the river a whale was resting, blowing water into
the air and making a lovely fountain. The tortoise, however, was
too young and too busy to admire such things, and he called to
the whale to stop, as he wanted to speak to him. 'Would you like
to try which of us is the stronger?' said he. The whale looked
at him, sent up another fountain, and answered: 'Oh, yes;
certainly. When do you wish to begin? I am quite ready.'
'Then give me one of your longest bones, and I will fasten it to
my leg. When I give the signal, you must pull, and we will see
which can pull the hardest.'
'Very good,' replied the whale; and he took out one of his bones
and passed it to the tortoise.
The tortoise picked up the end of the bone in his mouth and went
back to the elephant. 'I will fasten this to your leg,' said he,
'in the same way as it is fastened to mine, and we must both pull
as hard as we can. We shall soon see which is the stronger.' So
he wound it carefully round the elephant's leg, and tied it in a
firm knot. 'Now!' cried he, plunging into a thick bush behind
The whale tugged at one end, and the elephant tugged at the
other, and neither had any idea that he had not the tortoise for
his foe. When the whale pulled hardest the elephant was dragged
into the water; and when the elephant pulled the hardest the
whale was hauled on to the land. They were very evenly matched,
and the battle was a hard one.
At last they were quite tired, and the tortoise, who was
watching, saw that they could play no more. So he crept from his
hiding-place, and dipping himself in the river, he went to the
elephant and said: 'I see that you really are stronger than I
thought. Suppose we give it up for to-day?' Then he dried
himself on some moss and went to the whale and said: 'I see that
you really are stronger than I thought. Suppose we give it up
The two adversaries were only too glad to be allowed to rest, and
believed to the end of their days that, after all, the tortoise
was stronger than either of them.
A day or two later the young tortoise was taking a stroll, when
he met a fox, and stopped to speak to him. 'Let us try,' said he
in a careless manner, 'which of us can lie buried in the ground
during seven years.'
'I shall be delighted,' answered the fox, 'only I would rather
that you began.'