Part 6 out of 6
'It is all the same to me,' replied the tortoise; 'if you come
round this way to-morrow you will see that I have fulfilled my
part of the bargain.'
So he looked about for a suitable place, and found a convenient
hole at the foot of an orange tree. He crept into it, and the
next morning the fox heaped up the earth round him, and promised
to feed him every day with fresh fruit. The fox so far kept his
word that each morning when the sun rose he appeared to ask how
the tortoise was getting on. 'Oh, very well; but I wish you
would give me some fruit,' replied he.
'Alas! the fruit is not ripe enough yet for you to eat,' answered
the fox, who hoped that the tortoise would die of hunger long
before the seven years were over.
'Oh dear, oh dear! I am so hungry!' cried the tortoise.
'I am sure you must be; but it will be all right to-morrow,' said
the fox, trotting off, not knowing that the oranges dropped down
the hollow trunk, straight into the tortoise's hole, and that he
had as many as he could possibly eat.
So the seven years went by; and when the tortoise came out of his
hole he was as fat as ever.
Now it was the fox's turn, and he chose his hole, and the
tortoise heaped the earth round, promising to return every day or
two with a nice young bird for his dinner. 'Well, how are you
getting on?' he would ask cheerfully when he paid his visits.
'Oh, all right; only I wish you had brought a bird with you,'
answered the fox.
'I have been so unlucky, I have never been able to catch one,'
replied the tortoise. 'However, I shall be more fortunate to-
morrow, I am sure.'
But not many to-morrows after, when the tortoise arrived with his
usual question: 'Well, how are you getting on?' he received no
answer, for the fox was lying in his hole quite still, dead of
By this time the tortoise was grown up, and was looked up to
throughout the forest as a person to be feared for his strength
and wisdom. But he was not considered a very swift runner, until
an adventure with a deer added to his fame.
One day, when he was basking in the sun, a stag passed by, and
stopped for a little conversation. 'Would you care to see which
of us can run fastest?' asked the tortoise, after some talk. The
stag thought the question so silly that he only shrugged his
shoulders. 'Of course, the victor would have the right to kill
the other,' went on the tortoise. 'Oh, on that condition I
agree,' answered the deer; 'but I am afraid you are a dead man.'
'It is no use trying to frighten me,' replied the tortoise. 'But
I should like three days for training; then I shall be ready to
start when the sun strikes on the big tree at the edge of the
The first thing the tortoise did was to call his brothers and his
cousins together, and he posted them carefully under ferns all
along the line of the great clearing, making a sort of ladder
which stretched for many miles. This done to his satisfaction,
he went back to the starting place.
The stag was quite punctual, and as soon as the sun's rays struck
the trunk of the tree the stag started off, and was soon far out
of the sight of the tortoise. Every now and then he would turn
his head as he ran, and call out: 'How are you getting on?' and
the tortoise who happened to be nearest at that moment would
answer: 'All right, I am close up to you.'
Full of astonishment, the stag would redouble his efforts, but it
was no use. Each time he asked: 'Are you there?' the answer
would come: 'Yes, of course, where else should I be?' And the
stag ran, and ran, and ran, till he could run no more, and
dropped down dead on the grass.
And the tortoise, when he thinks about it, laughs still.
But the tortoise was not the only creature of whose tricks
stories were told in the forest. There was a famous monkey who
was just as clever and more mischievous, because he was so much
quicker on his feet and with his hands. It was quite impossible
to catch him and give him the thrashing he so often deserved, for
he just swung himself up into a tree and laughed at the angry
victim who was sitting below. Sometimes, however, the
inhabitants of the forest were so foolish as to provoke him, and
then they got the worst of it. This was what happened to the
barber, whom the monkey visited one morning, saying that he
wished to be shaved. The barber bowed politely to his customer,
and begging him to be seated, tied a large cloth round his neck,
and rubbed his chin with soap; but instead of cutting off his
beard, the barber made a snip at the end of his tail. It was
only a very little bit and the monkey started up more in rage
than in pain. 'Give me back the end of my tail,' he roared, 'or
I will take one of your razors.' The barber refused to give back
the missing piece, so the monkey caught up a razor from the table
and ran away with it, and no one in the forest could be shaved
for days, as there was not another to be got for miles and miles.
As he was making his way to his own particular palm-tree, where
the cocoanuts grew, which were so useful for pelting passers-by,
he met a woman who was scaling a fish with a bit of wood, for in
this side of the forest a few people lived in huts near the
'That must be hard work,' said the monkey, stopping to look; 'try
my knife--you will get on quicker.' And he handed her the razor
as he spoke. A few days later he came back and rapped at the
door of the hut. 'I have called for my razor,' he said, when the
'I have lost it,' answered she.
'If you don't give it to me at once I will take your sardine,'
replied the monkey, who did not believe her. The woman protested
she had not got the knife, so he took the sardine and ran off.
A little further along he saw a baker who was standing at the
door, eating one of his loaves. 'That must be rather dry,' said
the monkey, 'try my fish'; and the man did not need twice
telling. A few days later the monkey stopped again at the
baker's hut. 'I've called for that fish,' he said.
'That fish? But I have eaten it!' exclaimed the baker in dismay.
'If you have eaten it I shall take this barrel of meal in
exchange,' replied the monkey; and he walked off with the barrel
under his arm.
As he went he saw a woman with a group of little girls round her,
teaching them how to dress hair. 'Here is something to make
cakes for the children,' he said, putting down his barrel, which
by this time he found rather heavy. The children were delighted,
and ran directly to find some flat stones to bake their cakes on,
and when they had made and eaten them, they thought they had
never tasted anything so nice. Indeed, when they saw the monkey
approaching not long after, they rushed to meet him, hoping that
he was bringing them some more presents. But he took no notice
of their questions, he only said to their mother: 'I've called
for my barrel of meal.'
'Why, you gave it to me to make cakes of!' cried the mother.
'If I can't get my barrel of meal, I shall take one of your
children,' answered the monkey. 'I am in want of somebody who
can bake my bread when I am tired of fruit, and who knows how to
make cocoanut cakes.'
'Oh, leave me my child, and I will find you another barrel of
meal,' wept the mother.
'I don't WANT another barrel, I want THAT one,' answered the
monkey sternly. And as the woman stood wringing her hands, he
caught up the little girl that he thought the prettiest and took
her to his home in the palm tree.
She never went back to the hut, but on the whole she was not much
to be pitied, for monkeys are nearly as good as children to play
with, and they taught her how to swing, and to climb, and to fly
from tree to tree, and everything else they knew, which was a
Now the monkey's tiresome tricks had made him many enemies in the
forest, but no one hated him so much as the puma. The cause of
their quarrel was known only to themselves, but everybody was
aware of the fact, and took care to be out of the way when there
was any chance of these two meeting. Often and often the puma
had laid traps for the monkey, which he felt sure his foe could
not escape; and the monkey would pretend that he saw nothing, and
rejoice the hidden puma's heart by seeming to walk straight into
the snare, when, lo! a loud laugh would be heard, and the
monkey's grinning face would peer out of a mass of creepers and
disappear before his foe could reach him.
This state of things had gone on for quite a long while, when at
last there came a season such as the oldest parrot in the forest
could never remember. Instead of two or three hundred inches of
rain falling, which they were all accustomed to, month after
month passed without a cloud, and the rivers and springs dried
up, till there was only one small pool left for everyone to drink
from. There was not an animal for miles round that did not
grieve over this shocking condition of affairs, not one at least
except the puma. His only thought for years had been how to get
the monkey into his power, and this time he imagined his chance
had really arrived. He would hide himself in a thicket, and when
the monkey came down to drink--and come he must--the puma would
spring out and seize him. Yes, on this occasion there could be
And no more there would have been if the puma had had greater
patience; but in his excitement he moved a little too soon. The
monkey, who was stooping to drink, heard a rustling, and turning
caught the gleam of two yellow, murderous eyes. With a mighty
spring he grasped a creeper which was hanging above him, and
landed himself on the branch of a tree; feeling the breath of the
puma on his feet as the animal bounded from is cover. Never had
the monkey been so near death, and it was some time before he
recovered enough courage to venture on the ground again.
Up there in the shelter of the trees, he began to turn over in
his head plans for escaping the snares of the puma. And at
length chance helped him. Peeping down to the earth, he saw a
man coming along the path carrying on his head a large gourd
filled with honey.
He waited till the man was just underneath the tree, then he hung
from a bough, and caught the gourd while the man looked up
wondering, for he was no tree-climber. Then the monkey rubbed
the honey all over him, and a quantity of leaves from a creeper
that was hanging close by; he stuck them all close together into
the honey, so that he looked like a walking bush. This finished,
he ran to the pool to see the result, and, quite pleased with
himself, set out in search of adventures.
Soon the report went through the forest that a new animal had
appeared from no one knew where, and that when somebody had asked
his name, the strange creature had answered that it was Jack-in-
the-Green. Thanks to this, the monkey was allowed to drink at
the pool as often as he liked, for neither beast nor bird had the
faintest notion who he was. And if they made any inquiries the
only answer they got was that the water of which he had drunk
deeply had turned his hair into leaves, so that they all knew
what would happen in case they became too greedy.
By-and-by the great rains began again. The rivers and streams
filled up, and there was no need for him to go back to the pool,
near the home of his enemy, the puma, as there was a large number
of places for him to choose from. So one night, when everything
was still and silent, and even the chattering parrots were asleep
on one leg, the monkey stole down softly from his perch, and
washed off the honey and the leaves, and came out from his bath
in his own proper skin. On his way to breakfast he met a rabbit,
and stopped for a little talk.
'I am feeling rather dull,' he remarked; 'I think it would do me
good to hunt a while. What do you say?'
'Oh, I am quite willing,' answered the rabbit, proud of being
spoken to by such a large creature. 'But the question is, what
shall we hunt?'
'There is no credit in going after an elephant or a tiger,'
replied the monkey stroking his chin, 'they are so big they could
not possibly get out of your way. It shows much more skill to be
able to catch a small thing that can hide itself in a moment
behind a leaf. I'll tell you what! Suppose I hunt butterflies,
and you, serpents.'
The rabbit, who was young and without experience, was delighted
with this idea, and they both set out on their various ways.
The monkey quietly climbed up the nearest tree, and ate fruit
most of the day, but the rabbit tired himself to death poking his
nose into every heap of dried leaves he saw, hoping to find a
serpent among them. Luckily for himself the serpents were all
away for the afternoon, at a meeting of their own, for there is
nothing a serpent likes so well for dinner as a nice plump
rabbit. But, as it was, the dried leaves were all empty, and the
rabbit at last fell asleep where he was. Then the monkey, who
had been watching him, fell down and pulled his ears, to the rage
of the rabbit, who vowed vengeance.
It was not easy to catch the monkey off his guard, and the rabbit
waited long before an opportunity arrived. But one day Jack-in-
the-Green was sitting on a stone, wondering what he should do
next, when the rabbit crept softly behind him, and gave his tail
a sharp pull. The monkey gave a shriek of pain, and darted up
into a tree, but when he saw that it was only the rabbit who had
dared to insult him so, he chattered so fast in his anger, and
looked so fierce, that the rabbit fled into the nearest hole, and
stayed there for several days, trembling with fright.
Soon after this adventure the monkey went away into another part
of the country, right on the outskirts of the forest, where there
was a beautiful garden full of oranges hanging ripe from the
trees. This garden was a favourite place for birds of all kinds,
each hoping to secure an orange for dinner, and in order to
frighten the birds away and keep a little fruit for himself, the
master had fastened a waxen figure on one of the boughs.
Now the monkey was as fond of oranges as any of the birds, and
when he saw a man standing in the tree where the largest and
sweetest oranges grew, he spoke to him at once. 'You man,' he
said rudely, 'throw me down that big orange up there, or I will
throw a stone at you.' The wax figure took no notice of this
request, so the monkey, who was easily made angry, picked up a
stone, and flung it with all his force. But instead of falling
to the ground again, the stone stuck to the soft wax.
At this moment a breeze shook the tree, and the orange on which
the monkey had set his heart dropped from the bough. He picked
it up and ate it every bit, including the rind, and it was so
good he thought he should like another. So he called again to
the wax figure to throw him an orange, and as the figure did not
move, he hurled another stone, which stuck to the wax as the
first had done. Seeing that the man was quite indifferent to
stones, the monkey grew more angry still, and climbing the tree
hastily, gave the figure a violent kick. But like the two stones
his leg remained stuck to the wax, and he was held fast. 'Let me
go at once, or I will give you another kick,' he cried, suiting
the action to the word, and this time also his foot remained in
the grasp of the man. Not knowing what he did, the monkey hit
out, first with one hand and then with the other, and when he
found that he was literally bound hand and foot, he became so mad
with anger and terror that in his struggles he fell to the
ground, dragging the figure after him. This freed his hands and
feet, but besides the shock of the fall, they had tumbled into a
bed of thorns, and he limped away broken and bruised, and
groaning loudly; for when monkeys ARE hurt, they take pains that
everybody shall know it.
It was a long time before Jack was well enough to go about again;
but when he did, he had an encounter with his old enemy the puma.
And this was how it came about.
One day the puma invited his friend the stag to go with him and
see a comrade, who was famous for the good milk he got from his
cows. The stag loved milk, and gladly accepted the invitation,
and when the sun began to get a little low the two started on
their walk. On the way they arrived on the banks of a river, and
as there were no bridges in those days it was necessary to swim
across it. The stag was not fond of swimming, and began to say
that he was tired, and thought that after all it was not worth
going so far to get milk, and that he would return home. But the
puma easily saw through these excuses, and laughed at him.
'The river is not deep at all,' he said; 'why, you will never be
off your feet. Come, pluck up your courage and follow me.'
The stag was afraid of the river; still, he was much more afraid
of being laughed at, and he plunged in after the puma; but in an
instant the current had swept him away, and if it had not borne
him by accident to a shallow place on the opposite side, where he
managed to scramble up the bank, he would certainly have been
drowned. As it was, he scrambled out, shaking with terror, and
found the puma waiting for him. 'You had a narrow escape that
time,' said the puma.
After resting for a few minutes, to let the stag recover from his
fright, they went on their way till they came to a grove of
'They look very good,' observed the puma with a longing glance,
'and I am sure you must be hungry, friend stag? Suppose you were
to climb the tree and get some. You shall eat the green ones,
they are the best and sweetest; and you can throw the yellow ones
down to me. I dare say they will do quite well!' The stag did as
he was bid, though, not being used to climbing, it gave him a
deal of trouble and sore knees, and besides, his horns were
continually getting entangled in the creepers. What was worse,
when once he had tasted the bananas, he found them not at all to
his liking, so he threw them all down, green and yellow alike,
and let the puma take his choice. And what a dinner he made!
When he had QUITE done, they set forth once more.
The path lay through a field of maize, where several men were
working. As they came up to them, the puma whispered: 'Go on in
front, friend stag, and just say "Bad luck to all workers!"' The
stag obeyed, but the men were hot and tired, and did not think
this a good joke. So they set their dogs at him, and he was
obliged to run away as fast as he could.
'I hope your industry will be rewarded as it deserves,' said the
puma as he passed along; and the men were pleased, and offered
him some of their maize to eat.
By-and-by the puma saw a small snake with a beautiful shining
skin, lying coiled up at the foot of a tree. 'What a lovely
bracelet that would make for your daughter, friend stag! said he.
The stag stooped and picked up the snake, which bit him, and he
turned angrily to the puma. 'Why did you not tell me it would
bite?' he asked.
'Is it my fault if you are an idiot?' replied the puma.
At last they reached their journey's end, but by this time it was
late, and the puma's comrade was ready for bed, so they slung
their hammocks in convenient places, and went to sleep. But in
the middle of the night the puma rose softly and stole out of the
door to the sheep-fold, where he killed and ate the fattest sheep
he could find, and taking a bowl full of its blood, he sprinkled
the sleeping stag with it. This done, he returned to bed.
In the morning the shepherd went as usual to let the sheep out of
the fold, and found one of them missing. He thought directly of
the puma, and ran to accuse him of having eaten the sheep. 'I,
my good man? What had put it into your head to think of such a
thing? Have I got any blood about me? If anyone has eaten a
sheep it must be my friend the stag.' Then the shepherd went to
examine the sleeping stag, and of course he saw the blood. 'Ah!
I will teach you how to steal!' cried he, and he hit the stag
such a blow on his skull that he died in a moment. The noise
awakened the comrade above, and he came downstairs. The puma
greeted him with joy, and begged he might have some of the famous
milk as soon as possible, for he was very thirsty. A large
bucket was set before the puma directly. He drank it to the last
drop, and then took leave.
On his way home he met the monkey. 'Are you fond of milk?' asked
he. 'I know a place where you get it very nice. I will show you
it if you like.' The monkey knew that the puma was not so good-
natured for nothing, but he felt quite able to take care of
himself, so he said he should have much pleasure in accompanying
They soon reached the same river, and, as before, the puma
remarked: 'Friend monkey, you will find it very shallow; there is
no cause for fear. Jump in and I will follow.'
'Do you think you have the stag to deal with?' asked the monkey,
laughing. 'I should prefer to follow; if not I shall go no
further. The puma understood that it was useless trying to make
the monkey do as he wished, so he chose a shallow place and began
to swim across. The monkey waited till the puma had got to the
middle, then he gave a great spring and jumped on his back,
knowing quite well that the puma would be afraid to shake him
off, lest he should be swept away into deep water. So in this
manner they reached the bank.
The banana grove was not far distant, and here the puma thought
he would pay the monkey out for forcing him to carry him over the
river. 'Friend monkey, look what fine bananas,' cried he. 'You
are fond of climbing; suppose you run up and throw me down a few.
You can eat the green ones, which are the nicest, and I will be
content with the yellow.'
'Very well,' answered the monkey, swinging himself up; but he ate
all the yellow ones himself, and only threw down the green ones
that were left. The puma was furious and cried out: 'I will
punch your head for that.' But the monkey only answered: 'If you
are gong to talk such nonsense I won't walk with you.' And the
puma was silent.
In a few minutes more they arrived at the field were the men were
reaping the maize, and the puma remarked as he had done before:
'Friend monkey, if you wish to please these men, just say as you
go by: "Bad luck to all workers."
'Very well,' replied the monkey; but, instead, he nodded and
smiled, and said: 'I hope your industry may be rewarded as it
deserves.' The men thanked him heartily, let him pass on, and
the puma followed behind him.
Further along the path they saw the shining snake lying on the
moss. 'What a lovely necklace for your daughter,' exclaimed the
puma. 'Pick it up and take it with you.'
'You are very kind, but I will leave it for you,' answered the
monkey, and nothing more was said about the snake.
Not long after this they reached the comrade's house, and found
him just ready to go to bed. So, without stopping to talk, the
guests slung their hammocks, the monkey taking care to place his
so high that no one could get at him. Besides, he thought it
would be more prudent not to fall asleep, so he only lay still
and snored loudly. When it was quite dark and no sound was to be
heard, the puma crept out to the sheep-fold, killed the sheep,
and carried back a bowl full of its blood with which to sprinkle
the monkey. But the monkey, who had been watching out of the
corner of his eye, waited until the puma drew near, and with a
violent kick upset the bowl all over the puma himself.
When the puma saw what had happened, he turned in a great hurry
to leave the house, but before he could do so, he saw the
shepherd coming, and hastily lay down again.
'This is the second time I have lost a sheep,' the man said to
the monkey; 'it will be the worse for the thief when I catch him,
I can tell you.' The monkey did not answer, but silently pointed
to the puma who was pretending to be asleep. The shepherd
stooped and saw the blood, and cried out: 'Ah! so it is you, is
it? then take that!' and with his stick he gave the puma such a
blow on the head that he died then and there.
Then the monkey got up and went to the dairy, and drank all the
milk he could find. Afterwards he returned home and married, and
that is the last we heard of him.
[Adapted from Folk-lore Bresilien.]
The Knights of the Fish
Once upon a time there lived an old cobbler who worked hard at
his trade from morning till night, and scarcely gave himself a
moment to eat. But, industrious as he was, he could hardly buy
bread and cheese for himself and his wife, and they grew thinner
and thinner daily.
For a long while whey pretended to each other that they had no
appetite, and that a few blackberries from the hedges were a
great deal nicer than a good strong bowl of soup. But at length
there came a day when the cobbler could bear it no longer, and he
threw away his last, and borrowing a rod from a neighbour he went
out to fish.
Now the cobbler was as patient about fishing as he had been about
cobbling. From dawn to dark he stood on the banks of the little
stream, without hooking anything better than an eel, or a few old
shoes, that even he, clever though he was, felt were not worth
mending. At length his patience began to give way, and as he
undressed one night he said to himself: 'Well, I will give it one
more chance; and if I don't catch a fish to-morrow, I will go and
He had not cast his line for ten minutes the next morning before
he drew from the river the most beautiful fish he had ever seen
in his life. But he nearly fell into the water from surprise,
when the fish began to speak to him, in a small, squeaky voice:
'Take me back to your hut and cook me; then cut me up, and
sprinkle me over with pepper and salt. Give two of the pieces to
your wife, and bury two more in the garden.'
The cobbler did not know what to make of these strange words; but
he was wiser than many people, and when he did not understand, he
thought it was well to obey. His children wanted to eat all the
fish themselves, and begged their father to tell them what to do
with the pieces he had put aside; but the cobbler only laughed,
and told them it was no business of theirs. And when they were
safe in bed he stole out and buried the two pieces in the garden.
By and by two babies, exactly alike, lay in a cradle, and in the
garden were two tall plants, with two brilliant shields on the
Years passed away, and the babies were almost men. They were
tired of living quietly at home, being mistaken for each other by
everybody they saw, and determined to set off in different
directions, to seek adventures.
So, one fine morning, the two brothers left the hut, and walked
together to the place where the great road divided. There they
embraced and parted, promising that if anything remarkable had
happened to either, he would return to the cross roads and wait
till his brother came.
The youth who took the path that ran eastwards arrived presently
at a large city, where he found everybody standing at the doors,
wringing their hands and weeping bitterly.
'What is the matter?' asked he, pausing and looking round. And a
man replied, in a faltering voice, that each year a beautiful
girl was chosen by lot to be offered up to a dreadful fiery
dragon, who had a mother even worse than himself, and this year
the lot had fallen on their peerless princess.
'But where IS the princess?' said the young man once more, and
again the man answered him: 'She is standing under a tree, a mile
away, waiting for the dragon.'
This time the Knight of the Fish did not stop to hear more, but
ran off as fast as he could, and found the princess bathed in
tears, and trembling from head to foot.
She turned as she heard the sound of his sword, and removed her
handkerchief from his eyes.
'Fly,' she cried; 'fly while you have yet time, before that
monster sees you.'
She said it, and she mean it; yet, when he had turned his back,
she felt more forsaken than before. But in reality it was not
more than a few minutes before he came back, galloping furiously
on a horse he had borrowed, and carrying a huge mirror across its
'I am in time, then,' he cried, dismounting very carefully, and
placing the mirror against the trunk of a tree.
'Give me your veil,' he said hastily to the princess. And when
she had unwound it from her head he covered the mirror with it.
'The moment the dragon comes near you, you must tear off the
veil,' cried he; 'and be sure you hide behind the mirror. Have
no fear; I shall be at hand.'
He and his horse had scarcely found shelter amongst some rocks,
when the flap of the dragon's wings could be plainly heard. He
tossed his head with delight at the sight of her, and approached
slowly to the place where she stood, a little in front of the
mirror. Then, still looking the monster steadily in the face,
she passed one hand behind her back and snatched off the veil,
stepping swiftly behind the tree as she did so.
The princess had not known, when she obeyed the orders of the
Knight of the Fish, what she expected to happen. Would the
dragon with snaky locks be turned to stone, she wondered, like
the dragon in an old story her nurse had told her; or would some
fiery spark dart from the heart of the mirror, and strike him
dead? Neither of these things occurred, but, instead, the dragon
stopped short with surprise and rage when he saw a monster before
him as big and strong as himself. He shook his mane with rage
and fury; the enemy in front did exactly the same. He lashed his
tail, and rolled his red eyes, and the dragon opposite was no
whit behind him. Opening his mouth to its very widest, he gave
an awful roar; but the other dragon only roared back. This was
too much, and with another roar which made the princess shake in
her shoes, he flung himself upon his foe. In an instant the
mirror lay at his feet broken into a thousand pieces, but as
every piece reflected part of himself, the dragon thought that he
too had been smashed into atoms.
It was the moment for which the Knight of the Fish had watched
and waited, and before the dragon could find out that he was not
hurt at all, the young man's lance was down his throat, and he
was rolling, dead, on the grass.
Oh! what shouts of joy rang through the great city, when the
youth came riding back with the princess sitting behind him, and
dragging the horrible monster by a cord. Everybody cried out
that the king must give the victor the hand of the princess; and
so he did, and no one had ever seen such balls and feasts and
sports before. And when they were all over the young couple went
to the palace prepared for them, which was so large that it was
three miles round.
The first wet day after their marriage the bridegroom begged the
bride to show him all the rooms in the palace, and it was so big
and took so long that the sun was shining brightly again before
they stepped on to the roof to see the view.
'What castle is that out there,' asked the knight; 'it seems to
be made of black marble?'
'It is called the castle of Albatroz,' answered the princess.
'It is enchanted, and no one that has tried to enter it has ever
Her husband said nothing, and began to talk of something else;
but the next morning he ordered his horse, took his spear, called
his bloodhound, and set off for the castle.
It needed a brave man to approach it, for it made your hair stand
on end merely to look at it; it was as dark as the night of a
storm, and as silent as the grave. But the Knight of the Fish
knew no fear, and had never turned his back on an enemy; so he
drew out his horn, and blew a blast.
The sound awoke all the sleeping echoes in the castle, and was
repeated now loudly, now softly; now near, and now far. But
nobody stirred for all that.
'Is there anyone inside?' cried the young man in his loudest
voice; 'anyone who will give a knight hospitality? Neither
governor, nor squire, not even a page?'
'Not even a page!' answered the echoes. But the young man did
not heed them, and only struck a furious blow at the gate.
Then a small grating opened, and there appeared the tip of a huge
nose, which belonged to the ugliest old woman that ever was seen.
'What do you want?' said she.
'To enter,' he answered shortly. 'Can I rest here this night?
Yes or No?'
'No, No, No!' repeated the echoes.
Between the fierce sun and his anger at being kept waiting, the
Knight of the Fish had grown so hot that he lifted his visor, and
when the old woman saw how handsome he was, she began fumbling
with the lock of the gate.
'Come in, come in,' said she, 'so fine a gentleman will do us no
'Harm!' repeated the echoes, but again the young man paid no
'Let us go in, ancient dame,' but she interrupted him.
'You must call me the Lady Berberisca,' she answered, sharply;
'and this is my castle, to which I bid you welcome. You shall
live here with me and be my husband.' But at these words the
knight let his spear fall, so surprised was he.
'I marry YOU? why you must be a hundred at least!' cried he.
'You are mad! All I desire is to inspect the castle and then go.'
As he spoke he heard the voices give a mocking laugh; but the old
woman took no notice, and only bade the knight follow her.
Old though she was, it seemed impossible to tire her. There was
no room, however small, she did not lead him into, and each room
was full of curious things he had never seen before.
At length they came to a stone staircase, which was so dark that
you could not see your hand if you held it up before your face.
'I have kept my most precious treasure till the last,' said the
old woman; 'but let me go first, for the stairs are steep, and
you might easily break your leg.' So on she went, now and then
calling back to the young man in the darkness. But he did not
know that she had slipped aside into a recess, till suddenly he
put his foot on a trap door which gave way under him, and he fell
down, down, as many good knights had done before him, and his
voice joined the echoes of theirs.
'So you would not marry me!' chuckled the old witch. 'Ha! ha!
Meanwhile his brother had wandered far and wide, and at last he
wandered back to the same great city where the other young knight
had met with so many adventures. He noticed, with amazement,
that as he walked through the streets the guards drew themselves
up in line, and saluted him, and the drummers played the royal
march; but he was still more bewildered when several servants in
livery ran up to him and told him that the princess was sure
something terrible had befallen him, and had made herself ill
with weeping. At last it occurred to him that once more he had
been taken for his brother. 'I had better say nothing,' thought
he; 'perhaps I shall be able to help him after all.'
So he suffered himself to be borne in triumph to the palace,
where the princess threw herself into his arms.
'And so you did go to the castle?' she asked.
'Yes, of course I did,' answered he.
'And what did you see there?'
'I am forbidden to tell you anything about it, until I have
returned there once more,' replied he.
'Must you really go back to that dreadful place?' she asked
wistfully. 'You are the only man who has ever come back from
'I must,' was all he answered. And the princess, who was a wise
woman, only said: 'Well, go to bed now, for I am sure you must be
But the knight shook his head. 'I have sworn never to lie in a
bed as long as my work in the castle remains standing.' And the
princess again sighed, and was silent.
Early next day the young man started for the castle, feeling sure
that some terrible thing must have happened to his brother.
At the blast of his horn the long nose of the old woman appeared
at the grating, but the moment she caught sight of his face, she
nearly fainted from fright, as she thought it was the ghost of
the youth whose bones were lying in the dungeon of the castle.
'Lady of all the ages,' cried the new comer, 'did you not give
hospitality to a young knight but a short time ago?'
'A short time ago!' wailed the voices.
'And how have you ill-treated him?' he went on.
'Ill-treated him!' answered the voices. The woman did not stop
to hear more; she turned to fly; but the knight's sword entered
'Where is my brother, cruel hag?' asked he sternly.
'I will tell you,' said she; 'but as I feel that I am going to
die I shall keep that piece of news to myself, till you have
brought me to life again.'
The young man laughed scornfully. 'How do you propose that I
should work that miracle?'
'Oh, it is quite easy. Go into the garden and gather the flowers
of the everlasting plant and some of dragon's blood. Crush them
together and boil them in a large tub of water, and then put me
The knight did as the old witch bade him, and, sure enough, she
came out quite whole, but uglier than ever. She then told the
young man what had become of his brother, and he went down into
the dungeon, and brought up his body and the bodies of the other
victims who lay there, and when they were all washed in the magic
water their strength was restored to them.
And, besides these, he found in another cavern the bodies of the
girls who had been sacrificed to the dragon, and brought them
back to life also.
As to the old witch, in the end she died of rage at seeing her
prey escape her; and at the moment she drew her last breath the
castle of Albatroz fell into ruins with a great noise.
[From Cuentos, Oraciones, Adivinas recogidos por Fernan