Part 5 out of 6
'Ill will come of it if he listens to your offer.'
'Counsel unsought is worth nothing,' replied, rudely, Ardan son of
Gorla. 'It would be little indeed that I am fit for if I cannot drive
three cows out to pasture and keep them safe from the wolves that may
come down from the mountains. Therefore, good father, I will take
service with you at daybreak, and ask no payment till the new year
Next morning the bell of the deer was not heard amongst the fern before
the maiden with the hair of gold had milked the cows, and led them in
front of the cottage where the old man and Ardan son of Gorla awaited
'Let them wander where they will,' he said to his servant, 'and never
seek to turn them from their way, for well they know the fields of good
pasture. But take heed to follow always behind them, and suffer
nothing that you see, and nought that you hear, to draw you into
leaving them. Now go, and may wisdom go with you.'
As he ceased speaking he touched one of the cows on her forehead, and
she stepped along the path, with the two others one on each side. As
he had been bidden, behind them came Ardan son of Gorla, rejoicing in
his heart that work so easy had fallen to his lot. At the year's end,
thought he, enough money would lie in his pocket to carry him into far
countries where his sister might be, and, in the meanwhile, someone
might come past who could give him tidings of her.
Thus he spoke to himself, when his eyes fell on a golden cock and a
silver hen running swiftly along the grass in front of him. In a
moment the words that the old man had uttered vanished from his mind
and he gave chase. They were so near that he could almost seize their
tails, yet each time he felt sure he could catch them his fingers
closed on the empty air. At length he could run no more, and stopped
to breathe, while the cock and hen went on as before. Then he
remembered the cows, and, somewhat frightened, turned back to seek
them. Luckily they had not strayed far, and were quietly feeding on
the thick green grass.
Ardan son of Gorla was sitting under a tree, when he beheld a staff of
gold and a staff of silver doubling themselves in strange ways on the
meadow in front of him, and starting up he hastened towards them. He
followed them till he was tired, but he could not catch them, though
they seemed ever within his reach. When at last he gave up the quest
his knees trembled beneath him for very weariness, and glad was he to
see a tree growing close by lade with fruits of different sorts, of
which he ate greedily.
The sun was by now low in the heavens, and the cows left off feeding,
and turned their faces home again, followed by Ardan son of Gorla. At
the door of their stable the maiden stood awaiting them, and saying
nought to their herd, she sat down and began to milk. But it was not
milk that flowed into her pail; instead it was filled with a thin
stream of water, and as she rose up from the last cow the old man
'Faithless one, you have betrayed your trust!' he said to Ardan son of
Gorla. 'Not even for one day could you keep true! Well, you shall
have your reward at once, that others may take warning from you.' And
waving his wand he touched with it the chest of the youth, who became a
pillar of stone.
Now Gorla of the Flocks and his wife were full of grief that they had
lost a son as well as a daughter, for no tidings had come to them of
Ardan their eldest born. At length, when two years and two days had
passed since the maiden had led her kids to feed on the mountain and
had been seen no more, Ruais, second son of Gorla, rose up one morning,
'Time is long without my sister and Ardan my brother. So I have vowed
to seek them wherever they may be.'
And his father answered:
'Better it had been if you had first asked my consent and that of your
mother; but as you have vowed so must you do.' Then he bade his wife
make a cake, but instead she made two, and offered Ruais his choice, as
she had done to Ardan. Like Ardan, Ruais chose the large, unblessed
cake, and set forth on his way, doing always, though he knew it not,
that which Ardan had done; so, needless is it to tell what befell him
till he too stood, a pillar of stone, on the hill behind the cottage,
so that all men might see the fate that awaited those who broke their
Another year and a day passed by, when Covan the Brown-haired, youngest
son of Gorla of the Flocks, one morning spake to his parents, saying:
'It is more than three years since my sister left us. My brothers have
also gone, no one know whither, and of us four none remains but I. No,
therefore, I long to seek them, and I pray you and my mother to place
no hindrance in my way.'
And his father answered:
'Go, then, and take our blessing with you.'
So the wife of Gorla of the Flocks baked two cakes, one large and one
small; and Covan took the small one, and started on his quest. In the
wood he felt hungry, for he had walked far, and he sat down to eat.
Suddenly a voice behind him cried:
'A bit for me! a bit for me!' And looking round he beheld the black
raven of the wilderness.
'Yes, you shall have a bit,' said Covan the Brown-haired; and breaking
off a piece he stretched it upwards to the raven, who ate it greedily.
Then Covan arose and went forward, till he saw the light from the
cottage streaming before him, and glad was he, for night was at hand.
'Maybe I shall find some work there,' he thought, 'and at least I shall
gain money to help me in my search; for who knows how far my sister and
my brothers may have wandered?'
The door stood open and he entered, and the old man gave him welcome,
and the golden- haired maiden likewise. As happened before, he was
offered by the old man to herd his cows; and, as she had done to his
brothers, the maiden counselled him to leave such work alone. But,
instead of answering rudely, like both Ardan and Ruais, he thanked her,
with courtesy, though he had no mind to heed her; and he listened to
the warnings and words of his new master.
Next day he set forth at dawn with the dun cows in front of him, and
followed patiently wherever they might lead him. On the way he saw the
gold cock and silver hen, which ran even closer to him than they had
done to his brothers. Sorely tempted, he longed to give them chase;
but, remembering in time that he had been bidden to look neither to the
right nor to the left, with a mighty effort he turned his eyes away.
Then the gold and silver staffs seemed to spring from the earth before
him, but this time also he overcame; and though the fruit from the
magic tree almost touched his mouth, he brushed it aside and went
That day the cows wandered father than ever they had done before, and
never stopped till they had reached a moor where the heather was
burning. The fire was fierce, but the cows took no heed, and walked
steadily through it, Covan the Brown-haired following them. Next they
plunged into a foaming river, and Covan plunged in after them, though
the water came high above his waist. On the other side of the river
lay a wide plain, and here the cows lay down, while Covan looked about
him. Near him was a house built of yellow stone, and from it came
sweet songs, and Covan listened, and his heart grew light within him.
While he was thus waiting there ran up to him a youth, scarcely able to
speak so swiftly had he sped; and he cried aloud:
'Hasten, hasten, Covan the Brown-haired, for your cows are in the corn,
and you must drive them out!'
'Nay,' said Covan smiling, 'it had been easier for you to have driven
them out than to come here to tell me.' And he went on listening to
Very soon the same youth returned and cried with panting breath:
'Out upon you, Covan son of Gorla, that you stand there agape. For our
dogs are chasing your cows, and you must drive them off!'
'Nay, then,' answered Covan as before, 'it had been easier for you to
call off your dogs than to come here to tell me.' And he stayed where
he was till the music ceased.
Then he turned to look for the cows, and found them all lying in the
place where he had left them; but when they saw Covan they rose up and
walked homewards, taking a different path to that they had trod in the
morning. This time they passed over a plain so bare that a pin could
not have lain there unnoticed, yet Covan beheld with surprise a foal
and its mother feeding there, both as fat as if they had pastured on
the richest grass. Further on they crossed another plain, where the
grass was thick and green, but on it were feeding a foal and its
mother, so lean that you could have counted their ribs. And further
again the path led them by the shores of a lake whereon were floating
two boats; one full of gay and happy youths, journeying to the land of
the Sun, and another with grim shapes clothed in black, travelling to
the land of Night.
'What can these things mean?' said Covan to himself, as he followed his
Darkness now fell, the wind howled, and torrents of rain poured upon
them. Covan knew not how far they might yet have to go, or indeed if
they were on the right road. He could not even see his cows, and his
heart sank lest, after all, he should have failed to bring them safely
back. What was he to do?
He waited thus, for he could go neither forwards nor backwards, till he
felt a great friendly paw laid on his shoulder.
'My cave is just here,' said the Dog of Maol- mor, of whom Covan son of
Gorla had heard much. 'Spend the night here, and you shall be fed on
the flesh of lamb, and shall lay aside three-thirds of thy weariness.'
And Covan entered, and supped, and slept, and in the morning rose up a
'Farewell, Covan,' said the Dog of Maol-mor. 'May success go with you,
for you took what I had to give and did not mock me. So, when danger
is your companion, wish for me, and I will not fail you.'
At these words the Dog of Maol-mor disappeared into the forest, and
Covan went to seek his cows, which were standing in the hollow where
the darkness had come upon them.
At the sight of Covan the Brown-haired they walked onwards, Covan
following ever behind them, and looking neither to the right nor to the
left. All that day they walked, and when night fell they were in a
barren plain, with only rocks for shelter.
'We must rest here as best we can,' spoke Covan to the cows. And they
bowed their heads and lay down in the place where they stood. Then
came the black raven of Corri- nan-creag, whose eyes never closed, and
whose wings never tired; and he fluttered before the face of Covan and
told him that he knew of a cranny in the rock where there was food in
plenty, and soft moss for a bed.
'Go with me thither,' he said to Covan, 'and you shall lay aside
three-thirds of your weariness, and depart in the morning refreshed,'
and Covan listened thankfully to his words, and at dawn he rose up to
seek his cows.
'Farewell!' cried the black raven. 'You trusted me, and took all I had
to offer in return for the food you once gave me. So if in time to
come you need a friend, wish for me, and I will not fail you.'
As before, the cows were standing in the spot where he had left them,
ready to set out. All that day they walked, on and on, and on, Covan
son of Gorla walking behind them, till night fell while they were on
the banks of a river.
'We can go no further,' spake Covan to the cows. And they began to eat
the grass by the side of the stream, while Covan listened to them and
longed for some supper also, for they had travelled far, and his limbs
were weak under him. Then there was a swish of water at his feet, and
out peeped the head of the famous otter Doran-donn of the stream.
'Trust to me and I will find you warmth and shelter,' said Doran-donn;
'and for food fish in plenty.' And Covan went with him thankfully, and
ate and rested, and laid aside three-thirds of his weariness. At
sunrise he left his bed of dried sea-weed, which had floated up with
the tide, and with a grateful heart bade farewell to Doran-donn.
'Because you trusted me and took what I had to offer, you have made me
your friend, Covan,' said Doran-donn. 'And if you should be in danger,
and need help from one who can swim a river or dive beneath a wave,
call to me and I will come to you.' Then he plunged into the stream,
and was seen no more.
The cows were standing ready in the place where Covan had left them,
and they journeyed on all that day, till, when night fell, they reached
the cottage. Joyful indeed was the old man as the cows went into their
stables, and he beheld the rich milk that flowed into the pail of the
golden-haired maiden with the silver comb.
'You have done well indeed,' he said to Covan son of Gorla. 'And now,
what would you have as a reward?'
'I want nothing for myself,' answered Covan the Brown-haired; 'but I
ask you to give me back my brothers and my sister who have been lost to
us for three years past. You are wise and know the lore of fairies and
of witches; tell me where I can find them, and what I must do to bring
them to life again.'
The old man looked grave at the words of Covan.
'Yes, truly I know where they are,' answered he, 'and I say not that
they may not be brought to life again. But the perils are great--too
great for you to overcome.'
'Tell me what they are,' said Covan again, 'and I shall know better if
I may overcome them.'
'Listen, then, and judge. In the mountain yonder there dwells a roe,
white of foot, with horns that branch like the antlers of a deer. On
the lake that leads to the land of the Sun floats a duck whose body is
green and whose neck is of gold. In the pool of Corri- Bui swims a
salmon with a skin that shines like silver, and whose gills are
red--bring them all to me, and then you shall know where dwell your
brothers and your sister!'
'To-morrow at cock-crow I will begone!' answered Covan.
The way to the mountain lay straight before him, and when he had
climbed high he caught sight of the roe with the white feet and the
spotted sides, on the peak in front.
Full of hope he set out in pursuit of her, but by the time he had
reached that peak she had left it and was to be seen on another. And
so it always happened, and Covan's courage had well-nigh failed him,
when the thought of the Dog of Maol-mor darted into his mind.
'Oh, that he was here!' he cried. And looking up he saw him.
'Why did you summon me?' asked the Dog of Maol-mor. And when Covan had
told him of his trouble, and how the roe always led him further and
further, the Dog only answered:
'Fear nothing; I will soon catch her for you.' And in a short while he
laid the roe unhurt at Covan's feet.
'What will you wish me to do with her?' said the Dog. And Covan
'The old man bade me bring her, and the duck with the golden neck, and
the salmon with the silver sides, to his cottage; if I shall catch
them, I know not. But carry you the roe to the back of the cottage,
and tether her so that she cannot escape.'
'It shall be done,' said the Dog of Maol-mor.
Then Covan sped to the lake which led to the land of the Sun, where the
duck with the green body and the golden neck was swimming among the
'Surely I can catch him, good swimmer as I am,' to himself. But, if he
could swim well, the duck could swim better, and at length his strength
failed him, and he was forced to seek the land.
'Oh that the black raven were here to help me!' he thought to himself.
And in a moment the black raven was perched on his shoulder.
'How can I help you?' asked the raven. And Covan answered:
'Catch me the green duck that floats on the water.' And the raven flew
with his strong wings and picked him up in his strong beak, and in
another moment the bird was laid at the feet of Covan.
This time it was easy for the young man to carry his prize, and after
giving thanks to the raven for his aid, he went on to the river.
In the deep dark pool of which the old man had spoken the silver-sided
salmon was lying under a rock.
'Surely I, good fisher as I am, can catch him,' said Covan son of
Gorla. And cutting a slender pole from a bush, he fastened a line to
the end of it. But cast with what skill he might, it availed nothing,
for the salmon would not even look at the bait.
'I am beaten at last, unless the Doran-donn can deliver me,' he cried.
And as he spoke there was a swish of the water, and the face of the
Doran-donn looked up at him.
'O catch me, I pray you, that salmon under the rock!' said Covan son of
Gorla. And the Doran-donn dived, and laying hold of the salmon by his
tail, bore it back to the place where Covan was standing.
'The roe, and the duck, and the salmon are here,' said Covan to the old
man, when he reached the cottage. And the old man smiled on him and
bade him eat and drink, and after he hungered no more, he would speak
And this was what the old man said: 'You began well, my son, so things
have gone well with you. You set store by your mother's blessing,
therefore you have been blest. You gave food to the raven when it
hungered, you were true to the promise you had made to me, and did not
suffer yourself to be turned aside by vain shows. You were skilled to
perceive that the boy who tempted you to leave the temple was a teller
of false tales, and took with a grateful heart what the poor had to
offer you. Last of all, difficulties gave you courage, instead of
lending you despair.
And now, as to your reward, you shall in truth take your sister home
with you, and your brothers I will restore to life; but idle and
unfaithful as they are their lot is to wander for ever. And so
farewell, and may wisdom be with you.'
'First tell me your name?' asked Covan softly.
'I am the Spirit of Age,' said the old man.
[Taken from a Celtic Story. Translated by Doctor Macleod Clarke.]
The Princess Bella-Flor
Once upon a time there lived a man who had two sons. When they grew up
the elder went to seek his fortune in a far country, and for many years
no one heard anything about him. Meanwhile the younger son stayed at
home with his father, who died at last in a good old age, leaving great
riches behind him.
For some time the son who stayed at home spent his father's wealth
freely, believing that he alone remained to enjoy it. But, one day, as
he was coming down stairs, he was surprised to see a stranger enter the
hall, looking about as if the house belonged to him.
'Have you forgotten me?' asked the man.
'I can't forget a person I have never known,' was the rude answer.
'I am your brother,' replied the stranger, 'and I have returned home
without the money I hoped to have made. And, what is worse, they tell
me in the village that my father is dead. I would have counted my lost
gold as nothing if I could have seen him once more.'
'He died six months ago,' said the rich brother, 'and he left you, as
your portion, the old wooden chest that stands in the loft. You had
better go there and look for it; I have no more time to waste.' And he
went his way.
So the wanderer turned his steps to the loft, which was at the top of
the storehouse, and there he found the wooden chest, so old that it
looked as if it were dropping to pieces.
'What use is this old thing to me?' he said to himself. 'Oh, well, it
will serve to light a fire at which I can warm myself; so things might
be worse after all.'
Placing the chest on his back, the man, whose name was Jose, set out
for his inn, and, borrowing a hatchet, began to chop up the box. In
doing so he discovered a secret drawer, and in it lay a paper. He
opened the paper, not knowing what it might contain, and was astonished
to find that it was the acknowledgment of a large debt that was owing
to his father. Putting the precious writing in his pocket, he hastily
inquired of the landlord where he could find the man whose name was
written inside, and he ran out at once in search of him.
The debtor proved to be an old miser, who lived at the other end of the
village. He had hoped for many months that the paper he had written
had been lost or destroyed, and, indeed, when he saw it, was very
unwilling to pay what he owed. However, the stranger threatened to
drag him before the king, and when the miser saw that there was no help
for it he counted out the coins one by one. The stranger picked them
up and put them in his pocket, and went back to his inn feeling that he
was now a rich man.
A few weeks after this he was walking through the streets of the
nearest town, when he met a poor woman crying bitterly. He stopped and
asked her what was the matter, and she answered between her sobs that
her husband was dying, and, to make matters worse, a creditor whom he
could not pay was anxious to have him taken to prison.
'Comfort yourself,' said the stranger kindly; 'they shall neither send
your husband to prison nor sell your goods. I will not only pay his
debts but, if he dies, the cost of his burial also. And now go home,
and nurse him as well as you can.'
And so she did; but, in spite of her care, the husband died, and was
buried by the stranger. But everything cost more than he expected, and
when all was paid he found that only three gold pieces were left.
'What am I to do now?' said he to himself. 'I think I had better go to
court, and enter into the service of the king.'
At first he was only a servant, who carried the king the water for his
bath, and saw that his bed was made in a particular fashion. But he
did his duties so well that his master soon took notice of him, and in
a short time he rose to be a gentleman of the bedchamber.
Now, when this happened the younger brother had spent all the money he
had inherited, and did not know how to make any for himself. He then
bethought him of the king's favourite, and went whining to the palace
to beg that his brother, whom he had so ill-used, would give him his
protection, and find him a place. The elder, who was always ready to
help everyone spoke to the king on his behalf, and the next day the
young man took up is work at court.
Unfortunately, the new-comer was by nature spiteful and envious, and
could not bear anyone to have better luck than himself. By dint of
spying through keyholes and listening at doors, he learned that the
king, old and ugly though he was, had fallen in love with the Princess
Bella-Flor, who would have nothing to say to him, and had hidden
herself in some mountain castle, no one knew where.
'That will do nicely,' thought the scoundrel, rubbing his hands. 'It
will be quite easy to get the king to send my brother in search of her,
and if he returns without finding her, his head will be the forfeit.
Either way, he will be out of MY path.'
So he went at once to the Lord High Chamberlain and craved an audience
of the king, to whom he declared he wished to tell some news of the
highest importance. The king admitted him into the presence chamber
without delay, and bade him state what he had to say, and to be quick
'Oh, sire! the Princess Bella-Flor--' answered the man, and then
stopped as if afraid.
'What of the Princess Bella-Flor?' asked the king impatiently.
'I have heard--it is whispered at court--that your majesty desires to
know where she lies in hiding.'
'I would give half my kingdom to the man who will bring her to me,'
cried the king, eagerly. 'Speak on, knave; has a bird of the air
revealed to you the secret?'
'It is not I, but my brother, who knows,' replied the traitor; 'if your
majesty would ask him--' But before the words were out of his mouth the
king had struck a blow with his sceptre on a golden plate that hung on
'Order Jose to appear before me instantly,' he shouted to the servant
who ran to obey his orders, so great was the noise his majesty had
made; and when Jose entered the hall, wondering what in the world could
be the matter, the king was nearly dumb from rage and excitement.
'Bring me the Princess Bella-Flor this moment,' stammered he, 'for if
you return without her I will have you drowned!' And without another
word he left the hall, leaving Jose staring with surprise and horror.
'How can I find the Princess Bella-Flor when I have never even seen
her?' thought he. 'But it is no use staying here, for I shall only be
put to death.' And he walked slowly to the stables to choose himself a
There were rows upon rows of fine beasts with their names written in
gold above their stalls, and Jose was looking uncertainly from one to
the other, wondering which he should choose, when an old white horse
turned its head and signed to him to approach.
'Take me,' it said in a gentle whisper, 'and all will go well.'
Jose still felt so bewildered with the mission that the king had given
him that he forgot to be astonished at hearing a horse talk.
Mechanically he laid his hand on the bridle and led the white horse out
of the stable. He was about to mount on his back, when the animal
'Pick up those three loaves of bread which you see there, and put them
in your pocket.'
Jose did as he was told, and being in a great hurry to get away, asked
no questions, but swung himself into the saddle.
They rode far without meeting any adventures, but at length they came
to an ant-hill, and the horse stopped.
'Crumble those three loaves for the ants,' he said. But Jose hesitated.
'Why, we may want them ourselves!' answered he.
'Never mind that; give them to the ants all the same. Do not lose a
chance of helping others.' And when the loaves lay in crumbs on the
road, the horse galloped on.
By-and-by they entered a rocky pass between two mountains, and here
they saw an eagle which had been caught in a hunter's net.
'Get down and cut the meshes of the net, and set the poor bird free,'
said the horse.
'But it will take so long,' objected Jose, 'and we may miss the
'Never mind that; do not lose a chance of helping others,' answered the
horse. And when the meshes were cut, and the eagle was free, the horse
The had ridden many miles, and at last they came to a river, where they
beheld a little fish lying gasping on the sand, and the horse said:
'Do you see that little fish? It will die if you do not put it back in
'But, really, we shall never find the Princess Bella-Flor if we waste
our time like this!' cried Jose.
'We never waste time when we are helping others,' answered the horse.
And soon the little fish was swimming happily away.
A little while after they reached a castle, which was built in the
middle of a very thick wood, and right in front was the Princess
Bella-Flor feeding her hens.
'Now listen,' said the horse. 'I am going to give all sorts of little
hops and skips, which will amuse the Princess Bella-Flor. Then she
will tell you that she would like to ride a little way, and you must
help her to mount. When she is seated I shall begin to neigh and kick,
and you must say that I have never carried a woman before, and that you
had better get up behind so as to be able to manage me. Once on my
back we will go like the wind to the king's palace.'
Jose did exactly as the horse told him, and everything fell out as the
animal prophesied; so that it was not until they were galloping
breathlessly towards the palace that the princess knew that she was
taken captive. She said nothing, however, but quietly opened her apron
which contained the bran for the chickens, and in a moment it lay
scattered on the ground.
'Oh, I have let fall my bran!' cried she; 'please get down and pick it
up for me.' But Jose only answered:
'We shall find plenty of bran where we are going.' And the horse
They were now passing through a forest, and the princess took out her
handkerchief and threw it upwards, so that it stuck in one of the
topmost branches of a tree.
'Dear me; how stupid! I have let my handkerchief blow away,' said she.
'Will you climb up and get it for me?' But Jose answered:
'We shall find plenty of handkerchiefs where we are going.' And the
horse galloped on.
After the wood they reached a river, and the princess slipped a ring
off her finger and let it roll into the water.
'How careless of me,' gasped she, beginning to sob. 'I have lost my
favourite ring; DO stop for a moment and look if you can see it.' But
'You will find plenty of rings where you are going.' And the horse
At last they entered the palace gates, and the king's heart bounded
with joy at beholding his beloved Princess Bella-Flor. But the
princess brushed him aside as if he had been a fly, and locked herself
into the nearest room, which she would not open for all his entreaties.
'Bring me the three things I lost on the way, and perhaps I may think
about it,' was all she would say. And, in despair, the king was driven
to take counsel of Jose.
'There is no remedy that I can see,' said his majesty, 'but that you,
who know where they are, should go and bring them back. And if you
return without them I will have you drowned.'
Poor Jose was much troubled at these words. He thought that he had
done all that was required of him, and that his life was safe.
However, he bowed low, and went out to consult his friend the horse.
'Do not vex yourself,' said the horse, when he had heard the story;
'jump up, and we will go and look for the things.' And Jose mounted at
They rode on till they came to the ant-hill, and then the horse asked:
'Would you like to have the bran?'
'What is the use of liking?' answered Jose.
'Well, call the ants, and tell them to fetch it for you; and, if some
of it has been scattered by the wind, to bring in its stead the grains
that were in the cakes you gave them.' Jose listened in surprise. He
did not much believe in the horse's plan; but he could not think of
anything better, so he called to the ants, and bade them collect the
bran as fast as they could.
Then he saw under a tree and waited, while his horse cropped the green
'Look there!' said the animal, suddenly raising its head; and Jose
looked behind him and saw a little mountain of bran, which he put into
a bag that was hung over his saddle.
'Good deeds bear fruit sooner or later,' observed the horse; 'but mount
again, as we have far to go.'
When they arrived at the tree, they saw the handkerchief fluttering
like a flag from the topmost branch, and Jose's spirits sank again.
'How am I to get that handkerchief?' cried he; 'why I should need
Jacob's ladder!' But the horse answered:
'Do not be frightened; call to the eagle you set free from the net, he
will bring it to you.'
So Jose called to the eagle, and the eagle flew to the top of the tree
and brought back the handkerchief in its beak. Jose thanked him, and
vaulting on his horse they rode on to the river.
A great deal of rain had fallen in the night, and the river, instead of
being clear as it was before, was dark and troubled.
'How am I to fetch the ring from the bottom of this river when I do not
know exactly where it was dropped, and cannot even see it?' asked Jose.
But the horse answered: 'Do not be frightened; call the little fish
whose life you saved, and she will bring it to you.'
So he called to the fish, and the fish dived to the bottom and slipped
behind big stones, and moved little ones with its tail till it found
the ring, and brought it to Jose in its mouth.
Well pleased with all he had done, Jose returned to the palace; but
when the king took the precious objects to Bella-Flor, she declared
that she would never open her door till the bandit who had carried her
off had been fried in oil.
'I am very sorry,' said the king to Jose, 'I really would rather not;
but you see I have no choice.'
While the oil was being heated in the great caldron, Jose went to the
stables to inquire of his friend the horse if there was no way for him
'Do not be frightened,' said the horse. 'Get on my back, and I will
gallop till my whole body is wet with perspiration, then rub it all
over your skin, and no matter how hot the oil may be you will never
Jose did not ask any more questions, but did as the horse bade him; and
men wondered at his cheerful face as they lowered him into the caldron
of boiling oil. He was left there till Bella-Flor cried that he must
be cooked enough. Then out came a youth so young and handsome, that
everyone fell in love with him, and Bella-Flor most of all.
As for the old king, he saw that he had lost the game; and in despair
he flung himself into the caldron, and was fried instead of Jose. Then
Jose was proclaimed king, on condition that he married Bella-Flor which
he promised to do the next day. But first he went to the stables and
sought out the horse, and said to him: 'It is to you that I owe my life
and my crown. Why have you done all this for me?'
And the horse answered: 'I am the soul of that unhappy man for whom you
spent all your fortune. And when I saw you in danger of death I begged
that I might help you, as you had helped me. For, as I told you, Good
deeds bear their own fruit!'
[From Cuentos, Oraciones, y Adivinas, por Fernan Caballero.]
The Bird of Truth
Once upon a time there lived a poor fisher who built a hut on the banks
of a stream which, shunning the glare of the sun and the noise of the
towns, flowed quietly past trees and under bushes, listening to the
songs of the birds overhead.
One day, when the fisherman had gone out as usual to cast his nets, he
saw borne towards him on the current a cradle of crystal. Slipping his
net quickly beneath it he drew it out and lifted the silk coverlet.
Inside, lying on a soft bed of cotton, were two babies, a boy and a
girl, who opened their eyes and smiled at him. The man was filled with
pity at the sight, and throwing down his lines he took the cradle and
the babies home to his wife.
The good woman flung up her hands in despair when she beheld the
contents of the cradle.
'Are not eight children enough,' she cried, 'without bringing us two
more? How do you think we can feed them?'
'You would not have had me leave them to die of hunger,' answered he,
'or be swallowed up by the waves of the sea? What is enough for eight
is also enough for ten.'
The wife said no more; and in truth her heart yearned over the little
creatures. Somehow or other food was never lacking in the hut, and the
children grew up and were so good and gentle that, in time, their
foster-parents loved them as well or better than their own, who were
quarrelsome and envious. It did not take the orphans long to notice
that the boys did not like them, and were always playing tricks on
them, so they used to go away by themselves and spend whole hours by
the banks of the river. Here they would take out the bits of bread
they had saved from their breakfasts and crumble them for the birds.
In return, the birds taught them many things: how to get up early in
the morning, how to sing, and how to talk their language, which very
few people know.
But though the little orphans did their best to avoid quarrelling with
their foster- brothers, it was very difficult always to keep the peace.
Matters got worse and worse till, one morning, the eldest boy said to
'It is all very well for you to pretend that you have such good
manners, and are so much better than we, but we have at least a father
and mother, while you have only got the river, like the toads and the
The poor children did not answer the insult; but it made them very
unhappy. And they told each other in whispers that they could not stay
there any longer, but must go into the world and seek their fortunes.
So next day they arose as early as the birds and stole downstairs
without anybody hearing them. One window was open, and they crept
softly out and ran to the side of the river. Then, feeling as if they
had found a friend, they walked along its banks, hoping that by- and-by
they should meet some one to take care of them.
The whole of that day they went steadily on without seeing a living
creature, till, in the evening, weary and footsore, they saw before
them a small hut. This raised their spirits for a moment; but the door
was shut, and the hut seemed empty, and so great was their
disappointment that they almost cried. However, the boy fought down
his tears, and said cheerfully:
'Well, at any rate here is a bench where we can sit down, and when we
are rested we will think what is best to do next.'
Then they sat down, and for some time they were too tired even to
notice anything; but by-and-by they saw that under the tiles of the
roof a number of swallows were sitting, chattering merrily to each
other. Of course the swallows had no idea that the children understood
their language, or they would not have talked so freely; but, as it
was, they said whatever came into their heads.
'Good evening, my fine city madam,' remarked a swallow, whose manners
were rather rough and countryfied to another who looked particularly
distinguished. 'Happy, indeed, are the eyes that behold you! Only
think of your having returned to your long-forgotten country friends,
after you have lived for years in a palace!'
'I have inherited this nest from my parents,' replied the other, 'and
as they left it to me I certainly shall make it my home. But,' she
added politely, 'I hope that you and all your family are well?'
'Very well indeed, I am glad to say. But my poor daughter had, a short
time ago, such bad inflammation in her eyes that she would have gone
blind had I not been able to find the magic herb, which cured her at
'And how is the nightingale singing? Does the lark soar as high as
ever? And does the linnet dress herself as smartly?' But here the
country swallow drew herself up.
'I never talk gossip,' she said severely. 'Our people, who were once
so innocent and well-behaved, have been corrupted by the bad examples
of men. It is a thousand pities.'
'What! innocence and good behaviour are not to be met with among birds,
nor in the country! My dear friend, what are you saying?'
'The truth and nothing more. Imagine, when we returned here, we met
some linnets who, just as the spring and the flowers and the long days
had come, were setting out for the north and the cold? Out of pure
compassion we tried to persuade them to give up this folly; but they
only replied with the utmost insolence.'
'How shocking!' exclaimed the city swallow.
'Yes, it was. And worse than that, the crested lark, that was formerly
so timid and shy, is now no better than a thief, and steals maize and
corn whenever she can find them.'
'I am astonished at what you say.'
'You will be more astonished when I tell you that on my arrival here
for the summer I found my nest occupied by a shameless sparrow! "This
is my nest," I said. "Yours?" he answered, with a rude laugh. "Yes,
mine; my ancestors were born here, and my sons will be born here also."
And at that my husband set upon him and threw him out of the nest. I
am sure nothing of this sort ever happens in a town.'
'Not exactly, perhaps. But I have seen a great deal--if you only knew!'
'Oh! do tell us! do tell us!' cried they all. And when they had
settled themselves comfortably, the city swallow began:
'You must know, then that our king fell in love with the youngest
daughter of a tailor, who was as good and gentle as she was beautiful.
His nobles hoped that he would have chosen a queen from one of their
daughters, and tried to prevent the marriage; but the king would not
listen to them, and it took place. Not many months later a war broke
out, and the king rode away at the head of his army, while the queen
remained behind, very unhappy at the separation. When peace was made,
and the king returned, he was told that his wife had had two babies in
his absence, but that both were dead; that she herself had gone out of
her mind and was obliged to be shut up in a tower in the mountains,
where, in time, the fresh air might cure her.'
'And was this not true?' asked the swallows eagerly.
'Of course not,' answered the city lady, with some contempt for their
stupidity. 'The children were alive at that very moment in the
gardener's cottage; but at night the chamberlain came down and put them
in a cradle of crystal, which he carried to the river.
'For a whole day they floated safely, for though the stream was deep it
was very still, and the children took no harm. In the morning--so I am
told by my friend the kingfisher--they were rescued by a fisherman who
lived near the river bank.'
The children had been lying on the bench, listening lazily to the
chatter up to this point; but when they heard the story of the crystal
cradle which their foster-mother had always been fond of telling them,
they sat upright and looked at each other.
'Oh, how glad I am I learnt the birds' language!' said the eyes of one
to the eyes of the other.
Meanwhile the swallows had spoken again.
'That was indeed good fortune!' cried they.
'And when the children are grown up they can return to their father and
set their mother free.'
'It will not be so easy as you think,' answered the city swallow,
shaking her head; 'for they will have to prove that they are the king's
children, and also that their mother never went mad at all. In fact,
it is so difficult that there is only one way of proving it to the
'And what is that?' cried all the swallows at once. 'And how do you
'I know it,' answered the city swallow, 'because, one day, when I was
passing through the palace garden, I met a cuckoo, who, as I need not
tell you, always pretends to be able to see into the future. We began
to talk about certain things which were happening in the palace, and of
the events of past years. "Ah," said he, "the only person who can
expose the wickedness of the ministers and show the king how wrong he
has been, is the Bird of Truth, who can speak the language of men."
'"And where can this bird be found?" I asked.
'"It is shut up in a castle guarded by a fierce giant, who only sleeps
one quarter of an hour out of the whole twenty-four," replied the
'And where is this castle?' inquired the country swallow, who, like all
the rest, and the children most of all, had been listening with deep
'That is just what I don't know,' answered her friend. 'All I can tell
you is that not far from here is a tower, where dwells an old witch,
and it is she who knows the way, and she will only teach it to the
person who promises to bring her the water from the fountain of many
colours, which she uses for her enchantments. But never will she
betray the place where the Bird of Truth is hidden, for she hates him,
and would kill him if she could; knowing well, however, that this bird
cannot die, as he is immortal, she keeps him closely shut up, and
guarded night and day by the Birds of Bad Faith, who seek to gag him so
that his voice should not be heard.'
'And is there no one else who can tell the poor boy where to find the
bird, if he should ever manage to reach the tower?' asked the country
'No one,' replied the city swallow, 'except an owl, who lives a
hermit's life in that desert, and he knows only one word of man's
speech, and that is "cross." So that even if the prince did succeed in
getting there, he could never understand what the owl said. But, look,
the sun is sinking to his nest in the depths of the sea, and I must go
to mine. Good-night, friends, good-night!'
Then the swallow flew away, and the children, who had forgotten both
hunger and weariness in the joy of this strange news, rose up and
followed in the direction of her flight. After two hours' walking,
they arrived at a large city, which they felt sure must be the capital
of their father's kingdom. Seeing a good-natured looking woman
standing at the door of a house, they asked her if she would give them
a night's lodging, and she was so pleased with their pretty faces and
nice manners that she welcomed them warmly.
It was scarcely light the next morning before the girl was sweeping out
the rooms, and the boy watering the garden, so that by the time the
good woman came downstairs there was nothing left for her to do. This
so delighted her that she begged the children to stay with her
altogether, and the boy answered that he would leave his sisters with
her gladly, but that he himself had serious business on hand and must
not linger in pursuit of it. So he bade them farewell and set out.
For three days he wandered by the most out- of-the-way paths, but no
signs of a tower were to be seen anywhere. On the fourth morning it
was just the same, and, filled with despair, he flung himself on the
ground under a tree and hid his face in his hands. In a little while
he heard a rustling over his head, and looking up, he saw a turtle dove
watching him with her bright eyes.
'Oh dove!' cried the boy, addressing the bird in her own language, 'Oh
dove! tell me, I pray you, where is the castle of Come-and- never-go?'
'Poor child,' answered the dove, 'who has sent you on such a useless
'My good or evil fortune,' replied the boy, 'I know not which.'
'To get there,' said the dove, 'you must follow the wind, which to-day
is blowing towards the castle.'
The boy thanked her, and followed the wind, fearing all the time that
it might change its direction and lead him astray. But the wind seemed
to feel pity for him and blew steadily on.
With each step the country became more and more dreary, but at
nightfall the child could see behind the dark and bare rocks something
darker still. This was the tower in which dwelt the witch; and seizing
the knocker he gave three loud knocks, which were echoed in the hollows
of the rocks around.
The door opened slowly, and there appeared on the threshold an old
woman holding up a candle to her face, which was so hideous that the
boy involuntarily stepped backwards, almost as frightened by the troop
of lizards, beetles and such creatures that surrounded her, as by the
'Who are you who dare to knock at my door and wake me?' cried she. 'Be
quick and tell me what you want, or it will be the worse for you.'
'Madam,' answered the child, 'I believe that you alone know the way to
the castle of Come- and-never-go, and I pray you to show it to me.'
'Very good,' replied the witch, with something that she meant for a
smile, 'but to-day it is late. To-morrow you shall go. Now enter, and
you shall sleep with my lizards.'
'I cannot stay,' said he. 'I must go back at once, so as to reach the
road from which I started before day dawns.'
'If I tell you, will you promise me that you will bring me this jar
full of the many- coloured water from the spring in the court- yard of
the castle?' asked she. 'If you fail to keep your word I will change
you into a lizard for ever.'
'I promise,' answered the boy.
Then the old woman called to a very thin dog, and said to him:
'Conduct this pig of a child to the castle of Come-and-never-go, and
take care that you warn my friend of his arrival.' And the dog arose
and shook itself, and set out.
At the end of two hours they stopped in front of a large castle, big
and black and gloomy, whose doors stood wide open, although neither
sound nor light gave sign of any presence within. The dog, however,
seemed to know what to expect, and, after a wild howl, went on; but the
boy, who was uncertain whether this was the quarter of an hour when the
giant was asleep, hesitated to follow him, and paused for a moment
under a wild olive that grew near by, the only tree which he had beheld
since he had parted from the dove. 'Oh, heaven, help me!' cried he.
'Cross! cross!' answered a voice.
The boy leapt for joy as he recognised the note of the owl of which the
swallow had spoken, and he said softly in the bird's language:
'Oh, wise owl, I pray you to protect and guide me, for I have come in
search of the Bird of Truth. And first I must fill this far with the
many-coloured water in the courtyard of the castle.'
'Do not do that,' answered the owl, 'but fill the jar from the spring
which bubbles close by the fountain with the many-coloured water.
Afterwards, go into the aviary opposite the great door, but be careful
not to touch any of the bright-plumaged birds contained in it, which
will cry to you, each one, that he is the Bird of Truth. Choose only a
small white bird that is hidden in a corner, which the others try
incessantly to kill, not knowing that it cannot die. And, be
quick!--for at this very moment the giant has fallen asleep, and you
have only a quarter of an hour to do everything.'
The boy ran as fast as he could and entered the courtyard, where he saw
the two spring close together. He passed by the many- coloured water
without casting a glance at it, and filled the jar from the fountain
whose water was clear and pure. He next hastened to the aviary, and
was almost deafened by the clamour that rose as he shut the door behind
him. Voices of peacocks, voices of ravens, voices of magpies, each
claiming to be the Bird of Truth. With steadfast face the boy walked
by them all, to the corner, where, hemmed in by a hand of fierce crows,
was the small white bird he sought. Putting her safely in his breast,
he passed out, followed by the screams of the birds of Bad Faith which
he left behind him.
Once outside, he ran without stopping to the witch's tower, and handed
to the old woman the jar she had given him.
'Become a parrot!' cried she, flinging the water over him. But instead
of losing his shape, as so many had done before, he only grew ten times
handsomer; for the water was enchanted for good and not ill. Then the
creeping multitude around the witch hastened to roll themselves in the
water, and stood up, human beings again.
When the witch saw what was happening, she took a broomstick and flew
Who can guess the delight of the sister at the sight of her brother,
bearing the Bird of Truth? But although the boy had accomplished much,
something very difficult yet remained, and that was how to carry the
Bird of Truth to the king without her being seized by the wicked
courtiers, who would be ruined by the discovery of their plot.
Soon--no one knew how--the news spread abroad that the Bird of Truth
was hovering round the palace, and the courtiers made all sorts of
preparations to hinder her reaching the king.
They got ready weapons that were sharpened, and weapons that were
poisoned; they sent for eagles and falcons to hunt her down, and
constructed cages and boxes in which to shut her up if they were not
able to kill her. They declared that her white plumage was really put
on to hide her black feathers--in fact there was nothing they did not
do in order to prevent the king from seeing the bird or from paying
attention to her words if he did.
As often happens in these cases, the courtiers brought about that which
they feared. They talked so much about the Bird of Truth that at last
the king heard of it, and expressed a wish to see her. The more
difficulties that were put in his way the stronger grew his desire, and
in the end the king published a proclamation that whoever found the
Bird of Truth should bring her to him without delay.
As soon as he saw this proclamation the boy called his sister, and they
hastened to the palace. The bird was buttoned inside his tunic, but,
as might have been expected, the courtiers barred the way, and told the
child that he could not enter. It was in vain that the boy declared
that he was only obeying the king's commands; the courtiers only
replied that his majesty was not yet out of bed, and it was forbidden
to wake him.
They were still talking, when, suddenly, the bird settled the question
by flying upwards through an open window into the king's own room.
Alighting on the pillow, close to the king's head, she bowed
respectfully, and said:
'My lord, I am the Bird of Truth whom you wished to see, and I have
been obliged to approach you in the manner because the boy who brought
me is kept out of the palace by your courtiers.'
'They shall pay for their insolence,' said the king. And he instantly
ordered one of his attendants to conduct the boy at once to his
apartments; and in a moment more the prince entered, holding his sister
by the hand.
'Who are you?' asked the king; 'and what has the Bird of Truth to do
'If it please your majesty, the Bird of Truth will explain that
herself,' answered the boy.
And the bird did explain; and the king heard for the first time of the
wicked plot that had been successful for so many years. He took his
children in his arms, with tears in his eyes, and hurried off with them
to the tower in the mountains where the queen was shut up. The poor
woman was as white as marble, for she had been living almost in
darkness; but when she saw her husband and children, the colour came
back to her face, and she was as beautiful as ever.
They all returned in state to the city, where great rejoicings were
held. The wicked courtiers had their heads cut off, and all their
property was taken away. As for the good old couple, they were given
riches and honour, and were loved and cherished to the end of their
[From Cuentos, Oraciones y Adivinas, por Fernan Caballero.]
The Mink and the Wolf
In a big forest in the north of America lived a quantity of wild
animals of all sorts. They were always very polite when they met; but,
in spite of that, they kept a close watch one upon the other, as each
was afraid of being killed and eaten by somebody else. But their
manners were so good that no one would ever had guessed that.
One day a smart young wolf went out to hunt, promising his grandfather
and grandmother that he would be sure to be back before bedtime. He
trotted along quite happily through the forest till he came to a
favourite place of his, just where the river runs into the sea. There,
just as he had hoped, he saw the chief mink fishing in a canoe.
'I want to fish too,' cried the wolf. But the mink said nothing and
pretended not to hear.
'I wish you would take me into your boat!' shouted the wolf, louder
than before, and he continued to beseech the mink so long that at last
he grew tired of it, and paddled to the shore close enough for the wolf
to jump in.
'Sit down quietly at that end or we shall be upset,' said the mink;
'and if you care about sea-urchins' eggs, you will find plenty in that
basket. But be sure you eat only the white ones, for the red ones
would kill you.'
So the wolf, who was always hungry, began to eat the eggs greedily; and
when he had finished he told the mink he thought he would have a nap.
'Well, then, stretch yourself out, and rest your head on that piece of
wood,' said the mink. And the wolf did as he was bid, and was soon
fast asleep. Then the mink crept up to him and stabbed him to the
heart with his knife, and he died without moving. After that he landed
on the beach, skinned the wolf, and taking the skin to his cottage, he
hung it up before the fire to dry.
Not many days later the wolf's grandmother, who, with the help of her
relations, had been searching for him everywhere, entered the cottage
to buy some sea-urchins' eggs, and saw the skin, which she at once
guessed to be that of her grandson.
'I knew he was dead--I knew it! I knew it!' she cried, weeping
bitterly, till the mink told her rudely that if she wanted to make so
much noise she had better do it outside as he liked to be quiet. So,
half-blinded by her tears, the old woman went home the way she had
come, and running in at the door, she flung herself down in front of
'What are you crying for?' asked the old wolf and some friends who had
been spending the afternoon with him.
'I shall never see my grandson any more!' answered she. 'Mink has
killed him, oh! oh!' And putting her head down, she began to weep as
loudly as ever.
'There! there!' said her husband, laying his paw on her shoulder. 'Be
comforted; if he IS dead, we will avenge him.' And calling to the
others they proceeded to talk over the best plan. It took them a long
time to make up their minds, as one wolf proposed one thing and one
another; but at last it was agreed that the old wolf should give a
great feast in his house, and that the mink should be invited to the
party. And in order that no time should be lost it was further agreed
that each wolf should bear the invitations to the guests that lived
nearest to him.
Now the wolves thought they were very cunning, but the mink was more
cunning still; and though he sent a message by a white hare, that was
going that way, saying he should be delighted to be present, he
determined that he would take his precautions. So he went to a mouse
who had often done him a good turn, and greeted her with his best bow.
'I have a favour to ask of you, friend mouse,' said he, 'and if you
will grant it I will carry you on my back every night for a week to the
patch of maize right up the hill.'
'The favour is mine,' answered the mouse. 'Tell me what it is that I
can have the honour of doing for you.'
'Oh, something quite easy,' replied the mink. 'I only want
you--between to-day and the next full moon--to gnaw through the bows
and paddles of the wolf people, so that directly they use them they
will break. But of course you must manage it so that they notice
'Of course,' answered the mouse, 'nothing is easier; but as the full
moon is to-morrow night, and there is not much time, I had better begin
at once.' Then the mink thanked her, and went his way; but before he
had gone far he came back again.
'Perhaps, while you are about the wolf's house seeing after the bows,
it would do no harm if you were to make that knot-hole in the wall a
little bigger,' said he. 'Not large enough to draw attention, of
course; but it might come in handy.' And with another nod he left her.
The next evening the mink washed and brushed himself carefully and set
out for the feast. He smiled to himself as he looked at the dusty
track, and perceived that though the marks of wolves' feet were many,
not a single guest was to be seen anywhere. He knew very well what
that meant; but he had taken his precautions and was not afraid.
The house door stood open, but through a crack the mink could see the
wolves crowding in the corner behind it. However, he entered boldly,
and as soon as he was fairly inside the door was shut with a bang, and
the whole herd sprang at him, with their red tongues hanging out of
their mouths. Quick as they were they were too late, for the mink was
already through the knot-hole and racing for his canoe.
The knot-hole was too small for the wolves, and there were so many of
them in the hut that it was some time before they could get the door
open. Then they seized the bows and arrows which were hanging on the
walls and, once outside, aimed at the flying mink; but as they pulled
the bows broke in their paws, so they threw them away, and bounded to
the shore, with all their speed, to the place where their canoes were
drawn up on the beach.
Now, although the mink could not run as fast as the wolves, he had a
good start, and was already afloat when the swiftest among them threw
themselves into the nearest canoe. They pushed off, but as they dipped
the paddles into the water, they snapped as the bows had done, and were
'I know where there are some new ones,' cried a young fellow, leaping
on shore and rushing to a little cave at the back of the beach. And
the mink's heart smote him when he heard, for he had not known of this
After a long chase the wolves managed to surround their prey, and the
mink, seeing it was no good resisting any more, gave himself up. Some
of the elder wolves brought out some cedar bands, which they always
carried wound round their bodies, but the mink laughed scornfully at
the sight of them.
'Why I could snap those in a moment,' said he; 'if you want to make
sure that I cannot escape, better take a line of kelp and bind me with
'You are right,' answered the grandfather; 'your wisdom is greater than
ours.' And he bade his servants gather enough kelp from the rocks to
make a line, as they had brought none with them.
'While the line is being made you might as well let me have one last
dance,' remarked the mink. And the wolves replied: 'Very good, you may
have your dance; perhaps it may amuse us as well as you.' So they
brought two canoes and placed them one beside the other. The mink
stood up on his hind legs and began to dance, first in one canoe and
then in the other; and so graceful was he, that the wolves forgot they
were going to put him to death, and howled with pleasure.
'Pull the canoes a little apart; they are too close for this new
dance,' he said, pausing for a moment. And the wolves separated them
while he gave a series of little springs, sometime pirouetting while he
stood with one foot on the prow of both. 'Now nearer, now further
apart,' he would cry as the dance went on. 'No! further still.' And
springing into the air, amidst howls of applause, he came down
head-foremost, and dived to the bottom. And through the wolves, whose
howls had now changed into those of rage, sought him everywhere, they
never found him, for he hid behind a rock till they were out of sight,
and then made his home in another forest.
[From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.]
Adventures of an Indian Brave
A long, long way off, right away in the west of America, there once
lived an old man who had one son. The country round was covered with
forests, in which dwelt all kinds of wild beasts, and the young man and
his companions used to spend whole days in hunting them, and he was the
finest hunter of all the tribe.
One morning, when winter was coming on, the youth and his companions
set off as usual to bring back some of the mountain goats and deer to
be salted down, as he was afraid of a snow-storm; and if the wind blew
and the snow drifted the forest might be impassable for some weeks.
The old man and the wife, however, would not go out, but remained in
the wigwam making bows and arrows.
It soon grew so cold in the forest that at last one of the men declared
they could walk no more, unless they could manage to warm themselves.
'That is easily done,' said the leader, giving a kick to a large tree.
Flames broke out in the trunk, and before it had burnt up they were as
hot as if it had been summer. Then they started off to the place where
the goats and deer were to be found in the greatest numbers, and soon
had killed as many as they wanted. But the leader killed most, as he
was the best shot.
'Now we must cut up the game and divide it,' said he; and so they did,
each one taking his own share; and, walking one behind the other, set
out for the village. But when they reached a great river the young man
did not want the trouble of carrying his pack any further, and left it
on the bank.
'I am going home another way,' he told his companions. And taking
another road he reached the village long before they did.
'Have you returned with empty hands?' asked the old man, as his son
opened the door.
'Have I ever done that, that you put me such a question?' asked the
youth. 'No; I have slain enough to feast us for many moons, but it was
heavy, and I left the pack on the bank of the great river. Give me the
arrows, I will finish making them, and you can go to the river and
bring home the pack!'
So the old man rose and went, and strapped the meat on his shoulder;
but as he was crossing the ford the strap broke and the pack fell into
the river. He stooped to catch it, but it swirled past him. He
clutched again; but in doing so he over- balanced himself and was
hurried into some rapids, where he was knocked against some rocks, and
he sank and was drowned, and his body was carried down the stream into
smoother water when it rose to the surface again. But by this time it
had lost all likeness to a man, and was changed into a piece of wood.
The wood floated on, and the river got bigger and bigger and entered a
new country. There it was borne by the current close to the shore, and
a woman who was down there washing her clothes caught it as it passed,
and drew it out, saying to herself: 'What a nice smooth plank! I will
use it as a table to put my food upon.' And gathering up her clothes
she took the plank with her into her hut.
When her supper time came she stretched the board across two strings
which hung from the roof, and set upon it the pot containing a stew
that smelt very good. The woman had been working hard all day and was
very hungry, so she took her biggest spoon and plunged it into the pot.
But what was her astonishment and disgust when both pot and food
vanished instantly before her!
'Oh, you horrid plank, you have brought me ill-luck!' she cried. And
taking it up she flung it away from her.
The woman had been surprised before at the disappearance of her food,
but she was more astonished still when, instead of the plank, she
beheld a baby. However, she was fond of children and had none of her
own, so she made up her mind that she would keep it and take care of
it. The baby grew and throve as no baby in that country had ever done,
and in four days he was a man, and as tall and strong as any brave of
'You have treated me well,' he said, 'and meat shall never fail to your
house. But now I must go, for I have much work to do.'
Then he set out for his home.
It took him many days to get there, and when he saw his son sitting in
his place his anger was kindled, and his heart was stirred to take
vengeance upon him. So he went out quickly into the forest and shed
tears, and each tear became a bird. 'Stay there till I want you,' said
he; and he returned to the hut.
'I saw some pretty new birds, high up in a tree yonder,' he remarked.
And the son answered: 'Show me the way and I will get them for dinner.'
The two went out together, and after walking for about half an hour
they old man stopped. 'That is the tree,' he said. And the son began
to climb it.
Now a strange thing happened. The higher the young man climbed the
higher the birds seemed to be, and when he looked down the earth below
appeared no bigger than a star. Sill he tried to go back, but he could
not, and though he could not see the birds any longer he felt as if
something were dragging him up and up.
He thought that he had been climbing that tree for days, and perhaps he
had, for suddenly a beautiful country, yellow with fields of maize,
stretched before him, and he gladly left the top of the tree and
entered it. He walked through the maize without knowing where he was
going, when he heard a sound of knocking, and saw two old blind women
crushing their food between two stones. He crept up to them on tiptoe,
and when one old woman passed her dinner to the other he held out his
hand and took it and ate if for himself.
'How slow you are kneading that cake,' cried the other old woman at
'Why, I have given you your dinner, and what more do you want?' replied
'You didn't; at least I never got it,' said the other.
'I certainly thought you took it from me; but here is some more.' And
again the young man stretched out his hand; and the two old women fell
to quarrelling afresh. But when it happened for the third time the old
women suspected some trick, and one of them exclaimed:
'I am sure there is a man here; tell me, are you not my grandson?'
'Yes,' answered the young man, who wished to please her, 'and in return
for your good dinner I will see if I cannot restore your sight; for I
was taught in the art of healing by the best medicine man in the
tribe.' And with that he left them, and wandered about till he found
the herb which he wanted. Then he hastened back to the old women, and
begging them to boil him some water, he threw the herb in. As soon as
the pot began to sing he took off the lid, and sprinkled the eyes of
the women, and sight came back to them once more.
There was no night in that country, so, instead of going to bed very
early, as he would have done in his own hut, the young man took another
walk. A splashing noise near by drew him down to a valley through
which ran a large river, and up a waterfall some salmon were leaping.
How their silver sides glistened in the light, and how he longed to
catch some of the great fellows! But how could he do it? He had
beheld no one except the old women, and it was not very likely that
they would be able to help him. So with a sigh he turned away and went
back to them, but, as he walked, a thought struck him. He pulled out
one of his hairs which hung nearly to his waist, and it instantly
became a strong line, nearly a mile in length.
'Weave me a net that I may catch some salmon,' said he. And they wove
him the net he asked for, and for many weeks he watched by the river,
only going back to the old women when he wanted a fish cooked.
At last, one day, when he was eating his dinner, the old woman who
always spoke first, said to him:
'We have been very glad to see you, grandson, but now it is time that
you went home.' And pushing aside a rock, he saw a deep hole, so deep
that he could not see to the bottom. Then they dragged a basket out of
the house, and tied a rope to it. 'Get in, and wrap this blanket round
your head,' said they; 'and, whatever happens, don't uncover it till
you get to the bottom.' Then they bade him farewell, and he curled
himself up in the basket.
Down, down, down he went; would he ever stop going? But when the
basket did stop, the young man forgot what he had been told, and put
his head out to see what was the matter. In an instant the basket
moved, but, to his horror, instead of going down, he felt himself being
drawn upwards, and shortly after he beheld the faces of the old women.
'You will never see your wife and son if you will not do as you are
bid,' said they. 'Now get in, and do not stir till you hear a crow
This time the young man was wiser, and though the basket often stopped,
and strange creatures seemed to rest on him and to pluck at his
blanket, he held it tight till he heard the crow calling. Then he
flung off the blanket and sprang out, while the basket vanished in the
He walked on quickly down the track that led to the hut, when, before
him, he saw his wife with his little son on her back.
'Oh! there is father at last,' cried the boy; but the mother bade him
cease from idle talking.
'But, mother, it is true; father is coming!' repeated the child. And,
to satisfy him, the woman turned round and perceived her husband.
Oh, how glad they all were to be together again! And when the wind
whistled through the forest, and the snow stood in great banks round
the door, the father used to take the little boy on his knee and tell
him how he caught salmon in the Land of the Sun.
[From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.]
How the Stalos Were Tricked
'Mother, I have seen such a wonderful man,' said a little boy one day,
as he entered a hut in Lapland, bearing in his arms the bundle of
sticks he had been sent out to gather.
'Have you, my son; and what was he like?' asked the mother, as she took
off the child's sheepskin coat and shook it on the doorstep.
'Well, I was tired of stooping for the sticks, and was leaning against
a tree to rest, when I heard a noise of 'sh-'sh, among the dead leaves.
I thought perhaps it was a wolf, so I stood very still. But soon
there came past a tall man--oh! twice as tall as father--with a long
red beard and a red tunic fastened with a silver girdle, from which
hung a silver-handled knife. Behind him followed a great dog, which
looked stronger than any wolf, or even a bear. But why are you so
'It was the Stalo,' replied she, her voice trembling; 'Stalo the
man-eater! You did well to hide, or you might never had come back.
But, remember that, though he is so tall and strong, he is very stupid,
and many a Lapp has escaped from his clutches by playing him some
Not long after the mother and son had held this talk, it began to be
whispered in the forest that the children of an old man called Patto
had vanished one by one, no one knew whither. The unhappy father
searched the country for miles round without being able to find as much
as a shoe or a handkerchief, to show him where they had passed, but at
length a little boy came with news that he had seen the Stalo hiding
behind a well, near which the children used to play. The boy had
waited behind a clump of bushes to see what would happen, and by-and-by
he noticed that the Stalo had laid a cunning trap in the path to the
well, and that anybody who fell over it would roll into the water and
And, as he watched, Patto's youngest daughter ran gaily down the path,
till her foot caught in the strings that were stretched across the
steepest place. She slipped and fell, and in another instant had
rolled into the water within reach of the Stalo.
As soon as Patto heard this tale his heart was filled with rage, and he
vowed to have his revenge. So he straightway took an old fur coat from
the hook where it hung, and putting it on went out into the forest.
When he reached the path that led to the well he looked hastily round
to be sure that no one was watching him, then laid himself down as if
he had been caught in the snare and had rolled into the well, though he
took care to keep his head out of the water.
Very soon he heard a 'sh-'sh of the leaves, and there was the Stalo
pushing his way through the undergrowth to see what chance he had of a
dinner. At the first glimpse of Patto's head in the well he laughed
'Ha! ha! This time it is the old ass! I wonder how he will taste?' And
drawing Patto out of the well, he flung him across his shoulders and
carried him home. Then he tied a cord round him and hung him over the
fire to roast, while he finished a box that he was making before the
door of the hut, which he meant to hold Patto's flesh when it was
cooked. In a very short time the box was so nearly done that it only
wanted a little more chipping out with an axe; but this part of the
work was easier accomplished indoors, and he called to one of his sons
who were lounging inside to bring him the tool.
The young man looked everywhere, but he could not find the axe, for the
very good reason that Patto had managed to pick it up and hide it in
'Stupid fellow! what is the use of you?' grumbled his father angrily;
and he bade first one and then another of his sons to fetch him the
tool, but they had no better success than their brother.
'I must come myself, I suppose!' said Stalo, putting aside the box.
But, meanwhile, Patto had slipped from the hook and concealed himself
behind the door, so that, as Stalo stepped in, his prisoner raised the
axe, and with one blow the ogre's head was rolling on the ground. His
sons were so frightened at the sight that they all ran away.
And in this manner Patto avenged his dead children.
But though Stalo was dead, his three sons were still living, and not
very far off either. They had gone to their mother, who was tending
some reindeer on the pastures, and told her that by some magic, they
knew not what, their father's head had rolled from his body, and they
had been so afraid that something dreadful would happen to them that
they had come to take refuge with her. The ogress said nothing. Long
ago she had found out how stupid her sons were, so she just sent them
out to milk the reindeer, while she returned to the other house to bury
her husband's body.
Now, three days' journey from the hut on the pastures two brothers
Sodno dwelt in a small cottage with their sister Lyma, who tended a
large herd of reindeer while they were out hunting. Of late it had
been whispered from one to another that the three young Stalos were to
be seen on the pastures, but the Sodno brothers did not disturb
themselves, the danger seemed too far away.
Unluckily, however, one day, when Lyma was left by herself in the hut,
the three Stalos came down and carried her and the reindeer off to
their own cottage. The country was very lonely, and perhaps no one
would have known in which direction she had gone had not the girl
managed to tie a ball of thread to the handle of a door at the back of
the cottage and let it trail behind her. Of course the ball was not
long enough to go all the way, but it lay on the edge of a snowy track
which led straight to the Stalos' house.
When the brothers returned from their hunting they found both the hut
and the sheds empty. Loudly they cried: 'Lyma! Lyma!' But no voice
answered them; and they fell to searching all about, lest perchance
their sister might have dropped some clue to guide them. At length
their eyes dropped on the thread which lay on the snow, and they set
out to follow it.
On and on they went, and when at length the thread stopped the brothers
knew that another day's journey would bring them to the Stalos'
dwelling. Of course they did not dare to approach it openly, for the
Stalos had the strength of giants, and besides, there were three of
them; so the two Sodnos climbed into a big bushy tree which overhung a
'Perhaps our sister may be sent to draw water here,' they said to each
But it was not till the moon had risen that the sister came, and as she
let down her bucket into the well, the leaves seemed to whisper 'Lyma!
The girl started and looked up, but could see nothing, and in a moment
the voice came again.
'Be careful--take no notice, fill your buckets, but listen carefully
all the while, and we will tell you what to do so that you may escape
yourself and set free the reindeer also.'
So Lyman bent over the well lower than before, and seemed busier than
'You know,' said her brother, 'that when a Stalo finds that anything
has been dropped into his food he will not eat a morsel, but throws it
to his dogs. Now, after the pot has been hanging some time over the
fire, and the broth is nearly cooked, just rake up the log of wood so
that some of the ashes fly into the pot. The Stalo will soon notice
this, and will call you to give all the food to the dogs; but, instead,
you must bring it straight to us, as it is three days since we have
eaten or drunk. That is all you need do for the present.'
Then Lyma took up her buckets and carried them into the house, and did
as her brothers had told her. They were so hungry that they ate the
food up greedily without speaking, but when there was nothing left in
the pot, the eldest one said:
'Listen carefully to what I have to tell you. After the eldest Stalo
has cooked and eaten a fresh supper, he will go to bed and sleep so
soundly that not even a witch could wake him. You can hear him snoring
a mile off, and then you must go into his room and pull off the iron
mantle that covers him, and put it on the fire till it is almost red
hot. When that is done, come to us and we will give you further
'I will obey you in everything, dear brothers,' answered Lyman; and so
It had happened that on this very evening the Stalos had driven in some
of the reindeer from the pasture, and had tied them up to the wall of
the house so that they might be handy to kill for next day's dinner.
The two Sodnos had seen what they were doing, and where the beasts were
secured; so, at midnight, when all was still, they crept down from
their tree and seized the reindeer by the horns which were locked
together. The animals were frightened, and began to neigh and kick, as
if they were fighting together, and the noise became so great that even
the eldest Stalo was awakened by it, and that was a thing which had
never occurred before. Raising himself in his bed, he called to his
youngest brother to go out and separate the reindeer or they would
certainly kill themselves.
The young Stalo did as he was bid, and left the house; but no sooner
was he out of the door than he was stabbed to the heart by one of the
Sodnos, and fell without a groan. Then they went back to worry the
reindeer, and the noise became as great as ever, and a second time the
'The boy does not seem to be able to part the beasts,' he cried to his
second brother; 'go and help him, or I shall never get to sleep.' So
the brother went, and in an instant was struck dead as he left the
house by the sword of the eldest Sodno. The Stalo waited in bed a
little longer for things to get quiet, but as the clatter of the
reindeer's horns was as bad as ever, he rose angrily from his bed
muttering to himself:
'It is extraordinary that they cannot unlock themselves; but as no one
else seems able to help them I suppose I must go and do it.'
Rubbing his eyes, he stood up on the floor and stretched his great arms
and gave a yawn which shook the walls. The Sodnos heard it below, and
posted themselves, one at the big door and one at the little door at
the back, for they did not know what their enemy would come out at.
The Stalo put out his hand to take his iron mantle from the bed, where
it always lay, but the mantle was no there. He wondered where it could
be, and who could have moved it, and after searching through all the
rooms, he found it hanging over the kitchen fire. But the first touch
burnt him so badly that he let it alone, and went with nothing, except
a stick in his hand, through the back door.
The young Sodno was standing ready for him, and as the Stalo passed the
threshold struck him such a blow on the head that he rolled over with a
crash and never stirred again. The two Sodnos did not trouble about
him, but quickly stripped the younger Stalos of their clothes, in which
they dressed themselves. Then they sat still till the dawn should
break and they could find out from the Stalos' mother where the
treasure was hidden.
With the first rays of the sun the young Sodno went upstairs and
entered the old woman's room. She was already up and dressed, and
sitting by the window knitting, and the young man crept in softly and
crouched down on the floor, laying his head on her lap. For a while he
kept silence, then he whispered gently:
'Tell me, dear mother, where did my eldest brother conceal his riches?'
'What a strange question! Surely you must know,' answered she.
'No, I have forgotten; my memory is so bad.'
'He dug a hole under the doorstep and placed it there,' said she. And
there was another pause.
By-and-by the Sodno asked again:
'And where may my second brother's money be?'
'Don't you know that either?' cried the mother in surprise.
'Oh, yes; I did once. But since I fell upon my head I can remember
'It is behind the oven,' answered she. And again was silence.
'Mother, dear mother,' said the young man at last, 'I am almost afraid
to ask you; but I really have grown so stupid of late. Where did I
hide my own money?'
But at this question the old woman flew into a passion, and vowed that
if she could find a rod she would bring his memory back to him.
Luckily, no rod was within her reach, and the Sodno managed, after a
little, to coax her back into good humour, and at length she told him
that the youngest Stalo had buried his treasure under the very place
where she was sitting.
'Dear mother,' said Lyman, who had come in unseen, and was kneeling in
front of the fire. 'Dear mother, do you know who it is you have been
The old woman started, but answered quietly:
'It is a Sodno, I suppose?'
'You have guessed right,' replied Lyma.
The mother of the Stalos looked round for her iron cane, which she
always used to kill her victims, but it was not there, for Lyma had put
it in the fire.
'Where is my iron cane?' asked the old woman.
'There!' answered Lyma, pointing to the flames.
The old woman sprang forwards and seized it, but her clothes caught
fire, and in a few minutes she was burned to ashes.
So the Sodno brothers found the treasure, and they carried it, and
their sister and the reindeer, to their own home, and were the richest
men in all Lapland.
[From Lapplandische Marchen, J. C. Poestion.]
Once upon a time there lived in Lapland a man who was so very strong
and swift of foot that nobody in his native town of Vadso could come
near him if they were running races in the summer evenings. The people
of Vadso were very proud of their champion, and thought that there was
no one like him in the world, till, by-and-by, it came to their ears
that there dwelt among the mountains a Lapp, Andras Baive by name, who
was said by his friends to be even stronger and swifter than the
bailiff. Of course not a creature in Vadso believed that, and declared
that if it made the mountaineers happier to talk such nonsense, why,
The winter was long and cold, and the thoughts of the villagers were
much busier with wolves than with Andras Baive, when suddenly, on a
frosty day, he made his appearance in the little town of Vadso. The
bailiff was delighted at this chance of trying his strength, and at
once went out to seek Andras and to coax him into giving proof of his
vigour. As he walked along his eyes fell upon a big eight-oared boat
that lay upon the shore, and his face shone with pleasure. 'That is
the very thing,' laughed he, 'I will make him jump over that boat.'
Andras was quite ready to accept the challenge, and they soon settled
the terms of the wager. He who could jump over the boat without so
much as touching it with his heel was to be the winner, and would get a
large sum of money as the prize. So, followed by many of the
villagers, the two men walked down to the sea.
An old fisherman was chosen to stand near the boat to watch fair play,
and to hold the stakes, and Andras, as the stranger was told to jump
first. Going back to the flag which had been stuck into the sand to
mark the starting place, he ran forward, with his head well thrown
back, and cleared the boat with a mighty bound. The lookers- on
cheered him, and indeed he well deserve it; but they waited anxiously
all the same to see what the bailiff would do. On he came, taller than
Andras by several inches, but heavier of build. He too sprang high and
well, but as he came down his heel just grazed the edge of the boat.
Dead silence reigned amidst the townsfolk, but Andras only laughed and
'Just a little too short, bailiff; next time you must do better than
The bailiff turned red with anger at his rival's scornful words, and
answered quickly: 'Next time you will have something harder to do.'
And turning his back on his friends, he went sulkily home. Andras,
putting the money he had earned in his pocket, went home also.
The following spring Andras happened to be driving his reindeer along a
great fiord to the west of Vadso. A boy who had met him hastened to
tell the bailiff that his enemy was only a few miles off; and the
bailiff, disguising himself as a Stalo, or ogre, called his son and his
dog and rowed away across the fiord to the place where the boy had met
Now the mountaineer was lazily walking along the sands, thinking of the
new hut that he was building with the money that he had won on the day
of his lucky jump. He wandered on, his eyes fixed on the sands, so
that he did not see the bailiff drive his boat behind a rock, while he
changed himself into a heap of wreckage which floated in on the waves.
A stumble over a stone recalled Andras to himself, and looking up he
beheld the mass of wreckage. 'Dear me! I may find some use for that,'
he said; and hastened down to the sea, waiting till he could lay hold
of some stray rope which might float towards him. Suddenly--he could
not have told why--a nameless fear seized upon him, and he fled away
from the shore as if for his life. As he ran he heard the sound of a
pipe, such as only ogres of the Stalo kind were wont to use; and there
flashed into his mind what the bailiff had said when they jumped the
boat: 'Next time you will have something harder to do.' So it was no
wreckage after all that he had seen, but the bailiff himself.
It happened that in the long summer nights up in the mountain, where
the sun never set, and it was very difficult to get to sleep, Andras
had spent many hours in the study of magic, and this stood him in good
stead now. The instant he heard the Stalo music he wished himself to
become the feet of a reindeer, and in this guise he galloped like the
wind for several miles. Then he stopped to take breath and find out
what his enemy was doing. Nothing he could see, but to his ears the
notes of a pipe floated over the plain, and ever, as he listened, it
A cold shiver shook Andras, and this time he wished himself the feet of
a reindeer calf. For when a reindeer calf has reached the age at which
he begins first to lose his hair he is so swift that neither beast nor
bird can come near him. A reindeer calf is the swiftest of all things
living. Yes; but not so swift as a Stalo, as Andras found out when he
stopped to rest, and heard the pipe playing!
For a moment his heart sank, and he gave himself up for dead, till he
remembered that, not far off, were two little lakes joined together by
a short though very broad river. In the middle of the river lay a
stone that was always covered by water, except in dry seasons, and as
the winter rains had been very heavy, he felt quite sure that not even
the top of it could be seen. The next minute, if anyone had been
looking that way, he would have beheld a small reindeer calf speeding
northwards, and by-and-by giving a great spring, which landed him in
the midst of the stream. But, instead of sinking to the bottom, he
paused a second to steady himself, then gave a second spring which
landed him on the further shore. He next ran on to a little hill where
he saw down and began to neigh loudly, so that the Stalo might know
exactly where he was.
'Ah! There you are,' cried the Stalo, appearing on the opposite bank;
'for a moment I really thought I had lost you.'
'No such luck,' answered Andras, shaking his head sorrowfully. By this
time he had taken his own shape again.
'Well, but I don't see how I am to get to you1' said the Stalo, looking
up and down.
'Jump over, as I did,' answered Andras; 'it is quite easy.'
'But I could not jump this river; and I don't know how you did,'
replied the Stalo.
'I should be ashamed to say such things,' exclaimed Andras. 'Do you
mean to tell me that a jump, which the weakest Lapp boy would make
nothing of, is beyond your strength?'
The Stalo grew red and angry when he heard these words, just as Andras
meant him to do. He bounded into the air and fell straight into the
river. Not that that would have mattered, for he was a good swimmer;
but Andras drew out the bow and arrows which every Lapp carries, and
took aim at him. His aim was good, but the Stalo sprang so high into
the air that the arrow flew between his feet. A second shot, directed
at his forehead, fared no better, for this time the Stalo jumped so
high to the other side that the arrow passed between his finger and
thumb. Then Andras aimed his third arrow a little over the Stalo's
head, and when he sprang up, just an instant too soon, it hit him
between the ribs.
Mortally wounded as he was, the Stalo was not yet dead, and managed to
swim to the shore. Stretching himself on the sand, he said slowly to
'Promise that you will give me an honourable burial, and when my body
is laid in the grave go in my boat across the fiord, and take whatever
you find in my house which belongs to me. My dog you must kill, but
spare my son, Andras.'
Then he died; and Andras sailed in his boat away across the fiord and
found the dog and boy. The dog, a fierce, wicked-looking creature, he
slew with one blow from his fist, for it is well known that if a
Stalo's dog licks the blood that flows from his dead master's wounds
the Stalo comes to life again. That is why no REAL Stalo is ever seen
without his dog; but the bailiff, being only half a Stalo, had
forgotten him, when he went to the little lakes in search of Andras.
Next, Andras put all the gold and jewels which he found in the boat
into his pockets, and bidding the boy get in, pushed it off from the
shore, leaving the little craft to drift as it would, while he himself
ran home. With the treasure he possessed he was able to buy a great
herd of reindeer; and he soon married a rich wife, whose parents would
not have him as a son-in-law when he was poor, and the two lived happy
for ever after.
[From Lapplandische Mahrchen, J. C. Poestion.]
The White Slipper
Once upon a time there lived a king who had a daughter just fifteen
years old. And what a daughter!
Even the mothers who had daughters of their own could not help allowing
that the princess was much more beautiful and graceful than any of
them; and, as for the fathers, if one of them ever beheld her by
accident he could talk of nothing else for a whole day afterwards.
Of course the king, whose name was Balancin, was the complete slave of
his little girl from the moment he lifted her from the arms of her dead
mother; indeed, he did not seem to know that there was anyone else in
the world to love.
Now Diamantina, for that was her name, did not reach her fifteenth
birthday without proposals for marriage from every country under
heaven; but be the suitor who he might, the king always said him nay.
Behind the palace a large garden stretched away to the foot of some
hills, and more than one river flowed through. Hither the princess
would come each evening towards sunset, attended by her ladies, and
gather herself the flowers that were to adorn her rooms. She also
brought with her a pair of scissors to cut off the dead blooms, and a
basket to put them in, so that when the sun rose next morning he might
see nothing unsightly. When she had finished this task she would take
a walk through the town, so that the poor people might have a chance of
speaking with her, and telling her of their troubles; and then she
would seek out her father, and together they would consult over the
best means of giving help to those who needed it.
But what has all this to do with the White Slipper? my readers will ask.
Have patience, and you will see.
Next to his daughter, Balancin loved hunting, and it was his custom to
spend several mornings every week chasing the boars which abounded in
the mountains a few miles from the city. One day, rushing downhill as
fast as he could go, he put his foot into a hole and fell, rolling into
a rocky pit of brambles. The king's wounds were not very severe, but
his face and hands were cut and torn, while his feet were in a worse
plight still, for, instead of proper hunting boots, he only wore
sandals, to enable him to run more swiftly.
In a few days the king was as well as ever, and the signs of the
scratches were almost gone; but one foot still remained very sore,
where a thorn had pierced deeply and had festered. The best doctors in
the kingdom treated it with all their skill; they bathed, and
poulticed, and bandaged, but it was in vain. The foot only grew worse
and worse, and became daily more swollen and painful.
After everyone had tried his own particular cure, and found it fail,
there came news of a wonderful doctor in some distant land who had
healed the most astonishing diseases. On inquiring, it was found that
he never left the walls of his own city, and expected his patients to
come to see him; but, by dint of offering a large sum of money, the
king persuaded the famous physician to undertake the journey to his own
On his arrival the doctor was led at once into the king's presence, and
made a careful examination of his foot.