Part 5 out of 5
horse with a saddle and bridle of gold studded with precious
stones, to take the prince to the queen's palace.
As soon as they had brought him thither they led the prince to a
room where was a golden table spread with a snow-white cloth and
set with dishes of gold. At the end of the table the queen sat
waiting for him, and her face was hidden by a veil of silver
gauze. She raised the veil and looked at the prince, and when he
saw her face he stood as one wonder-struck, for not only was she
so beautiful, but she set a spell upon him with the evil charm of
her eyes. No one sat at the table but the queen and the prince,
and a score of young pages served them, and sweet music sounded
from a curtained gallery.
At last came midnight, and suddenly a great gong sounded from the
court-yard outside. Then in an instant the music was stopped, the
pages that served them hurried from the room, and presently all
was as still as death.
Then, when all were gone, the queen arose and beckoned the
prince, and he had no choice but to arise also and follow whither
she led. She took him through the palace, where all was as still
as the grave, and so came out by a postern door into a garden.
Beside the postern a torch burned in a bracket. The queen took it
down, and then led the prince up a path and under the silent
trees until they came to a great wall of rough stone. She pressed
her hand upon one of the great stones, and it opened like a door,
and there was a flight of steps that led downward. The queen
descended these steps, and the prince followed closely behind
her. At the bottom was a long passage-way, and at the farther end
the prince saw what looked like a bright spark of light, as
though the sun were shining. She thrust the torch into another
bracket in the wall of the passage, and then led the way towards
the light. It grew larger and larger as they went forward, until
at last they came out at the farther end, and there the prince
found himself standing in the sunlight and not far from the
seashore. The queen led the way towards the shore, when suddenly
a great number of black dogs came running towards them, barking
and snapping, and showing their teeth as though they would tear
the two in pieces. But the queen drew from her bosom a whip with
a steel-pointed lash, and as the dogs came springing towards them
she laid about her right and left, till the skin flew and the
blood ran, and the dogs leaped away howling and yelping.
At the edge of the water was a great stone mill, and the queen
pointed towards it and bade the prince turn it. Strong as he was,
it was as much as he could do to work it; but grind it he did,
though the sweat ran down his face in streams. By-and-by a speck
appeared far away upon the water; and as the prince ground and
ground at the mill the speck grew larger and larger. It was
something upon the water, and it came nearer and nearer as
swiftly as the wind. At last it came close enough for him to see
that it was a little boat all of brass. By-and-by the boat struck
upon the beach, and as soon as it did so the queen entered it,
bidding the prince do the same.
No sooner were they seated than away the boat went, still as
swiftly as the wind. On it flew and on it flew, until at last
they came to another shore, the like of which the prince had
never seen in his life before. Down to the edge of the water ran
a garden--but such a garden! The leaves of the trees were all of
silver and the fruit of gold, and instead of flowers were
precious stones--white, red, yellow, blue, and green--that
flashed like sparks of sunlight as the breeze moved them this way
and that way. Beyond the silver trees, with their golden fruit,
was a great palace as white as snow, and so bright that one had
to shut one's eyes as one looked upon it.
The boat ran up on the beach close to just such a stone mill as
the prince had seen upon the other side of the water, and then he
and the queen stepped ashore. As soon as they had done so the
brazen boat floated swiftly away, and in a little while was gone.
"Here our journey ends," said the queen. "Is it not a wonderful
land, and well worth the seeing? Look at all these jewels and
this gold, as plenty as fruits and flowers at home. :You may take
what you please; but while you are gathering them I have another
matter after which I must look. Wait for me here, and by-and-by I
will be back again."
So saying, she turned and left the prince, going towards the
castle back of the trees.
But the prince was a prince, and not a common man; he cared
nothing for gold and jewels. What he did care for was to see
where the queen went, and why she had brought him to this strange
land. So, as soon as she had fairly gone, he followed after.
He went along under the gold and silver trees, in the direction
she had taken, until at last he came to a tall flight of steps
that led up to the doorway of the snow-white palace. The door
stood open, and into it the prince went. He saw not a soul, but
he heard a noise as of blows and the sound as of some one
weeping. He followed the sound, until by-and-by he came to a
great vaulted room in the very centre of the palace. A curtain
hung at the doorway. The prince lifted it and peeped within, and
this was what he saw:
In the middle of the room was a marble basin of water as clear as
crystal, and around the sides of the basin were these words,
written in letters of gold:
"Whatsoever is False, that I make True."
Beside the fountain upon a marble stand stood a statue of a
beautiful woman made of alabaster, and around the neck of the
statue was a thread of gold. The queen stood beside the statue,
and beat and beat it with her steel-tipped whip. And all the
while she lashed it the statue sighed and groaned like a living
being, and the tears ran down its stone cheeks as though it were
a suffering Christian. By-and-by the queen rested for a moment,
and said, panting, "Will you give me the thread of gold?" and the
statue answered "No." Whereupon she fell to raining blows upon it
as she had done before.
So she continued, now beating the statue and now asking it
whether it would give her the thread of gold, to which the statue
always answered "No," and all the while the prince stood gazing
and wondering. By-and-by the queen wearied of what she was doing,
and thrust the steel-tipped lash back into her bosom again, upon
which the prince, seeing that she was done, hurried back to the
garden where she had left him and pretended to be gathering the
golden fruit and jewel flowers.
The queen said nothing to him good or bad, except to command him
to grind at the great stone mill as he had done on the other side
of the water. Thereupon the prince did as she bade, and presently
the brazen boat came skimming over the water more swiftly than
the wind. Again the queen and the prince entered it, and again it
carried them to the other side whence they had come.
No sooner had the queen set foot upon the shore than she stopped
and gathered up a handful of sand. Then, turning as quick as
lightning, she flung it into the prince's face. "Be a black dog,"
she cried in a loud voice, "and join your comrades!"
And now it was that the ring that the prince's mother had given
him stood him in good stead. But for it he would have become a
black dog like those others, for thus it had happened to all
before him who had ferried the witch queen over the water. So she
expected to see him run away yelping, as those others had done;
but the prince remained a prince, and stood looking her in the
When the queen saw that her magic had failed her she grew as pale
as death, and fell to trembling in every limb. She turned and
hastened quickly away, and the prince followed her wondering, for
he neither knew the mischief she had intended doing him, nor how
his ring had saved him from the fate of those others.
So they came back up the stairs and out through the stone wall
into the palace garden. The queen pressed her hand against the
stone and it turned back into its place again. Then, beckoning to
the prince, she hurried away down the garden. Before he followed
he picked up a coal that lay near by, and put a cross upon the
stone; then he hurried after her, and so came to the palace once
By this time the cocks were crowing, and the dawn of day was just
beginning to show over the roof-tops and the chimney-stacks of
As for the queen, she had regained her composure, and, bidding
the prince wait for her a moment, she hastened to her chamber.
There she opened her book of magic, and in it she soon found who
the prince was and how the ring had saved him.
When she had learned all that she wanted to know she put on a
smiling face and came back to him. "Ah, prince," said she, "I
well know who you are, for your coming to my country is not
secret to me. I have shown you strange things to-night. I will
unfold all the wonder to you another time. Will you not come back
and sup with me again?"
"Yes," said the prince, "I will come whensoever you bid me;" for
he was curious to know the secret of the statue and the strange
things he had seen.
"And will you not give me a pledge of your coming?" said the
queen, still smiling.
"What pledge shall I give you," said the prince.
"Give me the ring that is upon your finger," said the queen; and
she smiled so bewitchingly that the prince could not have refused
her had he desired to do so.
Alas for him! He thought no evil, but, without a word, drew off
the ring and gave it to the queen, and she slipped it upon her
"O fool!" she cried, laughing a wicked laugh, "O fool! to give
away that in which your safety lay!" As she spoke she dipped her
fingers into a basin of water that stood near by and dashed the
drops into the prince's face. "Be a raven," she cried, "and a
In an instant the prince was a prince no longer, but a coal-black
raven. The queen snatched up a sword that lay near by and struck
at him to kill him. But the raven-prince leaped aside and the
blow missed its aim.
By good luck a window stood open, and before the queen could
strike again he spread his wings and flew out of the open
casement and over the house-tops and was gone.
On he flew and on he flew until he came to the old man's house,
and so to the room where his foster-father himself was sitting.
He lit upon the ground at the old man's feet and tried to tell
him what had befallen, but all that he could say was "Croak!
"What brings this bird of ill omen?" said the old man, and he
drew his sword to kill it. He raised his hand to strike, but the
raven did not try to fly away as he had expected, but bowed his
neck to receive the stroke. Then the old man saw that the tears
were running down from the raven's eyes, and he held his hand.
"What strange thing is this?" he said. "Surely nothing but the
living soul weeps; and how, then, can this bird shed tears?" So
he took the raven up and looked into his eyes, and in them he saw
the prince's soul. "Alas!" he cried, "my heart misgives me that
something strange has happened. Tell me, is this not my foster-son, the prince?"
The raven answered "Croak!" and nothing else; but the good old
man understood it all, and the tears ran down his cheeks and
trickled over his beard. "Whether man or raven, you shall still
be my son," said he, and he held the raven close in his arms and
He had a golden cage made for the bird, and every day he would
walk with it in the garden, talking to it as a father talks to
One day when they were thus in the garden together a strange lady
came towards them down the pathway. Over her had and face was
drawn a thick veil, so that the two could not tell who she was.
When she came close to them she raised the veil, and the raven-prince saw that her face was the
living likeness of the queen's;
and yet there was something in it that was different. It was the
second sister of the queen, and the old man knew her and bowed
"Listen," said she. "I know what the raven is, and that it is the
prince, whom the queen has bewitched. I also know nearly as much
of magic as she, and it is that alone that has saved me so long
from ill. But danger hangs close over me; the queen only waits
for the chance to bewitch me; and some day she will overpower me,
for she is stronger than I. With the prince's aid I can overcome
her and make myself forever safe, and it is this that has brought
me here to-day. My magic is powerful enough to change the prince
back into his true shape again, and I will do so if he will aid
me in what follows, and this is it: I will conjure the queen, and
by-and-by a great eagle will come flying, and its plumage will be
as black as night. Then I myself will become an eagle, with
black-and-white plumage, and we two will fight in the air. After
a while we will both fall to the ground, and then the prince must
cut off the head of the black eagle with a knife I shall give
him. Will you do this?" said she, turning to the raven, "if I
transform you to your true shape?"
The raven bowed his head and said "Croak!" And the sister of the
queen knew that he meant yes.
Therewith she drew a great, long keen knife from her bosom, and
thrust it into the ground. "It is with this knife of magic," said
she, "that you must cut off the black eagle's head." Then the
witch-princess gathered up some sand in her hand, and flung it
into the raven's face. "Resume," cried she, "your own shape!" And
in an instant the prince was himself again. The next thing the
sister of the queen did was to draw a circle upon the ground
around the prince, the old man, and herself. On the circle she
marked strange figures here and there. Then, all three standing
close together, she began her conjurations, uttering strange
words--now under her breath, and now clear and loud.
Presently the sky darkened, and it began to thunder and rumble.
Darker it grew and darker, and the thunder crashed and roared.
The earth trembled under their feet, and the trees swayed hither
and thither as though tossed by a tempest. Then suddenly the
uproar ceased and all grew as still as death, the clouds rolled
away, and in a moment the sun shone out once more, and all was
calm and serene as it had been before. But still the princess
muttered her conjurations, and as the prince and the old man
looked they beheld a speck that grew larger and larger, until
they saw that it was an eagle as black as night that was coming
swiftly flying through the sky. Then the queen's sister also saw
it and ceased from her spells. She drew a little cap of feathers
from her bosom with trembling hands. "Remember," said she to the
prince; and, so saying, clapped the feather cap upon her head. In
an instant she herself became an eagle--pied, black and white--and, spreading her wings, leaped into
For a while the two eagles circled around and around; but at last
they dashed against one another, and, grappling with their
talons, tumbled over and over until they struck the ground close
to the two who stood looking.
Then the prince snatched the knife from the ground and ran to
where they lay struggling. "Which was I to kill?" said he to the
"Are they not birds of a feather?" cried the foster-father. "Kill
them both, for then only shall we all be safe."
The prince needed no second telling to see the wisdom of what the
old man said. In an instant he struck off the heads of both the
eagles, and thus put an end to both sorceresses, the lesser as
well as the greater. They buried both of the eagles in the garden
without telling any one of what had happened. So soon as that was
done the old man bade the prince tell him all that had befallen
him, and the prince did so.
"Aye! aye!" said the old man, "I see it all as clear as day. The
black dogs are the young men who have supped with the queen; the
statue is the good princess; and the basin of water is the water
of life, which has the power of taking away magic. Come; let us
make haste to bring help to all those unfortunates who have been
lying under the queen's spells."
The prince needed no urging to do that. They hurried to the
palace; they crossed the garden to the stone wall. There they
found the stone upon which the prince had set the black cross. He
pressed his hand upon it, and it opened to him like a door. They
descended the steps, and went through the passageway, until they
came out upon the sea-shore. The black dogs came leaping towards
them; but this time it was to fawn upon them, and to lick their
hands and faces.
The prince turned the great stone mill till the brazen boat came
flying towards the shore. They entered it, and so crossed the
water and came to the other side. They did not tarry in the
garden, but went straight to the snow-white palace and to the
great vaulted chamber where was the statue. "Yes," said the old
man, "it is the youngest princess, sure enough."
The prince said nothing, but he dipped up some of the water in
his palm and dashed it upon the statue. "If you are the princess,
take your true shape again," said he. Before the words had left
his lips the statue became flesh and blood, and the princess
stepped down from where she stood, and the prince thought that he
had never seen any one so beautiful as she. "You have brought me
back to life," said she, "and whatever I shall have shall be
yours as well as mine."
Then they all set their faces homeward again, and the prince took
with him a cupful of the water of life.
When they reached the farther shore the black dogs came running
to meet them. The prince sprinkled the water he carried upon
them, and as soon as it touched them that instant they were black
dogs no longer, but the tall, noble young men that the sorceress
queen had bewitched. There, as the old man had hoped, he found
his own three sons, and kissed them with the tears running down
But when the people of that land learned that their youngest
princess, and the one whom they loved, had come back again, and
that the two sorceresses would trouble them no longer, they
shouted and shouted for joy. All the town was hung with flags and
illuminated, the fountains ran with wine, and nothing was heard
but sounds of rejoicing. In the midst of it all the prince
married the princess, and so became the king of that country.
And now to go back again to the beginning.
After the youngest prince had been driven away from home, and the
old king had divided the kingdom betwixt the other two, things
went for a while smoothly and joyfully. But by little and little
the king was put to one side until he became as nothing in his
own land. At last hot words passed between the father and the two
sons, and the end of the matter was that the king was driven from
the land to shift for himself.
Now, after the youngest prince had married and had become king of
that other land, he bethought himself of his father and his
mother, and longed to see them again. So he set forth and
travelled towards his old home. In his journeying he came to a
lonely house at the edge of a great forest, and there night came
upon him. He sent one of the many of those who rode with him to
ask whether he could not find lodging there for the time, and who
should answer the summons but the king, his father, dressed in
the coarse clothing of a forester. The old king did not know his
own son in the kingly young king who sat upon his snow-white
horse. He bade the visitor to enter, and he and the old queen
served their son and bowed before him.
The next morning the young king rode back to his own land, and
then sent attendants with horses and splendid clothes, and bade
them bring his father and mother to his own home.
He had a noble feast set for them, with everything befitting the
entertainment of a king, but he ordered that not a grain of salt
should season it.
So the father and the mother sat down to the feast with their son
and his queen, but all the time they did not know him. The old
king tasted the food and tasted the food, but he could not eat of
"Do you not feel hungry?" said the young king.
"Alas," said his father, "I crave your majesty's pardon, but
there is no salt in the food."
"And so is life lacking of savor without love," said the young
king; "and yet because I loved you as salt you disowned me and
cast me out into the world."
Therewith he could contain himself no longer, but with the tears
running down his cheeks kissed his father and his mother; and
they knew him, and kissed him again.
Afterwards the young king went with a great army into the country
of his elder brothers, and, overcoming them, set his father upon
his throne again. If ever the two got back their crowns you may
be sure that they wore them more modestly than they did the first
So the Fisherman who had one time unbottled the Genie whom
Solomon the Wise had stoppered up concluded his story, and all of
the good folk who were there began clapping their shadowy hands.
"Aye, aye," said old Bidpai, "there is much truth in what you
say, for it is verily so that that which men call--love--is--the--salt--of--" * * *
His voice had been fading away thinner and thinner and smaller
and smaller--now it was like the shadow of a voice; now it
trembled and quivered out into silence and was gone.
And with the voice of old Bidpai the pleasant Land of Twilight
was also gone. As a breath fades away from a mirror, so had it
faded and vanished into nothingness.
I opened my eyes.
There was a yellow light--it came from the evening lamp. There
were people of flesh and blood around--my own dear people--and
they were talking together. There was the library with the rows
of books looking silently out from their shelves. There was the
fire of hickory logs crackling and snapping in the fireplace, and
throwing a wavering, yellow light on the wall.
Had I been asleep? No; I had been in Twilight Land.
And now the pleasant Twilight Land had gone. It had faded out,
and I was back again in the work-a-day world.
There I was sitting in my chair; and, what was more, it was time
for the children to go to bed.