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Fairy Tale: The Grateful Prince


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The Grateful Prince

Once upon a time the king of Kungia lost his way in a dense forest. Long did he wander in search of a path that might lead him out of it, but all in vain.

Suddenly an old man appeared before him.

"What are you looking for in this dark forest, my brother? " asked he. "There is nothing here but wild beasts."

"I have lost my way and am trying to find the road to my house," the king replied.

"I'll be glad to help you," the old man said, "if you promise to give me in reward that which you set eyes on first when you get home."

The king thought this over and said:

"The first to meet me always is my dog, and he is the best hunting dog I have. But why should I give him up to you? I'll get out of here without your help sooner or later."

The old man heard him out in silence and vanished.

The king wandered round in the forest for another three days and three nights till there was nothing left of the food he had brought with him, but no road did he find.

On the fourth day the same old man appeared before him again.

"Now do you agree to give me that which you set eyes on first when you get home? " asked he.

But the king was stubborn. He declined to accept the old man's help and began to wander in the forest again. At last, so exhausted was he that he dropped down on the ground under a tree, feeling that his end had come.

The old man who was none other than the devil himself came up to him for the third time and said:

"Don't be a fool! Is your dog so dear to you that you are unwilling to part with him even to save your own life? Promise to reward me as I ask, and you will get home safe and sound."

The king resisted no more.

"My life is more precious to me than a thousand dogs! " cried he. "I have a whole kingdom on my shoulders. So be it, I'll do as you say! Take me home."

No sooner had he uttered the last word than he found himself on the edge of the forest with the palace in full view.

He marched off home, and whom should he see first when he reached it but his little son. The boy was sitting in his nurse's lap, smilingly stretching out his hands to his father.

The king was frightened. He shouted at the nurse and told her to make haste and take away the child. Just then his dog came running up, joyfully wagging his tail, but all he got in return for his faithfulness was a kick. It often happens that servants that have done nothing to deserve it are made to pay for what is their master's fault.

When the king's anger had died down a little, he ordered his son, a pretty child, to be exchanged for the baby daughter of a poor peasant, a widower. The prince was taken to the peasant's humble hut and the peasant's little girl to the palace where she slept in the prince's cradle, under silken covers.

A year passed by and the Old Bachelor, for that is what Estonian peasants call the devil, came for his reward. He suspected nothing, and, thinking the little girl to be the king's daughter, carried her off with him. The king was overjoyed that his ruse had worked.

Time passed and the prince grew up and returned to his parents' house to live there in honour and luxury. But his life brought him no joy, for he found out at what cost he had been saved and could not reconcile himself to the thought that a little girl was being made to suffer through no fault of her own. He resolved to either save her or perish with her.

One day he dressed himself in the clothes of a peasant youth, put a sack of peas that weighed all of two poods on his back and set off for the forest in which his father had lost his way eighteen years before.

Once there, he began to wail and to cry very loudly indeed:

"Woe is me! Unhappy youth that I am! What wild place is this that I have come to and who is to lead me out of it? Why, there is not a living soul here! "

All of a sudden there stood before him a stranger, an old man with a long grey beard and a leather bag at his side, a true native of Tartu by the looks of him.

The old man greeted the prince in a friendly manner and said:

"I know these parts well and will lead you out of the forest if you promise to pay me well for it."

"What can I, a poor peasant, give you! " exclaimed the prince who was a quick-witted young man. "I haven't a copper to my name. Even this caftan I have on is not mine but my master's, for I've had to hire myself out as a labourer for just the food and the clothes."

The old man looked at the sack of peas and said:

"You're not so poor as all that, it seems to me! That sack you have on your back doesn't look very light."

"There's nothing in it but peas! " the prince replied. "My old aunt who was the only close relation I had, died just the other night and she left not a copper. There wasn't so much as a handful of peas in the house. And it's the village custom, you see, to give the people who sit out the night by the bedside of someone who has died soaked peas to chew to keep them from going to sleep. So I got my master to give me half a sack of peas, promising to do an extra round of work for him in return, and set out for the funeral. To get there faster I decided to cut across the forest, but lost my way."

"Oh, so you are all alone in the world! " the old man exclaimed, showing his teeth in a smile. "Would you like to work for me? I'm in need of a good workman and

I've taken a liking to you."

"I don't mind, if we can come to terms," the prince replied. "I've been a labourer ever since I can remember, another's bread is always bitter, and it's all the, same to me what master to serve. How much will you pay me a year? "

"You'll get fresh food every day," said the old man, "and meat twice a week. If you are sent out to work in the field far away from home I'll let you have some oil and some fish in addition to the bread. You'll have all the clothes you need and, on top of everything else, a plot of land big enough to plant four sacks of grain on."

"Agreed! " the prince replied. "They'll bury my aunt without me. I'm coming with you."

This seemed to please the old man hugely. He spun round on one heel and then went into a dance, pounding the ground so hard that the trees that grew nearby swayed and creaked.

After a while the old man and his new workman set off on their way, the old man talking away pleasantly to make the time pass more quickly and never notic- ing that every ten steps or so his companion would slip a pea out of his sack and drop it to the ground. The two spent the night under a thick fir-tree and in the morning they moved on again.

By evening they came to a large rock. The old man stopped, looked round carefully, whistled and struck the ground three times with the heel of his left foot. The rock moved aside, and a secret door to an underground passage was revealed.

"Follow me! " cried the old man, seizing the prince's hand.

Pitch darkness engulfed them, and it seemed to the prince that the road they were following was leading them deeper and deeper down. Soon a gleam of light appeared but it bore no likeness to the light of the sun or the moon. The prince looked up in alarm but there was no sun and no sky above him. A hazy, luminous cloud drifted slowly over a world that was strange and unfamiliar.

The land and the water, the trees and the grasses, the animals and the birds were all quite different from those on earth. But what struck the prince most was the dead silence that reigned throughout. Even the sound of his own footsteps drowned in it. Here and there, birds sat in the trees and they craned their necks and thrust out their breasts as if in song, but not a single note could be heard. The dogs opened their jaws as if to bark, the bulls lifted their horned heads as if to low, but no sound came. The water streamed over the rocky bed of a forest brook, the wind pressed down the crowns of the trees, the flies and the beetles flitted about, but soundlessly, without disturbing the quiet.

The old man uttered not a word, and when the prince tried to speak the sounds died in his throat.

A long time passed by, and still they plodded on. The prince's heart sank in fear, his hair stood on end, and cold shivers ran up and down his spine.

At lasto joy! indistinct sounds reached his ear, and the phantom world about them seemed to come to life.

They heard a noise as of a large herd of horses making their way across a quagmire, the water squelching under their hoofs, and the old man said, licking his lips:

"I can hear the porridge cooking in my kitchen. This means they are expecting us."

They went on, and the prince seemed to hear a sawmill with no less than a dozen saws at work nearby. But his new master said:

"That is the Old Dame, my grandmother, snoring in her sleep."

They went on again and ascended a mountain, and the prince saw his master's farm, which, so many buildings were there on it, looked more like a village.

Soon they came to the gate beside which stood an empty dog-kennel.

"Into the kennel with you! " the old man cried. "And mind you stay there while I talk about you to the Old Dame. She is hard to please, like many old people, and cannot bear to have strangers in the house."

Trembling all over, the prince got into the kennel. He was beginning to repent of the recklessness that had brought him there.

After a time the old man returned and ordered the prince to get out of the kennel.

"You've got to remember one thing," said he in threatening tones, "and that is that you must live here according to the laws and rules that abide in my house. You'll fare badly if you don't."

And he added:

"You have ears and you have eyes;
Use them, lad, if you are wise.
Learn to listen and obey,
Do as I, your master, say.
To my questions make reply;
For the rest keep mum or die."

The prince came into the house and whom did he see there but a pretty dark-eyed young girl.

"If the old man has such beauties as that around him I wouldn't mind marrying into his family," thought the prince. "I like that girl very much."

The girl said nothing as he came in. She was busy setting the table, and when she had done this, silently served supper. Then she went to the hearth, sat down near it on a little stool and began knitting a stocking. She never so much as glanced at the prince.

The Old Dame was nowhere to be seen, and the old man sat down at the table alone, but he did not invite the girl or his new workman to join him. There was enough food on the table for a dozen people at least, but, like the glutton that he was, he gulped it all down in a twinkling. When he stopped chewing he said to the girl:

"And now scrape out the pots and pans, and then you can eat your fill, the two of you. Only don't forget to leave the bones for the dog! "

The prince frowned at this, not liking the thought of eating someone's leavings, but his face brightened when he saw that there was enough there to make a good meal.

While they ate he kept stealing glances at the girl and would have given a great deal to be allowed to exchange a few words with her. But the moment he opened his mouth to speak, the girl would look at him imploringly as if begging him to keep silent. Willy -nilly, the prince had to speak with only his eyes. He ate with relish, hoping that it pleased the girl to see him enjoy the food she had cooked.

The old man had stretched himself out on a stove ledge and lay there, resting. When the girl and the prince finished eating, he said to the prince:

"You have two days in which to rest from your journey and take a look round the farm. But the day after tomorrow come to me and I'll set you a task for the next day. I always distribute the work in the evening so that by the time I get up in the morning everyone might be at his job. And now to bed! The girl will show you where your place is."

The prince was about to ask him something, but the old man turned dark with rage.

"Hold your tongue, you dog! " he roared. "Just try and break a rule of mine, and I'll make you shorter by a head. Off to bed with you! "

The girl beckoned to the prince and pointed to a door, inviting him to open it. He thought he saw her eyes fill with tears. The prince would have liked to pause in the doorway, but he was afraid of the old man.

"Surely this sweet young girl is not his daughter," thought he. "One can see that she has a warm heart. I wonder if she is the girl my father gave to the Old Bachelor instead of me and because of whom I am here?..."

The prince could not fall asleep for a long time. When at last he did, his sleep was restless and the dreams he saw, frightening. In them he was beset by all sorts of dangers, but every time this happened the girl appeared and came to his rescue.

In the morning he awoke with the resolve to obey the girl in everything, and, since they could not speak to each other, to read her wishes in her eyes. He found her already at work and began helping her zealously, bringing the water, chopping the firewood, starting a fire in the hearth and doing other household chores.

After dinner the prince looked round the yard and the buildings there and was much surprised at not seeing the Old Dame anywhere. In the stable there was a white horse and in the stockyard, a black cow with a white-headed calf. From the poultry-house, which was locked, there came a loud cackling, quacking and honking: many chickens, ducks and geese were evidently kept there.

The morning and midday meal proved as tasty and filling as the supper he had had the night before, and the prince might easily have become reconciled to his new way of life if he were not forced to keep silent all the time, and in the presence, too, of so lovely a girl! On the following day the prince went to the old man for his orders.

"It's easy work you'll be doing tomorrow," said the old man. "You will take a scythe and cut as much grass for the white horse as it will need for the day and then you'll clean out the stable. But remember: if I look in and see that the feeding-rack is empty and there is dung on the floor, you will pay with your life for it! "

The prince was overjoyed.

"That's a trifling task and one I can easily cope with," thought he. "Of course, I've never handled a scythe in my life, but I am strong, and I've seen the peasants cutting grass time and again. Very deftly they did it, too."

He was about to go to bed when the girl tiptoed into his room.

"What task have you been set for tomorrow? " asked she in a whisper.

"A trifling one," the prince replied. "I am to cut some grass for the white horse and clean out the stable, that's all."

"Oh, you poor, unhappy youth! " said the girl with a sigh. "It's a task beyond your strength. The white horse is none other than the Old Dame herself. So voracious is she that twenty mowers could not cut enough grass to satisfy her. And as for cleaning out the stable, why, it would take no fewer than ten men to do it! You cannot even hope to cope with it all by yourself. So listen to me and do what I tell you. Tomorrow, when you've brought the horse an armful or two of hay, take a thick willow switch and bend it into a hoop, and make sure the horse sees you do it. 113

Then take a large block of wood and cut a plug out of it. When the horse asks you, as she is bound to, what you need the hoop and the plug for, this is what you must say: 'The hoop is to stop you from eating too much hay. If I see that you are being overgreedy, I'll slip it on your muzzle and draw it tight around it, and I'll use the plug if I see you piling up too much dung on the floor!'"

Having said this, the girl slipped out as quietly as she had come in, giving the prince no time even to thank her. But he took in all that she had said and went over it in his mind before going to bed.

Early the following morning the prince set to work.

He took a scythe and began to cut the grass, and in a few moments he had cut enough to make up several large armfuls.

Throwing one armful in the horse's feeding-rack, he ran off for a second one. What was his amazement on his return when he saw that the rack was empty and that there was enough dung on the floor to fill a wagon. Only now did he realise how wise the girl's counsel had been and that his life depended on his doing what she had told him to. Taking a willow switch, he began bending it into a hoop, and the white horse turned her head and asked in surprise:

"What are you going to do with that hoop, my lad? "

"Nothing much," the prince replied. "If I see you eating too much hay, I'm going to slip it on your' muzzle and draw it tight around it."

The white horse heaved a deep sigh and at once stopped chewing.

The prince cleaned out the stable and began cutting a wedge out of a block of wood.

"What are you going to do with that wedge? " asked the horse again.

"Nothing much," came the reply. "I'll use it for a plug if I see that the food passes through you too fast."

The horse glanced at him again and sighed. That she had understood him became clear when half the day had passed and the hay in the rack remained untouched and the floor clean. Then the old man came into the stable, and, seeing that everything was in perfect order, asked in surprise:

"Is it you yourself who is so wise or is it that you have wise counsellors? "

To this the prince who was no simpleton replied:

"I have none to give me counsel but the foolish head on my shoulders."

The old man curled his lip angrily, and, muttering something to himself, left the stable. As for the prince, he was very pleased that everything had ended so well.

That evening the old man said to him:

"I have nothing suitable for you to do tomorrow, and as the girl is going to be very busy around the house, you'll have to milk the black cow. But mind that you milk her dry. If I squeeze even a drop out of her afterwards, you will pay with your life for it."

"That sounds like an easy job," thought the prince. "My fingers are strong and I ought to be able to cope with it, unless, of course, the old man hasn't some trick up his sleeve again."

He was about to go to bed when the girl came in.

"What task has the old man set you for tomorrow? " asked she.

"I'll be free most of the day," replied the prince gaily. "All I am to do is milk the black cow."

"You poor, unhappy youth! " said the girl with a sigh. "Why, even if you keep at it from morning till night, you'll never get done, for the milk flows out of her in an endless stream. The old man wants to do away with you. But don't worry, nothing will happen to you while I'm here to help you. Just listen to me carefully and do exactly as I say. When you go to the cow-house tomorrow morning take with you a pot of live coals and a pair of tongs, the kind blacksmiths use. As soon as you come in, blow at the coals to fan the flame and then put the tongs in the pot. When the black cow asks you, as she is bound to, what you are doing, tell her what I am now going to whisper in your ear."

The girl whispered a few words in his ear and left the room, and the prince went to bed.

In the morning, as soon as the first rays of the sun had painted the sky pink, the prince took a pot of live coals in one hand and a pair of tongs in the other and went to the cow-house where he proceeded to do just what the girl had told him to. The black cow kept glancing at him askance for a time and then she asked:

"What are you doing, my lad? " .

"Nothing much," came the reply. "Just heating up the tongs a bit. They say that there are cows so wicked that they won't let themselves be milked properly. Now,

I know of an excellent remedy for that. You milk the cow and then you squeeze her teats with a pair of red-hot tongs. That keeps her from letting any milk run out afterwards and wasting it."

The black cow, watching the prince's movements with a timid eye, sighed heavily.

The prince moved up a milk pail and milked her dry. In a little while he tried milking her again, but not a drop could he squeeze out.

After a time the old man came in, but try hard as he would, not a drop of milk could he get out of the cow, either.

"Is it you yourself who is so wise or is it that you have wise counsellors? " asked he angrily.

And the prince replied:

"I have none to give me counsel but the foolish head on my shoulders."

The old man stumped out in a rage, and when evening came, he said to the prince:

"I have a small stack of hay still standing in the open that has to be carted away before the rains start in. Bring it home tomorrow but mind that not a single blade is left in the-field or you'll pay with your life for it."

"That sounds simple enough," thought the prince. "All I have to do is load the wagon, and the horse will carry the hay home. I'm not going to spare the Old Dame whatever I do! "

By and by the girl looked in on the prince again.

Said the prince with a laugh:

"I think I'm going to learn to do everything the peasants do here. Tomorrow I am to bring home a stack of hay and see to it that not a single blade is left in the field."

"You poor, unlucky youth! " said the girl with a sigh. "You'll never be able to do it, never! Even if you had the whole village to help you and a week to do it in, you wouldn't be able to cart away that hay. Take a heap from the top of the stack, and the same amount and more will grow up on the bottom. Listen to me and do what I say. Get up before dawn tomorrow, lead the white horse out of the stable and take along some thick rope. Tie the rope round the stack, harness the horse to it and yourself climb up on top of the stack and begin counting out loud: one, two, three, four, five, and so on. When the horse asks you what you are counting, this is what you'll say to her...."

And the girl whispered something in the prince's ear and slipped out of the room.

Waking in the morning, the prince at once recalled what the girl had told him. He took a thick coil of rope, led the horse out of the stable, and, springing on her back, galloped off into the field. There he saw, contrary to what the old man had said, not a small but a huge stack of hay, as big as fifty ordinary stacks put together. He did just what the girl had told him to, and when he had climbed up on top of the stack, began counting out loud.

"What are you counting, my lad? " asked the white horse in surprise.

"Oh, nothing much," the prince replied. "Only the wolves that have just come running out of the wood. But there are so many in the pack that I've quite lost count of them."

At the mere mention of wolves the white horse gave a jerk and a leap and started off at a gallop! Fast as the wind she went and was home in no time at all, bringing all, of the hay with her. What was the old B man's amazement when he saw the stack of hay in the yard with his workman standing beside it before midday.

"Is it you who is so wise or is it that you have wise counsellors? " asked he.

Said the prince:

"I have none to give me counsel but the foolish head on my shoulders."

Shaking his head in anger and muttering curses, the old man stumped off.

In the evening the prince came to the old man for his orders.

Said the old man:

"Tomorrow you will drive the white-headed calf to pasture. But mind that he doesn't run away from you or you'll pay with your life for it."

"Many is the time that I've seen a village boy of ten or thereabouts pasturing a whole herd," thought the prince. "Surely I can cope with one calf! "

He was about to go to bed when the girl came in to find out what task had been set him for the following day.

"A trifling one! " said the prince. "I am to take the white-headed calf to pasture."

Hearing this, the girl heaved a deep sigh.

"You poor, unlucky youth! " said she. "You'll never be able to do it, never! Why, that calf rushes about like mad and can run round the world three times in one day! Listen to me and do as I say. Take this silken thread and tie one end round the calf's left leg and the other round the little toe of your left foot. Then you can be sure that the calf will always stay beside you, whether you are awake or asleep." 119

The girl went away and the prince went to bed, displeased with himself that he had again forgotten to thank her for her many wise counsels.

On the following morning the prince did just what the girl had told him to. Before taking him out to pasture, he tied the calf to himself with the silken thread, and the calf stayed by his side like a faithful dog and never moved away a step.

After sunset, as he was taking the calf home, the prince met the old man who asked him, frowning darkly:

"Is it you who is so wise or is it that you have wise counsellors? "

"I have none to give me counsel but the foolish head on my shoulders," the prince replied.

Muttering angrily to himself, the old man went away.

In the evening he gave the prince a small bag of barley and said:

"Tomorrow you are free. You can sleep the whole day long if you want. But you'll have to work hard this coming night! Sow this barley now, at once. It will come up and ripen fast. When it does, reap it and then thresh and winnow it. After that wait till the grains put forth shoots, for that will make for a better malt, and then grind them into flour and brew beer out of it. Go about it nimbly, with an eye on the clock, so that when I get up in the morning you can bring me a glass of fresh beer. If you don't, you'll pay with your life for it."

The prince left the old man in great confusion. Closing the door behind him, he burst into tears.

"This night will be the last in my life," said he between sobs, "for no mortal can do what I've been ordered to do. No one can help me, not even the girl with all her wise counsels. Was there ever anyone so unlucky as I! What made me behave so rashly? Why did I leave the king's palace and hurl myself straight in the arms of death? I cannot even send up a lament to the stars, for there is no sky overhead! "

As he stood there weeping, the bag of barley in his hands, the girl came up to him and asked why he was so sad.

Said the prince through his tears:

"You and I are to be parted for ever, for my final hour has struck. Before I die there is something I want to confess to you. I am the only son of a king and might have become king myself one day. But now this is not to be. Goodbye, life! Goodbye, hope and happiness! "

And weeping bitterly, the prince told the girl what the old man had ordered him to do. He was not a little angered when he saw that the girl, far from being touched by his grief, was listening to him with a smile.

Hearing him out to the end, she said, laughing:

"Calm yourself, my dear prince! Sleep peacefully tonight and spend your time as gaily as you wish tomorrow. But now listen to me and do as I say, even though I am no princess but a girl of humble birth. Take this little key. It is the key to the door of the third poultry-house where evil spirits over which the old man is master are kept. Throw your bag of barley over the threshold and repeat the old man's orders word for word, adding at the end: 'If you fail to do what I have ordered in the smallest particular, you will all die. But, since the task is no easy one, know that there are those who will help you. Tonight, the doors to the seventh barn where your master's most powerful spirits are kept will stand ajar.' "

The prince did what the girl had told him to and went to bed. In the morning he hastened to the brewery where the beer was already fermenting in the vats and the froth rising and dripping to the ground. The prince sampled the beer, strained some into a large jug and brought it to the old man to try just as he was getting up.

But instead of thanking the prince for having done his work so well the old man hissed:

"You could not have thought all this up by yourself, someone has been helping you. Well, you just wait, I'll talk to you in the evening! "

Evening came, and he said to the prince:

"You needn't work tomorrow. But when I wake up in the morning, you must come up to my bed and shake my hand."

The old man's droll request amused the prince and he laughed as he told the girl about it. But the girl looked troubled.

"Now you must beware! " said she. "The old man wants to eat you up tomorrow. Only one thing can save you. In the morning you must take an iron spade, heat it till it is red-hot and hold it out for the old man to shake instead of your hand."

The prince did as the girl said, and the spade was red-hot long before the old man had wakened.

After a time they heard him calling angrily from his bed-chamber:

"Hey, there,'you loafer, where are you hiding yourself i? Why don't you come to say good morning? "

The prince at once came in and held out the red-hot spade. Seeing it, the old man brought out in whining tones:

"I am very ill today and too weak to shake your hand. Come in the evening, I'll give you my orders then."

The prince idled away the day, and in the evening came for his orders.

The old man greeted him kindly and said with a smile:

"I am very pleased with you. Come here tomorrow morning together with the girl. I know that you love one another and will help you to marry."

The prince wanted to sing and dance for joy, but remembering the old man's warning about making any noise in the house, refrained.

Before going to bed he shared his happiness with the girl, thinking that she, too, would be overjoyed. To his surprise, the girl blanched and turned speechless with fear.

When she could move her tongue again, she said:

"The old man has guessed that it was I who helped you and he wants to destroy us both. We must run away this very night. And now take an axe, go to the cow-house, cut off the calf's head with one blow and then split it in two with a second blow. In it you'll find a sparkling red ball which you must bring to me. I will do the rest."

Thought the prince:

"It is better to kill an innocent calf than to see one's loved one die and to die oneself. If we escape 123

I will return to my home and family. The peas I scattered about must have sprouted by now and will help us find our way."

When the prince came into the cow-house the calf and the cow were lying side by side and sleeping so soundly that they never heard him. With the first blow of his axe he cut off the calf's head and with the second blow he split it in two. At onceo wonder of wonders! it became light as day in the cow4iouse, for out of the calf's head there rolled a little red ball that shone as brightly as the sun. The prince picked it up, and, wrapping it carefully in a handkerchief, hid it in his bosom.

All this time the cow had not wakened and only moaned in her sleep.

The girl was waiting at the gate, a small bundle in her hand.

"Where is the ball? " asked she.

"Here it is! " said the prince, holding it out to her.

"And now we must run! " the girl cried.

She turned back a corner of the handkerchief in which the magic ball was wrapped and it lighted the way for them like a lantern. As the prince had foreseen, the peas had sprouted and there was no danger that he and the girl might lose their way.

They hastened on, and the girl told the prince that she had chanced to overhear the old man telling the' Old Dame that she was the daughter of a king and that he had taken her away from her parents by cunning when she was still a child.

The prince, who might have told her far more about it, said nothing, but it cheered his heart to think that he had succeeded in rescuing her. By daybreak they had left a good part of the way behind them.

The old man woke late and had to rub his eyes for a time before sleep finally left him. His first thought was one of pleasure that he would soon eat up his two captives. He waited for a while, but when they failed to appear, decided that they were busy dressing up for their wedding. At last, losing patience, he called out: "

Hey, there, my lass! Hey, there, my lad! Where have you got to? "

There was no reply, and he began scolding and cursing the two for their careless and slothful ways and shouting louder and louder. Since even this did not bring them, he got out of bed and went in search of them. He soon saw that they were not in the house and that their beds had not been slept in. He ran to the cow-house and only then, seeing the calf lying there dead with his head split in two and no magic ball in sight, understood what had happened.

So angry did this make him that he rushed to the door of the third barn in which the evil spirits were kept and broke it down with one blow.

"After them! After them! " he roared. "Bring them back here at once! "

And the evil spirits swept away, flying as fast as the wind.

The two runaways had just come out on to a broad plain when the girl stopped all of a sudden and said:

"Something is wrong, for the ball has rolled round in my hand. They must be after us."

Glancing behind her, she saw what looked like a black cloud that was fast gaming on them. So she rolled the ball three times over her palm and said:

"Hear me, hear me, magic ball,
For to you for help I call. '
Do not let my poor heart break,
Turn me fast into a lake,
And this youth, for so I wish, .,,
Turn, o ball, into a fish. "

And no sooner were the words out of her mouth than she became a lake and the prince, a fish.

The evil spirits swept over them^like a whirlwind but soon turned back and flew home.

As soon as they had vanished from sight, the lake changed into the girl again and the fish into the prince, and they ran on without stopping.

The evil spirits came back to the old man, empty-handed.

"Did you see anything out of the ordinary on your way? " the old man asked.

"No," said they. "We saw nothing but a lake with one fish in it."

At this the old man flew into a rage.

"You blockheads! " he thundered. "They were the ones! You should have known they were."

And he broke down the door of the fifth barn and let out the evil spirits that were kept in it.

"Drink up the lake," said he to them, "and then seize the fish and bring it to me."

And the evil spirits swept away, flying as fast as the wind.

Meanwhile, the runaways had reached the edge of a forest. All of a sudden the girl stopped and said in troubled tones:

"Something must be wrong, for the magic ball has rolled round in my hand."

Glancing behind her, she saw a cloud in the sky but one that was darker than before and had blood-red edges.

"They're after us! " cried she, and, rolling the magic ball three times over her palm, said:

"Hear me, hear me, magic ball,
For to you for help I call.
Make you haste and don't delay,
Let me be a rose-bush, pray,
And to shield us from our foes,
Turn this youth into a rose."

And lo and behold! where the girl and the prince had stood a rose-bush sprang up with one rose on it.

The evil spirits swept noisily past overhead and after a few moments flew back again. They had not found the lake or the fish and had not so much as glanced at the rose-bush.

As soon as they had vanished, the rose-bush and the rose turned back into the girl and the prince. They rested a while and then set off again on their way.

"What? ! You didn't find them? " cried the old man when the evil spirits returned, weary and out of breath.

"No," the oldest of the evil spirits replied, "we saw neither lake nor fish."

"And you noticed nothing out of the ordinary on the way? " the old man asked.

Said the oldest of the evil spirits:

"No. We only saw a rose-bush with one rose on it on the edge of the forest."

"Fools! Blockheads! " shouted the old man. "They were the ones! You should have known they were."

And he ran to the seventh barn and sent the most powerful of his evil spirits after the runaways.

"Drag them here, dead or alive, no matter what shape they take! " he roared. "Tear out the rose-bush by the roots! Seize anything you see on the way! "

And the evil spirits swept off, flying as fast as a whirlwind.

The prince and the girl had only just sat down in a shady forest nook to rest and to have a bite to eat when the girl exclaimed:

"Something is wrong again! The magic ball has nearly jumped out of my hand. They must be after us and getting close. It's just that we can't see them behind the trees."

She rolled the ball three times over her palm and said:

"Hear me, hear me, magic ball,
For to you for help I call. '
Make you haste and don't delay,
Let me be a wind, I pray,
And lest we be caught and die,
Turn this youth into a fly! "

And that same instant the girl turned into a light wind and the prince into a tiny fly that began spinning about in the air.

The evil spirits swept over them like a thundercloud, but, not finding the rose-bush or the rose, flew home.

No sooner were they out of sight than the wind turned back into the girl again and the fly into the prince.

"Now we must run as fast as we can! " cried the girl. "For the old man might go after us himself and he will know us no matter what shape we take."

And off they went, running on and on till they reached a dark underground passage. They crawled inside, and, the magic ball lighting the way for them, ran up the passage which climbed higher and higher. Sore of foot and breathless, they got to a large rock, and the girl rolled the magic ball over her palm again three times and said:

"Hear me, hear me, magic ball,
For to you for help I call.
Push the rock aside that we
Can at last feel safe and free! "

The same instant the rock moved aside, and the prince and the girl found themselves safely on earth again.

"We're saved! " the girl cried. "No one has us in his power here and none will get the better of us by cunning. But now, my dear friend, we must part. You will go to your parents and I will go in search of mine."

"No," said the prince, "I don't want to part with you. Let us get married so that we can share joy and happiness as we have shared grief and sorrow."

At first the girl would not agree to this, but so hard did the prince plead that she could not refuse and went with him.

In the forest they met a woodcutter who told them that the palace and, indeed, the whole land was in mourning and had been for several years, ever since the king's son had vanished without trace.

With the help of the magic ball the girl got the prince some handsome clothes that he might appear before his father as befitted the son of a king. He was to go to him and arrange everything while she waited in a peasant's hut.

But grief at the loss of his only child had so undermined the old king's strength that he died without learning of the prince's return. On his death-bed he repented of his sins, confessing that he had given up to the devil an innocent little girl.

The prince, being a good and loving son, wept over his father and buried him with all the honours due him. For three days he did not eat or drink, giving himself up wholly to his grief, and on the fourth day appeared before the people and was proclaimed king.

Calling together his councillors, he told them of the wonderful adventures he had had in the underground kingdom and of the girl who by her wisdom had saved his life.

"This girl must become your wife and our queen! " exclaimed the councillors with one voice.

When the young king came for his bride he was amazed to see her dressed as richly as any princess. So splendid were her clothes which she had got with the help of the magic ball that everyone 'took her to be the daughter of a king from some distant land.

They were married soon after, and the wedding was celebrated in great style, the festivities lasting for four whole weeks.

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