THERE was once a poor man, and he had three sons. When the poor man was on his death-bed, he called his three sons, and this was his word and speech to them: "My dear sons, if I do not tell, still mayhap ye know why our kingdom is in mourning, in unbroken darkness, such that a spoon might stand up in it; but if ye know not, then I will tell. My sons, this unbroken darkness is here because they have stolen the sun and the moon from our bright heavens. But I will tell one thing, and two will come of it; a wizard foretold that among my three sons was one (which one I with firm trust cannot say) who would bring back the sun and the moon. Therefore, my sons, I leave you this: that after my death ye will go out to seek the sun and the moon, and not come home till ye bring back the sources of light."
With that the poor man turned to the wall, wandered forth from this world of shadows, and was buried with honor.
But here, my lord's son, what comes of the affair or what does not, I saw it as I see now; I was in the place where they were talking. The report ran through the whole kingdom of what the poor man had left in his will to his three sons, so that even the king heard it, and he summoned straightway to his presence the three brothers. And when the three brothers appeared before the king, he said: "My dear young men, I hear that your father--may God give him rest--on his death-bed left this to you: that after his death ye would go out into the wide, great world to look for the sun and the moon. Therefore, my sons, this is my word and speech to you: that whoso brings back the sun and the moon will be king after my death, and whoso will assist him in everything, this one I will make viceroy. Now go to my stable and to my armory and choose for yourselves horses and swords; I will give in a sealed letter to you the order that wherever ye go men shall give you in all places, hay, oats, food, and drink free of cost."
Here the three young men entered the king's stable, and the two elder chose the most beautiful golden-haired steeds; but the youngest, somewhere off by the wall in a hidden corner, among cobwebs and dirt, picked out for himself a wretched, shaggy haired, plucked colt. The two elder brothers laughed at the youngest because he intended to go on that ragged, nasty colt that was hardly able to stand on its feet; but the youngest brother thought nothing of this, and did not give ear to the talk of his brothers.
Now they went to the king's armory, where the elder brothers chose for themselves two beautiful gold-mounted swords; but the youngest brother, who had more wit, picked out a rusty steel sword. This rusty sword now jumped out of the sheath, now sprang in again,--played unceasingly. The two elder brothers laughed at the youngest again, but he put this as well as their former ridicule quietly in his pocket, thinking to himself that he laughs truly who laughs last; for the nasty colt, as surely as I live and as ye live--I was present where they were talking, I saw as I do now, and I was looking as I am now--was a magic six-legged steed, conceived of the Wind, and eating live coals; and the rusty sword had this kind of virtue that a man had only to say, "Cut, my dear sword," and it cut down whatever he wished. But the two elder brothers knew nothing of all this, for they did not understand wood-work.
Now the three brothers moved on their way through the kingdom, to look for the sun and the moon. They travelled and journeyed over forty-nine kingdoms, beyond the Operentsia Sea, beyond the glass mountains, and beyond that, to where the little short-tailed pig roots, and farther than that, and still farther, till they came to the silver bridge. When they came to the silver bridge the youngest brother, speaking a word, said to his two brothers: "My dear brothers, let us go under the bridge, for soon the steed of the moon will be here, and the twelve-headed dragon, from whose saddle-bow the bright moon is dangling."
Now, the two brothers had barely hidden when the steed of the moon was on the bridge, and on the steed the twelve-headed dragon, from whose saddle-bow the bright moon was dangling. The milk-white steed of the moon stumbled on the bridge. Then the twelve-headed dragon was enraged, and said this to the steed of the moon,--
"Ah, may the crow eat thy eye, may the dog eat thy flesh, may the earth drink thy blood! From forest to forest I have ridden thee, from mountain to mountain I have sprung with thee, and thou hast never stumbled, but now on the even road thou hast stumbled. Well, in my world-beautiful life I have always heard the fame of Kiss Miklos; if he were here now, I would like to have a struggle with him."
At this word our Kiss Miklos--for let it be said, meanwhile, this was the name of the youngest brother--sprang out from beneath to the silver bridge on his golden-haired magic steed, and closed with the twelve-headed dragon. Long did they struggle, the one with the other, but Kiss Miklos said to the rusty sword: "Cut, my dear sword!" and with that it cut three heads off the dragon, and in the same order till all the twelve heads were hewn off, so that the twelve-headed dragon drew his shortest breath. Then Kiss Miklos took by the halter the milk-white haired, black-maned steed of the moon, on whose saddle-bow was dangling the bright moon, and gave him to the care of his second brother. Then they passed over the silver bridge, which sounded like most beautiful music from the golden shoes of the magic steed.
They travelled and journeyed then through forty-nine kingdoms, beyond the Operentsia Sea and the glass mountains, beyond that, where the little short-tailed pig roots, beyond that, and farther, till they came to the golden bridge.
Then Kiss Miklos spoke, and said this to his two brothers, speaking speech: "My dear brothers, let us hide under the bridge, for soon will the steed of the sun be here, and on him the twenty-four-headed dragon, from whose saddle-bow the shining sun is dangling. He will call me out at once to the keen sword, and I will measure with him strength with strength. He will not be able to conquer me, nor I him; then he and I will turn into flames. He will be a red and I a blue flame, but even then we shall not be able to conquer one the other, for we shall be of equal strength. But here is a sulphur stone; when the red flame springs highest toward the sky to press down the blue flame, that is me, strike the sulphur stone on the red flame."
Our Kiss Miklos had barely finished his speech when the steed of the sun was on the bridge, bearing the twenty-four-headed dragon and the shining sun. The steed of the sun stumbled on the golden bridge. The twenty-four-headed dragon was enraged at him, and said,--
"Ah, may the crow eat thy eye, may the dog eat thy flesh, may the earth drink thy blood! I have ridden from forest to forest on thee, I have leaped thee from mountain to mountain, and never hast thou stumbled; but now on the even road thou hast stumbled. In my world-beautiful life I have heard always the fame of Kiss Miklos--may the dog devour him!--and if he were here now I would like to have a struggle with him."
At this word our Kiss Miklos sprang out on to the golden bridge, and closed with the twenty-four-headed dragon. But Kiss Miklos commanded, saying: "Cut, my dear sword!" and that instant it cut the twenty-four heads off the dragon; but, wonder of the world! when all the twenty-four heads were off, in the twinkle of an eye new ones grew out which the leaping sword could not cut. In vain Kiss Miklos said: "Cut, my dear sword!" for it could not cut these heads. Well, Kiss Miklos took the sword in his hand and whirled it like lightning; but he did nothing with it, for the dragon had power of the same kind as he.
When the dragon saw that he could not succeed against Kiss Miklos, he spoke in this way: "Listen to me, Kiss Miklos! I wish thou hadst perished with thy mother, for I see that I can do nothing with thee, nor thou with me. Let us make one trial. Turn thou into a blue flame, and I will turn into a red one, and whichever can put the other out, his will be the steed of the sun and the shining sun upon him."
That is what was done. Kiss Miklos turned to a blue flame, and the twenty-four-headed dragon to a red one. The two flames fought the one with the other, but neither was able to put out the other. Happily the two brothers threw the sulphur stone on the red flame, and then the blue flame put out the red one; and when it was quenched altogether, the twenty-four-headed dragon ceased to live.
Kiss Miklos gave the steed of the sun to his elder brother, and told his two brothers to go home quietly, for he had work of his own; and with that he took farewell of them. Miklos then shook himself, turned into a little gray cat, ran along the highroad, and all at once sprang into a cabin. In the cabin was the mother of the dragons and their two wives.
The younger dragon's wife saw the little gray cat; she took it on her lap, stroked it, and found this to say to the mother of the dragons: "Well, if I knew that that cursed Kiss Miklos had killed my lord, I would turn into such a spring of water that if he and his two brothers were to drink not more than one drop of it, they would die a fearful death on the spot."
With this the little gray cat sprang from the lap of the younger dragon's wife, and rubbed up to the skirt of the wife of the elder dragon, who took it on to her lap, stroked it, and found this to say: "Ah! if I knew that that cursed Kiss Miklos had killed my lord, I would change into such a pear-tree that if he and his two brothers were to eat no more than one morsel of a pear of mine, they would die a fearful death."
With this the little gray cat sprang from the lap of the elder dragon's wife, and rubbed on the skirt of the old woman, who took it on her lap, fondled it, and found this to say to her two daughters-in-law: "My dear girls, just prop up my two eyes with that iron bar, which weighs twelve hundred pounds, so that I may look around."
Her two daughters-in-law then took the twelve-hundred-pound iron bar and opened the old woman's eyes; then she spoke thuswise: "If that cursed Kiss Miklos has killed my two sons, I will turn into a mouth, one jaw of which will be on the earth and the other I will throw to the sky, so as to catch that cursed villain and his two brothers, and grind them as mill-stones grind wheat."
When the little gray cat had heard all this exactly, it shot away in a flash out of the cabin, sprang along, and never stopped till it came to the good magic steed. The old woman threw the twelve-hundred-pound bar after the cat, but she failed in her cast, for that moment her eyelids fell; she was not able to keep them open unless they were propped, for she was old. So Kiss Miklos escaped the twelve-hundred-pound bar,--certain death. I say that he escaped, for he came to his good magic steed, shook himself, and from a little gray cat became a young man as before. Then he sat on the good steed, which sprang once, jumped twice, and straightway Miklos was with his two brothers; then they fared homeward in quiet comfort.
The second brother grew thirsty, and found this to say: "Oh, but I am dry! My throat is burning!"
"If that is thy only trouble," said Miklos, "I will soon bring thee water. Out there a spring is bubbling up."
With that Kiss Miklos put spurs to his good magic steed, which sprang once, jumped twice, and was at the spring; but here, instead of filling the gourd that hung at his side, he drew his sharp sword, and thrust it three times into the bubbling water. In a moment from the spring blood gushed forth, and a word of bitter pain was heard. That was the blood of the younger dragon's wife, and the word of pain was her death-groan. The blood made all the water red, and when the two brothers came up they had no wish to drink a drop from the spring.
Well, they travelled and journeyed till the elder brother said: "Oh, but I am hungry!"
"If that is thy trouble," said Kiss Miklos, "we can easily cure it, for there near the dam is a pear-tree, and on it so much ripe fruit that the limbs are breaking. Wait, I will bring thee a pear directly; but lead thou the steed of the sun there."
Here Kiss Miklos put spurs to his steed, which sprang once, jumped twice, and stood before the pear-tree. Miklos drew his sharp sword and stabbed the pear-tree in the trunk three times; from the trunk blood gushed forth, and a bitter word of pain was heard. The red blood was the blood of the elder dragon's wife, and the bitter word of pain was her death-groan. With that the pears fell, so that when the two elder brothers reached the tree, not only would they not eat the pears, but the desire of eating had gone from them.
Now they journeyed and travelled through forty-nine kingdoms, till at last Miklos saw from a distance that an unmercifully great mouth, one jaw of which was on earth and the other thrown up to the heavens, was nearing them like the swiftest storm, so that they had barely time left to run into the door of the Lead Friend's house. And a thousand-fold was their luck that they got in; for the unmercifully great mouth stood before the threshold of the Lead Friend, so that whoever should go out would fall into it, and be swallowed that minute.
"Hei! good Lead-Melting Friend," said Miklos, "hast thou much molten lead? I will pay thee for it in honest coin."
"Haho! my friend Kiss Miklos, I know thee; in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame. Long have I been waiting for thee. It is well that thou art here,--that thou hast entered my door,--for thou wilt never go a step farther from me."
"Oh! for God's sake," said Kiss Miklos, "do not pass thy own threshold, for straightway the mother of the dragons will swallow thee with her great mouth."
The Lead-Melting Friend went out of his chamber, saw the great mouth of the mother of the dragons, and went back in terror to his chamber, where he said this to Kiss Miklos: "Oh, my good friend Kiss Miklos, give counsel. What are we to do?"
"Hast thou much molten lead?"
"Not much, only eighteen tons; it is out there in the caldron boiling."
"Knowest thou what? I will say one thing and two will come of it. Let us take the handles of that great caldron and pour its contents into the great mouth of the mother of the dragons."
Here, 'pon my soul! the Lead-Melting Friend put one handle on his shoulder, Kiss Miklos the other on his, brought the unmercifully great caldron to the threshold, and poured the eighteen tons of boiling lead into the old witch's mouth. The boiling lead burned up the stomach of the mother of the dragons, and straightway she breathed out her cursed soul.
So Kiss Miklos was freed from the mother of the dragons; but, poor fellow, he was like one that goes from the pail into the barrel, for the Lead-Melting Friend caught his Grace by the neck and took him, as he would a straw, to the chamber, where he found this to say,--
"Look here, my good friend Kiss Miklos, in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame; therefore let us struggle now and see who is stronger, thou or I." With that the Lead Friend put only his little finger on Kiss Miklos; from that he began to sink, and went down through the lead floor of the chamber the distance of an ell.
"Kiss Miklos, my friend, dost thou wish to fight with me?" asked the Lead Friend. "Thou sayest nothing, so I see that thou dost not; therefore this is my word and speech: I will keep thee in endless slavery unless thou bring me the Green Daughter of the Green King. But ye," and he turned to the two brothers, "ye may go home in gentle quietness, and take with you the steeds of the moon and the sun, on which are the bright moon and the shining sun, for of them I have no need."
Here our Miklos, in the midst of bitter tear-shedding, took farewell of his dear brothers. They held on their way homeward, and arrived there in health. Great was the rejoicing in the kingdom that the poor man's sons, as their father had bequeathed them on his death-bed, brought home the bright moon and the shining sun. Therefore the king assembled all that were in his dominions of dukes, counts, barons, lords, lord's sons, chosen gypsies, and broad-brimmed, country-dressed Slovaks; of these he sought council and asked, "What do brothers deserve who have brought home the bright moon and the shining sun?"
To this question then they answered, "Our high lord, the one who has brought back the steed of the sun, and on it the bright shining sun, deserves to be king of the country, and he who has brought home the steed of the bright moon, and on it the fair moon, to be viceroy; and each one of them should receive as wife a daughter of thy Highness."
So it was done. The poor man's eldest son became king, and the second son viceroy; and each one of them got a maiden princess as wife. Then they let out the steed of the bright moon and the steed of the shining sun on the highway of the heavens, but both the moon and the sun shone sadly. For this reason they shone sadly: that he was without merited reward who had really freed them from the dragons, for Kiss Miklos was now in never-ending slavery to the Lead Friend.
Once the Lead Friend called Miklos and found this to tell him: "Well, Miklos, if thou wilt bring me the Green Daughter of the Green King, I will let thee go free, and I will strike from thee the three-hundred-pound ring and the twelve-hundred-pound chain. Therefore, good friend Miklos, I advise thee to start in the morning with the bright shining sun, and bring to me my heart's desire."
Now our Miklos moved on the road again, and a long one too; whether there will be an end to it, only the good God knows. And as he travelled and journeyed across forty-nine kingdoms, and beyond that, and still farther, at the foot of a great mountain was a little hill, and as a shot arrow, as the swiftest whirlwind, ran towards him a man who was always crying, "Out of my way! out of my way!" This was Swift Runner, who stood still in a moment, like a pillar, before Miklos, and asked, "Whither, whither, Kiss Miklos? for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame."
"Haho! Swift Runner, better thou hadst not asked. I am going for the Green Daughter of the Green King. Hast thou ever heard of her?"
"I have not heard. I speak not of that, but of this: take me with thee, for thou wilt get good of me somewhere."
"Well, come on thy own legs, if it please thee."
They travelled and journeyed after that, two of them, till they came to the sea-shore, and saw a man who was drinking the sea to the last drop, just as I would drink a cup of water; and then he cried out unceasingly: "Oh, I'm thirsty! Oh, I'm thirsty!" This was Great Drinker who, when he saw Miklos, went to him and said: "God's good-day, famous Kiss Miklos; for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame."
"God keep thee, Great Drinker!"
"On what journey art thou, renowned Kiss Miklos?"
"On what journey? Haho! better thou hadst not asked. I am going for the Green Daughter of the Green King. Hast thou heard of her?"
"I have not, in truth," answered Great Drinker; "I speak not of that, but of this: take me with thee, for mayhap thou'lt get good of me."
"Well, come on thy own legs, if it please thee."
So there were three of them, and they travelled and journeyed after that till they saw a man running on the plain towards cattle, and he thrust the beautiful bullocks one by one into his mouth as I would a piece of bread, and swallowed them, hide and horns, one after the other; and even when he had swallowed all the standing herd of three hundred and sixty-six bullocks, he called out unceasingly: "Oh, I am hungry! Oh, I am hungry!" This was Great Eater who, when he saw Miklos, went to him and said: "God give thee a good-day, renowned Kiss Miklos; for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame."
"God keep thee, Great Eater!"
"What journey art thou on, renowned Kiss Miklos?"
"Better thou hadst not asked. I am going for the Green Daughter of the Green King. Hast thou heard of her?"
"I have not heard, in truth," answered Great Eater; "but take me with thee, mayhap thou'lt get good of me."
"Well, come on thy own legs, if it please thee."
Now there were four of them, and they travelled and journeyed till one day they struck upon a man whose bolster was the glowing coals, whose pillow was the burning fire, and whose blanket was the flaming blaze; he had nine pairs of boots on his feet, nine pairs of drawers and nine shirts on his body, nine neckcloths on his neck, nine sheepskin caps on his head, nine pairs of trousers, nine vests on his body, and nine sheepskin overcoats hung from his shoulders, but even then he did nothing but cry out unceasingly: "Oh, I'm freezing! Oh, I'm freezing!" When he saw Kiss Miklos, he stood before him and said: "God give thee a good-day, renowned Kiss Miklos; for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame."
"God guard thee, Great Freezer!"
"What journey art thou on, renowned Kiss Miklos?"
"Ah, comrade, thou shouldst not have asked. Hast thou heard of the fame of the Green Daughter of the Green King?"
"I have not heard of it."
"Well, if thou hast not, hear now; for I am going to her as a wooer."
"Take me with thee, mayhap thou wilt get good of me."
"Well, come on thy own legs, if it please thee."
There were five of them now. They journeyed and travelled after that till they came upon a man who was looking around unceasingly. In one twinkle, in the turn of an eye, he saw the round earth, and in another turn of the eye he looked through the deep sea; and he saw Miklos and his comrades thirty-five miles off.
This was Far Seer, who stood before Miklos and said: "God give thee a good-day, renowned Kiss Miklos."
"God keep thee, Far Seer!"
"On what journey art thou, renowned Kiss Miklos?"
"Haho! good friend Far Seer, perhaps thou hast heard of the Green Daughter of the Green King."
"I have not."
"Well then, hear now, for I am going to woo her."
"Take me with thee, mayhap thou'lt get good of me."
Now there were six of them, and they journeyed and travelled after that, across forty-nine kingdoms and farther, till they came upon a man who threw a seven-hundred-pound iron club thirty-five miles as easily as I could throw a small stone a few yards. This was Far Caster, who, when he saw Kiss Miklos and his comrades, came and said: "God give thee a good-day, renowned Kiss Miklos; for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame."
"God guard thee, Far Caster!"
"What journey art thou on?"
"Better thou hadst not asked. Hast thou heard of the Green King?"
"I have not."
"Well, I am going to woo his daughter."
"Take me with thee, mayhap thou'lt get good of me."
"Come on thy own legs, if it please thee."
Like the seven deadly sins, they were seven now. They journeyed and travelled till they came to the castle of the Green King. Kiss Miklos stood before the king and said: "God give a good-day to thy Highness."
"God keep thee, renowned Kiss Miklos; for in my world-beautiful life I have ever heard thy fame. What journey art thou on?"
"In my journeys and travels I have heard that thy Highness has a charming, love-pervaded, beautiful flower-stalk. What is the use in delay and denial? I have come for her."
"Haho! my good friend, the Green Daughter of the Green King is not so easily taken, for there are three tests before thee; if thou stand these tests, I will give thee my most beloved, my truly one and only daughter. The first test will be this: Thou hast a swift runner and so have I. They are making for my daughter at present a wedding dress at Pluto's, or perhaps it's ready this moment. If thy swift runner will bring that dress here, all right,--I care not: let the Green Daughter of the Green King be thine. My swift runner and thine will start to-morrow about four o'clock in the morning. But if I have not told thee, know now the thick end of the business, I will bring you all to the stake, if thy swift runner comes second."
But the Green King deceived; for that evening after sunset he sent off his swift runner, who was no other than his own old mother, who, let it be said meanwhile, was a witch, and a big one at that. Next morning at four o'clock, as had been agreed, Miklos started his own swift runner on the road so as to bring the wedding dress.
Swift Runner moved on, and he saw that the old mother of the Green King was a good way ahead, for she was just on the point of going in at Pluto's gate. Nothing more was needed. He rushed at her and she saw trouble soon, for he came up just as she had taken hold of the key; Swift Runner was not slow. He caught her by the jacket, hurled her back, ran in at the gate himself, and did not stop till he stood before his Highness, Pluto, told why he had come, and asked for the wedding dress. The dainty dress was nicely packed already in a box, and they gave it to him. Swift Runner hurried homeward, but the old mother of the Green King waited for him, and said: "Hear me, Swift Runner! Now thou art the victor, run not so fast; let us go home in pleasant quiet together."
Swift Runner stopped at the old woman's words, and they went on together,--went on till they came to a nice shady place, where the old woman found this to say: "Let us sit down in this shady place; let us rest. It is all the same. Thou art the winner. I will look in thy head."
Here Swift Runner sat down in the shady place; the old woman bent his head to her lap and began to search in it, and she searched and searched till Swift Runner fell asleep and was sunk in slumber. When Swift Runner was snoring away at his best, the old woman put a horse-skull under his head,--from that he would not have waked till the day of judgment; then she took the box from him and raced off as if she had been shot from a gun.
It was near four o'clock in the afternoon and Swift Runner had not come yet, though he said he ought to be there at three o'clock. Miklos therefore began to be uneasy,--his nose was itching, it was ringing in his right ear and jumping in his right eye, therefore he found this to say to his Far Seer: "Just look, canst thou see Swift Runner coming?"
Far Seer did not let this be repeated; in an instant he ran up on a hill, looked around, saw that Swift Runner was in a shady place, sleeping like a pumpkin, under a tree, with a horse-skull under his head.
"Oh, my good friend Kiss Miklos, the dog is in the garden! Swift Runner is sleeping in a nice shady place with a horse-skull under his head; the old woman is right here near the garden, and she has the wedding dress in a box."
"Here, good friend Far Caster," said Kiss Miklos, "stand forth and throw thy twelve-hundred-pound club at that cursed horse-skull under the head of Swift Runner; for as God is true, all seven of us will see shame, and die a fearful death."
Far Caster was not slow; in an instant he hurled the twelve-hundred-pound club and struck out luckily the horse-skull from under Swift Runner's head.
Then, 'pon my soul! Swift Runner sprang up, rubbed his eyes, looked around, saw that the old woman was running near the garden, and bearing the wedding robe. He was not slow. He rushed at her, but in truth it hung from a hair that he did not see disgrace, for the old woman had just taken the key of the Green King's door when Swift Runner reached her. He caught her by the jacket, took the box, and hurled the old woman back to Pluto's in such fashion that not her foot, nor even her little toe, touched ground on the way. Then he gave the wedding dress to Miklos, who took it that moment to the Green King, and putting it on the boxwood table said: "High lord, thy desire is accomplished; here is the dainty wedding dress."
"Haho! renowned Kiss Miklos, this is but one trial in which thou art the winner, there are two behind. The Green Daughter of the Green King will not be thine till all of you, as many as there are, spend one night in my iron furnace, which I have heated with three hundred and sixty-six cords of wood; if ye can endure that terrible heat, all right; if not, ye will be roasted alive."
Here, 'pon my soul! what came of the affair or what did not, the Green King, as he had said, heated the iron furnace with three hundred and sixty-six cords of wood. The whole furnace was nothing but glowing fire, so that it was impossible to go near it. Now the question was, who should enter first,--who but Great Freezer? He was delighted with the pleasant amusement; he was shivering terribly because God's cold had then caught him, though he had nine pairs of boots on his feet, nine shirts and drawers on his body, nine neckcloths on his neck, nine sheepskin caps on his head, nine sheepskin overcoats on his back. I say, Great Freezer went first into the fiery furnace. He walked around in it, and straightway it became as cold as an ice-house; therefore he called out at the entrance: "Oh, I'm freezing! Oh, I'm freezing!" Then the others and Kiss Miklos went in, and they felt that the furnace was as cold as an ice-house, so that their teeth chattered. Kiss Miklos cried out at the entrance, saying, "Wood this way, or we shall freeze!"
The servants of the Green King threw an extra cord of wood into the furnace. With this Miklos and his companions made a fire, and gave earth no trouble. Next morning the Green King himself went to see the seven roasts, thinking they were burnt into dust. He opened the mouth of the furnace. He will fall on his back with horror, perhaps. Nothing of the sort; the seven good birds were sitting there alive in the furnace at the side of a fire, and not a dog's trouble had happened to a man of them.
Straightway the Green King called up Kiss Miklos and said to him: "Well, renowned Kiss Miklos, thou hast stood two trials, but the third still remains. If ye pass that unharmed, then I don't care; my daughter will be thine, for I shall see that thou art not inferior to thy fame. The third trial is not other than this: In the yard is a herd of cattle not less than three hundred and sixty-six in number, and also there are three hundred and sixty-six kegs of wine, and if ye do not eat the three hundred and sixty-six head of cattle and drink the three hundred and sixty-six kegs of wine by to-morrow, then I will have you all at the stake; but if ye eat and drink all, then as I say, I care not. Let my one and only most beloved daughter be thine."
In the evening after bedtime Miklos went with his comrades to the other yard where were the three hundred and sixty-six head of cattle and the three hundred and sixty-six kegs of wine; but now the question was who should eat that ocean-great lot of cattle and drink that thundering lot of wine. No one would take more delight in the cattle than Great Eater, and with the thundering lot of wine no one felt better than Great Drinker; they would take care of them if they were twice as great. Miklos and his comrades, except Great Eater, knocked one of the bullocks on the head, pulled off his jacket, cut up his flesh and roasted it. That was enough for them, but it was not enough for Great Eater; for he would not spoil the taste of his mouth with it. He ate that herd of beasts, one after another, as if the earth had swallowed them,--ate hair, hide, bones, and horns, so that he didn't leave a single thing as a novelty; and even then he cried out nothing but, "Oh, I'm hungry! Oh, I'm hungry!" Then he went to his comrades, ate what they had left of the roast, and pressed it down with the ox-hide for a dessert. Even then he cried without ceasing, "Oh, I'm hungry! Oh, I'm hungry!"
Then they began at the wine. Miklos and his comrades, except Great Drinker, rolled forth one keg of wine, knocked the bottom out, and went to drinking. That keg was enough for them, but not enough for Great Drinker; for him it was as much as one drop would be for me. He would not spoil the taste of his mouth with it, but fell to drinking from the rest in such Magyar-Mishka style that when he looked around he saw that the three hundred and sixty-five kegs were empty. Then he cried unceasingly, "Oh, I'm thirsty! Oh, I'm thirsty!" After that he came to his comrades, and what they had left he drank to the last drop; and cried: "Oh, I'm thirsty! Oh, I'm thirsty!"
Next morning the Green King went himself to the yard to see if Kiss Miklos and his comrades had endured the third trial,--had they eaten the cattle and drunk the wine. It is a wonder that he didn't turn into a pillar of salt he was so frightened when he saw that there was not a horned beast left, nor a drop of wine. Then he complained: "They have eaten three hundred and sixty-six bullocks. Plague take it! let them eat the cattle, but they might have left the hides; those could at least have been sold to a Jew for good money.--Well, renowned Kiss Miklos, thou hast stood the three tests, now my only and most dearly beloved daughter is thine; take her." With that the Green King seated his Green Daughter in a coach drawn by six black horses, and they drove towards the dominions of the Lead Friend.
On the road the Green Daughter of the Green King beckoned Miklos to her and asked him: "Hei! my heart's beautiful love, renowned Kiss Miklos, tell me, on thy true soul, art thou taking me for thyself or for another? If thou art not taking me for thyself, I will play tricks with thee."
"I am taking thee for myself; I am taking thee for another," answered Kiss Miklos.
Well, no more was said. Once, when turning and winding, they look in the coach; it is empty. The beautiful girl is gone. In a moment they stop, search the coach, but find her nowhere.
"Here, good friend Far Seer," said Kiss Miklos, "look around! Whither has our beautiful bird flown?"
Far Seer didn't let that be said twice. In the turn of an eye he surveyed the round earth, but he saw not the beautiful maiden.
"She is not on the dry earth," said Far Seer.
"Look into the sea," said Kiss Miklos.
Far Seer surveyed the deep sea, and saw her hidden in the belly of a three-pound whale, near the opposite shore of the sea.
"Ah, I see where she is!"
"Where?" asked Miklos.
"Hidden in the belly of a three-pound whale."
"Here, good friend Great Drinker," said Miklos, "come hither, and drink up the water of this deep sea!"
Great Drinker was not slow. He lay face under by the sea, and with three draughts drank up all the water. The three-pound whale was lying then in a bay near the opposite shore.
"Now, good brother Swift Runner," said Kiss Miklos, "step out and bring me that three-pound whale which is lying near the opposite shore."
Swift Runner rushed in a moment across the bottom of the sea, and brought back the three-pound whale. Miklos opened the whale, took out its stomach, cut it carefully, and out fell the Green Daughter of the Green King. Then he seated her in the coach, and they drove on.
They travelled and journeyed, and once the princess beckoned to Miklos, and asked: "My heart's beautiful love, renowned Kiss Miklos, tell me, on thy true soul, art thou taking me for thyself, or for another? If for thyself, very well; if not, I'll play tricks with thee."
"I am taking thee for myself; I am taking thee for another," answered Miklos.
No more was said. Once while turning and winding, the beautiful maiden is gone, the coach is empty. "Oh, the dog is in the garden!" They stop, search the six-horse coach, but find no beautiful princess.
"Here, good friend Far Seer," said Miklos, "stand forth, look around! Where is our beautiful bird?"
Far Seer surveyed the deep sea, but got no sight of the princess. "She is not in the sea."
"If she is not in the sea, look on dry land."
Far Seer looked around again, and he saw that the princess was at home, in the very middle of her father's garden, on the highest top of a blooming apple-tree, hidden in a ripe red apple. "I have found her!" said Far Seer.
"Where is she?"
"At home, in the very centre of the garden, hidden on the highest top of an apple-tree, in the middle of a ripe red apple."
"Here, Swift Runner, come forth!"
Swift Runner came forth, and stood like a pillar before Miklos, waiting for command.
"Run in a twinkle to the garden of the Green King, in the very middle of which is blooming an apple-tree; climb the tree, and bring me the ripe red apple which is on its highest top."
Swift Runner rushed as a whirlwind, at horse-death speed, found the tree, climbed it, plucked the red apple, and then, as if shot from a cannon, came back to Miklos, and gave him the apple. Miklos cut the apple in two; the Green Daughter of the Green King fell out. He seated her again in the coach, and they fared farther.
They travelled and journeyed, and again the princess beckoned to Miklos, and said: "My heart's heart, renowned Kiss Miklos, tell me, on thy true soul, art thou taking me for thyself, or for another? If for thyself, very well; if not, I'll play tricks with thee."
"I am taking thee for myself; I am taking thee for another."
Well, they said no more. Once, while turning and winding, they look in the coach the maiden is gone; the coach is empty. "Oh, the dog is in the garden!" They stop, search the six-horse coach, but find not the maiden.
"Friend Far Seer," said Miklos, "look around! Where is our beautiful bird?"
Far Seer was not slow; in the turn of an eye he surveyed the round earth, but saw nowhere the Green Daughter of the Green King. "She is not on the round earth," said he.
"Well, look in the deep sea."
Far Seer looked again; in the turn of an eye he surveyed the deep sea, but saw not the princess. "She is not in the deep sea," said Far Seer.
"Well, if she is not in the deep sea, look in the cloudy heavens."
Far Seer looked around; in the turn of an eye he surveyed the broad sky and the cloudy heavens. He saw a cocoon hanging from a thread slender as a spider-web, and hidden in that cocoon the Green Daughter of the Green King. "I have found her!" said Far Seer.
"Where is she?" asked Kiss Miklos.
"Far, far away, near the round forest, from the cloudy heavens is hanging a silk thread, slender as a spider-web, and on the end dangles a cocoon; in that she is hidden."
"Now, Far Caster, come forth!" said Miklos.
Far Caster stood like a pillar before Kiss Miklos, only waiting for command; but he had not long to wait, for Miklos said: "Listen, good friend Far Caster. Seest thou that thin silk thread hanging from the cloudy sky near the round forest?"
"Then cast it down; but only when Swift Runner reaches the place beneath, so that it may not fall on the earth, but into his hand. Therefore, Swift Runner, move thy wheels that way; catch the cocoon and bring it to us."
Swift Runner rushed at horse-death speed to the place; Far Caster brought down the cocoon. Swift Runner caught it safely, and brought it to Miklos, who with his bright knife cut it open, and out came the princess. Then he seated her a third time in the coach; but they had arrived in the domains of the Lead Friend, so the Green Daughter of the Green King, having lost her power, could play no more tricks.
Kiss Miklos took farewell of his good friends, thanking them kindly for their aid. When they were alone the Green Daughter of the Green King fell to crying, and said: "My heart's beautiful love, I know thou art taking me to that dog of a Lead Friend, and I would rather be the bride of death than of him."
"Oh, my heart's golden bird," said Miklos, "I am taking thee for myself; but thou canst not be mine till I know where the strength of the Lead Friend lies. If we can discover that, it will be easy to destroy him."
"If that is thy grief, my heart's heart," said she, "I will soon help thee; leave that to me. Thou must know I am a woman."
With that Miklos and the princess kissed each other, and there was holy peace; they said: "I am thine, thou art mine."
They travelled and journeyed across forty-nine kingdoms, till Kiss Miklos could say, "We are at home,"--for they were at the Lead Friend's mansion,--and could say to the princess, "Come out of thy coach; it won't cost thee a copper." Here the Lead Friend ran panting out of his mansion to the beautiful princess, but she turned from him. This pleased not the Lead Friend, and though one word is not much, he uttered not that much, but brought her into the lead mansion in silence.
Next day at sunrise the Lead Friend had to go to his furnace, taking Kiss Miklos with him. The young woman remained all alone. She took a lamp and started to search through the lead house. From chamber to chamber she went till she came to the cellar, but that was closed against her with seven iron doors. Now the question was to get into the cellar. Another would not have been able to pass the first door, but every iron door opened of itself before the magic of the Green Daughter of the Green King. She passed through the seven doors and entered the cellar. She saw there seven leaden vats placed in a row, and every one of them filled to the brim with gold and silver. She took off her apron and filled it with gold, went up, summoned the goldsmith, and gilded the lead threshold a hand in thickness. The Lead Friend was such a miser that he had not bread enough to eat, and every little coin he turned seven times between his teeth before he let it go once from his hand.
Well, in the evening the Lead Friend came home from his furnace, saw the housekeeping and what the young woman had done. Then, 'pon my soul! he plucked out his own lead beard and hair, trampled them like tow, and roared till the lead house was trembling.
"Who, in the name of a hundred thousand thunders, did this?" asked the Lead Friend.
"I did it," answered quite bravely the princess.
"How didst thou dare to do it without my knowledge,--without informing me?" With that the Lead Friend went to the Green Daughter of the Green King, and seized in his hand the golden hair which reached her heels. Twelve times did he drag her on the lead floor, and he wanted to take the lead flail to her. Kiss Miklos did not permit that, but took the maiden from his grasp and placed her on the silken bed. She was neither dead nor alive, but lay as a lifeless block of wood. But the Green Daughter of the Green King had no more pain than good myself; being a magic woman, seest thou, she had much in her power.
Now, what did she do? When the Lead Friend wound around his hand the golden hair reaching to her heels, she suddenly sprang out of her skin, and a devil jumped into it. And if the Lead Friend had struck him with the back of an axe, he would not have felt a dog's trouble; for the more he was beaten the more he would have laughed.
But the Lead Friend was troubled; ragged, with torn hair, crying and weeping he entered the white chamber, where the princess was lying without life. He went to her; pushed her, but she waked not; talked to her, but she heard not; cried, but she listened not. At last he found this to say: "Wake, my heart's beautiful love; I will do all that may please thee, but stop the gilding."
Then the princess spoke up to the Lead Friend, "I'll stop the gilding, but tell where thy strength lies."
"Oh, my heart's beautiful love, I would rather part with life than tell that."
Well, things remained thus. Next day at sunrise the Lead Friend went to his furnace, taking Kiss Miklos with him, for he lived in the suspicion that Miklos and the Green Daughter of the Green King would plot together and strive for his destruction.
The bride remained alone; she took the lamp and turned straight to the cellar. The great iron doors opened before her and closed behind. When she had passed the seven iron doors and entered the cellar, she spread her silk apron, and filled it with gold. Three times she returned, and three times she bore away the same amount, so that the apron was almost torn under it. Straightway she called the goldsmith and had the lead thresholds of three chambers gilded to the thickness of a hand. And as I say, the Lead Friend was so stingy that he did not eat bread enough, and every little coin he put seven  times between his teeth before he let it out of his hand once.
The Lead Friend came home from his furnace towards evening, and saw the housekeeping, and saw also that now not one but three thresholds were gilded a hand's thickness. Here, 'pon my soul! the Lead Friend fell into such rage that he tore his own lead beard and hair out, and trampled them as he would tow. Then he roared so terribly that the lead house quivered, and turning to the princess he asked: "In the name of a hundred thousand devils, who did this?"
"I did it," answered the princess quite bravely.
"How didst thou dare to do this without my knowledge and consent?"
With that the Lead Friend seized the golden hair of the princess, which reached to her heels, and dragged her twelve times up and down the lead floor, twelve times did he hurl her against the floor, then he ran for the lead flail to kill her. Kiss Miklos would not let him do that, but seized the maiden from his hands, and placed her on the silken bed. The Green Daughter of the Green King was neither dead nor alive; she lay there still as a soulless block of wood. Still the princess felt no more pain than good myself. She knew witchcraft, and whatever she did or did not do, when the Lead Friend twisted her golden hair in his hand, she jumped out of her skin in a twinkle, and a devil got into it; if they had beaten him like a two-headed drum, or even more, he would have taken it as if they were fondling him.
Now the Lead Friend was terribly sorry; ragged, with torn hair, he entered the white chamber weeping; he wept a long time; pushed the princess, who waked not; spoke to her, she heard not; at last he found this to say: "Wake up, my heart's beautiful love; all thy desires will be accomplished, only stop the gilding."
"I'll stop the gilding, but tell where thy strength lies."
"Oh, my heart's beautiful love, I would rather part with my life than tell that."
Next day at sunrise the Lead Friend took Kiss Miklos to the furnace, lest while he was gone himself Miklos might go in secret and gather another man's hay. The bride was alone again, and wanted nothing better. Again she took the lamp and went straight to the cellar, where she opened her beautiful silk apron and filled it with gold,--took so much that the apron almost tore under it. She came seven times, and each time carried so much gold that her nose almost cut the earth, like the coulter of a plough. Then she called a goldsmith, and gilded to a hand's thickness the thresholds of seven rooms.
When the Lead Friend came home in the evening, he saw that not three but seven thresholds had a hand's thickness of gold on them. Then he fell into such a rage that he tore his leaden beard and hair, and trampled them as he would tow; but what good did that do him?--for he was trampling his own. Then he roared till the lead house rattled, and in his fury he asked: "A thousand million demons, who did this?"
"I did it," answered the princess all bravely.
"How didst thou dare to do this without my knowledge or command?"
With that he went in fury to the Green Daughter of the Green King, wound round his hand the golden hair which reached to her heels. Twelve times did he drag her over the leaden floor, twelve times did he dash her against it, twelve times did he raise her aloft,--and that was not enough; but he took out the lead flail, and began to thrash and beat the princess as if she were a bundle of wheat, so that she was swimming in blood. Kiss Miklos took her from his hands and placed her on the silken bed, where she lay, neither dead nor alive, still as a lifeless block.
Now the Lead Friend grew terribly sorry, and making himself squalid looking, he entered the white chamber, rushed to the princess, wept without ceasing, touched her but she woke not, spoke to her but she heard him not. At last he found this to say: "Wake up, my heart's beautiful love. I will tell where my strength lies. In the silken meadow under the seventh bush is a hare, under the tail of the hare an egg, in the egg a hornet, and in the hornet is hidden my strength, so that I live as long as the hornet lives; if the hornet dies, I die too."
The Green Daughter of the Green King heard all these words clearly, but acted as if she were neither dead nor alive,--lay there like a soulless block.
Well, 'pon my soul! what came of the affair or what did not, the princess rose from her silken bed in the night-time, quietly, in one garment; but she threw a great shawl around her neck, slipped out of the gate, found Kiss Miklos, to whom her word and speech was this: "Wake up, my heart's beautiful love, renowned Kiss Miklos, I know now where the strength of the Lead Friend lies; but listen to my word. In the silken meadow under the seventh bush lies a hare, under the hare's tail is an egg, in the egg a hornet, in the hornet is the Lead Friend's strength. If thou kill the hornet, the Lead Friend will lose his strength."
Our Miklos wanted nought else. He turned himself at once into a hound, drove the hare from the seventh bush of the silken meadow. The hare began to run, but the hound was not slow; with a long stick he struck the egg from the hare's tail. The egg broke and the hornet flew out, but the hound was not slow; with a great jump he caught the hornet, and crushed it to bits in his teeth. Then the hound shook himself and turned into Kiss Miklos again.
At daylight the Lead Friend was sick. He had lost his strength, he could not move his hands or his feet, and lay groaning on his lead couch like a man who had been pressing a straw-bed for seven years; and when the sun rose he breathed out his cursed soul.
Who was more delighted at his death than our Kiss Miklos and the Green Daughter of the Green King? Straightway they called a priest and a hangman and an iron cap. The priest joined them, the hangman thrashed around, God's arrow flashed, but no one was struck. There was soup plenty and to spare, lucky was the man who came with a spoon; the unhappy were happy; the gypsy fiddled, and the music spoke. When the feasting and the poppy week had passed, Kiss Miklos and his consort took a chariot of glass and gold, drawn by six black-haired steeds, and set out for Miklos's birthplace. Now, the shining sun had shone so sadly, and the bright moon had beamed so sadly that it could not be more so; but the moment they beheld Miklos and his wife in the chariot of glass and gold, the bright sun shone joyously, and so did the clear moon.
"What's this? what's this?" said to himself the old king, who still rejoiced in good health. He summoned the wise men and the skilled scribes of the kingdom to his palace and gave them the following question: "Explain to me this. It is seven years since the two sons of the poor man brought back the bright moon and the shining sun; these two sons are now ruling kings,--may God keep them in health!--but the clear moon and the shining sun gave us such sorrowful light, and now all at once both are radiant."
One old man skilled in letters, and so old that his white beard almost came to the earth, and he could not stand on his feet alone, but three men supported him, spoke the following words: "Haho! high lord, there is great reason for this. The clear moon and the shining sun were sad because the man who really freed them from the claws of the dragons was pinioned in bondage; and he is no other than the renowned Kiss Miklos, the poor man's youngest son, who even at this moment is driving to the king's palace with the Green Daughter of the Green King, in a chariot drawn by six horses."
That moment Kiss Miklos and his wife entered the white chamber together. Here the lords and those great wise men all rose before them, as did even the old king himself, who advancing embraced and kissed them, led them to his own purple velvet throne, seated them thereon, and turning to the wise men and the skilled scribes, asked them, "Who really deserves the kingdom, the elder brothers or Kiss Miklos?"
The council said: "Kiss Miklos."
Then Miklos rose and said to the old king and the council: "High king and worthy council, it is true that I deserve the kingdom, and I would take it were I not the heir of the far-famed Lead Friend, and were it not that the dominions of the Green King, after his death,--which from my heart I wish not,--will come to me. This being the case the worthy council can see, and thy Highness can see also, that I may not accept the kingdom. Let it remain as it is,--let my eldest brother be king, and my second brother be viceroy; they are, I think, honorable men, and worthy."
The lords, sages, and skilled scribes present, as well as the old king, rose up and confirmed the wise speech of the youthful Kiss Miklos.
Then the two brothers of Kiss Miklos--the king and the viceroy--entered; they embraced and kissed one another, and sacred was the peace. After that, Kiss Miklos and his wife returned to the domains of the Lead Friend, and after the death of the Green King, Kiss Miklos inherited his dominions. And so he ruled two kingdoms very happily; and he and the Green Daughter of the Green King are living yet, if they are not dead.