WHERE there was, where there was not, it is enough that there was once a merchant, there were also a king, and a poor man.
One day the merchant went out to hunt, and he travelled and journeyed till, oh! my lord's son, he found himself in such a thick forest that he saw neither the sky nor the earth; he just groped around like a blindman. Here, 'pon my soul! whether the merchant tried to free himself by turning to the left or the right, he only went into a thicker place. When he was there five days, in hunger and thirst, stumbling about in the great wild wood without liberation, the merchant called out:--
"Oh, my God, if any one would take me out of this great wild thicket to the right road, I would give him the best of my three daughters, and as a wedding gift three sacks of coin."
"I'll lead thee out right away," said some one before him.
The merchant looked to the right, to the left, but not a soul did he see.
"Don't look around," said the certain one again, "look under thy feet."
The merchant then looked in front and saw that near his feet was a little hedgehog, and to him he directed then his word and speech. "Well, if thou wilt lead me out, I will give thee my best daughter and three sacks of coin; the first will be gold, the second silver, and the third copper."
The hedgehog went on ahead, the merchant walked after. Soon they came out of the great wild wood. Then the hedgehog went back, and the merchant turned his wagon-tongue homeward.
Now the king went to hunt,--went in the same way as the merchant; and he too was lost in the great wild wood. The king went to the right and the left, tried in every way to free himself; all he gained was that he came to a thicker and a darker place. He too stumbled around five days in the thick wood, without food or drink. On the sixth morning the king cried out: "Oh, my God! if any one would free me from this dense wood, even if a worm, I would give him the most beautiful of my daughters, and as a wedding gift three coaches full of coin."
"I'll lead thee out right away," said some one near him.
The king looked to the right, to the left, but saw not a soul.
"Why stare around? Look at thy feet; here I am."
The king then looked at his feet and saw a little hedgehog stretched out, and said to him: "Well, hedgehog, if thou wilt lead me forth, I'll give thee the fairest of my daughters and three coaches full of coin,--the first gold, the second silver, the third copper."
The hedgehog went ahead, the king followed, and in this way they soon came out of the great wild wood. The hedgehog went back to his own place; the king reached home in safety.
Very well, a poor man went out for dry branches. He went like the merchant and king, and he got astray, so that he wandered dry and hungry for five days in the great wild wood; and whether he turned to the right or the left he gained only this, that he went deeper into the denseness.
"My God," cried the poor man at last, "send me a liberator! If he would lead me out of this place, as I have neither gold nor silver, I would take him as a son, and care for him as my own child."
"Well, my lord father, I'll lead thee out; only follow."
"Where art thou, dear son?"
"Here, under thy feet; only look this way, my lord father."
The poor man looked near his feet, and saw a little hedgehog stretched out.
"Well, my dear son, lead me out and I'll keep my promise."
The hedgehog went ahead, the poor man followed, and soon they came out of the great wild wood. The hedgehog then went back to his own place, and the poor man strolled home.
Well, things remained thus till once after bedtime there was a knocking at the poor man's door. "My lord father, rise up, open the door." The poor man, who was lying on the stove, heard only that some one was knocking at the door.
"My lord father, rise up, open the door."
The poor man heard, and heard that some one was knocking and as he thought calling out: "My lord father, rise up, open the door;" but in his world life he had never had a son. The third time he heard clearly, "My lord father, rise up, open the door."
The poor man did not take this as a joke. He rose up and opened the door. My lord's son, who came in to him? No one else than the little hedgehog.
"God give a good evening to my lord father and to my mother as well," said the hedgehog.
"God receive thee, my dear son. Hast thou come then?"
"I have indeed, as thou seest, my lord father; but I am very tired, therefore wake up my mother and let her make a bed for me in my chamber."
What was the poor man to do? He woke up his wife; she made a towering bed, and the hedgehog lay in it. In the morning the poor man and his wife sat down to breakfast. They did not wish to forget their adopted son, but gave him food on a wooden plate under a bench by the fire. The hedgehog did not touch it. "Well, my son," asked the poor man, "why not eat?"
"I do not eat, my lord father, because it is not proper to treat an adopted son like some orphan or another; therefore it beseems me not to eat all alone from a wooden plate under a bench at the fire. Seat me nicely at the table by thy side, put a tin plate before me, and place my food on it."
What was the poor man to do? He seated the Hedgehog at his side, put a tin plate before him, and measured out food on it; then the Hedgehog ate with his father and mother. When they had finished breakfast the Hedgehog spoke thuswise: "Well, my lord father, hast thou a couple of thalers?"
"I suppose thou art keeping them to buy salt and wood with?"
"Yes, my son."
"I speak not of that, I am speaking of this: lend me the money; I will return it a thousand-fold. Set not thy mind much on salt and wood now; but go, my lord father, to the market. In such and such a place an old woman has a black cock for sale; buy him of her. If she asks a small price, give her double; for that will be my steed. When thou hast bought the cock for two prices, in such and such a place is a saddler; go to him. In a corner of his shop is a cast-away, thrown-away, ragged, torn saddle; buy that for me, but give him two prices also. If he asks little, give him double."
The poor man put on his coat, put the two thalers in his pocket, went to the market, bought the black cock and the cast-away, thrown-away saddle for two prices; each one for two small bits of money.
The Hedgehog then saddled the black cock with the cast-away, thrown-away saddle, sat upon him, and went to the court of the rich merchant whom he had led out of the great wild wood; he knocked at the door and called: "Hei, father-in-law, open the gate, let me in!"
The rich merchant opened the gate in great wonder. Who was coming? No one other than our Hedgehog, riding on a black cock.
"Hear me, rich merchant," began the Hedgehog; "knowest thou thy promise? When I led thee out of the great wild wood, dost remember thy promise to give me the best of thy three daughters and three sacks of coin? Now I have come for the maid and the money."
What could the rich merchant do? He called his three daughters into the white chamber, and turned to the Hedgehog, saying: "Well, choose among the three the one who pleases thy eye, thy mouth, and thy heart."
The Hedgehog chose the second daughter, for she was the most beautiful of the three. The merchant then measured out three sacks of coin,--in the first, as he had said, there was gold, in the second silver, in the third copper; then he put his daughter and the three sacks of coin in a coach, to which four horses were attached, and he sent on her way his most beautiful daughter, with the Hedgehog. They travelled and journeyed till the Hedgehog, who was riding at the side of the coach on his black cock, came up, looked in through the window, and saw that the bride was in tears.
"Why dost thou cry, why dost thou weep, my heart's beautiful love?" asked the Hedgehog of the maiden.
"Why should I not cry, why should I not weep, when God has punished me with such a nasty thing as thee?--for I know not whether thou art a man or a beast."
"If this is thy only trouble, my heart's beautiful love, we can easily cure it; I'll keep the three sacks of coin for myself, and thee I'll send back to thy father, for I see that of me thou art not worthy."
Thus was it settled; the Hedgehog kept the three sacks of coin, but the merchant's daughter he sent back to her father. The Hedgehog then took the coin to the poor man, who became so rich that I think another could not be found like him in seven villages.
Now the Hedgehog plucked up courage, saddled his black cock, sat on him, and rode away to the king, stood before him, and spoke in this fashion: "Dost thou remember, king, that when I brought thee out of the great wild wood, thou didst promise that if I would show the right road thou wouldst give me the most beautiful of thy three daughters and fill for me three coaches, the first with gold, the second with silver, and the third with copper coin? I am here so that thou mayest keep thy word."
The king called his three daughters to the white chamber and said: "I made a promise, and this is it: to give one of my three daughters to this Hedgehog as wife; I promised because the Hedgehog led me out of a great wild wood, in which I wandered for five days without food or drink, and he saved me from certain death. Therefore say, my dear daughters, which of you will agree to marry the Hedgehog."
The eldest daughter turned away, the second turned away also; but the youngest and fairest spoke thus: "If thou, my father the king, hast made such a promise, I will marry him. Let the will of God be done if he has appointed such a husband for me."
"Thou art my dearest and best daughter," said the king; and he kissed her again and again. Then the king measured out three coaches of coin, seated the princess in a chariot of gold and glass and started her on her journey, amid bitter tear-shedding, with the Hedgehog, who rode at the side of the chariot on his black cock. They travelled and journeyed across forty-nine kingdoms till the Hedgehog rode up to the chariot, opened the window, looked in, and saw that the princess was not weeping, but was in the best cheerful humor.
"Oh, my heart's beautiful love," said the princess, "why art thou riding on that black cock? Better come here and sit at my side on the velvet cushion."
"Thou art not afraid of me?"
"I am not afraid."
"Thou art not disgusted with me?"
"No; if God has given thee to me, then thou shouldst be mine."
"Thou art my only and most beloved wife!" said the Hedgehog; and with that he shook himself, and straightway turned into such a pearl-given, charming, twenty-four-years-old king's son that tongue could not tell,--golden-haired, golden-mouthed, golden-toothed. And the black cock shook himself three times, and became such a golden-haired magic steed that his equal would have to be sought for; the cast-away, thrown-away saddle became golden, everything on it was gold to the last buckle.
The king's son then picked out the most beautiful place in the kingdom; standing in the middle of this he thought once, and suddenly that instant there stood before him a copper-roofed marble palace, turning on a cock's foot, and in it every kind of the most varied and beautiful golden furniture,--everything and everything was of gold, beginning with the mirror-frame and ending with the cooking-spoon. The king's son conducted the beautiful golden bird--the fair princess--into the pearl-given palace, where, like birds in a nest, they lived in quiet harmony. When the merchant's three daughters and the two elder princesses heard of the happiness of the youngest princess,--how well she had married,--in their sorrow one of them jumped into a well, another drowned herself in a hemp-pond, and a third was drawn dead out of the river Tisza [Theiss]. In this way four of the maidens came to an evil end; but the second daughter of the merchant gritted her teeth venomously at the princess, and made a firm and merciless resolve that she would imbitter her life's happiness. She went therefore to the palace, and found service in the guise of an old woman. She, the devil-given, came at a critical time; for the Burkus king  had declared war against the king's son, and the princess, while her husband was in the field, was left to the care of the merchant's daughter, disguised as an old woman. Milk might as well be confided to a cat as the princess to that cockroach of the underground kingdom. While the king's son was gone, the Lord gave the princess two beautiful children. The old woman packed them into a basket, put them under a tree in the woods, then ran back to the princess, who, recovering from a faint into which she had fallen, asked the old woman to give her the children so that she might embrace and kiss them.
"High queen," answered the old woman, "what is the use in delay or denial? They were two untimely, hairy monsters, and to save thee from terror at sight of them, I threw both into the river."
The two children slept quietly under the tree till a white deer burst with great noise through the thicket, went straight as if sent, and taking the basket hung it on his antlers; then the white deer disappeared in the forest, went on till he came to the bank of a stream, where he called three times. The Forest Maiden appeared as if by magic, took the basket with great delight, and ran panting into her own palace.
The two children were seven years with the Forest Maiden, who reared them as carefully as if they had been her own.
Here, 'pon my soul, what came of the affair, or what did not, the Forest Maiden once sent the little girl with a green jug for water, and enjoined on her rigorously to be careful not to break the jug.
The little girl did not let this be said twice; she was obedient and attentive. She took the jug, and was at the well in a moment. When she came, she saw a little golden bird flying around the well. Being a child, she wanted to catch the golden bird, therefore ran around with the jug in her hand till at last she saw that only the handle was left. The little girl, terrified, burst into tears, sat at the edge of the well, and cried there. The Forest Maiden waited and waited; but she could not wait longer, therefore she sent the little brother with a second jug, and told him sternly to be careful not to break the jug. The little brother went in the same way, for he also, like children of that age, barely saw the golden bird when he wanted to strike it with the jug, which he whirled around till only the handle remained in his hand; then he burst into tears, sat by his sister, and there the two were crying at the edge of the well.
Here, 'pon my soul, the golden bird pitied the children, and asked: "Why do ye cry? Why do ye weep, pretty children?"
"Oh, pretty bird," answered the boy, who had more sense than his sister, "why should we not cry? Why should we not weep? We shall be flogged for breaking the green jugs; our dear mother will whip us."
"Oh, my children, she is not your own mother! She is only your foster-mother. Your father and mother live far from here,--beyond those green mountains; so if ye will follow, I'll lead you home."
The two children wanted nothing else. They went back no more to their foster-mother, for they would be flogged; but they followed the golden bird, which went always before them. And they travelled and journeyed till once in a forest they came upon a great heap of gold; near the gold was a number of dice, as if some one had been playing there. The little boy and girl each took a handful of gold, and went farther. They travelled and journeyed till they came to an inn; since they were wearied, and it was evening, they went in to ask lodging. In the inn three lords were playing dice; the two children at first merely noticed that they were playing. At last the boy took from his pocket the handful of gold, and began to play in such fashion that he won all the money of the three lords; and then one of them spoke thuswise:--
"Well, my dear son, I see that thou hast good luck. I have in a certain place a charming flower-garden; in the middle of the garden is a marble palace, and the palace has this peculiarity,--if it is struck on the side three times with this golden rod, it will turn into a golden apple; and thou mayest put down the marble palace and the flower-garden in any part of the world if thou wilt strike the golden apple with the small end of the golden rod. I will bet now this flower-garden and this marble palace; if thou canst win, they'll be thine."
The little boy agreed; and he won fortunately the flower-garden and the marble palace. The other then gave him the golden rod, and showed him where the garden and the palace were. Next morning the children sought out the garden and the palace, which the boy struck three times on the side, and it turned to a golden apple; he put the apple in his pocket, and strolled on homeward. The little golden bird flew always ahead of them. They travelled and journeyed till one time the golden bird stopped and said:--
"Well, dear children, now we are at home; put down the golden apple on this spot and strike it three times with the rod, and ye will see what a beautiful marble palace and flowery garden there will be, speaking to the seven kingdoms. The report of the palace and garden will circulate immediately, and the king himself will come to look at them. Him ye must honor as your father, for thou my little boy art the king's son, and thou my little girl the king's daughter. Dear children, here in a golden frame is a picture which gives your arms and name. Hang in the palace this picture, in the best place; but lest it be seen, cover it with velvet, and show it to no man save your own father. When he asks what that picture is, draw the velvet from it, and the rest will follow."
So it happened; the two children hung up the picture in the best room of the marble palace, and covered it with velvet. Now, the report ran to distant parts of the kingdom that there was a charming and wonderful marble palace in such and such a place, and people hastened from the seventh province distant to look at it; so that the report came to the ears of the king himself. The king decided straightway to look at the flowery garden and marble palace; but he had hardly conceived the idea when the old woman gave him a drug. The king fell ill, and could not see the flowery garden and marble palace; and then the old woman, without invitation, stood before the king and said: "High king, if thou art so curious to see this flowery garden and marble palace, then I will go and see if they are as beautiful as report says, and tell the story to thy Highness."
The king in one way or another agreed, and the old woman went, not to see the garden, but to bring the two children to evil destruction; the wicked creature tried but succeeded not, for her weapons broke. Not to confound one word with another, I will tell the whole tale in order and accuracy.
The old witch had barely reached the famous flower-garden when the two children hurried before her and showed everything from root to top, and the old piece of leather began to talk thus: "It is true that the garden is beautiful, but it would be seven times more beautiful if ye would bring the world-sounding tree."
"What must be done to get that?" asked the little boy.
"Not other than this," answered the old skeleton: "In such and such a place, in an enchanted palace, is the world-sounding tree; but ye must go for it and bring it."
With that the old witch took farewell of the two children, and strolled home; but the boy had no peace from that hour. He wanted to go and bring the world-sounding tree; therefore taking farewell of his sister with bitter tear-shedding he set out for the tree. He was going and travelling across forty-nine kingdoms till he came to a dark castle; this was the first enchanted castle. A big, lame, hairy devil stood there on guard with a fearful whip, so that no man might enter. The hairy devil shouted very angrily at our boy: "Stop! Who is there?"
"I," answered the little boy.
"Who is 'I'?"
"Art thou Yanoshka?" asked the devil.
"What journey art thou on?"
"I am looking for the world-beautifully sounding tree. Hast thou not heard of it, my lord elder brother?"
"I have not heard of it; but in such and such a place my brother stands guard, and if he has not heard of it, then no one in the world has."
Yanoshka went forward on the right road in search of the world-sounding tree. He travelled and journeyed till he came to another enchanted dark castle; there a big, lame, hairy devil was standing on guard who shouted to our Yanoshka in great anger. Our Yanoshka was much braver now, for he knew he had nothing to fear.
"Who is it?" called out the devil.
"Art thou Yanoshka?"
"I am, at the service of my lord elder brother."
"Why art thou journeying here in this strange land, where even a bird does not go?"
"I am looking for the world-beautifully sounding tree. Hast thou not heard of it, my lord elder brother?"
"What is the use in delay or denial? I have not heard; but in such and such a place my eldest brother is on guard, and if he knows nothing of it, then no one in the world knows."
With this Yanoshka moved on towards the third enchanted castle; when he came, there was a big, lame, hairy devil on guard, who called out in great anger to Yanoshka: "Who is that?"
"Thou art Yanoshka?"
"Why art thou journeying here in this strange land, where even a bird does not go?"
"I am looking for the world-beautifully sounding tree. Hast thou not heard of it, my lord elder brother?"
"Ho, ho, Yanoshka! of course I have; it is here in the garden of this enchanted palace. Thou mayest take it, but only if thou obey my words. If thou dost not value them or dost not observe them, thou wilt never see God's bright sky or the shining day again. I only want to say this: Here is a golden rod; strike the wall of the enchanted castle with it three times. Straightway a door will open before thee. In the very middle of the garden thou wilt find the world-beautifully sounding tree. Go around it three times and then hurry like a shot arrow, with the speed of a dog, or the stone wall will close, and thou wilt remain inside; and if thou art once shut in, God have mercy and pity on thee, for that instant thou wilt be turned to stone. This is my word and speech; if thou cling to it, thou wilt be lucky; if not, thou wilt be wretched forever."
The boy took the golden rod and struck the side of the enchanted castle with it. That instant the door opened before him. The king's son did not inquire much whether he might enter or not; in a moment he ran in through the door and straight to the garden. Every kind of singing and dancing maidens came to meet him,--some with citharas and harps; some played on cymbals and begged him to play and dance with them; some offered rich food and drink of every kind agreeable to the taste. But the king's son had no mind to eat or drink; he pushed aside the maidens and ran to the very centre of the garden, where the world-beautifully sounding tree was; then he went around it three times, turning toward the point whence he had come. That done he rushed from the garden, and a thousand times lucky was he. It was not the same for him to be a few minutes later, for the door closed and bit off the heel of his boot; but he did not care much about the heel of his boot. He ran home on the same road over which he had come; and when he arrived, the world-beautifully sounding tree was in the middle of the flowery garden. Hitherto the flowery garden had been in good fame, but now the fame was seven times greater, so that people came from seven worlds to look at the tree; and the report of it reached the king himself, who determined in his mind if he had not seen it yet he would now at least go to see it.
As soon as the old witch divined his thought she put a powder in his coffee so that he became sick, and was not able to leave the room; then she stood before him without invitation, and said: "High king, as thy Highness is sick, I will go to see if the world-sounding tree is as beautiful as reported, and will soon bring back word."
The king in one way or another agreed to the old witch's proposal, and let her go to see the world-beautifully sounding tree. She had barely put foot in the flowery garden when the two children ran out to her to hear what the old woman would say this time.
"Beautiful children," said she, "beautiful is the garden of itself, beautiful is the sounding tree, but still seven times more beautiful would it be if the world-sweetly speaking bird were to sing upon it."
"What must I do?" asked the little boy.
"Nothing else," answered the old witch, "than this: In such and such a place is an enchanted castle, and thence it would be necessary to bring the world-sweetly speaking bird."
Then she went back; and from that hour the king's son could not remain at home, but planned to go for the world-sweetly speaking bird. Therefore, parting with his sister amidst bitter tear-shedding, he started through the kingdom and the world to bring home the sweetly speaking bird; but he enjoined on his sister that if the third day he were not at home, she should set out to seek him over a certain road,--and with that the king's son went his way.
He journeyed and travelled across forty-nine kingdoms to the first enchanted castle, where there stood on guard a big hairy devil, who had a terribly large whip in his hand, to kill, without pity or mercy, every man going up or down. Now, the hairy devil attacked Yanoshka sharply and roughly, thus:--
"Who art thou?"
"I, my lord elder brother."
"Who art thou?" asked the devil again.
"Art thou Yanoshka?"
"Why art thou here in this strange land, where even a bird does not go?"
"I am going for the world-sweetly speaking bird. Hast thou heard of it, my lord elder brother?"
"What is the use in delay or denial? I have not indeed heard. But over there lives my elder brother; if he knows nothing of it, then no one in the world knows."
Now the king's son came to the second enchanted castle; the second devil sent him to his eldest brother, the big lame devil.
When Yanoshka came to the third castle, the devil asked, "Why art thou here in this strange land, where even a bird does not go?"
"I am looking for the world-sweetly speaking bird. Hast thou not heard of it, lord elder brother, in thy world-beautiful life?"
"Of course I have; it is here in this enchanted castle. Thou mayest take it away if thou wilt listen to my word; if not, better thou hadst never been born. For if thou wilt not observe my words, thou wilt never see God's bright sun again. I only wish to say: Here is a golden rod; take it, and with it strike the wall of the enchanted castle three times. Straightway the door will open before thee; pass in, run to the end of the glass corridor and across eight chambers. In the ninth chamber is the world-sweetly speaking bird in a rusty cage. Thou wilt find there every kind of beautiful and more beautiful golden birds, but look not at them, listen not to them, take no one of them, but take the sweetly speaking bird sitting sadly in the rusty cage. Snatch the cage in an instant, and rush from the enchanted castle as if thou hadst been shot from a cannon."
The king's son took the golden rod and struck the wall of the enchanted castle with it three times, and in a twinkle the door opened before him. The king's son then asked few questions. Whether it was permitted or not he ran into the room in an instant. While he was running to the end of the glass corridor he was called by name, from the right to the left, to stop. It is true that he was frightened, but he paid no heed. He ran straight to the first chamber. Every kind of flowers, more and more beautiful, were in golden pots; but the king's son did not touch them. He ran to the second chamber. In that were all kinds of swords and guns, but he did not choose from them. He entered the third, fourth, fifth, and in this way till he came to the ninth chamber. The ninth chamber, as the devil had told him, was full of all kinds of golden and silver cages, and in them golden-feathered birds, more and more beautiful, were singing; but the world-sweetly speaking bird was drooping there sadly in a rusty cage, and was not singing.
As the world-sweetly speaking bird was not golden-feathered like the others, it did not please the king's son, and he did not take it, but chose from among the many golden-feathered birds the prettiest, and wished to take that; but as he reached towards it, suddenly, in the twinkle of an eye, he was turned to stone, and the door of the stone wall closed before him.
Now, the little princess every God-given day spread the table for her good brother, but he did not come. Every God-given evening she went out before the house and waited till nearly midnight; then she spread the bed for him, but he did not lie in it. So the first day passed, and the second, and the third,--day after day, but still the dear brother came not; therefore the princess, crying and weeping, went out to look for her brother. She journeyed and travelled upon his trail till she came to the first enchanted castle, and the second, and at last the third. The devil there stood on guard, with a great whip like a chain, so as to strike on the head, without pity or mercy, every one going up or down; and he shouted angrily at the little girl, "Who art thou?"
"Thou art Marishka?" For meanwhile, let it be said, this was the name of the king's son's sister.
"Why art thou travelling in this strange land, where not even a bird goes?"
"I am looking for my brother. Hast thou not heard of him, lord elder brother?"
"Of course I have heard,--of course! He is in this enchanted castle, turned into stone; he had to be, for he would not obey me. Thou wilt go that way, too, if thou wilt not hold to my word."
Now the little girl took the golden rod from the devil, who told her what to do with it, and struck the wall of the enchanted castle with it three times. The door opened before her in a twinkle, the princess ran in; but she looked neither to the right nor the left. She ran straight to the ninth chamber; there she took the rusty cage, struck her brother three times on the side with the rod, then ran as if shot from a cannon. And a thousand-fold was her luck that she did not delay an eye-twinkle longer, for the stone-wall door, as it was, cut the edge of her skirt off when it closed.
The princess had barely come out of the enchanted castle when she heard behind her frightful thundering, hammering and blowing, swearing and cursing, with threats; they shouted after her: "Wait, thou!--this-and-that-kind-of-wretch, it will soon be bitter for thee!" But she did not turn to them; she ran like a hunted deer till she reached home. Who was waiting for her there? No one else but her dear brother.
The brother and sister then put up the sweetly speaking bird on the world-beautifully sounding tree, and the sweetly speaking bird spoke, sang more sweetly than any cithara, so that whoever heard it became ten years younger. If the flowery garden had been famous before, it now stood in seven times greater fame, so that from seven kingdoms the people came to look at it; and the king, hearing of the fair fame of the flowery garden, resolved in his mind that, though he had not gone yet, he would go to see it now.
The old witch barely divined this intention of the king when she gave him powders in black coffee, from which the king became so sick that this time, too, his visit to the beautiful garden came to nothing. And then the old woman, without invitation, stood before him, and said: "High king, thou hast such a great desire to see the flowery garden, I will go at once, and bring back word if its beauty is as great as its fame."
The king agreed, and the old woman went to see the flowery garden. She had barely put foot in it when the two children ran out to meet her, received her very cordially, and did not know where to seat her.
"Beautiful children," began the old sinner, "the marble palace is beautiful, the flowery garden is beautiful, the world-sweetly speaking bird is beautiful; but the flowery garden would be still more beautiful if the silver lake were flowing in it, and in the lake golden fish were playing."
"What must I do to get the lake?" asked the king's son.
"Only this," answered the old skeleton. "In a certain place, in an enchanted castle, is the world-silver lake, and in it the world-golden fish; it is only necessary to go for the silver lake, for the golden fish will come in it. All that is needed is to bring the lake."
Then the old woman took leave of the pair pleasantly, and went home. But the king's son from that day had no rest, so he took leave of his dear sister, and went out into the world for the silver lake. He travelled and journeyed across forty-nine kingdoms, and the Operentsia Sea, till he came to the first enchanted castle. A devil was guarding there, who sent him to his elder brother, and he to his eldest. The king's son arrived at the third enchanted palace. A devil stood guard there, with an enormous knotty club, to hit every man going up or down, without mercy or pity.
"God give thee good evening, my lord elder brother."
"God receive thee, Yanoshka; whither art thou faring in this strange land, where not even a bird goes?"
"I am looking for the world-silver lake. Hast thou not heard of it, lord elder brother?"
"Of course I have heard,--of course; it is here in this enchanted castle. But, my younger brother, thou wilt have to tie up thy drawers well if 'tis thy wish to take that away; for if thou dost not obey my word, I tell thee, on my true soul, that thou wilt reach Pilate by supper-time. I wish to say this: Here is a golden rod; strike the side of the enchanted palace with it, and suddenly the door will open before thee, run in straight to the garden. Thou wilt hear thy name called, but listen not. Every kind of beautiful maiden will come before thee, offering meat and drink; but eat not, neither drink. Thou wilt find on the way every kind of rich thing,--gold, silver, diamonds,--but touch nothing. Then every kind of disgusting snake and toad will come out, but be not afraid; run straight to the silver lake, which flows in the garden, run around it three times towards home, and then run out as thou didst go in."
Well, the king's son took the golden rod, struck the side of the enchanted castle three times, and the door opened before him; scarcely had he put foot inside when maidens called him by name. "This way, this way, Yanoshka! Eat, drink, with relish, Yanoshka! This way, Yanoshka, my embracing two arms are open to thee, run no farther!"
The king's son, as if deaf, did not listen, but ran farther. Then maidens more and more beautiful came before him,--some sprang at him, dangled their golden hair in his face; the king's son did not stop, but struck at them rudely, rushing on. He had barely left the maidens when he fell on to piles of treasure thrown in his way: beaten gold was piled high, and milk-white silver coin,--here every kind of diamond ring, there swords set in diamonds; but the king's son touched nothing, and ran on. Then every kind of crawling, creeping thing swarmed around him,--here hissing snakes, there warty toads. Yanoshka looked not under his feet, but ran till he came to the silver lake, around which he rushed three times, and went out as he had come. A thousand-fold was his fortune, for had he been an instant later the stone wall would have closed before him; as it was it took the heel off his boot, but he cared nothing for that. He left his boots there and ran home barefoot; when he reached home the silver lake was already flowing through the flowery garden, and in it all kinds of precious golden fish were jumping.
Hitherto the marble palace and the flowery garden with the sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird had been in fair fame, but now, when the silver lake was flowing through the garden, and golden fish playing in it, now I say their fame spoke to the seven worlds, and people came to look at them. When this reached the ears of the king he resolved that he would neither eat nor drink till he saw the marble palace with all its wonders. Though the old witch offered him black coffee repeatedly, the king did not take it; but sitting in the golden carriage with his wife, he drove to see the flowery garden.
Scarcely had the king and queen entered the flowery garden when the brother and sister ran out before them, panting, and kissed their hands.
"Oh, father, this little girl is like thee!" cried the queen; "she is thy carved second!"
"And the little boy looks like thee," answered the king.
Well, the king and the queen went around the garden in order, and they could not do justice to its beauty; when they saw the sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird, they clapped their hands. The boy went up in a moment on the sounding tree, plucked from it a couple of golden apples, gave one to the king and the other to the queen, who could not praise sufficiently his kindness. Then the king and queen looked at the silver lake and the golden fish in it; they visited the marble palace, and went from chamber to chamber till they had gone through seven in order.
The king and queen were unable to praise sufficiently the beauty of the rooms; but when they came to the most beautiful of all, the king found this to say, speaking speech: "Well, my little servant, wilt thou not answer a question of mine?"
"And what is it?" asked the prince.
"I should like to know why that picture is covered with velvet, and what it depicts."
One word is not much, but the king's little son did not say that much; speechless he drew the velvet covering aside. The king and queen were amazed, and knew their own children, whom they had never seen before. One embraced one of them, and the other the other; they could not speak, but they wept and laughed, and then the world-sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird were heard.
Great was the rejoicing of every kind, but sad grew the old sinner when the king seized her, made her fast to a tree, and piled up beneath her a fire of sulphur.