THERE was once, I don't know where, even beyond the Operencziás Sea, a poor man, who had three sons. Having got up one morning, the father asked the eldest one, "What have you dreamt, my son?" "Well, my dear father," said he, "I sat at a table covered with many dishes, and I ate so much that when I patted my belly all the sparrows in the whole village were startled by the sound." "Well, my son," said the father, "if you had so much to eat, you ought to be satisfied; and, as we are rather short of bread, you shall not have anything to eat to-day." Then he asked the second one, "What have you dreamt, my son?" "Well, my dear father, I bought such splendid boots with spurs, that when I put them on and knocked my heels together I could be heard over seven countries." "Well, my good son," answered the father, "you have got good boots at last, and you won't want any for the winter." At last he asked the youngest as to what he had dreamt, but this one was reticent, and did not care to tell; his father ordered him to tell what it was he had dreamt, but he was silent. As fair words were of no avail the old man tried threats, but without success. Then he began to beat the lad. "To flee is shameful, but very useful," they say. The lad followed this good advice, and ran away, his father after him with a stick. As they reached the street the king was just passing down the high road, in a carriage drawn by six horses with golden hair and diamond shoes. The king stopped, and asked the father why he was ill-treating the lad. "Your Majesty, because he won't tell me his dream." "Don't hurt him, my good man," said the monarch; "I'll tell you what, let the lad go with me, and take this purse; I am anxious to know his dream, and will take him with me." The father consented, and the king continued his journey, taking the lad with him. Arriving at home, he commanded the lad to appear before him, and questioned him about his dream, but the lad would not tell him. No imploring, nor threatening, would induce him to disclose his dream. The king grew angry with the lad's obstinacy, and said, in a great rage, "You good-for-nothing fellow, to disobey your king, you must know, is punishable by death! You shall die such a lingering death that you will have time to think over what disobedience to the king means." He ordered the warders to come, and gave them orders to take the lad into the tower of the fortress, and to immure him alive in the wall. The lad listened to the command in silence, and only the king's pretty daughter seemed pale, who was quite taken by the young fellow's appearance, and gazed upon him in silent joy. The lad was tall, with snow-white complexion, and had dark eyes and rich raven locks. He was carried away, but the princess was determined to save the handsome lad's life, with whom she had fallen in love at first sight; and she bribed one of the workmen to leave a stone loose, without its being noticed, so that it could be easily taken out and replaced; and so it was done!
And the pretty girl fed her sweetheart in his cell in secret. One day after this, it happened that the powerful ruler of the dog-headed Tartars gave orders that seven white horses should be led into the other king's courtyard; the animals were so much alike that there was not a hair to choose between them, and each of the horses was one year older than another; at the same time the despot commanded that he should choose the youngest from among them, and the others in the order of their ages, including the oldest; if he could not do this, his country should be filled with as many Tartars as there were blades of grass in the land; that he should be impaled; and his daughter become the Tartar-chief's wife. The king on hearing this news was very much alarmed, held a council of all the wise men in his realm, but all in vain: and the whole court was in sorrow and mourning. The princess, too, was sad, and when she took the food to her sweetheart she did not smile as usual, but her eyes were filled with tears: he seeing this inquired the cause; the princess told him the reason of her grief, but he consoled her, and asked her to tell her father that he was to get seven different kinds of oats put into seven different dishes, the oats to be the growths of seven different years; the horses were to be let in and they would go and eat the oats according to their different ages, and while they were feeding they must put a mark on each of the horses. And so it was done, The horses were sent back and the ages of them given, and the Tartar monarch found the solution to be right.
But then it happened again that a rod was sent by him both ends of which were of equal thickness; the same threat was again repeated in case the king should not find out which end had grown nearest the trunk of the tree. The king was downcast and the princess told her grief to the lad, but he said, "Don't worry yourself, princess, but tell your father to measure carefully the middle of the rod and to hang it up by the middle on a piece of twine, the heavier end of it will swing downwards, that end will be the one required." The king did so and sent the rod back with the end marked as ordered. The Tartar monarch shook his head but was obliged to admit that it was right. "I will give them another trial," said he in a great rage; "and, as I see that there must be some one at the king's court who wishes to defy me, we will see who is the stronger." Not long after this, an arrow struck the wall of the royal palace, which shook it to its very foundation, like an earthquake; and great was the terror of the people, which was still more increased when they found that the Tartar monarch's previous threats were written on the feathers of the arrow, which threats were to be carried out if the king had nobody who could draw out the arrow and shoot it back. The king was more downcast than ever, and never slept a wink: he called together all the heroes of his realm, and every child born under a lucky star, who was born either with a caul or with a tooth, or with a grey lock; he promised to the successful one, half of his realm and his daughter, if he fulfilled the Tartar king's wish. The princess told the lad, in sad distress, the cause of her latest grief, and he asked her to have the secret opening closed, so that their love might not be found out, and that no trace be left; and then she was to say, that she dreamt that the lad was still alive, and that he would be able to do what was needed, and that they were to have the wall opened. The princess did as she was told; the king was very much astonished, but at the same time treated the matter as an idle dream in the beginning. He had almost entirely forgotten the lad, and thought that he had gone to dust behind the walls long ago. But in times of perplexity, when there is no help to be found in reality, one is apt to believe dreams, and in his fear about his daughter's safety, the king at last came to the conclusion that the dream was not altogether impossible. He had the wall opened; and a gallant knight stepped from the hole. "You have nothing more to fear, my king," said the lad, who was filled with hope, and, dragging out the arrow with his right hand, he shot it towards Tartary with such force that all the finials of the royal palace dropped down with the force of the shock.
Seeing this, the Tartar monarch was not only anxious to see, but also to make the acquaintance of him who did all these things. The lad at once offered to go, and started on the journey with twelve other knights, disguising himself so that he could not be distinguished from his followers; his weapons, his armour, and everything on him was exactly like those around him. This was done in order to test the magic power of the Tartar chief. The lad and his knights were received with great pomp by the monarch, who, seeing that all were attired alike, at once discovered the ruse; but, in order that he might not betray his ignorance, did not dare to inquire who the wise and powerful knight was, but trusted to his mother, who had magic power, to find him out. For this reason the magic mother put them all in the same bedroom for the night, she concealing herself in the room. The guests lay down, when one of them remarked, with great satisfaction, "By Jove! what a good cellar the monarch has!" "His wine is good, indeed," said another, "because there is human blood mixed with it." The magic mother noted from which bed the sound had come; and, when all were asleep, she cut off a lock from the knight in question, and crept out of the room unnoticed, and informed her son how he could recognise the true hero. The guests got up next morning, but our man soon noticed that he was marked, and in order to thwart the design, every one of the knights cut off a lock. They sat down to dinner, and the monarch was not able to recognise the hero.
The next night the monarch's mother again stole into the bedroom, and this time a knight exclaimed, "By Jove! what good bread the Tartar monarch has!" "It's very good, indeed," said another, "because there is woman's milk in it." When they went to sleep, she cut off the end of the moustache from the knight who slept in the bed where the voice came from, and made this sign known to her son; but the knights were more on their guard than before, and having discovered what the sign was, each of them cut off as much from their moustache as the knight's who was marked; and so once more the monarch could not distinguish between them.
The third night the old woman again secreted herself, when one of the knights remarked, "By Jove! what a handsome man the monarch is!" "He is handsome, indeed, because he is a love-child," said another. When they went to sleep, she made a scratch on the visor of the knight who spoke last, and told her son. Next morn the monarch saw that all visors were marked alike. At last the monarch took courage and spoke thus: "I can see there is a cleverer man amongst you than I; and this is why I am so much more anxious to know him. I pray, therefore, that he make himself known, so that I may see him, and make the acquaintance of the only living man who wishes to be wiser and more powerful than myself." The lad stepped forward and said, "I do not wish to be wiser or more powerful than you; but I have only carried out what you bade me do; and I am the one who has been marked for the last three nights." "Very well, my lad, now I wish you to prove your words. Tell me, then, how is it possible there can be human blood in my wine?" "Call your cupbearer, your majesty, and he will explain it to you," said the lad. The official appeared hastily, and told the king how, when filling the tankards with the wine in question, he cut his finger with his knife, and thus the blood got into the wine. "Then how is it that there is woman's milk in my bread?" asked the monarch. "Call the woman who baked the bread, and she will tell," said the lad. The woman was questioned, and narrated that she was nursing a baby, and that milk had collected in her breasts; and as she was kneading the dough, the breast began to run, and some milk dropped into it. The magic mother had previously informed her son, when telling him what happened the three nights, and now confirmed her previous confession that it was true that the monarch was a love-child. The monarch was not able to keep his temper any longer, and spoke in a great rage and very haughtily, "I cannot tolerate the presence of a man who is my equal: either he or I will die. Defend yourself, lad!" and with these words he flashed his sword, and dashed at the lad. But in doing so, he accidentally slipped and fell, and the lad's life was saved. Before the former had time to get on his feet, the lad pierced him through, cut off his head, and presented it on the point of his sword to the king at home. "These things that have happened to me are what I dreamt," said the victorious lad; "but I could not divulge my secret beforehand, or else it would not have been fulfilled." The king embraced the lad, and presented to him his daughter and half his realm; and they perhaps still live in happiness to-day, if they have not died since.