THERE was once, I don't know where, an old petticoat a hundred years old, and in this petticoat a tuck, in which I found the following story. There was once a king who had seven sons and seven daughters: he was in great trouble where to find princesses of royal blood as wives for his sons and princes as husbands for his daughters. At last the idea struck him that the seven sons should marry the seven daughters. They all consented to their father's wish with the exception of the youngest son and daughter: "Well, if you won't," said the father, "I will give you your inheritance and you can go and try your fortune, and get married as best you can." The two children went, and came to a strange land, where they were overtaken by darkness in a wood. They chose a bushy tree for their resting place, whose leafy boughs bent down to the ground and afforded shelter. When they woke next morning, the girl told her brother that she had dreamt that there was a town not far off, where a king lived who had been ill for a long time, and thousands upon thousands of doctors had failed to cure him. He again dreamt that an old man with snow-white hair told him that the tree under which they slept gave water: in this water the king was to be bathed, and he would be cured. They at once examined the tree, and from a crack in the bark sap as clear as crystal was dripping; they filled their flasks with the fluid and continued their journey. When they reached the outskirts of the forest, they saw a town in front of them.
Having arrived there they went into an inn to find out whether their dream was true, and asked the host what the news was in the town; he, in his conversation, mentioned the illness of the king, and the many unsuccessful attempts of men to cure him, and that he had strict orders, under a heavy penalty, to report at once every doctor that came to his inn. "I also am a doctor," said the prince, "and this youth is my assistant," he continued, pointing to his sister, who was dressed in male attire. The innkeeper at once reported them, and they went to court to try their remedy on the king. The king's body was covered with sores, and the doctor bathed his hand with the juice of the tree. To his great joy, the king discovered next morning that the place which had been bathed was visibly improving; he therefore, the very same night, sent a huge wooden vessel on a cart to the tree, to bring him sufficient water for a bath. After a few baths the king actually recovered; and the doctor, having received a handsome present, requested a favour of the king, viz., to pay him a visit and to do him the honour of dining with him. The king cordially granted the request, and the prince received him with great splendour in his spacious apartments, which were decorated with a lavishness becoming a sovereign. As the king found the doctor alone, he inquired after his assistant, and at this moment a charming pretty girl stepped from one of the side rooms, whom the king at once recognised as the doctor's assistant. The strangers now related to him their story, and the king became more affable, especially towards the pretty assistant, who at once gained possession of his heart and soul, and the short acquaintance ended with a wedding. The prince, not forgetting the object of his journey, started soon after the wedding festivities were over.
He passed on till he came to the boundary of the king's realm, and then went on as far as the capital of the next country. He was riding about the streets on a fine horse, when he heard a voice coming from a window close by, "Hum, you, too, won't get on without me," and looking in the direction from which the voice came, he discovered an old man looking out of the window. He didn't take any notice of the voice, but went on; and, having arrived at an inn, made sundry inquiries, when he was told that adventurous young men in this town might either meet with great fortune or with a great misfortune; because the king had a daughter whom no one had as yet seen, with the exception of her old nurse. The girl had three marks on her, and whoever found out what they were, and where they were, would become her husband; but whosoever undertook the task and failed, would be impaled, and that already ninety-nine young fellows had died in this manner.
Upon hearing this, it became clear to the prince what the meaning of the old man's saying was; he thought, that no doubt the old man took him for another adventurer, and the thought struck him that the old man must be acquainted with the secret, and that it would be advantageous to make his acquaintance. He found a plea at once; the old man was a goldsmith, and, as the prince had lost the rowel of his golden spur on the road, he called on him, and, having come to terms about the spur, the prince inquired of him about the princess, and the old man's tale tallied with that of the innkeeper. After a short reflection, the prince told the old man who he was, and, with a look full of meaning, inquired if the goldsmith could help him in case he tried his luck. "For a good sum with pleasure," replied the goldsmith. "You shall have it," said the prince; "but tell me how, and I will give you this purse on account." The old man, seeing that there was good opportunity for gain, said, "I will construct a silver horse in which you can conceal yourself, and I will expose it for sale in the market. I am almost sure that no one will buy it but some one attached to the royal court, and if once you get in there, you can get out of the horse by a secret opening and go back whenever you like and, I think, you will succeed."
And so it happened; on the following market-day a splendid silver horse was exhibited in the vicinity of the royal palace: there were a good many admirers, but on account of the great price there was no buyer, till at last a person belonging to the royal court enquired the price; after a few moments he returned and bought the horse for the king, who presented it to his daughter, and thus the prince managed to get into the chamber of the princess, which was the most difficult of all things, and he listened amidst fear and joy to the silvery voice of the pretty girl, who amused herself with the horse--which ran on wheels--and called it her dear pet.
Evening drew on, and the mysterious girl went to rest; everything became quiet, and only her old nurse was sitting up not far from her bed; but about midnight she, too, fell asleep; hearing that she was fast asleep, the prince got out of the horse and approached the girl's bed, holding his breath, and found the mark of the sun shining on the girl's forehead, the moon on the right breast, and three stars on the left. Having found out the three secret marks, the prince was about to retire to his hiding-place when the princess woke. She tried to scream, but at an imploring gesture of the youth she kept silence. The girl could not take her eyes off the handsome prince, who related to her how and for what reason he had dared to come. The girl, being tired of her long seclusion, consented to his scheme, and they secretly plotted how the prince should get out of the palace; whereupon he went back to his hiding-place. In accord with the plot, next morning the girl broke one of the horse's ears off, and it was sent back to the goldsmith's to be repaired, and the prince was thus able to leave his dangerous position.
Having again splendidly remunerated the goldsmith, he returned to his new brother-in-law, so that he might come back with a splendid suite and royal pomp, and appear as a king to try his fortune. The prince returned with many magnificently-clad knights and splendid horses, and reported himself to the king, and informed him by message that he was anxious to try his luck for the possession of his daughter. The king was very much pleased with the appearance of the youth, and therefore kindly admonished him not to risk his life, but the prince seemed quite confident, and insisted on carrying out his wishes; so a day was fixed for carrying out the task. The people streamed out to the place where the trial was to take place, like as to a huge festival. And all pitied the handsome youth, and had sad misgivings as to his fate.
The king granted three days to those who tried their fortune, and three guesses. On the first and second day, in order not to betray the plot, and in order to increase the éclat the prince guessed wrongly on purpose; but on the third day, when everyone was convinced that he must die, he disclosed in a loud voice the secret marks of the princess. The king declared them to be right, and the prince was led to his future wife, amidst the cheers of the multitude and the joyous strains of the band. The king ordered immense wedding festivities all over the town, and resigned his throne in favour of his son-in-law, who reigned happy for many years after!