ONCE upon a time a poor man lived in a small and mean cottage. He possessed nothing in the world except a daughter who was very wise indeed. She taught her father how to beg, and how to speak wisely. One day the poor man went to the king to beg, and the king asked him whence he came, and who had taught him to speak so well.
He told the king where he lived, and that he had a daughter who told him what to say.
'And who taught your daughter all this wisdom?' demanded the king. The poor man answered, 'God and our poverty have made her wise.'
Then the king gave him thirty eggs and said, 'Take these eggs to your daughter, and tell her that if she bring forth chickens from the eggs, I will make her rich presents; but if she fails, then I will have you tortured.'
The poor man went back to his cottage weeping, and told all this to his daughter. The girl saw at once that the eggs which the king had sent had been boiled, but she told her father to go to sleep quietly, and she would take care for everything. The father did as she said, and, whilst he slept, she took a pot, filled it with water and beans, and boiled them.
Next morning she told her father to take a plough and oxen, and go to plough in a wood near to which the king would pass. 'When you see the king coming,' said she, 'take a handful of beans, and begin to sow, shouting, "Go on, my oxen, and God grant that the boiled beans may bear fruit!" When the king asks you, "How can you expect boiled beans to grow?" answer him, "Just as much as from boiled eggs to hatch chickens!"'
The poor man listened to his daughter, and went to plough. When the king came near, he began to shout, 'Ho ho, my oxen! go on! and God grant that these boiled beans may bring me a good crop!'
The king, hearing these words, stopped his carriage, and said to the poor man, 'Poor fellow, how can boiled beans bear a crop?'
'Just as well as boiled eggs can bring forth chickens,' answered the man.
The king saw that his daughter had taught him what to say, and he ordered his servants to bring the man before him. Then the king gave him a bunch of flax, saying, 'Take this, and make from it all the sails a ship needs. If you do not, you shall lose your life.'
The poor man took the bunch of flax with great fear, and returned weeping to the cottage to tell his daughter, who bade him go to sleep quietly. Next morning she gave him a small piece of wood, and told him to take it to the king and demand that, from this piece of wood, all the tools needful for spinning and weaving should be made. 'Then,' continued she, 'I will make all that he has ordered me.'
The king was surprised, and considered a moment what to do. At last he said, 'Take this little glass to your daughter, and tell her she must empty the sea with it, so that dry land shall be where the water now is.'
The poor man took the little cup to his daughter, and, weeping, told her all the king required. The girl bade him be quiet till morning, and then she would do all that was needed. Next morning she called her father, gave him a pound of tow, and said, 'Take this to the king, and tell him that with this tow he must first stop all the sources of the rivers and lakes, and then I will dry up the sea.'
So the poor man went to the king and told him what his daughter had said.
The king, seeing that the girl was wiser than himself, ordered that she should be brought before him. When she bent before the king, he said, 'Guess, maiden! what can be heard at the greatest distance?'
The girl answered, 'Your majesty, the thunder and the lie can be heard at the greatest distance.'
Then the king grasped his beard, and, turning to his courtiers, put to them the question, 'Guess what my beard is worth?' Some of them said so much, others again so much; but the girl observed to the king that none of the courtiers had guessed right, and said, 'The king's beard is worth as much as three summer rains.' The king, greatly astonished, said, 'It is so; the girl has guessed rightly!' Then he asked her if she were willing to be his wife; and added that, if she were willing, he would marry her.
The girl bent low and said, 'Let it be as your majesty commands! But I pray you write with your hand on a scrap of paper this promise, that if you should ever be displeased with me, and should send me away from you, I shall be allowed to take with me from the palace any one thing which I like best.'
The king consented, and gave the promise.
After they had lived happily together for some time, one day the king was angry, and said to his wife, 'I will not have you any longer for my wife, and I bid you leave the palace!'
The queen answered, 'I will obey your majesty, but permit me to pass one night more in the palace. To-morrow I will go.'
This, the king could not well refuse.
That evening, at supper, the queen mixed something with the wine, and offered it to the king to drink, saying, 'Be of good cheer, O king! To-morrow we shall separate and, believe me, I shall be happier than I was when I first met you.'
The king drank, and soon after fell asleep. Then the queen ordered her carriage, and carried the king away with her to the cottage.
Next morning, when the king awoke in the cottage and saw where he was, he exclaimed, 'Who brought me here?'
The queen answered, 'I brought you.'
Then the king asked, 'How have you dared to do so? Did I not tell you I will not have you any longer for my wife?'
But the queen took out the king's written promise, and said, 'Yes, indeed, you told me so; but see, you have written and promised that I "shall be allowed to take with me from the palace that which I like best, whenever I must leave the court."'
The king, seeing the paper, kissed his wife, and returned with her to the palace.