THERE was once a king who had three sons. One evening, when the young princes were going to sleep, the king ordered them to take good note of their dreams and come and tell them to him next morning.
So, the next day the princes went to their father as soon as they awoke, and the moment the king saw them he asked of the eldest, 'Well, what have you dreamt?'
The prince answered, 'I dreamt that I should be the heir to your throne.'
And the second said, 'And I dreamt that I should be the first subject in the kingdom.'
Then the youngest said, 'I dreamt that I was going to wash my hands, and that the princes, my brothers, held the basin, whilst the queen, my mother, held fine towels for me to dry my hands with, and your majesty's self poured water over them from a golden ewer.'
The king, hearing this last dream, became very angry, and exclaimed, 'What! I--the king--pour water over the hands of my own son! Go away this instant out of my palace, and out of my kingdom! You are no longer my son.'
The poor young prince tried hard to make his peace with his father, saying that he was really not to be blamed for what he had only dreamed; but the king grew more and more furious, and at last actually thrust the prince out of the palace.
So the young prince was obliged to wander up and down in different countries, until one day, being in a large forest, he saw a cave, and entered it to rest. There, to his great surprise and joy, he found a large kettle full of Indian corn, boiling over a fire and, being exceedingly hungry, began to help himself to the corn. In this way he went until he was shocked to see he had nearly eaten up all the maize, and then, being afraid some mischief would come of it, he looked about for a place in which to hide himself. At this moment, however, a great noise was heard at the cave-mouth, and he had only time to hide himself in a dark corner before a blind old man entered, riding on a great goat and driving a number of goats before him.
The old man rode straight up to the kettle, but as soon as he found that the corn was nearly all gone, he began to suspect some one was there, and groped about the cave until he caught hold of the prince.
'Who are you?' asked he sharply; and the prince answered, 'I am a poor, homeless wanderer about the world, and have come now to beg you to be good enough to receive me.'
'Well,' said the old man, 'why not? I shall at least have some one to mind my corn whilst I am out with my goats in the forest.'
So they lived together for some time; the prince remaining in the cave to boil the maize, whilst the old man drove out his goats every morning into the forest.
One day, however, the old man said to the prince, 'I think you shall take out the goats to-day, and I will stay at home to mind the corn.'
This the prince consented to very gladly, as he was tired of living so long quietly in the cave. But the old man added, 'Mind only one thing! There are nine different mountains, and you can let the goats go freely over eight of them, but you must on no account go on the ninth. The Vilas (fairies) live there, and they will certainly put out your eyes as they have put out mine, if you venture on their mountain.'
The prince thanked the old man for his warning, and then, mounting the great goat, drove the rest of the goats before him out of the cave.
Following the goats, he had passed over all the mountains to the eighth, and from this he could see the ninth mountain, and could not resist the temptation he felt to go upon it. So he said to himself, 'I will venture up, whatever happens!'
Hardly had he stepped on the ninth mountain before the fairies surrounded him, and prepared to put out his eyes. But, happily a thought came into his head, and he exclaimed, quickly, 'Dear Vilas, why take this sin on your heads? Better let us make a bargain, that if you spring over a tree that I will place ready to jump over, you shall put out my eyes, and I will not blame you!'
So the Vilas consented to this, and the prince went and brought a large tree, which he cleft down the middle almost to the root; this done, he placed a wedge to keep the two halves of the trunk open a little.
When it was fixed upright, he himself first jumped over it, and then he said to the Vilas, 'Now it is your turn. Let us see if you can spring over the tree!'
One Vila attempted to spring over, but the same moment the prince knocked the wedge out, and the trunk closing, at once held the Vila fast. Then all the other fairies were alarmed, and begged him to open the trunk and let their sister free, promising, in return, to give him anything he might ask. The prince said, 'I want nothing except to keep my own eyes, and to restore eyesight to that poor old man.' So the fairies gave him a certain herb, and told him to lay it over the old man's eyes, and then he would recover his sight. The prince took the herb, opened the tree a little so as to let the fairy free, and then rode back on the goat to the cave, driving the other goats before him. When he arrived there he placed at once the herb on the old man's eyes, and in a moment his eyesight came back, to his exceeding surprise and joy.
Next morning the old man, before he drove out his goats, gave the prince the keys of eight closets in the cave, but warned him on no account to open the ninth closet, although the key hung directly over the door. Then he went out, telling the prince to take good care that the corn was ready for their suppers.
Left alone in the cave, the young man began to wonder what might be in the ninth closet, and at last he could not resist the temptation to take down the key and open the door to look in.
What was his surprise to see there a golden horse, with a golden greyhound beside him, and near them a golden hen and golden chickens were busy picking up golden millet-seeds.
The young prince gazed at them for some time, admiring their beauty, and then he spoke to the golden horse, 'Friend, I think we had better leave this place before the old man comes back again.'
'Very well,' answered the golden horse, 'I am quite willing to go away, only you must take heed to what I am going to tell. Go and find linen cloth enough to spread over the stones at the mouth of the cave, for if the old man hears the ring of my hoofs he will be certain to kill you. Then you must take with you a little stone, a drop of water, and a pair of scissors, and the moment I tell you to throw them down you must obey me quickly, or you are lost.'
The prince did everything that the golden horse had ordered him, and then, taking up the golden hen with her chickens in a bag, he placed it under his arm, and mounted the horse and rode quickly out of the cave, leading with him, in a leash, the golden greyhound. But the moment they were in the open air the old man, although he was very far off, tending his goats on a distant mountain, heard the clang of the golden hoofs, and cried to his great goat, 'They have run away. Let us follow them at once.'
In a wonderfully short time the old man on his great goat came so near the prince on his golden horse, that the latter shouted, 'Throw now the little stone!'
The moment the prince had thrown it down, a high rocky mountain rose up between him and the old man and before the goat had climbed over it, the golden horse had gained much ground. Very soon, however, the old man was so nearly catching them that the horse shouted, 'Throw, now, the drop of water!' The prince obeyed instantly, and immediately saw a broad river flowing between him and his pursuer.
It took the old man on his goat so long to cross the river that the prince on his golden horse was far away before them; but for all that it was not very long before the horse heard the goat so near behind him that he shouted, 'Throw the scissors.' The prince threw them, and the goat, running over them, injured one of his forelegs very badly. When the old man saw this, he exclaimed, 'Now I see I cannot catch you, so you may keep what you have taken. But you will do wisely to listen to my counsel. People will be sure to kill you for the sake of your golden horse, so you had better buy at once a donkey, and take the hide to cover your horse. And do the same with your golden greyhound.'
Having said this, the old man turned and rode back to his cave; and the prince lost no time in attending to his advice, and covered with donkey-hide his golden horse and his golden hound.
After travelling a long time the prince came unawares to the kingdom of his father. There he heard that the king had had a ditch--three hundred yards wide and four hundred yards deep--dug, and had proclaimed that whosoever should leap his horse over it, should have the princess, his daughter, for wife.
Almost a whole year had elapsed since the proclamation was issued, but as yet no one had dared to risk the leap. When the prince heard this, he said, 'I will leap over it with my donkey and my dog!' and he leapt over it.
But the king was very angry when he heard that a poorly dressed man, on a donkey, had dared to leap over the great ditch which had frightened back his bravest knights; so he had the disguised prince thrown into one of his deepest dungeons, together with his donkey and his dog.
Next morning the king sent some of his servants to see if the man was still living, and these soon ran back to him, full of wonder, and told him that they had found in the dungeon, instead of a poor man and his donkey, a young man, beautifully dressed, a golden horse, a golden greyhound, and a golden hen, surrounded by golden chickens, which were picking up golden millet-seeds from the ground.
Then the king said, 'That must be some powerful prince.' So he ordered the queen, and the princes, his sons, to prepare all things for the stranger to wash his hands. Then he went down himself into the dungeon, and led the prince up with much courtesy, desiring to make thus amends for the past ill-treatment.
The king himself took a golden ewer full of water, and poured some over the prince's hands, whilst the two princes held the basin under them, and the queen held out fine towels to dry them on.
This done, the young prince exclaimed, 'Now, my dream is fulfilled;' and they all at once recognised him, and were very glad to see him once again amongst them.