ONCE upon a time there was a lad who was better off than all the others. He was never short of money, for he had a purse which was never empty. He never was short of food, for he had a table-cloth on which, as soon as he spread it, he found all he wanted to eat and drink. And, besides, he had a magic wishing cap. When he put it on he could wish himself wherever he wanted, and there he would be that very moment.
There was only one thing that he lacked: he had no wife, and he was gradually coming into the years when it would be necessary for him to make haste.
As he was walking sadly along one fine day, it occurred to him to wish himself where he would find the most beautiful princess in the world. No sooner had he thought of it than he was there. And it was a land which he had never yet seen, and a city in which he had never yet been. And the king had a daughter, so handsome that he had never yet beheld her like, and he wanted to have her on the spot. But she would have nothing to do with him, and was very haughty.
Finally he despaired altogether, and was so beside himself that he could no longer be where she was not. So he took his magic cap and wished himself into the castle. He wanted to say good-by, so he said. And she laid her hand in his. "I wish we were far beyond the end of the world!" said the youth, and there they were. But the king's daughter wept, and begged to be allowed to go home again. He could have all the gold and silver in the castle in return. "I have money enough for myself," said the youth, and he shook his purse so that money just rolled about. He could sit down at the royal table and eat the finest food, and drink the finest wines, said she. "I have enough to eat and drink myself," said the youth. "See, you can sit down at the table," said he, and at once he spread his table-cloth. And there stood a table covered with the best one might wish; and the king himself ate no better.
After they had eaten, the king's daughter said: "O, do look at the handsome apples up there on the tree! If you were really kind, you would fetch me down a couple of them!" The youth was not lazy, and climbed up. But he had forgotten his table-cloth and his purse, and these she took. And while he was shaking down the apples his cap fell off. She at once put it on and wished herself back in her own room, and there she was that minute.
"You might have known it," said the youth to himself, and hurried down the tree. He began to cry and did not know what to do. And as he was sitting there, he sampled the apples which he had thrown down. No sooner had he tried one than he had a strange feeling in his head, and when he looked more closely, he had a pair of horns. "Well, now it can do me no more harm," said he, and calmly went on eating the apples. But suddenly the horns had disappeared, and he was as before. "Good enough!" said the youth. And with that he put the apples in his pocket, and set out to search for the king's daughter.
He went from city to city, and sailed from country to country; but it was a long journey, and lasted a year and a day, and even longer.
But one day he got there after all. It was a Sunday, and he found out that the king's daughter was at church. Then he sat himself down with his apples before the church door, and pretended to be a peddler. "Apples of Damascus! Apples of Damascus!" he cried. And sure enough, the king's daughter came, and told her maidens to go and see what desirable things the peddler from abroad might have to offer. Yes, he had apples of Damascus. "What do the apples give one?" asked the maiden. "Wisdom and beauty!" said the peddler, and the maiden bought.
When the king's daughter had eaten of the apples, she had a pair of horns. And then there was such a wailing in the castle that it was pitiful to hear. And the castle was hung with black, and in the whole kingdom proclamation was made from all pulpits that whoever could help the king's daughter should get her, and half the kingdom besides. Then Tom, Dick and Harry, and the best physicians in the country came along. But none of them could help the princess.
But one day a foreign doctor from afar came to court. He was not from their country, he said, and had made the journey purposely just to try his luck here. But he must see the king's daughter alone, said he, and permission was granted him.
The king's daughter recognized him, and grew red and pale in turn. "If I help you now, will you marry me?" asked the youth. Yes, indeed she would. Then he gave her one of the magic apples, and her horns were only half as large as before. "But I cannot do more until I have my cap, and my table-cloth, and my purse back again," said he. So she went and brought him the things. Then he gave her still another magic apple, and now the horns were no more than tiny hornlets. "But now I cannot go on until you have sworn that you will be true to me," said he. And she swore that she would. And after she had eaten the third apple, her forehead was quite smooth again, and she was even more beautiful than in days gone by.
Then there was great joy in the castle. They prepared for the wedding with baking and brewing, and invited people from East and West to come to it. And they ate and drank, and were merry and of good cheer, and if they have not stopped, they are merry and of good cheer to this very day!