Stories To Read Or Tell From Fairy Tales And Folklore Part 9

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The king approached his gilded palace. The queen was standing upon the balcony, near her the prime minister; in his arms he held a brocaded pillow upon which there was lying a baby, fair and beautiful like the moon.

Then the king guessed and groaned, "There is what I did not know about! O, you monster, you will be the death of mine!" So thought the king and cried bitterly.

All wondered, but no one said a word. Taking the baby into his arms, King Longbeard admired it long, carried it into the palace, put it into the cradle, and hiding his sorrow, he began to rule over his country as formerly. n.o.body knew the king's secret. But everybody saw the king was sad--he was always expecting somebody to come for his son. During the day he found no rest, at night he could not sleep. The time was pa.s.sing meanwhile, and n.o.body came. The young prince grew very rapidly and developed into a beautiful youth. The king himself forgot all that happened at the well--but not everybody was so forgetful.

Once the prince, while hunting, came into a very thick forest. He looked around: a wild glade was before him. Upon it stood a hollow lime tree. A rustling came from the hollow, and a very queer looking old man came out with a green beard and green eyes.

"h.e.l.lo! Prince Ivan," said he, "we were looking for you. It is time to think of us."

"Who are you?" asked Ivan.

"I will tell you later about it. Now do this for me: give my regards to your father, King Longbeard, and ask him whether it is not time for him to pay his debt? The term has pa.s.sed long ago. He will understand the rest.

Now good-bye," and the bearded old man disappeared.

Prince Ivan, very sad and thoughtful, left the dark forest. He went straight to his father, King Longbeard.

"Dear father king," said he, "a miracle occurred to me,"--and he told him what he had seen and heard.

The king became pale like a ghost. "Woe to me, my dear son Ivan," cried he weeping bitterly, "I see that we must part!" and he told to his son the terrible story about his given oath.

"Do not cry, do not worry, father," answered the prince. "The calamity is not so great. Give me a steed. I will go and you wait for me; keep the secret, that n.o.body may know about it, not even my mother the queen. But if I do not come back to you in a year, know that I am no longer alive." The prince was fitted out for the journey. King Longbeard gave him gold armor, a sword, and a steed. The queen gave him her blessing and a golden cross upon his neck--and the young prince departed. What is going to happen to him?

He rode for one day, for another, for a third, and on the fourth day right after sunset, he came to a lake. The lake was smooth like gla.s.s; the water was on a level with the sh.o.r.es; everything around was desert. The water was covered with the rosy evening glow and the green sh.o.r.es with the thick reeds were reflected in it. Everything seemed as if in a dream. The air did not move; the reeds did not stir, there was no rustle upon the light streams. The prince looked around and what did he see? Thirty crested white ducks were swimming near the sh.o.r.e, upon the sh.o.r.e were lying thirty white gowns. The prince dismounted very cautiously at some distance. Hidden by the gra.s.s he crept towards the gowns and quickly took one of them. Then he rested himself behind a bush to see what was going to happen. The ducks swam and splattered in the stream, played, dived, and at last got to the sh.o.r.e. Twenty-nine of them ran to the white gowns, knocked themselves upon the ground, and all turned themselves into fair maidens, dressed and went away. But the thirtieth duck ran up and down with a pitiful cry. Shyly stretching her neck forward, she looked here and there, now flying up, now coming down again. The prince felt pity for her. He came out from behind his bush, and behold, she spoke to him in a human voice.

"Prince Ivan, give me back my gown and I will be useful to you."

The prince did not let her wait, but put the gown upon the gra.s.s and suddenly what did he see? A maiden in white robes, young and beautiful. She gave him her hand and with downcast, bashful eyes said to him:

"Thank you, good prince, for your kindness to me. You did me a favor, but it will be of good service to you also. I am the daughter of the immortal King Koshchey, Princess Mary. He has thirty daughters altogether. He is the ruler of the underground kingdom. He has expected you as his guest for a long time, and is very angry at your delay. But do not worry. Only follow my advice. Now listen. As soon as you shall see King Koshchey, kneel and creep before him upon your knees. He will stamp with his feet, but do not be frightened. When he scolds you, do not listen, but keep on creeping before him. What will happen, you will see later. Now we must go."

Princess Mary struck the ground with her small foot, the earth opened, and they went down into King Koshchey's underground kingdom. They came to the palace. It was built of precious stones and shone under the ground brighter than the earthly sun. Boldly the prince entered. King Koshchey sat upon his throne wearing a glittering crown, his eyes shone like emeralds. His hands were like claws. Ivan immediately fell upon his knees. King Koshchey stamped with his feet, his green eyes glittered frightfully, and he howled so loudly that the vaults of his underground kingdom trembled. Remembering the words of the Princess Mary, Ivan crept upon his knees toward King Koshchey's throne.

The king howled and the prince kept on creeping. Finally it seemed funny to the king. "Good for you, rogue," said he, "if you could succeed in making me laugh, I will quarrel with you no longer. You are welcomed to our underground kingdom, but know that for your disobedience you will have to do three services for us. We will settle our accounts to-morrow. It is too late to-night. Go!"

The courtiers quickly and politely took Ivan under his arms, and carried him to a chamber, opened the door, bowed, and left him all to himself. He lay down upon the bed and soon fell asleep. The next morning very early King Koshchey called for Prince Ivan. "Well, Prince Ivan, now let us see what you can do. For instance, build for us a palace for to-morrow. The roof must be of gold, the walls of marble, the windows of crystal; around it a regular garden, and in the garden a fish-pond. If you do it, you will get into our favor; if not, do not blame us, but you shall be executed."

"O, you cruel King Koshchey!" thought Ivan. "This is an impossible thing for me to do."

Greatly grieved he went to his room and thought his sad thoughts. In the evening a bright bee came flying to his window, flapped against the pane, and he heard a voice saying "Let me in!" He opened the window, the bee flew inside and turned into Princess Mary.

"h.e.l.lo, Prince Ivan! Why are you so sad?"

"I have good reasons to be so. Your father wants to have me executed."

"What have you decided to do?"

"Nothing. Let him do it. Go where you can and die where you must."

"No, my dear Prince Ivan. We must not lose our courage. There are still greater calamities in the world than yours. Go to sleep, and get up very early. The palace will be built for you. You will only have to go around it, and knock with your hammer at the walls as if finishing your work."

And so it was. Very early in the morning Ivan came out of his chamber, and behold! The palace was all built for him.

King Koshchey was surprised. He did not believe his own eyes. "O, you are a very skillful fellow indeed. Now let us see whether you are just as clever. I have thirty daughters, beautiful princesses. To-morrow I will place all of them in a row; you will pa.s.s three times before them and tell me which is the youngest of them. If you don't guess, you shall die. Now go."

[Ill.u.s.tration: All the Princesses were there.]

"Is that hard to guess?" thought the prince, "I certainly will recognize Princess Mary."

"It is very hard," said the princess, who flew as a bee into his room, "and if I do not help you, you will get into trouble. We thirty sisters look all alike. So great is the resemblance between us, that our father can recognize us only by our dress."

"What am I to do then?"

"I will tell you what: I will be the one who has a small black fly on the right cheek. But beware! Look very carefully; it is easy to make a mistake." And the bee disappeared.

The next day the prince was again called to King Koshchey. All the princesses were there, and all dressed alike stood in a row with downcast eyes.

"Well," said the king, "pa.s.s three times before these beauties and tell us which of them is Princess Mary."

Ivan looked at them and thought, "What a resemblance." He pa.s.sed the first time and saw no fly; pa.s.sed for the second time--still no fly; pa.s.sed the third time and saw a tiny fly stealing its way across the fresh burning cheek of one of the princesses. The prince blushed and his heart was beating with joy. "Here she is, Princess Mary," said he, giving his hand to the beauty with the fly upon her cheek.

"Ah, ah! I see there must be something wrong about it," grumbled King Koshchey, looking angrily at the prince with his big green eyes. "It is true you did recognize Princess Mary, but how did you guess it? Wait now, I will soon find out the truth. In three hours come back to us. You will be welcomed as our guest, but you will have to prove to us your wisdom by deeds. I will light a straw, and you will have to make here upon the spot while the straw is burning, a pair of shoes. It is not hard for you. But remember if you fail to do it, you shall pay for it with your life."

Very much irritated, Ivan returned to his room. The bee-princess was waiting for him.

"Why are you so sad again, my dear Prince Ivan?"

"How can I be joyful?" answered he. "Your father is plotting a new trick against me. He wants me to make a pair of boots while a straw is burning.

Am I a shoemaker? I am a king's son, not worse by birth than he is. He is immortal, but does this give him a right to treat me so badly?"

"So, Prince Ivan, what are you going to do now?"

"What can I do? I cannot make the boots. Let him take my head off. I do not care any longer!"

"Oh, no, my dear prince! Are we not now bride and bridegroom? I will try to save you. We will both be saved or both perish. We must run away." Saying this the princess breathed upon the window. Her breath immediately froze to the panes. Then she and the prince left the room, locked the door, and threw the key far away.

Arm in arm they went up, and in a minute they were in the place of entrance to the underground kingdom. The same lake, low gra.s.sy sh.o.r.e, fresh meadow, and upon it the good steed of Prince Ivan. As soon as the st.u.r.dy steed felt its rider, it neighed, jumped, ran straight towards him, and stood as if rooted to the spot. Ivan did not think long, but mounted the horse, lifted the princess, and off they went as quick as lightning.

Meanwhile King Koshchey sent his courtiers at the appointed hour for Prince Ivan. They came to the door and found it locked. They knocked, and from behind the Princess' breath answered in the voice of Prince Ivan, "I am coming." The servants took the answer to the king. He waited and waited and no prince came. The angry King Koshchey sent his servants again and they brought the same answer. n.o.body came, King Koshchey was almost mad with anger.

"Does he want to mock me? Run, break the door, and take by force that ill-bred fellow."

The servants ran, the door was broken up. What a surprise! n.o.body was inside, but the breath was loudly laughing at them.

King Koshchey almost burst with anger. "O, you miserable thief! Come here, my people! All to me, my servants! Run, all of you, in pursuit of them.

They have departed."

"I hear the tramping of horses feet," whispered the princess, clasping the prince.

He dismounted, and putting his ear against the ground said, "Yes, I hear the chase, and it is quite near."

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Stories To Read Or Tell From Fairy Tales And Folklore Part 9 summary

You're reading Stories To Read Or Tell From Fairy Tales And Folklore. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Laure Claire Foucher. Already has 490 views.

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