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alighted on the tree and was plucking an apple, when the young man raised his gun and fired. The bird escaped, but the shot had touched its plumage, and one of its golden feathers fell to the earth.
The youth picked it up, and the next morning carried it to the king and related to him what he had seen during the night. The king assembled his counselors and laid the whole case before them, and they all declared that such a feather as the bird had dropped was of more value than the whole kingdom. "If one feather is so costly," cried the king, "whether I have help or not, I must and will have the whole bird!"
Then the eldest son, relying on his own cleverness, set out on a journey to find the bird, and felt sure he should do so. very quickly. He had not gone far when he came to the borders of a wood, where he saw a fox, and immediately presented his gun at him. "Do not shoot me," cried the fox; "I can give you good advice. I know you are searching for the golden bird, and if you keep straight on you will arrive toward evening at a little village in which there are two inns on exactly opposite sides of the road. You will find one lighted up brightly and with all sorts of amusement and gayety going on, but do not enter there; go to the other inn, however dark and dismal it may appear to you."
"Why should I listen to the advice of an ignorant animal, however cunning he may be?" thought the young man; yet he followed the fox, who stretched out his bushy tail and darted off quickly through the wood.
After walking a long time he came toward evening to a village, and there stood both the inns, as the fox had said. In one, which was brilliantly lighted up, he heard music and dancing, but the other had a dark, gloomy, sorrowful appearance.
"I should be a fool, indeed," said the young man, "if I went to such a dismal old lumber place as that, instead of to this, which looks so bright and cheerful."
So he walked into the attractive house, and lived there in such sumptuous luxury and dissipation that he soon forgot not only the golden bird, but his father, and the lessons he had been taught at home.
As time went on and the oldest son did not return, the second son offered to do what he could; so he set out on his way to find the golden bird. As the eldest had done, he also met a fox, who gave him the same advice, to which he paid no attention.
When he arrived at the two hotels, his brother, who was standing at one of the windows from which sounds of merriment issued, saw him pass, and called to him to come in. He could not withstand this invitation, so he entered, and was very soon, like his brother, living a life of pleasure and luxury only.
Again the time passed on, and the youngest brother, finding the others did not return, offered to go and seek for them; but his father would not give him permission.
"You are less likely to find the golden bird than your brothers," he said; "for if any misfortune should happen to them they know how to take care of themselves, and will not fail to act for the best."
But at last, as the brothers did not return, and the king became anxious, he allowed the youngest to go. At the entrance, to the wood the fox again appeared, begged to have his life spared, and offered the third brother the same advice. The youth had plenty of courage, and he said, "Make yourself quite easy, dear fox; I will do you no harm."
"Neither shall you repent of your kindness," answered the fox; "and that you may go very fast on your journey, just climb up behind on my tail."
THE FOX AIDS THE YOUNGEST BROTHER
No sooner was the youth seated than the fox began to run, and they went so fast over sticks and stones that the wind whistled through his hair. As soon as they arrived near the village the young man slipped from the fox's back, and following his good advice turned without being seen into the humblelooking inn, and remained there for the night.
The next morning he rose and went out into the fields, and there was the fox waiting for him. "I will tell you what to do next," he said when the youth appeared. "You must go straight on from here till you come to a castle, before which you will find a whole band of soldiers lying down; but do not trouble yourself about that, for they will all be asleep and snoring. So pass in between them and enter the castle, and go through all the rooms. At last you will reach a chamber in which hangs a golden bird in a wooden cage. Near it stands an empty cage, made of gold, for show; but be careful while you are taking the golden bird out of his common cage to put him into the handsome one, or he may do you some harm."
At these words the fox again stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself on it, and away they went like the wind.
As soon as they arrived at the castle the young prince found all as the fox had told him. He passed the sleeping soldiers safely, entered the castle, and walked from room to room till he reached the chamber in which hung the golden bird in its wicker cage. The gilded cage also hung close by; and on the floor lay the three golden apples which had been plucked from the king's garden while his three sons watched.
The young man felt inclined to laugh at his wonderful success when he opened the mean-looking wicker cage; but he seized the bird rather carelessly while removing it to the gilded cage, and it uttered such a heart-rending scream that the soldiers awoke. Rushing suddenly into the room, they took the king's son off to prison without allowing him to speak.
The next morning he was carried before the judge, who, when he had heard the accusation, passed sentence of death upon him. The matter, however, was laid before the king in whose castle he had found the bird, and he consented to spare the young man's life on condition that he discovered the golden horse which could run faster than the wind: and he promised that when he brought it to him he shoidd have the golden bird as a reward. The king's son agreed that he woidd do this; but when they set him free he felt very sorrowful, and sighed deeply as he went on his way.
"Where and how shall I ever be able to find this golden horse?" he said to himself. At this moment whom shoidd he see sitting by the roadside but his old friend, the fox.
"Cheer up, friend!" said the fox. "Remember, you have not heard yet what I can do. Keep up your courage: I will myself tell you how you may find the golden horse, and lead you to it. You must travel for a long way without turning right or left, till you come to a castle, in one of the stables of which the horse stands. Near the stable many grooms and stable-boys will be lying about; but they will be asleep and snoring, and you can quietly lead the golden horse out. But you must be careful to place on the horse the common saddle, made of wool