Page images

can easily carry her away; but on no account allow her to stay to say farewell to her parents. If you do so, evil will befall you.” Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself upon it, and away they went like the wind.

When he came near the castle he found everything as the fox had described. He waited till midnight, when every one slept, and then, as he heard the footsteps of the beautiful young princess coming toward the bath, he hid himself till she came near, when he sprang out and gave her a kiss. She was terribly frightened, but he talked gently to her, and after a while she promised to go away with him if he would only allow her to take leave of her parents. He refused at first, but she prayed and wept piteously, and fell at his feet, begging him to grant her request, so that at last he could not withstand her tears, and gave his consent.

No sooner, however, had the young maiden entered her parents' chamber than every inhabitant of the golden castle awoke; the servants went out, found the young man, and took him prisoner.

The next morning the king of the golden castle sent for him and said, “Your life is forfeited, and you can only obtain pardon by removing that mountain which lies before my window, and over which I cannot see the distant country; and this task must be finished in eight days. If you succeed, then you shall have my daughter as a reward.”

The king's son went out directly and began digging and shoveling with all his might. Night and day he worked without any success; all he did seemed lost, and when the seventh day arrived he gave up hope, and was overcome with sorrow.


On the evening of the seventh day the fox presented himself to the mourner. “You do not deserve that I should take any notice of you,” he said; "but go away now and get a little sleep. I will finish your task for you.”

The next morning, when they all arose and looked out of the window, the mountain had vanished.

The young man hastened, full of joy, to the king, and informed him that he had completed the condition imposed upon him. The king, therefore, whether he would or not, was obliged to keep his word and give him his daughter.

Then the two went out together to find the fox, and they did not wait long before the faithful animal made his appearance.

“This is, indeed, the best of your performances,” said the fox; “but remember that the golden horse belongs to the young lady of the golden castle!”

“How am I to get it?" asked the prince.

"I will tell you this also,” he replied. “First take the beautiful princess to the king who sent you to the golden castle; he will be so overjoyed that he will at once give you the golden horse, as he promised. When the horse is brought to the door, hold out your hand to every one present to say farewell, and leave the princess till the last. Then, as soon as you take her hand to wish her good-bye, hold it fast, and with a spring lift her on your horse, and ride away with her. None of those who stand by you will attempt to overtake you, for the golden horse runs swifter than the wind.”

All this happily came to pass, and the young prince galloped off with the beautiful maiden far away from all pursuers.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]


But the fox was not far behind when they stopped, so he came up to them and said, “Now I will help you to get the golden bird. When you approach the castle where it is concealed, you must leave the young lady under my protection and ride into the castle court with your golden horse. They will all be so delighted at seeing the beautiful animal that they will bring out the golden bird to you; and as soon as you have the cage in your hand, then ride back to us and fetch the beautiful princess.”

Everything happened as they expected, and the king's son, lifting the young maiden on the horse, was quite ready to ride home with his treasures.

“And now,” said the fox, “what reward am I to have for my assistance to you?”

“What do you wish for?” asked the young man. “I wish,” he replied, “that when you reach the wood where you first saw me, you will shoot me dead and cut off my head and feet.”

“That would indeed be a pleasant way of showing my gratitude," said the king's son; “but it is an impossibility for me to do so.”

"Then,” replied the fox, “if you will not do it, I must leave you here; but before I go I will once more give you good advice. For two miles be very careful of yourselves; on no account sit on the edge of a well, and do not buy gallows meat.” After saying these words the fox ran away into the wood.

“What a wonderful animal that is!” said the young man to himself, “and what curious, strange whims he has! Who ever would think of buying gallows flesh? and the wish to sit on the edge of a well would never occur to me.”

So he rode away with the beautiful princess. The road led him through the village in which his two brothers were staying, and on arriving there he heard a great noise, and saw the people running about. Upon inquiring what was the matter he was told that two people were going to be hung; and as he drew nearer he saw that they were his two brothers, who had committed all sorts of wicked actions, and wasted and spent all their property.

Eagerly he asked if he could not set them free and save them.

“If you will pay a ransom for them you can,” answered the crowd; “but why should you give your gold for two wicked men who deserve to be hung?”

But the younger brother did not listen to this; he paid the ransom for them, set them free, and told them to travel home with him.

When they reached the wood where each of them had first met the fox, it was so cool and pleasant, and so sheltered from the burning sun, that the elder brothers said, “Let us stay here and rest for a time, while we take something to eat and drink.” The younger brother was quite willing; he alighted from his horse, and when one of them asked him to sit on the brink of the well with him he readily consented, quite forgetting the warning and his promise to the fox. He had scarcely seated himself, when his two brothers suddenly turned upon him and pushed him backward into the well.

Then they started up, took possession of the young princess, the golden horse, and the golden bird, and traveled quickly home to their father.

“We have brought home not only the golden bird,” they said, “but the golden horse and the young princess from the golden castle, as booty.”

There was great rejoicing over their arrival at first; but it caused much anxiety when it was found that the horse would not eat, the bird would not sing, and the young maiden only sat and wept.

The younger brother, however, was not dead. Fortunately the well was dry, and he fell on the soft moss without receiving the least injury. He could not, however, get out without help, and help was at hand, for in his trouble the did not forsake him. He came to the well, and, after looking over, he jumped down to him and began to scold him well for having forgotten his advice.

“I cannot, however, leave you here,” he said; “I will help you again into the daylight.”

So he told the young man to lay hold tightly by his tail, and then the fox climbed up and dragged

« PreviousContinue »