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Prince and the three fates.
Start of Story
Then one of the young men ran straight to the king's palace, and said:
'The wall has been climbed, and the prize is won!'
'By whom?' cried the king, starting up from his throne; 'which of the
princes may I claim as my son-in-law?'
'The youth who succeeded in climbing to the princess's window is not a
prince at all,' answered the young man. 'He is the son of the master
of the horse to the great king who dwells across the river, and he fled
from his own country to escape from the hatred of his stepmother.'
At this news the king was very angry, for it had never entered his head
that anyone BUT a prince would seek to woo his daughter.
'Let him go back to the land whence he came,' he shouted in wrath; 'does
he expect me to give my daughter to an exile?' And he began to smash the
drinking vessels in his fury; indeed, he quite frightened the young man,
who ran hastily home to his friends, and told the youth what the king
Now the princess, who was leaning from her window, heard his words and
bade the messenger go back to the king her father and tell him that she
had sworn a vow never to eat or drink again if the youth was taken from
her. The king was more angry than ever when he received this message,
and ordered his guards to go at once to the palace and put the
successful wooer to death; but the princess threw herself between him
and his murderers.
'Lay a finger on him, and I shall be dead before sunset,' said she; and
as they saw that she meant it, they left the palace, and carried the
tale to her father.
By this time the king's anger was dying away, and he began to consider
what his people would think of him if he broke the promise he had
publicly given. So he ordered the princess to be brought before him,
and the young man also, and when they entered the throne room he was
so pleased with the noble air of the victor that his wrath quite melted
away, and he ran to him and embraced him.
'Tell me who you are?' he asked, when he had recovered himself a little,
'for I will never believe that you have not royal blood in your veins.'
But the prince still had his reasons for being silent, and only told the
same story. However, the king had taken such a fancy to the youth that
he said no more, and the marriage took place the following day, and
great herds of cattle and a large estate were given to the young couple.
After a little while the prince said to his wife: 'My life is in the
hands of three creatures--a crocodile, a serpent, and a dog.'
'Ah, how rash you are!' cried the princess, throwing her arms round his
neck. 'If you know that, how can you have that horrid beast about you? I
will give orders to have him killed at once.'
But the prince would not listen to her.
'Kill my dear little dog, who had been my playfellow since he was a
puppy?' exclaimed he. 'Oh, never would I allow that.' And all that the
princess could get from him was that he would always wear a sword, and
have somebody with him when he left the palace.
When the prince and princess had been married a few months, the prince
heard that his stepmother was dead, and his father was old and ill, and
longing to have his eldest son by his side again. The young man could
not remain deaf to such a message, and he took a tender farewell of his
wife, and set out on his journey home. It was a long way, and he was
forced to rest often on the road, and so it happened that, one night,
when he was sleeping in a city on the banks of the great river, a huge
crocodile came silently up and made its way along a passage to the
prince's room. Fortunately one of his guards woke up as it was trying
to steal past them, and shut the crocodile up in a large hall, where a
giant watched over it, never leaving the spot except during the night,
when the crocodile slept. And this went on for more than a month.
Now, when the prince found that he was not likely to leave his father's
kingdom again, he sent for his wife, and bade the messenger tell her
that he would await her coming in the town on the banks of the great
river. This was the reason why he delayed his journey so long, and
narrowly escaped being eaten by the crocodile. During the weeks that
followed the prince amused himself as best he could, though he counted
the minutes to the arrival of the princess, and when she did come, he at
once prepared to start for the court. That very night, however, while he
was asleep, the princess noticed something strange in one of the corners
of the room. It was a dark patch, and seemed, as she looked, to grow
longer and longer, and to be moving slowly towards the cushions on
which the prince was lying. She shrank in terror, but, slight as was the
noise, the thing heard it, and raised its head to listen. Then she saw
it was the long flat head of a serpent, and the recollection of the
prophecy rushed into her mind. Without waking her husband, she glided
out of bed, and taking up a heavy bowl of milk which stood on a table,
laid it on the floor in the path of the serpent--for she knew that no
serpent in the world can resist milk. She held her breath as the snake
drew near, and watched it throw up its head again as if it was smelling
something nice, while its forky tongue darted out greedily. At length
its eyes fell upon the milk, and in an instant it was lapping it so fast
that it was a wonder the creature did not choke, for it never took
its head from the bowl as long as a drop was left in it. After that it
dropped on the ground and slept heavily. This was what the princess had
been waiting for, and catching up her husband's sword, she severed the
snake's head from its body.