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'Well, they are saying that the King's son, who was turned into a
serpent by his godmother to spite his father, has met with an accident
that now threatens his life. The spell lasted for seven years, and, on
the very day it ended, he was about to marry the daughter of another
king, when her father rashly burnt the skin and thus caused him to be
turned into a dove. In flying from the palace he has cut his head
against a window-pane, and is now at his father's palace lying so sadly
hurt that none of the doctors can do anything for him.'
The Princess was greatly concerned at hearing this story.
'But listen, dear fox, and hear if the birds say whether there is any
way of curing this poor Prince,' she said.
So the fox listened intently, and by and by he said to the Princess:
'The blackbirds are saying there is no way, but the wrens say there is
one. Whoever would cure the Prince must obtain the blood from these very
birds and pour it on the head of the Prince, when he will immediately
recover and be as well as he ever was.'
The Princess began to grow hopeful, and begged of the fox to catch the
birds for her so that she might obtain the remedy and restore the Prince
to health. She added a promise of reward for his assistance, and the fox
agreed to help her.
So they waited under the trees until the sun had gone in and the birds
were all asleep in their nests, and then the fox climbed stealthily into
the trees and gathered the birds one after the other, just like a
naughty schoolboy stealing apples from a farmer's orchard.
Having obtained what she required, the Princess set forth eagerly to
carry the remedy to the Prince's palace.
But the fox, who had taken care to keep well out of her reach, suddenly
sat down and began to laugh.
'Why do you laugh, dear fox?' asked the Princess. 'Is it that you are
overjoyed to think that the Prince who is to be my husband will soon be
restored to health? But let us hurry: we may be too late!'
'No, it is not that,' said the fox, laughing again. 'It is to think that
your remedy will be of no avail without the other ingredient, which is
the blood of a fox, and as I am not minded to supply it, I will skip the
reward you promised and be off.'
Thereupon he started away, pelting as hard as he could go.
The Princess saw that her only hope was to outwit the fox, and she
immediately thought of a plan to gain her end.
'Dear fox, do not run,' she said; 'that would be a pity now that the
remedy is in our own hands. The King is certain to reward us lavishly,
and surely there are plenty of other foxes among whom we can find one
willing to spare his blood to save the King's son. Let us go on, then,
and trust to our fortune.'
The fox, proud of the fact of being the most artful animal alive, never
thought for one moment that he could be exceeded in cunning by a simple
maiden, so he came back to the Princess, and together they walked
through the forest to the far end where the palace of the King showed in
the near distance.
'That is the place,' said the fox; 'but we haven't got the other
'Oh yes, we have,' said the Princess, and, before the fox could be any
more artful, she hit him on the head with a stout branch she had picked
up, and with such force that he did not in the least object to the
necessary addition to the Prince's medicine being drawn from his own
Of course the Princess was sorry to have to do this. The fox had helped
her a great deal; and besides, she was a tender-hearted little thing,
and she wept like anything all the while she was compounding the remedy;
but princes are of more importance than foxes, particularly when they
are handsome princes who have been serpents and are wanted to make
So the Princess took the phial containing the very strange cure for
wounded heads, and proceeded straight to the King's palace.
They were all so disturbed, with the servants running about
distractedly, and the doctors quarrelling with each other, and the
courtiers standing about trying not to look bored, that no one took the
least notice of the Princess; but she was a pushing young lady, and
seeing the palace doors all open, she made her way from room to room
until at last she found the King himself.
'And it please your Majesty,' she said, dropping him a curtsy, 'I have
come to save the Prince.'
'But how can you save the Prince when all the great doctors in my
kingdom cannot?' demanded the King.
'The birds told me,
The fox helped me,
And I can save your son.
But, if I do, I ask of you
To marry me to him when I've done,'
chanted the Princess.
The King was so overcome with grief and anxiety that he was ready to
promise anything to anybody who could help him, so he gave the Princess
the required promise, and, without more ado, she caused herself to be
led into the chamber of the Prince, and poured the contents of the phial
over his wound.