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sister of the sun.

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The word was given for him to mount the steps which led to the top of the cask, when, suddenly, some men were seen running with all their might, crying as they went that a large ship with its sails spread was making straight for the city. No one knew what the ship was, or whence it came; but the king declared that he would not have the boy burned before its arrival, there would always be time enough for that. At length the vessel was safe in port, and a whisper went through the watching crowd that on board was the Sister of the Sun, who had come to marry the young peasant as she had promised. In a few moments more she had landed, and desired to be shown the way to the cottage which her bridegroom had so often described to her; and whither he had been led back by the king's order at the first sign of the ship. 'Don't you know me?' asked the Sister of the Sun, bending over him where he lay, almost driven out of his senses with terror. 'No, no; I don't know you,' answered the youth, without raising his eyes. 'Kiss me,' said the Sister of the Sun; and the youth obeyed her, but still without looking up. 'Don't you know me NOW?' asked she. 'No, I don't know you--I don't know you,' he replied, with the manner of a man whom fear had driven mad.



At this the Sister of the Sun grew rather frightened, and beginning at the beginning, she told him the story of his meeting with her, and how she had come a long way in order to marry him. And just as she had finished in walked the king, to see if what the boy had said was really true. But hardly had he opened the door of the cottage when he was almost blinded by the light that filled it; and he remembered what he had been told about the star on the forehead of the princess. He staggered back as if he had been struck, then a curious feeling took hold of him, which he had never felt before, and falling on his knees before the Sister of the Sun, he implored her to give up all thought of the peasant boy, and to share his throne. But she laughed, and said she had a finer throne of her own, if she wanted to sit on it, and that she was free to please herself, and would have no husband but the boy whom she would never have seen except for the king himself. 'I shall marry him to-morrow,' ended she; and ordered the preparations to be set on foot at once. When the next day came, however, the bridegroom's father informed the princess that, by the law of the land, the marriage must take place in the presence of the king; but he hoped his majesty would not long delay his arrival. An hour or two passed, and everyone was waiting and watching, when at last the sound of trumpets was heard and a grand procession was seen marching up the street. A chair covered with velvet had been made ready for the king, and he took his seat upon it, and, looking round upon the assembled company, he said: 'I have no wish to forbid this marriage; but, before I can allow it to be celebrated, the bridegroom must prove himself worthy of such a bride by fulfilling three tasks. And the first is that in a single day he must cut down every tree in an entire forest. The youth stood aghast as the king's words. He had never cut down a tree in his life, and had not the least idea how to begin. And as for a whole forest--! But the princess saw what was passing in his mind, and whispered to him:



'Don't be afraid. In my ship you will find an axe, which you must carry off to the forest. When you have cut down one tree with it just say: "So let the forest fall," and in an instant all the trees will be on the ground. But pick up three chips of the tree you felled, and put them in your pocket.' And the young man did exactly as he was bid, and soon returned with the three chips safe in his coat. The following morning the princess declared that she had been thinking about the matter, and that, as she was not a subject of the king, she saw no reason why she should be bound by his laws; and she meant to be married that very day. But the bridegroom's father told her that it was all very well for her to talk like that, but it was quite different for his son, who would pay with his head for any disobedience to the king's commands. However, in consideration of what the youth had done the day before, he hoped his majesty's heart might be softened, especially as he had sent a message that they might expect him at once. With this the bridal pair had to be content, and be as patient as they could till the king's arrival. He did not keep them long, but they saw by his face that nothing good awaited them. 'The marriage cannot take place,' he said shortly, 'till the youth has joined to their roots all the trees he cut down yesterday.' This sounded much more difficult than what he had done before, and he turned in despair to the Sister of the Sun. 'It is all right,' she whispered encouragingly. 'Take this water and sprinkle it on one of the fallen trees, and say to it: "So let all the trees of the forest stand upright," and in a moment they will be erect again.'



And the young man did what he was told, and left the forest looking exactly as it had done before. Now, surely, thought the princess, there was no longer any need to put off the wedding; and she gave orders that all should be ready for the following day. But again the old man interfered, and declared that without the king's permission no marriage could take place. For the third time his majesty was sent for, and for the third time he proclaimed that he could not give his consent until the bridegroom should have slain a serpent which dwelt in a broad river that flowed at the back of the castle. Everyone knew stories of this terrible serpent, though no one had actually seen it; but from time to time a child strayed from home and never came back, and then mothers would forbid the other children to go near the river, which had juicy fruits and lovely flowers growing along its banks. So no wonder the youth trembled and turned pale when he heard what lay before him. 'You will succeed in this also,' whispered the Sister of the Sun, pressing his hand, 'for in my ship is a magic sword which will cut through everything. Go down to the river and unfasten a boat which lies moored there, and throw the chips into the water. When the serpent rears up its body you will cut off its three heads with one blow of your sword. Then take the tip of each tongue and go with it to-morrow morning into the king's kitchen. If the king himself should enter, just say to him: "Here are three gifts I offer you in return for the services you demanded of me!" and throw the tips of the serpent's tongues at him, and hasten to the ship as fast as your legs will carry you. But be sure you take great care never to look behind you.'

       



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