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The Little Soldier
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'Perhaps,' thought he, 'these pretty little plums may help me to recover my purse, my cloak, and my heart from the hands of this wicked Princess. She has the eyes of a deer already; let her have the horns of one. If I can manage to set her up with a pair, I will bet any money that I shall cease to want her for my wife. A horned maiden is by no means lovely to look at.' So he plaited a basket out of the long willows, and placed in it carefully both sorts of plums. Then he walked bravely on for many days, having no food but the berries by the wayside, and was in great danger from wild beasts and savage men. But he feared nothing, except that his plums should decay, and this never happened.
At last he came to a civilised country, and with the sale of some jewels that he had about him on the evening of his flight he took passage on board a vessel for the Low Countries.
So, at the end of a year and a day, he arrived at the capital of the kingdom.
The next day he put on a false beard and the dress of a date merchant, and, taking a little table, he placed himself before the door of the church.
He spread carefully out on a fine white cloth his Mirabelle plums, which looked for all the world as if they had been freshly gathered, and when he saw the Princess coming out of church he began to call out in a feigned voice: 'Fine plums! lovely plums!'
'How much are they?' said the Princess.
'Fifty crowns each.'
'Fifty crowns! But what is there so very precious about them? Do they give one wit, or will they increase one's beauty?'
'They could not increase what is perfect already, fair Princess, but still they might add something.'
Rolling stones gather no moss, but they sometimes gain polish; and the months which John had spent in roaming about the world had not been wasted.