There was once a poor woman who had a son and a daughter, both of whom she loved very much. One day the daughter went out into the fields to gather flowers. She reached over a stream to pick some Jessamine, but she had only just touched the flower when she fell into the water, and not a trace of her could be found. The poor woman wept and wept so much over the loss of her daughter that the son made up his mind to find her.
So he set out, and after many days he came upon three big boys fighting in the road. He asked them why they were fighting, and one of them said: –
“Sir, our father has just died, and has left us in his will a pair of boots, a key, and a cap. Whoever wears the boots has only to wish to find himself in any place he may want to be. The key will open every door in the world. And with the cap on your head, no one can see you.”
“Well,” said the youth, “I will throw a stone, and let us see which one of you picks it up first.”
So saying he threw a stone as far as he could. While the three brothers ran after it, he drew on the boots, seized the cap and key, and said; “Take me, boots, close to the place where I shall find my sister.”
In a moment he found himself by the sea-shore, a little way from the mouth of a dark cavern. He walked down to the sea, and there he saw a fish lying on the shore gasping for water. Taking it up, he threw it far into the sea, beyond the line of breaking waves. “If you ever want help,” cried the fish, popping his head above the water, “call out ‘Come and help me, King of the fishes,’ ” and saying he dived below the waves again.
Turning round, the young man saw a bird caught in a net. He loosened the net and set the bird free. “Thank you ,” said the bird, sitting on a rock and closing its eyes; “if ever I can help you, cry: ‘Come and help me King of the Birds,’ ” and so saying the bird spread his wings and flew into the air.
Then the youth began to look for a place in which his sister might be hidden. Stopping by the mouth of a cavern, he put his cap on so that no one could see him and said:- “Take me to my sister, boots.”
A moment later after he found himself going through a dark hole in the rock. At the far end he came to a cave, and in it he found his sister weeping. The young man took off his cap when he went into the room, and no sooner had he done this than his sister was able to see him. “Dear brother,” she cried, springing up, help me to fly from this dreadful place!”
She quickly told him how she came to be there. Reaching over the stream for a spray of Jessamine, she had just picked it, when out of the water a monster shot his hand and dragged her with him to this dark cave. Every day he asked her if she would marry him, telling her she might as well do so for he would never set her free; and that she might wait and wait as long as she liked, but though he was old he would never die.
“When the monster comes,” said the youth, “tell him that you may marry him if he will tell you how it is that he can never die.” Suddenly the cave trembled, and as the youth put the cap upon his head, the monster rushed in.
“Will you never marry me?” he cried to the girl, “or will you weep there till the end of the world?”
“I will marry you,” said the girl; “but first you must tell me why you will never die.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the monster. “You would kill me, would you? You can never do that. In an iron box, at the bottom of the sea, there is a dove. And with the dove is an egg. And to kill me you must dash the egg against my head. But first you must get the egg, and you can never do that , for you can never get to the bottom of the sea. Even if you did you would never find the box.”
And he laughed again, with a loud ha! ha!
“Now,” said he, “you must keep your promise and marry me.”
“In three days,” said the girl, “not before.”
“Very well,” growled the monster, “in three days then,” and he left the cave.
“Cheer up,” said the youth taking off his cap again, “I am now going to get the egg.”
“Take me to the sea-shore,” said the young man to his boots. When he was there, he looked over the sea, and cried: “Come and help me, King of the Fishes!” and the little fish that he had saved came swimming to the shore.
“What can I do for you?” asked the little fish. Then the young man told him that he wanted an iron box from the bottom of the sea; and the fish called up all the other fishes. The last one to come was a sardine who asked for pardon because she was late. “I hurt myself by bumping my head against an iron box,” she said. “Take the cod and the skate to bring it here,” said the King, and in a little while they bought back the box.
The young boy soon unlocked it with the magic key, and before he lifted the lid, he told the fishes to stand around and catch the white dove as she flew out. Up came the lid, and out flew the bird, away into the skies. Alas! she had taken the egg with her.
“Come to me, King of the Birds!” cried the youth. And the little bird came flying to him. They flew near, one after the another, and last of all came the little white dove, carrying a little egg in its beak.
The young man thanked all the fishes and the birds, and putting the egg in his pocket, told the boots to take him back to the cave.
There stood the monster before his sister, ordering her to make ready for the wedding. The youth put the egg into his sister’s hand, for no one, not even his sister, could see him when he wore the cap. Just as the monster went to seize her hand, she dashed the egg against his head, and he fell down dead. Holding her brother’s hand, for he had now taken off his cap, she picked up the bag of jewels that lay in the corner of the cave; and they ran out upon the sea-shore together.
Then lifting his sister in his arms, the youth told the boots to take them both back to their mother. The poor woman was full of joy at their return, and the jewels made them rich enough to live happily together for many a long day.
THE ENDThe stor