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from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - THE OLD FAIRY TALES





BY THE BROTHERS GRIMM


There were once a man and a woman who wished very much to have a little
child. Now, these people had a small window in their cottage which
looked out into a beautiful garden full of the most lovely flowers and
vegetables. There was a high wall round it, but even had there not been
no one would have ventured to enter the garden, because it belonged to
a sorceress, whose power was so great that every one feared her.

One day the woman stood at the window looking into the garden, and she
saw a bed which was planted full of most beautiful lettuces. As she
looked at them she began to wish she had some to eat, but she could not
ask for them.

Day after day her wish for these lettuces grew stronger, and the
knowledge that she could not get them so worried her that at last
she became so pale and thin that her husband was quite alarmed.

"What is the matter with you, dear wife?" he asked one day.

"Ah!" she said, "if I do not have some of that nice lettuce which grows
in the garden behind our house, I feel that I shall die."

The husband, who loved his wife dearly, said to himself: "Rather than
my wife should die, I will get some of this lettuce for her, cost what
it may."

So in the evening twilight he climbed over the wall into the garden of
the Witch, hastily gathered a handful of the lettuces, and brought
them to his wife. She made a salad, and ate it with great eagerness.


It pleased her so much and tasted so good that, after two or three days
had passed, she gave her husband no rest till he promised to get her
some more. So again in the evening twilight he climbed the wall, but as
he slid down into the garden on the other side he was terribly alarmed
at seeing the Witch standing near him.

"How came you here?" she said with a fierce look. "You have climbed
over the wall into my garden like a thief and stolen my lettuces; you
shall pay dearly for this!"

"Ah!" replied the poor man, "let me entreat for mercy; I have only
taken it in a case of extreme need. My wife has seen your lettuces from
her window, and she wished for them so much that she said she should
die if she could not have some of them to eat."

Then the Witch's anger cooled a little, and she replied: "If what you
tell me is true, then I will give you full permission to take as many
lettuces as you like, on one condition: you must give up to me the
child which your wife may bring into the world. I will be very kind to
it, and be as careful of it as a mother could be."

The husband in his alarm promised everything the Witch asked, and took
away with him as many lettuces as his wife wanted.

Not many weeks after this the wife became the mother of a beautiful
little girl, and in a short time the Witch appeared and claimed her
according to the husband's promise. Thus they were obliged to give up
their child, which she took away with her directly, and gave her the
name of Letitia, but she was always called Lettice, after the name of
the vegetable which grew in the garden.

Lettice was the most beautiful child under the sun, and as soon as
she reached the age of twelve years the Witch locked her up in a tower
that stood in a forest, and this tower had no steps, nor any entrance,
excepting a little window. When the Witch, wished to visit Lettice, she
would place herself under this window and sing:

"Lettice, Lettice, let down your hair,
That I may climb without a stair."

Lettice had the most long and beautiful hair like spun-gold; and when
she heard the voice of the Witch she would unbind her golden locks and
let them fall loose over the window sill, from which they hung down to
such a length that the Witch could draw herself up by them into the
tower.

Two years passed in this manner, when it happened one day that the
King's son rode through the forest. While passing near the tower he
heard such a lovely song that he could not help stopping to listen. It
was Lettice, who tried to lighten her solitude by the sound of her own
sweet voice.

The King's son was very eager to obtain a glimpse of the singer, but he
sought in vain for a door to the tower; there was not one to be found.

So he rode home, but the song had made such an impression on his heart
that he went daily into the forest to listen. Once, while he stood
behind a tree, he saw the Witch approach the tower, and heard her say:

"Lettice, Lettice, let down your hair,
That I may climb without a stair."

Presently he saw a quantity of long golden hair hanging down low over
the window sill, and the Witch climbing up by it.

"Oh!" said the young Prince, "if that is the ladder on which persons
can mount and enter, I will take the first opportunity of trying my
luck that way."

So on the following day, as it began to grow dark, he placed himself
under the window, and cried:

"Lettice, Lettice, let down your hair,
That I may climb without a stair."

Immediately the hair fell over the window, and the young Prince quickly
climbed up and entered the room where the young maiden lived.

Lettice was dreadfully frightened at seeing a strange man come into the
room through the window; but the King's son looked at her with such
friendly eyes, and began to converse with her so kindly, that she soon
lost all fear.

He told her that he had heard her singing, and that her song had
excited such a deep emotion in his heart that he could not rest till he
had seen her. On hearing this Lettice ceased to fear him, and they
talked together for some time, till at length the Prince asked her if
she would take him for a husband. For a time she hesitated, although
she saw that he was young and handsome, and he had told her he was a
prince.

At last she said to herself: "He will certainly love me better than old
Mother Grethel does." So she placed her hand in his, and said: "I would
willingly go with you and be your wife, but I do not know in the least
how to get away from this place. Unless," she added, after a pause,
"you will bring me every day some strong silk cord; then I will weave
a ladder of it, and when it is finished I will descend upon it, and you
shall take me away on your horse."

The Prince readily agreed to this, and promised to come and see her
every evening till the ladder was finished, for the old Witch always
came in the daytime.

The Witch had never seen the Prince; she knew nothing of his visits
till one day Lettice said innocently: "I shall not have such a heavy
weight as you to draw up much longer, Mother Grethel, for the King's
son is coming very soon to fetch me away."

"You wicked child!" cried the Witch; "what do I hear you say? I thought
I had hidden you from all the world, and now you have betrayed me!" In
her wrath she caught hold of Lettice's beautiful hair, and struck her
several times with her left hand. Then she seized a pair of scissors
and cut Lettice's hair, while the beautiful locks, glistening like
gold, fell to the ground. And she was so hard-hearted after this that
she dragged poor Lettice out into the forest, to a wild and desert
place, and left her there in sorrow and great distress.

On the same day on which the poor maiden had been exiled the Witch tied
the locks of hair which she had cut off poor Lettice's golden head into
a kind of tail, and hung it over the window sill.

In the evening the Prince came and cried:

"Lettice, Lettice, let down your hair,
That I may climb without a stair."

Then the Witch let the hair down, and the King's son climbed up; but at
the open window he found not his dear Lettice, but a wicked witch who
looked at him with cruel and malicious eyes.

"Ah!" she cried with a sneer, "you are come to fetch your loving bride,
I suppose; but the beautiful bird has flown from the nest, and will
never sing any more. The cat has fetched it away, and she intends also
to scratch your eyes out. To thee is Lettice lost; thou wilt never
behold her again!"

The Prince felt almost out of his mind with grief as he heard this, and
in his despair he sprang out of the tower window and fell among the
thorns and brambles beneath. He certainly escaped with his life, but
the thorns stuck into his eyes and blinded them. After this he wandered
about the wood for days, eating only wild roots and berries, and did
nothing but lament and weep for the loss of his beloved bride.

So wandered he for a whole year in misery, till at last he came upon
the desert place where Lettice had been banished and lived in her
sorrow.

As he drew near he heard a voice which he seemed to recognize, and
advancing toward the sound came within sight of Lettice, who recognized
him at once, with tears. Two of her tears fell on his eyes, and so
healed and cleared them of the injury done by the thorns that he could
soon see as well as ever. Then he traveled with her to his kingdom, and
she became his wife, and the remainder of their days were spent in
happiness and content.





Next: Snow-white And Rose-red

Previous: Rumpelstiltskin



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