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The Fairy Of The Dawn

from The Violet Fairy Book

Once upon a time what should happen DID happen; and if it had not
happened this tale would never have been told.

There was once an emperor, very great and mighty, and he ruled
over an empire so large that no one knew where it began and where
it ended. But if nobody could tell the exact extent of his
sovereignty everybody was aware that the emperor's right eye
laughed, while his left eye wept. One or two men of valour had
the courage to go and ask him the reason of this strange fact,
but he only laughed and said nothing; and the reason of the
deadly enmity between his two eyes was a secret only known to the
monarch himself.

And all the while the emperor's sons were growing up. And such
sons! All three like the morning stars in the sky!

Florea, the eldest, was so tall and broad-shouldered that no man
in the kingdom could approach him.

Costan, the second, was quite different. Small of stature, and
slightly built, he had a strong arm and stronger wrist.

Petru, the third and youngest, was tall and thin, more like a
girl than a boy. He spoke very little, but laughed and sang,
sang and laughed, from morning till night. He was very seldom
serious, but then he had a way when he was thinking of stroking
his hair over his forehead, which made him look old enough to sit
in his father's council!

'You are grown up, Florea,' said Petru one day to his eldest
brother; 'do go and ask father why one eye laughs and the other

But Florea would not go. He had learnt by experience that this
question always put the emperor in a rage.

Petru next went to Costan, but did not succeed any better with

'Well, well, as everyone else is afraid, I suppose I must do it
myself,' observed Petru at length. No sooner said than done; the
boy went straight to his father and put his question.

'May you go blind!' exclaimed the emperor in wrath; 'what
business is it of yours?' and boxed Petru's ears soundly.

Petru returned to his brothers, and told them what had befallen
him; but not long after it struck him that his father's left eye
seemed to weep less, and the right to laugh more.

'I wonder if it has anything to do with my question,' thought he.

'I'll try again! After all, what do two boxes on the ear

So he put his question for the second time, and had the same
answer; but the left eye only wept now and then, while the right
eye looked ten years younger.

'It really MUST be true,' thought Petru. 'Now I know what I have
to do. I shall have to go on putting that question, and getting
boxes on the ear, till both eyes laugh together.'

No sooner said than done. Petru never, never forswore himself.

'Petru, my dear boy,' cried the emperor, both his eyes laughing
together, 'I see you have got this on the brain. Well, I will
let you into the secret. My right eye laughs when I look at my
three sons, and see how strong and handsome you all are, and the
other eye weeps because I fear that after I die you will not be
able to keep the empire together, and to protect it from its
enemies. But if you can bring me water from the spring of the
Fairy of the Dawn, to bathe my eyes, then they will laugh for
evermore; for I shall know that my sons are brave enough to
overcome any foe.'

Thus spoke the emperor, and Petru picked up his hat and went to
find his brothers.

The three young men took counsel together, and talked the subject
well over, as brothers should do. And the end of it was that
Florea, as the eldest, went to the stables, chose the best and
handsomest horse they contained, saddled him, and took leave of
the court.

'I am starting at once,' said he to his brothers, 'and if after a
year, a month, a week, and a day I have not returned with the
water from the spring of the Fairy of the Dawn, you, Costan, had
better come after me.' So saying he disappeared round a corner
of the palace.

For three days and three nights he never drew rein. Like a
spirit the horse flew over mountains and valleys till he came to
the borders of the empire. Here was a deep, deep trench that
girdled it the whole way round, and there was only a single
bridge by which the trench could be crossed. Florea made
instantly for the bridge, and there pulled up to look around him
once more, to take leave of his native land Then he turned, but
before him was standing a dragon--oh! SUCH a dragon!--a dragon
with three heads and three horrible faces, all with their mouths
wide open, one jaw reaching to heaven and the other to earth.

At this awful sight Florea did not wait to give battle. He put
spurs to his horse and dashed off, WHERE he neither knew nor

The dragon heaved a sigh and vanished without leaving a trace
behind him.

A week went by. Florea did not return home. Two passed; and
nothing was heard of him. After a month Costan began to haunt
the stables and to look out a horse for himself. And the moment
the year, the month, the week, and the day were over Costan
mounted his horse and took leave of his youngest brother.

'If I fail, then you come,' said he, and followed the path that
Florea had taken.

The dragon on the bridge was more fearful and his three heads
more terrible than before, and the young hero rode away still
faster than his brother had done.

Nothing more was heard either of him or Florea; and Petru
remained alone.

'I must go after my brothers,' said Petru one day to his father.

'Go, then,' said his father, 'and may you have better luck than
they'; and he bade farewell to Petru, who rode straight to the
borders of the kingdom.

The dragon on the bridge was yet more dreadful than the one
Florea and Costan had seen, for this one had seven heads instead
of only three.

Petru stopped for a moment when he caught sight of this terrible
creature. Then he found his voice.

'Get out of the way!' cried he. 'Get out of the way!' he
repeated again, as the dragon did not move. 'Get out of the
way!' and with this last summons he drew his sword and rushed
upon him. In an instant the heavens seemed to darken round him
and he was surrounded by fire--fire to right of him, fire to left
of him, fire to front of him, fire to rear of him; nothing but
fire whichever way he looked, for the dragon's seven heads were
vomiting flame.

The horse neighed and reared at the horrible sight, and Petru
could not use the sword he had in readiness.

'Be quiet! this won't do!' he said, dismounting hastily, but
holding the bridle firmly in his left hand and grasping his sword
in his right.

But even so he got on no better, for he could see nothing but
fire and smoke.

'There is no help for it; I must go back and get a better horse,'
said he, and mounted again and rode homewards.

At the gate of the palace his nurse, old Birscha, was waiting for
him eagerly.

'Ah, Petru, my son, I knew you would have to come back,' she
cried. 'You did not set about the matter properly.'

'How ought I to have set about it?' asked Petru, half angrily,
half sadly.

'Look here, my boy,' replied old Birscha. 'You can never reach
the spring of the Fairy of the Dawn unless you ride the horse
which your father, the emperor, rode in his youth. Go and ask
where it is to be found, and then mount it and be off with you.'

Petru thanked her heartily for her advice, and went at once to
make inquiries about the horse.

'By the light of my eyes!' exclaimed the emperor when Petru had
put his question. 'Who has told you anything about that? It
must have been that old witch of a Birscha? Have you lost your
wits? Fifty years have passed since I was young, and who knows
where the bones of my horse may be rotting, or whether a scrap of
his reins still lie in his stall? I have forgotten all about
him long ago.'

Petru turned away in anger, and went back to his old nurse.

'Do not be cast down,' she said with a smile; 'if that is how the
affair stands all will go well. Go and fetch the scrap of the
reins; I shall soon know what must be done.'

The place was full of saddles, bridles, and bits of leather.
Petru picked out the oldest, and blackest, and most decayed pair
of reins, and brought them to the old woman, who murmured
something over them and sprinkled them with incense, and held
them out to the young man.

'Take the reins,' said she, 'and strike them violently against
the pillars of the house.'

Petru did what he was told, and scarcely had the reins touched
the pillars when something happened-- HOW I have no idea--that
made Petru stare with surprise. A horse stood before him--a
horse whose equal in beauty the world had never seen; with a
saddle on him of gold and precious stones, and with such a
dazzling bridle you hardly dared to look at it, lest you should
lose your sight. A splendid horse, a splendid saddle, and a
splendid bridle, all ready for the splendid young prince!

'Jump on the back of the brown horse,' said the old woman, and
she turned round and went into the house.

The moment Petru was seated on the horse he felt his arm three
times as strong as before, and even his heart felt braver.

'Sit firmly in the saddle, my lord, for we have a long way to go
and no time to waste,' said the brown horse, and Petru soon saw
that they were riding as no man and horse had ever ridden before.

On the bridge stood a dragon, but not the same one as he had
tried to fight with, for this dragon had twelve heads, each more
hideous and shooting forth more terrible flames than the other.
But, horrible though he was, he had met his match. Petru showed
no fear, but rolled up his sleeves, that his arms might be free.

'Get out of the way!' he said when he had done, but the dragon's
heads only breathed forth more flames and smoke. Petru wasted no
more words, but drew his sword and prepared to throw himself on
the bridge.

'Stop a moment; be careful, my lord,' put in the horse, 'and be
sure you do what I tell you. Dig your spurs in my body up to the
rowel, draw your sword, and keep yourself ready, for we shall
have to leap over both bridge and dragon. When you see that we
are right above the dragon cut off his biggest head, wipe the
blood off the sword, and put it back clean in the sheath before
we touch earth again.'

So Petru dug in his spurs, drew his sword, cut of the head, wiped
the blood, and put the sword back in the sheath before the
horse's hoofs touched the ground again.

And in this fashion they passed the bridge.

'But we have got to go further still,' said Petru, after he had
taken a farewell glance at his native land.

'Yes, forwards,' answered the horse; 'but you must tell me, my
lord, at what speed you wish to go. Like the wind? Like
thought? Like desire? or like a curse?'

Petru looked about him, up at the heavens and down again to the
earth. A desert lay spread out before him, whose aspect made his
hair stand on end.

'We will ride at different speeds,' said he, 'not so fast as to
grow tired nor so slow as to waste time.'

And so they rode, one day like the wind, the next like thought,
the third and fourth like desire and like a curse, till they
reached the borders of the desert.

'Now walk, so that I may look about, and see what I have never
seen before,' said Petru, rubbing his eyes like one who wakes
from sleep, or like him who beholds something so strange that it
seems as if . . . Before Petru lay a wood made of copper, with
copper trees and copper leaves, with bushes and flowers of copper

Petru stood and stared as a man does when he sees something that
he has never seen, and of which he has never heard.

Then he rode right into the wood. On each side of the way the
rows of flowers began to praise Petru, and to try and persuade
him to pick some of them and make himself a wreath.

'Take me, for I am lovely, and can give strength to whoever
plucks me,' said one.

'No, take me, for whoever wears me in his hat will be loved by
the most beautiful woman in the world,' pleaded the second; and
then one after another bestirred itself, each more charming than
the last, all promising, in soft sweet voices, wonderful things
to Petru, if only he would pick them.

Petru was not deaf to their persuasion, and was just stooping to
pick one when the horse sprang to one side.

'Why don't you stay still?' asked Petru roughly.

'Do not pick the flowers; it will bring you bad luck; answered
the horse.

'Why should it do that?'

'These flowers are under a curse. Whoever plucks them must fight
the Welwa[1] of the woods.'

[1] A goblin.

'What kind of a goblin is the Welwa?'

'Oh, do leave me in peace! But listen. Look at the flowers as
much as you like, but pick none,' and the horse walked on slowly.

Petru knew by experience that he would do well to attend to the
horse's advice, so he made a great effort and tore his mind away
from the flowers.

But in vain! If a man is fated to be unlucky, unlucky he will
be, whatever he may do!

The flowers went on beseeching him, and his heart grew ever
weaker and weaker.

'What must come will come,' said Petru at length; 'at any rate I
shall see the Welwa of the woods, what she is like, and which way
I had best fight her. If she is ordained to be the cause of my
death, well, then it will be so; but if not I shall conquer her
though she were twelve hundred Welwas,' and once more he stooped
down to gather the flowers.

'You have done very wrong,' said the horse sadly. 'But it can't
be helped now. Get yourself ready for battle, for here is the

Hardly had he done speaking, scarcely had Petru twisted his
wreath, when a soft breeze arose on all sides at once. Out of
the breeze came a storm wind, and the storm wind swelled and
swelled till everything around was blotted out in darkness, and
darkness covered them as with a thick cloak, while the earth
swayed and shook under their feet.

'Are you afraid?' asked the horse, shaking his mane.

'Not yet,' replied Petru stoutly, though cold shivers were
running down his back. 'What must come will come, whatever it

'Don't be afraid,' said the horse. 'I will help you. Take the
bridle from my neck, and try to catch the Welwa with it.'

The words were hardly spoken, and Petru had no time even to
unbuckle the bridle, when the Welwa herself stood before him; and
Petru could not bear to look at her, so horrible was she.

She had not exactly a head, yet neither was she without one. She
did not fly through the air, but neither did she walk upon the
earth. She had a mane like a horse, horns like a deer, a face
like a bear, eyes like a polecat; while her body had something of
each. And that was the Welwa.

Petru planted himself firmly in his stirrups, and began to lay
about him with his sword, but could feel nothing.

A day and a night went by, and the fight was still undecided, but
at last the Welwa began to pant for breath.

'Let us wait a little and rest,' gasped she.

Petru stopped and lowered his sword.

'You must not stop an instant,' said the horse, and Petru
gathered up all his strength, and laid about him harder than

The Welwa gave a neigh like a horse and a howl like a wolf, and
threw herself afresh on Petru. For another day and night the
battle raged more furiously than before. And Petru grew so
exhausted he could scarcely move his arm.

'Let us wait a little and rest,' cried the Welwa for the second
time, 'for I see you are as weary as I am.'

'You must not stop an instant,' said the horse.

And Petru went on fighting, though he barely had strength to move
his arm. But the Welwa had ceased to throw herself upon him, and
began to deliver her blows cautiously, as if she had no longer
power to strike.

And on the third day they were still fighting, but as the morning
sky began to redden Petru somehow managed--how I cannot tell--to
throw the bridle over the head of the tired Welwa. In a moment,
from the Welwa sprang a horse--the most beautiful horse in the

'Sweet be your life, for you have delivered me from my
enchantment,' said he, and began to rub his nose against his
brother's. And he told Petru all his story, and how he had been
bewitched for many years.

So Petru tied the Welwa to his own horse and rode on. Where did
he ride? That I cannot tell you, but he rode on fast till he
got out of the copper wood.

'Stay still, and let me look about, and see what I never have
seen before,' said Petru again to his horse. For in front of him
stretched a forest that was far more wonderful, as it was made of
glistening trees and shining flowers. It was the silver wood.

As before, the flowers began to beg the young man to gather them.

'Do not pluck them,' warned the Welwa, trotting beside him, 'for
my brother is seven times stronger than I'; but though Petru knew
by experience what this meant, it was no use, and after a
moment's hesitation he began to gather the flowers, and to twist
himself a wreath.

Then the storm wind howled louder, the earth trembled more
violently, and the night grew darker, than the first time, and
the Welwa of the silver wood came rushing on with seven times the
speed of the other. For three days and three nights they fought,
but at last Petru cast the bridle over the head of the second

'Sweet be your life, for you have delivered me from enchantment,'
said the second Welwa, and they all journeyed on as before.

But soon they came to a gold wood more lovely far than the other
two, and again Petru's companions pleaded with him to ride
through it quickly, and to leave the flowers alone. But Petru
turned a deaf ear to all they said, and before he had woven his
golden crown he felt that something terrible, that he could not
see, was coming near him right out of the earth. He drew his
sword and made himself ready for the fight. 'I will die!' cried
he, 'or he shall have my bridle over his head.'

He had hardly said the words when a thick fog wrapped itself
around him, and so thick was it that he could not see his own
hand, or hear the sound of his voice. For a day and a night he
fought with his sword, without ever once seeing his enemy, then
suddenly the fog began to lighten. By dawn of the second day it
had vanished altogether, and the sun shone brightly in the
heavens. It seemed to Petru that he had been born again.

And the Welwa? She had vanished.

'You had better take breath now you can, for the fight will have
to begin all over again,' said the horse.

'What was it?' asked Petru.

'It was the Welwa,' replied the horse, 'changed into a fog
'Listen! She is coming!'

And Petru had hardly drawn a long breath when he felt something
approaching from the side, though what he could not tell. A
river, yet not a river, for it seemed not to flow over the earth,
but to go where it liked, and to leave no trace of its passage.

'Woe be to me!' cried Petru, frightened at last.

'Beware, and never stand still,' called the brown horse, and more
he could not say, for the water was choking him.

The battle began anew. For a day and a night Petru fought on,
without knowing at whom or what he struck. At dawn on the
second, he felt that both his feet were lame.

'Now I am done for,' thought he, and his blows fell thicker and
harder in his desperation. And the sun came out and the water
disappeared, without his knowing how or when.

'Take breath,' said the horse, 'for you have no time to lose.
The Welwa will return in a moment.'

Petru made no reply, only wondered how, exhausted as he was, he
should ever be able to carry on the fight. But he settled
himself in his saddle, grasped his sword, and waited.

And then something came to him--WHAT I cannot tell you. Perhaps,
in his dreams, a man may see a creature which has what it has not
got, and has not got what it has. At least, that was what the
Welwa seemed like to Petru. She flew with her feet, and walked
with her wings; her head was in her back, and her tail was on top
of her body; her eyes were in her neck, and her neck in her
forehead, and how to describe her further I do not know.

Petru felt for a moment as if he was wrapped in a garment of
fear; then he shook himself and took heart, and fought as he had
never yet fought before.

As the day wore on, his strength began to fail, and when darkness
fell he could hardly keep his eyes open. By midnight he knew he
was no longer on his horse, but standing on the ground, though he
could not have told how he got there. When the grey light of
morning came, he was past standing on his feet, but fought now
upon his knees.

'Make one more struggle; it is nearly over now,' said the horse,
seeing that Petru's strength was waning fast.

Petru wiped the sweat from his brow with his gauntlet, and with a
desperate effort rose to his feet.

'Strike the Welwa on the mouth with the bridle,' said the horse,
and Petru did it.

The Welwa uttered a neigh so loud that Petru thought he would be
deaf for life, and then, though she too was nearly spent, flung
herself upon her enemy; but Petru was on the watch and threw the
bridle over her head, as she rushed on, so that when the day
broke there were three horses trotting beside him.

'May your wife be the most beautiful of women,' said the Welwa,
'for you have delivered me from my enchantment.' So the four
horses galloped fast, and by nightfall they were at the borders
of the golden forest.

Then Petru began to think of the crowns that he wore, and what
they had cost him.

'After all, what do I want with so many? I will keep the best,'
he said to himself; and taking off first the copper crown and
then the silver, he threw them away.

'Stay!' cried the horse, 'do not throw them away! Perhaps we
shall find them of use. Get down and pick them up.' So Petru
got down and picked them up, and they all went on.

In the evening, when the sun is getting low, and all the midges
are beginning to bite, Peter saw a wide heath stretching before

At the same instant the horse stood still of itself.

'What is the matter?' asked Petru.

'I am afraid that something evil will happen to us,' answered the

'But why should it?'

'We are going to enter the kingdom of the goddess Mittwoch,[2]
and the further we ride into it the colder we shall get. But all
along the road there are huge fires, and I dread lest you should
stop and warm yourself at them.'

[2] In German 'Mittwoch,' the feminine form of Mercury.

'And why should I not warm myself?'

'Something fearful will happen to you if you do,' replied the
horse sadly.

'Well, forward!' cried Petru lightly, 'and if I have to bear
cold, I must bear it!'

With every step they went into the kingdom of Mittwoch, the air
grew colder and more icy, till even the marrow in their bones was
frozen. But Petru was no coward; the fight he had gone through
had strengthened his powers of endurance, and he stood the test

Along the road on each side were great fires, with men standing
by them, who spoke pleasantly to Petru as he went by, and invited
him to join them. The breath froze in his mouth, but he took no
notice, only bade his horse ride on the faster.

How long Petru may have waged battle silently with the cold one
cannot tell, for everybody knows that the kingdom of Mittwoch is
not to be crossed in a day, but he struggled on, though the
frozen rocks burst around, and though his teeth chattered, and
even his eyelids were frozen.

At length they reached the dwelling of Mittwoch herself, and,
jumping from his horse, Petru threw the reins over his horse's
neck and entered the hut.

'Good-day, little mother!' said he.

'Very well, thank you, my frozen friend!'

Petru laughed, and waited for her to speak.

'You have borne yourself bravely,' went on the goddess, tapping
him on the shoulder. 'Now you shall have your reward,' and she
opened an iron chest, out of which she took a little box.

'Look!' said she; 'this little box has been lying here for ages,
waiting for the man who could win his way through the Ice
Kingdom. Take it, and treasure it, for some day it may help you.

If you open it, it will tell you anything you want, and give you
news of your fatherland.'

Petru thanked her gratefully for her gift, mounted his horse, and
rode away.

When he was some distance from the hut, he opened the casket.

'What are your commands?' asked a voice inside.

'Give me news of my father,' he replied, rather nervously.

'He is sitting in council with his nobles,' answered the casket.

'Is he well?'

'Not particularly, for he is furiously angry.'

'What has angered him?'

'Your brothers Costan and Florea,' replied the casket. 'It seems
to me they are trying to rule him and the kingdom as well, and
the old man says they are not fit to do it.'

'Push on, good horse, for we have no time to lose!' cried Petru;
then he shut up the box, and put it in his pocket.

They rushed on as fast as ghosts, as whirlwinds, as vampires when
they hunt at midnight, and how long they rode no man can tell,
for the way is far.

'Stop! I have some advice to give you,' said the horse at last.

'What is it?' asked Petru.

'You have known what it is to suffer cold; you will have to
endure heat, such as you have never dreamed of. Be as brave now
as you were then. Let no one tempt you to try to cool yourself,
or evil will befall you.'

'Forwards!' answered Petru. 'Do not worry yourself. If I have
escaped without being frozen, there is no chance of my melting.'

'Why not? This is a heat that will melt the marrow in your
bones--a heat that is only to be felt in the kingdom of the
Goddess of Thunder.'[3]

[3] In the German 'Donnerstag'--the day of the Thunder God, i.e.

And it WAS hot. The very iron of the horse's shoes began to
melt, but Petru gave no heed. The sweat ran down his face, but
he dried it with his gauntlet. What heat could be he never knew
before, and on the way, not a stone's throw from the road, lay
the most delicious valleys, full of shady trees and bubbling
streams. When Petru looked at them his heart burned within him,
and his mouth grew parched. And standing among the flowers were
lovely maidens who called to him in soft voices, till he had to
shut his eyes against their spells.

'Come, my hero, come and rest; the heat will kill you,' said

Petru shook his head and said nothing, for he had lost the power
of speech.

Long he rode in this awful state, how long none can tell.
Suddenly the heat seemed to become less, and, in the distance, he
saw a little hut on a hill. This was the dwelling of the Goddess
of Thunder, and when he drew rein at her door the goddess herself
came out to meet him.

She welcomed him, and kindly invited him in, and bade him tell
her all his adventures. So Petru told her all that had happened
to him, and why he was there, and then took farewell of her, as
he had no time to lose. 'For,' he said, 'who knows how far the
Fairy of the Dawn may yet be?'

'Stay for one moment, for I have a word of advice to give you.
You are about to enter the kingdom of Venus;[4] go and tell her,
as a message from me, that I hope she will not tempt you to
delay. On your way back, come to me again, and I will give you
something that may be of use to you.'

[4] 'Vineri ' is Friday, and also 'Venus.'

So Petru mounted his horse, and had hardly ridden three steps
when he found himself in a new country. Here it was neither hot
nor cold, but the air was warm and soft like spring, though the
way ran through a heath covered with sand and thistles.

'What can that be?' asked Petru, when he saw a long, long way
off, at the very end of the heath, something resembling a house.

'That is the house of the goddess Venus,' replied the horse, 'and
if we ride hard we may reach it before dark'; and he darted off
like an arrow, so that as twilight fell they found themselves
nearing the house. Petru's heart leaped at the sight, for all
the way along he had been followed by a crowd of shadowy figures
who danced about him from right to left, and from back to front,
and Petru, though a brave man, felt now and then a thrill of

'They won't hurt you,' said the horse; 'they are just the
daughters of the whirlwind amusing themselves while they are
waiting for the ogre of the moon.'

Then he stopped in front of the house, and Petru jumped off and
went to the door.

'Do not be in such a hurry,' cried the horse. 'There are several
things I must tell you first. You cannot enter the house of the
goddess Venus like that. She is always watched and guarded by
the whirlwind.'

'What am I to do then?'

'Take the copper wreath, and go with it to that little hill over
there. When you reach it, say to yourself, "Were there ever such
lovely maidens! such angels! such fairy souls!" Then hold the
wreath high in the air and cry, "Oh! if I knew whether any one
would accept this wreath from me . . . if I knew! if I knew!"
and throw the wreath from you!'

'And why should I do all this?' said Petru.

'Ask no questions, but go and do it,' replied the horse. And
Petru did.

Scarcely had he flung away the copper wreath than the whirlwind
flung himself upon it, and tore it in pieces.

Then Petru turned once more to the horse.

'Stop!' cried the horse again. 'I have other things to tell you.

Take the silver wreath and knock at the windows of the goddess
Venus. When she says, "Who is there?" answer that you have come
on foot and lost your way on the heath. She will then tell you
to go your way back again; but take care not to stir from the
spot. Instead, be sure you say to her, "No, indeed I shall do
nothing of the sort, as from my childhood I have heard stories of
the beauty of the goddess Venus, and it was not for nothing that
I had shoes made of leather with soles of steel, and have
travelled for nine years and nine months, and have won in battle
the silver wreath, which I hope you may allow me to give you, and
have done and suffered everything to be where I now am." This is
what you must say. What happens after is your affair.'

Petru asked no more, but went towards the house.

By this time it was pitch dark, and there was only the ray of
light that streamed through the windows to guide him, and at the
sound of his footsteps two dogs began to bark loudly.

'Which of those dogs is barking? Is he tired of life?' asked
the goddess Venus.

'It is I, O goddess!' replied Petru, rather timidly. 'I have
lost my way on the heath, and do not know where I am to sleep
this night.'

'Where did you leave your horse?' asked the goddess sharply.

Petru did not answer. He was not sure if he was to lie, or
whether he had better tell the truth.

'Go away, my son, there is no place for you here,' replied she,
drawing back from the window.

Then Petru repeated hastily what the horse had told him to say,
and no sooner had he done so than the goddess opened the window,
and in gentle tones she asked him:

'Let me see this wreath, my son,' and Petru held it out to her.

'Come into the house,' went on the goddess; 'do not fear the
dogs, they always know my will.' And so they did, for as the
young man passed they wagged their tails to him.

'Good evening,' said Petru as he entered the house, and, seating
himself near the fire, listened comfortably to whatever the
goddess might choose to talk about, which was for the most part
the wickedness of men, with whom she was evidently very angry.
But Petru agreed with her in everything, as he had been taught
was only polite.

But was anybody ever so old as she! I do not know why Petru
devoured her so with his eyes, unless it was to count the
wrinkles on her face; but if so he would have had to live seven
lives, and each life seven times the length of an ordinary one,
before he could have reckoned them up.

But Venus was joyful in her heart when she saw Petru's eyes fixed
upon her.

'Nothing was that is, and the world was not a world when I was
born,' said she. 'When I grew up and the world came into being,
everyone thought I was the most beautiful girl that ever was
seen, though many hated me for it. But every hundred years there
came a wrinkle on my face. And now I am old.' Then she went on
to tell Petru that she was the daughter of an emperor, and their
nearest neighbour was the Fairy of the Dawn, with whom she had a
violent quarrel, and with that she broke out into loud abuse of

Petru did not know what to do. He listened in silence for the
most part, but now and then he would say, 'Yes, yes, you must
have been badly treated,' just for politeness' sake; what more
could he do?

'I will give you a task to perform, for you are brave, and will
carry it through,' continued Venus, when she had talked a long
time, and both of them were getting sleepy. 'Close to the
Fairy's house is a well, and whoever drinks from it will blossom
again like a rose. Bring me a flagon of it, and I will do
anything to prove my gratitude. It is not easy! no one knows
that better than I do! The kingdom is guarded on every side by
wild beasts and horrible dragons; but I will tell you more about
that, and I also have something to give you.' Then she rose and
lifted the lid of an iron-bound chest, and took out of it a very
tiny flute.

'Do you see this?' she asked. 'An old man gave it to me when I
was young: whoever listens to this flute goes to sleep, and
nothing can wake him. Take it and play on it as long as you
remain in the kingdom of the Fairy of the Dawn, and you will be

At this, Petru told her that he had another task to fulfil at the
well of the Fairy of the Dawn, and Venus was still better pleased
when she heard his tale.

So Petru bade her good-night, put the flute in its case, and laid
himself down in the lowest chamber to sleep.

Before the dawn he was awake again, and his first care was to
give to each of his horses as much corn as he could eat, and then
to lead them to the well to water. Then he dressed himself and
made ready to start.

'Stop,' cried Venus from her window, 'I have still a piece of
advice to give you. Leave one of your horses here, and only take
three. Ride slowly till you get to the fairy's kingdom, then
dismount and go on foot. When you return, see that all your
three horses remain on the road, while you walk. But above all
beware never to look the Fairy of the Dawn in the face, for she
has eyes that will bewitch you, and glances that will befool you.

She is hideous, more hideous than anything you can imagine, with
owl's eyes, foxy face, and cat's claws. Do you hear? do you
hear? Be sure you never look at her.'

Petru thanked her, and managed to get off at last.

Far, far away, where the heavens touch the earth, where the stars
kiss the flowers, a soft red light was seen, such as the sky
sometimes has in spring, only lovelier, more wonderful.

That light was behind the palace of the Fairy of the Dawn, and it
took Petru two days and nights through flowery meadows to reach
it. And besides, it was neither hot nor cold, bright nor dark,
but something of them all, and Petru did not find the way a step
too long.

After some time Petru saw something white rise up out of the red
of the sky, and when he drew nearer he saw it was a castle, and
so splendid that his eyes were dazzled when they looked at it.
He did not know there was such a beautiful castle in the world.

But no time was to be lost, so he shook himself, jumped down from
his horse, and, leaving him on the dewy grass, began to play on
his flute as he walked along.

He had hardly gone many steps when he stumbled over a huge giant,
who had been lulled to sleep by the music. This was one of the
guards of the castle! As he lay there on his back, he seemed so
big that in spite of Petru's haste he stopped to measure him.

The further went Petru, the more strange and terrible were the
sights he saw--lions, tigers, dragons with seven heads, all
stretched out in the sun fast asleep. It is needless to say what
the dragons were like, for nowadays everyone knows, and dragons
are not things to joke about. Petru ran through them like the
wind. Was it haste or fear that spurred him on?

At last he came to a river, but let nobody think for a moment
that this river was like other rivers? Instead of water, there
flowed milk, and the bottom was of precious stones and pearls,
instead of sand and pebbles. And it ran neither fast nor slow,
but both fast and slow together. And the river flowed round the
castle, and on its banks slept lions with iron teeth and claws;
and beyond were gardens such as only the Fairy of the Dawn can
have, and on the flowers slept a fairy! All this saw Petru from
the other side.

But how was he to get over? To be sure there was a bridge, but,
even if it had not been guarded by sleeping lions, it was plainly
not meant for man to walk on. Who could tell what it was made
of? It looked like soft little woolly clouds!

So he stood thinking what was to be done, for get across he must.

After a while, he determined to take the risk, and strode back to
the sleeping giant. 'Wake up, my brave man!' he cried, giving
him a shake.

The giant woke and stretched out his hand to pick up Petru, just
as we should catch a fly. But Petru played on his flute, and the
giant fell back again. Petru tried this three times, and when he
was satisfied that the giant was really in his power he took out
a handkerchief, bound the two little fingers of the giant
together, drew his sword, and cried for the fourth time, 'Wake
up, my brave man.'

When the giant saw the trick which had been played on him he said
to Petru. 'Do you call this a fair fight? Fight according to
rules, if you really are a hero!'

'I will by-and-by, but first I want to ask you a question! Will
you swear that you will carry me over the river if I fight
honourably with you?' And the giant swore.

When his hands were freed, the giant flung himself upon Petru,
hoping to crush him by his weight. But he had met his match. It
was not yesterday, nor the day before, that Petru had fought his
first battle, and he bore himself bravely.

For three days and three nights the battle raged, and sometimes
one had the upper hand, and sometimes the other, till at length
they both lay struggling on the ground, but Petru was on top,
with the point of his sword at the giant's throat.

'Let me go! let me go!' shrieked he. 'I own that I am beaten!'

'Will you take me over the river?' asked Petru.

'I will,' gasped the giant.

'What shall I do to you if you break your word?'

'Kill me, any way you like! But let me live now.'

'Very well,' said Petru, and he bound the giant's left hand to
his right foot, tied one handkerchief round his mouth to prevent
him crying out, and another round his eyes, and led him to the

Once they had reached the bank he stretched one leg over to the
other side, and, catching up Petru in the palm of his hand, set
him down on the further shore.

'That is all right,' said Petru. Then he played a few notes on
his flute, and the giant went to sleep again. Even the fairies
who had been bathing a little lower down heard the music and fell
asleep among the flowers on the bank. Petru saw them as he
passed, and thought, 'If they are so beautiful, why should the
Fairy of the Dawn be so ugly?' But he dared not linger, and
pushed on.

And now he was in the wonderful gardens, which seemed more
wonderful still than they had done from afar. But Petru could
see no faded flowers, nor any birds, as he hastened through them
to the castle. No one was there to bar his way, for all were
asleep. Even the leaves had ceased to move.

He passed through the courtyard, and entered the castle itself.

What he beheld there need not be told, for all the world knows
that the palace of the Fairy of the Dawn is no ordinary place.
Gold and precious stones were as common as wood with us, and the
stables where the horses of the sun were kept were more splendid
than the palace of the greatest emperor in the world.

Petru went up the stairs and walked quickly through
eight-and-forty rooms, hung with silken stuffs, and all empty.
In the forty-ninth he found the Fairy of the Dawn herself.

In the middle of this room, which was as large as a church, Petru
saw the celebrated well that he had come so far to seek. It was
a well just like other wells, and it seemed strange that the
Fairy of the Dawn should have it in her own chamber; yet anyone
could tell it had been there for hundreds of years. And by the
well slept the Fairy of the Dawn--the Fairy of the Dawn--herself!

And as Petru looked at her the magic flute dropped by his side,
and he held his breath.

Near the well was a table, on which stood bread made with does'
milk, and a flagon of wine. It was the bread of strength and the
wine of youth, and Petru longed for them. He looked once at the
bread and once at the wine, and then at the Fairy of the Dawn,
still sleeping on her silken cushions.

As he looked a mist came over his senses. The fairy opened her
eyes slowly and looked at Petru, who lost his head still further;
but he just managed to remember his flute, and a few notes of it
sent the Fairy to sleep again, and he kissed her thrice. Then he
stooped and laid his golden wreath upon her forehead, ate a piece
of the bread and drank a cupful of the wine of youth, and this he
did three times over. Then he filled a flask with water from the
well, and vanished swiftly.

As he passed through the garden it seemed quite different from
what it was before. The flowers were lovelier, the streams ran
quicker, the sunbeams shone brighter, and the fairies seemed
gayer. And all this had been caused by the three kisses Petru
had given the Fairy of the Dawn.

He passed everything safely by, and was soon seated in his saddle
again. Faster than the wind, faster than thought, faster than
longing, faster than hatred rode Petru. At length he dismounted,
and, leaving his horses at the roadside, went on foot to the
house of Venus.

The goddess Venus knew that he was coming, and went to meet him,
bearing with her white bread and red wine.

'Welcome back, my prince,' said she.

'Good day, and many thanks,' replied the young man, holding out
the flask containing the magic water. She received it with joy,
and after a short rest Petru set forth, for he had no time to

He stopped a few minutes, as he had promised, with the Goddess of
Thunder, and was taking a hasty farewell of her, when she called
him back.

'Stay, I have a warning to give you,' said she. 'Beware of your
life; make friends with no man; do not ride fast, or let the
water go out of your hand; believe no one, and flee flattering
tongues. Go, and take care, for the way is long, the world is
bad, and you hold something very precious. But I will give you
this cloth to help you. It is not much to look at, but it is
enchanted, and whoever carries it will never be struck by
lightning, pierced by a lance, or smitten with a sword, and the
arrows will glance off his body.'

Petru thanked her and rode off, and, taking out his treasure box,
inquired how matters were going at home. Not well, it said. The
emperor was blind altogether now, and Florea and Costan had
besought him to give the government of the kingdom into their
hands; but he would not, saying that he did not mean to resign
the government till he had washed his eyes from the well of the
Fairy of the Dawn. Then the brothers had gone to consult old
Birscha, who told them that Petru was already on his way home
bearing the water. They had set out to meet him, and would try
to take the magic water from him, and then claim as their reward
the government of the emperor.

'You are lying!' cried Petru angrily, throwing the box on the
ground, where it broke into a thousand pieces.

It was not long before he began to catch glimpses of his native
land, and he drew rein near a bridge, the better to look at it.
He was still gazing, when he heard a sound in the distance as if
some one was calling hit by his name.

'You, Petru!' it said.

'On! on!' cried the horse; 'it will fare ill with you if you

'No, let us stop, and see who and what it is!' answered Petru,
turning his horse round, and coming face to face with his two
brothers. He had forgotten the warning given him by the Goddess
of Thunder, and when Costan and Florea drew near with soft and
flattering words he jumped straight off his horse, and rushed to
embrace them. He had a thousand questions to ask, and a thousand
things to tell. But his brown horse stood sadly hanging his

'Petru, my dear brother,' at length said Florea, 'would it not be
better if we carried the water for you? Some one might try to
take it from you on the road, while no one would suspect us.'

'So it would,' added Costan. 'Florea speaks well.' But Petru
shook his head, and told them what the Goddess of Thunder had
said, and about the cloth she had given him. And both brothers
understood there was only one way in which they could kill him.

At a stone's throw from where they stood ran a rushing stream,
with clear deep pools.

'Don't you feel thirsty, Costan?' asked Florea, winking at him.

'Yes,' replied Costan, understanding directly what was wanted.
'Come, Petru, let us drink now we have the chance, and then we
will set out on our way home. It is a good thing you have us
with you, to protect you from harm.'

The horse neighed, and Petru knew what it meant, and did not go
with his brothers.

No, he went home to his father, and cured his blindness; and as
for his brothers, they never returned again.

[From Rumanische Marchen.]

Next: The Enchanted Knife

Previous: The Envious Neighbour

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