: The Yellow Fairy Book
From the Polish. Kletke.
Once upon a time there were three Princesses who were all three
young and beautiful; but the youngest, although she was not
fairer than the other two, was the most loveable of them all.
About half a mile from the palace in which they lived there stood
a castle, which was uninhabited and almost a ruin, but the garden
which surrounded it was a mass of blooming flowers
and in this
garden the youngest Princess used often to walk.
One day when she was pacing to and fro under the lime trees, a
black crow hopped out of a rose-bush in front of her. The poor
beast was all torn and bleeding, and the kind little Princess was
quite unhappy about it. When the crow saw this it turned to her
'I am not really a black crow, but an enchanted Prince, who has
been doomed to spend his youth in misery. If you only liked,
Princess, you could save me. But you would have to say good-bye
to all your own people and come and be my constant companion in
this ruined castle. There is one habitable room in it, in which
there is a golden bed; there you will have to live all by
yourself, and don't forget that whatever you may see or hear in
the night you must not scream out, for if you give as much as a
single cry my sufferings will be doubled.'
The good-natured Princess at once left her home and her family
and hurried to the ruined castle, and took possession of the room
with the golden bed.
When night approached she lay down, but though she shut her eyes
tight sleep would not come. At midnight she heard to her great
horror some one coming along the passage, and in a minute her
door was flung wide open and a troop of strange beings entered
the room. They at once proceeded to light a fire in the huge
fireplace; then they placed a great cauldron of boiling water on
it. When they had done this, they approached the bed on which
the trembling girl lay, and, screaming and yelling all the time,
they dragged her towards the cauldron. She nearly died with
fright, but she never uttered a sound. Then of a sudden the cock
crew, and all the evil spirits vanished.
At the same moment the crow appeared and hopped all round the
room with joy. It thanked the Princess most heartily for her
goodness, and said that its sufferings had already been greatly
Now one of the Princess's elder sisters, who was very
inquisitive, had found out about everything, and went to pay her
youngest sister a visit in the ruined castle. She implored her
so urgently to let her spend the night with her in the golden
bed, that at last the good-natured little Princess consented.
But at midnight, when the odd folk appeared, the elder sister
screamed with terror, and from this time on the youngest Princess
insisted always on keeping watch alone.
So she lived in solitude all the daytime, and at night she would
have been frightened, had she not been so brave; but every day
the crow came and thanked her for her endurance, and assured her
that his sufferings were far less than they had been.
And so two years passed away, when one day the crow came to the
Princess and said: 'In another year I shall be freed from the
spell I am under at present, because then the seven years will be
over. But before I can resume my natural form, and take
possession of the belongings of my forefathers, you must go out
into the world and take service as a maidservant.'
The young Princess consented at once, and for a whole year she
served as a maid; but in spite of her youth and beauty she was
very badly treated, and suffered many things. One evening, when
she was spinning flax, and had worked her little white hands
weary, she heard a rustling beside her and a cry of joy. Then
she saw a handsome youth standing beside her; who knelt down at
her feet and kissed the little weary white hands.
'I am the Prince,' he said, 'who you in your goodness, when I was
wandering about in the shape of a black crow, freed from the most
awful torments. Come now to my castle with me, and let us live
there happily together.'
So they went to the castle where they had both endured so much.
But when they reached it, it was difficult to believe that it was
the same, for it had all been rebuilt and done up again. And
there they lived for a hundred years, a hundred years of joy and