The Girl Who Pretended To Be A Boy

: The Violet Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived an emperor who was a great

conqueror, and reigned over more countries than anyone in the

world. And whenever he subdued a fresh kingdom, he only granted

peace on condition that the king should deliver him one of his

sons for ten years' service.

Now on the borders of his kingdom lay a country whose emperor was

as brave as his neighbour, and as long as he was young he was the
victor in every war. But as years passed away, his head grew

weary of making plans of campaign, and his people wanted to stay

at home and till their fields, and at last he too felt that he

must do homage to the other emperor.

One thing, however, held him back from this step which day by day

he saw more clearly was the only one possible. His new overlord

would demand the service of one of his sons. And the old emperor

had no son; only three daughters.

Look on which side he would, nothing but ruin seemed to lie

before him, and he became so gloomy, that his daughters were

frightened, and did everything they could think of to cheer him

up, but all to no purpose.

At length one day when they were at dinner, the eldest of the

three summoned up all her courage and said to her father:

'What secret grief is troubling you? Are your subjects

discontented? or have we given you cause for displeasure? To

smooth away your wrinkles, we would gladly shed our blood, for

our lives are bound up in yours; and this you know.'

'My daughter,' answered the emperor, 'what you say is true.

Never have you given me one moment's pain. Yet now you cannot

help me. Ah! why is not one of you a boy!'

'I don't understand,' she answered in surprise. 'Tell us what is

wrong: and though we are not boys, we are not quite useless!'

'But what can you do, my dear children? Spin, sew, and

weave--that is all your learning. Only a warrior can deliver me

now, a young giant who is strong to wield the battle-axe: whose

sword deals deadly blows.'

'But WHY do you need a son so much at present? Tell us all

about it! It will not make matters worse if we know!'

'Listen then, my daughters, and learn the reason of my sorrow.

You have heard that as long as I was young no man ever brought an

army against me without it costing him dear. But the years have

chilled my blood and drunk my strength. And now the deer can

roam the forest, my arrows will never pierce his heart; strange

soldiers will set fire to my houses and water their horses at my

wells, and my arm cannot hinder them. No, my day is past, and

the time has come when I too must bow my head under the yoke of

my foe! But who is to give him the ten years' service that is

part of the price which the vanquished must pay?'

'I will,' cried the eldest girl, springing to her feet. But

her father only shook his head sadly.

'Never will I bring shame upon you,' urged the girl. 'Let me go.

Am I not a princess, and the daughter of an emperor?'

'Go then!' he said.

The brave girl's heart almost stopped beating from joy, as she

set about her preparations. She was not still for a single

moment, but danced about the house, turning chests and wardrobes

upside down. She set aside enough things for a whole

year--dresses embroidered with gold and precious stones, and a

great store of provisions. And she chose the most spirited horse

in the stable, with eyes of flame, and a coat of shining silver.

When her father saw her mounted and curvetting about the court,

he gave her much wise advice, as to how she was to behave like

the young man she appeared to be, and also how to behave as the

girl she really was. Then he gave her his blessing, and she

touched her horse with the spur.

The silver armour of herself and her steed dazzled the eyes of

the people as she darted past. She was soon out of sight, and if

after a few miles she had not pulled up to allow her escort to

join her, the rest of the journey would have been performed


But though none of his daughters were aware of the fact, the old

emperor was a magician, and had laid his plans accordingly. He

managed, unseen, to overtake his daughter, and throw a bridge of

copper over a stream which she would have to cross. Then,

changing himself into a wolf, he lay down under one of the

arches, and waited.

He had chosen his time well, and in about half an hour the sound

of a horse's hoofs was heard. His feet were almost on the

bridge, when a big grey wolf with grinning teeth appeared before

the princess. With a deep growl that froze the blood, he drew

himself up, and prepared to spring.

The appearance of the wolf was so sudden and so unexpected, that

the girl was almost paralysed, and never even dreamt of flight,

till the horse leaped violently to one side. Then she turned him

round, and urging him to his fullest speed, never drew rein till

she saw the gates of the palace rising before her.

The old emperor, who had got back long since, came to the door to

meet her, and touching her shining armour, he said, 'Did I not

tell you, my child, that flies do not make honey?'

The days passed on, and one morning the second princess implored

her father to allow her to try the adventure in which her sister

had made such a failure. He listened unwillingly, feeling sure

it was no use, but she begged so hard that in the end he

consented, and having chosen her arms, she rode away.

But though, unlike her sister, she was quite prepared for the

appearance of the wolf when she reached the copper bridge, she

showed no greater courage, and galloped home as fast as her horse

could carry her. On the steps of the castle her father was

standing, and as still trembling with fright she knelt at his

feet, he said gently, 'Did I not tell you, my child, that every

bird is not caught in a net?'

The three girls stayed quietly in the palace for a little while,

embroidering, spinning, weaving, and tending their birds and

flowers, when early one morning, the youngest princess entered

the door of the emperor's private apartments. 'My father, it is

my turn now. Perhaps I shall get the better of that wolf!'

'What, do you think you are braver than your sisters, vain little

one? You who have hardly left your long clothes behind you!' but

she did not mind being laughed at, and answered,

'For your sake, father, I would cut the devil himself into small

bits, or even become a devil myself. I think I shall succeed,

but if I fail, I shall come home without more shame than my


Still the emperor hesitated, but the girl petted and coaxed him

till at last he said,

'Well, well, if you must go, you must. It remains to be seen

what I shall get by it, except perhaps a good laugh when I see

you come back with your head bent and your eyes on the ground.'

'He laughs best who laughs last,' said the princess.

Happy at having got her way, the princess decided that the first

thing to be done was to find some old white-haired boyard, whose

advice she could trust, and then to be very careful in choosing

her horse. So she went straight to the stables where the most

beautiful horses in the empire were feeding in the stalls, but

none of them seemed quite what she wanted. Almost in despair she

reached the last box of all, which was occupied by her father's

ancient war-horse, old and worn like himself, stretched sadly out

on the straw.

The girl's eyes filled with tears, and she stood gazing at him.

The horse lifted his head, gave a little neigh, and said softly,

'You look gentle and pitiful, but I know it is your love for your

father which makes you tender to me. Ah, what a warrior he was,

and what good times we shared together! But now I too have grown

old, and my master has forgotten me, and there is no reason to

care whether my coat is dull or shining. Yet, it is not too

late, and if I were properly tended, in a week I could vie with

any horse in the stables!'

'And how should you be tended?' asked the girl.

'I must be rubbed down morning and evening with rain water, my

barley must be boiled in milk, because of my bad teeth, and my

feet must be washed in oil.'

'I should like to try the treatment, as you might help me in

carrying out my scheme.'

'Try it then, mistress, and I promise you will never repent.'

So in a week's time the horse woke up one morning with a sudden

shiver through all his limbs; and when it had passed away, he

found his skin shining like a mirror, his body as fat as a water

melon, his movement light as a chamois.

Then looking at the princess who had come early to the stable, he

said joyfully,

'May success await on the steps of my master's daughter, for she

has given me back my life. Tell me what I can do for you,

princess, and I will do it.'

'I want to go to the emperor who is our over-lord, and I have no

one to advise me. Which of all the white-headed boyards shall I

choose as counsellor?'

'If you have me, you need no one else: I will serve you as I

served your father, if you will only listen to what I say.'

'I will listen to everything. Can you start in three days?'

'This moment, if you like,' said the horse.

The preparations of the emperor's youngest daughter were much

fewer and simpler than those of her sisters. They only consisted

of some boy's clothes, a small quantity of linen and food, and a

little money in case of necessity. Then she bade farewell to her

father, and rode away.

A day's journey from the palace, she reached the copper bridge,

but before they came in sight of it, the horse, who was a

magician, had warned her of the means her father would take to

prove her courage.

Still in spite of his warning she trembled all over when a huge

wolf, as thin as if he had fasted for a month, with claws like

saws, and mouth as wide as an oven, bounded howling towards her.

For a moment her heart failed her, but the next, touching the

horse lightly with her spur, she drew her sword from its sheath,

ready to separate the wolf's head from its body at a single blow.

The beast saw the sword, and shrank back, which was the best

thing it could do, as now the girl's blood was up, and the light

of battle in her eyes. Then without looking round, she rode

across the bridge.

The emperor, proud of this first victory, took a short cut, and

waited for her at the end of another day's journey, close to a

river, over which he threw a bridge of silver. And this time he

took the shape of a lion.

But the horse guessed this new danger and told the princess how

to escape it. But it is one thing to receive advice when we feel

safe and comfortable, and quite another to be able to carry it

out when some awful peril is threatening us. And if the wolf had

made the girl quake with terror, it seemed like a lamb beside

this dreadful lion.

At the sound of his roar the very trees quivered and his claws

were so large that every one of them looked like a cutlass.

The breath of the princess came and went, and her feet rattled in

the stirrups. Suddenly the remembrance flashed across her of the

wolf whom she had put to flight, and waving her sword, she rushed

so violently on the lion that he had barely time to spring on one

side, so as to avoid the blow. Then, like a flash, she crossed

this bridge also.

Now during her whole life, the princess had been so carefully

brought up, that she had never left the gardens of the palace, so

that the sight of the hills and valleys and tinkling streams, and

the song of the larks and blackbirds, made her almost beside

herself with wonder and delight. She longed to get down and

bathe her face in the clear pools, and pick the brilliant

flowers, but the horse said 'No,' and quickened his pace, neither

turning to the right or the left.

'Warriors,' he told her, 'only rest when they have won the

victory. You have still another battle to fight, and it is the

hardest of all.'

This time it was neither a wolf nor a lion that was waiting for

her at the end of the third day's journey, but a dragon with

twelve heads, and a golden bridge behind it.

The princess rode up without seeing anything to frighten her,

when a sudden puff of smoke and flame from beneath her feet,

caused her to look down, and there was the horrible creature

twisted and writhing, its twelve heads reared up as if to seize

her between them.

The bridle fell from her hand: and the sword which she had just

grasped slid back into its sheath, but the horse bade her fear

nothing, and with a mighty effort she sat upright and spurred

straight on the dragon.

The fight lasted an hour and the dragon pressed her hard. But in

the end, by a well-directed side blow, she cut off one of the

heads, and with a roar that seemed to rend the heavens in two,

the dragon fell back on the ground, and rose as a man before her.

Although the horse had informed the princess the dragon was

really her own father, the girl had hardly believed him, and

stared in amazement at the transformation. But he flung his arms

round her and pressed her to his heart saying, 'Now I see that

you are as brave as the bravest, and as wise as the wisest. You

have chosen the right horse, for without his help you would have

returned with a bent head and downcast eyes. You have filled me

with the hope that you may carry out the task you have

undertaken, but be careful to forget none of my counsels, and

above all to listen to those of your horse.'

When he had done speaking, the princess knelt down to receive his

blessing, and they went their different ways.

The princess rode on and on, till at last she came to the

mountains which hold up the roof of the world. There she met two

Genii who had been fighting fiercely for two years, without one

having got the least advantage over the other. Seeing what they

took to be a young man seeking adventures, one of the combatants

called out, 'Fet-Fruners! deliver me from my enemy, and I will

give you the horn that can be heard the distance of a three days'

journey;' while the other cried, 'Fet-Fruners! help me to

conquer this pagan thief, and you shall have my horse, Sunlight.'

Before answering, the princess consulted her own horse as to

which offer she should accept, and he advised her to side with

the genius who was master of Sunlight, his own younger brother,

and still more active than himself.

So the girl at once attacked the other genius, and soon clove his

skull; then the one who was left victor begged her to come back

with him to his house and he would hand her over Sunlight, as he

had promised.

The mother of the genius was rejoiced to see her son return safe

and sound, and prepared her best room for the princess, who,

after so much fatigue, needed rest badly. But the girl declared

that she must first make her horse comfortable in his stable; but

this was really only an excuse, as she wanted to ask his advice

on several matters.

But the old woman had suspected from the very first that the boy

who had come to the rescue of her son was a girl in disguise, and

told the genius that she was exactly the wife he needed. The

genius scoffed, and inquired what female hand could ever wield a

sabre like that; but, in spite of his sneers, his mother

persisted, and as a proof of what she said, laid at night on each

of their pillows a handful of magic flowers, that fade at the

touch of man, but remain eternally fresh in the fingers of a


It was very clever of her, but unluckily the horse had warned the

princess what to expect, and when the house was silent, she stole

very softly to the genius's room, and exchanged his faded flowers

for those she held. Then she crept back to her own bed and fell

fast asleep.

At break of day, the old woman ran to see her son, and found, as

she knew she would, a bunch of dead flowers in his hand. She

next passed on to the bedside of the princess, who still lay

asleep grasping the withered flowers. But she did not believe

any the more that her guest was a man, and so she told her son.

So they put their heads together and laid another trap for her.

After breakfast the genius gave his arm to his guest, and asked

her to come with him into the garden. For some time they walked

about looking at the flowers, the genius all the while pressing

her to pick any she fancied. But the princess, suspecting a

trap, inquired roughly why they were wasting the precious hours

in the garden, when, as men, they should be in the stables

looking after their horses. Then the genius told his mother that

she was quite wrong, and his deliverer was certainly a man. But

the old woman was not convinced for all that.

She would try once more she said, and her son must lead his

visitor into the armoury, where hung every kind of weapon used

all over the world--some plain and bare, others ornamented with

precious stones--and beg her to make choice of one of them. The

princess looked at them closely, and felt the edges and points of

their blades, then she hung at her belt an old sword with a

curved blade, that would have done credit to an ancient warrior.

After this she informed the genius that she would start early

next day and take Sunlight with her.

And there was nothing for the mother to do but to submit, though

she still stuck to her own opinion.

The princess mounted Sunlight, and touched him with her spur,

when the old horse, who was galloping at her side, suddenly said:

'Up to this time, mistress, you have obeyed my counsels and all

has gone well. Listen to me once more, and do what I tell you.

I am old, and--now that there is someone to take my place, I will

confess it--I am afraid that my strength is not equal to the task

that lies before me. Give me leave, therefore, to return home,

and do you continue your journey under the care of my brother.

Put your faith in him as you put it in me, and you will never

repent. Wisdom has come early to Sunlight.'

'Yes, my old comrade, you have served me well; and it is only

through your help that up to now I have been victorious. So

grieved though I am to say farewell, I will obey you yet once

more, and will listen to your brother as I would to yourself.

Only, I must have a proof that he loves me as well as you do.'

'How should I not love you?' answered Sunlight; 'how should I not

be proud to serve a warrior such as you? Trust me, mistress,

and you shall never regret the absence of my brother. I know

there will be difficulties in our path, but we will face them


Then, with tears in her eyes, the princess took leave of her old

horse, who galloped back to her father.

She had ridden only a few miles further, when she saw a golden

curl lying on the road before her. Checking her horse, she asked

whether it would be better to take it or let it lie.

'If you take it,' said Sunlight, 'you will repent, and if you

don't, you will repent too: so take it.' On this the girl

dismounted, and picking up the curl, wound it round her neck for


They passed by hills, they passed by mountains, they passed

through valleys, leaving behind them thick forests, and fields

covered with flowers; and at length they reached the court of the


He was sitting on his throne, surrounded by the sons of the other

emperors, who served him as pages. These youths came forward to

greet their new companion, and wondered why they felt so

attracted towards him.

However, there was no time for talking and concealing her fright.

The princess was led straight up to the throne, and explained, in

a low voice, the reason of her coming. The emperor received her

kindly, and declared himself fortunate at finding a vassal so

brave and so charming, and begged the princess to remain in

attendance on his person.

She was, however, very careful in her behaviour towards the other

pages, whose way of life did not please her. One day, however,

she had been amusing herself by making sweetmeats, when two of

the young princes looked in to pay her a visit. She offered them

some of the food which was already on the table, and they thought

it so delicious that they even licked their fingers so as not to

lose a morsel. Of course they did not keep the news of their

discovery to themselves, but told all their companions that they

had just been enjoying the best supper they had had since they

were born. And from that moment the princess was left no peace,

till she had promised to cook them all a dinner.

Now it happened that, on the very day fixed, all the cooks in the

palace became intoxicated, and there was no one to make up the


When the pages heard of this shocking state of things, they went

to their companion and implored her to come to the rescue.

The princess was fond of cooking, and was, besides, very

good-natured; so she put on an apron and went down to the kitchen

without delay. When the dinner was placed before the emperor he

found it so nice that he ate much more than was good for him.

The next morning, as soon as he woke, he sent for his head cook,

and told him to send up the same dishes as before. The cook,

seized with fright at this command, which he knew he could not

fulfil, fell on his knees, and confessed the truth.

The emperor was so astonished that he forgot to scold, and while

he was thinking over the matter, some of his pages came in and

said that their new companion had been heard to boast that he

knew where Iliane was to be found--the celebrated Iliane of the

song which begins:

'Golden Hair

The fields are green,'

and that to their certain knowledge he had a curl of her hair in

his possession.

When he heard that, the emperor desired the page to be brought

before him, and, as soon as the princess obeyed his summons, he

said to her abruptly:

'Fet-Fruners, you have hidden from me the fact that you knew the

golden-haired Iliane! Why did you do this? for I have treated

you more kindly than all my other pages.'

Then, after making the princess show him the golden curl which

she wore round her neck, he added: 'Listen to me; unless by some

means or other you bring me the owner of this lock, I will have

your head cut off in the place where you stand. Now go!'

In vain the poor girl tried to explain how the lock of hair came

into her possession; the emperor would listen to nothing, and,

bowing low, she left his presence and went to consult Sunlight

what she was to do.

At his first words she brightened up. 'Do not be afraid,

mistress; only last night my brother appeared to me in a dream

and told me that a genius had carried off Iliane, whose hair you

picked up on the road. But Iliane declares that, before she

marries her captor, he must bring her, as a present, the whole

stud of mares which belong to her. The genius, half crazy with

love, thinks of nothing night and day but how this can be done,

and meanwhile she is quite safe in the island swamps of the sea.

Go back to the emperor and ask him for twenty ships filled with

precious merchandise. The rest you shall know by-and-by.'

On hearing this advice, the princess went at once into the

emperor's presence.

'May a long life be yours, O Sovereign all mighty!' said she. 'I

have come to tell you that I can do as you command if you will

give me twenty ships, and load them with the most precious wares

in your kingdom.'

'You shall have all that I possess if you will bring me the

golden-haired Iliane,' said the emperor.

The ships were soon ready, and the princess entered the largest

and finest, with Sunlight at her side. Then the sails were

spread and the voyage began.

For seven weeks the wind blew them straight towards the west, and

early one morning they caught sight of the island swamps of the


They cast anchor in a little bay, and the princess made haste to

disembark with Sunlight, but, before leaving the ship, she tied

to her belt a pair of tiny gold slippers, adorned with precious

stones. Then mounting Sunlight, she rode about till she came to

several palaces, built on hinges, so that they could always turn

towards the sun.

The most splendid of these was guarded by three slaves, whose

greedy eyes were caught by the glistening gold of the slippers.

They hastened up to the owner of these treasures, and inquired

who he was. 'A merchant,' replied the princess, 'who had somehow

missed his road, and lost himself among the island swamps of the


Not knowing if it was proper to receive him or not, the slaves

returned to their mistress and told her all they had seen, but

not before she had caught sight of the merchant from the roof of

her palace. Luckily her gaoler was away, always trying to catch

the stud of mares, so for the moment she was free and alone.

The slaves told their tale so well that their mistress insisted

on going down to the shore and seeing the beautiful slippers for

herself. They were even lovelier than she expected, and when the

merchant besought her to come on board, and inspect some that he

thought were finer still, her curiosity was too great to refuse,

and she went.

Once on board ship, she was so busy turning over all the precious

things stored there, that she never knew that the sails were

spread, and that they were flying along with the wind behind

them; and when she did know, she rejoiced in her heart, though

she pretended to weep and lament at being carried captive a

second time. Thus they arrived at the court of the emperor.

They were just about to land, when the mother of the genius stood

before them. She had learnt that Iliane had fled from her prison

in company with a merchant, and, as her son was absent, had come

herself in pursuit. Striding over the blue waters, hopping from

wave to wave, one foot reaching to heaven, and the other planted

in the foam, she was close at their heels, breathing fire and

flame, when they stepped on shore from the ship. One glance told

Iliane who the horrible old woman was, and she whispered hastily

to her companion. Without saying a word, the princess swung her

into Sunlight's saddle, and leaping up behind her, they were off

like a flash.

It was not till they drew near the town that the princess stooped

and asked Sunlight what they should do. 'Put your hand into my

left ear,' said he, 'and take out a sharp stone, which you must

throw behind you.'

The princess did as she was told, and a huge mountain sprang up

behind them. The mother of the genius began to climb up it, and

though they galloped quickly, she was quicker still.

They heard her coming, faster, faster; and again the princess

stooped to ask what was to be done now. 'Put your hand into my

right ear,' said the horse, 'and throw the brush you will find

there behind you.' The princess did so, and a great forest

sprang up behind them, and, so thick were its leaves, that even a

wren could not get through. But the old woman seized hold of the

branches and flung herself like a monkey from one to the others,

and always she drew nearer--always, always--till their hair was

singed by the flames of her mouth.

Then, in despair, the princess again bent down and asked if there

was nothing more to be done, and Sunlight replied 'Quick, quick,

take off the betrothal ring on the finger of Iliane and throw it

behind you.'

This time there sprang up a great tower of stone, smooth as

ivory, hard as steel, which reached up to heaven itself. And the

mother of the genius gave a howl of rage, knowing that she could

neither climb it nor get through it. But she was not beaten yet,

and gathering herself together, she made a prodigious leap, which

landed her on the top of the tower, right in the middle of

Iliane's ring which lay there, and held her tight. Only her

claws could be seen grasping the battlements.

All that could be done the old witch did; but the fire that

poured from her mouth never reached the fugitives, though it laid

waste the country a hundred miles round the tower, like the

flames of a volcano. Then, with one last effort to free herself,

her hands gave way, and, falling down to the bottom of the tower,

she was broken in pieces.

When the flying princess saw what had happened she rode back to

the spot, as Sunlight counselled her, and placed her finger on

the top of the tower, which was gradually shrinking into the

earth. In an instant the tower had vanished as if it had never

been, and in its place was the finger of the princess with a ring

round it.

The emperor received Iliane with all the respect that was due to

her, and fell in love at first sight besides.

But this did not seem to please Iliane, whose face was sad as she

walked about the palace or gardens, wondering how it was that,

while other girls did as they liked, she was always in the power

of someone whom she hated.

So when the emperor asked her to share his throne Iliane


'Noble Sovereign, I may not think of marriage till my stud of

horses has been brought me, with their trappings all complete.'

When he heard this, the emperor once more sent for Fet-Fruners,

and said:

'Fet-Fruners, fetch me instantly the stud of mares, with their

trappings all complete. If not, your head shall pay the


'Mighty Emperor, I kiss your hands! I have but just returned

from doing your bidding, and, behold, you send me on another

mission, and stake my head on its fulfilment, when your court is

full of valiant young men, pining to win their spurs. They say

you are a just man; then why not entrust this quest to one of

them? Where am I to seek these mares that I am to bring you?'

'How do I know? They may be anywhere in heaven or earth; but,

wherever they are, you will have to find them.'

The princess bowed and went to consult Sunlight. He listened

while she told her tale, and then said:

'Fetch quickly nine buffalo skins; smear them well with tar, and

lay them on my back. Do not fear; you will succeed in this also;

but, in the end, the emperor's desires will be his undoing.'

The buffalo skins were soon got, and the princess started off

with Sunlight. The way was long and difficult, but at length

they reached the place where the mares were grazing. Here the

genius who had carried off Iliane was wandering about, trying to

discover how to capture them, all the while believing that Iliane

was safe in the palace where he had left her.

As soon as she caught sight of him, the princess went up and told

him that Iliane had escaped, and that his mother, in her efforts

to recapture her, had died of rage. At this news a blind fury

took possession of the genius, and he rushed madly upon the

princess, who awaited his onslaught with perfect calmness. As he

came on, with his sabre lifted high in the air, Sunlight bounded

right over his head, so that the sword fell harmless. And when

in her turn the princess prepared to strike, the horse sank upon

his knees, so that the blade pierced the genius's thigh.

The fight was so fierce that it seemed as if the earth would give

way under them, and for twenty miles round the beasts in the

forests fled to their caves for shelter. At last, when her

strength was almost gone, the genius lowered his sword for an

instant. The princess saw her chance, and, with one swoop of her

arm, severed her enemy's head from his body. Still trembling

from the long struggle, she turned away, and went to the meadow

where the stud were feeding.

By the advice of Sunlight, she took care not to let them see her,

and climbed a thick tree, where she could see and hear without

being seen herself. Then he neighed, and the mares came

galloping up, eager to see the new comer--all but one horse, who

did not like strangers, and thought they were very well as they

were. As Sunlight stood his ground, well pleased with the

attention paid him, this sulky creature suddenly advanced to the

charge, and bit so violently that had it not been for the nine

buffalo skins Sunlight's last moment would have come. When the

fight was ended, the buffalo skins were in ribbons, and the

beaten animal writhing with pain on the grass.

Nothing now remained to be done but to drive the whole stud to

the emperor's court. So the princess came down from the tree and

mounted Sunlight, while the stud followed meekly after, the

wounded horse bringing up the rear. On reaching the palace, she

drove them into a yard, and went to inform the emperor of her


The news was told at once to Iliane, who ran down directly and

called them to her one by one, each mare by its name. And at the

first sight of her the wounded animal shook itself quickly, and

in a moment its wounds were healed, and there was not even a mark

on its glossy skin.

By this time the emperor, on hearing where she was, joined her in

the yard, and at her request ordered the mares to be milked, so

that both he and she might bathe in the milk and keep young for

ever. But they would suffer no one to come near them, and the

princess was commanded to perform this service also.

At this, the heart of the girl swelled within her. The hardest

tasks were always given to her, and long before the two years

were up, she would be worn out and useless. But while these

thoughts passed through her mind, a fearful rain fell, such as no

man remembered before, and rose till the mares were standing up

to their knees in water. Then as suddenly it stopped, and,

behold! the water was ice, which held the animals firmly in its

grasp. And the princess's heart grew light again, and she sat

down gaily to milk them, as if she had done it every morning of

her life.

The love of the emperor for Iliane waxed greater day by day, but

she paid no heed to him, and always had an excuse ready to put

off their marriage. At length, when she had come to the end of

everything she could think of, she said to him one day: 'Grant

me, Sire, just one request more, and then I will really marry

you; for you have waited patiently this long time.'

'My beautiful dove,' replied the emperor, 'both I and all I

possess are yours, so ask your will, and you shall have it.'

'Get me, then,' she said, 'a flask of the holy water that is kept

in a little church beyond the river Jordan, and I will be your


Then the emperor ordered Fet-Fruners to ride without delay to the

river Jordan, and to bring back, at whatever cost, the holy water

for Iliane.

'This, my mistress,' said Sunlight, when she was saddling him,

'is the last and most difficult of your tasks. But fear nothing,

for the hour of the emperor has struck.'

So they started; and the horse, who was not a wizard for nothing,

told the princess exactly where she was to look for the holy


'It stands,' he said, 'on the altar of a little church, and is

guarded by a troop of nuns. They never sleep, night or day, but

every now and then a hermit comes to visit them, and from him

they learn certain things it is needful for them to know. When

this happens, only one of the nuns remains on guard at a time,

and if we are lucky enough to hit upon this moment, we may get

hold of the vase at once; if not, we shall have to wait the

arrival of the hermit, however long it may be; for there is no

other means of obtaining the holy water.'

They came in sight of the church beyond the Jordan, and, to their

great joy, beheld the hermit just arriving at the door. They

could hear him calling the nuns around him, and saw them settle

themselves under a tree, with the hermit in their midst--all but

one, who remained on guard, as was the custom.

The hermit had a great deal to say, and the day was very hot, so

the nun, tired of sitting by herself, lay down right across the

threshold, and fell sound asleep.

Then Sunlight told the princess what she was to do, and the girl

stepped softly over the sleeping nun, and crept like a cat along

the dark aisle, feeling the wall with her fingers, lest she

should fall over something and ruin it all by a noise. But she

reached the altar in safety, and found the vase of holy water

standing on it. This she thrust into her dress, and went back

with the same care as she came. With a bound she was in the

saddle, and seizing the reins bade Sunlight take her home as fast

as his legs could carry him.

The sound of the flying hoofs aroused the nun, who understood

instantly that the precious treasure was stolen, and her shrieks

were so loud and piercing that all the rest came flying to see

what was the matter. The hermit followed at their heels, but

seeing it was impossible to overtake the thief, he fell on his

knees and called his most deadly curse down on her head, praying

that if the thief was a man, he might become a woman; and if she

was a woman, that she might become a man. In either case he

thought that the punishment would be severe.

But punishments are things about which people do not always

agree, and when the princess suddenly felt she was really the man

she had pretended to be, she was delighted, and if the hermit had

only been within reach she would have thanked him from her heart.

By the time she reached the emperor's court, Fet-Fruners looked

a young man all over in the eyes of everyone; and even the mother

of the genius would now have had her doubts set at rest. He drew

forth the vase from his tunic and held it up to the emperor,

saying: 'Mighty Sovereign, all hail! I have fulfilled this task

also, and I hope it is the last you have for me; let another now

take his turn.'

'I am content, Fet-Fruners,' replied the emperor, 'and when I am

dead it is you who will sit upon my throne; for I have yet no son

to come after me. But if one is given me, and my dearest wish is

accomplished, then you shall be his right hand, and guide him

with your counsels.'

But though the emperor was satisfied, Iliane was not, and she

determined to revenge herself on the emperor for the dangers

which he had caused Fet-Fruners to run. And as for the vase of

holy water, she thought that, in common politeness, her suitor

ought to have fetched it himself, which he could have done

without any risk at all.

So she ordered the great bath to be filled with the milk of her

mares, and begged the emperor to clothe himself in white robes,

and enter the bath with her, an invitation he accepted with joy.

Then, when both were standing with the milk reaching to their

necks, she sent for the horse which had fought Sunlight, and made

a secret sign to him. The horse understood what he was to do,

and from one nostril he breathed fresh air over Iliane, and from

the other, he snorted a burning wind which shrivelled up the

emperor where he stood, leaving only a little heap of ashes.

His strange death, which no one could explain, made a great

sensation throughout the country, and the funeral his people gave

him was the most splendid ever known. When it was over, Iliane

summoned Fet-Fruners before her, and addressed him thus:

'Fet-Fruners! it is you who brought me and have saved my life,

and obeyed my wishes. It is you who gave me back my stud; you

who killed the genius, and the old witch his mother; you who

brought me the holy water. And you, and none other, shall be my


'Yes, I will marry you,' said the young man, with a voice almost

as soft as when he was a princess. 'But know that in OUR house,

it will be the cock who sings and not the hen!'

[From Sept Contes Roumains, Jules Brun and Leo Bachelin.]