The Three Soldiers

: Europa's Fairy Book

Once upon a time three soldiers returned from the wars; one was a

sergeant, one was a corporal, and the third was a simple private. One

night they were caught in a forest and made a fire up to sleep by; and

the sergeant had to do sentry-go. While he was walking up and down an

old woman, bent double, came up to him and said:

"Please, sir, may I warm myself by your fire?"

"Why, certainly, moth
r, you are welcome to all the warmth you can


So the old woman sat by the fire for a time, and when she had got

thoroughly warmed she said to the sergeant:

"Thank you, soldier; here is something for your trouble." And she

handed him a purse, which seemed to have nothing in it.

"Oh, thank you, marm," said the sergeant, "but I wouldn't deprive you

of it, especially as there is nothing in it."

"That may be so now," said the old woman, "but take it in your hand

and turn it upside-down, and while you hold it like that gold

pieces will come pouring out of it."

He took it, and, sure enough, whenever he held it up out came the gold

pieces. So he thanked her very much, and off she went.

Next night the corporal had to play sentry, and the old woman came up

to him and asked to sit by the side of the fire.

"Certainly, marm," said he, "and welcome you are. I have known what it

is to shiver in my bones."

So the old woman sat by the fire for a time, and when she was leaving

gave the corporal a tablecloth.

Said he, "Thank you, marm, kindly, but we soldiers rarely use

tablecloths when we are eating our vittles."

"Yes, but this gives you vittles to eat," said the old woman.

"Whenever you put this over a table or on the ground and call out 'Be

covered!' the finest dinner you could eat at once comes upon it."

"If that is so," said the corporal, "I'll take it and thank you

kindly." And with that the old woman departed, and the corporal woke

up his comrades and called out: "Tablecloth be covered!" And, sure

enough, the finest dinner you could imagine appeared upon the cloth.

Next night the private marched up and down doing sentry-go, when the

old woman appeared again and asked to sit by the fire.

"Surely," said the private, "you're as welcome as my own mother would


And after she had sat some time by the fire she got up and said:

"Thank you kindly, sir; I hope this will pay you for your trouble."

And she gave him a whistle.

"And what's this for?" said the private. "I can't play on the


"But you can blow it," said she, "and whenever you blow it out will

come a regiment of armed men that will do whatever you tell them."

And with that the old woman departed, and they never saw her more.

So the three soldiers travelled on till they came to a city where

there was a princess, who was so proud of her card playing that she

had agreed to marry any one who could beat her at cards. Now the

sergeant was also very proud of his card playing, and he thought he

would try his luck with the princess. So when he went up to the palace

he offered to play a game with her, but she said to him:

"What are your stakes? If I lose I have to marry you. But if you lose

what do you lose?"

So the sergeant said: "I'll stake my purse."

"Why, what's a purse with nothing in it!" said the princess.

"There may be nothing in it now," said the sergeant, "but see here,"

and he turned the purse upside-down and put his hand under it, and it

kept on dropping gold pieces into his hand as long as he held it


So the princess agreed to play for the purse. But she had arranged a

mirror at the back of his head in which she could see all his cards.

And so she won easily, and he had to give up the purse.

But this princess was so charming that the sergeant had fallen in love

with her, and when he went back to his comrades he asked the corporal

to lend him his tablecloth. And he went back to the princess and said

to her:

"Will you play me for this tablecloth?"

And she said: "It may be a very beautiful tablecloth but it isn't

quite equal to me."

Then he laid it on a table and said, "Cloth, cover thyself." And there

was a most delicious dinner spread upon it.

But, as the princess knew she would be able to beat him, she agreed to

play him for the tablecloth, and, sure enough, by means of the mirror,

she won the tablecloth from him.

The same thing happened when he borrowed the whistle from the private

and tried his luck with the princess again. But this time he watched

what she was doing, and knew that she had cheated him though he dared

not say so. He lost again and went back to his comrades and asked them

to forgive him, but he could not help it as the princess had cheated

him. So his friends forgave him, and they all went their various


Now the sergeant wandered along, and wandered along, and wandered

along, till he came to the bank of a stream on which there grew fig

trees, white and black. And he gathered some of these figs from the

different trees, and sat down by the bank to eat them. And he ate a

black fig, and then, feeling thirsty, went down to the stream to drink

some of the water, and as he looked in he found that he had two horns

on the side of his head just like a goat, instead of two ears. He

didn't know what to do; but as he was still hungry he ate one of the

white figs; and when he went to drink again he found the horns had

disappeared. So then he knew that the black figs brought the horns and

the white figs took them away. So he gathered some more of them and

went back to the palace of the princess, and sent her up some of the

black figs as a present from an admirer.

And after a while there was a rumour spread around the city that the

princess had horns in her head, and would give anything to any one who

could remove them.

So the sergeant went up to the palace and presented himself before the

princess and said to her:

"I can remove your horns, but I want my purse, and my tablecloth, and

my whistle back."

Then she ordered them to be brought and promised to give them back to

him as soon as the horns were removed.

So he gave her a white fig, and as soon as she had eaten it the horns

disappeared; and he took up the purse, the tablecloth, and the

whistle. Then he said to her:

"Now, will you marry me?"

"No," she replied, "why should I?"

"Because you didn't win these fairly."

"That may be, or that may not be, but I see no reason why I should

marry you."

Thereupon he blew his whistle, and the palace was filled with a

regiment of soldiers. And the sergeant said:

"If you do not marry me these men shall seize your father and I will

seize his throne."

So the princess married him, and he sent for the corporal and the

private and made them rich and prosperous, and they all lived fairly

happily together.