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The Widower And His Daughter

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

I don't know in what country, in which county, in which district, in
which village, in which street, in which corner, there lived a poor
widower, and not far from him a rich widow. The widower had a beautiful
daughter. The widow had two who were not very pretty, and were rather
advanced in years. The widower married the widow and they combined the
two households and lived together. The husband was as fond of his wife's
daughters as of his own; but the woman liked her own daughters better
than her husband's child, and the two older girls loved their parents
truly but disliked their pretty sister very much. The poor man was very
sad at this, but could not help it.

Once upon a time there was a fair held in the town, which was not far
from the village, and the husband had to go to the fair. The two elder
girls and their loving mother asked for no end of pretty dresses they
wished their father to bring them from the fair: but the pretty girl of
the poor man did not dare to open her mouth to ask for anything. "Well,
my daughter, what shall I bring for you?" asked the poor man, in a sad
voice; "why don't you speak? You shall have something, too." "Don't
bring me anything," replied the pretty little girl, "but three walnuts,
and I shall be satisfied; a little girl does not want any pretty dresses
as yet." The poor man went to the fair and brought home many showy
dresses, red shoes, and bracelets. The two girls rummaged among the
heaps of pretty things; they threw about the coloured ribbons, golden
rings, and artificial flowers; they tried on their heads the various
Turkish shawls, and tried the effect of paints on their faces; they
skipped about and sang in their joy; they cheerfully embraced their
mother and highly praised their father's choice. At last, having got
tired of looking at the things, everyone put away her share into her
closet. The pretty little girl placed the three walnuts in her bosom and
felt very sad. The two elder girls could hardly wait for Sunday. They
dressed up most showily; they painted their faces, and as soon as the
bells began to ring ran to church and stuck themselves in the front pew.
Before leaving home, however, they gave the pretty little girl some very
dirty wheat and ordered her to clean it--about half a bushel full--by
the time they came back from church. The little girl began to sort the
wheat weeping, and her tears mingled with the wheat; but her complaining
was heard in Heaven and the Lord sent her a flock of white pigeons who
in a minute picked out the dirt and the tares from among the wheat, and
in another minute flew back to where they had come from. The little girl
gave thanks to Providence and cried no more. She fetched her three
walnuts in order to eat them, but as she opened the first one a
beautiful copper dress fell out of it; from the second a silver one; and
from the third a glittering gold one. She was highly delighted, and at
once locked the two walnuts in which the gold and silver dresses were,
safely in a cupboard. She put on the copper dress, hurried off to
church, and sat down in the last pew all among the old women: and lo!
the whole congregation stood up to admire her, so that the clergyman was
obliged to stop in his sermon: the two old maids looked back quite
surprised and found that the new comer's dress was ever so much prettier
than their own.

It happened that the king's son was also present in whose country the
village was and in which village the poor man and his new wife lived.
The beautiful girl dressed in the glittering copper dress was at once
noticed by the king's son who was at that time looking for a wife all
over the country. As soon as the pretty little girl noticed that the
sermon was coming to an end she left her seat and ran home in order to
get undressed before her step-mother and her two sisters got home. The
king sent a flunkey after her and gave him orders to note the door where
the pretty girl entered; but the swift girl ran much quicker than the
king's servant, and he lost her. She undressed in a great hurry, and by
the time that her two sisters got home in company with their young men
she had her copper dress put away in the walnut and locked it in a
cupboard and donned her ordinary every-day dress, which was very clean,
and was found in the act of fanning the fire under a pot full of
cabbage, and making herself busy about the kitchen in general. "Poor
orphan, you have not seen any thing," exclaimed the two eldest sisters,
who were in high spirits. "The king's son was at church, he sat just
opposite, for a while he kept his eyes fixed on us as if enchanted. You
did not see that, did you? At the beginning of the sermon, however, such
a beautiful girl, dressed in such a gorgeous dress, came in the like of
which no human eye has ever seen before." "I did see that pretty girl as
she turned the corner of the street." "From where did you see her?" at
once asked the envious sisters. "I got on the ladder and went up to the
chimney and saw her from there." "Indeed, then you spent your time
gaping about. You will catch it when father comes home and finds the
wheat unpicked." And they rushed to the place where the wheat was kept,
but lo! the wheat was as clean as washed gold, and the tares and the
dirt had been removed from the house.

In the afternoon the ladder was taken away from the front of the house,
so that the orphan girl should not be able to get on it any more. In
the afternoon the church bells were again heard ringing. The two elder
girls dressed up even more showily than before and went to church. The
prince also put in his appearance. The little orphan girl had twice as
much wheat meted out to her, and they threatened that if it was not
cleaned by the time they came home they would maltreat her. The little
girl set to work in great sorrow, but white pigeons came, twice as many
as in the morning. The wheat got cleaned like gold in one minute. The
little girl at once opened the second walnut, and the silver dress,
shining like moonbeams, unfolded itself. She went to church and sat in
the same seat where she sat in the morning. The prince took out his
eyeglass and eyed the pretty girl in the silver dress. He nearly
devoured her with his eyes. The girl did not stay long in her place, and
at a moment when nobody was looking she stole out of the church and ran
home. The king's flunkey again was unable to find out her abode. When
the two sisters came home the little girl was filling the cleaned wheat
into bags ready to be carried up into the loft. "Don't carry it up
yet--wait a moment," said the two sisters to her. "You have never seen
and will never behold in all your life what we saw to-day. The fairy
girl of this morning came this afternoon to church dressed in pure
silver; she gleamed like moonlight." "I've seen her," said the orphan
girl, with a meek smile; "I got on the hoarding and stood on the top
rail and saw her as she slipped out of church." "And how about the
wheat; let's have a look at it. We suppose you spent all your time
gaping again. Father will give it to you," said the two wicked girls.
But the wheat was all clean, and would have been so if it had been as
much more. They drove a lot of sharp nails into the top of the hoarding,
in order to prevent the orphan girl getting on to it.

The two elder girls anxiously waited for the coming Sunday, as they were
eager to show off some of their new dresses they had never had on
before. Sunday at last arrived, and the two elder girls dressed up ever
so much more gorgeously than before. They put on their rings; tied on
many coloured bows; put on red shoes; and rouged their faces. They went
off in great hurry as soon as the bells began. The prince again was
present, and some of his friends with him. The two elder girls tried
their best to look charming: they screwed up their mouths to make them
look small; they piously bent their heads on one side, and kept on
adjusting their ribbons and bows. Whenever the prince, or any of his
friends looked at them they coyly cast down their eyes and played with
their nosegays. The little girl was again left at home; they gave her
three times as much dirty wheat to pick as on the first occasion, and
threatened her that if by the time they came home she did not get it
picked her father would give her a sound thrashing. The pigeons again
came to assist the pretty child, there were three times as many as at
first, and her wheat was again picked in a minute. The little girl
opened the third nut, and, dressed in the golden dress, went to church,
and sat down in her usual place. The congregation was more astounded
than ever; the women and girls jumped up from their seats. They did not
listen to the sermon, but kept staring at the fairy little girl, and
whispered to each other. The prince was determined that the girl must
become his wife, whatever happened; but the fairy-like girl again
slipped away, and the king's servant followed her, until he saw her run
into a house, whereupon he marked it by sticking a gold rose into the
gate-post. The little girl did not notice this. The elder girls came
running home. "If you lived for another thousand years you would not see
such a beauty as we saw to-day. We saw a pretty creature dressed in pure
gold; we don't think there is another in the whole world like her." "I
saw her," said the little girl, laughing; "I climbed on the mulberry
tree and followed her with my eyes from the street corner all the way to
church." "And how about the wheat; is it picked?" "The Lord has helped
me," said the good little child, "as He always will help orphans." The
mulberry tree was cut down the very same afternoon.

In the afternoon the girls did not bring home any more news from church;
they did not inquire any more whether the wheat had been cleaned,
because they noticed that their step-father was very angry with them for
their having shown so much envy against their sister. The poor father
led his little girl to the cottage of a widow who lived at the end of
the village, and who herself had no children. There she was kept for
several weeks on rather scanty food. The prince had not come to church
for several Sundays; but, after the lapse of three months, three weeks,
and three days, at three in the afternoon, three quarters, and three
minutes, he came on foot into the village, where he had seen the pretty
girl. He had only his servant with him. They examined every gate-post,
and at last found the golden rose which the servant had stuck there.
They entered the cottage, wherein they found an old woman seated reading
her prayers. "Is there a girl in this cot?" inquired the prince. "Yes,
your highness," replied the old woman, "there are two, and either of
them is well worthy of a prince's love." "Call them, my old mother, call
them both; my heart will then recognise its choice."

"Here they are my lord and prince," said the mother with a joyful face,
having in about half an hour got her two daughters dressed up as well as
she could. "The choice of my heart is not among them;" said the prince,
sadly, "have you no more daughters, good woman? call also the third if
you value my happiness." "The Lord has not given me any more, these two
are quite enough, you cannot find any prettier or better in the whole
village." "Haven't you got a husband and hasn't he got a daughter?"
asked the prince, in great sorrow. "My husband is dead," said the old
hag, "it is three years since he was put into his grave." "Let us go on
then, my lord and prince," said the servant, "and we shall find her if
it please the Lord." As they passed through the gate the servant took
the golden rose from the crack in the gate-post and threw it to the
winds. The golden rose thereupon quietly floated in the air above the
heads of the prince and his servant. The fortune-seekers followed the
rose, mumbling prayers, till at the end of the village it dropped on the
ground in front of the gate of the last cot. "Let's go in here, my lord
and prince, as our prayer has brought us here." "If the Lord call us,
let us enter, my faithful servant," replied the prince. A cock crowed
just as they stepped across the threshold, and a very poor old woman
greeted the guests. "Have you a daughter, my old mother?" inquired the
prince graciously. "No, my lord; I never had one," said the old woman
sadly. "If not, don't you keep an orphan? The Lord will preserve the
good mother who takes care of the orphan, as well as the orphan." "Yes,
my lord, but she has no dress fit to appear in, and she is not a bit
worthy of your looking at her; she is naughty and does not like work,
and for this reason her step-mother has cast her off. Her father
supplies in secret her daily food." "The Lord will provide for him who
is in need," said the prince. "Call her; never mind how ugly she is, or
how badly she is clad. I like to make orphans happy." After much
pressing the wretch of an old woman at last produced the little girl,
who looked very poor, but was very cleanly dressed; her face was as soft
as dew. The prince recognised at the first glance the beautiful figure
and the charming features.

"I'm not sorry for the trouble I have taken," said the prince, and
embraced the pretty girl. He gave rich presents to the poor woman, and
took his long-sought-for sweetheart with him. On his way home the
servant reminded his master that it would not be the proper thing to
bring the prince's bride home in such a sorry plight. The prince found
his servant's remark correct. They had only to walk about three miles to
reach the frontier of land where the prince's father reigned. They came
to a round lake where they halted, and on its bank stood a large
weeping willow, so they made the girl sit among the branches and
advised her not to leave her place until they returned with the golden
dresses and the royal carriage. Thereupon they left. The little girl had
hidden the three walnuts in her bosom and in order to surprise her
bridegroom she put on her golden dress and thus dressed awaited his
return. No sooner had she finished her toilet than a whole troop of
gipsy women arrived under the tree on which she sat in her golden dress.
The gipsy women at once questioned her, why she sat there? whom she
expected? and where she was going! She, in her innocence, was not afraid
of them, and told them of her descent, narrated them her past
vicissitudes, her present good fortune, and also confided to them that
she was preparing a joke for her royal bridegroom, and showed her
walnuts and her glittering dresses in them. The prettiest of the gipsy
women climbed on the tree and commenced to flatter her. She asked her to
be allowed to see her walnuts, and in one moment, when the girl was off
her guard, pushed her from the tree down into the lake. To the great
amazement of the gipsies the girl transformed herself into a gold duck,
and flew to the centre of the lake, and, alighting on the water, began
to swim. Thereupon the gipsy women began to throw stones at her, which,
however, she evaded by diving under water. The women at last got tired
of throwing stones, and left the gold duck in the lake, and the gipsy
woman among the branches of the weeping willow. The prince arrived at
sunset at the tree where he had left his pretty fiancee. When lo! he
discovered the woman in the golden dress. He admired her golden raiment,
and begged her to tell him where she had got her golden dress. The gipsy
told him what the girl had related to her, and asked him his forgiveness
for not having mentioned it when she first saw him at the widow's cot,
and made the prince believe that she had kept silence about it solely
because she wished to find out whether he loved her in her poor dress.
The prince believed every word the gipsy said, and begged her to come
down and sit in his carriage, and to drive home with him to his royal
father's palace. As the prince assisted the gipsy woman down from the
willow, the tanned face of his fiancee looked to him as something most
extraordinary. "You were not so sunburnt, my dear, when I left you; what
made your skin get so discoloured?" "My tender skin got discoloured from
the broiling rays of the sun," replied the wicked soul; "let me get into
the shade and in a few days I shall become pale again." The prince
believed it and bade her sit in his carriage. "I can't leave here until
you shoot that gold duck, I should like to have a bit of it at my
wedding feast," said the false one. The bridegroom and his servants
tried for a long time to hit the golden bird, they wasted a vast amount
of powder and shot; but still the golden duck was unhurt because it
always dived under the water.

The dusky woman looked very much disheartened when she took her seat in
the prince's coach, but he soon revived her spirits by sweet and kind
words, and in a short time they arrived at home. The old king did not at
all like the looks of his future daughter-in-law, but on his son
assuring him that in a few days she would regain her fairy-like beauty
his mind was set at ease. They lived together for several months and the
young wife was still sunburnt, and so the prince gradually got cool
towards her. The gipsy woman noticed this, and in order to revive the
spirits of her royal husband she announced it all over the town and in
the adjacent villages that there would be a great feather-picking, held
henceforth three times a week in the royal palace, and everybody rich
and poor was invited, the queen being glad to see anyone. The golden
duck had flown after the coach when the queen was driven home, and,
having regained her girl-form, entered service not far from the royal
mansion and worked diligently. She too went to the first feather-picking
meeting, and, not saying a word to anyone, sat at the end of the table
and made herself busy. "Well, my dear queen and wife," said the prince,
"tell the good work-people here the pretty story which happened to you
when your envious sisters would not let you go to church. Tell them also
who helped you to clean the wheat." The gipsy did not know anything
about these events; but still commenced to chatter away whatever came
into her head first. She told them, among other things, that she had
crept through the keyhole in the gate, and collected all the girls in
the neighbourhood, with whose help she finished her wheat-cleaning.
"That wasn't so, most gracious queen," said a girl, with a pretty voice,
who was very shabbily dressed but looked very clean; "it was from the
chimney stack, and from the top of the hoarding, and from among the
branches of the mulberry tree, from where the orphan girl did her
peeping. But the poor orphan girl only told an innocent fib. It was the
same girl with whom the prince fell in love, whom her half-sisters had
cast off, for whom the prince searched with his servant, whom he seated
in the willow tree, and whom you pushed into the lake, whom your husband
tried to shoot. That orphan girl is nobody else but myself." The prince
at once recognised his sweetheart. His wife thereupon fainted away. She
soon recovered however.

The king made an example of the gipsy woman for her wicked deed: he had
her quartered, and burnt, and then married the little orphan girl. He
had her stepmother cast into prison, and her two daughters' hair cut,
which he ordered to be burnt and cast to the winds: he also took the
orphan girl's father to his court, and married him to the widow at whose
cot he had found his wife. The poor little orphan girl's and her
father's wedding were celebrated together. There was plenty to eat and
drink, so that even the orphan children had rice to eat. Behind the door
there stood a sack in which the Danube and the Theiss were kept. I too
was among the dancing guests, and had a long spur made of straw on my
boot; somebody pushed me by accident, and my spur knocked a hole in the
sack in which the Danube and Theiss were kept; so the water all ran out
and engulphed me, and washed me ashore, not far from here. If you don't
believe my story, here I am!

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