The Wise Girl - A Serbian Story





There was once a girl who was wiser than the King and all his

councilors; there never was anything like it. Her father was so proud

of her that he boasted about her cleverness at home and abroad. He

could not keep his tongue still about it. One day he was boasting to

one of his neighbors, and he said, "The girl is so clever that not

even the King himself could ask her a question she couldn't answer, or

read her a riddle she couldn't unravel."



Now it so chanced the King was sitting at a window near by, and he

overheard what the girl's father was saying. The next day he sent for

the man to come before him. "I hear you have a daughter who is so

clever that no one in the kingdom can equal her; and is that so?"

asked the King.



Yes, it was no more than the truth. Too much could not be said of her

wit and cleverness.



That was well, and the King was glad to hear it. He had thirty eggs;

they were fresh and good, but it would take a clever person to hatch

chickens out of them. He then bade his chancellor get the eggs and

give them to the man.



"Take these home to your daughter," said the King, "and bid her hatch

them out for me. If she succeeds she shall have a bag of money for her

pains, but if she fails you shall be beaten as a vain boaster."



The man was troubled when he heard this. Still his daughter was so

clever he was almost sure she could hatch out the eggs. He carried

them home to her and told her exactly what the King had said, and it

did not take the girl long to find out that the eggs had been boiled.



When she told her father that, he made a great to-do. That was a

pretty trick for the King to have played upon him. Now he would have

to take a beating and all the neighbors would hear about it. Would to

Heaven he had never had a daughter at all if that was what came of it.



The girl, however, bade him be of good cheer. "Go to bed and sleep

quietly," said she. "I will think of some way out of the trouble. No

harm shall come to you, even though I have to go to the palace myself

and take the beating in your place."



The next day the girl gave her father a bag of boiled beans and bade

him take them out to a certain place where the King rode by every day.

"Wait until you see him coming," said she, "and then begin to sow the

beans." At the same time he was to call out this, that, and the other

so loudly that the King could not help but hear him.



The man took the bag of beans and went out to the field his daughter

had spoken of. He waited until he saw the King coming, and then he

began to sow the beans, and at the same time to cry aloud, "Come sun,

come rain! Heaven grant that these boiled beans may yield me a good

crop."



The King was surprised that any one should be so stupid as to think

boiled beans would grow and yield a crop. He did not recognize the

man, for he had only seen him once, and he stopped his horse to speak

to him. "My poor man," said he, "how can you expect boiled beans to

grow? Do you not know that that is impossible?"



"Whatever the King commands should be possible," answered the man,

"and if chickens can hatch from boiled eggs why should not boiled

beans yield a crop?"



When the King heard this he looked at the man more closely, and then

he recognized him as the father of the clever daughter.



"You have indeed a clever daughter," said he. "Take your beans home

and bring me back the eggs I gave you."



The man was very glad when he heard that, and made haste to obey. He

carried the beans home and then took the eggs and brought them back to

the palace of the King.



After the King had received the eggs he gave the man a handful of

flax. "Take this to your clever daughter," he said, "and bid her make

for me within the week a full set of sails for a large ship. If she

does this she shall receive the half of my kingdom as a reward, but if

she fails you shall have a drubbing that you will not soon forget."



The man returned to his home, loudly lamenting his hard lot.



"What is the matter?" asked his daughter. "Has the King set another

task that I must do?"



Yes, that he had; and her father showed her the flax the King had sent

her and gave her the message.



"Do not be troubled," said the girl. "No harm shall come to you. Go to

bed and sleep quietly, and to-morrow I will send the King an answer

that will satisfy him."



The man believed what his daughter said. He went to bed and slept

quietly.



The next day the girl gave her father a small piece of wood. "Carry

this to the King," said she. "Tell him I am ready to make the sails,

but first let him make me of this wood a large ship that I may fit the

sails to it."



The father did as the girl bade him, and the King was surprised at the

cleverness of the girl in returning him such an answer.



"That is all very well," said he, "and I will excuse her from this

task. But here! Here is a glass mug. Take it home to your clever

daughter. Tell her it is my command that she dip out the waters from

the ocean bed so that I can ride over the bottom dry shod. If she does

this, I will take her for my wife, but if she fails you shall be

beaten within an inch of your life."



The man took the mug and hastened home, weeping aloud and bemoaning

his fate.



"Well, and what is it?" asked his daughter. "What does the King demand

of me now?"



The man gave her the glass mug and told her what the King had said.



"Do not be troubled," said the girl. "Go to bed and sleep in peace.

You shall not be beaten, and soon I shall be reigning as Queen over

all this land."



The man had trust in her. He went to bed and slept and dreamed he saw

her sitting by the King with a crown on her head.



The next day the girl gave her father a bunch of tow. "Take this to

the King," she said. "Tell him you have given me the mug, and I am

willing to dip the sea dry, but first let him take this tow and stop

up all the rivers that flow into the ocean."



The man did as his daughter bade him. He took the tow to the King and

told him exactly what the girl had said.



Then the King saw that the girl was indeed a clever one, and he sent

for her to come before him.



She came just as she was, in her homespun dress and her rough shoes

and with a cap on her head, but for all her mean clothing she was as

pretty and fine as a flower, and the King was not slow to see it.

Still he wanted to make sure for himself that she was as clever as her

messages had been.



"Tell me," said he, "what sound can be heard the farthest throughout

the world?"



"The thunder that echoes through heaven and earth," answered the girl,

"and your own royal commands that go from lip to lip."



This reply pleased the King greatly. "And now tell me," said he,

"exactly what is my royal sceptre worth?"



"It is worth exactly as much as the power for which it stands," the

girl replied.



The King was so well satisfied with the way the girl answered that he

no longer hesitated; he determined that she should be his Queen, and

that they should be married at once.



The girl had something to say to this, however. "I am but a poor

girl," said she, "and my ways are not your ways. It may well be that

you will tire of me, or that you may be angry with me sometime, and

send me back to my father's house to live. Promise that if this should

happen you will allow me to carry back with me from the castle the

thing that has grown most precious to me."



The King was willing to agree to this, but the girl was not satisfied

until he had written down his promise and signed it with his own royal

hand. Then she and the King were married with the greatest magnificence,

and she came to live in the palace and reign over the land.



Now while the girl was still only a peasant she had been well content

to dress in homespun and live as a peasant should, but after she

became Queen she would wear nothing but the most magnificent robes and

jewels and ornaments, for that seemed to her only right and proper for

a Queen. But the King, who was of a very jealous nature, thought his

wife did not care at all for him, but only for the fine things he

could give her.



One time the King and Queen were to ride abroad together, and the

Queen spent so much time in dressing herself that the King was kept

waiting, and he became very angry. When she appeared before him, he

would not even look at her. "You care nothing for me, but only for the

jewels and fine clothes you wear," he cried. "Take with you those that

are the most precious to you, as I promised you, and return to your

father's house. I will no longer have a wife who cares only for my

possessions and not at all for me."



Very well; the girl was willing to go. "And I will be happier in my

father's house than I was when I first met you," said she. Nevertheless

she begged that she might spend one more night in the palace, and that

she and the King might sup together once again before she returned

home.



To this the King agreed, for he still loved her, even though he was so

angry with her.



So he and his wife supped together that evening, and just at the last

the Queen took a golden cup and filled it with wine. Then, when the

King was not looking, she put a sleeping potion in the wine and gave

it to him to drink.



He took it and drank to the very last drop, suspecting nothing, but

soon after he sank down among the cushions in a deep sleep. Then the

Queen caused him to be carried to her father's house and laid in the

bed there.



When the King awoke the next morning he was very much surprised to

find himself in the peasant's cottage. He raised himself upon his

elbow to look about him, and at once the girl came to the bedside, and

she was again dressed in the coarse and common clothes she had worn

before she was married.



"What means this?" asked the King, "and how came I here?"



"My dear husband," said the girl, "your promise was that if you ever

sent me back to my father's house I might carry with me the thing that

had become most precious to me in the castle. You are that most

precious thing, and I care for nothing else except as it makes me

pleasing in your sight."



Then the King could no longer feel jealous or angry with her. He

clasped her in his arms, and they kissed each other tenderly. That

same day they returned to the palace, and from that time on the King

and his peasant Queen lived together in the greatest love and

happiness.





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