The Widower And His Daughter

: 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!