A FAIRY TALE.
Once upon a time there was a country more beautiful than all other lands
and the castle of the Duke its ruler lay beside a lake that was bluer
than the deepest indigo. A long time ago the Knight Wendelin and his
squire George chanced upon this lake but they found nothing save waste
fields and bleak rocks around it yet the shores must formerly have borne
a different aspect for there were shattered columns and broken-nosed
statues lying on the ground. Against the hillside there were remains of
ancient walls that once undoubtedly had supported terraces of vines
but the rains had long washed the soil from the rocks and among the
caves and crannies of the fallen stonework and ruined cellars foxes
bats and other animals had found a home.
The knight was no antiquary but as he looked about him his curiosity was
excited: "What can have happened here?" he said and his squire wondered
also and followed his master. The latter led his horse to the edge of
the water to let him drink for though he had seen many watercourses in
the land he had found nothing in them save stones and boulders and
"What if this lake should be salt like the Dead Sea in the Holy Land?"
the knight asked and the squire answered:
"Ugh that would be a thousand pities!" As the former raised his hand to
his mouth to taste the water wishing indeed that it were wine he
suddenly heard a strange noise. It was mournful and complaining but
very soft and sweet. It seemed to be the voice of an unhappy woman and
this pleased the knight for he had ridden forth in search of adventures.
He had already been successful in several encounters and from George's
saddle hung the tail-tips of seven dragons which his master had killed.
But a woman with a musical appealing voice in great danger offered a
rare opportunity to a knight. Wendelin had not yet had any such
experience. The squire saw his master's eyes sparkle with pleasure
and scratched his head thinking: "Distress brings tears to most peoples'
eyes but there is no knowing what will delight a knight like him!"
The waters of the lake proved to be not salt but wonderfully sweet.
When Wendelin reached the grotto from which the complaining notes came
he found a beautiful young woman more lovely than any one the grey-
haired George had ever seen. She was pale but her lips shone moist and
red like the pulp of strawberries her eyes were as clear and blue as the
sky over the Holy Land and her hair glistened as if it had been spun of
the sunbeams. The knight's heart beat fast at the sight of her
loveliness; he could not speak but he noticed that her hands and feet
were bound with chains and that her beautiful hair was entwined about a
circle of emeralds that hung by a chain from the ceiling. She marked
neither the knight nor the squire who stood shading his eyes with his
hand in order to see her the better.
Hot rage took possession of the heart of Wendelin when he saw the tears
rain down from the lady's large eyes onto her gown which was already as
wet as if she had just been drawn from the lake.
When the knight noticed this an overwhelming pity chased the anger from
his heart and George who was a soft-hearted man sobbed aloud at her
pitiful appearance. The voice of the knight too was unsteady as he
called to the fair prisoner that he was a German Wendelin by name and
that he had set out on a knightly quest to kill dragons and to draw his
sword for all who were oppressed. He had already conquered in many
combats and nothing would please him better than to fight for her.
At this she ceased to weep but she shook her head gently--her hair being
chained impeded her motion--and answered sadly. "My enemy is too
powerful. You are young and beautiful and the darling perhaps of a
loving mother at home I cannot bear that you should suffer the same fate
as the others. Behold that nut-tree over there! What seem to be white
gourds hanging on its naked branches are their skulls! Go your way
quickly for the evil spirit that keeps me prisoner and will not release
me until I have sworn an oath to become his wife will soon return. His
name is Misdral he is very fierce and mighty and lives among the waste
rocks over there on the north shore of the lake. You have my thanks for
your good intention and now proceed on your journey." The knight
however did not follow her advice but approached the beautiful woman
without more words and caught hold of her hair to unbind it from the
ring. No sooner had he touched the emeralds than two brown snakes came
hissing towards him.
"Oho!" exclaimed Sir Wendelin. With one hand he caught their two necks
together in his powerful grip with the other he grasped their tails
tore them in two and threw them out onto the cliffs above the lake.
When the imprisoned lady saw this she heaved a deep sigh of relief and
spoke: "Now I believe that you will be able to liberate me. Draw this
ring from my finger!"
The knight obeyed and as he touched the lady's fingers which were
slender and pointed he felt his heart warm within him and he would
gladly have kissed her. But he only withdrew the ring. As he forced it
onto the end of his own little finger the lady said to him: "Whenever you
turn it round you will be changed to a falcon; for you must know....But
woe to us! There where the water is lashed into foam is the monster
swimming towards us!"
She had hardly finished before a hideous creature drew itself out of the
lake. It looked as if it were covered with mouldering pumice-stone. Two
toads peeped from the cavities of the eyes brown eel-grass hung dripping
and disordered over its neck and forehead and in place of teeth there
were long iron spikes in its jaws which protruded and crossed one another
over its lips.
"A fine wooer indeed!" thought the squire. "If the stone-clad fellow
should not possess a vulnerable spot somewhere on his body I shall
certainly lose my position!"
Similar thoughts passed through the knight's mind and consequently he
did not attack it with his sword but lifting a huge piece of granite
from the ground he hurled it at the monster's head. The creature only
sneezed and passed its hand over its eyes as if to brush away a fly.
Then it looked round and perceiving the knight bellowed aloud and
changed itself into a dragon spouting fire. Herr Wendelin rejoiced at
this for his favourite pastime was to kill that sort of beast. He had
no sooner however plunged his good sword into a soft part of the
monster and seen the blood flow from the wound than his opponent
changed itself into a griffin and raising itself from the ground swooped
upon him. His defence now became more difficult as the evil spirit
continued to attack him in ever changing forms but Sir Wendelin was no
coward and knew well how to use his arm and sword. At length however
the knight began to feel that his strength was deserting him; his sword
seemed to grow heavier and heavier in his hand and his legs felt as if
an hundredweight had been attached to them. His squire noting his
fatigue grew faint and began to think the best thing for him would be
to ride off for the fight was likely to end badly for his master. The
knight's knees were trembling under him and as the monster in the form
of a unicorn charged against his shield he fell to the ground.
The creature shrank suddenly together and in the guise of a black agile
rat shot towards him.
Sir Wendelin felt that he was losing consciousness he heard faintly a
voice from the grotto where the lady was imprisoned calling to him: "The
ring remember the ring!"
He was just able to turn with his thumb the ring on his little finger.
Immediately he felt himself lighter and freer than he had ever felt
before and his heart seemed to harden to a steel spring while a gay and
reckless mood came over him. A wild desire to fly took possession of him
at the same time and it seemed as if he were only fourteen years old
once more. Some strange force impelled him aloft into the air to which
he yielded spreading the two large wings that he suddenly found himself
in possession of as naturally as if he had used them all his life. He
soon felt the feathers on his back stroked by the clouds and yet he saw
everything below him on the earth more distinctly than ever before. Even
the smallest things appeared perfectly clear to his sharpened eyes and
yet he seemed to see them as if reflected in a brilliant mirror. He
could distinguish even the hairs on the rat and suddenly another impulse
came over him--the impulse to stoop down and catch the long-tailed vermin
in his beak and claws. Wendelin had been changed into a falcon and the
rat struggled in vain to escape his powerful attack.
The prisoner had followed the combat first with anxiety then with joy.
While the falcon held the rat in his claws and struck him with his beak
again and again she called the squire to her and bade him free her from
her chains. This was no distasteful task for George indeed it gave him
so much pleasure that he was in no hurry to finish.
When at last all her bonds were loosened she stood very erect and
lifted her arms and each moment seemed to make her more lovely and more
beautiful. Then she grasped the circle of emeralds about which the
enchanter had wound her golden hair and waving it high in the air
cried: "Falcon return to the shape you were before. Misdral hear thy
Wendelin assumed immediately his knightly guise which seemed very clumsy
to him after having been a falcon. The rat lengthened itself and
expanded until it was once more the giant covered with pumicestone; it
walked no longer erect however but crawled along the ground at the feet
of the beautiful woman whimpering and howling like a whipped cur. She
then said to it: "At last I possess the emerald circlet in which
resides your power over me. I can destroy you but my name is Clementine
and so I will grant you mercy. I will only banish you to your rocks.
There you shall remain until the last hour of the last day. Papaluka
Papaluka--Emerald perform thy duty!"
The giant of pumice-stone immediately glowed like molten iron. Once he
raised his clenched fist towards Wendelin and then plunged into the lake
where the hissing and foaming waters closed over him. The lady and the
knight were left alone together. When she asked him what reward he
desired he could only answer that he wished to have her for his wife
and to take her to his home in Germany; but she blushed and answered
sadly: "I may not leave this country and it is not permitted to me to
become the wife of any mortal man. But I know how heroes should be
rewarded and I offer you my lips to kiss."
He knelt down before her and she took his head between her slim hands and
pressed her mouth against his.
George the squire saw this sighed deeply and wondered: "Why was my
father only a miller? What favours are granted to a knight like that!
But I hope the kiss won't be the end of it all; for unless she is a
miserly fairy there ought to be much more substantial pay for his
services in store for him."
But Clementine bestowed even a richer reward than he had expected upon
her rescuer. When she discovered that a lock of the brown hair on
Wendelin's left temple had turned grey during the conflict with the evil
monster she said to him: 'All this land shall belong to you henceforth
and because you have grown grey in your courageous fight with evil you
shall be known from this time forward as Duke Greylock. Every prince
yea even the Emperor himself will recognize the title which I confer
upon you as my saviour and when the race of which you are to be the
progenitor is blessed with offspring I will stand godmother to every
first-born. All the sons of your house from first to last whether they
be dark or fair or brown shall bear the grey lock. It will be a sign
unto your posterity that much good fortune awaits them. My authority
however is limited and if at any time a higher power should hinder me
from exerting my influence in behalf of one of your grandsons then will
the grey lock be missing from his head and it will depend altogether on
himself how his life unfolds itself. One thing more. Give me back my
ring and take instead this mirror which will always show to you and
yours whatever you hold most dear even when you are far away from it."
"Then it will ever be granted to me to bring your face before my eyes
oh! lovely lady!" the knight exclaimed.
The fairy laughed and answered: "No Duke Greylock--the mirror can only
reflect the forms of mortals. I know a wife awaiting you whom you will
rather see than any picture in the glass even were it that of a fairy.
Receive my thanks once more! you are duke enter now into your dukedom!"
With these words she disappeared. A gentle rustling and tinkling was
heard through the air the waste ground covered itself with fresh green
the dry river beds filled with clear running water and on their banks
appeared blooming meadows shady groves and forests. The broken walls
against the hillsides fitted themselves together rose higher and
supported once more the terraces covered with vine stocks and fruit-
trees. Villages and cities grew into form and lay cradled in the
landscape. Beautiful gardens bloomed forth full of gay flowers olive-
trees orange-trees citron and fig and pomegranate-trees each covered
with its golden fruit of many-seeded apples. In the neighbourhood of the
grotto in which the fairy had been imprisoned a park of incomparable
beauty grew into view where brooks whispered and fountains played and
shady pergolas appeared formed of gold and silver trellises over which
a thousand luxuriant creepers clambered holding by their little tendril
The fallen columns stood up again the mutilated marble statues found new
noses and arms and in the background of all this growing magnificence
the young duke perceived-at first dimly as if obscured by mists then
more distinctly-the outline of a palace with loggia balconies columned
halls and statues in bronze and marble around the cornice of its flat
George the squire gazed in openmouthed wonder and his mouth remained
open until he entered the fore-court of the palace. Then he only closed
it to give his jaws a little rest before their future labours began for
such a good smell from the kitchen greeted him that he ordered the
willing cook to satisfy immediately the demands of his appetite as his
hunger was greater than his curiosity.
Sir Wendelin continued his way through the passages chambers halls and
courts. Everywhere servants guards and heyducks swarmed and from the
stables he heard the stamping of many horses and the jingle of their
halter chains as they rattled them against their well-filled mangers.
Choruses of trumpeters played inspiriting fanfares and from the
assembled people in the forecourt a thousand voices shouted again and
again: "Hail to his Grace Duke Greylock Wendelin the First! Long may he
The knight bowed graciously to his good people and when the Chancellor
stepped forward and after a deep reverence set forth in a carefully
prepared speech the great services which the duke had rendered to the
country Wendelin listened with polite attention though he himself was
quite ignorant of what the old man was talking about.
Sir Wendelin had lived through so many adventures that it pleased him now
to sit peacefully on his throne and he did his best to be worthy of the
honours which the fairy had conferred upon him. After he had learned the
duties of a ruler from A to Z he returned to Germany to woo his cousin
Walpurga. He led her back to his palace and for many years they
governed the beautiful land together. All of the five sons which his
wife bore to him came into the world with the grey lock. They all grew
to be brave men and loyal subjects of their father whom they served
faithfully in war holding fraternally together and greatly enlarging the
boundaries of his dukedom by their prowess.
A long time passed and generation after generation of the descendants of
the worthy Sir Wendelin followed one another. The first-born son always
bore the name of the progenitor of the family and the fairy Clementine
always appeared at the baptism. No one ever saw her; but a gentle
tinkling through the palace betrayed her presence and when that ceased
the grey lock on the infant's temple was always found to have twisted
itself into a curl.
At the end of five hundred years Wendelin XV. was carried to his grave.
No Greylock had ever possessed a more luxuriant grey curl than his and
yet he had died young. The wise men of the land said that even to the
most favoured only a fixed measure of happiness and good luck was
granted and that Wendelin XV. had enjoyed his full share in the space of
Certain it is that from childhood everything had prospered with this
duke. His people had expected great things of him when he was only crown
prince and he did not disappoint them when he came to the throne. Every
one had loved him. Under his leadership the army had marched from one
victory to another. While he held the sceptre one abundant harvest
followed another and he had married the most beautiful and most virtuous
daughter of the mightiest prince in the kingdom.
In the midst of a hot conflict and at the moment that his own army sent
up a shout of victory he met his death. Everything that the heart of
man could desire had been accorded to him except the one joy of
possessing a son and heir. But he had left the world in the hope that
that wish too would be fulfilled.
Black banners floated from the battlements of the castle the columns at
its entrance were wreathed in crape the gold state-coaches were painted
black and the manes and tails of the duke's horses bound with ribbons of
the same sombre hue. The master of the hunt had the gaily-colored birds
in the park dyed the schoolmaster had the copy-books of the boys covered
with black the merry minstrels in the land sang only sad strains and
every subject wore mourning. When the ruby-red nose of the guardian of
the Court cellar gradually changed to a bluish tint during this time the
Court marshal thought it only natural. Even the babies were swaddled in
black bands. And besides all this outward show the hearts too were sad
and saddest of all was that of the young widowed duchess. She also had
laid aside all bright colours and went about in deepest mourning only
her eyes despite the Court orders in regard to sombre hues were bright
red from weeping.
She would have wished to die that she might not be separated from her
husband save for a sweet all-powerful hope which held her to this
world; and the prospect of holy duties like faint rays of sunshine
threw their light over her future which would otherwise have seemed as
dark as the habits of the Court about her.
Thus five long months passed. On the first morning of the sixth month
cannon thundered from the citadel of the capital. One salvo followed
another making the air tremble but the firing did not waken the
citizens for not one of them had closed an eye the foregoing night
which according to the oldest inhabitants had been unprecedented. From
the rocky district on the north shore of the lake where Misdral lived
a fearful thunder-storm had arisen and spread over the city and ducal
palace. There was a rolling and rumbling of thunder and howling of wind
such as might have heralded the Day of judgment. The lightning had not
as usual rent the darkness with long jagged flashes but had fallen to
the ground as great fiery balls which however had set nothing aflame.
The watchmen on the towers asserted that above the black clouds a silver-
white mist had floated like a stream of milk over dark wool and that in
the midst of the rumbling and crashing of the thunder they had heard the
sweet tones of harps. Many of the burghers said that they too had heard
it and the ducal Maker of Musical Instruments declared that the notes
sounded as if they had come from a fine harpsichord--though not from one
of the best--which some one had played between heaven and earth.
As soon as the firing of cannon began all the people ran into the
streets and the street-cleaners who were sweeping up the tiles and
broken bits of slate that the storm had torn from the roofs leaned on
their brooms and listened. The Constable was using a great deal of
powder; the time seemed long to the men and women who were counting the
number of reports and there seemed no end to the noise. Sixty guns
meant a princess one hundred and one meant a prince. When the sixty-
first was heard there was great rejoicing for then they knew that the
duchess had borne a son; when however another shot followed the one
hundred and first a clever advocate suggested that perhaps there were
two princesses. When one hundred and sixty-one guns had been fired they
said it might be a boy and a girl; when the one hundred and eightieth
came the schoolmaster whose wife had presented him with seven
daughters exclaimed: "Perhaps there are triplets 'feminini generis!"
But this supposition was confuted by the next shot. When the firing
ceased after the two hundred and second gun the people knew that their
beloved duchess was the mother of twin boys.
The city went crazy with joy. Flags bearing the national colours were
hoisted in place of the mourning banners. In the show-windows of the
drapers' shops red blue and yellow stuffs were exhibited once more and
the courtiers smoothed the wrinkles out of their brows and practised
their smiles again.
Every one was delighted with the exception of the Astrologer and a few
old women and wise men who drew long faces and said that children born
in such a night had undoubtedly come into the world under inauspicious
signs. In the ducal palace itself the joy was not unclouded and it was
precisely the most faithful and devoted of the servants who seemed most
depressed and who held long conferences together.
Both of the boys were well formed and healthy but the second-born lacked
the grey curl which heretofore had never failed to mark each new-born
Pepe the Major-domo who was a direct descendant of George the squire
and who knew the history of the ducal family better than any one else
for he had learned it from his grandfather was so dejected that one
would have imagined a great misfortune had befallen him and in the
evenings when he sat over his wine in company with the Keeper of the
Cellar the Keeper of the Plate and the Decker of the Table he could not
resist giving expression to his presentiments. His conviction that Bad
Luck had knocked at the door of the hitherto fortunate Greylocks was
finally shared by his companions.
That an unhappy future awaited the second boy was the firm belief not
only of the servants but of the whole Court. The unlucky horoscope cast
by the Astrologer was known to all the wise men of the land confirmed it
by their predictions and soon it was proved that even the fairy
Clementine was powerless to avert the misfortune that threatened the
youngest prince. On the day of the baptism neither the gentle tinkling
sound nor the sweet perfume which had heretofore announced her
presence were perceptible. That she had not deserted the ducal house
altogether was shown by the fact that the lock on the temple of the
first-born twined itself into a perfect curl. The lock on the left
temple of the second son remained brown and not a sign of grey could be
discovered even with a magnifying glass. The heart of the young mother
was filled with alarm and she called the old nurse who had taken care of
her dead husband when he was a baby to ask her what had happened at his
baptism and the old woman burst into tears and ended by betraying the
gloomy forecasts of the Astrologer and wise men. That a Greylock should
go through life without the white curl was unheard of was awful! And
the old nurse called the poor little creature "an ill-starred child a
dear pitiable princeling."
Then the mother recalled her last dream in which she had seen a dragon
attack her youngest boy. A great fear possessed her heart and she bade
them bring the child to her. When they laid him naked before her she
stroked the little round body the straight back and well-shaped legs
with her weak hands and felt comforted. He was a beautifully-formed
well-developed child her child her very own and nothing was lacking
save the grey lock. She never wearied of looking at him; at last she
leaned over him and whispered: "You sweet little darling you are just
as good and just as much of a Greylock as your brother. He will be
duke but that is no great piece of luck and we will not begrudge it to
him. His subjects will some day give him enough anxiety. He must grow
to be a mighty man for their sakes and I doubt not that his nurse gives
him better nourishment to that end than I could who am only a weak woman.
But you you poor dear little ill-omened mite I shall nourish you
myself and if your life is unhappy it shall not be because I have not
done my best."
When the Chief Priest came to her to ask her what name she had chosen
for the second boy--the first of course was to be Wendelin XVI--she
remembered her dream and answered quickly: "Let him be named George
for it was he who killed the dragon."
The old man understood her meaning and answered earnestly: "That is a