How the Princess's Pride Was Broken
HERE was a princess who was as pretty as a picture, and she was so proud of that that she would not so much as look at a body; all the same, there was no lack of lads who came a-wooing, and who would have liked nothing so much as to have had her for a sweetheart because she was so good-looking. But, no, she would have nothing to do with any of them; this one was too young and that one was too old; this one was too lean and that one was too fat; this one was too little and that one was too big; this one was too dark and that one was too fair. So there was never a white sheep in the whole flock, as one might say.
Now there was one came who was a king in his own country, and a fine one at that. The only blemish about him was a mole on his chin; apart from that he was as fresh as milk and rose leaves.
But when the princess saw him she burst out laughing; "Who would choose a specked apple from the basket?" said she; and that was all the cake the princess bought at that shop, for off he was packed.
But he was not for giving up, not he; he went and dressed himself up in rags and tatters; then back he came again, and not a soul knew him.
Rap! tap! rap!—he knocked at the door, and did they want a stout lad about the place?
Well, yes; they were wanting a gooseherd, and if he liked the place he might have it.
Oh, that fitted his wants like a silk stocking, and the next day he drove the geese up on the hill back of the king's house, so that they might eat grass where it was fresh and green. By and by he took a golden ball out of his pocket and began tossing it up and catching it, and as he played with it the sun shone on it so that it dazzled one's eyes to look at it.
The princess sat at her window, and it was not long before she saw it, I can tell you. Dear, dear, but it was a pretty one, the golden ball. The princess would like to have such a plaything, that she would; so she sent one of the maids out to ask whether the gooseherd had a mind to sell it.
Oh, yes, it was for sale, and cheap at that; the princess should have it for the kerchief which she wore about her neck.
Prut! but the lad was a saucy one; that was what the princess said. But, after all, a kerchief was only a kerchief; fetch the gooseherd over and she would give it to him, for she wanted the pretty golden ball for her own, and she would have it if it were to be had.
But, no; the gooseherd would not come at the princess's bidding. If she wanted to buy the golden ball she must come up on the hill and pay him, for he was not going to leave his flock of geese, and have them waddling into the garden perhaps; that is what the gooseherd said. So the upshot of the matter was that the princess went out with her women, and gave the lad the kerchief up on the hill behind the hedge, and brought back the golden ball with her for her own.
As for the gooseherd he just tied the kerchief around his arm so that everybody might see it; and all the folks said, "Hi! that is the princess's kerchief."
The next day, when he drove his flock of geese up on the hill, he took a silver looking-glass and a golden comb out of his pocket and began to comb his hair, and you should have seen how the one and the other glistened in the sun.
It took the princess no longer to see the comb and the looking-glass than it had the golden ball, and then she must and would have them. So she sent one to find whether the lad was of a mind to sell them, for she thought that she had never seen anything so pretty in all of her life before.
"Yes," said he, "I will sell them, but the princess must come up on the hill back of the hedge and give me the necklace she wears about her neck."
The princess made a sour enough face at this, but, as the gooseherd would take nothing more nor less than what he had said, she and her maids had to tuck up their dresses and go up on the hill; there she paid him his price, and brought home the silver looking-glass and the golden comb.
The lad clasped the necklace about his throat, and, dear, dear, how all the folks did goggle and stare. "See," said they, "the princess has been giving the gooseherd the necklace from about her own throat."
The third day it was a new thing the gooseherd had, for he brought out a musical box with figures on it, dressed up, and looking for all the world like real little men and women. He turned the handle, and when the music played it was sweeter than drops of honey. And all the while the little men and women bowed to one another and went through with a dance, for all the world as though they knew what they were about, and were doing it with their own wits.
Good gracious! how the princess did wonder at the pretty musical box! She must and would have it at any price; but this time it was five-and-twenty kisses that the lad was wanting for his musical box, and he would take nothing more nor less than just that much for it. Moreover, she would have to come up on the hillside and give them to him, for he could not leave his geese even for five-and-twenty kisses.
But you should have seen what a stew the princess was in at this! Five-and-twenty kisses, indeed! And did the fellow think that it was for the likes of her to be kissing a poor gooseherd? He might keep his musical box if that was the price he asked for it; that was what she said.
As for the lad, he just played the music and played the music, and the more the princess heard and saw the more she wanted it. "After all," said she at last, "a kiss is only a kiss, and I will be none the poorer for giving one or two of them; I'll just let him have them, since he will take nothing else." So off she marched, with all of her maidens, to pay the gooseherd his price, though it was a sour face she made of it, and that is the truth.
Now, somebody had been buzzing in the king's ear, and had told him that the gooseherd over yonder was wearing the princess's kerchief and her golden necklace, and folks said she had given them to him of her own free will.
"What!" says the king, "is that so? her kerchief! golden necklace! we will have to look into this business." So off he marched, with his little dog at his heels, to find out what he could about it. Up the hill he went to where the gooseherd watched his flock; and when he came near the hedge where the kissing was going on, he heard them counting—"Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three—" and he wondered what in the world they were all about. So he just peeped over the bushes, and there he saw the whole business.
Mercy on us! what a rage he was in! So; the princess would turn up her nose at folks as good as herself, would she? And here she was kissing the gooseherd back of the hedge. If he was the kind she liked she should have him for good and all.
So the minister was called in, and and the princess and the gooseherd were married then and there, and that was the end of the business. Then off they were packed to shift for themselves in the wide world, for they were not to live at the king's castle, and that was the long and the short of it.
But the lad did nothing but grumble and growl, and seemed as sore over his bargain as though he had been trying to trick a Jew. What did he want with a lass for a wife who could neither brew nor bake nor boil blue beans? That is what he said. All the same, they were hitched to the same plough; and there was nothing for it but to pull together the best they could. So off they packed and the poor princess trudged after him and carried his bundle.
So they went on until they came to a poor, mean little hut. There she had to take off her fine clothes and put on rags and tatters; and that was the way she came home.
"Well," said the gooseherd one day, "it's not the good end of the bargain that I have had in marrying: all the same, one must make the best one can of a crooked stick when there is none other to be cut in the hedge. It is little or nothing you are fit for; but here is a basket of eggs, and you shall take them to the market and sell them."
So off the poor princess went to the great town, and stood in the corner of the market with her eggs. By and by there came along a tipsy countryman—tramp! tramp! tramp! As for the basket of eggs, he minded them no more than so many green apples. Smash! and there they lay on the ground, and were fit for nothing but to patch broken promises, as we say in our town.
Then how the poor princess did wring her hands and cry and cry, for she was afraid to go home to her husband, because of the hard words he would be sure to fling at her. All the same, there was no other place for her to go; so back she went.
"There!" said he, "I always knew that you were good for nothing but to look at, and now I am more sure of it than ever. The china pitcher was never fit to send to the well, and it was a rainy day for me when I married such a left-handed wife;" that was what the gooseherd said. All the same, the princess should try again; this time she should take a basket of apples to the market to sell; for whatever happened she could not break them; so off she went again.
Well, by and by came a fellow driving swine, and there sat the princess in the way; that was bad luck for her, for over tumbled the basket, and the apples went rolling all about the street. When the drove had passed there was not a single apple to be seen, for the pigs had eaten every one of them. So there was nothing for the princess but to go home crying, with her apron to her eyes.
"Yes, yes," said the gooseherd, "it is as plain as reading and writing and the nose on your face that you are just fit for nothing at all! All the same, we'll make one more try to mend the crack in your luck. The king up in the castle yonder is married and is going to give a grand feast. They are wanting a body in the kitchen to draw the water and chop the wood; and you shall go and try your hand at that; and see, here is a basket; you shall take it along and bring home the kitchen scrapings for supper."
So off went the princess to the castle kitchen, and there she drew the water and chopped the wood for the cook. After her work was done she begged so prettily for the kitchen scrapings that the cook filled her basket full of the leavings from the pots and the pans, for they were about having a grand dinner up-stairs and the king was going to bring home his wife that day.
By and by it was time for her to be going home, so she picked up her basket and off she went. Just outside stood two tall soldiers. "Halt!" said they. And was she the lass who had been chopping the wood and drawing the water for the cook that day? Yes? Then she must go along with them, for she was wanted up-stairs. No; it did no good for her to beg and to pray and to cry and to wring her hands, and it mattered nothing if her good man was waiting for her at home. She had been sent for, and she must go, willy-nilly. So she had only just time to fling her apron over her basket of kitchen scrapings, and off they marched her.
There sat the king on his golden throne, dressed all in splendid golden robes, and a golden crown glittering upon his head. But the poor princess was so frightened that she neither looked at anything nor saw anything, but only stood there trembling.
"What have you under your apron?" said the king. But to this the princess could not answer a single word. Then somebody who stood near snatched away her apron, and there was the basket full of kitchen scrapings, and all the time the princess stood so heart-struck with shame that she saw nothing but the cracks in the floor.
But the king stepped down from his golden throne, dressed all in his golden robes, just as he was, and took the princess by the hand. "And do you not know me?" said he; "look? I am the gooseherd."
And so he was! She could see it easily enough now, but that made her more ashamed than ever.
And listen: the king had more to tell her yet. He was the tipsy country man and had knocked over her basket of eggs himself, and more than that he was the swineherd who had driven his pigs over her basket of apples so that they were spilled on the ground. But the princess only bowed her head lower and lower, for her pride was broken.
"Come," says the king, "you are my own sweetheart now;" and he kissed her on the cheek and seated her beside himself, and if the princess cried any more the king wiped away her tears with his own pocket-handkerchief. As for the poor and rough clothes in which she was dressed, he thought nothing of them, for they were nothing to him.
That is the end of this story, for everything ends aright in a story worth the telling.
But if the princess was proud and haughty before, she never was again; and that is the plain truth, fresh from the churn and no hairs in it, and a lump of it is worth spreading your bread with, I can tell you.