Europa's Fairy Book/The Clever Lass
THE CLEVER LASS
NOW there was once a farmer who had but one daughter of whom he was very proud because she was so clever. So whenever he was in any difficulty he would go to her and ask her what he should do. It happened that he had a dispute with one of his neighbours, and the matter came before the King, and he, after hearing from both of them, did not know how to decide and said:
"You both seem to be right and you both seem to be wrong, and I do not know how to decide; so I will leave it to yourselves in this way: whichever of you can answer best the three questions I am about to ask shall win this trial. What is the most beautiful thing? What is the strongest thing? and, What is the richest thing? Now go home and think over your answers and bring them to me tomorrow morning."
So the farmer went home and told his daughter what had happened, and she told him what to answer next day.
So when the matter came up for trial before the King he asked first the farmer's neighbour, "What is the most beautiful thing?"
And he answered, "My wife."
Then he asked him, 'What is the strongest thing?"
"And what is the richest?"
And he answered, "Myself."
Then he turned to the farmer and asked him, 'What is the most beautiful thing?"
And the farmer answered, "Spring."
Then he asked him, "What is the strongest?"
Then he asked, "What is the richest thing?"
He answered, "The harvest."
Then the King decided that the farmer had answered best, and gave judgment in his favour. But he had noticed that the farmer had hesitated in his answers and seemed to be trying to remember things. So he called him up to him and said,
"I fancy those arrows did not come from your quiver. Who told you how to answer so cleverly?"
Then the farmer said, "Please your Majesty, it was my daughter who is the cleverest girl in all the world."
"Is that so?" said the King. "I should like to test that."
Shortly afterwards the King sent one of his servants to the farmer's daughter with a round cake and thirty small biscuits and a roast capon, and told him to ask her whether the moon was full, and what day of the month it was, and whether the rooster had crowed in the night. On the way the servant ate half the cake and half of the biscuits and hid the capon away for his supper. And when he had delivered the rest to the Clever Girl and told his message she gave this reply to be brought back to the King:
"It is only half-moon and the 15th of the month and the rooster has flown away to the mill; but spare the pheasant for the sake of the partridge."
And when the servant had brought back this message to the King, he cried out,
"You have eaten half the cake and fifteen of the biscuits and didn't hand over the capon at all."
Then the servant confessed that this was all true, and the King said,
"I would have punished you severely but that this Clever Girl begs me to forgive the pheasant, by which she meant you, for the sake of the partridge, by which she meant herself. So you may go unpunished."
The King was so delighted with the cleverness of the girl that he determined to marry her. But, wishing to test her once more before doing so, he sent her a message that she should come to him clothed, yet unclothed, neither walking, nor driving, nor riding, neither in shadow nor in sun, and with a gift which is no gift.
When the farmer's daughter received this message she went near the King's palace, and having undressed herself wrapped herself up in her long hair, and then had herself placed in a net which was attached to the tail of a horse. With one hand she held a sieve over her head to shield herself from the sun; and in the other she held a platter covered with another platter.
Thus she came to the King neither clothed nor unclothed, neither walking, nor riding, nor driving, neither in sun nor in shadow.
Now when she was released from the net and a mantle had been placed over her she handed the platter to the King, who took the top platter off, whereupon a little bird that had been between the two platters flew away. This was the gift that was no gift.
The King was so delighted at the way in which the farmer's daughter had solved the riddle that he immediately married her and made her his Queen. And they lived very happily together though no children came to them. The King depended upon her for advice in all his affairs and would often have her seated by him when he was giving judgment in law matters.
Now it happened that one day at the end of all the other cases there came two peasants, each of whom claimed a foal that had been born in a stable where they had both left their carts, one with a horse and the other with a mare. The King was tired with the day's pleadings, and without thinking and without consulting his Queen who sat by his side, he said,
"Let the first man have it," who happened to be the peasant whose cart was drawn by the horse.
Now the Queen was vexed that her husband should have decided so unjustly, and when the court was over she went to the other peasant and told him how he could convince the King that he had made a rash judgment. So the next day he took a stool outside the King's window and commenced fishing with a fishing-rod in the road.
The King looking out of his window saw this and began to laugh and called out to the man,
"You won't find many fish on a dry road," to which the peasant answered,
"As many as foals that come from a horse."
Then the King remembered his judgment of yesterday and, calling the men before him, decided that the foal should belong to the man who had the mare and who had fished in front of his windows. But he said to him as he dismissed them,
"That arrow never came from your quiver."
Then he went to his Queen in a towering rage and said to her,
"How dare you interfere in my judgments?"
And she said, "I did not like my dear husband to do what was unjust." But the King said,
"Then you ought to have spoken to me, not shamed me before my people. That is too much. You shall go back to your father who is so proud of you. And the only favour I can grant you will be that you can take with you from the palace whatever you love best."
"Your Majesty's wish shall be my law," said the Queen, "but let us at least not part in anger. Let me have my last dinner as Queen in your company."
When they dined together the Queen put a sleeping potion in the King's cup, and when he fell asleep she directed the servants to put him in the carriage that was waiting to take her home, and carried him into her bed. When he woke up next morning he asked,
"Where am I, and why are you still with me?"
Then the Queen said, "You allowed me to take with me that which I loved best in the palace, and so I took you."
Then the King recognized the love his Queen had for him, and brought her back to his palace, and they lived together there forever afterwards.