The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/The Demon's Marriage
THE DEMON'S MARRIAGE
LONG, long ago, in quite the olden time, there lived a King who had an only daughter. The monarch was very wealthy and he was exceedingly proud of being so rich. To be sure, he had much more money than he deserved to have. He thought more about money than about anything else. He was also haughty because he wore a crown. He listened to silly people who told him that his blood was blue, because he was a King. "Like father, like child," says an old proverb, and the Princess was also very proud. She loved money, and thought herself better than everybody else.
When a poor noble Prince came to woo her, she would refuse to listen to his heart's cry; telling him that his rank was not good enough, or that his money was far too little for her ideas. In fact, she thought that money was the only thing worth having in life. Her father, instead of rebuking her and correcting her, encouraged her to look for rank and wealth as the first qualifications in any suitor. In fact, he used to say that he would never allow her to marry any one unless he happened to be a Prince who had as much money as he had.
Many suitors came to win her hand, but she rejected them. Some of these men were noble and good men; their only fault was their poverty. One day when she was celebrating her twenty-third birthday her father said to her,—
"I do wish, dear daughter, that Princes who are beggars would keep away from our court."
"To be sure, dear father, I quite agree. I have no patience with poor people who think of marrying me for the sake of my wealth."
Not long after this conversation there appeared in the courtyard of the palace a handsome young fellow dressed like a Prince in silk and velvet. His sword was of gold, and he had diamonds in the buckles of his shoes. He knocked at the palace door and when it was opened he asked to see the King. He was admitted and conducted at once to the royal presence. He advanced towards the throne whereon the King sat, and, after bowing in a very stately fashion, exclaimed,—
"May your gracious Majesty live long and live well! I am a Prince with very blue blood; my pedigree is unparalleled, I can assure you. I have come to ask your Majesty's permission to woo your lovely daughter. I am longing to see her, for I hear that she is the most beautiful Princess in all the world. The fame of her beauty has reached my father's realm, and I now ask you to allow me to see her."
"Well, noble Prince, I think I can allow you to see her. Like all wise Princesses, she has made up her mind to be uninfluenced in her love affairs. I cannot help you. What I will do, however, is to second your efforts, if my daughter seems favorably disposed towards you."
He then ordered his chamberlain to request the Princess to come to the throne-room.
"Tell her royal highness," he added, "that a most noble Prince is being received in audience and desires to make her royal highness' acquaintance."
After a few minutes' interval, the Princess entered the throne-room and sat on a chair of state beside her father. She looked very beautiful and her court jewels added to her adornment.
"Permit me to greet your royal highness," said the visitor, "and will you favor me by accepting this small gift which I have brought from my royal father."
He then gave her a gold casket full of brilliants and pearls. There were rings and bracelets set with glistening diamonds and rubies. She gazed for some time at the wonderful sight, and when she had feasted her eyes sufficiently she cried aloud,—
"Look, father dear! See what a wonderful gift this charming Prince has brought me. Never before did I receive such a lovely present. I cannot find words to thank the Prince."
"Truly wonderful and right royal is the gift," said the King, and turning to his daughter he said: "Now leave us."
"Now may I speak?" said the Prince with a smile on his face. "I have come to win the hand and heart of your lovely daughter. I am indeed so much in love with her that I venture to ask you to consent to my endeavor to win her love. I know you will not allow her to wed a poor Prince. I feel sure that I can satisfy you that I am not only as wealthy as your Majesty, but I can claim to possess more money than can be found in your kingdom. I am, of course, of noble descent as I have already mentioned. My father rules a great kingdom and I am the heir-apparent."
"By all appearances," observed the King, "your royal highness seems to be a very wealthy and noble Prince. I must confess that I have been agreeably surprised by your kindness in giving my daughter such a magnificent present."
"Oh, your Majesty!" said the Prince, "pray do not mention this again. It was a mere bagatelle compared with the jewels I have with me here in my apartments. If your Majesty will honor me by accompanying me to my rooms I will be able to show your Majesty a small portion of my wealth. I do not like to boast, but I must tell you that I have with me antique and precious gems of greater value than all the crown jewels of your Majesty. Such things as I possess your Majesty has never seen. All this is as nothing compared with the wealth in my castles and palace at home. All this fortune awaits my future wife. I hope it will be your daughter. Have I your consent?"
"What is the name of your father's kingdom, and what is your own name?"
"I am called Prince Daring and my father's realm is called the Kingdom of Delight; it is situated far away beyond the hills, across the sea. Probably in such a small kingdom as this your Majesty has never heard of this realm. Do not your subjects say, 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating'? Here I am, at all events, and you can judge what sort of Prince I am. Your own eyes shall have abundant proof as to my enormous wealth. I imagine your experience tells you that you can recognize in me the exterior of a Prince the like of whom you have rarely seen at your court. Kindly tell me now whether I am acceptable to your Majesty as a future son-in-law."
"I will give my decision when I have seen your treasures."
"Will your Majesty accompany me now to my rooms?"
"We will go at once."
The King went with the Prince to his lodging, which was in one of the best hotels in the city. The King was astounded to see in one of the rooms more gold, silver, jewels, and precious material than he had ever seen in all his life.
"Well, I never," observed the King, "expected to see such wealth and treasure; you must be a hundred times richer than I am. Of course you have my consent to wed my sweet daughter. I am sure you will make a very good son-in-law."
They then returned to the palace. The King sent for the Princess and told her that he quite approved of the Prince as her future husband. The Princess with a blush on her face said,—
"I am quite happy to be the bride of such a noble Prince whose wealth will enable us to be happy and to enjoy life in a manner becoming our rank."
"Of that there can be no doubt," said the King.
"Yes, you shall have as much money as you want, sweet Princess," said the Prince.
"I shall realize my dream of having heaps and heaps of money, amusement will make me so happy," said the Princess with joy in her eyes.
The Prince then placed a lovely diamond engagement ring on the finger of the Princess, saying: "With this ring do I betroth thee unto me." He then kissed her. But she seemed to be chilled by his cold lips and she trembled for a second. Her father wished her joy and kissed her. The King summoned his courtiers and told of his daughter's engagement. The happy bridal couple received the congratulations of the entire court. Heralds were sent to all parts of the kingdom to proclaim the good news. The people rejoiced when they heard that the Princess had at last found a husband.
Elaborate preparations for the royal wedding were at once taken in hand. The marriage was fixed to take place in a week's time. All the nobles and the rich merchants were invited to witness the function and to attend the State ball which was to follow the happy event. The banquet after the marriage ceremony was truly royal. The best of everything was provided in abundance. The choicest wines were taken from the royal cellars. The King determined to make an effort in order to impress his rich son-in-law. He spared no expense to provide a magnificent feast, and he succeeded so well that all his guests were surprised and delighted.
After the first week of their married life, the Prince came to his father-in-law and said,—
"Beloved father of my wife! I crave your Majesty's permission to return to my own land and home with my dear wife. I promised my good father that I should not be absent from his court for more than twenty days. I have spent fourteen days here as your guest and I took three days to come here and I need three days for the return journey. My time is now up. I dare not disappoint the King my father lest he be angry with me and your daughter. It would never do for my sweet wife to meet her father-in-law in one of his dreadful tempers. He is liable to fits of wicked temper, and if I am not greatly mistaken most monarchs are subject to the same trouble."
"Yes, yes," cried the King somewhat testily. "I am also in a temper occasionally and I shall soon fly into a very bad one if you talk about going away so suddenly. This unexpected news has quite upset me — dear me! This is too bad. Just stay one more day to please me. If you hurry away so suddenly the courtiers will think that we have had a quarrel or that something is wrong."
"Your Majesty surely knows by now that I would most gladly do anything to give you pleasure, but I cannot disobey my father. I must therefore say 'Good-by' now, and I once again thank you for giving me your beautiful and sweet daughter. I will take every care of her and you will hear from us in due course."
The King saw that the Prince was determined to depart. He therefore gave his consent with the best grace he could command. He gave orders for a large retinue to accompany the Princess and her husband. He told his daughter that she might take with her his court harpist and retain him as one of her attendants in her new home. Prior to his departure the Prince gave beautiful presents to all the court officials and also a large box of jewels to the King. At last the bride and bridegroom left the palace. The King stood on the balcony and waved his hand to his daughter. Every mark of honor was naturally shown to the Prince and Princess. Away the cortege went, many of the followers being afoot, the rest on horseback.
On the third day after their departure they saw in the distance a large and beautiful city. The Prince then turned to all who had followed him and said,—
"Yonder is the capital of my father's kingdom. I now wish to bid you all farewell. Return to your homes, as I do not wish to trouble you to accompany me any longer. I thank you for your courtesy in coming thus far. I appreciate your attention very much indeed."
The retinue heard these words in great surprise. They begged him to allow them to accompany him a little further.
"If we may not," said they, "come as far as the castle, let us at all events see you and our dear Princess enter the city gates. We will then return home."
"You will return now or not at all," cried the Prince with flashing eyes. "I almost feel inclined to enjoy the pleasure of doing a little evil to all of you. You are, one and all, in my power. You think that I am a Prince. I am nothing of the kind. You imagine that I am a human being. You are mightily mistaken."
"What are you then?" they cried in dismay.
"I am a demon in human shape. Were it not for the fact that you have been very courteous to me and the Princess my wife, I would not suffer you to return at all. I should keep you here in my kingdom as prisoners and slaves. I went to your lord the King to punish him for his abominable pride. He loves money more than anything else. Virtue, character and true nobility do not count in his eyes. He prefers appearances to reality—and for once in his life he has got his preference. Your King asked me my name: go and tell him that I am the son of Satan. You will not easily forget it once you have heard it. I know that my personality usually makes a great impression. I think your King and master will remember me all the days of his life. In giving the Princess to me he thought the lines of her life were being laid in pleasant places. But pleasant places are not to be bought with money. It is not all gold that glitters. The love of money is a terrible spell that casts misfortune and unhappiness upon all those who love it above all things. When people are ready to sell body and soul for gold and silver there is no hope for them. Your King has sold his daughter to the Devil and there is no hope for either of them."
When the Princess heard these terrible words she screamed in fright and fell to the earth in a dead faint. She was quickly raised up from the ground by the harpist, who was so sweet and gentle in all his ways. He led her to a tuft of grass where she could rest herself. The retainers stood still as though they were bewitched. At last one of them turned to the disguised demon and said,—
"What proof can you give us that what you say is the truth?"
"Proof, indeed!" cried he. "See!" He touched the ground with his golden sword and lo! a column of fire and smoke arose from the earth. "I will give you further proof," he added. "I now command all the jewels and gifts which I gave to the King and the officials on the day of my departure to change into tinsel and dross. You will see that this has happened when you reach the palace. Now tell me when will that be if you return at once?"
"Why, in three days, of course," said they. "Is to-day not the third day since we left the King?"
"Yes, that is correct, but you will not be able to reach your homes in three days. When I am with you the way is soon covered. As soon as you leave me it will take you three weeks to cover the same ground which took me but three days. If this should prove to be true, you need have no hesitation in telling your master all that you have seen and all that I have spoken. Now, good folk, begone! I am tired of talking and I want to take my wife to the castle without any further delay. Farewell."
The retainers had barely heard the last word when they saw the Prince and Princess, followed by the harpist, leaving them. They therefore determined to get back home as quickly as possible. They were terribly afraid and they were exceedingly glad to escape from the demon. As he had foretold they spent three weeks on their return journey.
When at last they reached their homes they heard that the King was in the greatest distress. He declared that he had been swindled. To his courtiers he said,—
"See! this box of jewels which my son-in-law gave me is not now worth a penny. It is full of imitation rubbish, tinsel not fit to be seen in my palace."
When he heard the tale of the retainers he swooned and never regained consciousness. The news that his only daughter had married a demon was too much for him. His pride was struck low. He lingered on for two days and then he died, much to the regret of his servants.Meanwhile the demon Prince and his beautiful young bride had reached the castle where they were to live. The town in which the castle stood was inhabited by gnomes and fairies, the subjects of King Satan. Of course there were no human beings in the town except the unfortunate Princess and her trusty harpist. The Princess had longed to ask her husband to suffer her to return to her father when he had dismissed the retinue, but she was afraid that not only would he refuse her request but that probably he would kill her on the spot. She now knew that her foolish pride had met with its just punishment. She submitted to her awful fate with a resignation born of despair. Her only solace was the
"'PROOF, INDEED!' CRIED HE. 'SEE!'"—Page 101
"I am a great lover of good music, and I must confess that I consider your harpist to be a real artist. I am glad you brought him with you."
Three years passed, and one day the Prince came to his wife when she was listening to the strains of the harp. He listened for awhile, and then standing up cried aloud,—
"Enough! Now, dear wife, your time to depart hence has come."
"What do you mean?" she cried with terror in her eyes.
"You must come away from this home."
"Whither must I go?"
"You must go to Hell," said he with a horrible grin on his handsome face.
The unfortunate Princess knew that to resist would be madness. She arose and said, "I am ready, lead on." Her husband went in front of her and she followed with a heavy heart. She recalled her past life and regretted her folly in refusing to listen to the many good men who had desired to win her hand. "I was blind," she murmured, "not to see the real and true men. I am now reaping the harvest of my sin. I rejected the genuine and now I have the sham."
At last they came to the grim portals of Hell, which are never closed. He handed her over to the custody of the sleepless guardians who are ever ready to receive their unhappy victims.
"Farewell, sweet wife! You are going to the fiery furnace where not only gold and silver are tried but where hearts and souls are also tested and judged. I am sorry I cannot accompany you," he added in a harsh voice that seemed to whip her soul at every word, "but I can tell you that you will meet with strict justice. Listen, and let me prepare you for your fate. You will be in a little world where everything you touch will turn into gold. You will like that, for you love gold. The bread you would eat will become gold as soon as you put it to your mouth. The water you take to quench your thirst will change into molten gold directly you put your goblet to your lips. The fruit you grasp will become golden in your hand. Gold and gold will be your punishment for all eternity. Farewell!"
She passed within and he turned his back and left the last abode of the hopeless.
Her faithful harpist had accompanied her till she came to the portals of Hell. He then withdrew a step or two. He gazed in front of him, curious to know what Hell looked like.
"Whom do I see yonder?" he exclaimed in surprise. "Well, I am shocked to see my old friend Nathan the harpist with his harp in this terrible place. Hullo! old Nathan, what are you doing here?"
"As you see, I am playing my harp in Hell. Good friend, beware! Do not advance a step nearer, do not follow the beautiful lady who has just been admitted. If you do you will be in Hell, and once here there is no return. I will henceforth look after her and play to her whenever I am permitted to do so."
"Thanks very much for your good advice, which I shall be most careful to follow. Now be good enough to tell me, dear friend, how is it that although you are in Hell you are not burning with Hell's fire?"
"I will gladly tell you the reason why I am not burning. When I came here I was asked by the angels of mercy, justice and righteousness, whether I could remember having done any act of justice or deed of love or work of righteousness. After much thought I could only recall one good deed in my life."
"What was that?"
"Don't be in such hurry. We are very patient here and you must give me time to tell you. My good deed was the following. I was always glad to play my harp free of charge at the weddings of the poor in order that they also might for once in their wretched lives have a happy time and enjoy their wedding festivity by means of my harp's sweet strains. This saved me and my harp from Hell's fire."
"Thanks awfully for this piece of valuable information. I shall take a leaf out of your book. Your example shall find in me an excellent follower. Tell me, good Nathan, do you really think I shall escape Hell's fire if I do as you did? Stay—I will do more. I will also give half of all my earnings to the poor. I receive good pay when I play in the houses of the rich and I can well afford to give half away. I will always be ready to play free of charge at the weddings of the poor. I will also try every day to make some one happy, for we know that the strains of the harp drive away grief and cares."
"Do all that and you will never be in Hell at all."
"Good! Now tell me, dear Nathan, how am I to find my way home: which road must I take?"
"Keep to the right and go straight forward. I am very sorry I am unable to leave this dreary place. I should be so happy to accompany you on your return to the lovely world. But it cannot be."
"Many thanks for directing me. You can do me just one more favor."
"Well, what do you want?"
"Give me some sign or token to prove that I have spoken to you. If, by the grace of God, I return to my home, I shall, of course, tell my friends of all that I have seen and heard. When I say that I saw my good friend Nathan in Hell my audience will laugh at me and in derision they will exclaim: 'O yes! what a delightful fairy tale you are telling.' When I reply that it is not a fairy tale but the sober truth they will all cry out in chorus, 'Prove it.' Now just help me to prove my tale."
"Very well. Stretch out the little finger of your left hand and reach over until it is about half-an-inch in here. I will then come as near as I can and touch it. You will immediately have all the proof you need."
"I am ready. Here we are touching one another. ... Stop it, please, you are burning my finger. It is not only burning, it is shining with a blue light and smells of sulphur. Enough! I have proof, much more than I ever wished to have! Can't you help me to get rid of the burning pain and the shining effect? I don't like it at all."
"No, no, be satisfied. It is only the tip of your finger and not your whole body that is on fire. Now go the way I pointed out, and all will be well. Farewell, and don't come back."
Nathan saw his friend with his harp under his arm beginning his return journey. On and on he went, and after wandering many days in strange lands, crossing hills and dales, fields and deserts, he came at last to his own city. How glad he was to reach his home! All who saw him were astonished to see his burning and shining finger. The harpist kept his word and played for the poor free of charge. He gave away in charity half of his earnings. The more he played on his harp the cooler grew his finger. At last it became quite normal, while the music of his harp became sweeter and sweeter till it one day charmed the old harpist into the sweetest sleep of his long and hard life. He still sleeps on, hearing the harmonies of love and charity.
Maàseh Book (Chap Book),
ed. Rödelheim, p. 54a.