WARNING:
This story may not be suitable for children
The Goose Girl
"O Wind, blow Conrad's hat away, and make him follow as it flies, while I with my gold hair will play, and bind it up in seemly wise."

here lived once an old Queen, whose husband had been dead many years.

She had a beautiful daughter who was promised in marriage to a King's son living a great way off. When the wedding drew near, she got together furniture and cups and jewels and adornments, both of gold and silver, everything proper for the dowry of a royal Princess, for she loved her daughter dearly. She gave her also a waiting gentlewoman; and they were each to have a horse for the journey, and the Princess's horse was named Falada, and he could speak. When the time for parting came, the old Queen cut her own finger so that it bled; and she held beneath it a white napkin, and on it fell three drops of blood; and she gave it to her daughter, bidding her take care of it, for it would be needful to her on the way. Then they took leave of each other, and the Princess put the napkin in her bosom, got on her horse, and set out to go to the bridegroom. After she had ridden an hou,r she felt very thirsty, and she said to the waiting-woman:

"Get down, and fill my cup that you carry with water from the brook."

"Get down yourself," said the waiting-woman, "and if you are thirsty stoop down and drink; I will not be your slave."

And the Princess had to get down and drink, and could not have her gold cup. "Oh dear!" she said. And the three drops of blood heard her, and said: "If your mother knew of this it would break her heart."

So they rode on some miles farther; the day was warm, the sun shone hot, and the Princess grew thirsty once more. And when they came to a watercourse she called again to the waiting-woman, and said: "Get down and give me drink out of my gold cup."

But the waiting-woman spoke still more scornfully, and said: "If you want a drink you may get it yourself; I am not going to be your slave."

So the Princess had to get off her horse to drink, and as she stooped she wept and said, "Oh dear!" And the three drops of blood heard her and answered: "If your mother knew this it would break her heart."

And the napkin on which were the three drops of blood fell out of her bosom and floated down the stream, and she never noticed it; nor so the waiting-woman, who rejoiced because she should now have power over the bride.

And when she was going to mount her horse again the waiting-woman cried: "Falada belongs to me, and this jade to you." And the Princess had to give way, and let it be as she said. Then the waiting-woman ordered the Princess to take off her rich clothing, and put on her plain garments, and then she made her swear to say nothing of the matter when they came to court.

The waiting-woman then mounting Falada, and the Princess the sorry jade, they journeyed on until they reached the royal castle. The King's son hastened to meet them, and lifted the waiting-woman from her horse, thinking she was his bride; and then he led her up the stairs, while the real Princess had to remain below. But the old King, who was looking out of the window, saw her standing in the yard, and noticed how gentle and beautiful she was, and then he went down and asked the seeming bride who it was that was now standing in the courtyard.

"Oh!" she answered the bride, "I only brought her with me for company; give the maid something to do, that she may not be forever standing idle."

And so the real Princess was sent to keep geese with the goose-boy, who was call Conrad. Soon after the false bride said to the Prince:

"Dearest husband, send for the knacker, that he may carry off the horse I came here upon, and make away with him; he was very troublesome to me on the journey." For she was afraid that the horse might tell how she had behaved to the Princess. And when the order had been given that Falada should die, it came to the Princess's ears, and she came to the knacker's man secretly, and promised him a piece of gold if he would nail Falada's head on the gate through which she had to pass morning and evening with her geese. And the man promised, and he took Falada's head and nailed it fast to the gateway.

Early next morning, as she and Conrad drove their geese through the gate, she said as she went by:

"O Falada, dost thou hang there?"

And the head answered: "Princess, doest thou so meanly fare? But if they mother knew they pain, her heart would surely break in twain."

And when they came into the meadows she sat down and undid her hair, which was all of gold, and when Conrad saw how it glistened he wanted to pull out a few hairs for himself. And she said:

"O wind, blow Conrad's hat away, make him run after as it flies, while I with my gold hair will play, and twist it up in seemly wise."

Then there came a wind strong enough to blow Conrad's hat away over the fields, and he had to run after it; and by the time he came back she had put up her hair with combs and pins, and he could not get at any to pull it out; and he was sulky, and would not speak to her.

The next morning, as they passed under the gateway, the Princess said:

"O Falada, dost thou hang there?"

And Falada answered, and the same things happened as before. And after they had got home Conrad went to the old King and said: "I will tend the geese no longer with that girl!"

"Why not?" asked the old King.

Then Conrad related all that happened at the gate and in the fields. The old King told him to go to drive the geese the next morning as usual and he himself went behind the gate and listened to what the maiden spoke to Falada; and then he followed them in to the fields and hid himself. And after a while he saw the girl make her hair all loose, and how it gleamed and shone. Soon she said the verses, and there came a gust of wind and away went Conrad's hat, and he after it, while the maiden combed and bound up her hair; and the old King saw all that went on. When the goose-girl came back in the evening he sent for her, and asked her the reason of her doing all this.

"That I dare not tell you," she answered, "for when I was in danger of my life, I swore an oath not to reveal it." At last he said: "If you will not tell it to me, tell it to the iron oven," and went away. Then she crept into the iron oven and said: "Here I sit forsaken of all the world and I am a King's daughter, and a wicked waiting-woman forced me to give up my royal garments and my place at the bridegroom's side, and I am made a goose-girl, and have to do mean service. And if my mother knew, it would break her heart."

Now the old King was standing outside by the oven door listening, and he heard all she said, and he called to her and told her to come out of the oven. And he caused royal clothing to be put upon her, and called his son and proved to him that he had the wrong bride, for she was really only a waiting-woman, and that the true bride was she who had been the goose-girl. The Prince was glad at heart when he saw her beauty and gentleness; and a great feast was made ready, and all the court people and good friends were bidden to it. The bridegroom sat in the midst, with the Princess on one side and the waiting-woman on the other; and the false bride did not know the true one, because she was dazzled with her glittering braveries. Then the old King gave the waiting-woman a question to answer, as to what such a person deserved who had deceived her masters in such and such a manner, telling the whole story, and ending by asking: "Now what doom does one deserve?"

"No better than this," answered the false bride, "that she be put naked into a cask, studded inside with sharp nails, and be dragged along in it by two while horses from street to street until she be dead."

"Thou hast spoken they own doom," said the King; "as thou hast said, so shall it be done." And when the sentence was fulfilled, the Prince married the true bride, and ever after they ruled over their kingdom in peace.


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