The Twelve Hunters
|Certain King's son, unknown to this father, was betrothed to a Maiden whom he loved very much, and he said to her: "I will give you this ring for a memorial." When I become King, I will return and take you home with me."|
But his father made him promise that he would marry a certain Princess, and then the old King died and the son was betrothed to the Princess. The Maiden heard of this, and grieved so much that she fast faded away. Then her father said to her:
"Why are you sad? whatever you wish for you shall have."
And she said: "I wish for eleven Maidens exactly like myself in figure and stature."
Her father ordered a search to be made until eleven maidens were found resembling exactly his daughter in figure and stature. When they came to the Maiden, she had twelve hunters' dresses made all exactly alike, and each put on one. Then she took leave of her father, and rode away with her companions to court, and they became the twelve royal Huntsmen of the young King.
The King, however, possessed a Lion who was such a wonderful beast that he knew all hidden and secret affairs. So one evening he said to the King:
"Do you suppose that you have got twelve Huntsmen?" You are mistaken; they are twelve maidens."
"That can never be true," said the King: "How will you prove it to me?"
"Order some peas to be strewn in your ante-room," said the Lion, "and you will see; for men have a firm tread when walking on peas; but Maidens trip and stumble."
This advice pleased the King, and he ordered peas to be strewn.
Now, there was a servant of the King's who was kind to the Huntsmen; and he went and told them, and they trod firmly upon the peas.:
Then the Lion said: "Let twelve spinning wheels be now brought into the room and they will be pleased at the sight thereof as no man would be."
But the servant went and told them, and they took no notice of the spinning wheels.
Now it happened as they were going out to hunt, news came that the Princess was on her way to his court. As soon as the true betrothed heard this, all her strength forsook her, and she fell heavily to the ground. The King ran up to help her, and saw upon one finger the ring which he had given to his first love, and as he looked in the face of the supposed Huntsman, he recognized her. At the sight, his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and as she opened her eyes, he said: "You are mine, and I am yours, and no power on earth shall make it otherwise."
The King then sent a messenger to the Princess, begging her to return to her own country, for he had already a bride.