Three fairy tales

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Envious queen

In a small town lived an ugly sick girl with her parents. They loved her and felt sorry for her, brought doctors, but in vain — the girl continued to get sick and was so thin that it seemed that the wind would blow, lift her up and take her away — she was so thin. Around the house she was only allowed to brush off the dust. She could not even lift a broom — she was so weak, although she ate well. She often caught a cold, coughed.

And then one day her father was at work, and her mother was weeding the beds in the garden. The girl was sitting on the porch, playing with dolls. An unexpectedly unknown woman ran up to her, pretty, tired and all out of breath. Approached her and asked:

— Evil guys are chasing me and want to kill me, but I’m not to blame for anything. Hide me.

They had a hole in the closet under the floor, where they put supplies for the winter, if the hole in the kitchen under the floor was full. So the girl hid the woman there, and even locked the door. And she sits on the porch and plays with dolls. She poured water into a cup and watered the doll, saying:

— Drink Manyasha, beauty, or you will get sick like me.

Disheveled men run up to her, four of them, and ask menacingly:

— Well, tell us where a young woman in a flowery dress and a polka dot scarf ran.

— Uncles, I didn’t see anyone. Not even a bird flew by. Who are you looking for? Tired, probably. And let me treat you to tea, although Manyasha has already drunk everything from me.

The peasants got even more angry, pushed the girl and searched the house, but finding nothing, they did not take anything. They looked under the floors in the cellar in the kitchen, but they did not find the woman. Angry and dissatisfied, they ran to look further.

The girl rubbed her bruised places, walked around the house, making sure that the pursuers had left, opened the door in the closet and let the woman out of the darkness, and then her mother came from the garden. And heard the story:

— The pursuers are bad men. They killed a girl, my neighbor, and I myself saw everything and wanted to tell the authorities. So they chased me, but I’ve been running fast since childhood, so no one could ever catch up with me. So I came running to you. It was good that the hiding place was cunning and the killers did not find me.

The woman looked at the girl, stroked her head and said:

— I bless you for your kindness and help. I’m not a simple aunt, but a healer. I will heal you. From this day on, you will be beautiful, healthy, and when you grow up, you will marry a prince. And now I will go to the forest — there in a house in the swamps and I will live until these murderers are caught. Behind the swamp, behind the forest, my cousin lives, I can take refuge with her. For now, I can’t show myself to people, because there are envious people. They will tell the killers about me, — she tied up the scarf. — It’s already evening. I’ll go. Thank you for your help, sorry.

Then the girl’s father came, they told him what had happened. Here they all together persuaded the woman to stay overnight:

— Where are you going to go at night? Dangerously. In the morning you will start your journey.

The fugitive agreed, and early in the morning, just before dawn, the three of them went to the forest to see her off. They took a saw, an ax, a rope and left on a horse, instructing their daughter to stay at home and not go out anywhere, not let anyone in.

— Where will I go? I don’t even have girlfriends,» the girl said sadly.

So the parents went to the forest for a whole week, and the woman lived there in a hut, while they helped her repair a small hunting lodge so that she hid there, and then they rarely visited her. They just came to report that the bandits had finally been caught and she was now free to return home.

A week later, the woman returned, and not empty-handed, but with a pot of fragrant broth. And she gave a pot, instructing the girl to drink three times a day after meals with a prayer. And she said a prayer:

How strong are the grasses in the forest,

How beautifully they bloom

And so you flourish

Gain strength day by day

Never get sick again.

And at that moment the sun itself smiled out the window. Parents looked at each other: how did the sun suddenly appear on this gloomy day?

— You really are special, — said the father.

The girl has been getting better since then. She was no longer sick, she went to school, her cheeks became pale pink from eternally pale, her lips became plump bows. And she became pretty in the face, and over time she completely became a beauty, that there was no one more beautiful in the area. Parents even began to fear for her. Previously, they were worried that she was ill, but now that someone might come to steal their beloved, because their hut was on the edge of the forest, all sorts of wanderers walked by. Out of fear, they even brought in a large, vicious dog.

The girl grew up and turned into such a kind beauty, a needlewoman, like a fairy. Everything went well with her, she knew how to embroider, sew, and such things that the great masters did not even have such products.

And in this state there lived a king and a queen, a beauty, but she only did that she showed off and was jealous of her husband for everyone, did not allow him to look at others: she wanted her to be the only superstar of his eyes. She wanted to please everyone, so that everyone admired her beauty. As soon as she gets a little sick, she immediately gets into bed and dozens of doctors fuss, revolve around her. In any free time, she only did what she demanded special attention to herself and admired herself in the mirror, looking for if there were any girls more beautiful than her in the kingdom. Only what seemed pretty to her, she was immediately expelled from the state. Therefore, she kept the most unpretentious inconspicuous servants with her.

Their son grew up — soon it was time for him to marry. And the mother herself began to look for brides for him, but she looked for such ugly princesses, and wherever she found them — the king himself was surprised, but was silent. He loved her for her beauty, and she still wasn’t evil. Especially all his life, the mother did not deal with her son, he was brought up by nannies.

The subjects once brought to the queen portraits of all overseas princesses, various princely daughters. The queen sat down at the table and began to carefully examine them: one has too big, beautiful eyes, the other has a charming smile. The third camp is like a swan, and this one is just a feast for the eyes. The Queen’s head is spinning.

— Yes, what is it? Why are they all so beautiful? Everyone is trying to outshine me. It won’t work,» she shook her head.

And at this time the prince came to visit his mother and, seeing a bunch of portraits, boiled:

— Mommy, what is it with you?

And she convulsively began to rake up all the portraits in one heap:

— Yes it is, nothing, my future retinue.

And the young prince is not a fool, he realized that his mother was already looking for a bride. He bowed and went out, but remained under the door. And he hears: the queen shook off all the portraits and began to trample them angrily, saying, gritting her teeth:

— I will not let it! Even their feet will not be in my house! I will crush all these beauties! I’m sweeter and prettier than everyone else, and I’ll find the worst one for my son!

The prince heard this and even the blood rushed to his head from his mother’s speeches:

— Wow, mommy made it up? Absolutely, looking at herself in the mirror, she lost her mind! I won’t marry a terrible one, I myself will find who I want, — he got angry and jumped out of the palace.

He saddled his horse and galloped wherever his eyes looked, and then, driving his horse into the soap, when the horse was already plaintively neighing, rearing up, only then the prince stopped and was surprised at his recklessness. He stroked the wet mane of the horse, apologizing:

— Ah, my poor friend, forgive my friend, I drove you, — he dismounted, looked around. — Where am I? — surprised.

In front of him was a dark, dense forest, and at the very edge of it stood a low house. The guy knocked and, not hearing an answer, went into the house to ask for a drink and a horse to drink. And there, in the upper room, sat a girl of indescribable beauty. She sits and embroiders with beads. The prince, as he entered, was stunned, he even forgot that he wanted to get drunk. And the girl got scared, jumped up, dropped her sewing. The guy jumped to pick it up, she recoiled.

— I’m sorry… I’m a traveler… I don’t know… it’s how I got here… I apologize again. I didn’t want to scare you, and in no way offend you… I didn’t understand how I ended up here. I galloped, galloped and got lost… I just wanted to ask for water for myself and my horse … — and with these words he picked up the needlework and handed it to the girl. She calmed down a little and put the beads on the table.

— What is your name? Where will you be from? — she asked softly.

— I’m Prince Arthur.

— Oh, — she threw up her hands. -Your Highness, — and she wanted to bow to him, but he grabbed her by the shoulders and did not let her fall at his feet.

The girl blushed all over:

— Oh, how embarrassing. I have nothing worthy to treat you with. There is only our peasant.

— I don’t mind, — the prince was delighted and sat down at the table.

The girl shyly lowered her gaze.

— There are no gourmet dishes, but I can treat you to milk with blueberry pie. I baked myself.

The prince nodded happily. He liked the girl so much that he was ready to eat anything from her hands.

Having taken her treats, he licked his lips:

— Ah, I have never tasted anything better in my life! — Such a pleasure!

The hostess blushed again and from under her brow looked embarrassedly at the guest, smiling at him. The prince got up, brushed off his camisole and asked where the horse could get water to drink, if they had a well here. And then only he noticed beautiful multi-colored bouquets on the walls, all made of beads, as if alive. And different animals. All these embroidered canvases made the hut brighter and more beautiful. They were so beautiful that the prince could not resist and came close to them, began to look at them, touch them with his hand, stroke them, marveling at the craftsmanship, love and grace with which they were made.

— And how do you like it?

— Of course, it’s amazing! I don’t even have words! I can’t even believe it was made by human hands. Is it embroidered by you?

— Yes, I did them. I really like to embroider. And my mother sells them at the market.

The guy lowered his hands, went to the buckets and asked:

— Take me to the well.

The girl retorted:

— Oh, what are you? How can you yourself? I will bring water to the horse, — and I wanted to take away the bucket from him.

— What are you? You are doing such delicate work, how can you lift such a heavy bucket? Leave it to the man.

— No, that’s not right. And I have a papa… that’s how it is with us.

— It won’t be like that from now on. I will send my servant to help you. It is not good for such a beautiful girl to spoil her white hands.

— What are you, the right is not worth it, — the girl still tried to resist, although her rosy cheeks betrayed the pleasure that she was very pleased with such attention and care for her. — Daddy will misunderstand. And the neighbors will judge…

— Nothing, I will come again and ask permission from your parents, if you will let me.

— Well, you are always welcome here, you are welcome, — and her face lit up with a wide smile, from which the prince spread warmth over his chest.

He, satisfied, began to water the horse, forgetting about everything in the world, and about his incident with his mother, and about their misunderstanding — a disagreement in the upcoming marriage. And the girl rushed headlong to her secret box, in which she put a bag for coins, specially embroidered by her with mother-of-pearl-pink beads for her future chosen one.

The prince came to say goodbye, and she, looking down, handed him her modest gift:

— Accept a gift from me, a bag for coins.

The prince took her hand with the bag and pressed it to his heart:

— Thank you, girl, thank you, beautiful. I really like your gift.

Kissing her hand, he took out gold coins from his pocket and put them in a new bag. Throwing it into the air, he caught it on the fly, listening to the sound of coins, slyly narrowed his eyes:

— It will definitely come in handy for me, — and plugged it into the belt.

The girl explained to him how to get to the nearest village, and from there straight to the palace. Saying goodbye, he jumped on his horse and rode off. She waved her hand at him.

All the way the prince thought about the beautiful girl, remembering with regret that he even forgot to ask her name.

She didn’t stop thinking about him either. When her parents came home, she told about the noble guest, and they were delighted with this, immediately remembering the healer’s prophecy. What if their daughter really becomes the wife of a prince?

As soon as the prince returned home, he already heard rumors from the servants that the mother was going to organize her son’s wedding. The guy hit himself on the sides:

— Eh, mother, mother, your plans will not come true. I will marry the one I want, — and hastened to tell his father about what had happened.

— Papa, I want to tell you something important, — he shouted from the threshold: — Mama wants to marry me against my will!

— Well, son, the time has already come, so she is looking for a bride for you, — the king shrugged.

— Daddy, you don’t know, she’s looking for the most terrible bride for me, so that her beauty won’t be overshadowed. And I already found a girl for my heart. And I think that I would marry her. She is so sweet, as her figure is thin and stately, and her sonorous voice rings like a stream. And how beautifully it embroiders with beads, you cannot even imagine. And she bakes pies that even our chef could not come up with.

The king was surprised:

— What is it, son? When did you have time to eat pies? Where were you and where did you find her? Did you go to her house?

— Father,» the prince hurried to explain, — you misunderstood everything. I’ll tell you everything now.

And he began to tell how he was offended by his mother and galloped aimlessly, got lost and came across a hut. How he came in to ask for water, and left his heart there.

— Daddy, it seems I can’t live without her, — and he handed his father a gift. The king looked, turned it over in his hands, shaking his head in surprise:

— What fine work. She is indeed a craftswoman.

As soon as the king found out about the beautiful girl, the needlewoman, he did not believe that she was disinterested and he decided, secretly from his son, to check if she was really a good girl. He loaded a whole wagon of precious goods, sable furs, spoiled outfits, silver and gold, and went with his servants to see her, dressed as merchants. He found a handsome serf to pass him off as a noble lord, dressed him up and arrived at the house where the needlewoman lived.

Hearing noise in the street, the girl’s parents ran out into the yard. And there, on a huge, full of all sorts of good cart, covered with a carpet, sits a burly merchant and next to him is a handsome, prominent guy. There are two more on horseback in the back.

— Peace to your home. We are visiting merchants. We heard, you have a marriageable bride, so we came to woo her. And we already have a handsome fellow, but not empty-handed, — the king pointed to his fellow traveler and to the cargo.

The husband and wife were surprised and invited to enter the house. They sat down on benches covered with linen bedspreads. They poured them kvass from the road, pulled it out of the cellar and put pork jelly with garlic, pickled cucumbers, and crispy mushrooms on the table, cut the bread into slices. They wanted to add more treats, but the king stopped them:

— Enough for the meal already, the food is already enough. Now I’ll treat you too, — he waved his hand and the servants brought in baskets full of smoked sturgeon, dried venison, honey, sweets and spices.

The woman threw up her hands. With a bow and a smile, she and her husband accepted the merchant’s gifts. The guests looked around and the king asked:

— And where, in fact, is your beauty? Why doesn’t she welcome guests?

The owner hastened to answer:

— She went to the pasture to milk the goat. Now she will bring fresh milk.

— Oh, she milks your goat too?

— Of course, — said Mother proudly. — She is a master of all trades. From morning till night she works around the house, but she embroiders such canvases, and I sell them, — she pointed to the walls.

— Oh, what a beauty! — the king sincerely admired, and thought: the son, it seems, knowingly fell in love with her. If she is also as beautiful as the craftswoman, then the son was not mistaken. But we will check this.

And then the girl appeared at the door with a jug of milk in her hands. The guy who pretended to be the groom stood up. The king gestured for him to sit down. The girl stood on the threshold as if rooted to the spot. And her parents rushed to explain to her that the matchmakers had arrived. Silently she put the pot on the table and does not say a word. And the king himself stood up and bowed slightly:

— And here is our handsome groom, nice to meet you. You are a perfect match. Both are beautiful and stately.

The girl immediately blushed with embarrassment, covering her face with a handkerchief. She wanted to say something, but the king interrupted her:

— We are not interested in the dowry, we have enough of our own good. Hey, assistants, — he shouted to the servants, — bring in here.

And after a couple of minutes, chests with jewels, rolls of silk, gold brocade, caskets with pearls and sapphires were brought into the upper room and placed on the floor. The astonished parents, with their mouths open, their eyes wide, did not know what to say. And the king watched the girl all this time, but did not see greed and special delight in her eyes. He thought about it and decided to ask her:

— Aren’t you happy about all this, girl? Or did they bring you little, or do you not want to get married?

— I want to get married, — the girl murmured softly, «but there is already someone who is dearer to me than anyone else in the world.

The king was delighted with such speeches and continued to test the girl:

— And who is this lucky man who is better than my nephew?

And as soon as she opened her mouth to say that this was a prince, when her parents stood up and interrupted her so that she would not blurt out and make the people laugh. The mother tugged at her daughter’s sleeve and answered herself, fearing that they would be laughed at if they told the truth:

— Yes, we have one hard-working guy here in the village…

— Hmm, we were late, that means, — the king patted the serf on the shoulder. — Well, then we ask you to excuse us, God help you.

The servants loaded all the precious gifts back into the cart, bowed and left home. All the way the king thought:

— Hmm, it’s a pity if she really has someone, and why not. What a worker, smart, beautiful, she will be better than secular ladies. It’s a pity to lose such a daughter-in-law, — he twisted his mustache in thought.

Returning to the palace, he went straight to his son’s chambers. Caught him looking at a present.

— Here, son. I thought I was here and I want to ask you.

— Yes, father, ask.

— You’ve fallen in love and intend to marry, but what about the girl? What other feeling did you take for her love? Or maybe she already has someone else?

The prince jumped up in fright:

— Can not be! Is that possible?! Daddy, we must urgently go there and ask her.

— So it is so, but what will your mother say? She probably won’t be happy.

— But we won’t tell her, — it dawned on the prince.

— Well, first we will find out if the girl loves you, and then I myself will settle with my wife.

And the next day, waking up before everyone else in the palace, they went together to the house of the beauty.

— I won’t go there, I’ll stand behind the trees, I’ll watch, and you yourself talk to her. She will be ashamed of me, — said the king and dismounted, tying his horse to a branch. — And you, son, go, then you will tell me everything.

So they decided.

The prince knocked on the window. His lover appeared at the knock. She saw the prince and threw up her hands in surprise, was delighted and rushed headlong to open the door.

— Prince, are you back? — and for joy did not know what to say.

He took her hand and asked:

— From the first time we met, I thought about you all the time. And now I came to ask: will you marry me?

The girl lowered her eyes, flushed with embarrassment and did not answer. He pressed her hands to his chest, his heart pounding with excitement. He pulled her hands away from him.

— Well, why are you silent… Or do you not like me? Or is there someone else in your heart?

She got scared and shook her head.

— No, no! — she exclaimed, — I have no one.

— Then why don’t you answer?

She lowered her eyes again and took a deep breath.

— Well, I’m not equal to you, I’m a commoner.

The prince was hopeful and again happily grabbed her hand:

— What you? You are more valuable to me than any princess. Yes, I can’t live without you! — exclaimed in the hearts. — Say yes!

— Yes, — she breathed out, barely audible, and clung to his chest.

He gently hugged her at that moment, the king appeared from behind the trees. The girl saw him, got scared and jumped back:

— Oh, — she held out her hand. — There is a merchant coming. Yesterday he wooed me for his nephew.

The prince stood with his back to the forest, turned around and smiled when he saw his father, and then frowned:

So this is my father? Daddy, I’m asking for an explanation. To what kind of nephew were you going to give my fiancee?

Papa slowly approached, giggling guiltily and shrugging his shoulders:

— He-he, well, you know, son, I should have checked your chosen one. Is she worthy of you, is she not greedy for gold. What if for her clothes and jewelry are more valuable than you?

Here the girl pouted her lips. And the king continued:

— And now I see that you deserve each other.

The couple immediately cheered up and exhaled easily. The prince grabbed the bride’s hand, approaching his father, and both knelt down. The son asked his father:

— Bless us, father.

The King touched their foreheads with a satisfied smile and said:

— I bless you, my children, for a long and happy life together.

Her parents arrived from the market. She kindly greeted them, laid a tablecloth on the table for them all. The king and the prince were delighted and immediately wooed the girl, saying that she would marry him. Parents and daughter agreed to have a wedding in the palace. And the king nevertheless decided to tell his wife that he had decided to marry his son to a village girl. And upon returning to the palace, he went straight to her.

— How?! — furrowing her brows and pursing her lips, the queen murmured: — Well, I already found a bride for him, it doesn’t happen more beautifully, just look. Royal bloodlines. Why do we need a rustic? Here, look, her portrait. Check out what a beauty!

The king looked and thought:

— God, it doesn’t get any worse. Does my son deserve better? — and said aloud: — Do not worry, my love. This village girl will not be more beautiful than you anyway. You should only see her: neither your grace, nor sophistication. She doesn’t even know how to wear royal outfits. Where does she reach for you? That’s why I chose the country one, so as not to overshadow you.

— Yes?! — her face smoothed out, she raised her head high and said with mock pride: — You’re right, dear, there is some truth in this.

Her cutesy manner seemed to make her head and shoulders taller. And the king embraced his wife, kissed her on the forehead, that the woman blossomed.

At the imminent wedding, the queen was sitting on the throne, she was surrounded by ladies-in-waiting, preening her, bringing a mirror to check if any curl had fallen. The ceremony was already in full swing, the feast was a mountain, the music was playing. A sea of distinguished guests gathered. The queen did not even look in the direction of her daughter-in-law — she did not care what kind of ugly girl was brought to the palace. She just admired herself in the mirror, saying:

— What a beauty I am, you can’t find such a beauty in the whole wide world, — and as if in time with her speeches, she heard the whisper of the crowd: — Oh, what a beauty!

The queen turned up her nose: yes, I am! But then she heard a continuation of the speech:

— What a lovely couple. What a beautiful bride, and you can’t say that she’s not a princess.

— Bride?! What bride? — the queen raised an eyebrow in surprise and turned towards the newlyweds and, seeing her daughter-in-law, was stunned: an unwritten beauty stood next to her son.

— Who is it? Who dragged her? Changed! Was there a villager there? — and with her eyes she began to look for her husband, expecting an explanation from him. Not finding him nearby, she turned to the maid of honor, deciding that she was mistaken: — And how exquisite she is in a wedding dress. And a diamond necklace suits her. I have never seen such a princess?

Involuntarily admiring her, she forgot. The maid of honor just batted her eyelashes stupidly, not daring to comment on anything. And then the queen started up, as if waking up from a dream:

— So this is that redneck? — If that doesn’t happen, I’ll think of something! Only I alone will be the most beautiful in this kingdom. I’ll take it out, and I’ll find another for my son, — she threw the mirror on the floor with anger, jumped up. And convulsively fanning her face, she passed through the crowd, nervously pushing the courtiers aside. — My feet won’t be here, — she hissed angrily under her breath, rushing to her chambers.

The bride and groom were so intoxicated with love and did not take their eyes off each other that they did not notice the absence of the queen. Everyone was dancing, lightly circling around the hall. The hall was full of colorful outfits. The king noticed how his wife quickly left the guests, and, apologizing to noble persons, followed her.

— What happened, dear, why did you leave the ceremony? Let’s go, everyone is waiting for us.

— I’m not going anywhere, go alone. I got a headache.

— Are you sure you weren’t offended by anything? — He gently lifted her chin and slyly looked into her eyes.

— No, really, just a headache from the noise. I’ll be back later, don’t leave the guests, — she was cunning, pretending to be tired.

— Well, dear, take care of yourself, rest, — and, kissing his wife on the cheek, he left.

Left alone, the queen began biting her lips as she concocted a plan to get rid of her daughter-in-law.

— Oh, — how indignant the queen was, she was crying, twitching her upper lip and biting closer: — how can I exterminate my daughter-in-law?

The girl’s parents went home after the feast, and the prince and his wife were so happy and loved each other that they did not part for a minute. Even a short separation caused them pain. But the main affairs of the father pushed love into the background.

One day, the prince and the king went on business to a neighboring state to sign peace agreements. They were gone for a week. The Queen, seizing the moment, rubbed her hands and said smugly, smiling:

— Now is the right time, I should not miss this chance.

She called the servants and ordered to secretly steal the daughter-in-law from her chambers at night, so that no one would see and take her to an abandoned castle, which was located far beyond the forest in the swamp. And imprison her there like a prison. Together with the servant girl, she sent a chest of jewelry there, sarcastically remarking that it was not appropriate for a noble lady to look bad there:

— A lady must be a lady even in a swamp. And this lady only belongs there, next to the frogs and mosquitoes.

She ordered everyone to be silent, otherwise they would lose their lives. Here, from fear for their lives, the servants involved in this were silent.

In the morning the whole palace was raised to its feet: the daughter-in-law was gone! What? How? The guards rushed to the queen and fell at her feet:

— We ask for mercy, empress, you did not order us to be executed. We have not seen who and how kidnapped your daughter-in-law.

— Oh, trouble! What will I say to the poor son? — the queen made a sour face and looked up from the mirror, br ushed away an artificial tear from her eyes with a satin handkerchief: — You are not to blame. I have already been informed that this scoundrel ran away at night to her lover and even took jewelry with her.

Soon, the sad news of treason spread throughout the state. The king and his son rushed in and, not seeing the girl, rushed to ask the queen if people were really saying where she had gone. And she answers:

— Yes, she had already married another during this time, she could not wait. Apparently she did not love you, your redneck, my beloved son.

The son did not believe his mother, but did not say anything to her. He yearned for his wife day and night, grew thin — did not eat anything. He sits at the table, they bring him food, and the food gets stuck in his throat — only his beloved wife was before his eyes. He could not believe that such sincere love was a game, that his beloved had betrayed him. She was so humble, with a pure heart. There was no way she could do this to him.

Something else, something bad happened to her. We need to go look for her.

And then the mother decided to console her son, brought him a bride, a princess, but so terrible, crooked, pockmarked, demolished like potatoes, with little eyes. She smiled at the prince, and her teeth sticking out in different directions were also fastened with braces. The prince was frightened, grabbed his hat and cloak on the move and ran headlong away. He ran away from the palace, saddling a horse, and rode wherever his eyes looked.

How long, how short, did our prince ride and his horse came across the house of that sorceress woman who cured his wife in childhood. The horse stopped, neighed, shaking its head. The guy jumped to the ground, dusted himself off. Just as he was about to knock, the door was opened and an elderly woman appeared on the threshold:

— Hello king’s son, where are you going? — What did you come with? looked him over carefully.

— Yes, that’s the trouble happened to me. The wife is missing, beautiful. The world is not dear to me without her, and my mother wants to marry me again to a slanting, pockmarked princess. I can’t do this anymore, I’m looking for my beloved wife. But I don’t know who to ask.

And the sorceress answered him:

— Come into the house, rest from the road, taste my jelly with milk, otherwise you have completely lost weight. You need to refresh yourself. And there we will decide how to help your grief.

The prince obeyed and entered the room, not even paying attention to how the woman recognized him as a prince. And there on the bench another woman sits and shakes the ball. Different fragrant herbs hang in the corners. Their scent intoxicated him. Even he was drawn to sleep.

— And this is my sister, — she introduced the guest to the woman. — Sit down, don’t be shy.

— Oh, prince, we have been waiting for you for a long time. Come in, my dear, you will be a dear guest.

— How do you know me? — only now he was surprised.

Both chuckled and looked at each other.

— Yes, we are such unusual grannies. We, my dear, know a lot of things.

— I need to hurry, look for my wife. I feel like she’s in trouble.

— We know, we know. But still, don’t rush, first gain strength. Taste our food, sleep, and in the morning we will pick you up and show you the way.

The prince was delighted, cheered up:

— Do you know where she is?

— Of course, we all know.

— Oh, I can’t wait, I’m ready to hit the road right now.

— Ah, fidget, — the hostess patted him on the shoulder and seated him on a bench at the table. She poured jelly, cut off a piece of bread, sprinkled it with salt: — Eat and strength will come.

The prince obeyed, began to eat with pleasure, his appetite appeared, and the old women shook their heads, satisfied, and smacked their lips. They greeted him, because they already knew about everything in advance — how could they not help him?

Barely eating, the prince yawned and stretched. They escorted the sorcerer to the bed, put him there, and they themselves read prayers, walk around the room with smoking herbs, they lit a candle. And the prince dreamed that he was standing on a flowering meadow, dragonflies were flying around, butterflies were fluttering. His beloved appears before him, smiles affectionately and says in a low voice:

— Believe me, my love, I did not betray you. I love you like before, even more.

She said this and disappeared. The prince woke up, and the dawn was already dawning outside the window. He lay down again, and before his eyes stands the image of his beloved. And his soul is calm. He realized that in the palace his mother had deceived him, there was no betrayal, as he had thought before.

Everyone ate barley porridge with milk in the morning, the women gave the guest tea with herbs, and he felt cheerfulness in his whole body.

— Here, take the magic grid with you. When you come to the place where your wife is being kept in the swamps, throw it on yourself and become invisible, otherwise you won’t be able to overcome thirty warriors armed with an ax and get into the tower of that castle. And then, together under the net, go out unnoticed and come back to us here, — the healer handed him a light net, and her sister handed him a map of the forest:

— From my late husband, a forester left. This is where you’ll need it.

He did just that. He thanked them, bowed and galloped towards the swamps.

He rides through the forest, and the trees are getting thicker and thicker, the path is getting narrower and narrower. He sees a large stone standing in the middle of the path and the paths branched out. He looked at the map, but it was not indicated there. He scratched his head, and turned right, towards the swamps, as he reasoned that the frogs croak strongly on that side and it is also clear on the map where the swamps are drawn on the right side. So he let it go there, already feeling in his heart that he would soon meet his beloved. And the prince was not mistaken.

A putrid smell was already in the nose, the quagmire roared ahead, uttering an ominous groan. As soon as he drove closer, he heard a bewitching female voice:

— Boy, why are you so sad? Come to me, you see, I’m bored here alone.

The prince turned around and saw a beautiful girl. She sat waist-deep in the swamp and only slightly splashed the muddy water with her cassock with her hands.

— What do you doubt, prince? — Kikimora winked. — I’ve been waiting for you.

— Hmm, strange, — the prince thought:- people told me that kikimoras are terrible, these swamp residents are dangerous, but she seems beautiful.

He dismounted and tied his horse. He came closer to find out who she was.

— Do you swim here? — nodded inquiringly.

Kikimora laughed.

— Come on and swim with me.

The prince approached, looked at her beauty, but recoiled: instead of hair, brown algae moved on her head. The bright green eyes of the swamp beauty beckoned him to her.

— Yes, go away, — he waved. — Of course, you are beautiful, no doubt, but in my heart I have another.

— Oh, I understand, I loved the foolish forest owner Leshy, but he went to the witch Baba Yaga.

The prince only widened his eyes in surprise.

— Okay, I’ll help your grief. Over there, you see, behind those tall trees, the tower sticks out?

He stood up on tiptoe, screwed up his eyes, and through the thick haze of fog he could make out the outlines of the cone of the roof.

— Is that the peak over there? — he pointed with his hand.

Kikimora nodded and plunged into the bog with a splash and noise, leaving large bubbles behind her, and only the algae from her head still stuck out on the surface of the bog.

The prince found a strong stick and walked cautiously forward, feeling his way. The frogs croaked uncontrollably, straining and calling to each other:

— Here he is, he’s unskillful, -he’s staggering around, he’ll dive in and drown.

Having got out of the swamp, he stepped on solid ground, almost burying his nose in the walls of the old castle. Sneaking unnoticed along the wall to the gate, crouched in the reeds, hearing the laughter of the guards. Tipsy, four men in helmets sat on empty barrels and played dominoes.

The prince threw a net over his head and became invisible. Stepping slowly, he crept past them and slipped inside. He passed through the whole courtyard, along which other guards walked, sheep bleated in the barn and horses neighed. The prince almost stepped on a duck looking for a worm in the ground.

He went up the spiral staircase and opened the door to the room where his beauty was languishing. She sat hunched over the embroidery by the window. A white mouse ran nearby and, squeaking with joy, collected spilled beads. At the feet of the girl stood a chest with the jewels that she allegedly stole.

The prince stood and could not look away, full of tenderness. His wife did not notice. Only then did he remember that he was invisible and tore off the net. The girl screamed in surprise and almost fainted. The prince caught her in time and pressed her to his chest. When they were close, they hugged and she burst into tears with burning tears, and the tears began to fall and turn into beads. By the wall lay a pile of carpets embroidered with beads, and such beautiful patterns — there was nothing there: different flowers and birds, animals, and even a portrait of her beloved husband. And the big wooden chest was full of beads. When the recluse cried on Monday, white beads fell from her eyes, on Tuesday — red, on Wednesday green, and so on in different colors. The prince was surprised

— Is it you who cried so much, my dear little wife, because of separation from me? Now everything will be different. You and I will live happily and not a single tear will roll down from your beautiful eyes.

They both covered themselves with a net and quietly left this prison of a gloomy building made of wild gray stone, roughly hewn. And they went far from the gate, and only then they removed the invisible net.

When the recluse screamed when she saw her husband, alarmed guards came running to her cry. They saw that the room was empty and the window was wide open. They rushed to the window to look, and below at that moment a huge toad jumped from a stone into a swamp.

— Oh, — the men thought. — Probably she drowned herself, — and they crossed themselves. They immediately sent a messenger to the queen to inform her that her recluse could not stand it and committed suicide.

The queen, hearing the news, only shrugged her shoulders and took a mirror to look:

— Well, okay, one less concern, — and calmed down on this.

The prince and his young wife came to the healer and thanked her, gave the net.

— My dear girl, how long have we not seen each other! — the hostess hugged the girl. — I hope you recognize me.

— Of course, how could I forget you? — Thanks to you, I recovered and married such a wonderful person.

— You will stay here, and in the meantime I will meet with my father, I will please him that I have found you. And together we will come up with, decide what to do next, -the prince thought.

It was already night, he mounted his horse and arrived at the palace in the dark. He quietly woke up his father so that his mother would not wake up, both left the bedroom to have a normal conversation.

— Father, I found my beloved. She languished in the swamps, in the old castle.

— AAA! -exclaimed the king. -Who put her in there?

— You won’t believe it — mom did it.

— That’s a scoundrel! — the king was angry. — I need to teach her a lesson! — and he was about to wake her up, but the son stopped:

— No, papa, remember, you yourself deceived her: you said that you would marry me to a terrible country woman, and you yourself brought a refined beauty to the palace. That’s how she got mad at us. For her, you are the light in the window, so do not offend her.

— Hmm, — the anger subsided a little. — Then let’s do this: live with your wife in our hunting lodge until we build a new palace for you. Anyway, the queen does not go there, I order the servants to keep everything a secret. Let her calm down. I will surround her with love and she will be forgotten. And time will pass and everything will be fine. Let’s put it before the fact, then it won’t mind.

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