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They say there was a king’s son who went out to hunt. It was a winter’s day, and the ground was covered with snow, so that when he brought down the birds with his arquebuse the red blood made beautiful bright marks on the dazzling white snow.
‘How beautiful!’ exclaimed the prince. ‘Never will I marry till I find one with a complexion fair as this snow, and tinted like this rosy blood.’
When his day’s sport was at an end, he went home and told his parents that he was going to wander over the world till he found one fair as snow, tinted like rosy blood. The parents approved his design and sent him forth.
On, on, on he went, till one day he met a little old woman, who stopped him, saying: ‘Whither so fast, fair prince?’
He replied, ‘I walk the earth till I find one who is fair as snow, tinted like rosy blood, to make her my wife.’
‘That can I help you to, and I alone,’ said the little old woman, who was a fairy; and then she gave him the three love-oranges, telling him that when he opened one such a maiden as he was in search of would appear, but he must immediately look for water and sprinkle her, or she would disappear again.
The prince took the oranges, and wandered on. On, on, on he went, till at last the fancy took him to break open one of the oranges. Immediately a beautiful maiden appeared, whose complexion was indeed fair as snow, and tinted like rosy blood, but it was only when she had already disappeared that he recollected about the water. It was too late, so on he wandered again till the fancy took him to open another orange. Instantly another maiden appeared, fairer than the other, and he lost no time in looking for water to sprinkle her, but there was none, and before he came back from the search she was gone.
On he wandered again till he was nearly home, when one day he noticed a handsome fountain standing by the road, and over against it a fine palace. The sight of the fountain made him think of his third orange, and he took it out and broke it open.
Instantly a third maiden appeared, far fairer than either of the others; with the water of the fountain he sprinkled her the moment she appeared, and she vanished not, but staid with him and loved him.
Then he said, ‘You must stay here in this bower while I go on home and fetch a retinue worthy to escort you.’
In a palace opposite the fountain lived a black Saracen woman, and just then she went down to the fountain to draw water, and as she looked into the water she said, ‘My mistress says that I am so ugly, but I am so fair, therefore I break the pitcher and the little pitcher.
Then she looked up in the bower, and seeing the beautiful maiden, she called her down, and caressed her, and stroked her hair, and praised her beauty; but as she stroked her hair she took out a magic pin, and stuck it into her head, and instantly the maiden became a dove and perched on the side of the fountain.
Then she broke the pitcher and the little pitcher, and the prince came back.
When the prince saw the ugly black woman standing in the bower where he had left his beautiful maiden, he was quite bewildered, and looked all about for her.
‘I am she whom you seek, prince,’ said the woman. ‘It is the sun has changed me thus while standing here waiting for you; but all will come right when I get away from the sun.’
The prince did not know what to make of it, but there was no help for it but to take her and trust to her coming right when she got away from the sun. He took her home, therefore, and right grand preparations were made for the royal marriage. Tapestries were hung on the walls, and flowers strewed the floor, while in the kitchen was the cook as busy as a bee, preparing I know not how many dishes for the royal banquet.
Then, lo, there came and perched on the kitchen window a little dove, and sang, ‘Cook, cook, for whom are you cooking; for the son of the king, or the Saracen Moor? May the cook fall asleep, and may all the viands be burnt!
After this nothing would go right in the kitchen; every day all the dishes got burnt, and it was impossible to give the wedding banquet, because there was nothing fit to send up to the table. Then the king’s son came into the kitchen to learn what had happened, and they showed him the dove which had done all. ‘Sweet little dove!’ said the prince, and, catching it in his hand, began to caress it; thus he felt the pin in its head, and pulled it out. Instantly his own fair maiden stood before him, white as snow, rosy as blood. Then the mystery was cleared up, and there was great rejoicing, and the old witch was burnt.