European: Lovely Ilonka (cont.)

This story is part of the Lang's European Fairy Tales I unit. Story source: The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, illustrated by H. J. Ford (1903).

Lovely Ilonka (cont.)
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The prince returned before long, bringing with him his father and mother and a great train of courtiers to escort Ilonka home. But how they all stared when they saw the swineherd's ugly daughter! However, there was nothing for it but to take her home and, two days later, the prince married her, and his father gave up the crown to him. But he had no peace! He knew very well he had been cheated, though he could not think how.

Once he desired to have some water brought him from the well into which Ilonka had been thrown. The coachman went for it, and in the bucket he pulled up, a pretty little duck was swimming. He looked wonderingly at it and, all of a sudden, it disappeared, and he found a dirty-looking girl standing near him. The girl returned with him and managed to get a place as housemaid in the palace.

Of course she was very busy all day long, but whenever she had a little spare time, she sat down to spin. Her distaff turned of itself, and her spindle span by itself, and the flax wound itself off, and however much she might use, there was always plenty left.

When the queen— or, rather, the swineherd's daughter — heard of this, she very much wished to have the distaff, but the girl flatly refused to give it to her. However, at last she consented on condition that she might sleep one night in the king's room. The queen was very angry and scolded her well, but as she longed to have the distaff she consented, though she gave the king a sleeping draught at supper.

Then the girl went to the king's room, looking seven times lovelier than ever. She bent over the sleeper and said: 'My heart's love, I am yours and you are mine. Speak to me but once; I am your Ilonka.' But the king was so sound asleep he neither heard nor spoke, and Ilonka left the room, sadly thinking he was ashamed to own her.

Soon after, the queen again sent to say that she wanted to buy the spindle. The girl agreed to let her have it on the same conditions as before, but this time, also, the queen took care to give the king a sleeping draught. And once more Ilonka went to the king's room and spoke to him; whisper as sweetly as she might, she could get no answer.

Now some of the king's servants had taken note of the matter and warned their master not to eat and drink anything that the queen offered him, as for two nights running she had given him a sleeping draught. The queen had no idea that her doings had been discovered, and when, a few days later, she wanted the flax and had to pay the same price for it, she felt no fears at all.

At supper that night the queen offered the king all sorts of nice things to eat and drink, but he declared he was not hungry and went early to bed.

The queen repented bitterly her promise to the girl, but it was too late to recall it, for Ilonka had already entered the king's room, where he lay anxiously waiting for something — he knew not what. All of a sudden he saw a lovely maiden who bent over him and said: 'My dearest love, I am yours and you are mine. Speak to me, for I am your Ilonka.'

At these words, the king's heart bounded within him. He sprang up and embraced and kissed her, and she told him all her adventures since the moment he had left her. And when he heard all that Ilonka had suffered and how he had been deceived, he vowed he would be revenged, so he gave orders that the swineherd, his wife and daughter should all be hanged — and so they were.

The next day, the king was married, with great rejoicings, to the fair Ilonka, and if they are not yet dead —why, they are still living.




(700 words)





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