Longshanks, Girth, and Keen: The Story of Three Wonderful Serving Men
There was once an aged king who had an only son. One day he called the prince to him and said: “My dear son, you know that ripe fruit falls in order to make room for other fruit. This my old head is like ripe fruit and soon the sun will no longer shine upon it. Now before I die I should like to see you happily married. Get you a wife, my son.”
“I would, my father, that I could please you in this,” the prince answered, “but I know of no one who would make you a worthy daughter-in-law.”
The old king reached into his pocket, drew out a golden key, and handed it to the prince. He said:
“Go up into the tower to the very top. There look about you and when you have decided what you like best of all you see, come back and tell me.”
The prince took the key and at once mounted the tower. He had never before gone to the very top and he had never heard what was there. He went up and up until at last he saw a small iron door in the ceiling. He opened this with the golden key, pushed it back, and entered a large circular hall. The ceiling was blue and silver like the heavens on a bright night when the stars shine, and the floor was covered with a green silken carpet. There were twelve tall windows set in gold frames, and on the crystal glass of each window a beautiful young girl was pictured in glowing colors. Every one of them was a princess with a royal crown upon her head. As the prince looked at them it seemed to him that each was more lovely than the last, and for the life of him he knew not which was the loveliest. Then they began to move as if alive, and they smiled at the prince and nodded, and looked as if they were about to speak.
Suddenly the prince noticed that one of the twelve windows was covered with a white curtain. He pulled the curtain aside and there without any question was the most beautiful princess of them all, clothed in pure white, with a silver girdle and a crown of pearls. Her face was deathly pale and sad as the grave.
For a long time the prince stood before this picture in utter amazement and as he looked at it a pain seemed to enter his heart.