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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andrew Lang > Fairy tale "Prince Vivien and the Princess Placida"

Prince Vivien and the Princess Placida

'That I will, with pleasure,' she replied. 'But it will be a long story.'

'Oh! if it's long, I can't listen,' cried the Prince.

'But,' said she, 'at your age, you should attend to what old people say, and learn to have patience.'

'But, but,' said the Prince, in his most impatient tone, 'old people should not be so long-winded! Tell me what country I have got into, and nothing else.'

'With all my heart,' said she. 'You are in the Forest of the Black Bird; it is here that he utters his oracles.'

'An Oracle,' cried the Prince. 'Oh! I must go and consult him.' Thereupon he drew a handful of gold from his pocket, and offered it to the old woman, and when she would not take it, he threw it down upon the table and was off like a flash of lightning, without even staying to ask the way. He took the first path that presented itself and followed it at the top of his speed, often losing his way, or stumbling over some stone, or running up against a tree, and leaving behind him without regret the cottage which had been as little to his taste as the character of its possessor. After some time he saw in the distance a huge black castle which commanded a view of the whole forest. The Prince felt certain that this must be the abode of the Oracle, and just as the sun was setting he reached its outermost gates. The whole castle was surrounded by a deep moat, and the drawbridge and the gates, and even the water in the moat, were all of the same sombre hue as the walls and towers. Upon the gate hung a huge bell, upon which was written in red letters:

'Mortal, if thou art curious to know thy fate, strike this bell, and submit to what shall befall thee.'

The Prince, without the smallest hesitation, snatched up a great stone, and hammered vigorously upon the bell, which gave forth a deep and terrible sound, the gate flew open, and closed again with a thundering clang the moment the Prince had passed through it, while from every tower and battlement rose a wheeling, screaming crowd of bats which darkened the whole sky with their multitudes.

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