The Fish Prince
Even the people who had eight or ten daughters were very polite about it, but said, "We cannot give one of our children to your Fish Prince." Then the Queen offered a great bag of gold to any father who would send his daughter to be the Fish Prince's wife, but nothing came of it for a long time.
At last a fakir or beggar-man heard of the bag of gold and said to the messenger, "You may have my eldest daughter. She cannot be worse off than where she is now, and the gold will make me rich."
"Tell me where she is?" asked the Queen's messenger.
"She is down by the river, washing," said the man. "She is my first wife's child, and her stepmother makes her do all the hard work, and will not give her enough to eat."
"She gets more than she deserves," cried the stepmother angrily. "Much more than she deserves. You can take her and welcome. We shall be well rid of her, and if the Fish Prince wants to eat her, he can do so."
So the messenger gave the bag of gold to the fakir, and went down to the river, where he found a very pretty girl washing clothes on the edge of the water. She cried very much when she heard what his errand was, and begged him to let her say good-bye to an old friend before he took her away.
"Tell me who is this friend," said the messenger. "The Queen said we were to lose no time." And the girl replied, "It is a seven-headed cobra whom I have known ever since I was a little child."
Still crying, the girl, whose name was Maya, ran along the bank, and the cobra put his seven heads out of the hole where he lived.
"I know all about it," he said. "Don't cry. Pick up those three pebbles outside my hole and put them in your dress. When you see the Athon-Rajah coming, throw the first at him. If it hits him he will sink to the bottom of the tank."
Then the cobra went on. "When he rises to the surface, hit him with the second, and the same thing will happen. Throw the third pebble at him, and he will change from a fish into a handsome young prince."
"Then he isn't really a fish?