The creature disappeared as before.
The youngest travelled on till he came to the banks of a river. Feeling tired and hungry, he got down from his horse and began his breakfast; while he was eating, up came the red fox.
“Please, young sir,” said the fox, “give me a morsel to satisfy my hunger.”
The prince threw him a piece of meat, and spoke kindly to him.
“Come near, do not be afraid, my red fox; I see you are more hungry than I, but there is enough for us both.”
And he divided all his provisions into two equal parts, one for himself, and one for the poor red fox.
When the latter had eaten to his heart’s content, he said: “You have fed me well, in return I will serve you well; mount your horse and follow me. If you do everything I tell you, the Bird of Fire shall be yours.”
Then he set off at a run before the horseman, clearing the road for him with his bushy tail. By means of this marvellous broom, mountains were cut down, ravines filled up, and rivers bridged over.
The young prince followed at a gallop, without the slightest wish to stop, until they came to a castle built of copper.
“The Bird of Fire is in this castle,” said the fox; “you must enter exactly at midday, for then the guards will be asleep, and you will pass unnoticed. Above all, beware of stopping anywhere. In the first apartment you will find twelve birds black as night, in golden cages; in the second, twelve golden birds in wooden cages; in the third, Ohnivak, the bird of fire, roosting on his perch. Near him are two cages, one of wood and the other of gold; be sure you put him in the wooden cage—you would be sorry for it if he were put into the golden one.”
The prince entered the castle, and found everything just as the fox had told him. Having passed through the two rooms he came to the third, and there saw the fire-bird on his perch, apparently asleep. It was indeed a beautiful creature, so beautiful that the prince’s heart beat high with joy. He handled him without difficulty, and put him into the wooden cage, thinking at the same time to himself that it could hardly be right for so lovely a bird to be in such an ugly cage, a golden cage could be the only right place for him.