The mother bade the prince choose, whereupon he pointed to the maiden clothed in white, saying, “Give me this one to wife.”
“Ah,” said the queen, “some one has been letting you into the secret: but wait a little, we shall meet again to-morrow.”
All that night the prince lay awake, wondering how he should manage not to make a mistake on the morrow. At dawn he was already at the palace gates, which he had hardly entered when the princess clothed in white chanced to pass: it was Zlato-Vlaska, and she had come to meet him.
“If it is your wish to choose me again to-day,” she said, “observe carefully, and take the maiden around whose head buzzes a small fly.”
In the afternoon the queen took the prince into a room where her three daughters sat, and said: “If among these princesses you recognise the one you chose yesterday she shall be yours; if not, you must die.”
The young girls stood side by side, dressed alike in costly robes, and all had golden hair. The prince was puzzled, and their beauty and splendour dazzled him. For some time he could hardly see distinctly; then, all of a sudden, a small fly buzzed over the head of one of the princesses.
“This is the maiden who belongs to me,” cried he, “and whom I chose yesterday.”
The queen, astonished that he should have guessed correctly, said, “Quite right, but I cannot let you have her until you have submitted to another trial, which shall be explained to you to-morrow.”
On the morrow she pointed out to him a large fish-pond which lay in the forest, and giving him a small golden sieve, said: “If with this sieve you can, before sunset, empty that fish-pond yonder, I will give you my daughter with the golden hair, but if you fail you will lose your life.”
The prince took the sieve, and, going down to the pond, plunged it in to try his luck; but no sooner had he lifted it up than all the water ran out through the holes—not a drop was left behind. Not knowing what to do, he sat down on the bank with the sieve in his hand, wondering in what possible way the difficulty might be overcome.