Time and the king of the elements
“I will do what you advise, dear one,” he replied, “but tell me, why did you leave me so suddenly? If you only knew what I have suffered! I have sought you all over the world.”
“I did not leave you willingly,” said she. “A countryman asked me to come and look at the mountain torrent. When we got there he sprinkled some water over himself, and at once I saw wings growing out of his shoulders, and he soon changed his shape entirely into that of a drake; and I too became a duck at the same time, and whether I would or no I was obliged to follow him. Here I was allowed to resume my own form; and now there is but the one difficulty of being recognised by you.”
So they parted, she to join the other women, he to continue his way to the Crystal Mountain. At the top he found twelve strange beings sitting round a large fire: they were the attendants of the King of Time. He saluted them respectfully.
“What dost thou want?” said they.
“I have lost my dear wife. Can you tell me how to recognise her among two hundred other women all exactly alike?”
“No,” said they, “but perhaps our King can.”
Then arose from the midst of the flames an old man with bald head and long white beard, who, on hearing his request, replied: “Though all these women be exactly alike, thy wife will have a black thread in the shoe of her right foot.”
So saying he vanished, and the traveller, thanking the twelve, descended the mountain.
Sure it is that without the black thread he would never have recognised her. And though the Magician tried to hide her, the spell was broken; and the two returned rejoicing to their home, where they lived happily ever after.