The Enchanted Peafowl - The Story of the Golden Apples, the Wicked Dragon, and the Magic Horse
At first he stayed wide awake but as the hours dragged by he grew tired and then, because he was in such a comfortable position, he too fell soundly asleep. Midnight came and the apples ripened but the next morning, when the second prince awoke, the tree had again been stripped of its golden fruit.
The Tsar's Youngest Son now said:
"Father, let me go on guard to-night."
His brothers jeered and the Tsar shook his head.
"Nay, nay, my boy, why should you succeed where your older brothers have failed? It is God's will that my golden apples should be stolen and I must submit."
But the Youngest Son insisted that he, too, be given a chance to capture the thief and at last the Tsar consented.
"I will sleep soundly the first part of the night," the Youngest Prince thought to himself, "and with God's help wake up at midnight."
As soon as it was dark he had his bed carried outdoors and placed under the apple-tree. Then after commending his undertaking to God he lay down and fell soundly to sleep. Just before midnight he awoke. The apples had ripened and were shining among the leaves like golden lanterns.
On the stroke of midnight there was a whirr of wings and nine beautiful peafowl came flying down from the sky. Eight of them settled on the branches of the apple-tree and began eating the golden fruit. The ninth alighted beside the Young Prince and as she touched the ground changed into a lovely maiden.
She was so beautiful and gentle that the Young Prince fell madly in love with her and at once began wooing her with kisses and caresses. She responded to his love and they spent the night together in great happiness.
At the first streak of dawn she jumped up, saying:
"My dear one, I must leave you now!"
"But you will come again, won't you?" the Prince asked.
"Yes," she promised him. "To-night."
Suddenly the Prince remembered the golden apples. The peafowl in the tree were about to eat the last of them.
"Can't you make them leave just one apple for my father?" the Prince begged.