The Enchanted Peafowl - The Story of the Golden Apples, the Wicked Dragon, and the Magic Horse
In a fury the Prince searched about to see what had frightened his loved one. He found the old woman under the bed and dragging her out by the hair he struck her dead with his sword. And good riddance it was, too, for she was an evil old thing and only caused mischief in the world.
But putting the evil old woman out of the way did not, alas, bring back the lovely maiden. The Prince waited for her the next night and the next and many following nights but she nevermore returned.
The magic apple-tree of course was no longer robbed of its golden fruit, so the Tsar was happy once again and never tired of praising the valor of his youngest son. But as for the prince, in spite of his father's praise he grew sadder and sadder.
Finally he went to the Tsar and said:
"Father, I have lost the maiden whom I love and life without her is not worth the living. Unless I go out in the world and find her I shall die."
The Tsar tried to dissuade him but when he could not he mounted him on a fine horse, gave him a serving man to accompany him, and sent him off with his blessing.
The Prince and his man wandered hither and thither over the world inquiring everywhere for news of nine peafowl one of whom was a lovely maiden. They came at last to a lake on the shore of which lived an ugly old woman with an only daughter.
"Nine peafowl," she repeated, "and one of them a lovely maiden! You must mean the nine sisters, the enchanted princesses, who fly about as peafowl. They come here every morning to bathe in the lake. What can you want with them?"
The Prince told the old woman that one of them was his love and that unless he married her he would die.
"Die, indeed!" scoffed the old woman. "That's no way for a handsome young man to talk! I'll tell you what you ought to do: give up thought of this peafowl princess and marry my daughter. Then I'll make you heir to all my riches."
She called out her daughter who was as ugly as herself and cross and ill-natured in the bargain. Just one look at her and the Prince said firmly: