The maid with hair of gold
They thanked him heartily, and said, “If ever you should be in distress, call to us and we will help you at once.”
After this George was obliged to travel on foot, and he walked on for a long time, ever getting further and further into the forest. On reaching the end of it, he saw stretching before him an immense sea that seemed to mingle with the horizon. Close by stood two men disputing the possession of a large fish with golden scales that had fallen into their net.
“The net belongs to me,” said one, “therefore the fish must be mine.”
“Your net would not have been of the slightest use, for it would have been lost in the sea, had I not come with my boat just in the nick of time.”
“Well, you shall have the next haul I make.”
“And suppose you should catch nothing? No; give me this one and keep the next haul for yourself.”
“I am going to put an end to your quarrel,” said George, addressing them. “Sell me the fish: I will pay you well, and you can divide the money between you.”
Thereupon he put into their hands all the money the king had given him for the journey, without keeping a single coin for himself. The fishermen rejoiced at the good fortune which had befallen them, but George put the fish back into the water. The fish, thankful for this unexpected freedom, dived and disappeared, but returning to the surface, said, “Whenever you may need my help you have but to call me, I shall not fail to show my gratitude.”
“Where are you going?” asked the fisherman.
“I am in search of a wife for my old master; she is known as the Maid with the Golden Locks: but I am at a loss where to find her.”
“If that be all, we can easily give you information,” answered they. “She is Princess Zlato Vlaska, and daughter of the king whose crystal palace is built on that island yonder. The golden light from the princess’s hair is reflected on sea and sky every morning when she combs it. If you would like to go to the island we will take you there for nothing, in return for the clever and generous way by which you made us stop quarrelling.