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The Six Friends

Then, with many handshakes and affection, the six friends parted, each one disappearing up the bank of the stream he had selected.

Now we are going to follow the son of the prince. The underbrush along the bank of his stream was thick and heavy, so he needed to walk slowly. At last, however, the banks of the little river began to widen. By sunset he found himself in an open meadow, with an old broken well in the middle of it and a dark forest beyond. He was tired and worn with the long hard walk, so when he reached the well, he sat down beside it to rest and cool himself. He had not been there long before he saw approaching him a tall and exceedingly beautiful girl with a water pitcher on her shoulder. Her hair was very long and black. She was clothed in flowing white linen garments, and she moved across the field barefooted, with a light, airy step. Marvelous to behold, wherever her foot pressed the soft earth, a white flower sprang into bloom, marking her course across the meadow in a trail of beauty. While the Prince's son was marveling at this and at the unusual loveliness of the girl, she drew up to the well and lowered her pitcher from her shoulder. He jumped up at once. Taking it from her hand, he offered to draw the water for her. She said not a word, but when the pitcher was full, she set forth again across the meadow, leaving him to follow her and to carry the pitcher. Over the field and into the woods they went, into the deepening twilight.

At last they came to a little log hut with a candle shining in the window. As they approached it, the door was opened by an old man, white-haired, shriveled and bent, with an old, wrinkled woman beside him.

"Come in, daughter," said the aged man, motioning to the girl. "Have you brought the son of the prince?"

"That I have, Father," she replied. Her voice was as lovely as her beautiful face. The Prince's son entered the little hut, wondering greatly about all of this.

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