The Fairy Aurora.
Once upon a time something happened. If it hadn't happened, it wouldn't be told.
There was once a great and mighty emperor, whose kingdom was so large that no one knew where it began and where it ended. Some believed it was boundless, others said that they dimly remembered having heard from very old people that the emperor had formerly engaged in war with his neighbors, some of whom had proved greater and more powerful, others smaller and weaker than he. One piece of news about this emperor went all through the wide world—that he always laughed with his right eye and wept with the left. People vainly asked the reason that the emperor's eyes could not agree, and even differed so entirely. When great heroes went to the emperor to question him, he smiled evasively and made no reply. So the enmity between the monarch's eyes remained a profound mystery, whose cause nobody knew except the emperor himself. Then the emperor's sons grew up. Ah, what princes they were! Three princes in one country, like three morning stars in the sky! Florea, the oldest, was a fathom tall, with shoulders more than four span broad. Costan was very different, short, strongly built, with a muscular arm and a stout fist. The third and youngest prince was named Petru—a tall, slender fellow, more like a girl than a boy. Petru did not talk much, he laughed and sang, sang and laughed, from morning till night. Only he was often seen in a graver mood, when he pushed back the curling locks from his forehead and looked like one of the old wiseacres who belonged to the emperor's council.
"Come, Florea, you are grown up, go to our father and ask him why one of his eyes always weeps and the other always laughs," said Petru, one fine morning to his brother Florea. But Florea would not go; he knew by experience that the emperor was always vexed if any one asked him that question.
Petru fared just the same when he went to his brother Costan.
"Very well, if nobody else dares, I'll venture it!" he said at last. No sooner said than done, Petru instantly went and asked.
"May your mother blind you! What's that to you?" replied the emperor wrathfully, giving him one cuff on the right ear and another on the left. Petru went sadly away, and told his brothers how his father had served him. Yet, after the young prince had asked what was the matter with the eyes, it seemed as though the left one wept less and the right one laughed more.
Petru plucked up his courage and went to the emperor again. A box on the ear is a box on the ear, and two of them are two! It was no sooner thought than done. He fared just the same the second time. But the left now only wept occasionally, and the right one seemed ten years younger.
"If that's the way things stand," thought Petru, "I know what I have to do. I'll keep going to him, keep repeating the question, and keep receiving the cuffs on the ear until both eyes laugh."
No sooner said than done. Petru never made the same remark twice.
"My son Petru," began the emperor, this time in a pleasant tone and laughing with both eyes, "I see that you can't drive this anxiety out of your head, so I'll tell you what is the matter with my eyes. Know that this eye laughs when I see that I have three such sons as you, but the other weeps because I fear that you will not be able to reign in peace and protect the country against bad neighbors. But if you bring me water from the fountain of the Fairy Aurora that I may bathe my eyes with it, both will laugh, because I shall then know that I have brave sons on whom I can rely."
Such were the emperor's words. Petru took his hat from the bench by the stove, and went to tell his brothers what he had heard. The princes consulted together and soon settled the matter, as is proper among own brothers. Florea, being the oldest, went to the stables, chose the best and handsomest horse, saddled it, and bade farewell to home.
"I will go," he said to his brothers; "and if, at the end of a year, a month, a week, and a day, I have not returned with the water, you can follow me, Costan." With these words he departed.
For three days and three nights Florea did not stop; his horse flew like a ghost over the mountains and valleys till it reached the frontiers of the empire. But all around the emperor's dominions ran a deep gulf, and across this abyss there was only a single bridge. Here Florea halted to look back and bid farewell to his native land.
May the Lord preserve even a Pagan from what Florea now beheld when he wanted to go on—a dragon! But a dragon with three heads and the most horrible faces, with one jaw in the sky and another on the earth. Florea did not wait for the dragon to bathe him in flames, but set spurs to his horse and vanished as if he had never been in existence. The dragon sighed once and disappeared, without leaving a trace behind.
A week passed; Florea did not return; a fortnight slipped by, but nothing was heard of him. A month elapsed; Costan began to search among the horses to choose one. When morning dawned after a year, a month, a week, and a day, Costan mounted his horse, took leave of his youngest brother, and saying to him, "Come, if I am lost too," rode off as Florea had done.
The dragon at the bridge was now still more terrible, his heads were more frightful—and the hero fled still faster. Nothing more was heard of the two brothers; Petru remained alone.
"I am going to follow my brothers," he said one day to his father.
"Then may God go with you," replied the emperor. "He alone knows whether you will have better luck than your brothers."
So the monarch's youngest son also bade him farewell and set off for the frontiers of the empire. On the bridge stood a dragon still larger and more horrible, with jaws even more yawning and frightful. The creature now had seven heads instead of three.