The Morning Star and The Evening Star.

Once upon a time something extraordinary happened. If it had not happened it would not be told.

There was once an emperor and empress who were childless. So they sought out all the wizards and witches, all the old women and astrologers; but their skill proved vain, no one knew how to help them. At last the royal pair devoted themselves to almsgiving, praying, and fasting, until one night the empress dreamed that the Lord had taken pity on her, and appearing to her, said: "I have heard your prayers, and will give you a child whose like can not be found on earth. Your husband, the emperor, must go to the brook to-morrow with a hook and line, then you are to prepare with your own hands the fish he catches, and eat it."

Before it was fairly daylight, the empress went to the emperor and woke him, saying: "Rise, my royal husband, it is morning."

"Why, what ails you to-day, wife, that you wake me so early?" the emperor replied. "Has any foe crossed the frontiers of my country?"

"Heaven forbid. I've heard nothing of that sort, but listen to my dream."

And she told him about it.

When the emperor heard her story he jumped out of bed, dressed, took the hook and line, and, gasping for breath, went to the brook. He threw in the hook and soon saw the cork on the line bob. He pulled it out, and what did he see? A big fish, made entirely of gold. It was a wonder that he did not die of joy. But what did the empress say when she saw it? She was still more out of her wits.

The empress cooked the fish with her own hands, the royal couple ate it, and the empress instantly felt that the promise would be fulfilled.

The maid-servant who cleared away the table saw a fish-bone on the empress' plate, and thought she would suck it, to know how food tastes when prepared by royal hands.

One day the empress received the gift of a beautiful boy, as handsome as a little angel. That same night the maid-servant, too, had a son who looked so exactly like the prince that they could not be distinguished from each other. The maid-servant's child precisely resembled the royal one. The prince was named Busujok,[2] the maid-servant's son was called Siminok.[3]

[2] Busujok: Basil.

[3] Siminok: Geaphalium, cat's foot.

They grew up together, were taught their lessons, and learned as much in one day as other children in a whole year. When they were playing in the garden, the empress watched them from her window with great delight.

They became tall youths and looked so much alike that people could never tell which was the prince and which the maid-servant's son. They were haughty in bearing, both were charming, winning in speech, and brave, brave to a fault.

One day they determined to go hunting. But the empress was constantly fretting herself to find some way of recognizing her own son, for as their faces were alike and their clothes precisely the same, she often could not distinguish one from the other. She therefore thought of putting some mark on the prince. So she called him, and while pretending to be playing with his hair, knotted two locks together without his knowledge. Then the youths went off to hunt.

They hurried joyously through the green fields, skipped about like lambkins, gathered flowers, sprinkled themselves with dew, watched the butterflies flit from blossom to blossom, saw the bees gather wax and honey, and enjoyed themselves to the utmost. Then they went to the springs, drank some water to refresh themselves, and gazed unweariedly at the sky, which met the earth on the horizon. They would fain have gone to the end of the world to see it close at hand, or at least far enough to reach the spot where the earth grows marshy before it comes to an end.

Next they went into the woods. When they saw the beauties of the forest, they stood still with mouths wide open in astonishment. Consider that they had not beheld any of these things in their whole lives. When the wind blew and stirred the leaves, they listened to their rustling, and it seemed as if the empress was passing by, drawing her silken train after her. Then they sat down on the soft grass, under the shade of a big tree. Here they began to reflect and consult each other about how they were to commence hunting. They wanted to kill nothing but wild beasts. They did not notice the birds which hopped around them and perched on the boughs of the trees; they would have been sorry to hurt them, for they liked to listen to their twitter. It seemed as if the birds knew this; they showed no fear, but sang as if they were going to split their throats; the nightingales, however, trilled only from their craws, that their songs might be the sweeter. While they stood there consulting, the prince suddenly felt so overwhelmed with fatigue that he could hold out no longer, but laying his head in Siminok's lap, asked him to stroke his hair.

While he was doing so, Siminok stopped and said:

"What is the matter with your head, Brother Busujok?"

"What should be the matter? How do I know, Brother Siminok?"

"Just see," replied Siminok, "two locks of your hair are tied together."

"How is that possible?" said Busujok. This discovery vexed the prince so much that he determined to go out into the wide world.

"Brother Siminok," he said, "I'm going out into the wide world, because I can't understand why my mother tied my hair while she was playing with it."

"Listen to reason, Brother Busujok, and do nothing of the sort," replied Siminok; "if the empress tied your hair, it certainly was not for any evil purpose."

But Busujok remained firm in his resolve, and when he took leave of Siminok, he said to him:

"Take this handkerchief, Brother Siminok, and if you ever see three drops of blood on it, you will know that I am dead."