The Crimson Fairy Book - online children's book

A Classic fairy tale collection for children by Andrew Lang

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could he see of the ring. At length he gave it up in despair, and throwing himself down at the foot of the tree, he wept bitterly.
'What is the matter, dear prince?' said a voice just above him, and raising his head, he saw the wild duck.
'The king of this country declares I must die a horrible death if I cannot find the princess's ring which he has thrown into the brook,' answered the prince.
'Oh, you must not vex yourself about that, for I can help you,' replied the bird. 'I am the king of the wild ducks, whose life you spared, and now it is my turn to save yours.' Then he flew away, and in a few minutes a great flock of wild ducks were swimming all up and down the stream looking with all their might, and long before the king came back from his council there it was, safe on the grass beside the prince.
At this sight the king was yet more astonished at the cleverness of his steward, and at once promoted him to be the keeper of his jewels.
Now you would have thought that by this time the king would have been satisfied with the prince, and would have left him alone; but people's natures are very hard to change, and when the two envious soldiers came to him with a new falsehood, he was as ready to listen to them as before.
'Gracious Majesty,' said they, 'the youth whom you have made keeper of your jewels has declared to us that a child shall be born in the palace this night, which will be able to speak every language in the world and to play every instrument of music. Is he then become a prophet, or a magician, that he should know things which have not yet come to pass?'
At these words the king became more angry than ever. He had tried to learn magic himself, but somehow or other his spells would never work, and he was furious to hear that the prince claimed a power that he did not possess. Stammering with rage, he ordered the youth to be brought before him, and vowed that unless this miracle was accomplished he would have the prince dragged at a horse's tail until he was dead.
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