The GREEN Fairy Book - online children's book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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THE GOLDEN MERMAID.                      337
A powerful king had, among many other treasures, a wonderful tree in his garden, which bore every year beautiful golden apples. But the king was never able to enjoy his treasure, for he might watch and guard them as he liked—as soon as they began to get ripe they were always stolen. At last, in despair, he sent for his three sons and said to the two eldest: "Get yourselves ready for a journey. Take gold and silver with you and a large retinue of servants, as beseems two noble princes, and go through the world till you find out who it is that steals my golden apples, and if possible bring the thief to me that I may punish him as he deserves." His sons were delighted at this proposal, for they had long wished to see something of the world, so they got ready for their journey with all haste, bade their father farewell, and left the town.
The youngest prince was much disappointed that he too was not sent out on his travels; but his father wouldn't hear of his going, for he had always been looked upon a§ the stupid one of the family and the king was afraid of something happening to him. But the prince begged and implored so long that at last his father consented to let him go and furnished him with gold and silver as he had done his brothers. But he gave him the most wretched horse in his stable, because the foolish youth hadn't asked for a better. So he too set out on his journey to secure the thief, amid the jeers and laughter of the whole court and town.
His path led him first through a wood, and he hadn't gone very far when he met a lean-looking wolf, who stood still as he approached. The prince asked him if he were hungry, and when the wolf said he was, he got down from his horse and said: "If you are really as hungry as you say and look, you may take my horse and eat it."
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