JESPER WHO HERDED THE HARES 215
the lords and ladies were all round the hall. At a sign from the king, two servants carried in a large empty tub, which they set down in the open space before the throne, and Jesper was told to stand beside it.
' Now,' said the king, ' you must tell us as many undoubted truths as will fill that tub, or you can't have the princess.'
' But how are we to know when the tub is full ?' said Jesper.
' Don't you trouble about that,' said the king; ' that's my part of the business.'
This seemed to everybody present rather unfair, but no one liked to be the first to say so, and Jesper had to put the best face he could on the matter, and begin his story.
' Yesterday,' he said, ' when I was herding the hares, there came to me a girl, in a shabby dress, and begged me to give her one of them. She got the hare, but she had to give me a kiss for it; and that girl was the princess. Isn't that true?' said he, looking at her.
The princess blushed and looked very uncomfortable, but had to admit that it was true.
' That hasn't filled much of the tub,' said the king. ' Go on again.'
'After that,' said Jesper, 'a stout old woman, in a peasant's dress, came and begged for a hare. Before she got it, she had to walk round me on tiptoe, turn up her eyes, and cackle like a hen ; and that old ivoman was the queen. Isn't that true, now?'
The queen turned very red and hot, but couldn't deny it.
' H-m,' said the king ; ' that is something, but the tub isn't full yet.' To the queen he whispered, ' I didn't think you would be such a fool.'
' What did you do? ' she whispered in return.
' Do you suppose I would do anything for him? said the king, and then hurriedly ordered Jesper to go on.
' In the next place,' said Jesper, ' there came a fat old