THE GRATEFUL BEASTS
are accused of being a magician who wishes to rob me of my daughter, and I condemn you to death; but if you can fulfil three tasks which I shall set you to do your life shall be spared, on condition you leave the country ; but if you cannot perform what I demand you shall be hung on the nearest tree.'
And turning to the two wicked brothers he said, ' Suggest something for him to do ; no matter how difficult, he must succeed in it or die.'
They did not think long, but replied, ' Let him build your Majesty in one day a more beautiful palace than this, and if he fails in the attempt let him be hung.'
The King was pleased with this proposal, and commanded Ferko to set to work on the following day. The two brothers were delighted, for they thought they had now got rid of Ferko for ever. The poor youth himself was heart-broken, and cursed the hour he had crossed the boundary of the King's domain. As he was wandering disconsolately about the meadows round the palace, wondering how he could escape being put to death, a little bee flew past, and settling on his shoulder whispered in his ear, ' What is troubling you, my kind benefactor ? Can I be of any help to you ? I am the bee wrhose wing you healed, and would like to show my gratitude in some way.'
Ferko recognised the queen bee, and said, ' Alas! how could you help me ? for I have been set to do a task which no one in the whole world could do, let him be ever such a genius! To-morrow I must build a palace more beautiful than the King's, and it must be finished before evening.'
' Is that all ? ' answered the bee, l then you may comfort yourself; for before the sun goes down to-morrow night a palace shall be built unlike any that King has dwelt in before. Just stay here till I come again and tell you that it is finished.' Having said this she flew merrily away, and Ferko, reassured by her words, lay down on the grass and slept peacefully till the next morning.
Early on the following day the whole town was on its feet, and everyone wondered how and where the stranger would build the wonderful palace. The Princess alone was silent and sorrowful, and had cried all night till her pillow was wet, so much did she take the fate of the beautiful youth to heart.
Ferko spent the whole day in the meadows waiting the return of the bee. And when evening was come the queen bee flew by, and perching on his shoulder she said, ' The wonderful palace is