162 THE WITCH AND HER SERVANTS
' One night I dreamt that the fruit was perfectly ripe ; I ate some of it, and it was more delicious than anything I had ever tasted in real life. As soon as I awoke I sent for the gardener and asked him if the fruit on the three trees had not ripened in the night to perfection.
' But instead of replying, the gardener threw himself at my feet and swore that he was innocent. He said that he had watched by the trees all night, but in spite of it, and as if by magic, the beautiful trees had been robbed of all their fruit.
( Grieved as I was over the theft, I did not punish the gardener, of whose fidelity I was well assured, but I determined to pluck off all the fruit in the following year before it was ripe, as I had not much belief in the magician's warning.
' I carried out my intention, and had all the fruit picked off the tree, but when I tasted one of the apples it was bitter and unpleasant, and the next morning the rest of the fruit had all rotted away.
' After this I had the beautiful fruit of these trees carefully guarded by my most faithful servants; but every year, on this very night, the fruit was plucked and stolen by an invisible hand, and next morning not a single apple remained on the trees. For some time past I have given up even having the trees watched.'
When the King had finished his story, Szabo, his eldest son, said to him : ' Foi'give me, father, if I say I think you are mistaken. I am sure there are many men in your kingdom who could protect these trees from the cunning arts of a thieving magician ; I myself, who as your eldest son claim the first right to do so, will mount guard over the fruit this very night.'
The King consented, and as soon as evening drew on Szabo climbed up on to one of the trees, determined to protect the fruit even if it cost him his life. So he kept watch half the night; but a little after midnight he wras overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, and fell fast asleep. He did not awake till it wTas bright daylight, and all the fruit on the trees had vanished.
The following year "Warza, the second brother, tried his luck, but with the same result. Then it came to the turn of the third and youngest son,
Iwanich was not the least discouraged by the failure of his elder brothers, though they wrere both much older and stronger than he was, and when night came climbed up the tree as they had done. The moon had risen, and with her soft light lit up the whole