THE FLYING SHIP
And so he too joined them ; and away the ship flew on, and on, and on, and once more the Simpleton looked out, and this time he saw a man carrying straw upon his back.
' Hallo ! Where are you carrying that straw to ? '
' To the village,' said the man.
' Do you mean to say there is no straw in the village ?'
' Ah ! but this is quite a peculiar straw. If you strew it about even in the hottest summer the air at once becomes cold, and snow falls, and the people freeze.'
Then the Simpleton asked him also to join them.
At last the ship, with its strange crew, arrived at the King's Court. The King was having his dinner, but he at once despatched one of his courtiers to find out what the huge, strange new bird could be that had come flying through the air. The courtier peeped into the ship, and, seeing what it was, instantly went back to the King and told him that it was a flying ship, and that it was manned by a few peasants.
Then the King remembered his royal oath; but he made up his mind that he would never consent to let the Princess marry a poor peasant. So he thought and thought, and then said to himself:
' I will give him some impossible tasks to perform; that will be the best way of getting rid of him.' And he there and then decided to despatch one of his courtiers to the Simpleton, with the command that he was to fetch the King the healing water from the world's end before he had finished his dinner.
But while the King was still instructing the courtier exactly what he was to say, the first man of the ship's company, the one with the miraculous power of hearing, had overheard the King's words, and hastily reported them to the poor Simpleton.
' Alas, alas !' he cried ; ' what am I to do now ? It would take me quite a year, possibly my whole life, to find the water.'
' Never fear,' said his fleet-footed comrade,' I will fetch what the King wants.'
Just then the courtier arrived, bearing the King's command.
' Tell his Majesty,' said the Simpleton, ' that his orders shall be obeyed ;' and forthwith the swift runner unbound the foot that was strung up behind his ear and started off, and in less than no time had reached the world's end and drawn the healing water from the well.
' Dear me,' he thought to himself, ' that's rather tiring ! I'll just rest for a few minutes; it will be some little time yet before the