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The Fairy of the Dawn
by [?]

Once upon a time what should happen DID happen; and if it had not happened this tale would never have been told.

There was once an emperor, very great and mighty, and he ruled over an empire so large that no one knew where it began and where it ended. But if nobody could tell the exact extent of his sovereignty everybody was aware that the emperor’s right eye laughed, while his left eye wept. One or two men of valour had the courage to go and ask him the reason of this strange fact, but he only laughed and said nothing; and the reason of the deadly enmity between his two eyes was a secret only known to the monarch himself.

And all the while the emperor’s sons were growing up. And such sons! All three like the morning stars in the sky!

Florea, the eldest, was so tall and broad-shouldered that no man in the kingdom could approach him.

Costan, the second, was quite different. Small of stature, and slightly built, he had a strong arm and stronger wrist.

Petru, the third and youngest, was tall and thin, more like a girl than a boy. He spoke very little, but laughed and sang, sang and laughed, from morning till night. He was very seldom serious, but then he had a way when he was thinking of stroking his hair over his forehead, which made him look old enough to sit in his father’s council!

‘You are grown up, Florea,’ said Petru one day to his eldest brother; ‘do go and ask father why one eye laughs and the other weeps.’

But Florea would not go. He had learnt by experience that this question always put the emperor in a rage.

Petru next went to Costan, but did not succeed any better with him.

‘Well, well, as everyone else is afraid, I suppose I must do it myself,’ observed Petru at length. No sooner said than done; the boy went straight to his father and put his question.

‘May you go blind!’ exclaimed the emperor in wrath; ‘what business is it of yours?’ and boxed Petru’s ears soundly.

Petru returned to his brothers, and told them what had befallen him; but not long after it struck him that his father’s left eye seemed to weep less, and the right to laugh more.

‘I wonder if it has anything to do with my question,’ thought he.

‘I’ll try again! After all, what do two boxes on the ear matter?’

So he put his question for the second time, and had the same answer; but the left eye only wept now and then, while the right eye looked ten years younger.

‘It really MUST be true,’ thought Petru. ‘Now I know what I have to do. I shall have to go on putting that question, and getting boxes on the ear, till both eyes laugh together.’

No sooner said than done. Petru never, never forswore himself.

‘Petru, my dear boy,’ cried the emperor, both his eyes laughing together, ‘I see you have got this on the brain. Well, I will let you into the secret. My right eye laughs when I look at my three sons, and see how strong and handsome you all are, and the other eye weeps because I fear that after I die you will not be able to keep the empire together, and to protect it from its enemies. But if you can bring me water from the spring of the Fairy of the Dawn, to bathe my eyes, then they will laugh for evermore; for I shall know that my sons are brave enough to overcome any foe.’

Thus spoke the emperor, and Petru picked up his hat and went to find his brothers.

The three young men took counsel together, and talked the subject well over, as brothers should do. And the end of it was that Florea, as the eldest, went to the stables, chose the best and handsomest horse they contained, saddled him, and took leave of the court.