This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
The princess had barely come out of the enchanted castle when she heard behind her frightful thundering, hammering and blowing, swearing and cursing, with threats; they shouted after her: "Wait, thou! - this-and-that-kind-of-wretch, it will soon be bitter for thee!" But she did not turn to them; she ran like a hunted deer till she reached home. Who was waiting for her there? No one else but her dear brother.
The brother and sister then put up the sweetly speaking bird on the world-beautifully sounding tree, and the sweetly speaking bird spoke, sang more sweetly than any cithara, so that whoever heard it became ten years younger. If the flowery garden had been famous before, it now stood in seven times greater fame, so that from seven kingdoms the people came to look at it; and the king, hearing of the fair fame of the flowery garden, resolved in his mind that, though he had not gone yet, he would go to see it now.
The old witch barely divined this intention of the king when she gave him powders in black coffee, from which the king became so sick that this time, too, his visit to the beautiful garden came to nothing. And then the old woman, without invitation, stood before him, and said: "High king, thou hast such a great desire to see the flowery garden, I will, go at once, and bring back word if its beauty is as great as its fame".
The king agreed, and the old woman went to see the flowery garden. She had barely put foot in it when the two children ran out to meet her, received her very cordially, and did not know where to seat her.
"Beautiful children," began the old sinner, "the marble palace is beautiful, the flowery garden is beautiful, the world-sweetly speaking bird is beautiful; but the flowery garden would be still more beautiful if the silver lake were flowing in it, and in the lake golden fish were playing".
"What must I do to get the lake?" asked the king's son.
"Only this," answered the old skeleton. "In a certain place, in an enchanted castle, is the world-silver lake, and in it the world-golden fish; it is only necessary to go for the silver lake, for the golden fish will come in it. All that is needed is to bring the lake".
Then the old woman took leave' of the pair pleasantly, and went home. But the king's son from that day had no rest, so he took leave of his dear sister, and went out into the world for the silver lake. He travelled and journeyed across forty-nine kingdoms, and the Operentsia Sea, till he came to the first enchanted castle. A devil was guarding there, who sent him to his elder brother, and he to his eldest. The king's son arrived at the third enchanted palace. A devil stood guard there, with an enormous knotty club, to hit every man going up or down, without mercy or pity.
"God give thee good evening, my lord elder brother".
"God receive thee, Yanoshka; whither art thou faring in this strange land, where not even a bird goes? '
"I am looking for the world-silver lake. Hast thou not heard of it, lord elder brother?"
"Of course I have heard, - of course; it is here in this enchanted castle. But, my younger brother, thou wilt have to tie up thy drawers well if 't is thy wish to take that away; for if thou dost not obey my word, I tell thee, on my true soul, that thou wilt reach Pilate by supper-time. I wish to say this: Here is a golden rod; strike the side of the enchanted palace with it, and suddenly the door will open before thee, run in straight to the garden. Thou wilt hear thy name called, but listen not. Every kind of beautiful maiden will come before thee, offering meat and drink; but eat not, neither drink. Thou wilt find on the way every kind of rich thing, - gold, silver, diamonds, - but touch nothing. Then every kind of disgusting snake and toad will come out, but be not afraid; run straight to the silver lake, which flows in the garden, run around it three times towards home, and then run out as thou didst go in".
Well, the king's son took the golden rod, struck the side of the enchanted castle three times, and the door opened before him; scarcely had he put foot inside when maidens called him by name. "This way, this way, Yanoshka! Eat, drink, with relish, Yanoshka! This way, Yanoshka, my embracing two arms are open to thee, run no farther!"
The king's son, as if deaf, did not listen, but ran farther. Then maidens more and more beautiful came before him, - some sprang at him, dangled their golden hair in his face; the king's son did not stop, but struck at them rudely, rushing on. He had barely left the maidens when he fell on to piles of treasure thrown in his way: beaten gold was piled high, and milk-white silver coin, - here every kind of diamond ring, there swords set in diamonds; but the king's son touched nothing, and ran on. Then every kind of crawling, creeping thing swarmed around him, - here hissing snakes, there warty toads. Yanoshka looked not under his feet, but ran till he came to the silver lake, around which he rushed three times, and went out as he had come. A thousand-fold was his fortune, for had he been an instant later the stone wall would have closed before him; as it was it took the heel off his boot, but he cared nothing for that. He left his boots there and ran home barefoot; when he reached home the silver lake was already flowing through the flowery garden, and in it all kinds of precious golden fish were jumping.
Hitherto the marble palace and the flowery garden with the sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird had been in fair fame, but now, when the silver lake was flowing through the garden, and golden fish playing in it, now I say their fame spoke to the seven worlds, and people came to look at them. When this reached the ears of the king he resolved that he would neither eat nor drink till he saw the marble palace with all its wonders. Though the old witch offered him black coffee repeatedly, the king did not take it; but sitting in the golden carriage with his wife, he drove to see the flowery garden.
Scarcely had the king and queen entered the flowery garden when the brother and sister ran out before them, panting, and kissed their hands.
"Oh, father, this little girl is like thee!" cried the queen; "she is thy carved second!"
"And the little boy looks like thee," answered the king.
Well, the king and the queen went around the garden in order, and they could not do justice to its beauty; when they saw the sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird, they clapped their hands. The boy went up in a moment on the sounding tree, plucked from it a couple of golden apples, gave one to the king and the other to the queen, who could not praise sufficiently his kindness. Then the king and queen looked at the silver lake and the golden fish in it; they visited the marble palace, and went from chamber to chamber till they had gone through seven in order.
The king and queen were unable to praise sufficiently the beauty of the rooms; but when they came to the most beautiful of all, the king found this to say, speaking speech: "Well, my little servant, wilt thou not answer a question of mine?"
"And what is it?" asked the prince.
"I should like to know why that picture is covered with velvet, and what it depicts".
One word is not much, but the king's little son did not say that much; speechless he drew the velvet covering aside. The king and queen were amazed, and knew their own children, whom they had never seen before. One embraced one of them, and the other the other; they could not speak, but they wept and laughed, and then the world-sounding tree and the sweetly speaking bird were heard.
Great was the rejoicing of every kind, but sad grew the old sinner when the king seized her, made her fast to a tree, and piled up beneath her a fire of sulphur.