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.
Dear Yarmil, - I love thee unspeakably; but be thou patient, as I am patient. A gift for thy father thou hast in the pan; give it to him, but tarry not long at home. Put me back in the pan.
Yarmil hastened with joy to the twelfth chamber, took from the pan a rich casket set with diamonds, and put the toad in the pan; then he ran out quickly, mounted the white steed which was waiting, and which rose in the air and flew regardless of bit, till it stopped before the white castle; there the white lady gave Yarmil his horse, took the white steed, and led it away.
In a short time Yarmil came to the great gate, and when he had ridden through and looked, there was nothing behind but a mouse-hole. Putting spurs to his horse he rushed on at a gallop and came to the gate of his father's castle almost at the same moment as his brothers, so that all three were able to appear together before their father, and say: "Here we are, according to thy command".
"But have ye brought gifts from your princesses? ' asked the king.
"Of course," cried the elder brothers, proudly. Yarmil answered, as it were, timidly, with a nod; for he knew not what was in that casket taken from the pan.
The king had invited a great number of guests to look at the gifts. All were in the banqueting-hall. The king led his sons thither, and when the feast was ended, he said to the eldest: "Now give me the gift from thy princess".
"My love is the daughter of a great king," said the prince, proudly; and he gave his father a casket containing a small mirror.
The king looked, and wondered not a little that he saw his whole person. Then he said: "Well, men's hands can do everything".
The second son gave him a still smaller mirror, but the king saw in it his whole person; still he only said: "Men's hands can do everything. But what has thy princess sent me?' asked he of Varmil. In silence, and timidly, Varmil gave him the casket. The king barely looked in it when he cried in amazement, "That princess of thine has wealth in abundance; these diamonds alone have more value than my kingdom." Hut he wondered when he took from the casket another such mirror, but smaller; and he was really frightened when in a twinkle a puppet sprang out and held the glass for him as soon as he looked at it, and the moment he stopped looking the puppet was gone.
"Oh," cried the king, "no hand of man could frame that;" and embracing Yarmil, he added with tenderness: "Thou hast brought me true joy, my son".
Yarmil called to mind the ugly toad, and had no regret now that he had spent a whole year with it; but his brothers and his mother, who was a witch and hated Yarmil, were enraged though they dissembled.
When the feast was over and the princes were parting with their father, he said: "Go now with rejoicing, but return in a year and a day, and bring me portraits of your princesses".
The elder brothers promised with joy, but Yarmil barely nodded, for he feared what his father would say should he bring the toad's portrait; still he went with his brothers beyond the town, where he parted with them, and galloped on to the mouse-hole. He was just drawing near when the ground opened to give a good entrance. At the white castle the white lady took his horse and gave him the white steed, which rose through the air, and regardless of bit, flew on till it reached the golden castle. Yarmil hurried to the twelfth chamber; the steed disappeared like a dove in the clouds.
In the castle nothing was changed, and the diamond pan was standing in the twelfth chamber. Yarmil removed the three covers, took out the toad and placed it in his bosom. Now he bathed it twice each day, but to his grief it grew uglier. How could he take the portrait of his princess to his father! He might paint the most beautiful lady, because he was very well skilled in painting, but he would not deceive his father. Only the hope that the toad would help him as before gave him strength to endure the dreary life.
At last the day was near in which he must return to his father. He looked continually on his writing-table till he saw to his great joy a sheet of paper on which was written in silver letters, -
Dear Yarmil, - I love thee unspeakably; be patient, as I am patient. Thou hast my portrait in the pan; give it to thy father, but tarry not long. Put me back in the pan.
Yarmil hastened to the twelfth chamber, found in the pan a casket still richer than the first. He took it quickly, and put the toad in its place. Then he hurried forth, sat on the white steed, which brought him to the white castle, where the white lady gave him his own horse. When he had ridden through the gate and looked back, he saw nothing behind but a mouse-hole. He put spurs to his horse, and rode to the gate of his father's castle at the same time with his brothers. They stood before their father and said: "Here we are, as thou hast commanded".
"Do ye bring me portraits of your princesses?' asked the king.
"Of course!" exclaimed the two elder brothers, full of pride. But Yarmil only answered with a nod, for he knew not what portrait the casket contained.
The king led them to the banqueting-hall, where the guests were assembled. When the banquet was over, he said to the eldest: "Now show me the portrait of thy princess".
The eldest brother gave a rich casket to his father. He opened it, took out a portrait, and looking at it from every side, said at last: "That is a beautiful lady; she pleases me. Still there are fairer than she in the world, but any man might love her." Then he gave the portrait to the guests, and said to his second son: "And the portrait of thy princess?"
The second son gave him promptly a richer casket, and smiled with happiness. He thought doubtless that his father must be astonished at the beauty of his princess; but he looked on her with indifference and said: "A beautiful lady too, but there are more beautiful in the world; still any man might fall in love with her".