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 sorceress soon saw their flight, and pursued; but as they had crossed the boundary of her castle lands she had power over them no longer, and with work undone was forced to go home, where she cursed herself above the dead bodies of her daughters. The brothers rode without stopping, farther and farther, till at last the castle disappeared from their sight; then they made the first halt to rest and inquire of Jalmir what had been done to them. When they heard that he had saved them from certain death, they fell upon his neck and cried: "Tell us who thou art, since thou hast done so much for us".
"Who else but your brother Jalmir," answered he, almost swimming in tears; and he pressed brother after brother to his breast. But how astonished was he when he saw that they were much colder to him than they had been when they knew him not! Still, they asked how he had recovered, why he had ridden after them, and what their father was doing. But gradually they grew silent and hung their heads. Beyond doubt it was not to their liking that just the youngest of them was so wise.
Jalmir also was silent, and his white steed dropped behind of his own accord. When the brothers could not hear him, he said to his master: "I told thee not to discover thyself, but thou didst not obey me. The results thou canst lay to thyself. In a few days we shall come to a mighty king; thou and thy brothers will enter his service. When in need come to me for advice".
Jalmir stroked the white steed, and begged his forgiveness. From that time the brothers were no longer joyous as before, and kept noticeably aside from Jalmir. But since they had no money they wheedled him greatly whenever they saw an inn, since he always paid for them. After some days they came to a great city. Their first road, however, was to the inn, where they ate moderately but drank beyond measure; and now they began to do such senseless things that Jalmir went to his steed as quickly as possible to get consolation.
When the brothers were alone the eldest said: "I have had favors enough from that sickly brother; tomorrow we will go to the king of this country and serve him. What do ye think?"
"We will all go with thee," cried the others; but suddenly they were confused, for Jalmir had returned.
"Where are ye going?' inquired he, "I will go with you".
The brothers answered him sullenly, but Jalmir said he would go. Towards evening, when the brothers had had a good sleep, they went to the king, who made them men of his court without delay. Now they had a good living, large pay, and almost nothing to do; but as an offset they were still not at rest, for Jalmir was always a thorn in their eyes, especially since the friendship of the king for him increased every day.
Once when the brothers, from idleness, were examining the chambers of the king's castle, they came to one in which were all kinds of books, small and great, piled up to the ceiling. They fell to reading these books with great eagerness.
"Brothers," cried one of them suddenly, "I read here that the king has not a bird in his kingdom".
"Is this true?" exclaimed the others in wonder; "we have not noticed it".
"But know ye," asked the eldest, "to what use we may put this?" All shook their heads. "Listen," said he in a whisper; "we will tell the king that Jalmir knows about birds, and to send him for them".
"And the king will do so at once," said the brother who had read of the birds, " for here is written the great cost of the birds eaten on the king's table in a year".
They stopped reading at once and went straight to the king, to whom they told what they thought. "But, gracious king," said the eldest, "thou must sharply insist, or Jalmir will excuse himself, saying that he knows nothing of birds".
The king nodded graciously and sent for Jalmir. He came quickly, and the king said: "As thou know-est well I have no birds in my kingdom, therefore I command thee to bring them".
"I, gracious king," said Jalmir, in fright, "know nothing of birds".
"Whether thou knowest or knowest not," said the king, in sudden anger, "thou 'It get birds." With that he waved his hand, and poor Jalmir went out with drooping head. Whither can he go? Who can help him in peril? He went straight to the white steed and complained.
"Grieve not," said the steed; "at dusk we will go for the birds".
Jalmir thanked the horse, and could hardly wait till evening. The moment the sun had disappeared behind the woods he was ready for the road; and when the first star had appeared in the sky he led out the white steed, sprang on his back, and flew off like the wind. "But where are we going?' inquired Jalmir of his steed on the way.
"To that sorceress in whose castle thou didst save thy brothers from death," answered the horse.
"To that place!" cried Jalmir in fright.
"Have no fear," said the steed, comforting him; "only do to a hair what I tell thee".
The good steed now increased his speed so that he went like an arrow, and about an hour later he came to the ground at the castle of the sorceress. Jalmir sprang from him, and the steed said: "When thou art in the first chamber thou wilt see silver cages, and in them silver birds; in the second chamber will be golden cages with golden birds; in the third chamber diamond cages with diamond birds. Of all these touch nothing, or such a blow will fall that the whole castle will tremble, and the sorceress will seize thee to kill thee. But go to the fourth chamber; there take a wooden cage in which is a mean-looking bird, and hasten to me".
Jalmir entered the first chamber with courage, but cautiously, and looking at nothing, went to the second chamber; there the glitter of gold dazzled him somewhat. When he opened the door to the third chamber he stood almost blind on the threshold; but quickly recovering, he shaded his eyes, ran to the fourth chamber, and seizing the cage with the bird in an instant, rushed out swift as an arrow. He sprang on the horse, which rose with him through the air in a moment. The sorceress burst out of the castle, and cursing fearfully because she could not stop him, screamed: "But thou wilt come here again!