The wolf seeing this, cried: "Stay thy hand, Boy-Beautiful, and slay me not, and it will be well for thee one day!" Boy-Beautiful listened to him, and let his bow fall, and the wolf drawing nigh, asked them where they were going, and what they were doing in that wood, untrodden by the foot of man. Then Boy-Beautiful told him the whole story of the golden apples in his father's garden, and said they were seeking after the thief.
The wolf told him that the thief was the Emperor of the Birds, who, whenever he set out to steal apples, took with him in his train all the birds of swiftest flight, that so they might strip the orchards more rapidly, and that these birds were to be found in the city on the confines of this wood. He also told them that the whole household of the Emperor of the Birds lived by the robbing of gardens and orchards; and he showed them the nearest and easiest way to the city.
Then giving them a little apple most lovely to look upon, he said to them: "Accept this apple, Boy-Beautiful! Whenever thou shouldst have need of me, look at it and think of me, and immediately I'll be with thee! "
Boy-Beautiful took the apple, and concealed it in his bosom, and bidding the wolf good-day, struggled onwards with his faithful servant through the thickets of the forest, till he came to the city where the robber-bird dwelt. All through the city he went, asking where it was, and they told him that the Emperor of that realm had it in a gold cage in his garden.
That was all he wanted to know. He took a turn round the court of the Emperor, and noted in his mind all the ramparts which surrounded the court. When it was evening, he came thither with his faithful servant, and hid himself in a corner, waiting till all the dwellers in the palace had gone to rest. Then the faithful servant gave him a leg-up, and Boy-Beautiful, mounting on his back, scaled the wall, and leaped down into the garden. But the moment he put his hand on the cage, the Emperor of the Birds chirped, and before you could say boo! he was surrounded by a flock of birds, from the smallest to the greatest, all chirping in their own tongues. They made such a noise that they awoke all the servants of the Emperor. They rushed into the garden, and there they found Boy-Beautiful, with the cage in his hand, and all the birds darting at him, and he defending himself as best he could. The servants laid their hands upon him, and led him to the Emperor, who had also got up to see what was the matter.
"I am sorry to see thee thus, Boy-Beautiful," cried the Emperor, for he knew him. "If thou hadst come to me with good words, or with entreaties, and asked me for the bird, I might, perhaps, have been persuaded to give it to thee of my own good-will and pleasure; but as thou hast been taken hand-in-sack, as they say, the reward of thy deed according to our laws is death, and thy name will be covered with dishonour."
"Illustrious Emperor," replied Boy-Beautiful, "these same birds have stolen the golden apples from the apple-tree of my father's garden, and therefore have I come all this way to lay hands on the thief."
"What thou dost say may be true, Boy-Beautiful, but I have no power to alter the laws of this land. Only a signal service rendered to our empire can save thee from a shameful death."
"Say what that service is, and I will venture it."
"Listen then! If thou dost succeed in bringing me the saddle-horse in the court of the Emperor my neighbour, thou wilt depart with thy face unblackened, and thou shalt take the bird in its cage along with thee."
Boy-Beautiful agreed to these conditions, and that same day he departed with his faithful servant.
On reaching the court of the neighbouring Emperor he took note of the horse and of all the environs of the court. Then as evening drew near, he hid with his faithful servant in a corner of the court which seemed to him to be a safe ambuscade. He saw the horse walked out between two servants, and he marvelled at its beauty. It was white, its bridle was of gold set with gems inestimable, and it shone like the sun.
In the middle of the night, when sleep is most sweet, Boy-Beautiful bade his faithful servant stoop down, leaped on to his back, and from thence on to the wall, and leaped down into the Emperor's courtyard. He groped his way along on the tips of his toes till he came to the stable, and opening the door, put his hand on the bridle and drew the horse after him. When the horse got to the door of the stable and sniffed the keen air, it sneezed once with a mighty sneeze that awoke the whole court. In an instant they all rushed out, laid hands on Boy-Beautiful, and led him before the Emperor, who had also been aroused, and who when he saw Boy-Beautiful knew him at once. He reproached him for the cowardly deed he had nearly accomplished, and told him that the laws of the land decreed death to all thieves, and that he had no power against those laws. Then Boy-Beautiful told him of the theft of the golden apples by the birds, and of what the neighbouring Emperor had told him to do. Then said the Emperor: "If, Boy-Beautiful, thou canst bring me the divine Craiessa,1 thou mayest perhaps escape death, and thy name shall remain untarnished." Boy-Beautiful risked the adventure, and accompanied by his faithful servant set off on his quest. While he was on the road, the thought of the little apple occurred to him. He took it from his bosom, looked at it, and thought of the wolf, and before he could wipe his eyes the wolf was there.
Boy-Beautiful and his Faithful Servant. - p. 252.
"What dost thou desire, Boy-Beautiful? " said he.
"What do I desire, indeed! - look here, look here, look here, what has happened to me! Whatever am I to do to get out of this mess with a good conscience!"