Aleodor listened, for his heart was as kind as his hand was cunning; and he bound up the crow's wing. When he made ready to go on again, the crow said to him: "Take this feather, thou gallant youth! and whenever thou dost look at it and think of me, I will be with thee."
Then Aleodor took the feather and went on his way. He hadn't gone a hundred paces further when he stumbled upon an ant. He would have trodden upon it, when the ant said to him: "Spare my life, 0 Emperor Aleodor, and I'll deliver thee also from death! Take this little bit of membrane from my wing, and whenever thou dost think of me, I'll be with thee."
When Aleodor heard these words, and how the ant called him by his name, he raised his foot again and let the ant go where it would. He also went on his way, and after journeying for I know not how many days he came at last to the palace of the Green Emperor. There he knocked at the door, and stood waiting for some one to come out and ask him what he wanted.
He stood there one day, he stood there two days, but as for any one coming out to ask him what he wanted, there was no sign of it. When the third day dawned, however, the Green Emperor called to his servants and gave them a talking to that they were likely to remember. "How comes it," said he, "that a man should be standing at my gates three days without any one going out to ask him what he wants? Is this what I pay you wages for? "
The servants of the Green Emperor looked up, and they looked down, but they had not one word to say for themselves. At last they went and called Aleodor and led him before the Emperor.
"What dost thou want, my son?" inquired the Emperor; "and wherefore art thou waiting at the gates of my court?"
"I have come, great Emperor, to seek thy daughter."
"Good, my son. But, first of all, we must make a compact together, for such is the custom of my court. Thou must hide thyself wheresoever thou wilt three times running. If my daughter finds thee all three times, thy head shall be struck off and stuck on a stake, the only one out of a hundred that has not a suitor's head upon it. But if she does not find thee thrice, thou shalt have her from me with all imperial courtesy."
"My hope, great Emperor, is in the Lord, Who will not allow me to perish. We will put something else on this stake of thine, but not the head of a man. Let us make the compact."
"Thou dost agree? "
So they made them a compact, and the deeds were drawn out and signed and sealed.
Then the daughter of the Emperor met him next day, and it was arranged that he should hide himself as best he could. But now he was in an agony that tortured him worse than death, for he bethought him again and again where and how he could best hide himself, for nothing less than his head was at stake. And as he kept walking about, and brooding and pondering, he remembered the pike. Then he took out the fish's scale, looked at it, and thought of the fish's master, and immediately, oh wonderful! - the pike stood before him and said: "What dost thou want of me, Boy-Beautiful? "
"What do I want? Thou mayest well ask that! Look what has happened to me! Canst thou not tell me what to do? "
"That is thy business no longer. Leave it to me!"
And immediately striking Aleodor with his tail, he turned him into a little shell-fish, and hid him among the other little shell-fish at the bottom of the sea.
When the damsel appeared, she put on her eyeglass and looked for him in every direction, but could see him nowhere. Her other wooers had hidden themselves in caves, or behind houses, or under haycocks and haystacks, or in some hole or corner, but Aleodor hid himself in such a way that the damsel began to fear that she would be vanquished. Then it occurred to her to turn her eye-glass towards the sea, and she saw him beneath a heap of mussels. But you must know that her eye-glass was a magic eye-glass.
"I see thee, thou rascal," cried she, "how thou hast bothered me, to be sure! From being a man thou hast made thyself a mussel, and hidden thyself at the bottom of the sea."
This he couldn't deny, so of course he had to come up again.
But she said to the Emperor: "Methinks, dear father, this youth will suit me. He is nice and comely. Even if I find him all three times let me have him, for he is not stupid like the others. Why, thou canst see from his figure even how different he is."
"We shall see," replied the Emperor.
On the second day Aleodor bethought him of the crow, and immediately the crow stood before him, and said to him: "What dost thou want, my master?"
"Look now, senseless one! what has happened to me. Canst thou not show me a way out of it? "
"Let us try!" and with that it struck him with its wing and turned him into a young crow, and placed him in the midst of a flock of crows that were flying high in the air in the teeth of a fierce tempest.
Then the damsel came again with her eye-glass and searched for him in every direction. He was nowhere to be found. She looked for him on the earth, but he was not there. She looked for him in the rivers and in the sea, but he was not there. The damsel grew pensive. She searched and searched till mid-day, when it occurred to her to look upwards also. And perceiving him in the glory of the sky in the midst of a swarm of crows, she pointed him out with her finger and cried: "Look! look! Rogue that thou art! Come down from there, O man, that hast made thyself into a bit of a bird! Nothing in the fields of heaven can escape my eye!"
Then he came down, for what else could he do? Even the Emperor himself now began to be amazed at the skill and cunning of Aleodor, and lent an ear to the prayers of his daughter. Inasmuch, however, as the compact declared that Aleodor was to hide three times, the Emperor said to his daughter: "Wait once more, for I am curious to see what place he will find to hide himself in next."
The third day, early in the morning, he thought of the ant, and - whisk! - the ant was by his side. When she had found out what he wanted she said to him: "Leave it to me, and if she find thee I am here to help thee."
So the ant turned him into a flower-seed, and hid him in the very skirts of the damsel without her perceiving it.
Then the Emperor's daughter rose up, took her eye-glass, and sought for him all day long, but look where she would she could not find him. She plagued herself almost to death in her search, for she felt that he was close at hand, though see him she could not. She looked through her eye-glass on the ground, and in the sea, and up in the sky, but she could see him nowhere, and towards evening, tired out by so much searching, she exclaimed: "Show thyself then, this once! I feel that thou art close at hand, and yet I cannot see thee. Thou hast conquered, and I am thine."
Then when he heard her say that he had conquered, he slipped slowly down from her skirts and revealed himself. The Emperor had now nothing more to say, so he gave the youth his daughter, and when they departed, he escorted them to the boundaries of his empire with great pomp and ceremony.
While they were on the road they stopped at a place to rest, and after they had refreshed themselves somewhat with food, he laid his head in her lap and fell asleep. The daughter of the Emperor could not forbear from looking at him, and her eyes filled with tears as they feasted on his comeliness and beauty. Then her heart grew soft within her, and she could not help kissing him. But Aleodor, when he awoke, gave her a buffet with the palm of his hand that awoke the echoes.
"Nay but, my dear Aleodor!" cried she, "thou hast indeed a heavy hand."
"I have slapped thee," said he, "for the deed thou hast done, for I have not taken thee for myself, but for him who bade me seek thee."
"Good, my brother! but why didst thou not tell me so at home? for then I also would have known what to do. But let be now, for all that is past."
Then they set out again till they came alive and well to the Half-man-riding-on-the-worse-half-of-a-lame-horse.
"Lo, now! I have done my service," said Aleodor, and with that he would have departed. But when the girl beheld the monster, she shivered with disgust, and would not stay with him for a single moment. The hideous cripple drew near to the maiden, and began to caress her with honeyed words, that so she might go with him willingly. But the girl said to him: "Depart from me, Satan, and go to thy mother Hell, who hath cast thee upon the face of the earth!" Then the half-monster half-man was near to melting for the love he had for the damsel, and, writhing away on his belly, he fetched his mother that she might help to persuade the maid to be his wife. But meanwhile the damsel had dug a little trench all round her, and stood rooted to the spot with her eyes fixed on the ground. The hideous satanic skeleton of a monster could not get at her.
"Depart from the face of the earth, thou abomination! " cried she; "the world is well rid of such a pestilential monster as thou art! "
Still he strove and strove to get at her, but finding at last he could not reach her, he burst with rage and fury that a mere woman should have so covered him with shame and reproach.
Then Aleodor added the domain of the Half-man-riding-on-the-worse-half-of-a-lame-horse to his own possessions, took the daughter of the Green Emperor to wife, and returned to his own empire. And when his people saw him coming back in the company of a smiling spouse as beautiful as the stars of heaven, they welcomed him with great joy, and, mounting once more his imperial throne, he ruled his people in peace and plenty till the day of his death.
And now I'll mount my horse again, and say an "Our Father " before I go.