The Queen Beepage 2 / 3
Next morning the little grey man came to the eldest, beckoned to him, and conducted him to a stone table, on which were inscribed three tasks, by the performance of which the castle could be delivered from enchantment.
The first was that in the forest, beneath the moss, lay the princess's pearls, a thousand in number, which must be picked up, and if by sunset one single pearl was missing, he who had looked for them would be turned into stone. The eldest went thither, and sought the whole day, but when it came to an end, he had only found one hundred, and what was written on the table came true, and he was turned into stone. Next day, the second brother undertook the adventure, but it did not fare much better with him than with the eldest, he did not find more than two hundred pearls, and was changed to stone. At last it was simpleton's turn to seek in the moss, but it was so difficult for him to find the pearls, and he got on so slowly, that he seated himself on a stone, and wept. And while he was thus sitting, the king of the ants whose life he had once saved, came with five thousand ants, and before long the little creatures had got all the pearls together, and laid them in a heap.
The second task, however, was to fetch out of the lake the key of the king's daughter's bed-chamber. When simpleton came to the lake, the ducks which he had saved, swam up to him, dived down, and brought the key out of the water.
But the third task was the most difficult, from amongst the three sleeping daughters of the king was the youngest and dearest to be sought out. They, however, resembled each other exactly, and were only to be distinguished by their having eaten different sweetmeats before they fell asleep, the eldest a bit of sugar, the second a little syrup, and the youngest a spoonful of honey.
Then the queen of the bees, whom simpleton had protected from the fire, came and tasted the lips of all three, and at last she remained sitting on the mouth which had eaten honey, and thus the king's son recognized the right princess. Then the enchantment was at an end, everything was delivered from sleep, and those who had been turned to stone received once more their natural forms.