Italian Popular Tales
by Thomas Crane
ONCE upon a time there was a king and three daughters. These three daughters being at table one day, their father said, "Come now, let us see which of you three loves me."
The oldest said, "Papa, I love you as much as my eyes."
The second answered, "I love you as much as my heart."
The youngest said, "I love you as much as water and salt."
The king heard her with amazement, "Do you value me like water and salt? Quick! call the executioners, for I will have her killed immediately."
The other sisters privately gave the executioners a little dog, and told them to kill it and rend one of the youngest sister's garments, but to leave her in a cave.
This they did, and brought back to the king the dog's tongue and the rent garment: "Royal majesty, here is her tongue and garment."
And his majesty gave them a reward.
The unfortunate princess was found in the forest by a magician, who took her to his house opposite the royal palace. Here the king's son saw her and fell desperately in love with her, and the match was soon agreed upon.
Then the magician came and said, "You must kill me the day before the wedding. You must invite three kings, your father the first. You must order the servants to pass water and salt to all the guests except your father."
Now let us return to the father of this young girl, who the longer he lived the more his love for her increased, and he was sick of grief. When her received the invitation he said, "And how can I go with this love for my daughter?" And he would not go. Then he thought, "But this king will be offended if I do not go, and will declare war against me some time."
He accepted and went. The day before the wedding they killed the magician and quartered him, and put a quarter in each of four rooms, and sprinkled his blood in all the rooms and on the stairway, and the blood and flesh became gold and precious stones.
When the three kings came and saw the golden stairs, they did not like to step on them. "Never mind," said the prince, "go up. This is nothing."
That evening they were married. The next day they had a banquet. The prince gave orders. "No salt and water to that king."
They sat down at table, and the young queen was near her father, but he did not eat.
His daughter said, "Royal majesty, why do you not eat. Does not the food please you?"
"What an idea! It is very fine."
"Why don't you eat then?"
"I don't feel very well."
The bride and groom helped him to some bits of meat, but the king did not want it, and chewed his food over and over again like a goat (as if he could eat it without salt!).
When they finished eating they began to tell stories, and the king told them all about his daughter. She asked him if he could still recognize her, and stepping out of the room put on the same dress she wore when he sent her away to be killed.
"You caused me to be killed because I told you I loved you as much as salt and water. Now you have seen what it is to eat without salt and water."
Her father could not say a word, but embraced her and begged her pardon. They remained happy and contented, and here we are with nothing.