Donkey cabbages


Varza fermecata

There was once a young huntsman who went into the forest to lie in wait. He had a fresh and joyous heart, and as he was going thither, whistling upon a leaf, an ugly old crone came up, who spoke to him and said, "Good-day, dear huntsman, truly you are merry and contented, but I am suffering from hunger and thirst, do give me an alms." The huntsman had compassion on the poor old creature, felt in his pocket, and gave her what he could afford. He was then about to go further, but the old woman stopped him and said, "Listen, dear huntsman, to what I tell you; I will make you a present in return for your kindness. Go on your way now, but in a little while you will come to a tree, whereon nine birds are sitting which have a cloak in their claws, and are plucking at it; take your gun and shoot into the midst of them, they will let the cloak fall down to you, but one of the birds will be hurt, and will drop down dead. Carry away the cloak, it is a wishing-cloak; when you throw it over your shoulders, you only have to wish to be in a certain place, and you will be there in the twinkling of an eye. Take out the heart of the dead bird and swallow it whole, and every morning early, when you get up, you will find a gold piece under your pillow." The huntsman thanked the wise woman, and thought to himself, "Those are fine things that she has promised me, if all does but come true." And verily when he had walked about a hundred paces, he heard in the branches above him such a screaming and twittering that he looked up and saw there a crowd of birds who were tearing a piece of cloth about with their beaks and claws, and tugging and fighting as if each wanted to have it all to himself. "Well," said the huntsman, "this is wonderful, it has really come to pass just as the old wife foretold!" and he took the gun from his shoulder, aimed and fired right into the midst of them, so that the feathers flew about. The birds instantly took to flight with loud outcries, but one dropped down dead, and the cloak fell at the same time. Then the huntsman did as the old woman had directed him, cut open the bird, sought the heart, swallowed it down, and took the cloak home with him.
Next morning, when he awoke, the promise occurred to him, and he wished to see if it also had been fulfilled. When he lifted up the pillow, the gold piece shone in his eyes, and next day he found another, and so it went on, every time he got up. He gathered together a heap of gold, but at last he thought, "Of what use is all my gold to me if I stay at home? I will go forth and see the world."

He then took leave of his parents, buckled on his huntsman's pouch and gun, and went out into the world. It came to pass, that one day he travelled through a dense forest, and when he came to the end of it, in the plain before him stood a fine castle. An old woman was standing with a wonderfully beautiful maiden, looking out of one of the windows. The old woman, however, was a witch and said to the maiden, "There comes one out of the forest, who has a wonderful treasure in his body, we must filch it from him, my dear daughter, it is more suitable for us than for him. He has a bird's heart about him, by means of which a gold piece lies every morning under his pillow." She told her what she was to do to get it, and what part she had to play, and finally threatened her, and said with angry eyes, "And if you do not attend to what I say, it will be the worse for you." Now when the huntsman came nearer he descried the maiden, and said to himself, "I have travelled about for such a long time, I will take a rest for once, and enter that beautiful castle. I have certainly money enough." Nevertheless, the real reason was that he had caught sight of the pretty girl.

He entered the house, and was well received and courteously entertained. Before long he was so much in love with the young witch that he no longer thought of anything else, and only saw things as she saw them, and did what she desired. The old woman then said, "Now we must have the bird's heart, he will never miss it." She prepared a drink, and when it was ready, poured it into a cup and gave it to the maiden, who was to present it to the huntsman. She did so, saying, "Now, my dearest, drink to me." So he took the cup, and when he had swallowed the draught, he brought up the heart of the bird. The girl had to take it away secretly and swallow it herself, for the old woman would have it so. Thenceforward he found no more gold under his pillow, but it lay instead under that of the maiden, from whence the old woman fetched it away every morning; but he was so much in love and so befooled, that he thought of nothing else but of passing his time with the girl.

Then the old witch said, "We have the bird's heart, but we must also take the wishing-cloak away from him." The girl answered, "We will leave him that, he has lost his wealth." The old woman was angry and said, "Such a mantle is a wonderful thing, and is seldom to be found in this world. I must and will have it!" She gave the girl several blows, and said that if she did not obey, it should fare ill with her. So she did the old woman's bidding, placed herself at the window and looked on the distant country, as if she were very sorrowful. The huntsman asked, "Why dost thou stand there so sorrowfully?" - "Ah, my beloved," was her answer, "over yonder lies the Garnet Mountain, where the precious stones grow. I long for them so much that when I think of them, I feel quite sad, but who can get them? Only the birds; they fly and can reach them, but a man never." - "Hast thou nothing else to complain of?" said the huntsman. "I will soon remove that burden from thy heart." With that he drew her under his mantle, wished himself on the Garnet Mountain, and in the twinkling of an eye they were sitting on it together. Precious stones were glistening on every side so that it was a joy to see them, and together they gathered the finest and costliest of them. Now, the old woman had, through her sorceries, contrived that the eyes of the huntsman should become heavy. He said to the maiden, "We will sit down and rest awhile, I am so tired that I can no longer stand on my feet." Then they sat down, and he laid his head in her lap, and fell asleep. When he was asleep, she unfastened the mantle from his shoulders, and wrapped herself in it, picked up the garnets and stones, and wished herself back at home with them.

But when the huntsman had had his sleep out and awoke, and perceived that his sweetheart had betrayed him, and left him alone on the wild mountain, he said, "Oh, what treachery there is in the world!" and sat down there in care and sorrow, not knowing what to do. But the mountain belonged to some wild and monstrous giants who dwelt thereon and lived their lives there, and he had not sat long before he saw three of them coming towards him, so he lay down as if he were sunk in a deep sleep. Then the giants came up, and the first kicked him with his foot and said, "What sort of an earth-worm is lying curled up here? The second said, "Step upon him and kill him." But the third said, "That would indeed be worth your while; just let him live, he cannot remain here; and when he climbs higher, toward the summit of of the mountain, the clouds will lay hold of him and bear him away." So saying they passed by. But the huntsman had paid heed to their words, and as soon as they were gone, he rose and climbed up to the summit of the mountain, and when he had sat there a while, a cloud floated towards him, caught him up, carried him away, and travelled about for a long time in the heavens. Then it sank lower, and let itself down on a great cabbage-garden, girt round by walls, so that he came softly to the ground on cabbages and vegetables.

Then the huntsman looked about him and said, "If I had but something to eat! I am so hungry, and my hunger will increase in course of time; but I see here neither apples nor pears, nor any other sort of fruit, everywhere nothing but cabbages," but at length he thought, "At a pinch I can eat some of the leaves, they do not taste particularly good, but they will refresh me." With that he picked himself out a fine head of cabbage, and ate it, but scarcely had he swallowed a couple of mouthfuls than he felt very strange and quite different.

Four legs grew on him, a large head and two thick ears, and he saw with horror that he was changed into an ass. Still as his hunger increased every minute, and as the juicy leaves were suitable to his present nature, he went on eating with great zest. At last he arrived at a different kind of cabbage, but as soon as he had swallowed it, he again felt a change, and reassumed his former human shape.

Then the huntsman lay down and slept off his fatigue. When he awoke next morning, he broke off one head of the bad cabbages and another of the good ones, and thought to himself, "This shall help me to get my own again and punish treachery." Then he took the cabbages with him, climbed over the wall, and went forth to seek for the castle of his sweetheart. After wandering about for a couple of days he was lucky enough to find it again. He dyed his face brown, so that his own mother would not have known him; and begged for shelter: "I am so tired," said he, "that I can go no further." The witch asked, "Who are you, countryman, and what is your business?" - "I am a King's messenger, and was sent out to seek the most delicious salad which grows beneath the sun. I have even been so fortunate as to find it, and am carrying it about with me; but the heat of the sun is so intense that the delicate cabbage threatens to wither, and I do not know if I can carry it any further."

When the old woman heard of the exquisite salad, she was greedy, and said, "Dear countryman, let me just taste this wonderful salad." - "Why not?" answered he, "I have brought two heads with me, and will give you one of them," and he opened his pouch and handed her the bad cabbage. The witch suspected nothing amiss, and her mouth watered so for this new dish that she herself went into the kitchen and dressed it. When it was prepared she could not wait until it was set on the table, but took a couple of leaves at once, and put them in her mouth, but hardly had she swallowed them than she was deprived of her human shape, and she ran out into the courtyard in the form of an ass. Presently the maid-servant entered the kitchen, saw the salad standing there ready prepared, and was about to carry it up; but on the way, according to habit, she was seized by the desire to taste, and she ate a couple of leaves. Instantly the magic power showed itself, and she likewise became an ass and ran out to the old woman, and the dish of salad fell to the ground. Meantime the messenger sat beside the beautiful girl, and as no one came with the salad and she also was longing for it, she said, "I don't know what has become of the salad." The huntsman thought, "The salad must have already taken effect," and said, "I will go to the kitchen and inquire about it." As he went down he saw the two asses running about in the courtyard; the salad, however, was lying on the ground. "All right," said he, "the two have taken their portion," and he picked up the other leaves, laid them on the dish, and carried them to the maiden. "I bring you the delicate food myself," said he, "in order that you may not have to wait longer." Then she ate of it, and was, like the others, immediately deprived of her human form, and ran out into the courtyard in the shape of an ass.

After the huntsman had washed his face, so that the transformed ones could recognize him, he went down into the courtyard, and said, "Now you shall receive the wages of your treachery," and bound them together, all three with one rope, and drove them along until he came to a mill. He knocked at the window, the miller put out his head, and asked what he wanted. "I have three unmanageable beasts," answered he, "which I don't want to keep any longer. Will you take them in, and give them food and stable room, and manage them as I tell you, and then I will pay you what you ask." The miller said, "Why not? But how am I to manage them?" The huntsman then said that he was to give three beatings and one meal daily to the old donkey, and that was the witch; one beating and three meals to the younger one, which was the servant-girl; and to the youngest, which was the maiden, no beatings and three meals, for he could not bring himself to have the maiden beaten. After that he went back into the castle, and found therein everything he needed.

After a couple of days, the miller came and said he must inform him that the old ass which had received three beatings and only one meal daily was dead; "the two others," he continued, "are certainly not dead, and are fed three times daily, but they are so sad that they cannot last much longer." The huntsman was moved to pity, put away his anger, and told the miller to drive them back again to him. And when they came, he gave them some of the good salad, so that they became human again. The beautiful girl fell on her knees before him, and said, "Ah, my beloved, forgive me for the evil I have done you; my mother drove me to it; it was done against my will, for I love you dearly. Your wishing-cloak hangs in a cupboard, and as for the bird's-heart I will take a vomiting potion." But he thought otherwise, and said, "Keep it; it is all the same, for I will take thee for my true wife." So the wedding was celebrated, and they lived happily together until their death.
A fost odata ca niciodata un tinar vinator, si vinatorul asta se duse intr-o buna zi in padure dupa vinat. Si era vesel si voios in inima lui si cum mergea el asa, cintind din frunza, numai ce intilni o matusica batrina si urita, care ii spuse:
- Buna ziua, vinatorule draga, pesemne ca-ti merge de minune, ca te vad vesel si bine dispus, dar eu rabd de foame si de sete si n-am pe nimeni sa ma ajute... Fa-ti pomana c-un banut, si nu te-oi uita niciodata!...
Vinatorului i se facu mila de sarmana batrinica si baga mina in buzunar de-i dete citeva parale, dupa cum il lasa punga. Voi apoi sa plece mai departe, dar matusica aceea il opri si-i spuse:
- Draga vinatorule, pentru inima ta buna si milostiva, vreau sa-ti daruiesc si eu ceva, da asculta aici la mine: ai sa mergi ce-o sa mergi, si-n drumul tau ai sa dai de-un pom. Si-n pomul asta or sa stea noua pasarele, care or sa tina in gheara o mantie. Si toate noua s-or bate intre ele pentru mantia asta, fiecare vrind s-o apuce pentru sine... Si de cum le-oi vedea, pune pusca la ochi si trage drept.In mijlocul lor. Si de vei face asa, de buna seama ca n-o sa le mai arda sa stea la gilceava si-or sa dea drumul mantiei. Vezi insa ca si una din pasari va fi atinsa de gloante si va cadea moarta la pamint... Mantia s-o iei cu tine, ca e o mantie fermecata si are un dar minunat: de ti-o pui pe umeri, n-ai decat sa doresti sa fii intr-un loc si intr-o clipa esti acolo... Da vezi sa nu uiti nici pasarea... Scoate-i inima si ai grija de maninc-o intreaga! Si de vei face asa, in fiecare dimineata, cand te-i scula, vei gasi sub perna un ban de aur.
Vanatorul ii multumi din suflet femeii si incepu a se gindi in sinea lui: "Frumoase lucruri mi-a fagaduit, n-am ce zice, barem de s-ar implini toate!..."
Si, ce crezi, mai merse el cam vreo suta de pasi, si numai ce auzi deasupra capului zvon de pasari care se ciondaneau! Trase el cu urechea la ciripitul acela ascutit si odata cata in sus, sa vada despre ce-i vorba. Si vazu o gramada de pasarele care tot trageau cu ciocurile si cu ghearele de~o mantie. Si tipau una la alta si se cio-rovaiau, furioase, de parca fiecare ar fi vrut s-o aiba numai ea.

Ian te uita, facu vinatorul mai mult pentru sine, pai se potriveste tocmai cu ce mi-a spus batrinica!...
Si nu-si termina bine vorbele, ca si lua pusca din spinare. Apoi o puse la ochi si tinti drept in mijlocul pasarelelor, de zburara fulgii in toate partile... Intr-o clipa se imprastiara toate, tipind grozav, dar vezi ca una din ele cazu moarta la pamint... Si-n acelasi timp cazu si mantia...
Vinatorul facu intocmai cum il invatase batrinica: taie pasarea si dupa ce-i scoase inima, o inghiti. Apoi pleca inspre casa luind cu sine mantia.
In dimineata urmatoare, cand se trezi, ii veni in minte fagaduiala femeii si vru sa vada de nu-s numai vorbe, dar cum ridica perna, si vazu stralucind un ban de aur. A doua zi, dimineata, afla iar unul sub perna, si tot asa, in fiece dimineata, de cite ori se trezea. Isi strinse omul o gramada de aur, dar vezi ca aurul nu-i aducea multumirea si-n cele din urma incepu el a se gindi: "La ce bun tot aurul de l-am strins, daca stau acasa, intre patru pereti?!... O sa plec sa cutreier lumea, sa aflu si eu cite se mai petrec pe pamintul asta!..."

Isi lua ramas bun de la parinti si, punindu-si ranita si pusca la spinare, pleca in lume. Si intr-o buna zi se intimpla sa treaca printr-o padure deasa. Si cand se sfirsi padurea, numai ce vazu inaintea lui o cimpie si pe cim-pia aceea inaltindu-se un castel maret. La una din ferestre stateau o batrina si o fata minunat de frumoasa, si priveau in jos.
Acu , trebuie sa va arat ca batrina era o vrajitoare afurisita. Si-i spuse fetei vrajitoarea aceea:
- Ian te uita la omul de vine din padure! Asta are in trupul lui o comoara minunata si trebuie sa-l vrajim, ca s-o dobindim noi. Si stii ce anume are? O inima de pasare! Si multumita ei, in fiecare dimineata gaseste sub perna un ban de aur. Ei, ce zici, fetita mea iubita, nu ne-ar sta noua mai bine s-o avem, decat lui?...
Apoi cotoroanta prinse a-i povesti cum s-a intimplat toata tarasenia si-o mai invata cum trebuia sa se prefaca pentru a-l prinde in mreje pe flacau. La urma n-o mai lua insa cu binele, ci o ameninta si se rasti la ea, privind-o cu niste ochi rai si incarcati de furie:
- Iar de n-o sa vrei sa ma asculti, o sa fii nefericita!... De cum se apropie de castel, vinatorul o si zari pe
fata la fereastra si-si spuse in sine: "Cred ca se cade sa ma hodinesc si eu putin, ca doar ratacesc de atita vreme. Si gindesc sa ramin la castelul asta frumos, ca bani am destui in punga ca sa le rasplatesc pe gazde imparateste!..." Dar pricina adevarata nu era asta, ci-mi pare mie ca chipul cel dragalas al fetei... Ca de cand o zarise, ii ramasese inima la ea. Intra flacaul in casa si, de cum pasi pragul, fu primit cu multa prietenie si ospatat dupa cum cerea cuviinta. Nu trecu mult si prinse a o indragi asa de tare pe fata vrajitoarei, ca nu se mai gindea decat la ea. Si i se uita intruna in ochi, sorbind-o cu privirea.
Si tot ce-i cerea fata, facea cu draga inima, de imi vine sa si cred ca ar fi sarit chiar si in foc pentru ea... Daca vazu baba cit e de prins flacaul, numai ce-i spuse fetei:
- Ei, a venit timpul sa punem mina pe inima de pasare! Nu te teme, c-o sa solomonesc in asa fel ca nici sa nu simta ca-i lipseste...
Baba pregati o bautura si, dupa ce-o fierse si-o ras-fierse intr-un ceaun, o puse intr-un pahar. Iar paharul i-l intinse fetei, ca sa i-l dea vinatorului. Si-i spuse fata vinatorului:
- ...Si-acu , dragul meu, bea in sanatatea mea! Vinatorul se grabi sa bea si, de cum inghiti bautura,
si dadu afara inima pasaruicii. Dar vezi ca fata se tot invirtea pe langa el si i-o lua pe furis. Si trebui s-o inghita, ca asa ii poruncise vrajitoarea!...
Si din ziua aceea, vinatorul nu mai gasi sub perna cite un ban de aur. In schimb, il gasea fata, in fiecare dimineata cand se trezea. Dar ti-ai gasit ca baba sa i-l fi lasat fetei! inca din revarsatul zorilor i-l lua de sub perna. Vezi insa ca vinatorului putin ii pasa ca pierduse o asemenea avutie. Ca acum alta era avutia lui... Si era atit de indragostit de fata, ca nu se mai misca de acasa si nu mai facea nimic altceva decat sa stea tot timpul in preajma ei...
Daca vazu batrina vrajitoare cit e de imbrobodit, prinse iarasi a spune:
- Inima pasaruicii o avem, da acum trebuie sa-i luam si mantia fermecata!
Vezi insa ca fata gindea altfel si-i raspunse maica-si:
- Ba, sa i-o lasam, ca averea tot a pierdut-o! Afurisita de baba se minic foc la auzul astor cuvinte,
si-i spuse:
- O astfel de mantie nu-i un lucru obisnuit. Ehe, arareori se gaseste pe lume o mantie care sa aiba un asemenea dar!... Vreau s-o am si am s-o am! Ca doar n-o sa tin eu seama de vorbele tale nesabuite!...
Apoi o invata pe fata ce sa faca si-i atrase luarea-aminte ca de nu-si baga mintile in cap s-o asculte, o s-o pateasca rau de tot. Si biata fata trebui sa faca tot ce-o invatase maica-sa. Se aseza la fereastra si prinse a se uita in departare, de parca ar fi fost tare mihnita. Vinatorul, care n-avea ochi decat pentru dinsa, se temu ca i s-a intimplat ceva si indata o intreba:
- Da de ce stai atit de trista?!...
- Vai, dragul meu, ii raspunse ea, imi atintesc privirea spre muntele de-i peste drum de noi. Pe muntele asta cresc cele mai frumoase rubine. Si atit de mult jinduiesc dupa pietrele astea pretioase, ca-mi sta gindul numai la ele si de-aia sunt foarte trista. Da cine oare ar putea sa mi le aduca?!... Ca doar pasarile, in zbor, pot ajunge pana acolo... Iar vreo fiinta omeneasca niciodata!
- Daca asta ti-e singurul necaz, dadu s-o linisteasca vinatorul, apoi afla ca-mi sta in putinta sa ti-l curm in curind!
Si zicand aceasta, o lua sub mantia lui si isi dori sa fie pe muntele de rubine. Cit ai clipi, se si aflau amin-doi acolo. Unde-ti aruncai privirea, straluceau numai nestemate, ca simteai o placere si-o incintare sa te tot uiti la ele... Si, fara sa se grabeasca, au cules cele mai frumoase si mai pretioase rubine. Dar in ast timp vrajitoarea nu statea cu miinile-n sin... Si, prin vraji de tot felul, reusi ca vinatorul sa-si simta pleoapele grele... Si cum somnul ii tot dadea tircoale, flacaul ii spuse fetei:
- Ia hai sa mai stam oleaca si jos, sa ne hodinim putin, ca ma simt atit de ostenit ca abia ma pot tine pe picioare!
Apoi se asezara jos si flacaul puse capul in poala ei, si adormi.
in timp ce dormea, toropit de somn, fata dezlega mantia de pe umerii flacaului si si-o puse pe umerii ei. Dupa asta se grabi sa stringa rubinele si celelalte nestemate si isi dori sa fie acasa.
Cind vinatorul isi sfirsi somnul si se trezi, isi dadu seama ca draga lui l-a inselat si ca l-a lasat singur pe muntele de rubine, unde nu era in stare sa calce picior omenesc.
- Vai, incepu a se vaicari el, cit de mare e necredinta pe lumea asta!...
Si ramase pe loc, cu inima incrincenata de durere, ca nu-i dadea in gind ce sa faca pentru a iesi din impasul in care se gasea.
Muntele era al unor uriasi salbatici, care-si aveau salasul acolo si se indeletniceau cu tot soiul de faradelegi. Nu dura mult si, cum statea el asa, privind in zare, numai ce zari pe trei dintre uriasii aceia indreptindu-se catre el. Atunci se intinse cit era de lung, prefacindu-se ca doarme adinc. Uriasii se apropiara de flacau si, cand fura foarte aproape de el, primul dintre ei il impinse cu piciorul, spunind:
- Ia te uita, ce vierme o mai fi si asta?!...
- Ce mai stai: striveste-l cu piciorul! il indemna cel de-al doilea.
Dar cel de-al treilea grai cu dispret:
- Lasati-l in pace, ca nu merita osteneala!... Multa vreme n-o sa mai poata ramine aici, iar de s-o incumeta sa urce muntele pana-n virf, or sa-l inhate norii si l-or duce cu ei.
Si tot sporovaind asa, trecura de el si mersera mai departe, pana ce se pierdura dupa o movila. Vezi insa ca vinatorul luase seama la cuvintele lor, si cum ii vazu plecati, se scula in capul oaselor si-o porni la drum. Si, tiris-grapis, urca pana-n virful muntelui. Dar acolo nu-i fu dat sa ramina multa vreme, ca indata veni un nor si-l inhata. Il duse cu el norul, si un timp il purta pe intinsul cerului. Dar mai apoi cobori jos de tot, deasupra unei gradini mari, inconjurata de ziduri groase.
Si era gradina asta plina de zarzavaturi de tot soiul.
Si asa se facu ca norul il lasa pe flacau din circa, de ajunse, incetisor, pe pamint, printre straturi de varza si alte legume...
Vinatorul cata cu luare-aminte imprejur si-si spuse in sinea lui: "Macar de-as gasi ceva demancare pe-aici! Ca sunt atit de flamind, ca nu mai pot!... Si de mi-o ramine iar burta goala, nu stiu, zau, cum oi pleca mai departe.. Da unde sa gasesc demancare, ca nu vad nici un mar, nici o para, nici un fruct, ci doar ierburi..."
Intr-un sfirsit, cum statea el asa, plin de deznadejde, si nu stia ce sa faca, prinse iar sa se gindeasca:
"Da la urma urmei, de nevoie, o sa-mi mint burta cu niste varza! Nu e ea prea gustoasa, da sa-mi vin nitelus in putere, tot o sa ma faca!..."
Si cum gindi, asa si facu. Alese o capatina frumoasa si indesata, si prinse a se infrupta din ea. Dar abia inghiti citeva imbucaturi, ca se si simti cuprins de-un simtamint ciudat, de parca ar fi fost schimbat cu totul. Si pe data se vazu - dar cu ce groaza!... - cu patru picioare, c-un cap mare si lunguiet, si cu doua urechi lungi-lungi... Pasamite, se prefacuse intr-un magar!... Dar cum foamea nu i se potolise, si cum sub noua lui infatisare varza ii placea indeajuns de mult, incepu sa dea iama prin tot stratul, mincind cu mare pofta.
intr-un sfirsit, nimeri la alt strat, dar vezi ca varza asta parea sa fie de alt soi. Si nu se dadu in laturi sa guste si din ea. Dar de-abia inghitise citeva frunze, ca simti din nou o schimbare si-si recapata infatisarea omeneasca.
Apoi vinatorul se culca si adormi zdravan. In dimineata urmatoare se trezi inviorat, de parca nici n-ar fi trecut prin atitea intimplari si, mai inainte de a pleca, avu grija sa rupa o capatina din varza cea buna si una din varza cea rea. Si-n timp ce si le punea in ranita, gindi in sinea lui: "Verzele astea or sa ma ajute sa recapat ce-i al meu si sa pedepsesc necredinta!..."
Apoi sari peste zid si-o porni la drum catre castelul unde-si ducea viata draga lui. Dar vezi ca nu stia incotro e si citeva zile umbla incolo si incoace, fara sa-i dea de urma. Dar, din fericire, un copilandru il indrepta pe calea cea buna, si-ntr-un fapt de seara se afla in fata castelului. Dar mai inainte de a-i pasi pragul, avu grija sa-si innegreasca obrazul cu funingine, si era asa de schimbat, ca de l-ar fi vazut chiar maica-sa, tot nu l-ar fi recunoscut... Si batind el la poarta, ceru adapost.
- sunt atit de trudit, abia ingaima el, ca nu ma tin picioarele sa pot merge mai departe!...
Vrajitoarea cata la el pe dupa grilajul portii, si prinse a-l cerceta:
- Da cine esti, jupine, si cu ce treburi umbli?... Si flacaul raspunse:
- sunt un slujitor imparatesc si-am fost trimis in lume de catre stapinul meu, sa-i aduc cea mai gustoasa varza ce creste sub soare. Si cum mi-a fost dat sa am fericirea s-o gasesc, o port chiar aici, cu mine. Da ma nelinisteste ca soarele arde prea tare si mi-e teama ca nu cumva sa se vestejeasca leguma, ca tare-i frageda!... De asta nici nu stiu daca oi putea-o duce mai departe...
Cind auzi cotoroanta de varza cea gustoasa, odata i se facu pofta si spuse:
- Jupine draga, lasa-ma sa gust din minunatia asta de varza, ca rivnesc la ea!...
- De ce nu! facu vinatorul, cu ingaduinta. Ca doar am luat cu mine doua capatini. Uite, una din ele o sa ti-o dau dumitale.
Apoi desfacu ranita si ii intinse varza cea rea. Vrajitoarea n-avea cum sa stie c-ar putea sa i se-ntimple ceva de pe urma legumei asteia, si cum ii lasa gura apa dupa mancarea asta necunoscuta, se duse singura in bucatarie, sa si-o pregateasca pentru cina. Dar cand fu gata, atit de mare ii fu pofta, ca nu astepta sa fie adusa la masa, ci lua imediat citeva foi si le baga in gura. Dar vezi ca, indata ce le inghiti, isi pierdu infatisarea omeneasca si fugi prin curte in chip de magarita. Dupa putin, veni la bucatarie slujnica, si zarind varza gata facuta, vru s-o duca la masa. Dar in timp ce mergea cu strachina, dupa un vechi obicei, ii veni pofta sa guste din blid si inghiti pe nemestecate citeva foi. Si pe data se prefacu si ea tot intr-o magarita si fugi afara, la batrina. Pasamite, varza aceea isi vadise si de asta data puterea nazdravana... Dar acum zacea imprastiata pe jos, ca strachina cazuse din miinile slujnicei si se facuse tandari, in ast timp, presupusul slujitor imparatesc statea la taclale cu fata cea frumoasa. Dar cum nu venea nimeni cu varza si era si ea pofticioasa, fata nu-si mai gasea astimpar si, pana la urma, spuse:

- Nu stiu de ce nu mai vine odata mamuca, cu varza aia!...
Atunci se gindi vinatorul in sinea lui: "Sa stii ca leguma si-o fi facut de-acu efectul!.".. Si apoi spuse cu glas tare:
- Las ca ma duc eu pana la bucatarie, sa vad ce-o fi de intirzie!
Vezi insa ca abia cobori treptele cerdacului, ca le si vazu pe cele doua magarite alergind prin curte. Cauta el varza si o afla imprastiata pe sub niste scaune.
- Bravo! Astea doua si-au primit portia!... facu el, bucuros. Acu mai ramine sa se infrupte din varza si faptura de m-a inselat intr-un chip atit de nevrednic!...
Apoi ridica de pe jos restul de foi si le puse pe un taler. Si inminindu-i-l fetei, ii spuse:
- Ti-am adus chiar eu mancarea cea gustoasa, ca sa nu trebuie sa mai astepti...
Fata se apuca sa manince din varza cu lacomie si pe data isi pierdu si ea infatisarea omeneasca. Si numai ce-o zbughi afara pe usa si incepu sa alerge prin curte in chip de magarita.
Dapa ce vinatorul isi spala fata, pentru ca cele trei femei prefacute in magarite sa-l poata recunoaste, cobori in curte si le spuse:
- Acu , veti primi rasplata pentru necredinta voastra! Si legindu-le pe toate trei cu o fringhie, le mina din urma pana ce ajunse la o moara. Batu el in geam, dar cum era cam tirzior, morarul scoase capul afara si-l intreba ce doreste.
- Am trei animale naravase, raspunse vinatorul, si n-as vrea sa le mai tin, ca-mi dau mult de furca. Daca te-ai invoi insa sa le iei la dumneata si sa le dai adapost si nutret, si sa le tii dupa cum ti- oi spune eu, nu m-as zgirci deloc si ti-as plati cit mi-ai cere.
Atunci morarul ii raspunse:
- Ma-nvoiesc bucuros! Da cum trebuie sa le tin? Si vinatorul ii arata pe indelete ca magaritei batrine
- pasamite asta era vrajitoarea! - sa-i dea de trei ori pe zi bataie si o data mancare, celei tinere - care era slujnica - sa-i dea o data bataie si de trei ori mincare, iar celei tinere de tot - care era fata - bataie sa nu-i dea deloc, dar sa-i dea de trei ori mancare.
De, se aratase ingaduitor cu fata, fiindca inca o mai indragea si nu-si putea calca pe inima s-o lase sa fie scarmanata... Apoi se intoarse la castel si gasi acolo tot ce avea nevoie. Dupa citeva zile veni morarul si-i aduse vestea ca margarita cea batrina - care primise in tot timpul bataie si numai o data pe zi mancare - daduse ortul popii.
- Celelalte doua, spuse el, desi n-au murit si primesc mancare de trei ori pe zi, sunt atit de triste, ca multe zile nu cred c-or sa mai aiba si ele.
Daca auzi asta, vinatorul se milostivi de ele si-si domoli inversunarea. Si-i porunci morarului sa le aduca inapoi. Si cand fura iarasi in curtea castelului, le dadu sa manince din varza cea buna si-si luara din nou infatisarea omeneasca.
Atunci fata cea frumoasa ii cazu in genunchi si-i spuse: - Of, dragul meu drag, oare ai putea sa ma ierti vreodata pentru raul ce ti l-am facut?!... Da sa stii ca numai maica-rnea e de vina, ca ea m-a silit sa-ti casunez asa un rau si totul s-a intimplat impotriva vointei mele
ca mi-esti drag din tot sufletul!... Mantia ta fermecata e intr-un scrin, cit despre inima pasaruicii, indata o sa iau o bautura, ca s-o dau afara...
Daca-i auzi spusele, pe loc se insemna flacaul si-i grai ca unei logodnice:
- Pastreaza-le, ca mi-e totuna de le ai tu sau eu, ca doar stiu bine c-o sa-mi fii sotie credincioasa!
Si-au facut o nunta de s-a dus pomina, si-au trait impreuna in bucurie si multumire pana la sfirsitul zilelor.

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