There was once a king’s son who had a larger and more beautiful collection of books than any one else in the world, and full of splendid copper-plate engravings. He could read and obtain information respecting every people of every land; but not a word could he find to explain the situation of the garden of paradise, and this was just what he most wished to know.
His grandmother had told him when he was quite a little boy, just old enough to go to school, that each flower in the garden of paradise was a sweet cake, that the pistils were full of rich wine, that on one flower history was written, on another geography or tables; so those who wished to learn their lessons had only to eat some of the cakes, and the more they ate, the more history, geography, or tables they knew. He believed it all then; but as he grew older, and learnt more and more, he became wise enough to understand that the splendor of the garden of paradise must be very different to all this. “Oh, why did Eve pluck the fruit from the tree of knowledge? why did Adam eat the forbidden fruit?” thought the king’s son: “if I had been there it would never have happened, and there would have been no sin in the world.” The garden of paradise occupied all his thoughts till he reached his seventeenth year.
One day he was walking alone in the wood, which was his greatest pleasure, when evening came on. The clouds gathered, and the rain poured down as if the sky had been a waterspout; and it was as dark as the bottom of a well at midnight; sometimes he slipped over the smooth grass, or fell over stones that projected out of the rocky ground. Every thing was dripping with moisture, and the poor prince had not a dry thread about him. He was obliged at last to climb over great blocks of stone, with water spurting from the thick moss. He began to feel quite faint, when he heard a most singular rushing noise, and saw before him a large cave, from which came a blaze of light. In the middle of the cave an immense fire was burning, and a noble stag, with its branching horns, was placed on a spit between the trunks of two pine-trees. It was turning slowly before the fire, and an elderly woman, as large and strong as if she had been a man in disguise, sat by, throwing one piece of wood after another into the flames.
“Come in,” she said to the prince; “sit down by the fire and dry yourself.”
“There is a great draught here,” said the prince, as he seated himself on the ground.
“It will be worse when my sons come home,” replied the woman; “you are now in the cavern of the Winds, and my sons are the four Winds of heaven: can you understand that?”
“Where are your sons?” asked the prince.
“It is difficult to answer stupid questions,” said the woman. “My sons have plenty of business on hand; they are playing at shuttlecock with the clouds up yonder in the king’s hall,” and she pointed upwards.
“Oh, indeed,” said the prince; “but you speak more roughly and harshly and are not so gentle as the women I am used to.”
“Yes, that is because they have nothing else to do; but I am obliged to be harsh, to keep my boys in order, and I can do it, although they are so head-strong. Do you see those four sacks hanging on the wall? Well, they are just as much afraid of those sacks, as you used to be of the rat behind the looking-glass. I can bend the boys together, and put them in the sacks without any resistance on their parts, I can tell you. There they stay, and dare not attempt to come out until I allow them to do so. And here comes one of them.”