1. Marko and the Sister of Leka Kapetan
THE years were slipping by, and Marko, ruling in his white city of Prilip, began to wonder whether he should not think about marriage. He had won a reputation throughout the land as a noble hero, but love, romantic love, had never come to him. His love for his people filled his heart and his life, and he was continually working for their good. But 'the time had come, so Marko felt, for him to take a wife.
One day word came to him of the wonderful beauty of Rosanda, the sister of Leka Kapetan. Everyone who had seen her talked only of her rare beauty, and her fame spread throughout the country. It was said that no Turkish maid or Vlach or slender Latin could vie with her. People who knew Rosanda and had also seen the mountain vilas, said that, in spite of all the supernatural beauty and charm of the latter, they could not compare with Rosanda, sister of Leka Kapetan.
Rosanda had lived all the fifteen years of her life in the palace of her brother and she had never once gone outside. She had never seen either the sun or the moon, so that the driving heat of midday and the piercing chill of evening had not tanned or spotted the lovely whiteness of her skin. She lived in luxury, busying herself with embroidery and weaving, but never doing anything that would involve any physical effort. She was a hothouse blossom, a sharp contrast to the vigorous and active Marko.
Yet so famous had her beauty become that Marko Kralyevich decided to go to Prizren to ask Leka Kapetan for the hand of his sister in marriage. He felt free to do this because he knew Leka very well and liked him. The two men were good friends, but as so often happened in those early days the friendship did not extend to the point where Leka had ever introduced Marko to the women of his family.
Once his mind was made up, Marko called his sister.
"Hurry, sister, to the chardak," he said, "and open the great chest there and bring me my richest costume, which I prepared long ago to wear on my wedding day. I am thinking, sister, of going to Prizren on Mount Shar arid asking my friend Leka for the hand of his sister. If he consents, I will bring her home, and then I will arrange for your marriage." '
Marko's sister ran upstairs into the chardak and opened the great chest. She took out the richest and most costly costume and took it down to her brother.
Marko put on the velvet suit, and buckled up the legs of his tight-fitting trousers with silver clasps, and every clasp was worth a golden ducat. On his head he placed a cap with a silver ornament, and he girded on his damascened sword with its golden tassel reaching to the ground. This sharp and well-balanced sword had a sheath of solid gold. The grooms led out Sharats and saddled him with a golden saddle, and the saddle-cloth reached down to the ground. Over this cloth they cast a skin of lynx, and they bridled the horse'with a bit of steel.
Then Marko mounted while the grooms and Squires looked on, and before he set out he called for two huge cups of red wine. They brought them and he gave one to Sharats, who drank it and became red to the ears; and the other he drank himself, and he also became red to the eyes.
As Marko rode out of the white city of Prilip, he and Sharats presented a splendid figure of flashing gold and silver. They passed over plains and mountains until they came to the plain of Kosovo. From afar on the mountains the gleam of his trappings carried the message that Marko and Sharats were going somewhere, on some mission of peace, for Marko was not grim, as when he rode out to battle, but shining and resplendent beyond compare.
Marko turned aside from Kosovo and went straight to the home of his pobratim, the Voyvoda Milosh Obilich. When Marko was still far from the palace, Milosh saw his gleaming armor and recognized his friend and pobratim.
"Open the gate," he ordered his servants, "and go out on the wide plain and bow yourself to the black earth, for my pobratim Marko is coining to me. But do not lay hold of his cloak and do not try to take from him his sharp sword or approach too near unto him. It may be he is angry, or it may be he has been reveling, and he may trample you under his horse's hoofs and you will suffer some injury, my cliildren. But when Marko has entered the palace and has kissed me, then, children, take his horse and I shall lead him up to the chardak."
The servants quickly opened the gate and met Marko in the open field. He paid no attention to them but rode directly into the courtyard, and then he dismounted and greeted his pobratim, the Voyvoda Milosh Obilich. And the Voyvoda Milosh Obilich kissed Marko and they embraced, and then he invited his guest upstairs to the comfortable chardak. But Marko refused to go.
"I have no time to go to the chardak," he said, "and I have no time to waste in entertainment. You have heard, I know, of Leka Kapetan in the white city of Prizren. And you have heard of his beautiful sister, the fair Rosanda, more beautiful than any Turkish maid or Vlach, or any Latin, with whom not even the mountain vilas can compare. Now we are both pobratims, great warriors, and unmarried, and the men whom we can conquer mock us, for they are married and have children. We, brother, are a reproach to all. Come now, let us get our third pobratim, the winged Relya of Pazar, who lives beyond Rashka, beyond the cold water. We are three true friends. So dress in your richest costume, and take some gold and a ring for the maiden, and we will call Relya of Pazar. Then we will go together to Prizren and will see Leka and Rosanda. I am sure that she will choose one of us three for her bridegroom, and the other two will be Ac devers, and will formally escort the bride in state to the home of the bridegroom. And all three of us will be the closest friends of Leka."
This seemed a good idea to Milosh, and he hurriedly went to dress for the formal call on Leka. He went up to the slender chardak and put on a beautiful suit, and a sable cap with a silver ornament like a wheel. Around his shoulders he flung a splendid mantle, such as no king on earth had money enough to buy. The lining alone cost thirty pieces of gold, and no one could tell what the mantle itself cost. Tlien they brought out the horse of Milosh, as graceful as a crane.
While Milosh was dressing and making himself ready, the servants brought Marko two huge cups of wine. Ons he drank himself and the other he gave to Sharats.
Then Milosh appeared. He was a magnificent figure, a perfect knight, and as he strode forth he seemed fairer and stronger even than Marko, for lie had broad shoulders and flashing black eyes and a coal-black mustache with the ends resting on his shoulders. He was a perfect suitor. Happy the girl who would choose him! Doubly fortunate the girl who had him and Marko to choose between!
The two friends left the home of Milosh together and they rode to the house of their pobratim, the winged Relya of Pazar. Relya was glad to see them, and when the three friends had embraced and kissed, Marko told Relya why they had come, and urged him to put on his richest costume and go with them to the home of Leka Kapetan. Relya readily consented, and it was not long before he was ready to start.
When Relya was arrayed in his most gorgeous attire he outshone his two friends. His servants brought him his steed with the speed of the wind, and this with his winged cap made him appear wonderfully mounted and equipped. Another fit suitor he was for the fastidious maiden, Rosanda. Thrice happy she who had the choice of Marko, Milosh and Relya!
So the three pobratims set out and it was -not long before they came within sight of white Prizren. Leka Kapetan saw the gleam of their armor, their easy grace in the saddle, and the beauty of their steeds. He knew at once that the great Serb heroes were coming to see him, and, not knowing the cause of their visit, he rather feared that some evil was afoot. But there was nothing he could do, so he gave orders to his servants.
"Here come the three Serb heroes," he said, "Marko, Milosh, and the winged Relya of Pazar. I do not know why they are coming, but open the gates and let them come in. Receive them peacefully and in honor, and we will hope that they are come in peace."
The servants quickly opened the gates and went out on to the broad plain to meet the three Serb heroes. They bowed themselves to the black earth, but the heroes paid not the slightest attention to them, and galloped up to the gates of the palace and went in. There they dismounted from their noble steeds and turned them over to me attendants.
Leka Kapetan met the three heroes, embraced them and kissed them and inquired about their heroic health. He took them by their white hands and led them up into his slender chardak.
Marko gazed about him. He liad traveled much and had seen many rich and powerful nobles, but he had never visited one so rich or with so luxurious a home as Leka Kapetan. He looked around the room into which their host had taken them. On the floor was a costly carpet that covered the entire floor, and a velvet cloth was spread over mis, while on Leka's couch die pillows were, covered with cloth of gold. Around the room were pegs of white silver on which hung the weapons of the lord of the house. The columns in the room were of white silver, and the capitals of solid gold. The guests sat down, on the floor, as was the custom of the land. They seated themselves on the velvet carpet, and in front of them was placed a low table made of solid silver, with wine cups upon it. The cups were of pure gold, and one—the cup of Leka himself— held nine quarts of wine. There were no bounds to the hospitality of Leka, no end to the delicacies that were brought to the silver table, and no limit to the wine that was poured out for them.
So they sat and feasted and drank, and talked from Sunday unto Sunday, and still no one broached the subject or asked why they were come. Marko glanced often at his friends but they skilfully avoided his eye, for no one dared to bring up the question of marriage. It was not easy for the heroes, rich and powerful and renowned as they were, to bring this subject before the still richer and more powerful Leka.
Finally Marko could wait no longer, so he said:
"O Leka Kapetan, most gracious host! We have sat and drunk wine and talked, and I am still waiting for you to ask us why we have come and why we have wearied our horses."
Leka was as unwilling to start a serious discussion as were his guests, so he avoided the question.
"O Marko Kralyevich," he said, "why should I ask? It has been a long while since three heroes visited me. Can we not meet oftener to talk together, to drink red wine and to see how peace can be kept in the land?"
This left fo Marko the task of stating why they had come, but still he dallied. At last there was nothing more he could say to avoid the subject, so he spoke bluntly and without guile.
"O Leka Kapetan, we have heard of the wonderful beauty of your sister Rosanda. We have heard that in all the world, among the Turks, in Syria, in Egypt, in Anatolia, and in all the kingdoms of the Vlachs, there is no maiden so beautiful or so fair that she can compare with Rosanda. Therefore, Leka Kapetan, we have come to ask for her hand. Choose the one you wish for your brother-in-law, and the other two heroes will be the two devers and will escort her to the home of him whom you choose, and we three will be your closest friends."
Leka started up at this unexpected speech. "I am more than glad," he said, "to have three friends like you. Yet delay a while, O Marko Kralyevich. Do not think to bring out a rin? for the maiden or to drink with me a pledge to the marriage. There . is an obstacle in the way. While it is true that my sister is more beautiful than any maiden in the world, she is very self-willed, and fears no one, not even God. For me> her brother, she has not even respect. Four-and-seventy suitors have come to ask her hand, and each time she has shamed me before them. I do not dare to take the ring or drink the pledge, until I know what my sister will do and how she will answer."
Marko laughed at this. "Poor Leka!" he said. "What a mother you had! How can you rule your household and govern this level plain and still fear your sister? I swear by God and the Faith that if my sister in Prilip acted that way I would soon teach her better manners in a way she would not forget. But Leka Kapetan, if you are afraid of your sister, go to her tower where she sits embroidering and bring her here to us. Let her look at us. Perhaps she has never seen anyone like us, and she will choose herself one of us as her husband, and the other two will escort her to his home, and we will all be friends."
This appealed to Leka, so he sent at once to the tower of Rosanda, and she promised to come without delay. Leka returned, and the three knights and Leka were drinking their health when Rosanda entered.
She came, followed by her maidens, and the beauty of her face lighted up the room. She was arrayed in a gown of the softest silk, embroidered all over with rare colors and strange designs, and pearls clustered thick in her raven-black hair, which fell like a misty cloud to her feet. Marko had seen many beautiful maidens, and he was the pobratim of the most beautiful vilas, but none could be compared to Rosanda. The half of her beauty had not been told.
Leka presented the three friends. "Choose, sister," he said, "one of these three men, the three great heroes of the Serbs, for your husband. If you wish a hero who is famous, who will win renown in every battle, and who will never know defeat, marry Marko Kralyevich and go with him to white Prilip. You will never regret it.
"If you prefer the handsomest knight, who cannot be equaled in strength and in grace, choose Milosh and go with him to Kosovo, and you will never regret it.
"But if you prefer a winged knight, of whom you will be proud, choose Relya, and go with him to Novi Pazar, and you will never regret it."
Rosanda listened to what her brother had to say, and then she clapped her hands, threw back her head and burst out laughing.
"I cannot understand," she said, "how our land of Prizren can tolerate you as a ruler, Leka. You are mad, mad, mad! What are these men you have here? And why should I marry any one of them? Marko is nothing but a Turkish slave. He fights against us, and his grave will be unhonored and unmarked. I want no such husband. You speak of Milosh—a nameless upstart, respected by none and despised by all. I want no such husband. You speak of Relya the Winged. A gypsy foundling he is, so gossip says. I want not him nor any of this off-scouring."
And so saying, Rosanda turned haughtily away.
Marko was furious. He reached for his sword to cut down Leka for allowing himself aud his friends to be insulted in such a fashion. But Milosh caught his arm.
"Marko," he cried, "don't ruin the land of Leka for such a contemptible girl! Leka has entertained us well."
Marko listened and withheld his hand, but turning from the others he ran down from the chardak to where Rosanda was walking with her maidens to her tower. He called to her, and as he reached her he drew his dagger and with one sure stroke cut off Rosanda's beautiful black hair. He threw the silken mass at her feet and said scornfully:
"That hair will never win you another suitor."
Just then a drove of horses entered the outer courtyard, driven by some of the nomad herdsmen who moved about the Balkans, taking service here and there. Marko caught sight of them and said to Rosanda:
"Or shall we marry you to one of these herdsmen? You talk the way they do and you have as little courtesy. You would fit well in their tents."
Rosanda was by now thoroughly frightened and she started to run toward her apartments, weeping as she ran.
Marko decided slie had been punished sufficiently, so he called to his pobratims: "Come down and bring my saber and let us be going."
Milosh and Relya obeyed and the three men rode out of the courtyard together.
Leka saw them go with a sigh of relief. He had heard Marko's last remark to his sister, and after the insults that Rosanda had heaped upon the three heroes, he had been almost certain that Marko would carry out his threat to marry Rosanda to a herdsman and thus wreck his dynasty completely.
2. Marko and the Poor Girl
The first attempt of Marko to find a wife having ended in disaster, he went back to white Prilip to reflect on what had happened. Marko always profited by experience, so the second time he set out to choose a wife he did not select a maiden of a rich and powerful family, but chose one of humble origin.
The girl whom Marko set out to see was very poor. Her family was able to have only one meal a ' day. If they ate lunch, they had no dinner; if they ate dinner, they had no lunch; and if they ate both meals, then they had nothing to wear.
Yet this maiden was so good-hearted and so clever that all the heroes great and small were courting her, and asking for her hand. Marko Kralyevich came to woo her with a retinue of a thousand guests; and Voyvoda Milan came also with the same number. But the maiden was pledged in her heart to Pavel Ustupchich, who had given her a ring.
Now it was the custom in those days to make weddings great occasions of ceremony, as we liave seen on the three occasions when Marko attended weddings, and suitors would go a-wooing with many attendants, partly to display their wealth and power, and partly for defence in case of any trouble.
Marko was drawing near the poor maiden's hut when he caught sight of Voyvoda Milan, who was also approaching.
"What have you come here for with so many suitors and so many horses, Voyvoda Milan?" asked Marko. "You know that the maiden is going to marry me, Marko Kralyevich, and not you."
Milan made no answer but pondered well Marko's greeting. Then Milan sought the third suitor, Pavel Ustupchich, and said:
"Why have you come and brought so many suitors and so many horses, Pavel Ustupchich, when you know the maiden is going to marry neither you nor me but the falcon, Marko Kralyevich?"
Pavel said nothing to this, but he kept on with his retinue.
Finally all three cavalcades reached the home of the poor girl. Her mother did not know whs'i to do with the great retinues of the suitors. If the truth be told, the poor girl and bar family were in a hard position. They had the ungrateful task of getting rid of two of the suitors 'and their friends without a quarrel, and quarrels were all too easy to stir up among tliese proud and mighty men.
The mother received the guests together. First she took into her house the three suitors, Marko, Milan, and Pavel, and seated them side by side. Next she brought in the three kums, and all the other dignitaries who had come, for each of the suitors had brought a complete wedding party. She seated together the corresponding dignitaries of the three groups, and when the party was all seated each position of honor was held by the three men.
Marko looked around. He was surprised that the mother had not eliminated the others and put him in die seat of honor by himself, and he determined to take what he thought was the proper action. He drew his embossed sword and laid it carelessly across his knees. A sword in the hands of Marko was no idle threat, and it cast a gloom over the whole assemblage. With this authority he took the role of presiding officer over the entire function, and it was Marko's word that all listened to.
Marko turned to Milan and Pavel and said:
"Let us each spread out before us an apple and a golden ring. Then if the maiden takes the apple and the ring of any one of us, we shall know whom she has chosen and we can decide everything openly and fairly."
The other two men obeyed, although with misgivings, and each laid on a little table in front of him an apple and a golden ring, the symbols of love and marriage which accompanied a formal proposal of marriage in the Balkans. Then Marko called the maiden.
"Choose now," he said, "the apple and the ring that you prefer, and so you will choose your suitor."
For the maiden to decline the apple and ring of Marko and marry a less important man was very dangerous. No one could tell how Marko would take such an action, but his drawn sword was a good indication that he would not like it and might make trouble.
The maiden listened to the words of Marko, and stood lost in thought for several minutes. Then her face lighted up, for well she knew the man whom she preferred.
"O kum, Marko Kralyevich," she said, "who will act for my beloved in the wedding! O Voyvoda Milan, stary svat, my second witness! And all the other suitors! Dear brother and good friends! Apples are toys for children. Rings are for heroes. I am marrying Pavel Ustupchich."
Marko raged and stormed but there was no help for it. By all the laws of hospitality he could not refuse to accept the honor, that the girl had conferred upon him, but he liked it ill.
"You shameless girl," he said. "Someone showed you this trick. Who suggested it to you?"
The maiden looked at Marko and laughed. "Your sword showed it to me, Marko Kralyevich," she answered.
Then Marko laughed too, and said: "You have made a good choice. If you had chosen the apple and ring of Pavel Ustupchich, I should have attacked the group and you would never have been a wife. But as it is, I accept the honor of kum, and will do my part in carrying out the marriage." And he did.
3. Marko and the Daughter of King Shishman
After these two unsuccessful attempts to wed, Marko allowed the question of his marriage to drop until one evening his mother, the aged Yevrosima, brought up the subject again.
"O my son, Marko Kralyevich!" she said. "Your mother is getting old. She can no longer prepare your food nor can she pour for you the dark wine, and light your room with the blazing pine torch. Marry, my dear son, so that I can see my successor before I die."
"Mother, dear," Marko answered her, "I have traveled through nine realms and the Turkish Empire, which is the tenth kingdom. Wherever I have seen a charming maiden, she would not have suited you. And wherever I have seen a maiden who would have suited you, she was not attractive to me. But one maiden I did see. Mother, in the land of the Bulgarians, the daughter of King Shishman. She was standing by the cistern, and when I saw her the grass seemed to revolve around me and my head whirled. There, Mother, is the maiden for me, and she will be a good daughter to you. Prepare for me thin sugar-cakes dial I may go and ask for her hand in marriage."
Marko's mother was glad to make haste at this good news. She did not wait until morning to make ihe cakes, but thai very evening she set to work and prepared them.
Early on the following morning Marko saddled Sharats and made himself ready to go on his long journey to the court of King Shishman. He filled a skin with red wine and fastened it on the saddle of Sharats. On the other side of the saddle he hung his golden mace. Then mounting, he rode out of white Prilip, and through valleys and over mountains into the land of the Bulgarians.
Marko did not think of ihe length of the journey or of the steep, rocky hills that he liad to cross. He did not mind the rivers that crossed his path or tlie treacherous banks down which Sharats had to make his way. He was thinking only of the daughter of King Shishman, the young and beautiful Yelitsa, and of the distance to Tirnovo, the Bulgarian court.
Barely had Marko caught sight of the white court of the Bulgarian king when King Shishman saw him. He came out to meet his distinguished guest, embraced and kissed him and inquired about his heroic health. Then the faithful retainers took Sharats, and the king led Marko into the palace. They sat down at a small table and began to drink red wine. After the feast had continued for some time, Marko suddenly jumped up, took off his cap and bowed to the ground. Then quite formally he asked for the hand of the Princess Yelitsa.
King Shishman was overjoyed and raised no objections. Nothing was left to do then but to carry out the necessary formalities. Marko brought out the apple and the ring, which he gave to the bride. Then he gave her an expensive dress and presented other costly gifts to her mother and sister. All these presents had cost Marko as much gold as he could load on the backs of three horses.
Then Marko asked the king to postpone the wedding for a month so that he might return to white Prilip and collect his wedding party. Before he took his leave, however, the mother of the bride came to warn him.
"O my son-in-law, Marko of Prilip!" she said. "Do not bring strangers in your wedding train as devers, but bring a brother or a cousin, some reliable person, for Yelitsa, my daughter, is beautiful and we want to avoid any trouble."
That night Marko passed at the court of Shishman but early the next morning he mounted Sharats and started home. He went directly to white Prilip, stopping nowhere as he passed through the mountain defiles, for he was eager to meet his mother and tell her the good news.
The aged Yevrosima was watching for his return, and she caught sight of Marko as he approached. She kissed him and he kissed her hand like a dutiful son.
"O my dear son, Marko Kralyevich," said Yevrosima, "have you brought me a daughter-in-law after your long journey, and did you find a true wife for yourself?"
"Yes," answered Marko, "I had a peaceful and successful journey. I spent as much gold as I could carry on the backs of three horses, and the daughter of King Shishman is to be my wife. But when I was there at the wliite court of Shishman, the mother of the bride said to me: 'Do not bring strangers in your wedding train as devers, but bring a brother or a cousin, some reliable person, for Yelitsa, my daughter, is beautiful and we want to avoid any trouble.' That is good advice but. Mother, I have no brother and no cousin."
"I know that," Yevrosima said, "but so that there may be no trouble, sit down and write a letter to the Doge of Venice and ask him to come as your kum and let him bring five hundred attendants.
Write another letter to Stepan Zemlyich, and ask him to act as dever and to bring with him five hundred attendants, and then everything will be satisfactory."
Marko did as his mother advised him. He sat down and wrote a letter to the Doge of Venice and another to Stepan Zemlyich. In about two weeks the Doge and his five hundred attendants appeared at white Prilip. The Doge entered the castle and the attendants camped outside in the open field.
Shortly after, there appeared Stepan Zemlyich with his five hundred attendants, and he likewise entered the palace and the others remained in tents on the open field. For a few days Marko entertained his thousand guests, and then the whole party moved in state towards the palace of King Shishman for the bride.
The king received them joyfully and again there •was great feasting. Finally on the fourth day, after the horses were completely rested, the leaders of the wedding party decided to return to Prilip. They cried out therefore to the assembled guests:
"Short are the days and long the ways. Let us think of returning home."
The king distributed rich gifts to the entire wedding parly. To one he gave embroidered kerchiefs, to another costly raiment. To the kum he gave a low table of gold, and to the dever a shirt embroidered with gold. Pie also gave the dever die bride and a noble horse for her to ride on, and he said:
"Here is the horse and here is the maiden to take to Marko's white castle at Prilip. Give Marko the bride, my beautiful Yelitsa, and then you can keep the horse for yourself."
The great cavalcade started back for Prilip. It was a splendid sight. Banners were flying, musical instruments playing—It was like an army going into battle. There was much display of colors, beautiful horses, handsome men. Truly, it was a sight not to be forgotten.
Everything was going well when suddenly a strong breeze came up and blew aside the veil of the bride. As yet none of the wedding guests or her attendants had so much as seen her, for the veil that covered her face allowed only her eyes to be seen through a narrow slit, and over her costly costume she wore a loose-fitting wrap that quite concealed all of her beauty that had so charmed Marko.
When the bride's veil was blown back, the Doge of Venice saw her face uncovered for a moment, and he instantly forgot he was bound to Marko and his bride by the most sacred bonds and resolved to profit by the absence of the bridegroom and take the bride for himself.
So that night the Doge of Venice went to the dever, Stepan Zemlyich, and said:
"There is a bootful of golden ducats if you will bring the bride to my tent tonight."
Stepan resisted the bribe. "O Doge," he said, "you should be turned to stone for such a thought!"
The Doge said nothing but went away and the next night he came again to Stepan, but this time he offered two bootfuls of golden ducats.
Again the Doge went away unsuccessful, but the third night he repeated the offer, this time with a bribe of three bootfuls of golden ducats. This was too much for Stepan Zemlyich, and he took the bride to the tent of the Doge of Venice.
The Doge immediately began to make love to his ward whom, under the law of the Balkans, he should have been ready to protect with his life.
Yelitsa reminded him of his oath, but the Doge laughed at her.
"I always break my word," he said. "I have broken it already with nine goddaughters and twenty-four maidens for whom I have acted as kum at their weddings. I have never had any trouble—God never punishes me; and I see no reason why I should make an exception of you!"
The appeal to his honor having failed, Yelitsa tried strategy.
"My mother told me," said she, "i-hat I should never kiss a bearded hero, but I should always choose one who had a smooth chin like Marko Kralyevich."
The Doge was fooled by her seeming submis-siveness, so he at once sent for two barbers and they shaved him, cutting off his flowing beard. Yelitsa picked up the hair of the beard as it came off and wrapped it in a silken cloth and thrust it into her bosom.
When the barbers had finished with the Doge he resumed his pleas for her love. But Yelitsa had yet another plan.
"Are you not afraid of Marko Kralyevich?*' she asked. "When he hears of this we shall both perish."
"Sit down," the Doge answered, "and do not be foolish. Marko is over with die rest of die guests in his tent, and on the tent is a golden apple. In the apple are two precious stones, and they can be seen from die entire camp. Come here and embrace me!"
"Wait a little, my dear," Yelitsa replied, playing for time. "I will step out in front of the white tent and see whether the stars are shining or whether it is cloudy, and dien I will come back to you."
Yelitsa stepped outside and immediately saw the tent of Marko with die golden apple and the precious stones shining from it. Without hesitating an instant she ran like a young deer dirough the tents of the sleeping guests, until she came to the pavilion of Marko. She ran in and threw herself weeping on the floor.
Marko was fast asleep but die sound of her hurried footsteps and of her sobbing woke him. He was more than surprised to see his bride in his tent, for under the strict rules of Balkan life she would not enter his apartments until she had come to his palace in white Prilip and the full rites of the Church and the final folk customs had been observed.
He hardly knew what to say at the sight of the excited girl in his tent, and at first he was very angry and rebuked her sternly for entering it before the appointed time. But Yelitsa explained what was wrong.
"I have come here, Marko," she said, "solely because your tent is the only safe place. The wicked dever has sold me to the kum for three bootfuls of golden ducats. If you do not believe me, there is the beard of the Doge of Venice as proof."
Yelitsa handed Marko the package containing the beard. He saw at once that she was telling the truth and that the kum and the dever had betrayed him, and had been false to their trust.
"Stay here in my tent until morning," Marko said to his bride, "and do not worry." With these words he went back to sleep, and Yelitsa slept also.
Early in the morning Marko awoke and dressed, and put on his huge fur coat with the fur outside. He picked up his heavy mace and strolled towards the tents of the Doge and Stepan Zemlyich.
"Good morning, kum and dever!" said Marko.
"How is the bride to-day? How is your ward and treasure?"
This was an awkward situation, for the bride was gone, and although the kum and dever might suspect, they could not be too sure how much Marko knew. The Doge tried to laugh off the affair, but he did not make a very impressive figure, for he had lost his beautiful long beard.
"O my kum, Marko Kralyevich," he said, "people are very quick to get angry. One cannot joke without making trouble."
The Doge looked comical without his beard. He did not feel at ease, and Marko saw that the story Yelitsa had told him was true.
"O Doge of Venice," Marko said, "it was a terrible joke when you cut off your beard. Where is the beautiful heard you were showing yesterday?"
The Doge started to answer, but Marko's patience was exhausted. He drew his sword and cut off the head of the evil man. Then he turned to the dever, Stepan Zemlyich. He had started running but he could not outrun the infuriated Marko, and very soon he, too, had paid for his treachery by one blow of Marko's mighty sword.
Then with the kum and the dever out of the way, the cavalcade moved on. Marko again mounted Sharats, and two men more trustworthy were found to guard the bride. The wedding train moved along peacefully to white Prilip. There the final ceremonies were performed, and the daughter of King Shishman became the happy and devoted wife of Marko.