One Eye climbed up, but when she tried to catch a branch and pluck one of the apples, it escaped from her hand, and so it happened every time she made the attempt, and, do what she would, she could not reach one.
“Three Eyes,” said the mother, “climb up, and try what you can do; perhaps you will be able to see better with your three eyes than One Eye can.”
One Eye slid down from the tree, and Three Eyes climbed up. But Three Eyes was not more skilful; with all her efforts she could not draw the branches, nor the fruit, near enough to pluck even a leaf, for they sprang back as she put out her hand.
At last the mother was impatient, and climbed up herself, but with no more success, for, as she appeared to grasp a branch, or fruit, her hand closed upon thin air.
“May I try?” said little Two Eyes; “perhaps I may succeed.”
“You, indeed!” cried her sisters; “you, with your two eyes, what can you do?”
But Two Eyes climbed up, and the golden apples did not fly back from her when she touched them, but almost laid themselves on her hand, and she plucked them one after another, till she carried down her own little apron full.
The mother took them from her, and gave them to her sisters, as she said little Two Eyes did not handle them properly; but this was only from jealousy, because little Two Eyes was the only one who could reach the fruit, and she went into the house feeling more spiteful to her than ever.
It happened that while all three sisters were standing under the tree together a young knight rode by. “Run away, quick, and hide yourself, little Two Eyes; hide yourself somewhere, for we shall be quite ashamed for you to be seen.” Then they pushed the poor girl, in great haste, under an empty cask, which stood near the tree, and several of the golden apples that she had plucked along with her.
As the knight came nearer they saw he was a handsome man; and presently he halted, and looked with wonder and pleasure at the beautiful tree with its silver leaves and golden fruit.
At last he spoke to the sisters, and asked: “To whom does this beautiful tree belong? If a man possessed only one branch he might obtain all he wished for in the world.”
“This tree belongs to us,” said the two sisters, “and we will break off a branch for you if you like.” They gave themselves a great deal of trouble in trying to do as they offered; but all to no purpose, for the branches and the fruit evaded their efforts, and sprung back at every touch.
“This is wonderful,” exclaimed the knight, “that the tree should belong to you, and yet you are not able to gather even a branch.”
They persisted, however, in declaring that the tree was their own property. At this moment little Two Eyes, who was angry because her sisters had not told the truth, caused two of the golden apples to slip out from under the cask, and they rolled on till they reached the feet of the knight’s horse. When he saw them, he asked in astonishment where they came from.