He slept again, and the old woman pulled out another golden hair, and threw it on the ground.
“Mother, what do you want?”
“Nothing, my son, nothing; I was dreaming. In my dream I saw a large town, the name of which I have forgotten. And there grew an apple-tree the fruit of which had the power to make the old young again. A single apple eaten by an old man would restore to him the vigor and freshness of youth. For twenty years this tree has not borne fruit. What can be done to make it fruitful?”
“The means are not difficult. A snake hidden among the roots destroys the sap. Kill the snake, transplant the tree, and the fruit will grow as before.”
He again fell asleep, and the old woman pulled out another golden hair.
“Now mother, why will you not let me sleep?” said the old man, really vexed; and he would have got up.
“Lie down, my darling son, do not disturb yourself. I am sorry I awoke you, but I have had a very strange dream. It seemed that I saw a boatman on the shores of the Black Sea, and he complained that he had been toiling at the ferry for twenty years without any one having come to take his place. For how much longer must this poor old man continue to row?”
“He is a silly fellow. He has but to place his oars in the hands of the first comer and jump ashore. Who ever receives the oars will replace him as ferryman. But leave me in peace now, mother, and do not wake me again. I have to rise very early, and must first dry the eyes of a Princess. The poor thing spends all night weeping for her husband who has been sent by the King to get three of my golden hairs.”
Next morning the wind whistled round Dede-Vsevede’s palace, and instead of an old man, a beautiful child with golden hair awoke on the old woman’s lap. It was the glorious sun. He bade her good-by, and flew out of the eastern window. The old woman turned up the bucket and said to Plavacek: “Look, here are the three golden hairs. You now know the answers to your questions. May God direct you and send you a prosperous journey. You will not see me again, for you will have no further need of me.”
He thanked her gratefully and left her. On arriving at the town with the dried-up well, he was questioned by the King as to what news he had brought.
“Have the well carefully cleaned out,” said he, “kill the frog that obstructs the spring, and the wonderful water will flow again.”
The King did as he was advised, and rejoiced to see the water return. He gave Plavacek twelve swan-white horses, and as much gold and silver as they could carry.
On reaching the second town and being asked by the King what news he had brought, he replied, “Excellent; one could not wish for better. Dig up your apple-tree, kill the snake that lies among the roots, transplant the tree, and it will produce apples like those of former times.”