[Illustration: Christine’s Mother and Sisters wish for the Apple.]
After a while came the second sister, and when she saw the golden apple she wanted it just as much as the first had done. But to want and to get are very different things, as she soon found, for she was no more able to get it than the other had been.
Last of all came the mother, and she also strove to pluck the apple. But it was no use. She had no more luck of her trying than her daughters; all that the three could do was to stand under the tree and look at the apple, and wish for it and wish for it.
They are not the only ones who have done the like, with the apple of contentment hanging just above them.
As for Christine, she had nothing to do but to pluck an apple whenever she wanted it. Was she hungry? there was the apple hanging in the tree for her. Was she thirsty? there was the apple. Cold? there was the apple. So you see, she was the happiest girl betwixt all the seven hills that stand at the ends of the earth; for nobody in the world can have more than contentment, and that was what the apple brought her.
One day a king came riding along the road, and all of his people with him. He looked up and saw the apple hanging in the tree, and a great desire came upon him to have a taste of it. So he called one of the servants to him, and told him to go and ask whether it could be bought for a potful of gold.
So the servant went to the house, and knocked on the door—rap! tap! tap!
“What do you want?” said the mother of the three sisters, coming to the door.
Oh, nothing much; only a king was out there in the road, and wanted to know if she would sell the apple yonder for a potful of gold.
Yes, the woman would do that. Just pay her the pot of gold and he might go and pluck it and welcome.
So the servant gave her the pot of gold, and then he tried to pluck the apple. First he reached for it, and then he climbed for it, and then he shook the limb.
But it was no use for him to try; he could no more get it—well—than I could if I had been in his place.
At last the servant had to go back to the King. The apple was there, he said, and the woman had sold it, but try and try as he would he could no more get it than he could get the little stars in the sky.
Then the King told the steward to go and get it for him; but the steward, though he was a tall man and a strong man, could no more pluck the apple than the servant.
[Illustration: The King reaches for the Apple]
So he had to go back to the King with an empty fist. No; he could not gather it, either.
Then the King himself went. He knew that he could pluck it—of course he could! Well, he tried and tried; but nothing came of his trying, and he had to ride away at last without, having had so much as a smell of the apple.