River of the Princess
by Micha F. Lindemans
A long time ago, the land of Romania was devastated by a disastrous drought. Men crept about like ghosts with their bones starting through their skins and their lips drawn back so that their teeth lay bare. They wore nothing but a few rags upon their bodies. The beautiful princess Irina felt her heart breaking for pity, and wringing her hands, prayed thus, "Oh good God, hast Thou, then, quite forsaken me? Wilt Thou bring our poor land to destruction? Have we sinned yet more that we must endure such searchings-out of Thy wrath?" Then a soft, cool breath stole in, bearing a perfume as from the most beautiful of gardens, and a silvery voice spoke, "Help shall arise for thee out of a river. Only seek." Then, through the burning summer heat, the princess began a weary pilgrimage toward the rivers. Occasionally, she would stumble upon a starved little horse that would carry her for a short distance, and then fall down dead, even beneath her own light weight. Most of the time, however, Irina walked the barren land herself. She went up the Olt river, the Gin, the Buzau, the Siret, all the rivers both great and small. They flowed but meagerly over their stony beds, and those once mighty waters scarcely whispered as they went, they that of old were wont to rush and roar.
"Merciful God!", prayed the princess, "Let but a little cloud appear when I have found the river that is to help us!" But no cloud appeared, and she was forced to seek further and further. She was wandering for a second time up the banks of the Argesch, and was just about to turn sadly back, when she caught sight of the mouth of a little stream that she had not noticed before. Too tired to investigate, she lay herself to sleep beside the river.
When she awoke the next morning, the river was no longer brown, but clear and blue as the air, and at the bottom of the water something shone and glittered as the sunbeams themselves. She girt up her garments and waded in to find out what it was that shone with so wondrous a gleam. And lo! it was pure gold. She fell on her knees, right there in the stream, and gave God thanks, aloud and earnestly. She had found gold and now she could finally help. The princess went carefully on through the water and gathered up the golden grains and little fragments, filling her mantle with them until the burden was almost too heavy to bear. Then, she hurried home with her treasure and poured it out before her husband. Her children were yet alive, though weak and sorely exhausted. They scarcely knew her again, so emaciated and sunburnt she was. With the treasure, they sent forth messengers into distant lands to buy corn, maize and hay, seeds and cattle; and the river never grew weary of giving gold until the famine was at an end, and laughing, green, and sleek cattle covered the Romanian meadows once more.