Then Master Peter got up and scratched his head, and looked around him, and said, " I wish I had something to eat; if I have not I shall be worse off than before: for here I see neither apples nor pears, nor any kind of fruits; nothing but vegetables." At last he thought to himself, " I can eat salad, it will refresh and strengthen me." So he picked out a fine head of some plant that he took for a salad, and ate of it; but scarcely had he swallowed two bites, when he felt himself quite changed, and saw with horror that he was turned into an ass. However, he still felt very hungry, and the green herbs tasted very nice; so he ate on till he came to another plant, which looked very like the first: but it really was quite different, for he had scarcely tasted it when he felt another change come over him, and soon saw that he was lucky enough to have found his old shape, and to have become Peter again.
Then he laid himself down and slept off a little of his weariness; and when he awoke the next morning he brake off a head of each sort of salad, and thought to himself, " This will help me to my fortune again, and enable me to punish some folks for their treachery." So he set about trying to find the castle of his old friends; and, after wandering about a few days, he luckily found it. Then he stained his face all over brown, so that even his mother would not have known him, and went into the castle and asked for a lodging; "I am so tired," said he, "that I can go no further." "Countryman," said the fairy, "who are you? and what is your business?" "I am," said he, "a messenger sent by the king to find the finest salad that grows under the sun. I have been lucky enough to find it, and have brought it with me; but the heat of the sun is so scorching that it begins to wither, and I don't know that I can carry it any further."
When the fairy and the young lady heard of this beautiful salad, they longed to taste it, and said, " Dear countryman, let us just taste it! " " To be sure ! " answered he; "I have two heads of it with me, and I will give you one "; so he opened his bag and gave them the bad sort. Then the fairy herself took it into the kitchen to be dressed; and when it was ready she could not wait till it was carried up, but took a few leaves immediately, and put them in her mouth: but scarcely were they swallowed when she lost her own form, and ran braying down into the court in the form of an ass. Now the servant-maid came into the kitchen, and seeing the salad ready was going to carry it up; but on the way she, too, felt a wish to taste it, as the old woman had done, and ate some leaves: so she also was turned into an ass, and ran after the other, letting the dish with the salad fall on the ground.
Peter had been sitting all this time chatting with the fair Meta, and as nobody came with the salad, and she longed to taste it, she said, " I don't know where the salad can be." Then he thought something must have happened, and said, "I will go into the kitchen and see." And as he went he saw two asses in the court running about, and the salad lying on the ground. "All right!" said he, "those two have had their share." Then he took up the rest of the leaves, laid them on the dish, and brought them to the young lady, saying, " I bring you the dish myself, that you may not wait any longer." So she ate of it, and, like the others, ran off into the court braying away.
Then Peter the huntsman washed his face and went into the court, that they might know him. "Now you shall be paid for your roguery," said he, and tied them all three to a rope, and took them along with him, till he came to a mill, and knocked at the window. "What's the matter?" said the miller. "I have three tiresome beasts here," said the other; "if you will take them, give them food and room, and treat them as I tell you, I will pay you whatever you ask." "With all my heart," said the miller; "but how shall I treat them?" Then the huntsman said, "Give the old one stripes three times a-day and hay once; give the next (who was the servant-maid) stripes once a-day and hay three times; and give the youngest (who was the pretty Meta) hay three times a-day and no stripes": for he could not find it in his heart to have her beaten. After this he went back to the castle, where he found everything he wanted.
Some days after the miller came to him and told him the old ass was dead. "The other two," said he, "are alive and eat; but they are so sorrowful that they cannot last long." Then Peter pitied them, and told the miller to drive them back to him; and when they came, he gave them some of the good salad to eat.
The moment they had eaten, they were both changed into their right forms, and poor Meta fell on her knees before the huntsman and said, "Forgive me all the ill I have done thee; my mother forced me to it, and it was sorely against my will, for I always loved you well. Your wishing-cloak hangs up in the closet; and as for the bird's heart, I will give you that too." But Peter said, " Keep it; it will be just the same thing in the end, for I mean to make you my wife."
So Meta was very glad to come off so easily; and they were married, and lived together very happily till they died.