The Bronze Ring
The gardener's son said to him:
"What is your name, what is your family, and from what country do you come?"
"I am the son of the prime minister of a great nation, and yet see what a degrading occupation I am reduced to."
"Listen to me; though I don't know anything more about you, I am willing to help you. I will give you a ship to take you back to your own country upon one condition."
"Whatever it may be, I accept it willingly."
"Follow me to my palace."
The minister's son followed the rich stranger, whom he had not recognized. When they reached the palace the gardener's son made a sign to his slaves, who completely undressed the new-comer.
"Make this ring red-hot," commanded the master, "and mark the man with it upon his back."
The slaves obeyed him.
"Now, young man," said the rich stranger, "I am going to give you a vessel which will take you back to your own country."
And, going out, he took the bronze ring and said:
"Bronze ring, obey thy master. Prepare me a ship of which the half-rotten timbers shall be painted black, let the sails be in rags, and the sailors infirm and sickly. One shall have lost a leg, another an arm, the third shall be a hunchback, another lame or club-footed or blind, and most of them shall be ugly and covered with scars. Go, and let my orders be executed."
The minister's son embarked in this old vessel, and thanks to favorable winds, at length reached his own country. In spite of the pitiable condition in which he returned they received him joyfully.
"I am the first to come back," said he to the King; now fulfil your promise, and give me the princess in marriage.
So they at once began to prepare for the wedding festivities. As to the poor princess, she was sorrowful and angry enough about it.
The next morning, at daybreak, a wonderful ship with every sail set came to anchor before the town. The King happened at that moment to be at the palace window.
"What strange ship is this," he cried, "that has a golden hull, silver masts, and silken sails, and who are the young men like princes who man it?