The Bronze Ring
And do I not see St. Nicholas at the helm? Go at once and invite the captain of the ship to come to the palace."
His servants obeyed him, and very soon in came an enchantingly handsome young prince, dressed in rich silk, ornamented with pearls and diamonds.
"Young man," said the King, "you are welcome, whoever you may be. Do me the favor to be my guest as long as you remain in my capital."
"Many thanks, sire," replied the captain, "I accept your offer."
"My daughter is about to be married," said the King; "will you give her away?"
"I shall be charmed, sire."
Soon after came the Princess and her betrothed.
"Why, how is this?" cried the young captain; "would you marry this charming princess to such a man as that?"
"But he is my prime minister's son!"
"What does that matter? I cannot give your daughter away. The man she is betrothed to is one of my servants."
"Without doubt. I met him in a distant town reduced to carrying away dust and rubbish from the houses. I had pity on him and engaged him as one of my servants."
"It is impossible!" cried the King.
"Do you wish me to prove what I say? This young man returned in a vessel which I fitted out for him, an unsea- worthy ship with a black battered hull, and the sailors were infirm and crippled."
"It is quite true," said the King.
"It is false," cried the minister's son. "I do not know this man!"
"Sire," said the young captain, "order your daughter's betrothed to be stripped, and see if the mark of my ring is not branded upon his back."
The King was about to give this order, when the minister's son, to save himself from such an indignity, admitted that the story was true.
"And now, sire," said the young captain, "do you not recognize me?"
"I recognize you," said the Princess; "you are the gardener's son whom I have always loved, and it is you I wish to marry."
"Young man, you shall be my son-in-law," cried the King. "The marriage festivities are already begun, so you shall marry my daughter this very day.