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Rags & Tatters

A KING, who was lying on his deathbed, called his only son to come to him.

"Dear son," he said, "you shall be king after me. Your three sisters have no one but you to protect them. Be kind to them. When it is time for them to marry, do not go about asking all the great princes of the earth to be their husbands. You know that rose tree that grows in the palace garden and flowers all year around? Pluck a rose from it and throw it into the street. Whoever shall pick it up shall have your eldest sister for his wife. So for the second. So for the third."

It was the last wish of the dying king, and his son could hardly disobey. Therefore when the eldest sister had grown into a beautiful princess, and the court advisers said it was time for her to marry, her brother told her of their father's command. "Oh, I'd rather not marry at all!" she said. But the court advisers said she must. So one day, the young king plucked the rose, threw it into the street, and told the sentry at the palace door to watch who should pick it up, and send him into the royal presence. Soon there came walking along a fine young count, splendidly dressed, with a jeweled sword by his side, and a manner brave and jolly. He saw the rose, picked it up and stuck it in his velvet cap.

"The king demands to speak with you," said the sentry, stepping forward. The count, anxious, entered the palace, and bowed himself before the king, who said to him, "You have been chosen as the husband of my eldest sister." The count bowed even lower, delighted. But the princess grumbled, "I should have married a king, or at least a prince!" Her brother, however, had given his word; and in time she thought to herself, "Well, at least he is young and handsome and brave and gay. I might have fared much worse." And so she married the count.

A little later it was time for the second princess to marry. She was just as unwilling as her elder sister to take the first one to come along and pick up the rose, but her brother reminded her of their father's command.

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