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The Three Princes

"I'll think about it," he said, "Come back tomorrow."

That night, the king summoned his viziers to ask their advice. "Sire," said his head vizier, "there is a wise old man who lives amongst us who hails from very far away, a distant country called Russia. He is well known for his sage advice, and if we allow him to make the decision, the communities of the princes who aren't chosen will get angry at a country far away, and not at us."

"Excellent thought," said the king. "Summon him to court tomorrow."

The next day when the three princes arrived to hear which of them would be selected, at court stood a very old man. He hobbled on his cane and spoke in a whisper. The three princes repeated why they thought they deserved the hand of the princess.

"As far as I'm concerned," asserted the king, "each of these fine young men has an equal claim to my daughter's hand. And so," he turned to his guest, "I am interested. You come from a faraway land. What is your opinion?"

The old man coughed and cleared his throat. "Your Majesty, first allow me to say that it is an honor to be in your court." He raised a shaky hand toward the princes. "There's no doubt that each of you brought a wondrous item that saved the life of the princess. But in my country, when it comes to marriage, there are those who say that the young woman, whose happiness is at stake, should have a say in the matter. And so I would ask our royal highness." He turned to her. "Princess, whom do you wish to marry?"

The princess was silent a moment. She raised her head and faced the three princes. "Each of you saved my life and for that I will always be grateful. Yet this old man is the only one," she said, looking at the Russian, "who understands that the choice is one that should be mine to make. And so, father, if you please," and here the princess stepped toward the old man, "I choose him."

Gasps of shock throughout the court.

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