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The Wise King of Leon

There was a rich nobleman who had three sons; and the king, being very fond of him, appointed the eldest son his page, the second his butler, and the youngest his barber.

The barber fell in love with the king’s only daughter, who was equally fond of him; and when this came to the ears of the king, he decided on putting a stop to it; so he called for the princess, and said—

“I know that you are in love with my barber, and if you insist on marrying him I will have you killed.”

The princess, on hearing her father say this, became very sorrowful, and asked him to allow her one day for consideration, to which the king acceded.

She then went to her room, and getting together some of her finest dresses, she made them up into a bundle, and left the palace by a secret door.

For seven days and nights did the princess walk through the forest, subsisting on wild fruit and the water from the rivulets. For seven days and nights did her father seek for her, and, not finding her, he sent for the barber, and told him that he must immediately go in search of the princess, and if he did not bring her back within a year he should die.

At the end of the seventh day the princess was so tired that she could not continue her journey; and being afraid of the wolves, she managed to climb on to the first branch of a large oak-tree; and when there, discovering that the trunk was hollow, she let herself slip down into the hollow, and there rested.

She had not been long in her hiding-place when her lover, the barber, approached, sighing, and saying to himself—

“Woe is me, for I shall never find the princess! There are so many lovely damsels in Castille, and yet I must fall in love with the king’s only daughter.”

The princess, hearing him speak, said in a disguised voice—

“Woe is the king’s daughter! There are so many gallants in Spain, and yet she must fall in love with her father’s barber!”

The barber was much surprised to hear this apt rejoinder; but he could not find out from whence the voice came.

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