THE BRONZE RING
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 favourable 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'? 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 favour 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.'
' Your servant ? '
' 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 unseaworthy