74 THE LUTE PLAYER
' My song begs for your pity, And gifts from out your store, And as I play my gentle lay I linger near your door. 'And if you hear my singing Within your palace, sire, Oh ! give, I pray, this happy day, To me my heart's desire.'
No sooner had the heathen king heard this touching song sung by such a lovely voice, than he had the singer brought before him.
'Welcome, O lute player,' said he. 'Where do you come from?'
' My country, sire, is far away across many seas. For years I have been wandering about the world and gaining my living by my music'
' Stay here then a few days, and when you wish to leave I will give you what you ask for in your song — your heart's desire.'
So the lute player stayed on in the palace and sang and played almost all day long to the king, who could never tire of listening and almost forgot to eat or drink or to torment people. He cared for nothing but the music, and nodded his head as he declared, ' That's something like playing and singing. It makes me feel as if some gentle hand had lifted every care and sorrow from me.'
After three days the lute player came to take leave of the king.
'Well,' said the king, 'what do you desire as your reward?'
' Sire, give me one of your prisoners. You have so many in your prison, and I should be glad of a companion on my journeys. When I hear his happy voice as I travel along I shall think of you and thank you.'
' Come along then,' said the king, ' choose whom you will.' And he took the lute player through the prison himself.