THE BEONZE RING
' No. Give me only the bronze ring which can instantly grant me anything I wish for.'
' Alas!' said the King, ' I set great store by that marvellous ring; nevertheless, you shall have it.' And he gave it to him.
The gardener's son went back to say good-bye to the old beggar-woman ; then he said to the bronze ring :
' Prepare a splendid ship in which I may continue my journey. Let the hull be of fine gold, the masts of silver, the sails of brocade; let the crew consist of twelve young men of noble appearance, dressed like kings. St. Nicholas will be at the helm. As to the cargo, let it be diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and carbuncles.'
And immediately a ship appeared upon the sea which resembled in every particular the description given by the gardener's son, and, stepping on board, he continued his journey. Presently he arrived at a great town and established himself in a wonderful palace. After several days he met his rival, the minister's son, who had spent all his money and was reduced to the disagreeable employment of a carrier of dust and rubbish. The gardener's son said to him :
'What is your name, what is your family, and from what country do you come ? '
' I am the son of the prime minister of a great nation, and yet see what a degrading occupation I am reduced to.'
' Listen to me; though I don't know anything more about you, I am willing to help you. I will give you a ship to take you back to your own country upon one condition.'
' Whatever it may be, I accept it willingly.' ' Follow me to my palace.'
The minister's son followed the rich stranger, whom he had not recognised. When they reached the palace the gardener's son made a sign to his slaves, who completely undressed the new-comer.
' Make this ring red-hot,' commanded the master,' and mark the man with it upon his back.'
The slaves obeyed him.
' Now, young man,' said the rich stranger, ' I am going to give you a vessel which will take you back to your own country.'
And, going out, he took the bronze ring and said :
' Bronze ring, obey thy master. Prepare me a ship of which the half-rotten timbers shall be painted black, let the sails be in rags, and the sailors infirm and sickly. One shall have lost a leg, another an arm, the third shall be a hunchback, another lame or club-footed