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Portugal Fairy tales : The False Prince and The True

The king had just awakened from his midday sleep, for it was summer, and everyone rose early and rested from twelve to three, since they do in hot countries. He had dressed himself in trendy white clothing, and had been passing through the hallway on his way to the council room, as soon as numerous youthful nobles suddenly appeared before him, and among them stepped forward and spoke.
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'Sire, this morning we were all playing tennis in the court, the prince and this gentleman with the rest, when there broke out some dispute about the game. The prince lost his temper, and said many insulting things to the other, who was playing against him, till at length the gentleman whom you see there struck him violently in the face, so that the blood ran from his mouth and nose. We were all so horrified at the sight, that we should most likely have killed the man then and there, for daring to lay hands on the prince, had not his grandfather the duke stepped between and commanded us to lay the affair before you.'

Read to : The Honest Boy

The king had listened attentively to the story, and when it was finished he said:

'Yes, sire, he had arms; he always carries a dagger in his belt.

On hearing this the king walked to the window and stood for a few minutes with his back into the room, where the company of young men remained silent. Then he came back, his face white and stern.

'I tell you,' he said, 'and it is the solemn truth, that I would rather you had told me that the prince was dead, though he is my only son, than know that he would suffer such an injury without attempting to avenge it. As for the gentleman who struck him, he will be brought before my judges, and will plead his own cause, but I hardly think he can escape death, after having assaulted the heir to the crown.'

The young man raised his head as if to reply, but the king would not listen, and commanded his guards to put him under arrest, adding, however, that when the prisoner wished to pay a visit to any part of the town, he had been at liberty to do so correctly guarded, and in fifteen days he would be brought to trial before the greatest judges in the land.

The young man left the king's presence, surrounded by soldiers, and accompanied by a lot of his friends, for he had been a great favorite. By their guidance he spent the two days which remained to him going about to seek counsel from wise men of all sorts, as to how he could escape death, but nobody could help him, for none could get any excuse for the blow he had contributed to the prince.

The fourteenth night had come, and in despair the prisoner went outside to take his final walk through the city. He wandered on hardly knowing where he went, and his face was so white and distressed that none of his companions dared speak to him. The sad little procession had passed some hours in this manner, when, close to the gate of a monastery, an older woman appeared around a corner, and suddenly stood before the young man. She was bent almost double, and was so so wizened and wrinkled that she seemed at least ninety; just her eyes were quick and bright as those of a girl.

'Sir,' she explained, 'I know all that has happened to you, and how you are seeking if in any wise you can save your life.

In her words the captive felt like a load had all at once been rolled off him.

He cried.

'You will not need to do that,' answered the old woman, 'you have only got to marry me, and you will soon be free.'

'Marry you?' exclaimed he, 'but--but--I am not yet twenty, and you --why, you must be a hundred at least!

He talked without thinking, but the flash of anger that darted from her eyes made him feel uneasy. But all she said was:

'As you like; since you reject me, let the crows have you,' and hurried off down the road.

Left to himself, the complete terror of his coming departure rushed upon the young man, and he knew that he had thrown off his sole prospect of life. But if he needs to, he should, he said to himself, and began to run as fast as he can after the aged crone, who by that time could scarcely be seen, even in the moonlight. Who'd have thought a woman past ninety could walk with such speed? It looked more like flying! But in length, exhausted and breathless, he reached her side, and gasped out:

'Madam, pardon me for my hasty words just now; I was wrong, and will thankfully accept the offer you made me.'

'Ah, I thought you would come to your senses,' replied she, in rather an odd voice. 'We have no time to lose--follow me at once,' and they went on silently and swiftly till they stopped in the door of a small house in which the priest lived. Before him the old lady bade the prisoner swear that she should be his wife, and this he did in the presence of witnesses. Afterward, begging the priest and the guards to leave them alone for a bit, she told the young guy what he was to do, when the following morning he had been brought before the king and the judges.

The hall was full to overflowing when the prisoner entered it, and all marvelled at the brightness of the face. The king inquired if he had some excuse to beg to the high treason he had perpetrated with striking the heir to the throne, and, if so, to be quick in putting it on. Having a low bow the youth made answer in a Transparent voice:

'O my lord and gracious king, and you, nobles and wise men of the land, I leave my cause without fear in your hands, knowing that you will listen and judge rightly, and that you will suffer me to speak to the end, before you give judgment.

'For four years, you, O king, was married to the queen and yet had no kids, that grieved you considerably. The queen saw this, and also that your love was moving from her, and believed night and day of some plan that may put a stop to this evil. At length, when you were off fighting in distant countries, she chose what she'd do, and adopted in secret the baby of a poor quarryman, sending a messenger to inform you that you had a son. Nobody suspected the fact except a priest to whom the queen confessed the truth, and in a couple of weeks she fell ill and died, leaving the baby to be brought up as became a priest. And now, if your highness will permit me, I will talk of myself.'

'What you have already explained,' answered the king, 'is indeed strange that I can't imagine what more there's to tell, but go on with your narrative.'

'One day, shortly after the death of the queen,' continued the young man, 'your highness was searching, and outstripped all of your attendants while chasing the deer. You ' re in a area of the country which you did not know, so seeing an orchard all white and pink with apple-blossoms, along with a girl tossing a ball in one corner, you went up for her to inquire your way. However, when she turned to reply you, you were so struck with her beauty that all else fled from your own mind. Again and again you woke back to see her, and at length persuaded her to marry you. She only thought you a poor knight, and consented that because you desired it, the union ought to be kept confidential.

'After the ceremony you gave her three rings and a charm with a cross on it, and then put her in a cottage in the forest, thinking to hide the matter securely.

'For a few months you seen the cabin every week; however a rebellion broke out in a distant part of the kingdom, and called to your existence. When next you awakened to the cabin, it was vacant, and not one could inform you whither your bride'd gone. That, sire, I am now able to inform you,' and the young man paused and looked at the king, who coloured deeply. 'She went back to her dad the old duke, once your chamberlain, and the cross on her breast shown at once who you were. Fierce was his rage when he heard his daughter's tale, and he pledged that he'd hide her safely from you, until the day when you'd assert her publicly as your queen.

'By and bye I was born, and was brought up by my grandfather in one of his great houses.

As he talked the young man placed the jewels at the feet of their king, and the nobles and the judges pushed round to examine them. The king alone did not move from his seat, for he had abandoned the hall of justice and all about him, and saw only the apple-orchard, as it had been twenty decades back, along with the beautiful woman playing at ball. A surprising silence round him made him appear, and he found the eyes of the assembly fixed on him.

'It is true; it is he who is my son, and not the other,' he said with an effort, 'and let every man present swear to acknowledge him as king, after my death.'

Therefore one by one they all knelt before him and took the oath, and a message was sent into the priest, calling him ever again to look at court, though a handsome pension was granted him.

At last the ceremony was over, and the king, signing up to his newly found son to follow him, rose and went into another area.

'Tell me how you knew all that,' he said, throwing himself into a carved chair full of crimson cushions, and the prince told of his interview with the older woman who'd brought him the jewels from his mother, and how he had sworn before a priest to marry her, though he didn't want to take action, on account of this difference of their ages, and besides, he would rather obtain a bride chosen by the king himself. However, the king cried, and replied sharply:

Then, striking a silver shield that hung close by, '' he said on the equerry who appeared instantly:

It took some time to detect the whereabouts of this old girl, but at length it was realized, and when she arrived in the palace with all the equerry, she was received with royal honours, as became the bride of this prince. The guards looked at each other with stunned eyes, as the wizened creature, bowed with age, passed between their traces; but they were more amazed still at the lightness of her step as she jumped up the steps to the wonderful door and the king had been standing, with the prince in his side. If they both felt a shock at the appearance of the aged woman they didn't reveal this, along with the king, with a grave bow, took her group, and directed her to the chapel, in which a bishop was waiting to perform the wedding ceremony.

For the next few weeks little was seen of the prince, who spent all his days in searching, and trying to forget the old wife at home. As for the princess, nobody troubled himself about her, and she handed the days alone in her apartments, for she had absolutely declined the services of this ladies-in-waiting whom the king had appointed for her.

1 night the prince returned after a longer chase than normal, and he was so exhausted that he went up straight to bed. Suddenly he was awakened by a strange sound within the room, and imagining that a robber might have stolen in, he jumped out of bed, and seized his sword, which lay ready to his hand. He then perceived that the noise proceeded from another area, which belonged to the princess, and was lighted by means of a burning torch. Creeping softly into the door, he peeped through it, and beheld her lying quietly, with a crown of gold and pearls upon her head, her lumps all gone, and her face, which was whiter than the snow, as fresh as that of a girl of fourteen. Could that really be his spouse--this beautiful, beautiful creature?

The prince was still gazing in surprise when the woman opened her eyes and smiled at him.

'Yes, I really am your wife,' she explained, as if she had guessed his thoughts, 'and the enchantment is ended. Now I must tell you who I am, and what befell to cause me to take the shape of an old woman.

'The king of Granada is my father, and I had been born at the palace which overlooks the plain of the Vega. I was only a couple of months older when a wicked fairy, who had a spite against my buddy, cast a spell over me, dangling my back and wrinkling my skin until I looked like I had been a hundred years old, and allow me to such an object of disgust for everyone, that sometimes the king arranged my nurse to take my off from the palace. She was the one person who cared about me, and we lived together in this town on a small pension let me from the king.

'When I was about three an old man arrived at our house, and begged my nurse to let him come in and rest, as he could walk no longer. She saw that he was very ill, so put him to bed and took such care of him that by and bye he was as strong as ever. In gratitude for her goodness to him, he told her that he was a wizard and could give her anything she chose to ask for, except life or death, so she answered that what she longed for most in the world was that my wrinkled skin should disappear, and that I should regain the beauty with which I was born. To this he replied that as my misfortune resulted from a spell, this was rather difficult, but he would do his best, and at any rate he could promise that before my fifteenth birthday I should be freed from the enchantment if I could get a man who would swear to marry me as I was.

Read to : The Little Ant

'As you might suppose, this wasn't easy, as my ugliness was such that no one would look at me another time. My nurse and I were almost in despair, as my fifteenth birthday was drawing close, and I had never so much as spoken to a guy. We received a visit in the magician, who told me what had happened at court, along with your story, bidding me to put myself in your way if you'd lost all hope, and offer to save you when you would consent to marry me.

'That is my history, and now you must beg the king to send messengers at once to Granada, to inform my father of our marriage, and I think,' she added with a smile, 'that he will not refuse us his blessing.'

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