Negotiations between union members and their employer were at an impasse. The union denied that their workers were flagrantly abusing their contract's sick-leave provisions. One morning at the bargaining table, the company's chief negotiator held... Read more of Calling in sick at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Princess Bella-flor

from The Orange Fairy Book





Once upon a time there lived a man who had two sons. When they grew up
the elder went to seek his fortune in a far country, and for many years
no one heard anything about him. Meanwhile the younger son stayed at
home with his father, who died at last in a good old age, leaving great
riches behind him.

For some time the son who stayed at home spent his father's wealth
freely, believing that he alone remained to enjoy it. But, one day, as
he was coming down stairs, he was surprised to see a stranger enter the
hall, looking about as if the house belonged to him.

'Have you forgotten me?' asked the man.

'I can't forget a person I have never known,' was the rude answer.

'I am your brother,' replied the stranger, 'and I have returned home
without the money I hoped to have made. And, what is worse, they tell
me in the village that my father is dead. I would have counted my lost
gold as nothing if I could have seen him once more.'

'He died six months ago,' said the rich brother, 'and he left you, as
your portion, the old wooden chest that stands in the loft. You had
better go there and look for it; I have no more time to waste.' And he
went his way.

So the wanderer turned his steps to the loft, which was at the top of
the storehouse, and there he found the wooden chest, so old that it
looked as if it were dropping to pieces.

'What use is this old thing to me?' he said to himself. 'Oh, well, it
will serve to light a fire at which I can warm myself; so things might
be worse after all.'

Placing the chest on his back, the man, whose name was Jose, set out
for his inn, and, borrowing a hatchet, began to chop up the box. In
doing so he discovered a secret drawer, and in it lay a paper. He
opened the paper, not knowing what it might contain, and was astonished
to find that it was the acknowledgment of a large debt that was owing
to his father. Putting the precious writing in his pocket, he hastily
inquired of the landlord where he could find the man whose name was
written inside, and he ran out at once in search of him.

The debtor proved to be an old miser, who lived at the other end of the
village. He had hoped for many months that the paper he had written
had been lost or destroyed, and, indeed, when he saw it, was very
unwilling to pay what he owed. However, the stranger threatened to
drag him before the king, and when the miser saw that there was no help
for it he counted out the coins one by one. The stranger picked them
up and put them in his pocket, and went back to his inn feeling that he
was now a rich man.

A few weeks after this he was walking through the streets of the
nearest town, when he met a poor woman crying bitterly. He stopped and
asked her what was the matter, and she answered between her sobs that
her husband was dying, and, to make matters worse, a creditor whom he
could not pay was anxious to have him taken to prison.

'Comfort yourself,' said the stranger kindly; 'they shall neither send
your husband to prison nor sell your goods. I will not only pay his
debts but, if he dies, the cost of his burial also. And now go home,
and nurse him as well as you can.'

And so she did; but, in spite of her care, the husband died, and was
buried by the stranger. But everything cost more than he expected, and
when all was paid he found that only three gold pieces were left.

'What am I to do now?' said he to himself. 'I think I had better go to
court, and enter into the service of the king.'

At first he was only a servant, who carried the king the water for his
bath, and saw that his bed was made in a particular fashion. But he
did his duties so well that his master soon took notice of him, and in
a short time he rose to be a gentleman of the bedchamber.

Now, when this happened the younger brother had spent all the money he
had inherited, and did not know how to make any for himself. He then
bethought him of the king's favourite, and went whining to the palace
to beg that his brother, whom he had so ill-used, would give him his
protection, and find him a place. The elder, who was always ready to
help everyone spoke to the king on his behalf, and the next day the
young man took up is work at court.

Unfortunately, the new-comer was by nature spiteful and envious, and
could not bear anyone to have better luck than himself. By dint of
spying through keyholes and listening at doors, he learned that the
king, old and ugly though he was, had fallen in love with the Princess
Bella-Flor, who would have nothing to say to him, and had hidden
herself in some mountain castle, no one knew where.

'That will do nicely,' thought the scoundrel, rubbing his hands. 'It
will be quite easy to get the king to send my brother in search of her,
and if he returns without finding her, his head will be the forfeit.
Either way, he will be out of MY path.'

So he went at once to the Lord High Chamberlain and craved an audience
of the king, to whom he declared he wished to tell some news of the
highest importance. The king admitted him into the presence chamber
without delay, and bade him state what he had to say, and to be quick
about it.

'Oh, sire! the Princess Bella-Flor--' answered the man, and then
stopped as if afraid.

'What of the Princess Bella-Flor?' asked the king impatiently.

'I have heard--it is whispered at court--that your majesty desires to
know where she lies in hiding.'

'I would give half my kingdom to the man who will bring her to me,'
cried the king, eagerly. 'Speak on, knave; has a bird of the air
revealed to you the secret?'

'It is not I, but my brother, who knows,' replied the traitor; 'if your
majesty would ask him--' But before the words were out of his mouth the
king had struck a blow with his sceptre on a golden plate that hung on
the wall.

'Order Jose to appear before me instantly,' he shouted to the servant
who ran to obey his orders, so great was the noise his majesty had
made; and when Jose entered the hall, wondering what in the world could
be the matter, the king was nearly dumb from rage and excitement.

'Bring me the Princess Bella-Flor this moment,' stammered he, 'for if
you return without her I will have you drowned!' And without another
word he left the hall, leaving Jose staring with surprise and horror.

'How can I find the Princess Bella-Flor when I have never even seen
her?' thought he. 'But it is no use staying here, for I shall only be
put to death.' And he walked slowly to the stables to choose himself a
horse.

There were rows upon rows of fine beasts with their names written in
gold above their stalls, and Jose was looking uncertainly from one to
the other, wondering which he should choose, when an old white horse
turned its head and signed to him to approach.

'Take me,' it said in a gentle whisper, 'and all will go well.'

Jose still felt so bewildered with the mission that the king had given
him that he forgot to be astonished at hearing a horse talk.
Mechanically he laid his hand on the bridle and led the white horse out
of the stable. He was about to mount on his back, when the animal
spoke again:

'Pick up those three loaves of bread which you see there, and put them
in your pocket.'

Jose did as he was told, and being in a great hurry to get away, asked
no questions, but swung himself into the saddle.

They rode far without meeting any adventures, but at length they came
to an ant-hill, and the horse stopped.

'Crumble those three loaves for the ants,' he said. But Jose hesitated.

'Why, we may want them ourselves!' answered he.

'Never mind that; give them to the ants all the same. Do not lose a
chance of helping others.' And when the loaves lay in crumbs on the
road, the horse galloped on.

By-and-by they entered a rocky pass between two mountains, and here
they saw an eagle which had been caught in a hunter's net.

'Get down and cut the meshes of the net, and set the poor bird free,'
said the horse.

'But it will take so long,' objected Jose, 'and we may miss the
princess.'

'Never mind that; do not lose a chance of helping others,' answered the
horse. And when the meshes were cut, and the eagle was free, the horse
galloped on.

The had ridden many miles, and at last they came to a river, where they
beheld a little fish lying gasping on the sand, and the horse said:

'Do you see that little fish? It will die if you do not put it back in
the water.'

'But, really, we shall never find the Princess Bella-Flor if we waste
our time like this!' cried Jose.

'We never waste time when we are helping others,' answered the horse.
And soon the little fish was swimming happily away.

A little while after they reached a castle, which was built in the
middle of a very thick wood, and right in front was the Princess
Bella-Flor feeding her hens.

'Now listen,' said the horse. 'I am going to give all sorts of little
hops and skips, which will amuse the Princess Bella-Flor. Then she
will tell you that she would like to ride a little way, and you must
help her to mount. When she is seated I shall begin to neigh and kick,
and you must say that I have never carried a woman before, and that you
had better get up behind so as to be able to manage me. Once on my
back we will go like the wind to the king's palace.'

Jose did exactly as the horse told him, and everything fell out as the
animal prophesied; so that it was not until they were galloping
breathlessly towards the palace that the princess knew that she was
taken captive. She said nothing, however, but quietly opened her apron
which contained the bran for the chickens, and in a moment it lay
scattered on the ground.

'Oh, I have let fall my bran!' cried she; 'please get down and pick it
up for me.' But Jose only answered:

'We shall find plenty of bran where we are going.' And the horse
galloped on.

They were now passing through a forest, and the princess took out her
handkerchief and threw it upwards, so that it stuck in one of the
topmost branches of a tree.

'Dear me; how stupid! I have let my handkerchief blow away,' said she.
'Will you climb up and get it for me?' But Jose answered:

'We shall find plenty of handkerchiefs where we are going.' And the
horse galloped on.

After the wood they reached a river, and the princess slipped a ring
off her finger and let it roll into the water.

'How careless of me,' gasped she, beginning to sob. 'I have lost my
favourite ring; DO stop for a moment and look if you can see it.' But
Jose answered:

'You will find plenty of rings where you are going.' And the horse
galloped on.

At last they entered the palace gates, and the king's heart bounded
with joy at beholding his beloved Princess Bella-Flor. But the
princess brushed him aside as if he had been a fly, and locked herself
into the nearest room, which she would not open for all his entreaties.

'Bring me the three things I lost on the way, and perhaps I may think
about it,' was all she would say. And, in despair, the king was driven
to take counsel of Jose.

'There is no remedy that I can see,' said his majesty, 'but that you,
who know where they are, should go and bring them back. And if you
return without them I will have you drowned.'

Poor Jose was much troubled at these words. He thought that he had
done all that was required of him, and that his life was safe.
However, he bowed low, and went out to consult his friend the horse.

'Do not vex yourself,' said the horse, when he had heard the story;
'jump up, and we will go and look for the things.' And Jose mounted at
once.

They rode on till they came to the ant-hill, and then the horse asked:

'Would you like to have the bran?'

'What is the use of liking?' answered Jose.

'Well, call the ants, and tell them to fetch it for you; and, if some
of it has been scattered by the wind, to bring in its stead the grains
that were in the cakes you gave them.' Jose listened in surprise. He
did not much believe in the horse's plan; but he could not think of
anything better, so he called to the ants, and bade them collect the
bran as fast as they could.

Then he saw under a tree and waited, while his horse cropped the green
turf.

'Look there!' said the animal, suddenly raising its head; and Jose
looked behind him and saw a little mountain of bran, which he put into
a bag that was hung over his saddle.

'Good deeds bear fruit sooner or later,' observed the horse; 'but mount
again, as we have far to go.'

When they arrived at the tree, they saw the handkerchief fluttering
like a flag from the topmost branch, and Jose's spirits sank again.

'How am I to get that handkerchief?' cried he; 'why I should need
Jacob's ladder!' But the horse answered:

'Do not be frightened; call to the eagle you set free from the net, he
will bring it to you.'

So Jose called to the eagle, and the eagle flew to the top of the tree
and brought back the handkerchief in its beak. Jose thanked him, and
vaulting on his horse they rode on to the river.

A great deal of rain had fallen in the night, and the river, instead of
being clear as it was before, was dark and troubled.

'How am I to fetch the ring from the bottom of this river when I do not
know exactly where it was dropped, and cannot even see it?' asked Jose.
But the horse answered: 'Do not be frightened; call the little fish
whose life you saved, and she will bring it to you.'

So he called to the fish, and the fish dived to the bottom and slipped
behind big stones, and moved little ones with its tail till it found
the ring, and brought it to Jose in its mouth.

Well pleased with all he had done, Jose returned to the palace; but
when the king took the precious objects to Bella-Flor, she declared
that she would never open her door till the bandit who had carried her
off had been fried in oil.

'I am very sorry,' said the king to Jose, 'I really would rather not;
but you see I have no choice.'

While the oil was being heated in the great caldron, Jose went to the
stables to inquire of his friend the horse if there was no way for him
to escape.

'Do not be frightened,' said the horse. 'Get on my back, and I will
gallop till my whole body is wet with perspiration, then rub it all
over your skin, and no matter how hot the oil may be you will never
feel it.'

Jose did not ask any more questions, but did as the horse bade him; and
men wondered at his cheerful face as they lowered him into the caldron
of boiling oil. He was left there till Bella-Flor cried that he must
be cooked enough. Then out came a youth so young and handsome, that
everyone fell in love with him, and Bella-Flor most of all.

As for the old king, he saw that he had lost the game; and in despair
he flung himself into the caldron, and was fried instead of Jose. Then
Jose was proclaimed king, on condition that he married Bella-Flor which
he promised to do the next day. But first he went to the stables and
sought out the horse, and said to him: 'It is to you that I owe my life
and my crown. Why have you done all this for me?'

And the horse answered: 'I am the soul of that unhappy man for whom you
spent all your fortune. And when I saw you in danger of death I begged
that I might help you, as you had helped me. For, as I told you, Good
deeds bear their own fruit!'

[From Cuentos, Oraciones, y Adivinas, por Fernan Caballero.]





Next: The Bird Of Truth

Previous: The Adventures Of Covan The Brown-haired



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