The Bronze Ring





Once upon a time in a certain country there lived a

king whose palace was surrounded by a spacious garden.

But, though the gardeners were many and the soil was

good, this garden yielded neither flowers nor fruits, not

even grass or shady trees.



The King was in despair about it, when a wise old man

said to him:



"Your gardeners do not understand their business: but

what can you expect of men whose fathers were cobblers

and carpenters? How should they have learned to cultivate

your garden?"



"You are quite right," cried the King.



"Therefore," continued the old man, "you should send

for a gardener whose father and grandfather have been

gardeners before him, and very soon your garden will be

full of green grass and gay flowers, and you will enjoy its

delicious fruit."



So the King sent messengers to every town, village, and

hamlet in his dominions, to look for a gardener whose

forefathers had been gardeners also, and after forty days

one was found.



"Come with us and be gardener to the King," they said

to him.



"How can I go to the King," said the gardener, "a poor

wretch like me?"



"That is of no consequence," they answered. "Here are

new clothes for you and your family."



"But I owe money to several people."



"We will pay your debts," they said.



So the gardener allowed himself to be persuaded, and

went away with the messengers, taking his wife and his

son with him; and the King, delighted to have found a

real gardener, entrusted him with the care of his garden.

The man found no difficulty in making the royal garden

produce flowers and fruit, and at the end of a year the

park was not like the same place, and the King showered

gifts upon his new servant.



The gardener, as you have heard already, had a son,

who was a very handsome young man, with most agreeable

manners, and every day he carried the best fruit of

the garden to the King, and all the prettiest flowers to his

daughter. Now this princess was wonderfully pretty and

was just sixteen years old, and the King was beginning

to think it was time that she should be married.



"My dear child," said he, "you are of an age to take a

husband, therefore I am thinking of marrying you to the

son of my prime minister.



"Father," replied the Princess, "I will never marry the

son of the minister."



"Why not?" asked the King.



"Because I love the gardener's son," answered the

Princess.



On hearing this the King was at first very angry, and

then he wept and sighed, and declared that such a husband

was not worthy of his daughter; but the young

Princess was not to be turned from her resolution to

marry the gardener's son.



Then the King consulted his ministers. "This is what

you must do," they said. "To get rid of the gardener you

must send both suitors to a very distant country, and the

one who returns first shall marry your daughter."



The King followed this advice, and the minister's son

was presented with a splendid horse and a purse full of

gold pieces, while the gardener's son had only an old lame

horse and a purse full of copper money, and every one

thought he would never come back from his journey.



The day before they started the Princess met her lover

and said to him:



"Be brave, and remember always that I love you. Take

this purse full of jewels and make the best use you can of

them for love of me, and come back quickly and demand

my hand."



The two suitors left the town together, but the

minister's son went off at a gallop on his good horse, and very

soon was lost to sight behind the most distant hills. He

traveled on for some days, and presently reached a fountain

beside which an old woman all in rags sat upon a

stone.



"Good-day to you, young traveler," said she.



But the minister's son made no reply.



"Have pity upon me, traveler," she said again. "I am

dying of hunger, as you see, and three days have I been

here and no one has given me anything."



"Let me alone, old witch," cried the young man; "I can

do nothing for you," and so saying he went on his way.



That same evening the gardener's son rode up to the

fountain upon his lame gray horse.



"Good-day to you, young traveler," said the beggar-woman.



"Good-day, good woman," answered he.



"Young traveler, have pity upon me."



"Take my purse, good woman," said he, "and mount

behind me, for your legs can't be very strong."



The old woman didn't wait to be asked twice, but

mounted behind him, and in this style they reached the

chief city of a powerful kingdom. The minister's son was

lodged in a grand inn, the gardener's son and the old

woman dismounted at the inn for beggars.



The next day the gardener's son heard a great noise in

the street, and the King's heralds passed, blowing all

kinds of instruments, and crying:



"The King, our master, is old and infirm. He will give

a great reward to whoever will cure him and give him

back the strength of his youth."



Then the old beggar-woman said to her benefactor:



"This is what you must do to obtain the reward which

the King promises. Go out of the town by the south gate,

and there you will find three little dogs of different colors;

the first will be white, the second black, the third red. You

must kill them and then burn them separately, and gather

up the ashes. Put the ashes of each dog into a bag of its own

color, then go before the door of the palace and cry out,

'A celebrated physician has come from Janina in Albania.

He alone can cure the King and give him back the

strength of his youth.' The King's physicians will say,

This is an impostor, and not a learned man,' and they

will make all sorts of difficulties, but you will overcome

them all at last, and will present yourself before the sick

King. You must then demand as much wood as three

mules can carry, and a great cauldron, and must shut

yourself up in a room with the Sultan, and when the

cauldron boils you must throw him into it, and there leave

him until his flesh is completely separated from his bones.

Then arrange the bones in their proper places, and throw

over them the ashes out of the three bags. The King will

come back to life, and will be just as he was when he was

twenty years old. For your reward you must demand the

bronze ring which has the power to grant you everything

you desire. Go, my son, and do not forget any of my

instructions."



The young man followed the old beggar-woman's

directions. On going out of the town he found the white,

red, and black dogs, and killed and burnt them, gathering

the ashes in three bags. Then he ran to the palace and

cried:



"A celebrated physician has just come from Janina in

Albania. He alone can cure the King and give him back

the strength of his youth."



The King's physicians at first laughed at the unknown

wayfarer, but the Sultan ordered that the stranger should

be admitted. They brought the cauldron and the loads

of wood, and very soon the King was boiling away.

Toward mid-day the gardener's son arranged the bones in

their places, and he had hardly scattered the ashes over

them before the old King revived, to find himself once

more young and hearty.



"How can I reward you, my benefactor?" he cried.

"Will you take half my treasures?"



"No," said the gardener's son.



"My daughter's hand?"



"No."



"Take half my kingdom."



"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

marvelous ring; nevertheless, you shall have it." And he gave

it to him.



The gardener's son went back to say good-by 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 recognized. 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 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 favorable 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 favor 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 ship with a black battered hull, and the sailors

were infirm and crippled."



"It is quite true," said the King.



"It is false," cried the minister's son. "I do not know

this man!"



"Sire," said the young captain, "order your daughter's

betrothed to be stripped, and see if the mark of my ring

is not branded upon his back."



The King was about to give this order, when the

minister's son, to save himself from such an indignity,

admitted that the story was true.



"And now, sire," said the young captain, "do you not

recognize me?"



"I recognize you," said the Princess; "you are the

gardener's son whom I have always loved, and it is you

I wish to marry."



"Young man, you shall be my son-in-law," cried the

King. "The marriage festivities are already begun, so you

shall marry my daughter this very day."



And so that very day the gardener's son married the

beautiful Princess.



Several months passed. The young couple were as

happy as the day was long, and the King was more and

more pleased with himself for having secured such a

son-in-law.



But, presently, the captain of the golden ship found it

necessary to take a long voyage, and after embracing his

wife tenderly he embarked.



Now in the outskirts of the capital there lived an old

man, who had spent his life in studying black arts--alchemy,

astrology, magic, and enchantment. This man found out that

the gardener's son had only succeeded in marrying the

Princess by the help of the genii who obeyed the bronze ring.



"I will have that ring," said he to himself. So he went

down to the sea-shore and caught some little red fishes.

Really, they were quite wonderfully pretty. Then he came

back, and, passing before the Princess's window, he began

to cry out:



"Who wants some pretty little red fishes?"



The Princess heard him, and sent out one of her slaves,

who said to the old peddler:



"What will you take for your fish?"



"A bronze ring."



"A bronze ring, old simpleton! And where shall I find

one?"



"Under the cushion in the Princess's room."



The slave went back to her mistress.



"The old madman will take neither gold nor silver,"

said she.



"What does he want then?"



"A bronze ring that is hidden under a cushion."



"Find the ring and give it to him," said the Princess.



And at last the slave found the bronze ring, which the

captain of the golden ship had accidentally left behind

and carried it to the man, who made off with it instantly.



Hardly had he reached his own house when, taking the

ring, he said, "Bronze ring, obey thy master. I desire that

the golden ship shall turn to black wood, and the crew to

hideous negroes; that St. Nicholas shall leave the helm

and that the only cargo shall be black cats."



And the genii of the bronze ring obeyed him.



Finding himself upon the sea in this miserable

condition, the young captain understood that some one must

have stolen the bronze ring from him, and he lamented

his misfortune loudly; but that did him no good.



"Alas!" he said to himself, "whoever has taken my ring

has probably taken my dear wife also. What good will it

do me to go back to my own country?" And he sailed

about from island to island, and from shore to shore,

believing that wherever he went everybody was laughing at

him, and very soon his poverty was so great that he and

his crew and the poor black cats had nothing to eat but

herbs and roots. After wandering about a long time he

reached an island inhabited by mice. The captain landed

upon the shore and began to explore the country. There

were mice everywhere, and nothing but mice. Some of

the black cats had followed him, and, not having been fed

for several days, they were fearfully hungry, and made

terrible havoc among the mice.



Then the queen of the mice held a council.



"These cats will eat every one of us," she said, "if the

captain of the ship does not shut the ferocious animals up.

Let us send a deputation to him of the bravest among us."



Several mice offered themselves for this mission and set

out to find the young captain.



"Captain," said they, "go away quickly from our island,

or we shall perish, every mouse of us."



"Willingly," replied the young captain, "upon one

condition. That is that you shall first bring me back a bronze

ring which some clever magician has stolen from me. If

you do not do this I will land all my cats upon your

island, and you shall be exterminated."



The mice withdrew in great dismay. "What is to be

done?" said the Queen. "How can we find this bronze

ring?" She held a new council, calling in mice from every

quarter of the globe, but nobody knew where the bronze

ring was. Suddenly three mice arrived from a very distant

country. One was blind, the second lame, and the

third had her ears cropped.



"Ho, ho, ho!" said the new-comers. "We come from a

far distant country."



"Do you know where the bronze ring is which the genii

obey?"



"Ho, ho, ho! we know; an old sorcerer has taken

possession of it, and now he keeps it in his pocket by day and in

his mouth by night."



"Go and take it from him, and come back as soon as

possible."



So the three mice made themselves a boat and set sail

for the magician's country. When they reached the capital

they landed and ran to the palace, leaving only the

blind mouse on the shore to take care of the boat. Then

they waited till it was night. The wicked old man lay

down in bed and put the bronze ring into his mouth, and

very soon he was asleep.



"Now, what shall we do?" said the two little animals to

each other.



The mouse with the cropped ears found a lamp full of

oil and a bottle full of pepper. So she dipped her tail first

in the oil and then in the pepper, and held it to the

sorcerer's nose.



"Atisha! atisha!" sneezed the old man, but he did not

wake, and the shock made the bronze ring jump out of his

mouth. Quick as thought the lame mouse snatched up the

precious talisman and carried it off to the boat.



Imagine the despair of the magician when he awoke and

the bronze ring was nowhere to be found!



But by that time our three mice had set sail with their

prize. A favoring breeze was carrying them toward the

island where the queen of the mice was awaiting them.

Naturally they began to talk about the bronze ring.



"Which of us deserves the most credit?" they cried all

at once.



"I do," said the blind mouse, "for without my

watchfulness our boat would have drifted away to the open sea."



"No, indeed," cried the mouse with the cropped ears;

"the credit is mine. Did I not cause the ring to jump out

of the man's mouth?"



"No, it is mine," cried the lame one, "for I ran off with

the ring."



And from high words they soon came to blows, and,

alas! when the quarrel was fiercest the bronze ring fell into

the sea.



"How are we to face our queen," said the three mice

"when by our folly we have lost the talisman and condemned

our people to be utterly exterminated? We cannot

go back to our country; let us land on this desert

island and there end our miserable lives." No sooner said

than done. The boat reached the island, and the mice

landed.



The blind mouse was speedily deserted by her two

sisters, who went off to hunt flies, but as she wandered

sadly along the shore she found a dead fish, and was eating

it, when she felt something very hard. At her cries the

other two mice ran up.



"It is the bronze ring! It is the talisman!" they cried

joyfully, and, getting into their boat again, they soon

reached the mouse island. It was time they did, for the

captain was just going to land his cargo of cats, when a

deputation of mice brought him the precious bronze ring.



"Bronze ring," commanded the young man, "obey thy

master. Let my ship appear as it was before."



Immediately the genii of the ring set to work, and the

old black vessel became once more the wonderful golden

ship with sails of brocade; the handsome sailors ran to the

silver masts and the silken ropes, and very soon they set

sail for the capital.



Ah! how merrily the sailors sang as they flew over the

glassy sea!



At last the port was reached.



The captain landed and ran to the palace, where he

found the wicked old man asleep. The Princess clasped

her husband in a long embrace. The magician tried to

escape, but he was seized and bound with strong cords.



The next day the sorcerer, tied to the tail of a savage

mule loaded with nuts, was broken into as many pieces as

there were nuts upon the mule's back.[1]





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