There was once an emperor who had no child to rule after him; and in another land there was a king who also was childless. The emperor went on a journey in search of a sage who might tell him how to come by a child; and the king, too, went on such a journey. King and emperor stopped one night at the same inn, though they did not know each other; the emperor, however, marked the royal manner of the stranger, and asked him,
"Are you not a king?"
The king, too, had recognized the other as a man of high birth, and he said, "I am a king; and are you not an emperor?"
Then each told the other the reason for his travels, and they agreed that when they returned to their kingdoms, and if the queen of one gave birth to a son, and the other's queen gave birth to a daughter, the two children should be betrothed.
And afterward, a daughter was born to the emperor, and a son was born to the king, but the betrothal was forgotten.
As the children grew, each was sent to a foreign land to study, and it so happened that both were sent to the same teacher. The boy and girl met, and loved one another, and agreed to marry. Then the prince took a ring and put it on the finger of the princess, and so they were wed.
But soon their parents called them home, and the princess had to return to her father the emperor, while the prince returned to the court of the king.
[paragraph continues]The emperor's palace was filled with suitors for the hand of the princess, but she remembered that young prince from a distant land, and she would not have any of the others.
In his far country the prince was unhappy, longing day and night for his beloved; the king commanded entertainment for the boy in the palace, or rode with him over their domain, but the young man would not be cheered, and at last he fell ill of melancholy. Then the king asked the prince's servant: "Perhaps you know what troubles him?" The servant remembered the wedding, and told the king that the prince was married and longed for his bride.
"Who is his bride?" the king asked.
"A princess, the daughter of an emperor."
At this, the king recalled the betrothal he had made for his son before his son was born, and he was astonished to learn that it was indeed his betrothed that the prince had found and married. So the king wrote at once to the emperor to remind him of their meeting and of their vow.
But the emperor no longer desired such a union, and yet he could not free himself from his promise; so he sent a letter asking that the prince come to his court to be examined in his knowledge of government.
When the prince arrived in the emperor's palace he was not allowed to see his bride, but was seated alone in a room, and papers were brought to him, with questions of government. He was ill nearly to death with longing for a glimpse of his beloved, and one day as he walked by a chamber he saw her image in a mirror. Then he fainted of weakness and joy, and she saw him and ran to him and wakened him, saying,
"I will have no other husband but you!" And he said, "But what can we do while your father is against our marriage?"
They made a plan to escape together over the sea; then they hired a ship, and crept aboard at night, and sailed away. They were happy there, for they measured their love by the depth of the sea and the height of the firmament, and all the sea and sky was their kingdom of love. But one day the vessel came to a shore, and they said, "Let us go down on land for a while."
There was a forest near the shore, and the bride and groom went into the forest. They ran, and they walked, until they were weary, and the girl said, "Let me lie down by this tree, and sleep a while." She took his ring from her finger, and gave it to the prince saying, "Watch my ring while I sleep."
When he saw that she was about to waken, he placed the ring on the ground near her hand. She awoke, and they returned to the shore. But as they were going aboard their vessel she felt her hand bare and cried, "Where is my ring?" "I put it by you when you wakened," the prince said. "I'll go and find it for you."
She waited, while he returned to the forest. He wandered one way and another, and could not find the ring, and was lost.
The princess waited a long time, and then went into the woods to seek the prince, and she wandered one way and another, and could not find him, and was herself lost.
When the prince saw that he was lost he did not know what to do, but called her name, and she did
not hear him; he wandered still farther until at last he came out of the forest to a city. He had no money, and he needed food, so he became a servant.
Meanwhile the princess found her way out of the forest and came to the shore again; there she sat upon the sand by the sea; she lived on the fruit of the trees; each day she wandered in search of her beloved, and at night she slept in the trees.
In another land there was a rich merchant whose ships sailed on every ocean, bringing him merchandise from all corners of the world. But he was aged, and he had an only son. One day his son said to him, "Father, you are growing old, while I know nothing of the ways of commerce; what will become of your enterprise when you are gone? Then give me a ship, that I may go and learn the buying and selling of merchandise, so that I may carry on your commerce for you." He was given a ship, and he sailed from one country to another, selling goods, and buying other goods. He was very successful, so that his cargo became richer every day. When his ship was filled with spices and silks and precious rarities he sailed toward home, but one day he passed close to a shore where high trees grew, and he thought the trees were a city, and desired to see that city. But as the ship came nearer he knew that they were only trees, and then he saw what seemed to be a human being perched high in one of the trees. He went out in a small boat and came to the shore, then seeing that it was a beautiful maiden who sat in the tree, he called to her to come down, and remain with him.
She said, "I will not come to you, unless you first
promise never to touch me before we are man and wife." This he vowed, and she came down from the tree, and was taken aboard his ship.
As they sailed on, he learned that the maiden was skilled in playing beautiful music upon many instruments, and that she could speak several languages. "Tell me, who are you?" he begged. "For I know you are nobly born!"
"Do not ask me who I am," the princess said, "for I may not tell you that until after we have been wedded."
One day he called to her and pointed to a nearing shore. "See, there is my city!" he said.
"You must go first to your people," she told him, "and inform them that you are bringing a bride who is a high-born maiden, then you must gather all of your people and lead them to greet me, and I will tell you who I am."
When the vessel was anchored she said to the young merchant, "But see, would you not give wine to all the sailors, that they may be merry for their master's wedding?" At once he brought up rare wines that he had secured on his voyage, and he gave the sailors drink. They all became drunken.
Then, when the merchant had gone to gather his relatives and bring them to greet his bride, all the sailors went ashore to make merry. As soon as the maiden found herself alone on the ship she freed the anchor, unbound the sails, and sailed away.
When the young merchant returned with his people, no ship was to be seen. "But I brought a vessel laden with precious merchandise, and a maiden to be my wife!" he cried. His father was angry and said, "You brought home nothing at all!"
"There are my sailors!" the young man cried, and he called to the sailors, "Where is my ship?"
They all lay drunk on the wharves, and when at last they were awakened they could not remember anything that had happened, except that there had been a ship, and they had been given wine, and now there was no ship.
The aged merchant was enraged, and shouted to his son, "Leave my sight, and never return!" Then the young man went out and became a wanderer over the earth.
There was a king who liked to be where the winds blew, and therefore he built his palace upon an ocean, and watched the ships sail by. This king had no queen, for no maiden in all his land pleased him. But one day he looked out from his palace and saw a strange vessel on the sea, and on the ship he saw no sailors, but only a single maiden.
As the princess beheld the palace she thought, "What do I want of palaces?" and she turned her ship to sail away. But the king had sent out after her, and her ship was brought to his city, and she was taken before the ruler. The king saw that she was beautiful, and desired her to remain with him.
"Then promise me," she said, "that you will not touch me until we are married according to law." He promised this, and she said, "Promise also that my ship will remain untouched, for it is filled with great treasure, and when our wedding comes I shall allow the treasures to be taken from the vessel, that all may see I bring you riches, and am not a maiden of the market-place."
This too the king promised. He sent messages to
many nations, bidding the rulers to come as guests to his wedding; and meanwhile he built a palace for the princess. She asked that eleven handmaidens be given her, and that they be daughters of high noblemen; eleven maidens came, and for each of them a separate palace was built. Every day, they sat with the princess; they sang, and made music. One day she said, "Let us go aboard my boat, and amuse ourselves." They went up on the ship, and she brought them some of the excellent wine that was on the ship, and the maidens drank, and fell asleep.
At once the princess loosed the vessel, and quickly sailed away.
That day the king looked out and saw that her ship was gone, but he did not know she had sailed upon it. "The princess will be heart-broken when she learns that her ship is lost," he said. "She must not be told suddenly." And he sent a messenger to find one of her handmaidens who might tell the princess gently of the loss of her ship.
The messenger went to the palace of the first handmaiden, but did not find anyone there, and so he went through the palaces of the eleven noble maidens, and returned to the king and said, "I have found no one." Then the king commanded that an aged woman be sent to his bride at night, to tell her gently of the loss of her treasure ship. But when the aged woman came to the bed of the princess, she did not find the bride; and when the king heard that the bride, too, was gone from her palace, he was frightened and sad.
Meanwhile the noble fathers of the eleven maidens waited for the letters that they received each day from their daughters, and when the letters did not arrive
the noblemen came to the king's palace to see if all were well with their daughters. They found that the eleven maidens had disappeared, and no man knew what had become of them. Then the noblemen were furious, and cried, "Who knows what the king has done with our daughters!" And since they were the most powerful lords in that land, they decided that the king should be put to death. But then they thought again and said, "Perhaps he is not to blame, for his bride is also gone." So, instead, they decided that they would drive him from the kingdom, and rule in his place. The king was taken from his throne, and sent into exile.
And the maidens' ship sailed over the sea. When the eleven girls awoke, they did not remember that they had slept, but looked out and saw that the ship was far from shore, and cried, "Let us return home!" But the bride said, "Let us sail yet awhile. It is pleasant here."
Then a stormy wind came up, and they cried again, "Let us go home!"
"But we are far from home!" she said to them.
"Why did you bring us here?" the maidens begged of her.
"I was afraid that the wind might break the ship," she answered.
So they sailed on, and the eleven maidens played upon their harps and violins and flutes, and sang.
One day they saw a palace, and her companions wanted to go near it, but the princess said, "I have had enough of palaces. Indeed, I am sorry that I went near the last one." So they sailed onward, and soon they saw a hiding place upon the sea. They approached
it, and found twelve pirates there. The pirates wanted to seize and kill them at once, but the princess said, "Who is your chief?" They showed her their leader, and she said to him, "What sort of people are you?"
He answered, "We are pirates."
"We too are pirates," she said, "but what you do by force, we do by cleverness, for we can make music and speak many languages. What good will it do you to kill us? Rather, take us as your wives, and we will bring you riches."
The pirates thought well of this plan, and came upon the maidens’ ship, and the maidens showed them the treasures that were there. Then the princess said, "Let each man take his wife according to his station, and I will become the wife of the chieftain. But let us not all wed at once; let there be a wedding each day, and the chief shall be the last to wed."
To this they also agreed, and then she brought out her good wine and said, "This wine I had hidden until my true husband should come to take me, but now let us drink the wine!" She gave them twelve flagons of wine, and cried, "Let each man drink to all the others here!"
The pirates drank, and fell drunk asleep.
At once the princess said to her maidens, "Now go, and each of you kill her man." So they threw all the pirates into the sea; then they looked in the robbers' hiding place and found great stores of silver and gold and precious stones. The women said, "We will take no copper or silver, but only gold and jewels!" They took the silks and spices out of their ship, and filled it instead with gold and precious
stones. And then they decided to dress themselves as men, so they made men's clothing for themselves, and wore it.
In another land there was a king who had an only son; he found a wife for his son, and gave him the kingdom to rule. One day the young ruler said to his wife, "Let us go out upon a ship so that you may be accustomed to the air of the sea, if by chance we should one day have to escape that way."
They took a great ship, and with many courtiers and companions, they went sailing on the sea. They were merry, and sang, and drank, and became hot with merriment, until the prince cried, "Let us take off our clothes!" So they took off their garments, and were all cool in the soft breeze. In jest they cried, "Who can climb to the top of the mast?" The prince said, "I will do it!" and at once he began to climb.
Just then the ship of the maidens came into the same waters, and the princess espied the other vessel; at first she feared to approach it, but when she saw that it was filled with clowns and jesters, and could not be a pirate ship, she drew closer.
Hair had fallen out of the prince's head, so that there was a small round spot that was bald. And when the princess saw the shining bald head of the naked man upon the mast, she cried to her maidens, "Look! I can throw that bald-headed man from the mast!"
They said, "How can you do it? You are so far away?"
"I'll wait until he has reached the tip of the mast, for then he will fall into the sea, while if he is lower, he will fall back on the ship," she said.
They watched as he climbed, and when the man was at the tip of the mast, the princess took a burning-glass, and turned its rays upon the uncovered place on his head, and the rays pierced into his brain, his brain seethed, he let go his hold, and fell from the peak of the mast into the sea.
A great wail of terror arose on the prince's ship, for his people did not dare return home without their prince. Then some saw the other boat and cried, "Let us go near that ship, perhaps they have a physician who may help us."
They came to the maidens who were dressed as men, and asked if a doctor might be among them. "I am a physician," the princess said.
"Our prince has fallen into the sea, and he is dead!" they cried.
"Take him out of the sea, and let me look on him," she commanded.
They took the body of the prince from the sea; she looked at him, and felt his hand, and said, "His brain has been burned. He is dead."
When they found that the prince's brain had indeed been burned, they were amazed at the skill of the great physician and they begged, "Come back to our land, and be our king's physician."
The two vessels sailed together; meanwhile the courtiers of the first ship thought, "Let this physician marry the dead prince's bride, and be our king!" But they were ashamed to suggest to the queen that she marry a mere physician. Meanwhile the queen began to love the physician, for she did not know that he was in truth another woman; but she was afraid to marry him because the courtiers might not think it
fitting for her to marry a man who was not a nobleman.
So neither the courtiers nor the queen spoke their thoughts, until the courtiers planned to make a festival, "and during the festival," they said to one another, "we can speak out."
So it was. They made the feast upon the physician's ship, and the physician, who was the true princess, gave them of her rare wine to drink, and they spoke their thoughts out loud. "How wonderful it would be if the queen married the physician!"
Then the physician said, "That would indeed be wonderful, but it should not be heard from a drunken mouth!"
The queen, too, spoke out and said, "It would be a beautiful marriage, if only the countrymen would consent to it!"
And the physician said, "Their consent might be asked, but soberly."
When they were no longer drunken they were at first ashamed to look at each other because of what they had said, but soon the word began to be whispered again, and at last it was said openly, "The queen will marry the physician."
So they came to the shore of their kingdom, and the people ran to meet them, for it was a long time since the prince had sailed away, and in that time his aged father had died and they were without any king. Now the people were told, "The prince died many days ago; but on the seas we took a new king to ourselves, for the queen has married again."
The people were happy that they had a king to rule them, and the king, who was really the true princess,
ordered that a great wedding feast should be made in the palace, and commanded that to this feast should come all the exiles, and all the hunted men, and all the lost people who were in that land. This command was made known over all the kingdom.
Then the true princess disguised as physician and king declared that fountains of water should be made all over the city, so that whoever wanted to drink might find water; and she further commanded that a portrait of the new king should be placed over each well.
"Let watchmen be stationed near the portraits," she declared, "and if any man comes, and drinks, and looks on my portrait and recognizes it, and shows surprise or anger in his face, let him be taken and set in prison."
Everything was done as she had said.
And the first prince, who was her true husband, answered the command for lost people to come to the wedding; he came to the city and drank at a fountain, and when he saw her portrait over the fountain he recognized her, and cried out. Then the watchmen took him and put him in prison.
Then the merchant came, who had been her groom and had been driven from his home because of her, and he drank, and saw her portrait, and his face became clouded with anger. He was taken and put in prison.
Third, there came a king, who had been her groom, and had been driven from his kingdom because of her; and he drank, and saw her portrait, and spoke angrily; then he was taken, and put in prison.
The princess disguised as the king ordered the prisoners
to be brought before her; they came, and did not recognize her because of her manly garments, but she knew them, all three. To one she said, "You, king, were driven from your land because of the eleven noble maidens who were stolen: here are your maidens, now return to your land and to your throne." To the second she said, "You, merchant, were driven from your home because of your ship that was stolen: here is your ship, take it and go home, and because it was borrowed from you for so long a time, you will find it filled with gold and precious stones in place of lesser wares." And to the last, she said as she arose and revealed her true self, "You, my prince, come here to me, and we two will go home together."
And so they returned to their own kingdom.