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.