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Page:Tales of old Lusitania.djvu/200

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these occasions to meet Maria Silva as he entered the palace; and instantly, as by some spell of fascination, he was struck with love for her. But he noticed the mark of a brand on her forehead, and that one of her little fingers was wanting; and this brought back to his mind the cruel thing he had done to a little child in the forest, when a voice had prophesied to him that some day that very child would be his wife. Determined to defy and defeat this prediction, he stifled the passion he felt for her, and to get her out of his way altogether, he began even to plot against the life of the innocent girl. He bought three splendid gold rings, and gave one to each of the princess's handmaids, but explained to them that they would have to produce the rings in three days' time, when he would demand to see them; and he warned them that if any one of them failed to produce her ring she would forfeit her life. After this he secretly offered Maria's fellow-servants a handsome reward if they could by any means bring about the loss of Maria Silva's ring. The two servants carried out the prince's design and managed to make Maria drop her ring into the sea. But great was their astonishment to find that the loss of the ring, which was to be the cause of her death, did not seem to trouble her in the least. Next day, when the fish that had been caught for the royal dinner were brought into the palace, she asked if she might help to clean them for cooking. The cook, who