Tales of Old Lusitania/The Daughters of the Two Counsellors

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A certain king had two favourites who were allowed to be in constant attendance upon him, and as the king was very affable they had many an opportunity of a chat with him. On these occasions the king noticed that one of his favourites was continually singing the praises of his two daughters; while the other, whose one daughter the king knew was renowned for her beauty, never so much as mentioned her name. Struck with the difference of behaviour in the two noblemen, his majesty determined to go and see these maidens for himself, and observe their conduct and manner of life.

For this purpose the king disguised himself as a poor beggar woman, and went to the house of the favourite that had two daughters; pretending to be a beggar he asked to be allowed a corner in their house where he could spend the night. This he obtained with great difficulty after much entreaty, and he was at last shown into the kitchen as being a place "quite good enough for such as she."

During the dead of the night the king heard a noise as of some persons coming into the house, so he peeped out and observed two of his officers engaged in tender conversation with the two maidens, who had come down stairs on tiptoe to open the door for them. The king saw the officers take off their swords and belts and lay them in a corner of an adjoining chamber; so when they had left the room, the king went in unperceived, took possession of the swords and belts, and glided out of the house with them.

The king went next to the house of the maiden whose father never spoke of her. When he knocked at the door and begged for alms and shelter for the evening, the beautiful maiden came herself and served the poor stranger to a good supper with her own hands; and bade her come and sleep in a room next to hers, which was warm and comfortable.

The king kept very quiet in his room, to hear what passed. Though the night was far advanced, he heard the maiden still moving in her room; so he went and looked through a chink of the door, and was quite charmed to see her kneeling in prayer at her little oratory. She rose from prayer, and taking up a tiny silver casket that was on the table, containing some scented powder, she smelt the perfume and then got into bed. When the king saw that she was fast asleep, he entered and stole away the tiny casket, and quickly left the apartment.

Two days after this occurrence the king sent invitations to the two favourites and their daughters to a great banquet; and towards the end of the feast he ordered the waiters to bring him a tray that lay in the adjoining hall, and to place it before him on the table. On this tray were the two swords and belts, and the silver casket. When the two sisters and their lovers saw the swords and belts, which they had missed on the night I have mentioned, they were terribly frightened and did not dare to say a word. But the beautiful and virtuous maiden, who had nothing to fear, when she saw who the thief was that had carried away her casket, exclaimed, addressing the king with a smile:—

There's a poor beggar woman that sits on a throne,
Ran away with a casket that was not her own.

And the king replying in the same strain said:—

Lovely maid, if the casket be thine,
Casket and maiden shall both be mine.

As the king thought the other two damsels had already had a sufficient lesson, he ordered the two officers to marry them.

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