Tales of Old Lusitania/The Prediction

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Once upon a time a certain king had a son born to him, and, following the prevailing custom in those distant ages, the instant his son was born he invited all the astrologers of the land to read his destiny.

These wise men after ruling the planets discovered that the boy would be a misfortune to his father and cause his death, and that this would be effected by the stab of a dagger.

The prediction made the king very sad, and so haunted his mind that to avert if possible the impending doom he ordered a wooden chest to be made, lined inside with satin and covered outside with velvet. Unknown to any one, he secretly laid the child in it and then rode away with the chest till he reached a river that ran through a distant part of the country, and there he threw it in.

Many years elapsed, during which no one knew what had become of the child, while the queen, who felt very unhappy, was continually shedding tears for her son, and sought him everywhere with loud cries.

When the king cast the chest which contained his son into the running waters of the great river, it was carried down by the current till it touched the wheel of a mill and there it stopped. The miller and his wife, who lived in a cottage close to the mill, heard the crying of a child, and as they searched about to ascertain where the cries came from to their great surprise they discovered the chest in the stream. They drew it out, and on opening it they were delighted to find in it the loveliest little boy they had ever seen. The worthy couple had been married many years, but had never had any children, which was a subject of great sorrow to them; and they said one to another: "Since God has not favoured us with a son, let us adopt this little foundling and bring him up the best we can as our own."

The miller's wife nursed him with the greatest care and kindness, and when he was old enough to learn a trade, they asked him what he would like to be, and on his replying that he would like to be a tailor, they put him to learn the business. Before long he became the best master tailor in the neighbourhood, and his reputation for good and clever work even reached the palace. The queen, unknown to the king, sent for him, and, to try his skill, ordered him to make a dress for one of her attendants. This maiden was a Moorish slave called Isabel, whom the king had taken captive in a war with the Moors. The tailor merely looked at the slave's figure, and said to the queen, "I shall bring the dress finished to-morrow," and then took his leave. The queen was surprised to see him hurrying away without taking her measure, but she was much more astonished when the dress came next day not only well stitched, but exactly fitting the slave's figure. The queen then ordered him to make a robe for herself of rich damask, saying, at the same time, "I shall pay you for all to-morrow."

Punctually next day the tailor brought the robe, and when the queen asked him to present his bill for payment, he replied: "Your majesty owes me nothing." The queen, seeing that the tailor would take no money, opened a valuable casket made of chased gold and covered with precious stones. This casket contained all kinds of beautiful articles made of gold and silver and other costly materials. The queen then said to him: "Take from here whatever pleases you most." The tailor made choice of a dagger, the handle of which was of ivory, most cleverly carved and set with diamonds.

As he was on the point of leaving the chamber, well satisfied and in peace and quietness, the king entered, and finding a stranger in the room, was stung with jealousy, and unsheathed his sword to kill him, whilst the tailor defended himself with his newly acquired dagger. The king approached him a second time with his drawn sword, and the tailor giving him a stab the king fell wounded to the ground. Then the queen and attendant began to scream and call for help; the pages and others in the palace, attracted by the cries, hastened into the chamber, and seeing the king lying on the floor covered with blood they seized the tailor and held him until the king ordered him to be flogged.

The poor tailor was stripped to the waist, and he had already received many stripes when the queen suddenly cried out, in great agitation, "Stop! stop! this man has the very same mark on his back that my son had." The king, much surprised, sent messengers at once to make inquiries in the village where the man lived and find out who was his father, and everything about him.

For two days nothing could be discovered, but on the third day the messengers arrived at the palace accompanied by the miller, who being set before the king related the whole story how he and his wife had found the man that was now a prisoner, when a child, in a chest which had drifted down the river against the wheel of their mill. "And to prove to your majesty the truth of what I say, here is the chest." So saying, the miller produced the chest which he had concealed until then.

The king was so startled on seeing it that, after crying aloud, "This man is indeed my son!" he immediately fell to the ground and died.

The prince now assumed the reins of government. But the grief he felt at having been the cause of his father's death was such that from much weeping his eyes became totally blind. Every remedy was tried, and physicians from every part of the world were consulted as to the best means of restoring the king's sight, but it was all of no avail; he remained as blind as before.

As a last resource they consulted a witch, who said that the king's sight could only be restored by some one procuring the spittle of the blue bird that had its habitation on the highest tree in the world, which grew in a far off country; but the person seeking it must be a spinster and the daughter of a king.

Many maidens proceeded in search of the blue bird, travelling for miles and leagues; they succeeded in finding the great tree, and saw the bird perched upon it; but the moment they approached it the bird eluded their grasp and flew away to a distance. At last Isabel, the captive Moorish maiden, thought she would try and find it. On reaching the tall tree she looked up its branches, and there saw the bird with its wings fluttering as if to invite her. She climbed up the tree and the bird allowed her to take the spittle which was contained in a little bucket that hung from its neck.

Isabel brought the spittle to the palace and anointed the king's eyes with it, and immediately he recovered his sight. The king then married Isabel, and the festivities on the occasion lasted many days.

They lived happily, and thus ends my story.


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