Tales of Old Lusitania/The Little Boy and the Moon

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THE LITTLE BOY AND THE MOON.




Once there lived a boy who was so fond of the moon that when quite a little child he would toddle up a high hill to gaze upon her. His father noticed this predilection, and curious to know the reason why he was always gazing at the moon, went up the hill one day when the child was there and inquired why he did so and what he saw in the moon to interest him so much.

To this the child replied: "Father, I love to be near the moon because she often speaks to me. She has told me that one day you will think it an honour to bring me water to wash my hands with, but that I shall shrink back and refuse to be served by you."

The father returned home, wondering what the moon could mean, and related to his wife what the child had said.

The wife, in great alarm, leaped up from her seat, and cried: "I believe the child means to say that some day we shall be his humble servants. The impudent little chit! He deserves to be taken and thrown into the sea."

The father took her at her word, went for a chest, and having found one strong and large enough to hold the child, he put him inside, fastened the lid down firmly, and consigned the chest and the child to the mercy of the waves.

After the box had been tossed about by the wind and waves, it was driven to a distant shore, where some fishermen, seeing it floating on the water, and thinking it must contain some treasure, hauled it in and carried it to the king. His majesty ordered the box to be opened, and was delighted to find that it contained a beautiful boy. He said he would take care of him and adopt him as his son, and he charged a number of masters to bring him up and educate him as if he were a prince. And when he was twenty years of age, the king gave him a large sum of money and sent him to travel with a numerous and brilliant retinue.

The boy's parents were now reduced to great poverty, and, in order to gain a livelihood, they left their own country and set up an inn by the side of a road much frequented by travellers.

The prince, during his travels, reached the same country where his parents had established themselves. When he came to where the inn stood, he entered it with his retinue to take refreshments, and occupied a suite of apartments for a few hours. The prince having expressed a wish to wash his hands, the father, who did not recognise his son, knelt down at his feet and presented him a silver ewer containing water. The prince, by an irresistible movement which he could not account for, shrank back and would not accept his services; he felt, he knew not why, that though he might be a prince, yet the man that knelt before him so humbly was his superior.

At this the innkeeper became strangely agitated, and began to tremble in every limb.

The prince noticed the landlord's odd behaviour, and asked him what had so affected him, to which he replied: "Because your refusal, prince, reminds me of a son I had who, if he were alive now, would be about your age. I wickedly cast him into the sea to perish, because, when a mere child, he told me the moon had said that some day I should bow to him and think it an honour to offer him water to wash his hands."

"But what have I to do with your son?"

"Nothing whatever, my lord, for you are a king's son and I am a poor, humble innkeeper."

When the prince came home and related the incident to the king, he immediately ordered a trusty officer to go and inquire into the matter and find out if the innkeeper could possibly be the prince's father. After many inquiries and cross-questioning, it was made evident to the king that the innkeeper was really the father of his adopted son.

The prince begged the king to pardon his father and mother and not to punish them. The king was touched by the prince's filial appeal, and spared the lives of his parents.

The innkeeper and his wife felt very grateful for the king's mercy, and as they were reconciled to their son, they begged, as a great favour, that their son should be allowed to live with them; but instead of that, the king invited them to come and live in his palace, for his majesty said that after his death the prince would reign in his stead.

Coimbra.

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