Sunday, February 22, 2009

Benito, the Faithful Servant

On a time there lived in a village a poor man and his wife, who had
a son named Benito. The one ambition of the lad from his earliest
youth was that he might be a help to the family in their struggle
for a living.

But the years went by, and he saw no opportunity until one day, as
they sat at dinner, his father fell to talking about the young King
who lived at a distance from the village, in a beautiful palace kept
by a retinue of servants. The boy was glad to hear this, and asked
his parents to let him become one of the servants of this great
ruler. The mother protested, fearing that her son could not please
his Royal Majesty; but the boy was so eager to try his fortune that
at last he was permitted to do so.

The next day his mother prepared food for him to eat on the journey,
and be started for the palace. The journey was tiresome; and when he
reached the palace he had difficulty in obtaining an audience with
the King. But when he succeeded and made known his wish, the monarch
detected a charming personality hidden within the ragged clothes,
and, believing the lad would make a willing servant, he accepted him.

The servants of his Majesty had many duties. Theirs was not a life of
ease, but of hard work. The very next day the King called Benito, and
said, "I want you to bring me a certain beautiful princess who lives in
a land across the sea; and if you fail to do it, you will be punished."

Benito did not know how he was to do it; but he asked no questions,
and unhesitatingly answered, "I will, my lord."

That same day he provided himself with everything he needed for the
journey and set off. He travelled a long distance until he came to the
heart of a thick forest, where he saw a large bird which said to him,
"Oh, my friend! please take away these strings that are wrapped all
about me. If you will, I will help you whenever you call upon me."

Benito released the bird and asked it its name. It replied,
"Sparrow-hawk," and flew away. Benito continued his journey until he
came to the seashore. There he could see no way of getting across, and,
remembering what the King had said if he failed, he stood looking out
over the sea, feeling very sad. The huge King of the Fishes saw him,
and swam toward him. "Why are you so sad?" asked the Fish.

"I wish to cross the sea to find the beautiful Princess," replied
the youth.

"Get on my back and I will take you across," said the King of the

Benito rode on the back of the Fish and crossed the sea. As soon as he
reached the other side, a fairy in the form of a woman appeared to him,
and became a great aid to him in his adventure. She knew exactly what
he wanted; so she told him that the Princess was shut up in a castle
guarded by giants, and that he would have to fight the giants before
he could reach her. For this purpose she gave him a magic sword,
which would kill on the instant anything it touched.

Benito now felt sure he could take the Princess from her cruel
guardsmen. He went to the castle, and there he saw many giants round
about it. When the giants saw him coming, they went out to meet him,
thinking to take him captive. They were so sure that they could easily
do it, that they went forth unarmed. As they came near, he touched
the foremost ones with his sword, and one after another they fell
down dead. The other giants, seeing so many of their number slain,
became terrified, and fled, leaving the castle unguarded.

The young man went to the Princess and told her that his master had
sent him to bring her to his palace. The young Princess was only
too glad to leave the land of the giants, where she had been held
captive. So the two set out together for the King's palace.

When they came to the sea they rode across it on the back of the
same fish that had carried Benito. They went through the forest,
and at last came to the palace. Here they were received with the
greatest rejoicings.

After a short time the King asked the Princess to become his wife. "I
will, O King!" she replied, "if you will get the ring I lost in the
sea as I was crossing it."

The monarch called Benito, and ordered him to find the ring which
had been lost on their journey from the land of the giants.

Obedient to his master, Benito started, and travelled on and on till
he came to the shore of the sea. There he stood, gazing sadly out
over the waters, not knowing how he was to search for what lay at
the bottom of the deep ocean.

Again the King of the Fishes came to him, asking the cause of his
sadness. Benito replied, "The Princess lost her ring while we were
crossing the sea, and I have been sent to find it."

The King-Fish summoned all the fishes to come to him. When they had
assembled, he noticed that one was missing. He commanded the others
to search for this one, and bring it to him. They found it under
a stone, and it said, "I am so full! I have eaten so much that I
cannot swim." So the larger ones took it by the tail and dragged it
to their King.

"Why did you not come when summoned?" asked the King-Fish. "I was so
full I could not swim," replied the Fish.

The King-Fish, suspecting that it had swallowed the ring, ordered it
to be cut in two. The others cut it open, and, behold I there was the
lost ornament. Benito thanked the King of the Fishes, took the ring,
and brought it to the monarch.

When the great ruler got the ring, he said to the Princess, "Now that
I have your ring, will you become my wife?"

"I will be your wife," replied the Princess, "if you will find the
earring I lost in the forest as I was journeying with Benito."

Instantly Benito was called, and was ordered to find the lost jewel. He
was very weary from his former journey; but, mindful of his duty,
he started for the forest, reaching it before the day was over. He
searched for the earring faithfully, following the road which he and
the Princess had taken; but all in vain. He was much discouraged, and
sat down under a tree to rest. To his surprise a mouse of monstrous
size appeared before him. It was the King of the Mice.

"Why are you so sad?" asked the Mouse.

"I am searching for an earring which the Princess lost as we passed
through the forest, but am unable to find it."

"I will find it for you," said the King-Mouse.

Benito's face brightened at hearing this. The King-Mouse called all
his followers, and all but one little mouse responded. Then the King
of the Mice ordered some of his subjects to find the absent one. They
found him in a small hole among the bamboo-trees. He said he could not
go because he was so satisfied (sated). So the others pulled him along
to their master; and he, finding that there was something hard within
the little mouse, ordered him to be cut open. It was done; and there
was the very earring for which the tired servant was looking. Benito
took it, thanked the King of the Mice, and brought the earring to
his own King.

When the monarch received it, he immediately restored it to its owner
and asked, "Will you now become my wife?"

"Oh, dear King!" responded the Princess, "I have only one more thing
to ask of you; and if you will grant it, I will be your wife forever."

The King, pleased with his former successes, said, "Tell me what it
is, and it shall be granted."

"If you will get some water from heaven," said the Princess, "and
some water from the nether-world, I will become your wife. That is
my last wish."

The King called Benito, and commanded him to get water from these two
places. "I will, my King," said Benito; and he took some provisions
and started. He came to the forest; but there he became confused,
for he did not know in which direction to go to reach either of the
places. Suddenly he recalled the promise of the bird he had helped
the first time he entered the wood. He called the bird, and it soon
appeared. He told it what he wanted, and it said, "I will get it
for you."

He made two cups of bamboo, and tied one to each of the bird's
legs. They were very light, and did not hinder the bearer at all. Away
the bird flew, going very fast. Before the day was ended, it came
back with each cup full of water, and told Benito that the one tied
to its right leg contained water from heaven, and the one tied to
its left leg contained water from the nether-world.

Benito untied the cups, taking great care of them. He was about to
leave, when the bird asked him to tarry long enough to bury it, as
the places to which it had been were so far away that it was weary
unto death.

Benito did not like to bury the bird, but he soon saw that it really
was dying, so he waited; and when it was dead, he buried it, feeling
very sorry over the loss of so helpful a friend.

He went back to the palace and delivered the two kinds of water to his
master. The Princess then asked the King to cut her in two and pour
the water from heaven upon her. The King was not willing to do it,
so she did it herself, asking the King to pour the water. This he did,
and, lo! the Princess turned into the most beautiful woman that ever
the sun shone on.

Then the King was desirous of becoming handsome; so he asked
the Princess to pour the other cup of water over him after he cut
himself. He cut himself, and she poured over his body the water from
the nether-world; but from him there arose a spirit more ugly and
ill-favored than imagination could picture. Fortunately, it soon
vanished from sight.

The Princess then turned to Benito, and said, "You have been faithful
in your duties to your master, kind to me in restoring the jewels I
lost, and brave in delivering me from the cruel giants. You are the
man I choose for my husband."

Benito could not refuse so lovely a lady. They were married amid
great festivities, and became the king and queen of that broad and
fertile land.

Benito gave his parents one of the finest portions of his kingdom,
and furnished them with everything they could desire. From that time
on they were all very happy,--so happy that the story of their bliss
has come down through the centuries to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment