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Good Deeds Never Perish

Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

Once upon a time there lived a man and woman who had one son. When the
boy grew up his parents endeavoured to give him a suitable education
which would be useful in his after life. He was a good, quiet boy,
and above all he feared God. After he had completed his studies,
his father intrusted him with a galley laden with various goods,
so that he might trade with distant countries, and be the support of
his parents' old age.

The First Voyage

On his first voyage he one day met with a Turkish ship, in which he
heard weeping. So he called to the sailors on the Turkish vessel: "I
pray you, tell me why there is such sorrow on board your ship!" And
they answered: "We have many slaves whom we have captured in
various parts of the world, and those who are chained are weeping
and lamenting." Thereupon the young man said: "Pray, O brethren,
ask your captain if he will allow me to ransom the slaves for a sum
of money?" The sailors gladly called their captain, who was willing
to bargain, and in the end the young man gave his ship with all its
cargo to the Turk, in exchange for his vessel containing the slaves.

The young man asked each slave whence he came, and gave to all their
freedom, and said that each might return to his own country.

Among the slaves was an old woman who held a most beautiful maiden
by the arm. When he asked whence they came, the old woman answered
through her tears: "We come from a far-away country. This young
girl is the only daughter of the tsar, whom I have brought up from
her infancy. One unlucky day she was walking in the palace gardens,
and wandered to a lonely spot, where those accursed Turks saw her
and seized her. She began to scream, and I, who happened to be near,
ran to help her, but alas! I could not save her, and the Turks carried
us both on board this galley." Then the good nurse and the beautiful
girl, not knowing the way to their own country, and having no means of
returning thither, implored the young man to take them with him. And
this he was quite willing to do; indeed, he had immediately fallen in
love with the princess, and he now married the poor homeless maiden,
and, together with her and the old woman, returned home.

On their arrival, his father asked where his galley and its cargo
were, and he told him how he had ransomed the slaves and set them at
liberty. "This girl," said he, "is the daughter of a tsar, and this old
woman is her nurse; as they could not return to their country I took
them with me, and I have married the maiden." Thereupon his father
grew very angry, and said: "O foolish son, what have you done? Why
did you dispose so stupidly of my property without my permission?" and
he drove him out of the house.

Fortunately for the young man, a good neighbour offered him
hospitality, and, with his wife and her old nurse, he resided for a
long time near by, endeavouring, through the influence of his mother
and friends, to persuade his father to forgive him.

The Second Voyage

After some time the father relented, and received his son again in
his house, together with his young wife and her nurse. Soon after,
he purchased a second galley, larger and finer than the first, and
loaded it with merchandise wherewith his son might trade to great
profit, if so be that he were wise.

The young man sailed in this new vessel, leaving his wife and her nurse
in the house of his parents, and soon came to a certain city, where
he beheld a sorrowful sight. He saw soldiers busied in seizing poor
peasants and throwing them into prison, and he asked: "Why, brethren,
are you showing such cruelty to these unfortunate people?" And the
soldiers replied: "Because they have not paid the tsar's taxes." The
young man at once went to the officer and said: "I pray you, tell
me how much these poor people must pay." The officer told him the
amount due, and, without hesitation, the young man sold his galley
and the cargo, and discharged the debts of all the prisoners. He now
returned home, and, falling at the feet of his father, he told him
the story and begged that he might be forgiven. But his father grew
exceedingly angry this time, and drove him away from his house.

What could the unhappy son do in this fresh trouble? How could he beg,
he whose parents were so well-to-do? Old friends of the family again
used their influence with his father, urging that he should take pity
on his son and receive him back, "for," said they, "it is certain
that suffering has made him wiser, and that he will never again act
so foolishly." At length his father yielded, took him again into his
house, and prepared a third galley for him, much larger and finer
than the two former ones.

The Third Voyage

The young man was overjoyed at his good fortune, and he had the
portrait of his beloved wife painted on the helm, and that of the old
nurse on the stern. When all the preparations for a new voyage were
completed, he took leave of his parents, his wife, and other members of
the family, and weighed anchor. After sailing for some time he arrived
at a great city, in which there lived a tsar, and, dropping anchor,
he fired his guns as a salute to the city. Toward evening the tsar
sent one of his ministers to learn who the stranger was and whence he
came, and to inform him that his master would come at nine o'clock next
morning to visit the galley. The minister was astounded to see on the
helm the portrait of the imperial princess--whom the tsar had promised
to him in marriage when she was still a child--and on the stern that of
the old nurse; but he did not make any remark, nor did he tell anyone
at the palace what he had seen. At nine o'clock next morning the tsar
came on board the galley with his ministers, and, as he paced the deck,
conversing with the captain, he also saw the portrait of the maiden
painted on the helm and that of the old woman on the stern, and he
recognized at once the features of his only daughter and her nurse,
whom the Turks had captured. At once he conceived the hope that his
beloved child was alive and well, but he could not trust himself to
speak, so great was his emotion. Composing himself as best he could,
he invited the captain to come at two o'clock that afternoon to his
palace, intending to question him, hoping thus to confirm the hopes
of his heart.

Punctually at two o'clock the captain appeared at the palace, and the
tsar at once began to question him in a roundabout manner as to the
maiden whose portrait he had seen on the helm of his galley. Was she
one of his relations, and, if so, in what degree? He was also curious
concerning the old woman whose likeness was painted on the stern.

The young captain guessed at once that the tsar must be his wife's
father, and he related to him word by word all his adventures, not
omitting to say that, having found that the young maiden and her nurse
had forgotten the way back to their country, he had taken pity on them
and later had espoused the maiden. Hearing this the tsar exclaimed:
"That girl is my only child and the old woman is her nurse; hasten
and bring my daughter here that I may see her once more before I
die. Bring here also your parents and all your family; your father
will be my brother and your mother my sister, for you are my son and
the heir to my crown. Go and sell all your property and come that
we may live together in my palace!" Then he called the tsarina, his
wife, and all his ministers, that they might hear the joyful news,
and there was great joy in the court.

After this the tsar gave the captain a magnificent ship requesting
him to leave his own galley behind. The young man was, of course,
very grateful, but he said: "O glorious tsar! My parents will not
believe me, if you do not send one of your ministers to accompany
me." Thereupon the tsar appointed as his companion for the voyage,
the very minister to whom he had formerly promised his daughter
in marriage.

The captain's father was greatly surprised to see his son return so
soon and in such a magnificent ship. Then the young man related to his
father and others all that had happened, and the imperial minister
confirmed all his statements. When the princess saw the minister
she exclaimed joyfully: "Yes, indeed, all that he has said is true;
this is my father's minister, who was to be my betrothed." Then the
man and his family sold all their property and went on board the ship.

The Treacherous Minister

Now the minister was a wicked man, and he had formed a design to kill
the young husband of the princess that he might espouse her and one day
become tsar. Accordingly during the voyage he called the young man on
deck one night to confer with him. The captain had a quiet conscience
and did not suspect evil, wherefore he was entirely unprepared when
the minister seized him and threw him swiftly overboard. The ship
was sailing fast; it was impossible that he could reach it, so he
fell gradually behind. By great good luck he was very near to land
and soon he was cast ashore by the waves. But, alas! this land was
but a bare uninhabited rock.

Meantime the minister had stolen back to his cabin and next morning
when it was found that the captain had disappeared, all began to weep
and wail, thinking that he had fallen overboard in the night and been
drowned. His family would not be consoled, more especially his wife,
who loved him so much. When they arrived at the tsar's palace and
reported that the young man had been accidentally drowned, the entire
court mourned with them.

For fifteen days the tsar's unhappy son-in-law was condemned to a
bare subsistence upon the scanty grass which grew upon the rocky
islet. His skin was tanned by the hot sun and his garments became
soiled and torn, so that no one could have recognized him. On the
morrow of the fifteenth day, he had the good fortune to perceive an
old man on the shore, leaning on a stick, engaged in fishing. He
began at once to hail the old man and to beseech him to help him
off the rock. The old fisherman said: "I will save you, if you will
pay me!" "How can I pay you," answered the castaway, "when, as you
see, I have only these rags, and nothing more?" "Oh, as for that,"
replied the old man, "you can write and sign a promise to give me a
half of everything that you may ever possess." The young man gladly
made this promise. Then the old man produced writing materials and
the young man signed the agreement, after which they both sailed in
the old man's fishing boat to the mainland. After that the young man
wandered from house to house and from village to village, a barefoot
beggar, in rags, sunburnt, and hungry.

The Young Man's Return

After thirty days' journeying, good luck led him to the city of the
tsar and he sat him down, staff in hand, at the gates of the palace,
still wearing on his finger his wedding-ring, on which was engraved
his name and that of his wife. The servants of the tsar, pitying his
sad plight, offered him shelter for the night in the palace and gave
him to eat fragments from their own dinner. Next morning he went to
the garden of the palace, but the gardener came and drove him away,
saying that the tsar and his family were soon coming by. He moved
from that spot and sat down in a corner on the grass, when suddenly he
saw the tsar walking with his own mother and father, who had remained
at the court as the tsar's guests, and his beloved wife walking arm
in arm with his enemy, the minister. He did not yet wish to reveal
himself, but as the tsar and his train passed by and gave him alms,
he stretched out his hand to receive it and the wedding-ring upon
his finger caught the princess's eye. She recognized it at once,
but it was incredible that the beggar could be her husband, and she
said to him: "Pray, give me your hand that I may see your ring!" The
minister protested, but the princess did not pay any attention to
him, and proceeded to examine the ring, to find there her own name
and that of her husband. Her heart was greatly agitated at the sight,
but she made an effort to control her feelings and said nothing. Upon
her return to the palace she appeared before her father and told him
what she had seen. "Please send for him," said she, "and we may find
out how the ring came into his possession!" The tsar immediately sent
an attendant to fetch the beggar. The order was executed at once,
and, when the stranger appeared the tsar asked him his name, whence
he came, and in what manner he obtained the ring. The unfortunate
young man could no longer maintain his disguise, so telling the
tsar who he was, he went on to relate all his adventures since the
minister treacherously threw him into the sea. "Behold!" said he at
last, "Our gracious Lord and my right-dealing has brought me back
to my parents and my wife." Almost beside themselves for joy, the
tsar called for the young man's parents and imparted to them the
good news. Who could express the joy of the aged couple when they
identified their son? Words fail, also, to describe adequately the
rejoicing which filled the hearts of the entire court. The servants
prepared perfumed baths for the young man and brought him sumptuous
new garments. The tsar gave orders that he should be crowned as tsar,
and for several days there were wonderful festivities, in which the
whole city joined; everywhere was singing, dancing and feasting. The
old tsar summoned the wicked minister to appear before his son-in-law,
to be dealt with according to his will. But the young tsar had a kind
heart, so he forgave him upon the condition that he should leave the
tsardom without delay, and never come back during his reign.

The new tsar had hardly began to rule, when the old fisherman who had
saved him from the rocky isle came and craved audience. The tsar at
once received his deliverer who produced the written promise. "Very
well, old man," said the tsar; "to-day I am ruler, but I will as
readily fulfil my word as if I were a beggar with little to share;
so let us divide my possessions in two equal parts." Then the tsar
took the books and began to divide the cities, saying: "This is for
you--this is for me." So he marked all on a map, till the whole tsardom
was divided between them, from the greatest city to the poorest hut.

When the tsar had finished the old man said: "Take all back! I am not
a man of this world; I am an angel from God, who sent me to save you
on account of your good deeds. Now reign and be happy, and may you
live long in complete prosperity!" So saying, he vanished suddenly,
and the young tsar ruled in great happiness ever after.

Next: He Whom God Helps No One Can Harm

Previous: The Maiden Wiser Than The Tsar

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