Good Deeds Never Perish

: 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

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.