The Prince & His Three Fates
ONCE upon a time a child was born to a king and queen who ruled over a great country on the banks of the Nile River. The royal parents were nearly beside themselves with joy, and they sent invitations at once to the most powerful fairies to come and see this wonderful baby. In an hour or two, so many were gathered round the cradle, that the child seemed in danger of being smothered; but the king, who was watching the fairies eagerly, was disturbed to see them looking grave.
"Is there anything the matter?" he asked anxiously.
The fairies looked at him, and they all shook their heads at once.
"He is a beautiful boy, and it is a great pity; but what is to happen will happen," said they. "It is fated that he must die either by a crocodile, or a serpent, or by a dog. If we could save him we would; but that is beyond our power."
And so saying they vanished.
For a time the king and queen stood where they were, horrorstricken at what they had heard; but, being of a hopeful nature, they began at once to invent plans to save the prince from the dreadful doom that awaited him. Instantly, the king sent for his master builder, and bade him to construct a strong castle on the top of a mountain, which should be fitted with the most precious things from the king's own palace, and every kind of toy a child could wish to play with. What's more, he gave the strictest orders that a guard should walk round the castle night and day.
For four or five years the baby lived in the castle alone with his nurses, taking his airings on the terraces, which were surrounded by walls, with a moat beneath them, and only a drawbridge to connect themselves with the outer world.
One day, when the prince was old enough to run quite fast by himself, he looked from the terrace across the moat, and saw a little soft fluffy ball of a dog jumping and playing on the other side. Now, of course, all dogs had been kept away from him for fear that the fairies' prophecy should come true, and he had never even seen one before. So be turned to the page who was walking behind him, and said, "What is that funny little thing which is running so fast over there?"
"That is a dog, prince," answered the page.
"Well, bring me one like it, and we will see which can run the faster." And he watched the dog until it disappeared round the corner.
The page was much puzzled. He had strict orders to refuse the prince nothing, yet he remembered the prophecy, and felt that this was a serious matter. At last he thought he had better tell the king the whole story, and let him decide the question.
"Oh, get him a dog if he wants one" said the king, "he will only cry his heart out if he does not have it." So a puppy was found, exactly like the other; they might have been twins, and perhaps they were.
Years went by, and the boy and the dog played together till the boy grew tall and strong. The time came at last when he sent a message to his father, saying:
"Why do you keep me shut up here, doing nothing? I know all about the prophecy that was made at my birth, but I would far rather be killed at once than live such an idle, useless life here trapped here on this mountain. I beg you, Father, give me arms, and let me go; me and my dog too."
Again the king listened to his wishes, and the young prince and his dog were carried in a ship to the other side of the Nile River, which was so broad at that part it might almost have been the sea.