The great chancellor said to him:
“I will, but it would not be well for the empress to see you in these clothes. May God make your days happy! We must make you look decent!”
And taking him to the bathroom, he placed him in the hands of his slaves who, in a twinkling, perfumed and clothed him in beautiful robes of silk and gold.
Pinchauvas, accompanied by the great chancellor, went to the imperial rooms, and there, on account of the person who accompanied him being the head of the government, had only to wait in eleven ante-chambers, after which he was shown into the imperial presence.
“Here I bring you, celebrated princess, the most famous and wise necromancer of the world,” said the chancellor, who must have been fond of exaggerating. “A whirlwind made him fall on this palace dragging him from far lands, and in the centre of the whirlwind it seems to me I saw great Confucius, who held him by the neck.”
“Rise, wise man!” said the empress sweetly.
Pinchauvas did not move.
“Get up, wise man!” repeated the chancellor in French.
“Do you mean me?” exclaimed Pinchauvas. And with one bound he stood up.
“Bow down, or you are a dead man,” shouted the chancellor to him.
“I don’t want to,” answered the youth.
“What does he say?” inquired the princess.
“That he must see the silver thread that Brahma presented you with this morning.”
“Look at it!” said the queen with emphasis.
And taking out the seven hundred hair-pins and the three hundred packing needles with which she adorned herself, she let her silky black hair fall down, and amongst it could be seen one hair as white as snow.
Pinchauvas advanced, with more fear than shame and his mind made up, seized the hair, and, making signs as if in prayer, sharply pulled it out. The queen gave a scream and Pinchauvas, approaching a window, threw out the white hair, the cause of the misfortune of the Chinese Empire.
“Ah!” exclaimed the queen, “do you return Brahma his gift? What a marvellous man! He deserves a thousand rewards. For the present you will cede to him your post, and from to-day he will be my chancellor; and, so that you will not be troubled, I will hang you this afternoon with a rope that I made for you some days ago.”
“What an honour for the family, lady!” said the chancellor, terrified. “Do you wish me to translate your proposal to the wise man?”
“Do so at once.”
The poor man translated with complete fidelity what the queen had said, and then Pinchauvas told the chancellor that he would only accept his post on condition that he was given him as his secretary.
The empress acceded to Pinchauvas’ request, and granted him the royal seal as a sign of his unlimited authority.
“So that I can do what I like?” he asked.
“Whatever your highness wishes! Now, I am going to present you to the high functionaries of the palace.”
“He received them all with gestures of amiable protection, and the chancellor translated what he said.
“See here,” said Pinchauvas, “let them bring me that Chinaman who seized me by the neck two hours ago.”
“Seized your highness by your venerable neck?” indignantly asked the secretary.
“Does your highness wish us to burn him alive or simply to hang him?”
“I want you to bring him here safe and sound.”
“Really, does your highness wish to strangle him with your own hands? He does not deserve such an extraordinary honour.”
They brought the poor guard into the presence of Pinchauvas, and when they told him he was the new chancellor he almost died of terror.
“And now shall I really give you stomach-ache?” asked Pinchauvas, deliberately, raising his hand to his neck, which still hurt him.
The guard thought these were signs to hang him, and they would have done so, but for the opportune intervention of the brand new chancellor, who, besides pardoning the unfortunate man, conferred a high post upon him close to his person.
Pinchauvas has now learned Chinese and is called Pin-chu-chu, which means the wisest of the wise. And when he remembers his youth, he says inwardly:
“What would those poor horses in the bull-ring of Seville have said if they had been told that they had had the honour of being guided by the future Chancellor of China!”
is a sealed book
of which God alone
has the key.
From Fairy Tales from Spain, by J. Muñoz Escamez.London: J. M. Dent and Sons limited. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1913.