Once upon a time there lived three friends,—Pedro, Juan, and Pablo. One morning they met at the junction of three roads. While they were talking, Pedro said, “Let each of us take one of these roads and set out to find his fortune! there is nothing for us to do in our town.” The other two agreed. After they had embraced and wished each other good luck, they went their several ways. Before separating, however, they promised one another to meet again in the same plate, with the arrangement that the first who came should wait for the others.
Pedro took the road to the right. After three months’ travelling, sometimes over mountains, sometimes through towns, he met an old man. The old man asked him for food, for he was very hungry. Pedro gave him some bread, for that was all he had. The old man thanked the youth very much, and said, “In return for your kindness I will give you this carpet. It looks like an ordinary carpet, but it has great virtue. Whoever sits on it may be transported instantly to any place he desires to be.” Pedro received the carpet gladly and thanked the old man. Then the old man went on his way, and Pedro wandered about the town. At last, thinking of his two friends, he seated himself on his carpet and was transported to the crossroads, where he sat down to wait for Juan and Pablo.
Juan had taken the road to the left. After he had traveled for three months and a half, he, too, met an old man. This old man asked the youth for something to eat, as he was very hungry, he said. So Juan, kind-heartedly, shared with him the bread he was going to eat for his dinner. As a return for his generosity, the old man gave him a book, and said, “This book may seem to you of no value; but when you know of its peculiar properties, you will be astonished. By reading in it you will be able to know everything that is happening in the world at all times.” Juan was overjoyed with his present. After thanking the old man and bidding him good-by, the youth returned to the meeting-place at the cross-roads, where he met Pedro. The two waited for Pablo.
Pablo took the road in the middle, and, after travelling four months, he also met an old man, to whom he gave the bread he was going to eat for his dinner. “As you have been very kind to me,” said the old man, “I will give you this ivory tube as a present. Perhaps you will say that it is worthless, if you look only at the outside; but when you know its value, you will say that the one who possesses it is master of a great treasure. It cures all sick persons of every disease, and, even if the patient is dying, it will restore him instantly to perfect health if you will but blow through one end of the tube into the sick person’s nose.” Pablo thanked the old man heartily for his gift, and then set out for the meeting-place. He joined his friends without mishap.
The three friends congratulated one another at having met again in safety and good health. Then they told one another about their fortunes. While Pedro was looking in Juan’s book, he read that a certain princess in a distant kingdom was very sick, and that the king her father had given orders that any person in the world who could cure his daughter should be her husband and his heir. When Pedro told his companions the news, they at once decided to go to that kingdom. They seated themselves on the carpet, and were transported in a flash to the king’s palace. After they had been led into the room of the sick princess, Pablo took his tube and blew through one end of it into her nose. She immediately opened her eyes, sat up, and began to talk. Then, as she wanted to dress, the three friends retired.
While the princess was dressing, Pablo, Juan, and Pedro went before the king, and told him how they had learned that the princess was sick, how they had been transported there, and who had cured her. The king, having heard all each had to say in his own favor, at last spoke thus wisely to them:—
“It is true, Pablo, that you are the one who cured my daughter; but let me ask you whether you could have contrived to cure her if you had not known from Juan’s book that she was sick, and if Pedro’s carpet had not brought you here without delay.—Your book, Juan, revealed to you that my daughter was sick; but the knowledge of her illness would have been of no service had it not been for Pedro’s carpet and Pablo’s tube. And it is just the same way with your carpet, Pedro.—So I cannot grant the princess to any one of you, since each has had an equal share in her cure. As this is the case, I will choose another means of deciding. Go and procure, each one of you, a bow and an arrow. I will hang up the inflorescence of a banana-plant. This will represent the heart of my daughter. The one who shoots it in the middle shall be the husband of my daughter, and the heir of my kingdom.”
The first to shoot was Pedro, whose arrow passed directly through the middle of the banana-flower. He was very glad. Juan shot second. His arrow passed through the same hole Pedro’s arrow had made. Now came Pablo’s turn; but when Pablo’s turn came, he refused to shoot, saying that if the banana-flower represented the heart of the princess, he could not shoot it, for he loved her too dearly.
When the king heard this answer, he said, “Since Pablo really loves my daughter, while Pedro and Juan do not, for they shot at the flower that represents her heart, Pablo shall marry the princess.”
And so Pablo married the king’s daughter, and in time became king of that country.