Marcellino’s Grandfather Gerardo took him to meet his old school friend from his boarding school days. His friend had recently become King Bengal of Tropica Nadia, a small country off the coast of India. King Bengal lived in a splendid palace overlooking the sea.
Marcellino’s smile enchanted the king. The king invited him to a party for his young daughter, Sahara, in three days time. Marcellino was very happy, but his Grandfather Gerardo was worried. What should they bring little Sahara for a present? What do you buy for a ten year old princess?
They visited the market square.
“We need a gift for the Princess Sahara,” Grandfather Gerardo advised the carpet merchant.
“Ah, sir! You are honored to be invited to the Princess’s birthday. I have a splendid carpet hand-knotted by a thousand workers over ten years.” Indeed, it shone with all the colors of the rainbow, but Grandfather had not earned so much money in his entire life.
“We need a gift for the Princess Sahara,” Grandfather Gerardo smiled at the goldsmith.
“You are honored beyond measure,” the goldsmith nodded. “Here is a gold collar hammered by tiny silver hammers and set with rubies from Burma and emeralds from Columbia.” Grandfather had not earned so much money in his entire life.
The spice dealer offered a chest with one hundred small drawers with spices from every continent in the world. “This drawer here even has salts from the oceans of Antarctica,” the spice dealer said with a deep bow. But Grandfather had not earned so much money in his entire life.
Finally, they left the market. In despair, they sat on a fence and wondered what to do. Marcellino looked idly at a lily, covered in rain drops. An arabian stallion with white legs pushed his white nose over the fence in between them. His black back was dull and dirty with mud. The stallion blew into Marcellino’s hair, and Marcellino giggled.
“What a handsome horse! He must have been rolling in the fields.” Grandfather perked up, and he patted the horse fondly. “Maybe an idea will come to me for a present while we groom this handsome stallion. I miss caring for horses. I used to do my best thinking grooming horses and mucking out stalls.” His grandfather looked around and found a curry comb in the stable adjoining the fence.
Marcellino’s great-grandfather had raised fine horses, and Grandfather Gerardo had worked with the horses throughout his childhood. Grandfather began brushing the hair on the back of the stallion, loosening the mud and dirt, while whispering endearments to the horse. Dust rose around him in clouds. He sneezed, but he kept brushing. The horse sighed with joy, and leaned into him like a big dog. When Grandfather’s arm got tired, Marcellino took over. They brushed and brushed in turns until they were covered in dust, but the stallion was shiny and sleepy with pleasure.
“What are you doing?” A woman with thick black hair under a gold shawl and wearing a dark green dress came across the fields, with a wide, swinging gait. “Why Old Giacomo has never looked better!”
She smiled at the two of them covered in horse hair and looking sheepish. “I don’t have enough time for my old dear, and he is a vain thing. I like seeing him so happy.” Since she seemed so friendly, Marcellino asked her what they should take to Princess Sahara for her birthday.
“I know just the thing! I will tell her fortune. Here in Tropica Nadia, they all come to see Esme.” She waved her hand, indicating herself. “King Bengal is no different. You’ll see.”
She was right. Princess Sahara was the envy of all her high born friends, for none of them had ever been lucky enough to have their fortunes told by the famous Esme, who usually would not tell the fortunes of children. The king was delighted with such an unusual gift.
Princess Sahara never told anyone what Esme had predicted, but when King Bengal abdicated and ran off to Tahiti with an American alligator wrangler, and she was made queen at a young age, she did not seem surprised. Princess Sahara always remembered Marcellino fondly.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham