It was like that everywhere he went, and had been for years. Nobody would allow him anything because they didn’t believe he was a Prince, and nobody would believe he was a Prince because he had nothing. By the time he reached the next town, he was super depressed. He saw a young boy sitting by a well crying.
“What is the matter, boy?” asked the Rag Prince.
“I left my well go dry and now it wont fill at all. Father will beat the shit out of me for this.”
As the Rag Prince leaned over to look into the well, the copper piece with the emblazoned seal fell out of his breast-pocket. The boy saw it and his eyes grew wide.
“You are a Prince! You can help us!” cried the boy.
The Rag Prince thought about it for a moment, then answered:
“I’m no prince. Any forge can have a seal stamped into a piece of copper. Look at my clothes – would a prince be dressed like this, riding on an ass?
“I guess not.” The boy looked dejected.
“But I will try to help you.” Said the prince.
He approached a man carrying barrels of water from the river. He said:
“The water in this well is so fresh and cold. Empty your bucket of river water into the well and exchange it for some fresh, cold, well water.”
The man emptied his bucket into the well and refilled it with the same water he had emptied, but when he tasted it, he said:
“Delicious! This well water is so fresh and cold. Thank you sir.”
The prince approached a group of women carrying water from the river. Again he said:
“We have so much fresh cold water in our well. Empty your bucket of river water, and refill it with fresh cold well water.”
The women did so. The Rag Prince approached another group and asked the same thing. By the time everyone had emptied and refilled their buckets in the well, it was primed and full again. The boy took the Rag Prince home to his family.
“This man is so clever, he should be a prince!” The boy told his parents.
“I am no prince.” Said the Rag Prince, “but I am fair and just. If you have matters that need arbitration, I will do what I can.”
That day he settled the case of two neighbours disputing ownership of a milk cow:
“If you cannot agree, you will have to cut the cow in two and each take an equal share. Fetch me a saw!”
The neighbours looked at each other in horror, and decided they would share the milking of the cow on alternate days. Then he arbitrated a case of an adulterous husband:
“If you would like to sleep with other women, I will pass a law to make all men and women of the village free to sleep around as they choose. Rejoice, men and women, that you are free to love whomever you please!”
The women looked around, considering the possibility of this new freedom, and the men looked at the women, at each other, and then at the adulterous man. He agreed, instead, that he would be faithful, and the other men of the village said they would help make sure he didn’t fall off the wagon.
He sentenced a thief who was breaking into people’s houses.
“If you love other people”s houses so much, you can spend more time in them, cleaning and tending the gardens.”
The people got their houses cleaned, and the theif got paid for cleaning so he didn’t have to steal anymore. And he also found out he had a knack for floral arrangement.
The people gathered and thanked the Rag Prince profusely, and after feeding him and putting him up for the night, they gave him a small tithe and he went on his way.
“He is no prince, but he is fair and just, and a damn good arbitrator,” they said.
(to be continued)