Many years ago, in a very distant kingdom, lived a widowed king with his beloved sons the princes Luis, Jaime and Alberto. The boys were triplets and looked very much physically: the three had eyes of an almost violet blue, the skin white, the hair waved to the shoulders, and an exquisite natural elegance inherited from his mother. From their birth they had received the same education and equal privileges, but the truth is that although at first sight they used to confuse them, they were completely different in their way of being.
Luis was a young man, a little stretched, superficial and of refined tastes who cared a lot about his appearance. Nothing he liked more than to live surrounded by luxuries and adorned with jewels, the bigger the better! Jaime, on the other hand, did not attach too much importance to material things; he was the typical born joker who radiated joy at all times and who had as a goal in life to work little and have a lot of fun. Alberto, the third brother, was the most timid and calm; Passionate about art and culture, he used to spend his evenings writing poems, playing the harp or reading old books in the lavish library of the palace.
On the day they turned eighteen, the monarch wanted to make them a very special gift, and for that reason, after a hearty family breakfast, he gathered them in the hall where the most solemn audiences and acts were held. From his throne of gold and red velvet he looked happily at the boys who, standing in front of him, wondered why his father had summoned them at such an early hour.
- My children, today is a key day in your life. It seems that it was yesterday when you came into the world and look at you now … you are already made men and rights! Time flies by, is not it? …
Emotion broke his voice and he had to pause a little before he could continue his speech.
- I must confess that I have been thinking for months about what to give you on this important occasion and I sincerely hope you like what I have arranged for you.
He picked up a small mother-of-pearl box that rested on the table next to it and from the inside he took out three leather bags tied with a golden thread.
- Come and take one each!
The old king made the deal and kept talking.
- Each bag contains one hundred gold coins. I think it’s a sufficient amount for you to go on a trip for a month! You are already adults, so you have the freedom to do what you want and spend the money as you please.
The boys looked at each other stupefied. A month to do what they wanted, as they wanted and where they wanted … and on top of all the expenses paid! Upon hearing the word ‘gift’ they had imagined a gala cape or silk breeches, but this magnificent surprise was not at all.
- My only condition is that you leave this noon, so go prepare the luggage while the servants saddle the horses. In thirty days, neither one more nor one less, and exactly at this time, we will meet here and tell me your experience. Okay?
The three young men, still confused, thanked and gave their father a big hug. Then, as if floating in a cloud of happiness, they went to their rooms with their pockets full and their heads full of projects for the next four weeks.
When the clock struck twelve o’clock the princes left the palace, determined to enjoy a unique and unforgettable month. Obviously, each one took the direction that seemed to him according to his plans.
Luis decided to ride east because there were concentrated the richest and most influential noble families and he thought that the time had come to know them. Jaime, as a good vividor that he was, went straight to the South in search of sun and joy. I needed a binge and I knew where to find it! Unlike his brothers, Alberto concluded that it was best not to make plans and travel the kingdom without a fixed direction, without a specific destination to address.
Day after day the weeks went by until finally it was time to return and report to the throne room to give an account to the king. With a difference of a few minutes the princes greeted their father, who received them with affectionate shrugs.
- Be welcome, my children. You can not imagine how much I missed you! This castle was so empty without you … What are you waiting to tell me about your adventures? You hold me on fire!
Luis was excited and wishing to be the first to tell his story. Looking at his father and his brothers, he expounded:
- The truth is that I had a great trip! I did not take more than a couple of days to reach the most prosperous city in the kingdom.
- Wow, that’s great! And how did they receive you?
- Oh, beautifully! As soon as they heard about my presence, the aristocrats entertained me with parades, fireworks and all kinds of celebrations. Besides, of course, the time I stayed there I stayed in elegant mansions, I tasted exquisite delicacies, and they introduced me to a beautiful and sophisticated duchess who stole my heart …
Luis stared at infinity, recalling with nostalgia those special moments for him. When he came to himself, he showed everyone his bag of coins.
- And look at my bag … it’s still full! I have been invited to everything, so of the hundred coins I have only spent three. A month of luxury for the face! … What is great?
Luis’ self-confidence made his father laugh.
- Hahaha! It is clear that you have enjoyed and I am very happy for you.
Next, the king looked at another of his children.
- And you, Jaime, have you had as much fun as your brother?
The nice boy was also crazy with happiness.
- Oh, yes, yes, better than good! … I can say without lying that it has been the best month of my life!
- Do not tell me! … We are eager to know your adventures.
- It is difficult to summarize everything that I have lived in a few words! … I will only tell you that shortly after I left I came across some wagons in which a company of more than forty artists was traveling. As they did not recognize me, I told them I was a fabric merchant who went south and they let me join the group. It was awesome! In each town they went to, they offered a show that left everyone speechless. There were tightrope walkers, comedians … and even fakirs!
- Wow, how good it all sounds! … It must have been fun!
Jaime was exalted remembering his experiences.
- Yes! I would sit among the audience to see him, but the best came later, because once they picked up the gear we went to dine and dance under the moonlight. Oh, what a carefree life those people have! If it were not because I am the son of the king I assure you that I would be a juggler …
Jaime also left the lost look during, reveling in his memories. Moments later, he added:
- By the way, they gave me bed and food in exchange for washing the dishes. I had so few expenses that I bring back almost all the coins that I took!
The father sighed thinking that his son had no choice.
- Oh, my dear Jaime, when will you sit down? Look, you like to do extravagances! … In any case, I am very happy that this trip has been so pleasant for you.
Finally, it was the turn of the third brother.
- Well, it’s all just you … Tell us how it went!
Alberto did not seem too satisfied.
- Well, I wanted to see with my own eyes how the inhabitants of our kingdom live. For a month I went through all the farms I could and chatted with a lot of farmers about the things that worried them the most, like the lack of seeds and the lack of rain in recent years. I must say that everyone was very kind and shared with me how little they had.
The old man fixed his gaze on the young man’s and asked him:
- It does not sound too funny, really … My son, do you want to explain to me what all this has done?
Alberto answered without hesitation
- To see reality! To know what happens beyond the walls of the palace! … Those of us here have everything, but out there the majority of the population works from sunrise to sunset under very harsh circumstances. Did you know that many of them do not even have an old plow that will facilitate the tasks of the field? And that most survive on bread and cheese because they have nothing else to put in their mouths? …
Even though what I was saying was very depressing, Alberto did not break down and exposed the positive part of the trip.
- The good thing is that I have taken note of everything and I have a lot of ideas that we can carry out to improve the living conditions of all those people! As for my coins, I am sorry to say that I come with the empty bag because I distributed them among the most needy.
The king, very excited, stood up and in a low voice announced:
- When I made the decision to invite you to know the world for a month I wanted you to live a unique experience following the dictates of your heart.
The three princes held their breath as their father became more serious than usual.
- But I have to confess that it was also a ruse to put you to the test. Look at me … I’m an old man! I need to rest and spend the years that I have left taking care of the flowers in the garden and walking my dogs. The time has come for this kingdom to have a new ruler to guide its destiny!
The king sighed wearily.
- As you know, the honor of inheriting the crown always falls on the eldest son, the heir, something that in this case is impossible because you are triplets born on the same day. That is why I believe that my successor should be the one who deserves the most of the three.
He took off the brilliant crown of emeralds, put it on the palm of his hands, and approached his children. The first words went to Luis.
- Dear Luis … You have become a man who achieves everything you propose. You like to live well and praise it, but I hope that spending the days between lace and porcelain does not rot your noble heart. Never forget to cultivate a great virtue: generosity, which will allow you to share part of how much you have with those who have nothing. I wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
Luis lowered his head and the king walked a couple of steps until he had Jaime a few inches away.
- Dear Jaime … You have become a man who knows how to enjoy everything around you. You need strong emotions and I know that you will live with intensity until the end of your days. I just hope that so much enjoyment does not turn you into an empty being with nothing to offer to others. Try to make your life useful, leave an important legacy that will never be forgotten. I wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
Finally, the king approached the good of Alberto.
- Dear Alberto … You have become a cultured and compassionate man. You have taken advantage of all these years to study and train your best because you have understood perfectly what are the responsibilities of a prince. You are interested in the well-being of your people and you are concerned about the most disadvantaged. My heart tells me that you are the chosen one.
That said, and to the astonishment of Prince Louis and Prince James, he placed the crown on his head.
- Starting today you will be the king of this kingdom. Rule with justice and you will bring prosperity, rule with kindness and you will be loved, rule with reason and you will be respected by future generations. Like your brothers, I also wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
And so it was that for the first time a birthday gift served for a monarch to choose his successor. Apparently it was a wise decision, because according to legend, the new king struggled to create a less unequal society, promoted major reforms, and went down in history with the name of Alberto el Bondadoso.