Just a Bum
(c) 2017 Haylee V
Once upon a time, a wealthy and respected king, eager to learn if the loyalty and compassion shown him was genuine, or just out of fear for his position, decided to test his subjects.
This king was known far and wide for his handsome baby face and regal bearing. I must do something to disguise my appearance, he thought, lest I be discovered and my plans ruined.
The king advised his grand vizier that he would be taking a lengthy journey, and that the vizier should rule until he returns. The vizier, however, had plans of his own, and wished to usurp the throne. This is the PERFECT opportunity! he thought.
The king then prepared for his journey, locking everything of value in his vault -- save for one thing -- the royal sigil, with which he could prove his identity, as well as his right to the throne.
Donning a set of peasant clothes and an old nag, the king silently sneaked out of the castle that evening, leaving a notice of his departure on the vizier's door.
The king rode his nag for several days over the open countryside, stopping only to eat and resting at dark. After a week, he was about two hundred leagues from the castle -- far enough to enact his plans. Since he hadn't shaved, the beard growth hid most of his fine features. He then took his hunting knife and ripped his tunic and breeches, giving them what he hoped was a well-worn appearance. He then sent the old nag back to the castle, knowing she would eventually find her way back.
Everything was set. The king appeared, to all appearances, to be nothing but a wandering vagrant. He slowly made the trek back to the kingdom, taking great care to keep his signet ring well hidden.
A fortnight later found the weary king back at the gates of the city, where he sought refuge amongst the town's peasantry. He was allowed entry into the city, but unfortunately could find no quarter, and ended up sleeping in an open field. Having no money, no job, and no residence made the king even lower than a serf in the eyes of many of the townspeople.
"He's just a bum," some would say, as they turned corners to avoid the vagabond.
"Careful. Who knows what that vagrant's capable of," said others.
Finally, hungry, cold, and completely exhausted, the king came to the hovel of a poor, but honest farmer and his wife.
"Come," the kind farmer said. "No one needs to be out in the cold. We haven't much, but you can make yourself a straw pallet by the fire. The stew on the hearth may look thin, but my wife has ways of making even that filling. Please help yourself. She can make it stretch. And have a draught from the cistern as well. It may be only water, but you'll not find a more refreshing beverage anywhere else in the kingdom."
The king thanked the kindly couple for their hospitality. To think, he thought silently. They have almost nothing, and don't know me from Adam, yet they gave me so much. Such compassion is very rare among my subjects.
The king ate and drank his fill, then turned to leave. He casually let his ring shine in the hovel's dim light, then smiled as he left. "Your kindness will not be forgotten," he whispered.
Now fully rested, the king made his way back into the castle, imploring the guards to grant an audience with the vizier.
"Out of the way, mangy cur!" the guards commanded. "No one may see the Grand Vizier save the king himself."
With that, the king raised his signet. "It is I. Have no fear, but DO NOT tell him who seeks him."
The guards nodded, then opened the door to the throne room . Bowing, they quickly resumed their posts.
The vizier was seated on the king's throne, being fed grapes by a concubine.
"WHO ARE YOU, DOG?" the vizier bellowed, "To come before the Almighty Grand Vizier?"
"It is I," the king stated flatly, flashing his ring. "I have returned to take back what is RIGHTFULLY mine. Step down."
"YOU LIE, THIEF!" the vizier roared, reaching for his scimitar. "But even if you ARE the king, the throne -- and this kingdom -- belongs to ME now. Today, you'll breathe your last."
Swiftly grabbing a sword from one of the suits of armor lying nearby, the king set to defend himself against the treasonous vizier. The vizier was no match for the king's prowess, and quickly fell before his blade, dead.
"Such is the fate of all who would usurp the throne," the king stated before calling his guards. They quickly came and hauled the dead body away.
"Now, just who is WORTHY enough to take his place?" the king asked, rhetorically.
"Summon the farmer and his wife to me, IMMEDIATELY!"
"As you command, Sire."
"Have them brought to me in an hour. I must go and make myself presentable. Traveling can do DREADFUL things to one's appearance."
The king motioned for the concubine, who had been watching close by -- wide-eyed -- to attend to his needs. Before long, she had him once again looking his regal, baby-faced self.
The farmer and his wife were brought before the king. Both quickly prostrated themselves, terrified by the summons.
"Arise, my friends," the king called out jovially. "And NEVER let me see you bow before me again. There is no need, for you both are more REGAL than I shall ever be. You showed me compassion when you didn't even know me. Such compassion is rare. You treated me not as a stranger, but as a dear friend. You have earned my respect and undying gratitude, and -- if you'll accept it -- a position of honor by my side."
The farmer and his wife were dumbfounded, as they rose, only to find the king get up from his throne, walk to them, and KNEEL before them. They gladly accepted their new positions, and lived in peace the remainder of their days.
One should NEVER judge another by outward appearances.
Treat everyone you meet BETTER than you treat yourself, for you never know when you may entertain an ANGEL unaware.
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