Tales : The King’s Touch

There was once upon a time a certain peasant who went into the countryside with his donkey to gather brush wood to sell in the market. All day he collected brambles and other brush until his donkey was piled high. As he was returning home, though, the donkey became stubborn, and as the man struggled to pull the animal along, it stumbled, and the entire load of brush fell into the road.

As the man stared disconsolately at the brush that he would have to load again on the uncooperative beast, a man on a horse happened to come riding along. The brush blocked the track entirely, so the rider stopped, and said, “I see you need some help.”

The peasant nodded glumly, but then saw with surprise that the rider was dismounting, and in a short time they had together gathered up all the brush and tied it again on the back of the donkey. When the last knot was tightened, the peasant slapped his unknown helper on the shoulder and said, “Thank you, friend. When I sell this in the market, I shall be able to offer you a cup of tea.”

Just then two more riders appeared, and seeing them, one called out, “Your majesty! We lost you in the hunt!” The other rider added, “Thanks be that our king is safe!”

The peasant gaped at the man beside him, and realising his error and recalling his calamitous informality, fell at the king’s feet in fear. “Forgive me, your majesty,” he pleaded, “forgive me.”

“Get up,” said the king. “Do you want to sell your brushwood? Name your price.”

The peasant got to his feet, and after a pause, with lowered gaze, said quietly but firmly, “The price would be ten gold coins.”

“What?!” said one of the riders. “Shame on you! These brambles are worth no more that two pennies in the market! Such insolence deserves a beating!”

“If they were ordinary brambles, you would be right, sir,” said the peasant. “But these are not ordinary. These are brambles that have been touched by the king.”

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