The Beggar and The King (Part 2)

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THE KING: (roaring at him) I said, Go! (THE SERVANT, abashed, goes out.) Forsooth, I fancy the fellow will stop his bawling when I order him to. Forsooth, I fancy he will be pretty well frightened when he hears that the king desires his presence. Ha, ha, ha, ha!

THE SERVANT: (returning) O king, here is the beggar.

[A shambling creature hung in filthy rags follows THE SERVANT slowly into the royal chamber.]

THE KING: Ha! A magnificent sight, to be sure. Art thou the beggar who has been crying aloud in the streets for bread?

THE BEGGAR: (in a faint voice, after a slight pause) Art thou the king?

THE KING: I am the king.

THE SERVANT: (aside to THE BEGGAR) It is not proper for a beggar to ask a question of a king. Speak only as thou art spoken to.

THE KING: (to THE SERVANT) Do thou likewise. (To THE BEGGAR) I have ordered thee here to speak to thee concerning a very grave matter. Thou art the beggar, I understand, who often cries aloud in the streets for bread. Now, the complaint of thy voice annoys me greatly. Therefore, do not beg any more.

THE BEGGAR: (faintly) I--I do not understand.

THE KING: I said, do not beg any more.

THE BEGGAR: I--I do not understand.

THE SERVANT: (aside to THE BEGGAR) The king has commanded thee not to beg for bread any more. The noise of thy voice is as garbage in his ears.

THE KING: (to THE SERVANT) Ha! An excellent flower of speech. Pin it in thy buttonhole. (To THE BEGGAR) Thine ears, I see, are in need of a bath even more than thy body. I said, Do not beg any more.

THE BEGGAR: I--I do not understand.

THE KING: (making a trumpet of his hands and shouting). DO NOT BEG ANY MORE.

THE BEGGAR: I--I do not understand.

THE KING: Heavens! He is deafer than a stone wall.

THE SERVANT: O king, he cannot be deaf, for he understood me quite easily when I spoke to him in the street.

THE KING: (to THE BEGGAR) Art thou deaf? Canst thou hear what I am saying to thee now?

THE BEGGAR: Alas! I can hear every word perfectly.

THE KING: Fft! The impudence. Thy tongue shall be cut out for this.

THE SERVANT: O king, to cut out his tongue is useless, for he will grow another.

THE KING: No matter. It shall be cut out anyway. (To THE BEGGAR) I have ordered thee not to beg any more in the streets. What meanest thou by saying thou dost not understand?

THE BEGGAR: The words of thy mouth I can hear perfectly. But their noise is only a foolish tinkling in my ears.

THE KING: Fft! Only a--! A lash will tinkle thy hide for thee if thou dost not cure thy tongue of impudence. I, thy king, have ordered thee not to beg any more in the streets for bread. Signify, therefore, that thou wilt obey the orders of thy king by quickly touching thy forehead thrice to the floor.

THE BEGGAR: That is impossible.

THE SERVANT: (aside to THE BEGGAR) Come. It is not safe to tempt the patience of the king too long. His patience is truly great, but he loses it most wondrous quickly.

THE KING: Come, now: I have ordered thee to touch thy forehead to the floor.

THE SERVANT: (nudging him) And quickly.

THE BEGGAR: Wherefore should I touch my forehead to the floor?

THE KING: In order to seal thy promise to thy king.

THE BEGGAR: But I have made no promise. Neither have I any king.

THE KING: Ho! He has made no promise. Neither has he any king. Ha, ha, ha. I have commanded thee not to beg any more, for the sound of thy voice is grievous unto my ears. Touch thy forehead now to the floor, as I have commanded thee, and thou shall go from this palace a free man. Refuse, and thou wilt be sorry before an hour that thy father ever came within twenty paces of thy mother.

THE BEGGAR: I have ever lamented that he did. For to be born into this world a beggar is a more unhappy thing than any that I know--unless it is to be born a king.

THE KING: Fft! Thy tongue of a truth is too lively for thy health. Come, now, touch thy forehead thrice to the floor and promise solemnly that thou wilt never beg in the streets again. And hurry!

THE SERVANT: (aside) It is wise to do as thy king commands thee. His patience is near an end.

THE KING: Do not be afraid to soil the floor with thy forehead. I will graciously forgive thee for that.

[THE BEGGAR stands motionless.]

THE SERVANT: I said, it is not wise to keep the king waiting.

[THE BEGGAR does not move.]

THE KING: Well? (A pause.) Well? (In a rage) WELL?

THE BEGGAR: O king, thou hast commanded me not to beg in the streets for bread, for the noise of my voice offends thee. Now therefore do I likewise command thee to remove thy crown from thy forehead and throw it from yonder window into the street. For when thou hast thrown thy crown into the street, then will I no longer be obliged to beg.

THE KING: Fft! Thou commandest me! Thou, a beggar from the streets, commandest me, a king, to remove my crown from my forehead and throw it from yonder window into the street!

THE BEGGAR: That is what I said.

THE KING. Why, dost thou not know I can have thee slain for such words?

THE BEGGAR: No. Thou canst not have me slain. The spears of thy soldiers are as straws against my body.

THE KING: Ha! We shall see if they are. We shall see!

THE SERVANT: O king, it is indeed true. It is even as he has told thee.

THE BEGGAR: I have required thee to remove thy crown from thy forehead. If so be thou wilt throw it from yonder window into the street, my voice will cease to annoy thee any more. But if thou refuse, then thou wilt wish thou hadst never had any crown at all. For thy days will be filled with a terrible boding and thy nights will be full of horrors, even as a ship is full of rats.

THE KING: Why, this is insolence. This is treason!

THE BEGGAR: Wilt thou throw thy crown from yonder window?

THE KING: Why, this is high treason!

THE BEGGAR: I ask thee, wilt thou throw thy crown from yonder window?

THE SERVANT: (aside to THE KING) Perhaps it were wise to humor him, O king. After thou hast thrown thy crown away I can go outside and bring it to thee again.

THE BEGGAR: Well? Well? (He points to the window.) Well?

THE KING: No! I will not throw my crown from that window--no, nor from any other window. What! Shall I obey the orders of a beggar? Never!

THE BEGGAR: (preparing to leave) Truly, that is spoken like a king. Thou art a king, so thou wouldst prefer to lose thy head than that silly circle of gold that so foolishly sits upon it. But it is well. Thou art a king. Thou couldst not prefer otherwise.

[He walks calmly toward the door.]

THE KING: (to THE SERVANT) Stop him! Seize him! Does he think to get off so easily with his impudence!

THE BEGGAR: (coolly) One of thy servants cannot stop me. Neither can ten thousand of them do me any harm. I am stronger than a mountain. I am stronger than the sea!

THE KING: Ha! We will see about that, we will see about that. (To THE SERVANT) Hold him, I say. Call the guards. He shall be put in chains.

THE BEGGAR: My strength is greater than a mountain and my words are more fearful than a hurricane. This servant of thine cannot even touch me. With one breath of my mouth I can blow over this whole palace.

THE KING: Dost thou hear the impudence he is offering me? Why dost thou not seize him? What is the matter with thee? Why dost thou not call the guards?

THE BEGGAR: I will not harm thee now. I will only cry aloud in the streets for bread wherewith to fill my belly. But one day I will not be so kind to thee. On that day my mouth will be filled with a rushing wind and my arms will become as strong as steel rods, and I will blow over this palace, and all the bones in thy foolish body I will snap between my fingers. I will beat upon a large drum and thy head will be my drumstick. I will not do these things now. But one day I will do them. Therefore, when my voice sounds again in thine ears, begging for bread, remember what I have told thee. Remember, O king, and be afraid!

[He walks out. THE SERVANT, struck dumb, stares after him. THE KING sits in his chair, dazed.]

THE KING: (suddenly collecting his wits) After him! After him! He must not be allowed to escape! After him!

THE SERVANT: (faltering) O king--I cannot seem to move.

THE KING: Quick, then. Call the guards. He must be caught and put in chains. Quick, I say. Call the guards!

THE SERVANT: O king--I cannot seem to call them.

THE KING: How! Art thou dumb? Ah!

[THE BEGGAR'S voice is heard outside.]

THE BEGGAR: Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.

THE KING: Ah. [He turns toward the window, half-frightened, and then, almost instinctively, raises his hands toward his crown, and seems on the point of tossing it out the window. But with an oath he replaces it and presses it firmly on his head.] How! Am I afraid of a beggar!

THE BEGGAR: (continuing outside) Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.

THE KING: (with terrible anger) Close that window!

[THE SERVANT stands stupidly, and the voice of THE BEGGAR grows louder as the curtain falls.]

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2 years ago


Thank you for telling the wonderful story of the King

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My pleasure

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