The King and the Hermit
Dear friends, there is a tale,
Long ago there lived a king who had two sons. Both children were overindulgent in spending and habits, and the king was much vexed by this careless nature. Being very old, he worried that after his death they would shortly blunder away their inherited wealth.
To protect his fortune from such idle destruction, the king resolved to hide it. He sought the confidence of a saintly hermit, who long ago retired from this world. By the counsel of this hermit the king’s treasure was buried privately in the hermitage, along with a will. “I charge,” said the king to the hermit, “that you must reveal this treasure to my sons only after they have faced the distresses of poverty. Perhaps after they have suffered some hardship, they will at last understand the virtues that I have failed to teach them.”
The hermit vowed to observe the king’s commands, and being satisfied, the king returned to his palace. Not long after this the king died. But being extremely old himself, the hermit did not outlast him by even ten days. Thus the fortune lay concealed in the hermitage, known to no-one. The sons meanwhile could not agree upon succession rights, and came to blows. The elder brother, being stronger, not only bloodied his younger brother in combat but also exiled him from the city.
The younger prince thus deprived fell into a state of melancholy. Recalling his father’s fondness for the hermit, the prince decided to visit him, and learn how one might live a life retired from the world. When he came to the secluded hermitage and found the hermit dead, he buried the man and resolved to take up residence.
Months passed in solitude for the young prince, with only nature and prayer to keep him company. After almost a year, in the course of caring for the hermitage, the young prince discovered a dry well. He descended the well to ascertain why the water had stopped, but instead he chanced upon the treasure of his father and the will. Thanking heaven, he resolved to lay out this money with an earnest and prudent moderation.
Meanwhile, the elder brother sat securely on the throne, reveling with much enthusiasm, and with little care for the people or the army. All the while he imagined that his father’s treasure was hidden in the palace, as he had been told upon his father’s deathbed.
It was not long until he was at war with a neighboring prince. Needing the recourse of his fortune, he sought throughout the palace in vain. The king was much distraught, but compelled by the virtue of necessity, he nonetheless managed to raise a modest army, and marched out of the city to meet his foe.
An unyielding battle ensued, and both the king and his enemy were slain. The armies continued to fall upon each other in a fury, until at length the noblest warriors remaining sensed the futility, and agreed to a peace, on condition that they find a gentle and mild ruler to head a new state. Some suggested they ask the nearby hermit, and sought him for advice. When they arrived, they found instead the young prince, praying in the garden. The warriors gave him account of the outside world, and he gave account of his own life. Being impressed with his wisdom and manner, they swore oaths in the garden, and together returned to the royal palace to crown him king.
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Dear friends, I have been quite busy, with only a little time to write after everyone else is in bed. My drafts and notes pile up, so do other projects. Even my tales have suffered!
Winter of course is a time of turning inward, and that means more room for writing. I will pen again, soon.
The painting is The Recluse, by Ludwig Sckell (1833-1912)