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The Coming Of The King

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - STORIES BY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITERS





BY LAURA E. RICHARDS


Some children were at play in their playground one day when a herald
rode through the town, blowing a trumpet, and crying aloud: "The King!
The King passes by this road to-day!"

"Did you hear that?" they said. "The King is coming. He may look over
the wall and see our playground: who knows? We must put it in order."

The playground was sadly dirty, and in the corners were scraps of paper
and broken toys--for these were careless children! But now, one brought
a hoe, and another a rake, and a third ran to fetch the wheelbarrow
from behind the garden gate. They labored hard, till at length all was
clean and tidy.

"Now it is clean!" they said; "but we must make it pretty, too, for
kings are used to fine things; maybe he would not notice mere
cleanness, for he may have it all the time."

Then one brought sweet rushes and strewed them on the ground; and
others made garlands of oak leaves and pine tassels and hung them on
the walls; and the littlest one pulled marigold buds and threw them all
about the playground.

When all was done the playground was so beautiful that the children
stood and looked at it, and clapped their hands with pleasure.

"Let us keep it always like this!" said the littlest one; and the
others cried: "Yes! yes!"

They waited all day for the coming of the King, but he did not come;
only, toward sunset, a man with travel-worn clothes, and a kind, tired
face passed along the road, and stopped to look over the wall.

"What a pleasant place!" said the man. "May I come in and rest, dear
children?"

The children brought him in gladly, and set him on the seat that they
had made out of an old cask. They had covered it with an old red cloak,
to make it look like a throne; and it made a very good one.

"It is our playground!" they said. "We made it pretty for the King, but
he did not come, and now we mean to keep it so for ourselves."

"That is good!" said the man.

"Because we think pretty and clean is nicer than ugly and dirty!" said
another.

"That is better!" said the man.

"And for tired people to rest in!" said the littlest one.

"That is best of all!" said the man.

He sat and rested, and looked at the children with such kind eyes that
they came about him, and told him all they knew; about the five puppies
in the barn, and the thrush's nest with four blue eggs, and the shore
where the gold shells grew: and the man nodded, and understood all
about it.

By-and-by he asked for a cup of water, and they brought it to him in
the best cup, with the gold sprigs on it, then he thanked the children,
and rose and went on his way; but before he went he laid his hand on
their heads for a moment, and the touch went warm to their hearts.

The children stood by the wall and watched the man as he went slowly
along. The sun was setting, and the light fell in long slanting rays
across the road.

"He looks so tired!" said one of the children.

"But he was so kind!" said another.

"See!" said the littlest one. "How the sun shines on his hair! it looks
like a crown of gold."

[C] From "The Golden Windows," by Laura E. Richards; published
by Little, Brown & Company, Boston. Used by permission of the
publishers.





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