A young nobleman set out one day in rags,
to mingle with the people over which he ruled. He wanted, not to rid himself of the nobility that was rightly his, but to
better understand the needs of his people. Such was the way he had been raised. He wore a torn, dirty cloak over and even
more ragged tunic. His boots were worn thin, ripped in places and barely kept his feet from touching bare ground. He further
made smudged up his face and hair. Satisfied that he looked enough like a peasant he took out on his venture.
The first person he met was a traveling merchant, from
whom he asked if he might purchase some bread.
“Get away from me beggar,” the merchant
replied, “or I shall have your thieving hide cast in irons.”
On down the road he came upon another nobleman, traveling
with his entourage.
“Kind sir,” he asked, “would you
be so kind as to spare a little water and a piece of bread?”
“The brook,” said the nobleman, “is
over yonder if you should want a drink. My fare is for those with me and certainly none of it shall fall to you.”
When the young man reached the edge of town he saw
a priest meditating under a large elm tree.
“Father, would you hear my confession?”
asked the young nobleman.
“If you were to cleanse yourself so that the
stench would be tolerable I might be so inclined,” the priest replied.
Upon entering the city he saw several other young men
and woman huddled in a dirty alleyway. He went over to them. “Pardon me,” he began, “but do you know where
one might find a little water and a morsel of bread?”
“Take my bread,” answered one of the youngest
among them. It shall be easy for me to find more.
“And take my water,” said another. “I
know the city and can find some easily for myself.”
Yet another observed, “You have come a fair distance.
I think it would be fit to share in our wealth together and rejoice in the occasion.”
Readily they all agreed. There were rotten apples and
oranges, bits of moldy bread and a piece of fish. There was water, but it tasted stale. Yet, they dined like true nobles.
They laughed and welcomed the new stranger to their group. That morning he thanked them all, bidding them good fortune, and
returned to his palace.
Once inside the castle home he began to prepare a grand
feast. He sent out beautifully engraved invitations to all, wealthy and poor alike. He especially made sure that the merchant,
the nobleman and the priest received invitations. Yet he sent a special messenger to request the presence of the ragged group
who had befriended him the night before.
Now the young nobleman was a very wealthy and powerful
man. The feast he laid out was done in the grandest of styles, with a large special table for himself and his honored guests.
Many torches lit up the room and reflected on one of the most magnificent chandeliers. It was wonderful. Yet, he had instructed
his servants not to let the guests come in and partake until he had entered and instructed them to do so. They were allowed
to wait in the Great Room, which had a view to the Dining Hall, but they were not to go any further without his permission.
When the guests began to arrive they were somewhat
confused by this strange order. Some grumbled and even turned away. Others stayed and awaited the order to enter. Others still,
looked for a way in before the allotted time. As they were waiting, a royal carriage arrived, carrying ten of the dirtiest,
unkempt and most unremarkable people they had ever seen. Not only had they arrived by the royal carriage, but they were also
ushered past the waiting crowds into the Dining Hall, where they were seated at the places of honor, at the head table.
“What does this young man think he is doing?”
one man asked.
“It is quite obvious that he has gone out of
his mind. They say that happens with those of his lineage,” answered another.
Just then the young nobleman entered and, after embracing
the dirty peasants, took his seat. He gazed out at those awaiting him to allow them entrance and motioned to several servants.
They roughly grabbed the two who had spoken ill of the nobleman, and brought them before him. They also brought in another
nobleman, and made him also stand before their lord.
“You two,” he began. “You come to
a feast to which you were invited and dare question the rationale of the one who throws the feast?” the young nobleman
“You must admit it seems a bit odd,” replied
the second of the two.
“Odd? What I find odd is that I invited you to
come at all. You I had deemed once as my friends, but I have found what you really think of me. You shall not therefore, take
part in this feast. Remove them!”
They protested, complained, begged forgiveness, but
to each he gave a deaf ear. When they were out of the castle he turned to the nobleman. “You were never counted among
my friends, nevertheless I invited you to this feast, with the same restrictions I placed upon all those waiting in the Great
Hall. Does this seem a fair thing to you?”
“Yes, of course,” replied the nobleman.
“Yet you chose to ignore both your noble heritage
and my instructions by trying to sneak into the Dining Hall above the others.”
The nobleman said nothing, but turned red. All this
time the others were watching these proceedings from the Great Hall.
“Friend or foe, by breaking this honor and trust
you shall be removed as well. Not only that, but your properties and holdings shall likewise come to my hand to do with as
I may. I shall leave to you the stable house and the clothes on your back. Remove him.”
The nobleman started to open his mouth in defense,
but turned and walked out.
Three more men were then brought before the young ruler.
The first was a merchant.
“How may I be of service to your lordship?”
the merchant asked.
“You? You be of service to me? I rather doubt
it. Take this beggar from my home. I know not how he came to be here.”
“But the invitation…”
“Ah, yes, the invitation. May I some day purchase
some bread from your stores?”
“Of course your lordship?”
“No matter how I am dressed or in what state
I appear to be in?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Remove this lying thief from my house,”
the nobleman commanded.
“I do not understand.”
“I have already come to you, dressed in ill-clothing
and attempted to purchase some bread from you, but you would not sell it to me. You called me a thieving beggar and threatened
to have me cast into irons. I shall be more merciful to you than you would be to me. For all you have is forfeit unto me.
You are no longer free to walk within my realm. Yet I will not cast you in irons as you would have me. I tell you the truth
that I have known beggars who are more honorable than you. Remove him.”
The merchant was still trying to speak when his servants
dragged him out of the palace. Next they brought to him a nobleman.
“Welcome to my home, such as it is,” the
young man said.
“It is a fine palace indeed.”
“You must be famished and thirsty from your journey.”
“That I am sir.”
“Well,” the young nobleman continued, “there
is a brook that runs from the dell beyond the crest of the hill if you are thirsty. Alas, my fair is for those for whom it
has been prepared, and I swear that none shall fall to you.”
On hearing his own words echoed back at him the nobleman
cried, “Have mercy on me. I did not know it was you.”
“I was a man in need. Was not that enough? Mercy
is for those who show mercy. It is not for those who would dishonor its name. Remove him from me,” he said. “Oh,
and all our lands, which have been under contract with my Father and I, these are hereby forfeit and return to my hand.”
“Where shall I live? Where shall I find food
“Look not to those who are like yourself, but
to those who have nothing. From them they find riches to give that you cannot find. It is a blessing that I give this to you.”
He was then removed from the castle as well. Once he
was gone a stately priest was ushered in before him.
“Blessings upon you, my lord,” the priest
said. “It is a fine thing you have done for the people in providing this banquet for them to ease their troubled minds.”
“And if a troubled soul should come your way,
what would you do?” asked the young man.
“Have mercy upon me, my lord. For I have seen
that you judge justly. I have seen how that with wisdom you have dealt with the merchant and the nobleman. I too am deserving
of such punishment for I refused to hear the confessions of a man because he was dirty and clothed in torn rags.”
“I was that man!”
The merchant fell with his face to the floor. “My
lord, have mercy upon me. Never again shall I turn anyone away, not for want of clothes nor bath nor any reason, save to protect
my own life.”
“Rise, wayward priest. I am a man of compassion
as well as justice.”
Slowly the priest rose, but he did not raise his head
because of the shame he felt, nor did he speak.
“I would talk to you on several points,”
the nobleman said. “First, I advise you to find another profession. It would seem that you take the benefits of your
office much more quickly than the burdens that must go with it. Learn to work with your hands and so serve God in a way that
is fitting to Him. Second, I give you mercy, but you shall not eat of this feast today. You shall keep what you own, except
that which the Most High God directs your heart to distribute to the poor. You shall not be left poor. Third, prove your repentance
with works befitting your repentance. Then should I have another feast you shall be most welcome.”
Without looking up the priest said, “Thank you,
“One last thing,” the young man continued,
“do not call lord one who is not Lord. I am ruler of this land. That is true, but there is only one Lord. You should
know these things being a minister of God’s Word. Go now in peace.”
Having then rid himself of all those he wished to rid
himself of the young nobleman turned to the watching crowd in the Great Hall.
“You have seen the judgments I have passed today
upon men that you may have esteemed highly. Esteem them such no longer. For I went out among you and found these last three
gentlemen. I asked them for bread and water and the chance to give confession. Each found their reasons for refusing to appease
me. Yet,” he continued motioning to the poor seated at the head table, the table of honor, “these who had nothing
accepted me in and gave of what they had that I might have food to eat and water to drink. They fellowshipped with me and
accepted me as if I were a lifelong friend. Therefore I will treat them as nobility within these walls and make them governors
over my lands. They shall be as my brothers.”
“Some applauded the young nobleman’s wisdom.
They saw in it a compassion and a richness that went beyond what they had seen in other rulers. Others, however, were disturbed
by this display of what they referred to as, “unorthodox behavior”. They too were asked to leave. In the end,
those who remained were those who were able to see past the clothes or the dirt or the gold or the jewels and enjoy each other’s
company. It was, as on chronicler put it, “as it should have been”.
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