Part One: The Unhappy King (cont…)
The people soon began to murmur amongst themselves. “What is this strange man doing?” “We have better ways to use our time than to stand around and watch an inactive foreigner.” And they took their own ways until the merchant was alone with his cart.
Two days passed the merchant as he sat still and pondered. On the eve of the third day, the baker’s son brought a half loaf and an opened flask of wine to the traveler. He sat by the cart and arranged the meal next to the man on a sack that he pulled from the cart.
They sat there in silence, the boy and the man and the man ate without sharing a word. The boy soon fell asleep, but the man stayed up thinking through the night.
When morning lit the scene, the man lifted the sleeping boy onto the cart and pulled it into a shaded alley, where he set up his own bed of sacks and slept. He slept the day through and awoke the next morning at sunrise.
“I must see the king,” he spoke aloud to the people of the kingdom.
“The king is not happy,” noted a guard. “But he will see you.” And they went to see the king.
“Who is this man?” demanded the king.
“A traveler, a merchant from east of the Wood.”
“Has he got any precious merchandise from the enchanted East that will bring me happiness?”
“I have not,” answered the merchant. “But perhaps I know what you lack.”
“I have no time for riddles!” the king rose from his seat. “Share what you know or return destitute to your land.”
“You must come with me to my home. There you will find what you lack.”
“And what of my people?”
“Your people are filled and content, but they have not got joy. Your land prospers, yet the people cannot enjoy what they have got.”
“If I go with you, my people will benefit?”
“Without a doubt, majesty.”
The king then decided to consider the offer over a meal and a rest. His dreams were haunted by unhappiness and empty treasures, so when he arose, he called in the merchant from east of the Wood.
“I will go alone with you.”