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Old King Cole.
From Mother Goose in Prose by Frank Baum.
Start of Story
Age Rating 6 to 8.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Old King Cole was not always a king, nor was he born a member of any
royal family. It was only chance--"hard luck" he used to call it--that
made him a king at all.
He had always been a poor man, being the son of an apple peddler, who
died and left him nothing but a donkey and a fiddle. But that was
enough for Cole, who never bothered his head about the world's goods,
but took things as they came and refused to worry about anything.
So, when the house he lived in, and the furniture, and even the
applecart were sold to pay his father's debts, and he found himself
left with the old fiddle that nobody wanted and the old donkey that no
one would have--it being both vicious and unruly--he uttered no word
of complaint. He simply straddled the donkey and took the fiddle under
his arm and rode out into the world to seek his fortune.
When he came to a village he played a merry tune upon the fiddle and
sang a merry song with it, and the people gave him food most
willingly. There was no trouble about a place to sleep, for if he was
denied a bed he lay down with the donkey in a barn, or even on the
village green, and making a pillow of the donkey's neck he slept as
soundly as anyone could in a bed of down.
And so he continued riding along and playing upon his fiddle for many
years, until his head grew bald and his face was wrinkled and his
bushy eyebrows became as white as snow. But his eyes never lost their
merry twinkle, and he was just as fat and hearty as in his younger
days, while, if you heard him singing his songs and scraping upon the
old fiddle, you would know at once his heart was as young as ever.
He never guided the donkey, but let the beast go where it would, and
so it happened that at last they came to Whatland, and entered one day
the city where resided the King of that great country.
Now, even as Cole rode in upon his donkey the King of Whatland lay
dying in his palace, surrounded by all the luxury of the court. And as
he left no heir, and was the last of the royal line, the councilors
and wise men of Whatland were in a great quandary as to who should
succeed him. But finally they bethought themselves of the laws of the
land, and upon looking up the records they found in an old book a law
that provided for just such a case as this.
"If the King dies," so read the law, "and there be no one to succeed
to the throne, the prime minister shall be blinded and led from the
palace into the main street of the city. And he shall stretch out his
arms and walk about, and the first person he touches shall be crowned
as King of the land."
The councilors were greatly pleased when they found this law, for it
enabled them to solve the problem that confronted them. So when the
King had breathed his last they blindfolded the prime minister and led
him forth from the palace, and he began walking about with
outstretched arms seeking someone to touch.
Of course the people knew nothing of this law, nor even that the old
King was dead, and seeing the prime minister groping about blindfolded
they kept out of his way, fearing they might be punished if he
stumbled against them. But Cole was then riding along on the donkey,
and did not even know it was the prime minister who was feeling about
in such a funny way. So he began to laugh, and the minister, who had
by this time grown tired of the game, heard the laugh and came toward
the stranger and touched him, and immediately all the wise men and the
councilors fell down before him and hailed him as King of Whatland!
Thus did the wandering fiddler become King Cole, and you may be sure
he laughed more merrily than ever when they explained to him his good
They carried him within the palace and dressed him in purple and fine
linen, and placed a crown of gold upon his bald head and a jeweled
scepter in his wrinkled hand, and all this amused old King Cole very
much. When he had been led to the great throne room and placed upon
the throne of gold (where the silken cushions felt very soft and
pleasant after his long ride upon the donkey's sharp back) the
courtiers all knelt before him and asked what commands he wished to
give, since everyone in the kingdom must now obey his slightest word.
"Oh well," said the new King, "I think the first thing I would like is
my old pipe. You 'll find it in the pocket of the ragged coat I took
One of the officers of the court at once ran for the pipe, and when it
was brought King Cole filled it with tobacco from his greasy pouch and
lighted it, and you can imagine what a queer sight it was to see the
fat King sitting upon the rich throne, dressed in silk, and satins and
a golden crown, and smoking at the same time an old black pipe!
The councilors looked at each other in dismay, and the ladies of the
court sneezed and coughed and seemed greatly shocked, and all this
pleased old King Cole so much that he lay back in his throne and
roared with laughter. Then the prime minister came forward very
gravely, and bowing low he said,