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Old King Cole.
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"May it please your Majesty, it is not the custom of Kings to smoke a
pipe while seated upon the throne."
"But it is my custom," answered Cole.
"It is impolite, and unkingly!" ventured the minister.
"Now, see here, old fellow," replied his Majesty, "I did n't ask to
be King of this country; it 's all your own doing. All my life I have
smoked whenever I wished, and if I can't do as I please here, why, I
won't be king--so there!"
"But you must be the King, your Majesty, whether you want to or not.
The law says so."
"If that 's the case," returned the King, "I can do as I please in
other things. So you just run and get me a bowl of punch, there 's a
The aged minister did not like to be addressed thus, but the King's
commands must be obeyed; so, although the court was greatly horrified,
he brought the bowl of punch, and the King pushed his crown onto the
back of his head and drank heartily, and smacked his lips afterwards.
"That 's fine!" he said; "but say--what do you people do to amuse
"Whatever your Majesty commands," answered one of the councilors.
"What! must I amuse you as well as myself? Methinks it is no easy
task to be a King if so many things are required of me. But I suppose
it is useless to fret, since the law obliges me to reign in this great
country against my will. Therefore will I make the best of my
misfortune, and propose we have a dance, and forget our cares. Send at
once for some fiddlers, and clear the room for our merrymaking, and
for once in our lives we shall have a jolly good time!"
So one of the officers of the court went out and soon returned with
three fiddlers, and when at the King's command they struck up a tune,
the monarch was delighted, for every fiddler had a very fine fiddle
and knew well how to use it.
Now, Old King Cole was a merry old soul, so he soon set all the ladies
and gentlemen of the court to dancing, and he himself took off his
crown and his ermine robe and laid them upon the throne, while he
danced with the prettiest lady present till he was all out of breath.
Then he dismissed them, and they were all very well pleased with the
new King, for they saw that, in spite of his odd ways, he had a kind
heart, and would try to make everyone about him as merry as he was
The next morning the King was informed that several of his subjects
craved audience with him, as there were matters of dispute between
them that must be settled.
King Cole at first refused to see them,
declaring he knew nothing of the quarrels of his subjects and they
must manage their own affairs; but when the prime minister told him it
was one of his duties as king, and the law required it, he could not
do otherwise than submit. So he put on his crown and his ermine robe
and sat upon the throne, although he grumbled a good deal at the
necessity; for never having had any business of his own to attend to
he thought it doubly hard that in his old age he must attend to the
business of others.
The first case of dispute was between two men who each claimed to own
a fine cow, and after hearing the evidence, the King ordered the cow
to be killed and roasted and given to the poor, since that was the
easiest way to decide the matter. Then followed a quarrel between two
subjects over ten pieces of gold, one claiming the other owed him that
sum. The King, thinking them both rascals, ordered the gold to be
paid, and then he took it and scattered it amongst the beggars outside
By this time King Cole decided he had transacted enough business for
one day, so he sent word to those outside that if anyone had a quarrel
that was not just he should be severely punished; and, indeed, when
the subjects learned the manner in which the King settled disputes,
they were afraid to come to him, as both sides were sure to be losers
by the decision. And that saved King Cole a lot of trouble thereafter,
for the people thought best to settle their own differences.
The King, now seeing he was free to do as he pleased, retired to his
private chamber, where he called for the three fiddlers and made them
play for him while he smoked his pipe and drank a bowl of punch.
Every evening he had a dance in the palace; and every day there were
picnics and merrymakings of all kinds, and before long King Cole had
the reputation of having the merriest court in all the world.
He loved to feast and to smoke and to drink his punch, and he was
never so merry as when others were merry with him, so that the three
fiddlers were almost always by his side, and at any hour of the day
you could hear sweet strains of music echoing through the palace.
Old King Cole did not forget the donkey that had been his constant
companion for so long. He had a golden saddle made for him, with a
saddle-cloth broidered in gold and silver, and the bridle was studded
with diamonds and precious stones, all taken from the King's treasury.
And when he rode out, the old fat King always bestrode the donkey,
while his courtiers rode on either side of him upon their prancing
Old King Cole reigned for many years, and was generally beloved by his
subjects; for he always gave liberally to all who asked, and was
always as merry and happy as the day was long.
When he died the new King was found to be of a very different temper,
and ruled the country with great severity; but this only served to
make the memory of Old King Cole more tenderly cherished by his
people, and they often sighed when they recalled his merry pranks, and
the good times they enjoyed under his rule.