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THE OLD MAN WITH THE RAGS

A beggar lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments are welcome.

The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Slowly an idea crept into his mind. He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. "Please sir, I would like to speak to the king."

"Wait here," the guard replied.

In a few minutes, he was brought before the king. "What do you want?" the king asked.

"Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?"

The beggar was trembling in fear of what the king might do.

"You have been wise in coming to me," the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. "Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes."

The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he have never dared hope for.

"You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet tomorrow night," said the prince. "But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever."

The beggar dropped to his knees. "Oh, thank you," he cried. But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again? Quickly he gathered them up.

The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself, as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.

Time proved that the prince was right. No one came to ask for the royal clothes. Still the poor beggar was doubtful, clinging on to his old rags. As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.

Many weeks later as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince’s words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of joy. He wept bitterly at his folly.


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