Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/73

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63
THE READING-CLUB.

THE SILVER BELL.

Once upon a time, an old legend says, in a splendid palace a king lay dying. By his couch knelt his only son, with tears streaming down his face; but only a few quiet words were now and then spoken.

"Father, you remember the beautiful silver bell hanging above the palace,—the one you had made years ago, of such pure tone that the maker stood entranced at its first note, but which has ever since been still? Why did you hang it there, if it was never to be rung?"

"My son, when I was young, and full of life and hope, I commanded the best workmen in my kingdom to make a perfect silver bell, and hang it above my palace, that its sweet tones might tell my people that their king was perfectly happy. But alas! though I expected so much happiness, the moment has never come when I could say, 'Ring the bell!' and now I am dying, and it is still silent. My son, if your happiness is ever complete,—if you are without an anxious thought or wish,—then let the silver bell proclaim the fact to all your people."

"But, father, if you were not lying here I should be happy now, and the bell should ring every day of my life."

The old king smiled sadly, and, turning his face away, soon slept to wake no more. With much mourning he was laid away in the royal tomb, and his son became king in his stead. He could not ring the bell then, for he grieved for his father; but he thought that after a time he should be happy again.

And the days went by, and the young king married a beautiful girl; and he said, "Now, for the first time, the bell shall ring."

But as he and his bride came from the church, a woman, young in years, but haggard with grief, carrying a little child in her arms, threw herself at his feet, begging him to spare the life of her husband, who was condemned to die for plotting against the king. "He saw so much splendor and wealth, and we were starving. Oh, on this day, pardon him!"

The king raised the wretched woman, and gave her her husband's freedom; but a swift shadow had come over his happiness.