Pieces People Ask For/The Silver Bell
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.
And the months went by, and a beautiful babe was born to be king after him. And he said, "Now at length the bell shall ring." But just then came word that a terrible sickness raged among the children of the kingdom, that many mothers were mourners, and their hearts could not be comforted.
And the years rolled by, and the king was a great and good man, kind to his people, sharing their sorrows, and, so far as he could, lifting their burdens. The days were so full of thought and work, that he did not think of the bell, or of his own happiness.
At last he too lay dying; and when he knew that the end was drawing near, he asked to be carried to the room of state, and to be placed once more upon his throne, that his people might come to see him. And they crowded in, rich and poor, high and low, kissing his hands, his feet, and even the hem of his garment. And when he saw them so grief-stricken and tearful, a great light came into his dim eyes; and, lifting his trembling arms, in a clear voice he cried, "Ring the silver bell! ring the bell! My people love me; at last I am happy!" And as, for the first time, the bell pealed forth its ringing notes, his spirit took its flight to the unseen land.—Mrs. Julia D. Pratt, in The Dayspring.