A Leaf from Heaven
But for years the King of that country had been troubled by a deep melancholy of spirit. He kept busy and laborious always, but it seemed to do him no good. They read books to him-deep and learned tomes, or the lightest and most trifling they could find; but nothing did any good. Then one of the world's wisest men, to whom they had applied for help, sent a messenger to explain to the King that there was but one sure remedy that would relieve and cure him.
"In a forest in the King's own country there grows a plant of heavenly origin. Its appearance cannot be mistaken." And then the messenger brought out a drawing of the plant; it would be easy to recognize it. "Its leaves are green winter and summer, so every evening put a fresh leaf on the King's forehead. His thoughts will then clear, and a beautiful dream will refresh and strengthen him."
"I think I took it up in my bundle and burned it to ashes a long time ago," said the swineherd. "I just didn't know any better."
"You did not know any better!" they all said. "Ignorance, oh, ignorance! How great you are!"
And those words the swineherd might well take to heart, for they were meant for him and no one else.
Not a single leaf of that plant could be found; no one knew about the one leaf that lay in the coffin of the dead girl.
And the King himself, in his terrible depression, wandered out to the spot in the woods. "This is where the plant grew," he said. "It shall be a sacred place." Then he had it surrounded by a golden railing, and a sentry was posted there, by day and by night.
The professor of botany wrote a thesis on the heavenly plant. As a reward he was gilded all over, and that gilding suited him and his family very well indeed. As a matter of fact, that was the pleasantest part of the whole story, for the plant had disappeared.
The King remained as melancholy and sad as before; but then he had always been that way-said the sentry.