The Listening King
Once upon a time there lived a king who liked to walk in disguise about the streets of the city, listening at people's doors. It was, in fact, his favorite amusement. Other kings of that land had been fond of war or hunting or fishing or games, but there had never before been one who liked to listen at doors. For this reason he was called "the listening king."
"It is the greatest fun I have," he often said to his counsellors. "Being a king would be a stupid life if one didn't have some diversion."
"Be careful that it does not get you into trouble," said the wise men. "We have often heard that listening to other people's secrets is a dangerous practice."
"I've had nothing but pleasure from it, anyway," the king would reply. Then he would add, "So far, at least."
Sometimes he would take a friend or two with him, and sometimes he would go alone. The habit of listening at doors became more and more a favorite one to him as the months and years passed.
Now in that city there lived a man of humble station who had three pretty daughters. One evening the king passed his house and stopped at the door to listen.
"Whom would you like to marry?" one of the girls was asking. It happened to be the youngest one.
"I'd like to marry the royal baker," the eldest sister replied.
"Why?" asked the youngest one.
"So that I might always eat fresh bread," was the reply.
"Whom would you like to marry?" the youngest sister asked the middle one.
"I'd like to marry the royal meat cook so that I might always eat meat roasted just to a turn," was her answer.
"Whom would you like to marry?" asked the eldest and the middle sister together.
"I'd like to marry the listening king himself," was the reply which their youngest sister made.
"Silly! Silly!" cried her two sisters. "We have perhaps a chance of getting our wishes, but what chance have you?"
"If one wishes for nothing splendid one never gets anything splendid," replied the youngest sister with a blush which made her look very charming to the king as he peeped through the keyhole.