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The King's Choice

KING GUSTAV trotted on horseback through the woods with his royal attendants. In less than a week he must leave his country for a long journey. But which of his six councilors should he put in charge of his land, his queen and his infant son? One of the councilors was too bossy, another too young, one given to drink, one overly concerned with money, another overly concerned with his hair, and the last one was uninspiring. Any of the councilors could rise to become a fine leader, thought the King, but which one had the necessary inner strength?

Suddenly, from the river's mist a form rose and took the shape of a woman. The King ordered his train to stop.

The womanly form smiled. The King relaxed. She must be a fairy, thought he, and a friendly one at that. "Sire," said the Fairy in a pleasant voice, "you will have your answer."

The Fairy waved her wand. While the King's train continued to the palace, the King now stood on the ground by the river, watching a likeness of his own royal self ride on his horse toward the palace. Looking down at his clothes, the King saw that he was now dressed as a common woodcutter, and in one hand he held an axe instead of a sword. The Fairy smiled and waved her wand toward the edge of the woods. Instantly, a woodcutter's cottage appeared.

"What's the meaning of all this?" demanded the King, a rage beginning to build. This Fairy may not be so friendly after all.

"Your Majesty," said the Fairy in the same light, sing-song voice, "soon you will have a chance to help your six councilors. Be sure to invite them to dinner at your woodcutter's cottage three days hence."

She vanished. Suddenly, the King noticed on the river a boat that was starting to rock wildly, for a windstorm had come up. By the sound of the voices on board, the King recognized the voices of his own six councilors. The wind whirled about, wrapping his woodcutter's garments tightly around him.

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