A wiser man

A wise man was being led to the gallows after having insulted the cruel despot who ruled the land. While still on the way, the man turned to one of his guards and said: “Quickly, go back to the King and tell him i have repented and, if he should spare my life, will spend the rest of it only speaking to what will make him happy.” The soldier ran off with his message and returned a short while later, staying the executioner because the King had pardoned the sage.

Reinstated in court, the wise man began in earnest to find the very best ways the King could make himself happiest. When one of the King’s wives had angered him and he wished her flogged, the wise man took the King’s defense and said: “Oh King, your wife behaved badly indeed, and we must ensure that none of this weigh upon your mood one minute longer. It is surely not in your interest to punish your wife as she will then sulk, the children she bore will hate you, and your days will become misery. Instead, send her a sumptuous gift and shame her into loving you!” The King smiled at his cunning advisor and gave his say-so.

When a seditious general was brought in a few months later to be sentenced, tortured and hung, the wise man again took the King’s defense, berating the general for alarming and saddening their gracious ruler. Then, turning to the King, he said: “Oh gracious one, i plead with you, do not sentence this man to death or you shall never hear the end of it: his children and grandchildren will come after you, and your soldiers’ fear will destroy the palace’s festive air. Instead, speak to him, steal his heart, and you will have the greatest of friends and staunchest of defenders!” And so it was.

On his deathbed, the old King called his wise counselor to him. He said, “I know what trickery you have been waging all these years; i was never duped. But your ingenuity so amused me, i gladly watched you play the clown.”

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