THERE was once a King who was so fond of good eating and drinking that they called him King Dainty. He often spent as much as a thousand pounds on a single dish; which is great wastefulness, when you can dine heartily for a shilling. He thought that if people could not eat things so nice as his, yet they must greatly enjoy seeing him eat them. So he fitted up a beautiful tent outside his own door, and there he took his meals, sitting on a golden throne, under a white silk umbrella. Anybody who liked could see him eat his dinner without charge. This was very generous, wasn't it?
A man who had often seen him eat thought he would like a taste of the King's choice food. And this is what he did.
He came running towards the crowd who, as usual, were watching the King eat his dinner, and shouted: "News! news! news!" Now at that time there were no newspapers, and no posts, and no telegraphs; so any one who brought news was sure of instant hearing. Accordingly the crowd made way for him at once, and he ran up to the King, looking very much excited, and shouting "News!" Then he fell down before the King, as if he were faint with hunger, and gasped.
"Poor fellow!" said the King. "Give him something to eat." So they propped him up on a chair, and the King fed him out of his own dish, and gave him delicious wine to drink. The man made a hearty meal, I can tell you. They thought he never would finish; but he did finish at last, after an hour or two.
Then the King said to him: "Now, my good fellow, let us hear your news."
"The news is, your Majesty," said the man, "that an hour ago I was hungry, and now I am not!"
All the people looked shocked at his impertinence. But the King only laughed, and said: "That news is true of most of us every day of our lives. Well, you are a bold fellow; this time you may go free, but I advise you not to try it again."
The man bowed low, and went away happy in the success of his trick. I don't know whether the King spent less money upon his dinner after that, but I am quite sure that no one else got a meal at his table in the same way.