There once lived a king in a distant land—a just and wise old king, for he had observed and learned much about his people and about himself and his power. His people were free to go their way, and were fearful of the king and his soldiers, for his rule granted no privilege to one that was not a privilege to all equally. And they were free to petition their king and seek his wisdom in their affairs.
Thus there came one day to the royal court an artisan, a mason, and a beggar who was lame.
"O great and wise king," they cried, "we are sorely troubled with our plight." "I," said the artisan, "make many useful goods. I use great skill and labor long, and yet when I am finished, the people will not pay my price."
"And I," said the mason, "am a layer of stone for houses and fine walls, yet I am idle, for no one gives me work."
"I am a poor lame beggar," said the third man, "who seeks alms from those who pass, as they find it in their hearts to do so, but alms are so few as to be of great concern lest I perish."
"I can see that your trouble is great," consoled the king, "and what would you ask of me?"
Then, they spoke as a group, the artisan, the mason, and the beggar who was lame: "Your power is very great, our king, and you can make the people see the folly of their ways and aid us in our troubles."
"Perhaps," said the king, "perhaps my power is great, but I must use it wisely or it shall be lost." And he called to the captain of his guard.
"Bring forth three swords," he commanded, "one for each of these men, and instruct them in their use. These three shall go forth in the land and compel those who will not voluntarily deal with them to obey their command."
"No! no!" the three men called out, "this we did not ask. We are men of honor and could not set upon our fellow man to compel him to our will. This we cannot do. It is you, 0 king, who must use the power."
"You ask me to do that which you would not do because of honor?" questioned the king. "Is honor one thing to a beggar and another to a king? I, too, am an honorable man, and that which is dishonorable for you will never be less dishonorable for your king."