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A Crown of Gold

Author: Mridul Jain, Class VII B

Some children were at play on the ground. The road from the market twisted round the hills, then rose and fell to reach here. One day, a herald rode into the town, blowing his trumpet and crying aloud, “All hail the King! His Majesty passes by this road to-day. Make ready for the King!”

One child said, “Did you hear that? The King is coming here. He might peek over the wall and look at our playground; who knows?”

“I’m sure that he wouldn’t like it this way. We must put it in order.”

But the playground was very messy, for these were careless children. Scraps of paper and broken toys littered the corners. One of them brought a hoe, another a rake and just behind the garden gates, they found a brilliant, red wheelbarrow. They labored hard, ’til at length all was clean and tidy. 

“Now it is clean! But we shall make it pretty too; for kings are used to fine things. He may not notice mere cleanliness. He has it all the time.”

Then one brought sweet rushes and strewed them onto the ground; another made garlands of oak leaves and pine tassels and ran to hang them on the walls. They brought an army of rhododendrons, which they found by the river, and put them in old vases to decorate the place. The littlest one fetched some marigold buds and spread them on the ground beneath the tallest of trees. “To make it look like gold,” he said.

When all was done, the park was so beautiful that the children stood and looked at it, and clapped their hands in pleasure. 

“Let us keep it always like this!” they said in unison.

Many people came and saw the children’s hard work, and applauded them. One lady even suggested they hang a few bougainvilleas across the length of the wall, which they did.

They waited all day for the King, but he never came; only a man with worn-out clothes and a tired face came towards sunset.

“What a pleasant place! May I come in and rest here, dear children?” the man said. They brought him in gladly and set him on the seat that they had made out of a cask. They had laid an old, red cloak on it to make it look like a throne, and for now, it made a pretty good one. 

“It is our playground,” the children said proudly. “We made it for the King himself, but he never came, so now, we mean to keep it for ourselves.

“That is good!” said the man.

“Because we think pretty and clean is nicer than ugly and dirty!” exclaimed another child.

“That is even better!”

“And for tired people to rest in!” said the smallest one.

“That is best of all!”

The man sat there and rested for a while. The children brought him a cup of water, their best one of course, with some rosemary sprigs. He looked at them with such kind eyes that they opened their heart out to them; they told him about the funny, old mailman; and the puppies they saw at the market; and how scared they were of clowns. The man nodded all along.

Then he thanked them and proceeded to leave. He touched their heads and gave them a warm smile. The children slowly watched him walk away. It was fairly still, for soon the sun would go to bed. The trees and bushes whispered among each other, birds made way for their home and the quiet road fell asleep again. 

“He looked so tired!” said one of them.

“Yes, but he was so kind!”

“See!” the littlest one said. “How the Sun shines on his hair! It looks like a crown of gold.”

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