The prime minister's secret letter to the king

There was a king who had a very old and trusted prime minister. The time came when this prime minister said to the king, "O King, I have served you for many years. Now I am too old to perform my duties. I need a replacement."

The king said, "I am so sorry to hear that. I do not know what I shall do without you. Will you still remain near me?"

The prime minister said, "Yes, if you need my advice, I shall be here. But I am unable to carry out my other responsibilities. Please appoint somebody else."

The king said, "With greatest reluctance, I am agreeing to your request. But you will have to come on a regular basis to advise me."

The prime minister bowed to the king. Then the king said, "I am asking you to choose someone to replace you."

The prime minister said, "All right. I will devise some kind of test to narrow down the field. Then you will easily be able to choose the most suitable candidate."

The prime minister was searching for someone to replace him. He found two young men who were extremely qualified. He said to those young men, "Look here, I have chosen you two out of so many candidates who want to replace me. But I cannot tell you which one will get the post. Between you two, the king himself will choose. Both of you appear before him. I am giving you a piece of paper. It is a letter to the king that I wish you to deliver to him. Each one will carry it half the distance. When you arrive at the court, kindly present it to him. But do not open the letter because it is something very private and personal."

The first one to carry the letter walked for some distance. He was quite alone, since the other candidate had gone on ahead to their meeting place. Before he had completed half the distance, he was curious to know what the letter contained. He opened it and read, "Your Majesty, whoever hands this letter to you must be killed."

Then the fellow said, "Since I have the first half of the journey, I will not be the one to give the letter to the king, but the other fellow will be caught. After I cover half the distance, I will give him the letter. Let him give it to the king. At least I am not the one to be killed. The old prime minister is such a rogue. I do not need his job. I do not want to have anything to do with him. God alone knows what will happen to me if I become involved in this kind of thing." So he resealed the letter, and when he reached the halfway point, he handed it to the second candidate without saying a word.

The other candidate was very sincere, faithful and devoted. He did not open the letter because the prime minister had said not to open it. When he arrived at the court, the court jester was waiting for him. The young man asked, "Are you waiting for me by any chance?"

The court jester said, "Yes, the prime minister has sent a message to the king that a young man is coming to give him a letter. If you wish, I can give the letter to the king or, if you prefer, you can give it to him yourself."

The young man said, "The prime minister asked us to give the letter to the king personally. I do not know where the other candidate is, but I feel I should hand it to the king. I have to obey the prime minister."

The court jester said, "All right. Come and give it to the king yourself, since you are so obedient. Otherwise, I could easily give it to the king personally."

The court jester brought the young man to the king and the young man handed him the letter. The king opened up the letter and said, "The prime minister has written that you must be hanged!"

The young man said, "The prime minister told us to bring the letter and not to open it on the way. I am so stupid. Now I will be hanged!"

Then the king started laughing and laughing and laughing. He said, "My prime minister is so wise. You are the right person to replace him. You are so obedient. The other fellow has disappeared. I am sure he secretly read the letter. Now I am appointing you to be my new prime minister."

The court jester also started laughing. He said, "I am saved. Otherwise, if you had given me the letter, then I would have taken it to the king and the king would have killed me. I am so lucky!"

The king smiled at the court jester. Then he said to the young man, "I am so pleased with you. You deserve to be the prime minister. I am sure you will be as great and wise as my former prime minister."