The king and the washerman

There was a very kindhearted king. Everybody was pleased with him and grateful to be in his kingdom. Whoever worked for the king was very happy with him, and the king was also happy with his subjects.

The king had a special washerman. This washerman used to collect clothes from the king’s palace during the day, and at night he used to wash them. The following morning he would bring a fresh supply of clothes for the king. The king was very, very satisfied with him.

The washerman had a big family, and the king gave him an adequate salary. But at night, after washing the garments, this audacious fellow used to put on some of the king’s garments and walk around in the street to show off. People used to think that he belonged to a royal family. They would salute him, and he would be bloated with tremendous pride and joy. Then again he would wash and iron the garments very nicely and bring them back to the king the next day.

One day the king said, “Let me see if my people are really happy in my kingdom. Let me see what kind of life they are leading — if they are thieves, vagabonds, hooligans or good, simple people.” So he went out of the palace in the guise of a mendicant. All of a sudden he saw his own palace washerman parading along the street in a splendid outfit. The king pretended he did not see this fellow and started walking away.

The washerman screamed, “Hey! Everybody shows me respect. What are you doing? Can you not see that I come of a royal family?”

The mendicant-king said, “Who cares?”

The washerman cried, “Who cares? I will punish you! Can you not see I am royalty?”

When the washerman came closer to the mendicant, he saw that it was the king. Then he realised what he had said. Desperately he caught hold of the king’s feet and started crying and crying, “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me! I have been doing this at night all along. Then I wash and iron your clothes and take them back to you.”

The king laughed and laughed and laughed. What could he do with this fellow?