ONCE upon a time, in a great and rich city, reigned a mighty King, who was called by the title of the Great Yellow King. This King was very cruel to his people, and ground them like grist in the mill; he robbed them of their goods, many he cast into prison, others he ill-treated, cutting off an arm, or a leg, or blinding them, and some he put to death without cause. He was just as bad at home; when he was a boy he did nothing but tease his sisters, pulling their hair and putting spiders down their necks; and now that he was grown up he made life a misery to wife and child. He was like a speck of dust that gets into your eye, or a thorn in the heel, or grit between your teeth.
But it is a long lane that has no turning; and at last the Great Yellow King died. When a king or queen dies, people are generally very sorry, and wear mourning for them; but when the Great Yellow King died there was such rejoicing and merriment as had not been known for many a long day. All the shops were shut, and all the schools had a whole holiday; there were raree-shows and merry-go-rounds, and everybody high and low was half daft with joy.
But one man was not joyful. On the steps of the palace sat the Yellow King's porter, sighing and sobbing, weeping and wailing. No one could understand it; everybody in the whole town was glad, and here was this porter crying! At last some one asked him why he cried.
"What is the matter?" said he. "Was the Great Yellow King so kind to you as all that? I never heard of his being kind to anybody!"
"No, it isn't that!" sobbed the man.
"Well, what is it then?"
The man looked up and rubbed his eyes. "Well," said he, "I'll tell you. When his majesty used to come out of his palace, down the steps, he always gave me a cuff on the head, and another when he came back. What a fist his majesty had, to be sure! Now if he tries that game on with the porter who sits by the gates of Death, I am very much afraid they won't have him there at any price, and then he will come back to us!"
But the other man laughed, and said, "Don't be afraid of that, Porter! He's dead and done for, and however much they wish it, they can never send him back to us again."
So the Porter was comforted, and wiped his eyes, and went to get a glass of beer.