The 3 Questions.

There was once a king of England whose name was John. He was a bad

king; for he was harsh and cruel to his people, and so long as he

could have his own way, he did not care what became of other folks. He

was the worst king that England ever had.

Now, there was in the town of Can'ter-bur-y a rich old abbot who lived

in grand style in a great house called the Ab
ey. Every day a hundred

noble men sat down with him to dine; and fifty brave knights, in fine

velvet coats and gold chains, waited upon him at his table.

When King John heard of the way in which the abbot lived, he made up

his mind to put a stop to it. So he sent for the old man to come and

see him.

"How now, my good abbot?" he said. "I hear that you keep a far better

house than I. How dare you do such a thing? Don't you know that no man

in the land ought to live better than the king? And I tell you that no

man shall."

"O king!" said the abbot, "I beg to say that I am spending nothing but

what is my own. I hope that you will not think ill of me for making

things pleasant for my friends and the brave knights who are with me."

"Think ill of you?" said the king. "How can I help but think ill of

you? All that there is in this broad land is mine by right; and how do

you dare to put me to shame by living in grander style than I? One

would think that you were trying to be king in my place."

"Oh, do not say so!" said the abbot "For I"--

"Not another word!" cried the king. "Your fault is plain, and unless

you can answer me three questions, your head shall be cut off, and all

your riches shall be mine."

"I will try to answer them, O king!" said the abbot.

"Well, then," said King John, "as I sit here with my crown of gold on

my head, you must tell me to within a day just how long I shall live.

Sec-ond-ly, you must tell me how soon I shall ride round the whole

world; and lastly, you shall tell me what I think."

"O king!" said the abbot, "these are deep, hard questions, and I

cannot answer them just now. But if you will give me two weeks to

think about them, I will do the best that I can."

"Two weeks you shall have," said the king; "but if then you fail to

answer me, you shall lose your head, and all your lands shall be


The abbot went away very sad and in great fear. He first rode to

Oxford. Here was a great school, called a u-ni-ver'si-ty, and he

wanted to see if any of the wise pro-fess-ors could help him. But they

shook their heads, and said that there was nothing about King John in

any of their books.

Then the abbot rode down to Cam-bridge, where there was another

u-ni-ver-si-ty. But not one of the teachers in that great school could

help him.

At last, sad and sor-row-ful, he rode toward home to bid his friends

and his brave knights good-by. For now he had not a week to live.

The Three Answers

As the abbot was riding up the lane which led to his grand house, he

met his shep-herd going to the fields.

"Welcome home, good master!" cried the shepherd. "What news do you

bring us from great King John?"

"Sad news, sad news," said the abbot; and then he told him all that

had happened.

"Cheer up, cheer up, good master," said the shepherd. "Have you never

yet heard that a fool may teach a wise man wit? I think I can help you

out of your trouble."

"You help me!" cried the abbot "How? how?"

"Well," answered the shepherd, "you know that everybody says that I

look just like you, and that I have some-times been mis-tak-en for

you. So, lend me your servants and your horse and your gown, and I

will go up to London and see the king. If nothing else can be done, I

can at least die in your place."

"My good shepherd," said the abbot, "you are very, very kind; and I

have a mind to let you try your plan. But if the worst comes to the

worst, you shall not die for me. I will die for myself."

So the shepherd got ready to go at once. He dressed himself with

great care. Over his shepherd's coat he threw the abbot's long gown,

and he bor-rowed the abbot's cap and golden staff. When all was ready,

no one in the world would have thought that he was not the great man

himself. Then he mounted his horse, and with a great train of servants

set out for London.

Of course the king did not know him.

"Welcome, Sir Abbot!" he said. "It is a good thing that you have come

back. But, prompt as you are, if you fail to answer my three

questions, you shall lose your head."

"I am ready to answer them, O king!" said the shepherd.

"Indeed, indeed!" said the king, and he laughed to himself. "Well,

then, answer my first question: How long shall I live? Come, you must

tell me to the very day."

"You shall live," said the shepherd, "until the day that you die, and

not one day longer. And you shall die when you take your last breath,

and not one moment before."

The king laughed.

"You are witty, I see," he said. "But we will let that pass, and say

that your answer is right. And now tell me how soon I may ride round

the world."

"You must rise with the sun," said the shepherd, "and you must ride

with the sun until it rises again the next morning. As soon as you do

that, you will find that you have ridden round the world in

twenty-four hours."

The king laughed again. "Indeed," he said, "I did not think that it

could be done so soon. You are not only witty, but you are wise, and

we will let this answer pass. And now comes my third and last

question: What do I think?"

"That is an easy question," said the shepherd. "You think that I am

the Abbot of Can-ter-bur-y. But, to tell you the truth, I am only his

poor shepherd, and I have come to beg your pardon for him and for me."

And with that, he threw off his long gown.

The king laughed loud and long.

"A merry fellow you are," said he, "and you shall be the Abbot of

Canterbury in your master's place."

"O king! that cannot be," said the shepherd; "for I can neither read

nor write."

"Very well, then," said the king, "I will give you something else to

pay you for this merry joke. I will give you four pieces of silver

every week as long as you live. And when you get home, you may tell

the old abbot that you have brought him a free pardon from King