The King's Birthmark

Part Three

The elders came to the king. They asked many questions, and spoke to many people.

"The flute players were good men," everyone said. "They loved the king. They never said anything bad about him."

At last, one wise elder said, "Where are the flute players' flutes? Bring them to me."

The servants found the flutes and brought them to the elder. The old man lifted one of them to his mouth and began to blow. At once, the flute sang, "The king has a birthmark on his head. The king has a birthmark on his head!"

"Where did this flute come from?" the elder asked the other musicians.

"The flute players cut reeds from the river," they told him. "They made their flutes from them."

The elder went to the river. He talked to many people there. At last, he came back to the king.

"Your Majesty," he said. "Long ago, a man was walking past your palace. You were taking a bath. He looked through the window, and saw the birthmark on your head. He wanted to tell your secret to everyone, but he was frightened. So he dug a hole near the river, and spoke into the hole. Reeds grew in that place. The musicians made their flutes from them. The musicians didn't tell your secret. It was the flutes."

The king was sorry when he heard this.

"My flute players did nothing wrong," he said, "but I killed them. It's true. I have a birthmark on my head, and I am ashamed of it."

He took off his turban, and showed his birthmark to the people. Nobody said anything. Nobody went away.

"It's not important," they said. "Our king is a good man. His birthmark doesn't matter."

"You cannot hide the truth," the elders told the king. "It will always come out in the end."

The king learned his lesson. He ruled wisely and well for many more years, and he never wore his turban again.


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