|Once upon a time, there was a queen who lived in a big castle, which buzzed with the hustle-and-bustle of thousand of maids and servants. She wore a big diamond on the first finger of her right hand and prized herself on being magnanimous.
Near the big castle lived an old lady. She had only one bowl to have soup from and only one rage to wear. Her son died fighting for the queen in her expansion expedition. The poor lady was near-blind, and sat outside her porch waiting for someone to give her food.
One day, the minstrels of the Queen declared she had won over Amorustas, the richest kingdom around. The soldiers were bringing in jewels and possessions in big jute bags from the defeated territory. The old lady walked barefoot to her gate. By the worn, wooden gate lay the dusty road on which the Queen's soldiers marched to the castle. She heard them tread in unison and remembered her own dead child. No one wiped her tears.
After three hours, the marching of the soldiers had ebbed. All was at peace. The old lady, bent with age, fumbled on her cane in her effort to stand up. Just then, she saw something glitter faintly by the old, broken wheelbarrow.
She supported herself on the cane and slowly walked towards the barrow. After much struggle against her weak, twitching muscles and ribs, she picked up the glittery object. With her trembling hands, she brought it closer to her dim eyes. From faded memories of a youthful bride-hood, she remembered it to be diamond. She smiled a toothless smile as she held the stone close to her heart.
“It must have fallen from their carriage.” She thought. “Had my son been alive, I would have given it to his bonnie bride. But what do I do with it now?”
She had a well-wisher in old Dickens, who worked in the cavalry with her husband in the Queen’s army. When she showed him the stone, he tapped his finger on his forehead and said in a trembling voice, “Dorothy, this is a gift from the Lord, the father. He has sent this for you to live wealthy in old age. You must sell this to the jeweler and buy yourself good food and clothes.”
“But, I am almost blind, dear Dickens. How would I go to the jeweler?”
“Do not worry, my lady. I shall accompany you to the jeweler. He is the son of my dear friend Harrison. Your husband knew him too. I hear Harrison’s son is a fine young man, and a good businessman. He is devoted to our Queen.”
So, one fine morning the old man and the old lady walked side-by-side on their staff to Messrs Harrison and Son, the jeweler.
Upon reaching the shop, the lady took out her jewel from her blouse and held it between her palms.
Theodore Harrison looked at the first customers of the day and said, “Good morrow, old fellas. What can I do for you?”
Old Dickens said to the young Harrison, “Hello son. Your father knew us. We have come to make a deal. Be respectful to your father’s memories and make us a fair deal.”
At this, the lady stretched her hands and opened her palms before the young Harrison.
“I wish to sell this.”
Upon seeing the stone, the shopkeeper looked at the two customers and asked his assistant to quickly inform the Queen.
Soon after, the Queen summoned the old man and his friend’s wife to her chamber.
The Queen had put on a cream-colored gown. Around her neck, she wore a pearl necklace made of the whitest and largest of pearls. She sat on her huge bedstead, put a cherry in her mouth and raised her diamond-ornamented finger to the culprits. “Tell me now, from where did you steal the stone?”
So, the poor lady told her the story of how she found the diamond by the wheelbarrow and how she took it to the jeweler. After she was finished, the Queen laughed a cruel laughter and barked, “You can not fool the Queen.”
Soon after, the old pair was sent to the in-house cell where they found twenty and three old men and women churning herbs in mortar-and-pestle in a dry, mechanical way. The sound of the heavy feet of the Queen’s guard, and two pair of confused, dragging steps brought the active mortar-and-pestles to a halt. Twenty and three pair of dim eyes looked in the general direction of the approaching sound.
The Queen’s guard gave both of them a mortar-and-pestle each, and howled, “Come on now. Powder the jewel smooth enough for our Queen. Our magnanimous Queen! How humane of her to not execute you and let you serve her. Or else people like you should rot in coffins. Now, work hard and be true to the Queen.”
The guard went away. The old men and women went back to churning herbs and stones. Meanwhile, the Queen had her body massaged with paste of the rarest herbs (brought in from the in-house cell) applied all over her body in a lavender-strewn, candle-lit room. Three devoted maids served her day-in and day-out in that chamber.
Outside the in-house cell, everyone praised the Queen’s magnanimity. Who else would forgive and give shelter to the poorest of poor and the oldest of the old in her magnificent palace?