The Palace Of Steel

Once there lived two young brothers who were well looked after by their father. They never had to do any work for a living, and they never wanted anything. They always thought that their father was a rich man, so it was a great shock when they were told one day the sad news that he had died and had left no money at all.

Poor father” sighed one. “He spent all his money on us.

“What a pity we did not know,” said the other. “We could have found work and helped with the cost of everything. Now, however, we really must find work to earn ourselves a living.”

They set out with high hopes and called first at a blacksmith’s.

“Good sir,” they said. Are you in need of help?” “Yes, indeed,” the blacksmith said a little eagerly. “I need plenty of help because I am SO swamped. Do you know how to make horseshoes?”

The two brothers looked puzzled.

“We are very sorry that this is the first time we have ever been inside a blacksmith’s forge,” said one.

The blacksmith sighed and shrugged. “Then what do you expect me to do with you?” he asked. “Please go away and don’t waste any more of my time.”

The two brothers walked on. Soon they met a farmer.

“Just a moment, sir,” they cried. “Do you need anyone to help you?”

“Yes, I certainly do,” nodded the farmer. “This is seed-planting time, and I can use all the men I can get. You know all about it, I suppose?”

The brothers shook their heads.

“No, we don’t,” they had to admit. “In all our lives, we have never even touched a spade or a hoe.”

“And yet you have the cheek to ask me for a job?” cried the farmer. Get away from me!”

Crestfallen, the two brothers. Next, they called the bakers.

“Mister baker, do you need help?” they asked.

“It is just what I am hoping for,” replied the baker.

“People around here are always so hungry that I can never bake loaves fast enough. Are you good at baking bread?”

“No good at all,” they had to admit, but perhaps you could teach us how-

“I have no time to waste on giving you lessons,” interrupted the baker. “Go away and leave me to get on with my work.”

In the next hour, the two brothers asked for work as a miller, a tailor, a carpenter and an innkeeper. But when these people learned that the brothers did not know how to do anything, they sent them away.

Tired and sad, the brothers plodded on their way. They walked and walked and walked for many miles until they came to a vast palace, which was made of shining steel.

The door was wide open. They tip-toed inside and looked around in wonder. They saw great jars and bowls filled with gleaming jewels to their amazement. There were millions of glittering diamonds, emeralds and rubies.

After ensuring that nobody was watching them, the brothers filled their pockets with jewels.

“Now we are rich,” said one, with a happy laugh. “We’re the richest men in the world, and we did not have to work for our wealth.”

Loaded down with the precious gems, they ran out of the steel palace, but the door was now closed. Though they hammered on it with their fists and pushed and kicked it, they could not open it.

“We’re caught like rats in a trap,” groaned one.

“Like rats in a trap,” echoed the other.

They ran all over the palace but found no other door opening to the outside world. In every room were heaps of jewels. There was nothing to eat, not a drop of milk or even a crumb of bread.

“We’ll die here of hunger,” sighed one. “There is no escape.”

Time passed. Their anxiety became worse. They guessed it must be night-time, and they were tired of wandering around trying to find a way out.

“These jewels are heavy,” said one.

“You’re right,” nodded the other. “What shall we do, then, with these useless riches? Let’s put them back. Let’s leave them where we found them.”

This was agreed upon. They put the gems back, taking care to place the rubies with the rubies, the diamonds with the diamonds and the emeralds with the emeralds.

At once, the young brothers were rewarded with a miracle. Moved by a strange force, the door of the steel palace opened, and they ran through it shouting joyfully, “We’re free!”

No longer did they feel hungry or tired. They sat down on a grassy bank and looked around in contentment. In that way, they realised, for the first time, the world’s true beauty.

As they sat there, a strange little man came to join them. “I am the servant of King Kaba,” he explained. “King Kaba is also a magician. He owns the palace of steel. You must tell me all you know about it.”

The two brothers, who had been brought up always, to tell the truth, told him how they had been tempted in the steel palace and thrown the jewels away.

At this, the little man burst out laughing. His eyes twinkled with merry fun.

“Yes, I know all about it, for I am King Kaba,” he chuckled. “I admire people who are sincere and tell the truth; for that, you shall be rewarded.”

Taking from his pocket two leather purses, he gave one to each of the astonished brothers.

“Make good use of these riches, my friends,” he said, and as mysteriously as he had appeared, he vanished.

The two brothers blinked at each other. It was as though they had suddenly wakened up from a dream, but the purses in their hands proved that it had been neither a dream nor their imagination.

Inside the purses were jewels. When they returned to their village, the brothers sold them for a large sum.

This money they divided- some for the poor, some for the old, and some for those who were sick.

For themselves, they bought a large piece of farmland and learned how to cultivate it. Thus they knew of the happiness that good and honest work could bring.

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