The gift

One night three knocks were heard at the door of an inn.

`See who it is !` the inn owner said to his servant going on eating his steak.

The servant came back with a hunchback old man dressed in a patched coat.

`Good evening` the old man said timidly. Is it anything to eat? I am coming from very far away.

The inn keeper drank one more glass of wine and wiped his mouth content.

`The kitchen is closed but we might find something. How much money you have?

The old man looked at him with his blue eyes.

`I don`t have any. I can send you with someone when I get home.`

`Then endure till you get home` the inn keeper said laughing.

The old man took out his coat and gave it to him.

`I can give you this.`

Then he took out from his bag a stone as big as his hand. He gave it too.`

The inn keeper took the coat with a finger and examined it on all sides then threw it down. He gave the stone to his servant.

`You see you got a stone.`

He went out laughing. The old man bent his head and went to the door. When to close the door behind him the servant gave him a coin.

`To buy some food`, the servant told hom. There is an inn further.`

The old man grabbed the young of his wrist and looked into his eyes.

`Demetrios, this coin is your pay for a whole week of work. May God reward you. Tell the inn keeper that the coat I gave him of he puts it up can make him anything he likes: nobleman, knight…Tell him that I am waiting for you two after an year to give you more.

Demetrios told the words of the old man exactly as they had been said.

At first the inn keeper didn`t believe him and didn`t want to put that shabby coat on.

`I will try it`, Demetrios said. To see if it is true.`

`Sly servant!` the inn kepper burst and put the coat on quickly. I want to be…a nobleman`, he said aloud

The old man didn`t lie. The coat turned immediately in one made of velvet embroidered with golden thread. Another servants burst into the room.

`Master, at the gate there is a carriage with six horses. Full of gold!`

Seeing so many riches the inn keeper decided he could not stay at the old inn anymore. He had to look for a castle suitable for him. Demetrios followed him. He took his few things and the stone he had received from the old man. ON their way they were attacked by robbers. They were left only with their clothes and the stone Demetrios had dropped in the grass. Angry, the inn keeper took the stone and threw it after the robbers. The stone hit a bigger stone and broke and out of it fell a silver box. The inn keeper ran and opened it. He found only a book with a small golden cross drawn on the black cover. He threw it to his servant disappointed keeping only the silver box. After he arranged his, coat he said aloud:

`I want to be a king!` The coat turned into a red velvet mantle. On the head he had a crown with precious stones on it.

`I am a king, I am a king` he said and raised his fists to the sky.

Covered in dust clouds another carriage stopped before them and this time it was one made completely of gold and it was followed by a troop of soldiers. The king was brought to the palace. Demetrios arrived at the palace too in a few days. He walked all the way following the traces left by carriage and horsemen. He could not reach the king because of the crowd of soldiers who guarded him so he had to find a home. He found at an old woman where he paid his stay helping her at the housework.

 One evening the old woman saw the young man resting under  a tree with the book with black covers in his hand.

`What are you reading there? she asked him.

Demetrios gave her the book.

The old woman took it and after opening it her face became radiant.

She made the sign of the cross and kissed it.

`In it there is the whole richness of this life` she whispered. Read for me from it, please. I don`t see well anymore.

Demetrios didn`t have the time to do that anymore. The soldiers got in the yard of the old woman:

`We came after the money you own to the king!` they were shouting

`My God` she made the sign of the cross scared. I have just paid my dues. I had to sell my cow…

`We have a new king. There are new higher taxes now. He sent us to collect them. Who doesn`t pay is taken to the jail.`

`Stop. Take me instead of her, Demetrios said.

The old woman kissed his forehead before being taken away by soldiers.

When a year had passed from the time the king had received the coat before his palace a simple wooden carriage stopped. The coackman was a hunchback. Seeing him, the king remembered the promise this one had made to him. He was to get even more. He really needed more. The kingdom was small and the army numerous. He took quickly his velvet mantle crown and the silver box found in the stone and jumped up in the carriage.

`Why do you stop before the jail?` the king asked the old man.

`Did you forget about Demetrios?`

`Will I go with my servant in the same carriage ? the king was revolted.

Demetrios got inside the carriage. His face was bright although his clothes were shabby and on the wrists he had the traces of the chains. Under the coat near his chest it was seen a corner of the book with black covers.

After a while they reached the edge of a precipice and over that it was a small bridge but you couldn`t see its end.

We got home, the old man said and headed towards the bridge.

Demetrios followed him. The king grumbling went after them. After the first step he started to sweat. . He first took out his crown which had become heavier and heavier. The heat became unbearable.

He threw away his mantle too.

`I go back, I can`t bear this heat.`

No matter how hard he tried, he could not make a step back.

`There is no way back,  the old man told him.

– Eu mă întorc! Nu suport căldura asta.

The king gasped and was breathing heavily.

`I feel so hot…very hot…Why is it burning so? He said.

`Here is only LOVE, the old man came close to him.

He was not a hunchback anymore and his clothes hair and face were shining.

`What can I do now? The king sighed.

Only on the other side we could, here we just are. See in your hand.`

The king opened quickly his hand. The silver box shone brightly surrounding his fingers into a nice coolness.

`I don`t understand, the king whispered.

The old man smiled.

When you found the silver box you didn`t keep the Bible, you gave it to Demetrios. Even such a small thing counts.`

The king pressed his forehead to the silver box and the coolness spread on his temples face and body. Then he felt LOVE for the first time.

Veronica Iani


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