The Last Bargain
“Come and hire me,” I cried, while in the morning I was walking on the stone—paved road. Sword in hand, the King came in his chariot. He held my hand and said, “I will hire you with my power.” But his power counted for nought, and he went away in his chariot. In the heat of the midday the houses stood with shut doors. I wandered along the crooked lane. An old man came out with his bag of gold. He pondered and said, “I will hire you with my money.” He weighed his coins one by one, but I turned away. It was evening. The garden hedge was all aflower. The fair maid came out and said, “I will hire you with a smile.” Her smile paled and melted into tears, and she went back alone into the dark. The sun glistened on the sand, and the sea waves broke waywardly. A child sat playing with shells. He raised his head and seemed to know me, and said, “I hire you with nothing.” From thenceforward that bargain struck in child’s play made me a free man.