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The Three Questions
There was a king who had three questions in his mind that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.
And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to anyone who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.
And learned men came to the king, but they all answered his questions differently.
In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance a table of days, months, and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action, but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the king might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a council of wise men who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.
But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.
Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said the people the king most needed were his councilors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.
To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation, some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.
All the answers being different, the king agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.
The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the king put on simple clothes and, before reaching the hermit’s cell, dismounted from his horse. Leaving his bodyguard behind, he went on alone.
When the king approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the king, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily
The king went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what are the most important and need my first attention?”
The hermit listened to the king, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.
“You are tired,” said the king, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”
“Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the king, he sat down on the ground.
When he had dug two beds, the king stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:
“Now rest awhile – and let me work a bit.”
But the king did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the king at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:
“I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.”
“Here comes someone running,” said the hermit. “Let us see who it is.”
proclaimed (v) – announced officially
absorbed (v) – took in or soaked up
renowned (v) – famous, eminent, distinguished, prominent
affairs (n) – event, incident
A. Choose the correct answer from the options given below
1. The king wanted to know the answers for _________ questions.
[Answer: (a) three ]
2. The hermit lived in a _________.
[Answer: (c) wood]
3. widely renowned for his wisdom.
[Answer: (a) hermit]
B. Fill in the blanks
1. The answer for the first question was to have a counsel of wise men to fix the proper time for everything.
2. Magicians were referred to know the right time for every action.
3. The king decided to consult a hermit
C. Who said these words?
1. “They all answered his questions differently.”
[Answer: Leo Tolstoy ;
They → learned men; his → The king’s]
2. How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time?
[Answer: The king]
3. “Now rest awhile – and let me work a bit?”
[Answer: The hermit]
D. Answer the following questions.
1. What were the king’s questions?
Answer: The king’s questions were :
What was the right time for every action?
Who were the most necessary people?
How to know what was the most important thing to do?
2. Was the king satisfied with the answers? Why?
Answer: No, the king was not satisfied with the answers. Because all the answers were different and the king could not agree with any of them.
3. Why was the king advised to go to the magicians?
Answer: The king was advised to go to the magicians in order to know the right time for every action.
4. Whose advice did the people say would be important to the king in answer to the second question?
Answer: In answer to the second question, the advice of the councillors, priests, doctors and warriors would be important to the king.
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