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A Delicate Balance

The spider scuttled across the cold stone floor of the dark cellar, carefully avoiding the rat's nest in the corner, and crept under the crates, bringing news of flying food to her cosy family.

The beady-eyed rat watched carelessly. He had no need to eat spiders. There was plenty of grain in the further store. His attention was, however, sharpened by the appearance of the kitchen cat that twined hopefully around the scullery maid's legs as she descended the stairs to bring supplies to the cook.

Back up in the kitchen the maid bobbed a respectful curtsey as she spread the ingredients on the table for the cook's inspection. The cook nodded and smiled as she carefully selected food and utensils and set to work. A disciplined kitchen was a happy kitchen.

In the great dining room, the upstairs maid set to work laying the long table in readiness for the feast as the butler watched and fussed. Cleanliness and order ruled the proceedings and soon the whole table gleamed with silver and crystal.

And, as by clockwork, the head butler threw open the doors and the courtiers in their finery flowed into the room, gossiping and laughing. With the striking of the rod on the oaken floor the room fell silent as the king made his unhurried entrance.

The meal was a great success and the king toasted his castle and kingdom for their devotion and service. The head butler smiled and told the upstairs staff who told their colleagues below stairs. The scullery maid gave the cat some left-over cream, who in turn ignored the rat and the spider, who just got on with bringing up her little family.

And the whole castle hummed in harmony as the king retired for the night, content that all was well and knowing his part in it. Whilst he was but one man and seemingly did very little, all eyes were on him, always. Slight nuances and moods were amplified and the castle and the kingdom reverberated with his thoughts and feelings. A little kindness to a courtier became great kindness to many others. A solemnity of bearing quelled frivolity in a rippling blanket of concern. And a moment's anger propagated torrents of fear and could quickly lead to conflict and war.

With such power, the king knew, came ultimate corruption or full responsibility. Long ago, in thoughtful dialogue with wise counsellors, he had chosen the latter, and now saw the profound wisdom in those formative words.

So, like the spider in the cellar, he lived each day with care and as best he could, mindful of the dangers of a wrong turn and economic in the deliberation of his actions. And it was enough. His subjects, seeing the integrity of his deep intent, loved and supported him in return and took inspiration from his words and actions, and peace and harmony reigned throughout the land.

 

***

 

~by David Straker~

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