Among the soldiers of King Philip there was a poor man who had done some brave deeds. He had pleased the king in more ways than one, and so the king put a good deal of trust in him.
One day this soldier was on board of a ship at sea when a great storm came up. The winds drove the ship upon the rocks, and it was wrecked. The soldier was cast half-drowned upon the shore; and he would have died there, had it not been for the kind care of a farmer who lived close by.
When the soldier was well enough to go home, he thanked the farmer for what he had done, and promised that he would repay him for his kindness.
But he did not mean to keep his promise. He did not tell King Philip about the man who had saved his life. He only said that there was a fine farm by the seashore, and that he would like very much to have it for his own. Would the king give it to him?
"Who owns the farm now?" asked Philip.
"Only a churlish farmer, who has never done anything for his country," said the soldier.
"Very well, then," said Philip. "You have served me for a long time, and you shall have your wish. Go and take the farm for yourself."
And so the soldier made haste to drive the farmer from his house and home. He took the farm for his own.
The poor farmer was stung to the heart by such treat-ment. He went boldly to the king, and told the whole story from beginning to end. King Philip was very angry when he learned that the man whom he had trusted had done so base a deed. He sent for the soldier in great haste; and when he had come, he caused these words to be burned in his forehead:--
"THE UNGRATEFUL GUEST."
Thus all the world was made to know of the mean act by which the soldier had tried to enrich himself; and from that day until he died all men shunned and hated him.
Return to the James Baldwin library , or . . . Read the next short story; The Ungrateful Soldier