from the October 1879 edition of St. Nicholas, pp. 784-786

THERE was once a great Duke Leopold,
Who had wit and wisdom, as well as gold,
And used all three in a liberal way
For the good of his people, the stories say.
To see precisely what they would do,
And how nearly a notion of his came true,
He went from his palace one night alone--
When a brooding storm and starless skies
Hid his secret from prying eyes--
And set midway in the road a stone
It was not too big for a man to move--
The Duke was confident on that score;
Yet the weight of the thing was enough to prove
The strength of one's muscle--and something more.
"Something more," laughed the Duke, as he strode
Through wind and rain on his homeward road:
"This time tomorrow I reckon will show
If a notion of mine is correct or no."

From a window high in the palace wall,
He watched next day for the passers-by,
And grimly smiled as they one and all,
Where they found the stone, left the stone to lie.
A lumbering ox-cart came along,
And Hans, the driver, was stout and strong;
One sturdy shove with the right intent
Would have cleared the track of impediment;
But whatever appeared to be needless work,
Or work that another might possibly do,
Hans made it a point of duty to shirk.
He stopped his team for a minute or two,
And scratched his head as he looked about
For the easiest way of getting out:
Then--"Lucky for me that the road is wide,"
He lazily murmured, and drove aside.

The next that came was a grenadier
Bristling in scarlet and gold array;
And he whistled a tune both loud and clear.
But he took no note of the rock in his way.
When its ragged edges scraped his knee--
"Thunder and lightning! what's this?" says he.
"Haven't the blockheads sense enough
To clear their road of this sort of stuff?
A pretty thing for a grenadier
To stumble against, and bark his shins!
If I knew the rascal that planted it here--
Yes, surely! I 'd make him see his sins."
He clanked his sword, and he tossed his plume,
And he strutted away in a terrible fume;
But as for moving the stone--not he!--
"It is just," said the Duke, "as I thought it would be."


A little later, still watching there,
He spied on their way to the village Fair,
A troop of merchants, each with his pack
Strapped on a well-fed animal's back.
"Now let us see," with a nod of his head
And a merry twinkle, His Highness said:
"Perhaps this worshipful multitude
Will lend a hand for the public good."
But alack! the company, man and horse,
Hardly paused in their onward course.
Instead of cantering four abreast,
Two by two they went east and west;
And when they had left the stone behind--
"To think of a thing like that," said they,
"Blocking the high-road for half a day!"
It never reached the collective mind
In the light of a matter that implied
Some possible claim on the other side.

So a week, and two, and three slipped past:
The rock in the road lay bedded fast,
And the people grumbling went and came,
Each with a tongue that was glib to blame,
But none with a hand to help.
At last Duke Leopold, being quite content
With the issue of his experiment,
Ordered his herald to sound a blast,
And summon his subjects far and near
A word from his high-born lips to hear.
From far and near at the trumpet call,
They gathered about the palace wall,
And the Duke, at the head of a glittering train,
Rode through the ranks of wondering eyes
To the spot where the stone so long had lain.
I will leave you to picture their blank surprise,
When he leaped from his horse with a smiling face,
And royal hands pushed the stone from its place!

But the stare of amazement became despair
When the Duke stooped down with his gracious air,
And took from a hollow the rock had hid
A casket shut with a graven lid.
The legend upon it he read aloud
To a silent, and very crest-fallen crowd:--
"This box is for him, and for him alone
Who takes the trouble to move this stone."
Then he raised the lid, and they saw the shine
Of a golden ring, and a purse of gold;
"Which might have been yours," said Duke Leopold,
"But now I regret to say is mine.
It was I who for reasons of my own
Hindered your highway with the stone.
What the reasons were you have doubtless guessed
Before this time. And as for the rest,
I think there is nothing more to say.
My dear good friends, I wish you good-day!"
He mounted his horse, and the glittering train
After their leader galloped again.
With sound of trumpet and gleam of gold
They flashed through the ranks of downcast eyes,
And the crowd went home feeling rather "sold"
--Perhaps, however, a lesson lies
In the story, that none of us need despise.