''The Good Duke''

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  • Published: 2 Dec 2016
  • Updated: 2 Dec 2016
  • Status: Complete
It's a supernatural Christmas story. King Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia in the years 921-935. He is now patron Saint of the Czech Republic. He rose every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

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4. chapter four

When they arrived in village, they found the boy’s grandmother at the drinking well, known as the fount of St. Agnes. She was using a long pole – a branch broken off a birch tree, and was ramming it down into the well to break the ice.

“Here, give the good lady some gold,” said the duke – which the page gladly did. At this, the other peasants of the village, who until now had been plodding through the snow on their business, came rushing over from all sides to beg the Duke for money.

“Back, back!” cried the page boy. The Duke took a handful of coins and scattered them on the ground. The peasants dived on them like a flock of birds on some crumbs of bread.

The Duke returned to the castle to resume his Christmas worship and festivities, but instead of feeling better for his generosity, he somehow felt troubled by it. As he celebrated the last Christmas of the millennium, the image of the priestess in the dungeon was always in his mind.

The next day, the feast day of St. Stephen, there was boxing and jousting in the tiltyard. Music, dancing and merrymaking continued throughout the afternoon and evening – but the Duke’s heart was still not fully in the celebrations. He stood up from his place in the banqueting hall, and went up onto the ramparts of the castle to take in the cold, fresh air. It was a clear moonlit night. He looked out towards the village that he had visited the day before. He saw a peasant wandering across the fields, bending down every now and then to pick up sticks for the fire.

“Page, page!” he called out – for his attendant was never far away. “Bring me food from from the table – the best bits, and bring wine, and fetch some logs for the fire. I intend to go out and give these things to that man. Hurry, hurry now. I shall wait for you by the gates of the castle.”

The Duke took the winding stairs down to the courtyard. Servants brought him his fur-lined clothes and boots. “No no,” he said. “I shall go without them”. Instead, he took off his shoes and stood on the snow covered cobble stones. His feet were entwined in woolen strips, but they were their only coverings.

The stable boy stood by with the Duke’s horse.

“Follow me,” the Duke said to the page, “we are going on foot.” Seeing that that his master was not wearing a coat or hat, the poor page felt so disrespectful as he put on his own clothes – but the master did not seem to take notice.

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