Sir Cleges and the Christmas Cherries by F. J. H. Darton
"At the court of Uther Pendragon there had lived a brave knight called Sir Cleges. When Uther had died, Sir Cleges retired to lands near Cardiff in Wales with his wife and family.
Sir Cleges was a kind and generous man, perhaps too generous. He always helped anyone in need, by loans of money that did not need to be paid back until the borrower was able, and by letting people off their rents if they had problems paying. In time his fortune had dwindled and all he had left was the house he lived in. There was no food, no servants and barely enough wood for the fire and it was Christmas time. There would be no visitors this year and no presents.
Sir Cleges was sad that his family would not have food to eat over Christmas but he knew there were still poorer people than himself for he still had the roof over his head. He went out to sit by his favourite cherry tree to ponder on what he could do to help himself and others.
As he sat under the tree he heard rustling sounds above him. He looked up and saw that the tree was in full bloom and then he saw that cherries were growing on it. He stood up and picked some to take in to his wife. She was amazed, it was a miracle, she said, he should pick some to take to the king as a Christmas gift. King Arthur, she had heard, was staying at Cardiff Castle.
Sir Cleges picked a basket full of cherries and went off to the Castle but he realised on the way that he was not dressed as a good knight should be. His clothes were ragged and he felt ashamed off himself. But he had an errand to run and he continued on his way. When he got to the Castle, he explained that he had a basket of cherries to give to the king. The guard would not allow him to enter unless he agreed to give one third of whatever the king gave as a reward. Sir Cleges agreed and was allowed to go to the castle keep where another guard stopped him.
He explained once again that he had a basket of cherries to give to the king. This guard also would not allow him to enter unless he agreed to give one third of whatever the king gave as a reward. Sir Cleges agreed and was allowed to go up the stairs to the banqueting hall where a third guard stopped him.
Yet again Sir Cleges explained that he had a basket of cherries to give to the king. Once more the guard would not allow him to enter unless he agreed to give one third of whatever the king gave as a reward. Sir Cleges, once again agreed and was allowed into the hall where the King was seated at the top table.
Sir Cleges presented the cherries to King Arthur who pronounced that it was a miracle at Christmas to have such fruit. He shared the cherries amongst the guests and invited Sir Cleges to join them.
After the food was eaten the King asked Sir Cleges what he would wish to have as a reward for bringing the cherries. He said he would wish for permission to give 12 strokes of his stick to people of his choosing. The king agrees to this strange request though he wondered why this poorly dressed man did not ask for more of a reward. Sir Cleges left the hall and as he went out of the door the guard stopped him and asked for one third of what he had been granted as a reward. Sir Cleges immediately hit him 4 times on the buttocks with his stick.
Sir Cleges then walked down the stairs of the keep and was stopped by the second guard who asked for one third of what he had been granted as a reward. Sir Cleges, without hesitation hit him 4 times on the buttocks with his stick and walked on to the gate.
At the gate he was stopped again by the guard who asked for one third of what he had been granted as a reward. Once more Sir Cleges hit the guard 4 times on the buttocks with his stick and walked out of the gate. But he was stopped and commanded to go back to see the king.
King Arthur told Sir Cleges that he had remembered who he was. He asked why he was so unkempt. Sir Cleges explained about how he had been too generous and now had nothing left except his home and family but that they would have no food and little heat over Christmas. The King asked why he did not request gold as a reward before and Sir Cleges explained what had happened with the guards. For the pleasure of hearing the story of the 12 strokes, the king decided to reward Sir Cleges with new lands and the control of Cardiff Castle. But he also got assurance that Sir Cleges will not lend money or give too many things away in future."
Story from Internet Archive non-commercial purpose
I think there is a moral to this story, perhaps Though it is sweet to give at Christmas, let's not present so much that it hurts the wallet, Often the Sweetest Gifts are from the Heart.
What do You think the moral of the story is?
12 Strokes of Christmas Cherries
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