The French King In China

Once their was a French king who had three daughters. One was beautiful, one smart, one loving — all were his raison d’être.

When they were little, he braided their hair, practiced their alphabet and hugged them when they cried. When they were half-grown, he dressed them de rigueur, walked them to school and danced with them in the great room. When they became women, he told them they were wonderful, sent them each to a université.

With them he was bon vivant and  au courant. He loved being a father. When his daughters married, he lost them a little, but loved them still, pulled it off, accepted their husbands and delighted in their children. He got down on the floor with his grandchildren, as in the days of old and called them mon petit chou-fleurs.

And then he decided to pass on his inheritance to his daughters, early, before he was gone, to see their eyes bright, their banks full and love made safe.

There was several other reasons. He tired of state, of intrigue, of debt fatigue and of the stress of the big league.

It was a disaster.

His beautiful daughter feared he would prefer his loving daughter and sued him. His loving daughter believed he loved his smart daughter the most and refused to see him. His smart daughter believed that his beautiful daughter would get everything and arranged a meeting of all the daughters.

“I think he might be losing it,” the beautiful one said.

“I wonder if we could get him to see a doctor,” the loving one said.

“Let’s see if we might get him into a home,” said the smart one. “Then we could have our lawyers meet and work everything out so everyone is happy.”

They arranged a meeting with him.

“My dearest little girls,” he cried out. “Whatever in all the wide and crazy world has happened to us? I’m your père. I will never be anything more. I am not your master. I am not your malfaiteur. I am not merely your bienfaiteur. I am your daddy! I love you each one of you with all my heart. Different as you are, yet you are each one to me the crème de la crème, the very sweetness of life itself.”

And with a cri de coeur he fell down before them. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”

“You aren’t well,” they cried.

“You aren’t,” he shouted back at them. “En garde!”

“What?” screamed the smart one. “Will you threaten us?”

And with that the king rushed from them, out of the great palace. It was raining. He ran out into it. He tore off his clothes.

“Beauty comes of beauty,” he shouted at the sky,” and love comes of love. Smart come of smart, but what comes of greed, of jealousy and rivalry? Nothing,” he shouted, “nothing comes of that yapping, clawing, scrapping quintessence of nothing.”

“It is in a father and a mother to give their daughters faces, and to put some eyes and ears and mouths on them. It is ours also to give them legs, feet, arms, hands — to give to them of our own fingers and our toes. We give them these great things with but a moments passion, and with nothing more than love’s embrace, we also give them minds and souls and wills with which to love us back, or to turn us out. Terrible power of choice! It is in a father to give his daughters more than this. And when he does, when he has given them the greatest gift he has, his heart and all his amour, having given them so much, it is his tragedy to fall on the aching, empty, airless side of getting it all back.”

His daughters found him in the storm, raving as he went, and wrapping a tarp around him, they led him home and put him in his house.

He cried out as he went, “When parents die, their children howl and blow like these great winds; we had rather in the storm of life that they cried those tears of love before our deaths, while we could yet see and hug each other safe again.”

The next day they sent their avocats to his house.

He wasn’t there.

A few weeks later, each of his daughters received a letter from him expressing his love and asking if they would visit him soon at his new home.

It was in China.


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