The Courtesy of a Kind Heart

The Courtesy of a Kind Heart

"I hate being polite," said John. "I'm tired of saying, 'If you please,' Excuse me,' and 'I beg your pardon.' "

I'm afraid John's sister Dot sometimes felt the same way, too. It was so easy to be rude and so hard to be polite all the time.

"But didn't you know," said Mother, "that it really is kingly to be polite, and regal to show courtesy? Some of our most polite friends," she added, "belong to the royal family of Great Britain." Then she told John and Dot this story.

One day the President of our country, Woodrow Wilson, and his wife, Mrs. Wilson, were invited to Buckingham Palace in London to a banquet being given by King George and the Queen of Great Britain.

It was called a golden banquet because the candlesticks were gold and the dinner was served on golden plates. The goblets that stood beside the plates were gold and there were golden ornaments about the palace banquet room. The servants who served the dinner wore uniforms of crimson red. They had white wigs on their heads and they were dressed in knee breeches, with great golden buckles on their shoes.

To honor the guests from our country, the King and Queen of England asked soldiers from the Tower of London to attend the banquet as guards. These were called yeomen of the guard. They wore tall, black beaver hats with straps under their chins, red coats with gold braid and buttons, and they carried shining spears. These soldiers stood, a few feet apart, against the walls all around the huge banquet hall. They stood without moving a muscle, each like a statue, heads held high, eyes forward, feet together.

Suddenly the President's wife saw coming into the banquet hall a strange-looking man wearing a very high hat and a pink coat with white breeches and shiny shoes. In his hand he was carrying a slender golden wand. She watched to see what this officer in the pink coat would do. She saw him march around the room slowly, stopping in front of each one of these statuelike soldiers. Every time he stopped in front of a soldier, he touched the toes of the soldier's boots with the end of his golden wand and then passed on to do the same to the next soldier.

This was such a strange act that the first lady of our land turned to the king, who was sitting next to her at the banquet table, and asked, "Pleas; Your Majesty, may I ask why this officer in the pink coat touches all the toes of the boots of all the soldiers who are standing around the walls in this banquet hall?"

The king smiled and said, "I am glad to tell you about this very ancient custom which is still observed. It is really the story of the courtesy of a very kind heart. You see, many hundreds of years ago, there was a banquet held in this same hall and, for the first time, guards from the Tower of London were invited to attend as a guard of honor, and they stood about the hall at attention, just as they are standing here tonight. On that occasion the chief officer of the Tower of London suddenly walked into the banquet hall to inspect his men. He wanted to see if they were all standing up perfectly straight in their military postures, without moving a muscle.

"As he came in he found one of his soldiers who had grown so tired that he had relaxed and had put one foot out in front of the other. This was not proper. The chief officer touched the toe of the tired officer with his golden wand. Suddenly he saw the blood rush to the face of the soldier. His crimson cheeks betrayed his humiliation in having been singled out by his chief officer from all the rest for correction. He was embarrassed before his king.

"Then the chief officer felt very sorry for what he had done to this soldier and wondered what he could do to show that he did not mean to hurt him. Very quickly he thought that if he should march around the hall and touch every soldier on the toe of his boot with his golden wand, it would then look as if this were just a part of the ceremony and the regular thing to do. So, this kind officer, who was too courteous to want one of his men to blush before his king, and too kind to hurt the feelings of even one of his brave soldiers, slowly walked about the hall, touching the toe of every soldier's boot with his golden wand.

"Then," said the king, smiling at Mrs. Wilson, "since that day whenever a banquet is held in this palace, and guards from the Tower of London are brought here as a guard of honor, this same ceremony is still carried out—the ceremony of the golden wand touch­ing the boot of every soldier."

The President's wife smiled at the king and at the queen and said, "What a beautiful memorial to a kind heart! Wherever I go, I shall do my part to tell the story of this officer's courtesy."

"Well, if our President's wife thought it was nice to be so polite, I do, too," said Dot.

"And if an officer in the Tower of London is as polite as that," said John, "I intend to try, too."

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