The Day the King Came to Town
By Amanda Beck
It was the day the king came to town. All the people gathered around to see him pass by in his entourage, knowing that it would be a sight to behold. He was a new king, but there was something in his eyes that gave the impression that he had lived many years longer than any present, even the oldest of them. A light burned within his eyes—it was like a window to the very soul of this new king. Only those who were close to his passing could see this; the rest could only feel it in his air.
The king’s robe was purple, trimmed with the finest fur in the country. It was a robe well fit for a king. There was no doubt about it—this robe suited this king. It was made for him, for this very occasion. The way the sun shone off its purple folds reminded the old women of the vineyard harvests of yesteryear when the crops were plentiful. It reminded the children of the purple lilies in the field near the town that waved as the wind played them like strings on a violin. This was a magnificent robe, but everyone seemed to understand that it would be nothing if it were not worn by this great man, so great and yet so close.
The crowds kept a respectable distance, knowing that this man and his robe must be left as pristine as when they strolled through the city gates. But very close to the edge of the robe, gliding along the leaf-laden ground as it trailed this mighty king, was an old, blind woman, hands covered in blood. The town blemish. She never wore the proper clothes, the ones needed to cover her nakedness properly, and today was no exception. She obviously couldn’t see him or the beauty of his robe, but she could feel that she was very near to greatness. Her years of blindness had taught her well to understand the movement of a man’s feet plodding along the gentle roads of this humble city.
The crowd, which had been noisily greeting her king, gasped as one man. “She’s going to soil his robe—bloodied by a dirty hand…the most beautiful robe we have ever seen. Someone must stop her!”
But no one did.
She reached out her hand as he walked along; she reached out her blind, bloody hand and firmly grasped the king’s robe, as firmly as an eighty-year-old woman could. It must have felt as no more than a gentle tug to the great king, but surely it would be enough to irk this great and noble man.
The whole crowd could see, as she loosed the garment from her grasp, the stain of her red hand that remained on the now-ruined robe. And then the man with clear and bright eyes turned and looked at this thing that had happened. First he saw the handprint on his robe, and tears began to form in his eyes. “How could she know?” he asked himself. “How could she know what she has done? She has undone me,” he whispered.
The blind woman had begun to retreat back into the crowd, her heart filled with assurance that her unseen bleeding would be stopped. As he watched her crawl back into the mass of people who looked at her with reproach, his gaze turned from one of gentle wonder to one of anger and wrath.
“Surely he will have her flogged for this,” one man whispered to his wife. She agreed with a nod. “She deserves nothing less,” his neighbor said. “To think—that robe must be burned now; it isn’t clean anymore,” said the leader of the parish church. “I’ve never seen such wrath in a man’s eyes before,” thought the young maiden who had come in from the fields to greet this long-awaited king.
The whole crowd held their breath and looked at the woman crawling back into familiar anonymity, waiting for the crime to be addressed and dealt with. But instead, he called to her in a gentle voice, “Who was it that touched my robe?”
All knew, except for the woman, that he only looked at her as he spoke, a question without need of an answer from anyone but her to acknowledge her deed.
The anger in his face a moment earlier, directed at the crowd and not the woman, subsided as he spoke. The blind woman stopped crawling into the crowd. She slowly turned and faced this great king with a visionless stare. “I did, your majesty.”
“Do you know what you have done to me?” he asked her with a quiver in his voice.
“No, sir,” she said with an anxiousness in her voice, as a young child waits for the discipline of a disappointed father. “All I know, your majesty,” she said with confidence growing in her voice, “is that I once was lonely but now I feel found.”
“No, just found.”
He came close to her, the crowd watching in horror as he knelt in the dirt beside her. He picked up both of her filthy, bloody hands and put them on his cheeks, smearing her blood onto his beard and looking at her with an unfathomable peace that passed all the understanding to be had in that entire village.
“Now what do you feel, daughter?”
“I feel…I feel…at home, like I’ve rubbed your cheek many times before. It’s unknown, but somehow familiar.” The townspeople were shocked—they had never heard the blind woman speak more than three understandable words. She had a habit of slurring and mumbling always before, but now she spoke as if she had never said anything incompetent in her whole life.
And he took up the edge of his royal garment, that perfect robe, and he spread it over her nakedness and he held her close as she began to weep.
And in this day, these words were fulfilled within their hearing, as the words of this king echoed faintly in their hearts, “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of My garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you My solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you and you became Mine.” And the people marveled, “Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat her with princes.”