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THE YOUNG CUPBEARER
 LONG, long ago, there lived in Persia a little prince whose name was
He was not petted and spoiled like many other princes. Although his
father was a king, Cyrus was brought up like the son of a common man.
He knew how to work with his hands. He ate only the plainest food. He
slept on a hard bed. He learned to endure hunger and cold.
When Cyrus was twelve years old he went with his mother to Media to
visit his grandfather. His grandfather, whose name was Astyages,
was king of Media, and very
rich and powerful.
Cyrus was so tall and strong and handsome that his grandfather was
very proud of him. He wished the lad to stay with him in Media. He
therefore gave him many beautiful gifts and everything that could
please a prince.
One day King Astyages planned to make a great feast
for the lad. The tables were to be laden with all kinds of food.
There was to be music and dancing; and Cyrus was to invite as many
guests as he chose.
 The hour for the feast came. Everything was ready.
The servants were there, dressed in fine uniforms. The musicians and
dancers were in their places. But no guests came.
"How is this, my dear boy?" asked the king. "The feast is ready, but
no one has come to partake of it."
"That is because I have not invited any one," said Cyrus. "In Persia
we do not have such feasts. If any one is hungry, he eats some bread
and meat, with perhaps a few cresses, and that is the end of it. We
never go to all this trouble and expense of making a fine dinner in
order that our friends may eat what is not good for them."
King Astyages did not know whether to be pleased or displeased.
"Well," said he, "all these rich foods that were prepared for the feast
are yours. What will you do with them?"
"I think I will give them to our friends," said Cyrus.
So he gave one portion to the king's officer who had taught him to
ride. Another portion he gave to an old servant who waited upon his
grandfather. And the rest he divided among the young women who took
care of his mother.
The king's cupbearer, Sarcas, was very much offended because he was
not given a share of the feast. The king also wondered why this man,
who was his favorite, should be so slighted.
"Why didn't you give something to Sarcas?" he asked.
"Well, truly," said Cyrus, "I do not like him. He is proud and
overbearing. He thinks that he makes a fine figure when he waits on
"And so he does," said the king. "He is very skillful as a
"That may be so," answered Cyrus, "but if you will let me
be your cupbearer to-morrow, I think I can serve you quite as well."
King Astyages smiled. He saw that Cyrus had a will of his own, and
this pleased him very much.
"I shall be glad to see what you can do," he said. "Tomorrow, you shall
be the king's cupbearer."
You would hardly have known the young prince when the time came for
him to appear before his grandfather. He was dressed in the rich
uniform of the cupbearer, and he came forward with much dignity and
 He carried a white napkin upon his arm, and held the cup of wine very
daintily with three of his fingers.
His manners were perfect. Sarcas himself could not have served the
king half so well.
"Bravo! bravo!" cried his mother, her eyes sparkling with pride.
"You have done well" said his grandfather. "But
 you neglected one
important thing. It is the rule and custom of the cupbearer to pour
out a little of the wine and taste it before handing the cup to me.
This you forgot to do."
"Indeed, grandfather, I did not forget it," answered Cyrus.
"Then why didn't you do it?" asked his mother.
"Because I believed there was poison in the wine."
"Poison, my boy!" cried King Astyages, much alarmed. "Poison! poison!"
"Yes, grandfather, poison. For the other day, when you sat at dinner
with your officers, I noticed that the wine made you act queerly. After
the guests had drunk quite a little of it, they began to talk foolishly
and sing loudly; and some of them went to sleep. And you, grandfather,
were as bad as the rest. You forgot that you were king. You forgot all
your good manners. You tried to dance and fell upon the floor. I am
afraid to drink anything that makes men act in that way."
"Didn't you ever see your father behave so?" asked the king.
"No, never," said Cyrus. "He does not drink merely to be drinking. He
drinks to quench his thirst, and that is all."
 When Cyrus became a man, he succeeded his father as king of Persia;
he also succeeded his grandfather Astyages as king of Media. He was
a very wise and powerful ruler, and he made his country the greatest
of any that was then known. In history he is commonly called Cyrus