Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a young man named Nicholas Sullivan. He had been orphaned at age thirteen when his parents died of a strange sickness. Now he was a peasant, living with his wife Alexis and their two children in a tiny shack outside Darcenea, the capital city of that kingdom. Nick had no education, so he had trouble finding a good job. The only jobs he found were unreliable, low-paying jobs.
Nick was walking down the street one day when he saw a woman with a purse go down the road. He asked her, “May I have some money please?” The lady looked at him with sharp eyes.
“No,” she flatly answered. “I am not spending any money on a hooligan.”
“Oh, Miss,” Nick lied, “I am gathering funds for the Darcenea orphanage. They could really use some money. Would you please give?”
“The orphanage, eh?” the woman said, looking at his thin frame and tattered, dirty clothes. “So you are not some kid from the street? What is your name?”
“Nick Sullivan,” Nick said. “I am not a street kid.”
“I guess I will give,” she said, and handed him ten coins (which is worth one hundred dollars today).
“Thank you so much, ma’am. I will take it to the orphanage,” Nick said as he left. The lady was smart. She did her errands, and then went to the orphanage.
Meanwhile, Nick went to his shack. He was excited. He called, “Alexis, I have ten coins to spend! We will not go hungry!”
“Great, Nick!” Alexis called. Then Nick told Alexis what he had done.
“Will they get me? Will she find out it did not go to the orphanage?” Nick asked Alexis.
“They probably will not, Nick,” Alexis said. They decided not to worry about it. They had a nice meal that night.
When the lady entered the orphanage, she inquired, “Hello, sir, did you receive a donation of ten coins today?”
“No, Ma’am,” the worker replied. “Do you wish to give?”
“Yes, but not right now,” she said as she stormed away. She ran to the royal castle and called to the guard, “Someone stole from me!”
“Who?” the guard asked. “How much?”
“A kid named Nick Sullivan stole ten coins from me!” she replied. “He told me it was for the Darcenea orphanage, but it was not, so he lied and deceived me too!” The lady told them everything she knew about Nick and the money.
“We will find him and bring him to trial,” the guard assured her. She left, feeling very angry at Nick.
The next morning Alexis was in town to buy a loaf of bread. She heard the town crier calling, “Wanted! Nick Sullivan! Wanted for theft!” She bought the loaf of bread and ran to the old shack.
“Nick! You are wanted!” Alexis called. Nick took the rest of the money and hid it in a hole under his mat. They were scared. How had the lady found out? They sat there and waited, worried. Would they be found?
The next day some of the king’s soldiers arrived at the Sullivan shack.
“Hello,” Nick said. “What are you here for?”
“We have a warrant for your arrest, Mr. Sullivan,” one guard said. “Come with us.”
“What? I am innocent!” Nick lied loudly.
“Then prove it! You are coming with us,” he said as he led him away. Alexis took the hands of their two children, Joseph and Kate, and followed behind.
“Where is Papa going?” six-year-old Joseph asked, his little face looking up at his mother.
“He is going to court,” Alexis said.
“What is court?” Joseph questioned.
“It is where they do judgements,” Alexis answered.
“So they will judge Papa?” Joseph wondered.
“Correct,” Alexis said. When they arrived at the Darcenea court house, they took a seat in the back. “Quiet, children,” she whispered, her heart beating.
“Court is now in session,” the judge called. “We are here to try a case between Mr. Nicholas Sullivan and Mrs. Victoria Baldwin. Mrs. Baldwin, state your case.”
“Nick Sullivan stole from me!” she called. “He said he was giving it to the orphanage, but he did not! I went to the orphanage, and the man said that they had not gotten my ten coins. Nick stole them!”
“How do you defend yourself, Mr. Sullivan?” the judge asked.
“How? I am innocent!” Nick called. “Check my house and see that I do not have her money!”
“We shall do that,” the judge said. Then he called an intermission so that the king’s soldiers could search the shack. Nick and his family sat together with guards watching them. Nick and Alexis were concerned. When the soldiers came back, the judge entered and everyone took their places.
“Have you found any evidence?” the judge asked the soldiers.
“Yes, your Honor, here are Mrs. Baldwin’s coins! We found them under Mr. Sullivan’s mat!” one of the guards said.
“Are these your coins, Mrs. Baldwin?” the judge asked.
“They are mine, all right,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “But I only see nine. Mr. Sullivan must have used one to buy something.”
“Is this true, Mr Sullivan? Do you admit to your crime?” the judge called.
“No, I am innocent!” Nick called.
“How do you prove yourself?” the judge questioned.
There was silence in the room as Nick slowly bowed his head. “I can not,” Nick admitted. “I spent that coin. I am sorry.”
“Sure you are!” Mrs. Baldwin called. “I don’t trust you.”
“Neither should he be trusted,” the judge said, “after what he said to us! Send him to jail until we have a judgement. He is guilty.”
Nick looked at Alexis shamefully and whispered, “I have done wrong. I hope you will be okay while I am in jail.”
“We will be okay, Nick,” Alexis said. “I love you.” Nick was taken to jail.
The next morning, Nick’s jail cell door opened. “Come out. They have made the judgement,” the guard at the doorway said. Nick promptly left the old, dark cell and went to the courtroom. He saw Alexis and his children, but only for a moment before he was taken to the front of the room.
“The judgement is, Mr. Sullivan,” the judge solemnly said. “for stealing and lying in court, three weeks in the labor camp by the coast of the sea. No exceptions. Your wife and children can come if they want to. You will leave on the next train. Mrs. Sullivan, will you be going?”
“Yes, your Honor,” Alexis said.
“Then go, pack your bags,” the judge said, and the guards led them to their house.
“Alexis, what are you getting yourself into?” Nick questioned as they went to the shack to get their stuff. “You are pregnant and you are going to a labor camp? Are you sure this is right?”
“I would never leave you, Nick,” Alexis answered. Then they packed their bags and went to the station. They got on the train and left.
“What is a labor camp?” Joseph asked.
“It is a place where Papa can work out his debt,” Alexis answered.
“Oh,” Joseph said and looked at his mama. “Will I have to work?”
“Some, but not more than usual,” Alexis assured him.
At the end of the day they arrived at the labor camp. The camp sergeant told Nick, “You must work all the time. You shall fulfill the tasks I have planned for you each day. You shall sleep when you can, but you must fulfill the tasks. If you do not, you shall take a beating and do the tasks the next day, in addition to that day’s chores. Laziness is not accepted. By the end of the three weeks, Mr. Sullivan, you are to have cleared all of the debris off these dirt roads leading to town.” Then the sergeant showed him a map of all the roads he needed cleared. Nick thought it was a lot of work, but he could do it. Soon he got to work, even though it was nighttime. “I can already tell that you are a hard worker,” the sergeant said. “Good job.”
“Thank you,” Nick said. Before long it was suppertime, and Nick went to eat.
He ate with his family, and met the other families there at the camp: James and Marie and their two children; Charles and Sarah and their little boy; and Adam and Samantha and their three children. Then the Sullivan family went to their shack to sleep.
Nick worked hard to clear the roads. Alexis also worked hard, but not as hard as Nick, for she was far along in her pregnancy. One night Nick came to the shack. “I am doing well on my work,” he said. “I shall have it all done by the end of the three weeks.”
“Great, Nick!’ Alexis said. “I am so proud of you.”
“I will pay Mrs. Baldwin the money, with extra, when I return,” Nick said. “I am sorry for what I did. It was wrong of me.”
“Oh, Nick,” Alexis said. “I feel the same way.”
“I am glad we are together in this,” Nick said.
“Yes, Nick,” Alexis said. “We are together in sorrow and in joy.” Thus they continued to work side by side. The children had to be cared for, for they kept on wandering off the roads.
“Joseph, go get Kate,” Nick would say, and then again a few minutes later Joseph would have to get Kate again.
“I help you, Papa,” Kate would say.
“Sure,” Nick would say. Kate would then rake the ground a little before trying to leave again.
One day Alexis could not work any longer. She did things in the shack, watched the children, and rested.
Nick worked very hard. He observed that the others were not working hard enough. They would always say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Adam and Samantha worked some, but still only enough for the day. Marie and Sarah, the other two wives, just stayed inside and did not work outside. Nick tried to encourage them to help their husbands. He did not want to see the men be punished. But they would not listen.
When the three weeks were over, Nick was ready. The others were not.
At noon the inspectors came. They told James and Charles that they both had to stay another week and finish their tasks. Adam and Samantha were told to hurry and finish his tasks so his family could leave the next morning. When they looked at Nick and Alexis’s work, they said “Good job. You did it all! I will take you back to Darcenea with me.” The Sullivans were so happy. They went on the train from the coast back to Darcenea.
Nick set off to making a more honest life for himself. He did not trick or steal in order to get money. He was honest and told people he was poor. He ended up getting even more money that way. Alexis had a baby boy, and named him Emmet, which means truth.
One day Alexis saw a plant near their shack. She and Nick both thought that it looked edible, so they decided to try it in a salad. It was very tasty, so they sold it to others to make money. The business went well, and soon Alexis had a garden of the plants. They named the special plant “Sullivan herb.” They were not as poor any more.
One day news came that the king of that country, King Randolph, had died. He had left the kingdom to his great nephew. The nephew was somewhere in the country and had to be found. Nick wondered why this nephew was so hard to find. Nick was in town one day when he heard the town crier calling: “The great nephew of King Randolph has been named! If anyone can find Nicholas Sullivan, tell the authorities!”
“Well, it’s not me,” Nick thought. “There must be another Nicholas Sullivan. Strange.” He left to go home.
A few days later Nick was holding baby Emmet and watching Joseph and Kate while Alexis was in the front yard selling Sullivan herb. Some soldiers came over. “Hello, soldiers,” Alexis said. “Would you like some of my herbs?”
“No, ma’am, but do you know a Nicholas Sullivan?”
“Yes, he is my husband,” Alexis replied. “He is right over there.” Then she pointed.
“Hello, is this about the new king?” Nick asked.
“Yes,” they said. “It is. What was your mother’s name?”
“Her name was Jane,” Nick said.
“Jane Andrews Sullivan?” they asked.
“Yes,” Nick answered. “How did you know?”
“Because she is the niece of King Randolph!” they called. “You are the one we are looking for!” Nick was utterly shocked.
“How did she become a peasant then? How come I did not know about this?” Nick asked.
“She married a peasant,” the guard said. “And she must not have told you.”
“We did not talk much, and she trained me not to ask too many questions,” Nick said. “She never told me she was the king’s niece.” Alexis’s eyes bulged.
“You are the king, Nick?” Alexis bravely uttered. “And I am queen?”
“Yes,” Nick said happily. He wanted to be king, and was very excited.
“Wait. We will have to check your record first,” the soldiers said, and left.
Nick and Alexis wondered what they would think of Nick’s previous stealing of Mrs. Baldwin’s money. “We paid her back and did not do it again,” Nick said. “We should be okay.”
“I hope so,” Alexis said. “Because I want to be queen!” They waited.
The next day the guards came back. “We have checked your record and we found that you have stolen before,” one guard said.
“Yes, indeed,” Nick said. “But I would never do it again. I am terribly sorry and I always try to be honest now.”
“That may be so,” the guard said. “But we need a lot of proof of your new found honesty if we are to trust you.”
“He has changed drastically. He would never steal now!” Alexis said.
“We need more proof,” the guards said.
“Then stay today and ask all the guests that come to our store how honest Nick is,” Alexis said. “You will see I am right.”
“Okay, we will do that,” the guards said, so they did. They asked every guest about the honesty of Nick and Alexis.
“Oh, they have not done anything wrong,” one lady said.
“Oh, they are very honest,” another said.
“They are as honest as can be,” another said.
This went on all day. At the end of the day the guards said, “You did steal, but because of how honest you are now, you can be king.”
Nick was so happy, Alexis was bouncing up and down, and the children were excited.
And so, the next month Nick became king and Alexis queen, with Joseph and Emmet as princes and, not to be forgotten, the darling Princess Katherine. King Nicholas was a very good and honest king. He did what was best for the kingdom, and his subjects were very proud of their king. He had honest and peaceful relations with other countries as well.
King Nicholas and Queen Alexis went on to have more children. They trained them to be honest because, after all, honesty is the best policy.