The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales HTML version
The Queen's Museum
There was once a Queen who founded, in her capital city, a grand museum. This
institution was the pride of her heart, and she devoted nearly all her time to overseeing
the collection of objects for it, and their arrangement in the spacious halls. This museum
was intended to elevate the intelligence of her people, but the result was quite
disappointing to the Queen. For some reason, and what it was she could not imagine, the
people were not interested in her museum. She considered it the most delightful place in
the world, and spent hours every day in examining and studying the thousands of objects
it contained; but although here and there in the city there was a person who cared to visit
the collection, the great body of the people found it impossible to feel the slightest
interest in it. At first this grieved the Queen, and she tried to make her museum better; but
as this did no good, she became very angry, and she issued a decree that all persons of
mature age who were not interested in her museum should be sent to prison.
This decree produced a great sensation in the city. The people crowded to the building,
and did their very best to be interested; but, in the majority of cases, the attempt was an
utter failure. They could not feel any interest whatever. The consequence was that
hundreds and thousands of the people were sent to prison, and as there was not room
enough for them in the ordinary jails, large temporary prisons were erected in various
parts of the city. Those persons who were actually needed for work or service which no
one else could do were allowed to come out in the day-time on parole; but at night they
had to return to their prisons.
It was during this deplorable state of affairs that a stranger entered the city one day. He
was surprised at seeing so many prisons, and approaching the window in one of them,
behind the bars of which he saw a very respectable-looking citizen, he asked what all this
meant. The citizen informed him how matters stood, and then, with tears mounting to his
eyes, he added:
"Oh, sir, I have tried my best to be interested in that museum; but it is impossible; I
cannot make myself care for it in the slightest degree! And, what is more, I know I shall
never be able to do so; and I shall languish here for the rest of my days."
Passing on, the Stranger met a mother coming out of her house. Her face was pale, and
she was weeping bitterly. Filled with pity, he stopped and asked her what was the matter.
"Oh, sir," she said, "for a week I have been trying, for the sake of my dear children, to
take an interest in that museum. For a time I thought I might do it, but the hopes proved
false. It is impossible. I must leave my little ones, and go to prison."
The Stranger was deeply affected by these cases and many others of a similar character,
which he soon met with. "It is too bad! too bad!" he said to himself. "I never saw a city in
so much trouble. There is scarcely a family, I am told, in which there is not some
uninterested person—I must see the Queen and talk to her about it," and with this he
wended his way to the palace.