The Golden Secret: Mom's Classic Children's Story

The Golden Secret

Story and Illustrations by Libby Horning

long time ago, when travel was slow and no one had ever heard of automation, there lived a most unhappy king. His name was King Regen of Bugovia. He was a fine fat king, and should have been jolly, but he was sad because the people of his kingdom were unhappy and were always quarrelling.

Bugovians awoke in the morning with a frown and a scowl.  

Mothers burned the breakfast toast,

And fathers cut themselves while shaving.

Children gulped their milk and got stomach aches.

Every day, the people got grouchier and grouchier, and the toast got blacker and blacker, and fathers decided not to shave at all, not ever.  This was bad, because the fathers grew beards that itched and scratched something awful.

One day after the cook had served him a terrible breakfast of cold fried eggs and very black toast, King Regen roared at his unhappy cook.
“Away with this mess! Away! Don’t come back until you can cook with a smile and NOT burn the toast!”

King Regen was now more unhappy and hungry—than ever.  He walked up and down, and down and up, mumbling and grumbling to himself.

Finally King Regen looked up and snapped his fingers— “Snap! Snap!” and said, “Now I know what is wrong with my people and what I can do about it.”  “Guards!”, King Regen shouted, “Bring me the Prime Minister and my Secretaries of the Army and Navy, and the Treasurer who carries a ring of huge jangling keys!!”

Ten minutes later, the Prime Minister and the Secretaries of the Army and Navy, and the Treasurer who carried a ring of huge jangling keys, ran huffing and puffing into the castle and down along the bright red carpet that led to King Regen’s throne.

“Gentlemen,” King Regen said, “This morning I’ve had too much!!  I’ve had too much burned toast and I’ve seen too many frowns.  Something must be done to make the people of the kingdom happy!”

“I have a wonderful idea,” Regen said. “We will have a giant contest!  Each person who enter the contest will write down all of the things which make him happy.  Everyone will share in the real prize of happiness, but to the winner I will give my most treasured possessions: a solid gold fishing pole, and the hand of my lovely daughter Libushia in marriage.”

“Send horsemen to every corner of the kingdom,” Regen roared.  “Knock on every door, and send smoke signals from the hilltops.  We must find a winner by the next full moon!”

The horsemen galloped swiftly away.  Ringing bells and shouting the good news they soon had everyone excited and eager to give advice—

Mr. Klaus, the butcher and feather merchant, said, “A feather tickler is the answer.  If you’re tickled awake in the morning with a feather, you will have to smile!”

Mr. Bilbo, the bookseller, said, “Make everyone read a funny story before going to bed.  When you wake up you will remember the story and you will laugh.”  Mr. Bilbo also wanted to sell books, you see.

And Mr. Piper, from Piper’s Candy Shop, wanted everyone to eat candy and sweet cakes with his breakfast.

None of these things made anyone really happy, and the Bugovians got into terrible arguments just talking about the contest.

And then it happened!! A smiling stranger came to Bugovia. He had read the smoke signals from a long way off.  His name was Dayo, and he smiled because he knew a secret.  It was the kind of secret that has to be told.

It was a hot day when Dayo walked into Bugovia and into Mr. Piper’s shop.  He smiled at Mr. Piper and said, “An ice cream soda, please. Chocolate if you have it, Sir.”

Poor Mr. Piper!  No one had ever called him “Sir,” or said “Please” to him.  He became so upset that he actually added an extra scoop of ice cream to the soda, and quite forgot to frown.

As soon as Dayo left the shop, Mr. Piper rushed next door to tell Mr. Klaus the butcher what had happened. Mr. Klaus said, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such a thing could never happen here. It would never work!”  But when Mrs. Jones came into Mr. Klaus’s shop to complain about yesterday’s roast, Mr. Klaus decided to try the secret, too.  He smiled at her and said, “How well you look today, Mrs. Jones.  That is a very pretty hat you are wearing!  Would you like a fine fresh fish for your dinner tonight?”  When Mr. Klaus said that, Mrs. Jones forgot to complain about the roast.  In fact, she said, “It was quite delicious, thank you.”  And now Mrs. Jones knew the secret, too.

Dayo walked up the street, smiling at everyone he met, and bowing and tipping his hat to the ladies. People smiled back at him, although not always right away.  Soon wonderful strange things were happening to the once angry-faced people of Bugovia.

People began speaking pleasantly to one another.  Neighbors who had only grumbled when they met at the shops now smiled and asked, “How are you today?”

When the Policeman saw the smiling, talking groups of people, he told his Captain about them. The Captain told the Chief of Police, the Chief of Police told the Mayor, and the Mayor told the King.

The very next day, King Regen, with Princess Libushia at his side, again called for his Prime Minister, the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy, and the Treasurer who carried a ring of huge jangling keys.

“Gentlemen,” the king said to them, “a stranger came into Bugovia yesterday and smiled at everyone he met.  What is more, the people smiled back at him.  This stranger must either be a magician, or else have some wonderful secret that has changed our people so.  Find this stranger and bring him to me!  I must speak with him to learn his secret.”

So, the Prime Minister and the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy, and the Treasurer who carried a ring of huge jangling keys all went out to seek Dayo.  Soon Dayo and the Treasurer were on their way to the castle to see the King.

Dayo, Princess Libushia and King Regen talked and talked, and Dayo explained his secret to them. Later, King Regen tiptoed out of the room and called for the Prime Minister.  Princess Libushia and Dayo were so busy talking to one another that they did not notice King Regen leave.

King Regen whispered something to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister went out to whisper something to the Secretary of the Army.  And the Secretary of the Army whispered something to the Secretary of the Navy, and he whispered something to the Treasurer, who dropped his ring of huge jangling keys.  They all smiled at one another.  The Treasurer picked up his keys, and they all hurried away.

Soon, preparations were being made for a big Happiness Day Celebration to take place on the day before the full moon.  On that glorious day, there was a parade with circus elephants and juggling clowns. The High School Band played, and there were balloons for all of the children.  After the parade, and after all of the very small boys and girls had taken naps, everyone was invited to the Castle for the party.

All Bugovia came to the party.  Each person wore his best clothes and very best manners, and no one grumbled about anything.  An orchestra played and the grownups danced.  The children played games and ate tiny sandwiches and drank lemonade from glass cups.

When the clock struck eight, King Regen clapped his hands and the orchestra stopped playing.  Three men came into the room carrying a huge golden plate.  On that plate was the biggest, whitest cake ever seen.  It was a wedding cake.

Dayo and Princess Libushia were married and would live happily ever after.  King Regen was now a completely happy man.

What was the secret that changed the cross, unhappy Bugovians into smiling, happy people? When the last of the cake had been eaten, King Regen showed his people Dayo’s secret, written in big golden letters on the big golden plate.  Acting out these words made Bugovia the bright, happy land it is today—a golden land living by the Golden Rule: 

 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The End

Copyright Libby Horning, Used by Permission


  1. what a marvelous window into her mind so many years ago. who knows what might have happened had it been published at that time. another lesson for us all. work toward your goal when you have it, otherwise it falls by the wayside. it can be resurrected later, but sometimes opportunity knocks only once.


Post a Comment

What others are saying...

“Noah’s Boys—Because sometimes things end in catastrophe.”

— S. Macbeth

“Finally! A Noah’s story for adults!”

— Enoch’s Valley News

“Realistic, yet hopeful; sheer fun!”

— J. Springfield

Popular posts from this blog

The Geologic Column: Evidence for Evolution, or Noah’s Flood?

Grandma's Funeral: Mom Horning Story #9

Carved in Stone: Geologic Evidence of the Worldwide Flood