In a kingdom far away and long ago, there ruled a very cruel king. His people feared and hated him. His brutality made him ugly. He was always yelling and cursing and punishing people. Scowls of hatred and anger lined his face.
One day he was looking out from his castle as a young maiden walked by on her way to market. She was radiantly beautiful, smiling and singing a happy song. He fell madly in love with her. Every morning he stood by the window waiting for her to pass. The king decided he could not live without this girl, that he must have her for his wife. He was not a stupid man; he knew he was ugly and reviled by his people. So he called his magician, the best in the land, and told him, “Make me a handsome man, so the beautiful maiden will love and marry me.”
The magician returned to the king a week later. “I have made you a mask of wax,” he explained. “It will mold to your face and give you the appearance of a happy, smiling, kind man.”
“That’s wonderful!” cried the king.
“Ah, but this wax is very fragile” warned the magician. “So as not to appear as a mask, you must hold your face in its form or it will crack and fall off.”
“How can I do that?” asked the king.
“By thinking only kind and loving, happy thoughts,” the magician told him.
The king wasn’t sure he could do that, but was willing to try. So, he closed his eyes and the magician applied the mask. The king was so delighted with his new appearance that he ran into the street the next morning, got down on his knees when the maiden approached and asked for her hand in marriage. Since she lived outside the city she did not know what the king looked like or what a vile reputation he had. She fell in love with his warm smile and kind face and said yes.
The king and the maiden were married and lived happily for several years. Whenever he was on the verge of getting angry and felt a frown forming on his face, he thought of his beautiful, sweet bride and was immediately filled with love. The only thing that marred their relationship was that he knew he was deceiving her. He thought he would rather lose her than have her go on loving him under false pretenses. So, he called the magician and ordered him to remove the mask. That night, he entered their bedchamber and stood before his wife.
“My dearest,” he said, “I can deceive you no longer. I stand before you as I really am.”
“Oh, my love,” she cried with delight. “What kind of game is this?”
“It is no game,” he protested. “I am showing you my true face.”
“Ah,” she laughed. “You are posing a riddle for me, are you not?”
“No, my love. This is my real face. Can’t you see the difference?”
She studied him carefully. “Oh, yes,” she agreed at last. “Now I see it. For some reason, your face is even more handsome and radiant than it was this morning.”
Of course, you can guess what happened. The magician had never applied a mask. When the king closed his eyes, the magician used his fingers to mold the king’s face into a smiling, kind countenance and told him the thoughts he needed to hold in order to maintain that expression. Later, when the magician supposedly removed the mask, the king’s face retained the same beautiful expression he had developed from thinking only good and loving thoughts. He was showing his beloved his true face – one that had been perfected by perfect thinking.
His face bespoke his soul. Voltaire
Excerpt from: MAKE THE BEST OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE