Theory:

The hermit lived in a wood which he never left. He saw no one but simple people, and so the king put on ordinary clothes. Before he reached the hermit’s hut, the king left his horse with his bodyguard and went on alone.
 
As the king came near the hermit’s hut, he saw the hermit digging the ground in front of his hut. He greeted the king and continued digging. The hermit was old and weak, and as he worked, he breathed heavily.
 
The king went up to the hermit and said, “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I need most? And what affairs are the most important?”
 
The hermit listened to the king but did not speak. He went on digging. “You are tired,” said the king. “Let me take the spade and work in your place.”
 
“Thanks,” said the hermit, giving the king his spade. Then he sat down on the ground.
Explanation:
  
The hermit lived in a small forest, all alone. He never came out of the woods. He met only simple people - the common men. If the king went in his usual clothes, full of riches, the hermit would not see him. So the king wore ordinary clothes. Before reaching the small hut, where the hermit lived, he left his horse with the bodyguard who had accompanied him, and he walked alone to meet the hermit.
 
As he neared the hut, he saw the hermit digging the ground in front of his hut. The hermit greeted the king (without knowing he was a king) and he continued his work. The hermit looked very old and weak, and he was panting for breath because of the heavy work.
 
The king went near him and asked politely if he could answer his three questions:
  • How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time?
  • Who are the people I need most?
  • What affairs are the most important?
The hermit heard the questions but chose not to answer. He continued his digging work. The king patiently told the hermit that he looked tired and asked if he could work in his place. He asked for the spade to start digging.
 
The hermit thanked the king and gave him the spade. Then he sat on the ground.
 
Meanings of difficult words:
  
Word
Meaning
Wood/WoodsA small forest.
AffairsBusinesses, events, issues, matters.
SpadeA tool with a sharp-edged, metal blade and a long handle, used for digging earth.
Reference:
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2007). Honeycomb. Three Questions - Leo Tolstoy (pp. 7-13). Published at the Publication Division
by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.