I interrupt the scheduled posting to bring you these stories from a collection of stories that I quoted from the other morning. Having spent a little more time with the collection today, I wanted to offer one more triplet.
Any resemblance to current affairs, or current activities is purely coincidental.
A man who decided to take his donkey to town to sell it, started off with his son and himself walking alongside the animal. they had not gone very far when they met a group of young girls returning from town. “Look at that old fool!” one of the girls cried out. “At least one of them could ride the donkey but there they are walking.” So the father put his son on the donkey and continued the trip.
Presently they passed a group of women who stood chatting outside a house. “There, that proves what I’ve been saying,” said one of the women in a loud voice. “Look at that young brat riding the donkey while his poor father is walking. We’re spoiling our children!” When the father heard this he thought perhaps he had better avoid further criticism by taking the son’s place on the donkey’s back.
As they neared the town they met an aggressive young woman who stopped and denounced the father as being cruel. “How can you ride the animal while your poor little boy has to grudge along beside you in the dust and heat!” With a sigh the poor man told the son to mount the donkey, too, and thus burdened the poor beast struggled along toward town.
When they entered the town a bustling citizen dashed up to them and cried out: “You ought to be reported — two big healthy people sitting up there on that poor animal’s back. Why you two should be carrying the donkey instead of it carrying you!” The alarmed father dismounted with his son and they tied the animal’s legs and with a pole across their shoulders struggled along with the donkey, until they came to a bridge, where a number of people began laughing uproariously at them. This noise frightened the donkey and he fought to free himself. this increased the uproar of the crowd and in the midst of it all the animal slipped off the pole and over the bridge into the river below and drowned.
My scheme of order gave me the most trouble. order with regard for places for things, papers, etc.,I found extremely difficult to acquire….I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbor, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge.
The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn’d, while the smith press’d the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing.
The man came very now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without further grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet it is only speckled!”
“Yes,” says the man, “but I think I like a speckled ax best.” and I believe this may have been the case with many, who, having for want of some such means as I employ’d, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue have given up the struggle, and concluded that “a speckled ax was best”
— Benjamin Franklin
A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The servant told the merchant, “I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.
“Death made a threatening gesture, and I fled in terror. May I please borrow your horse? I can leave Baghdad and ride to Samarra, where Death will not find me.”
The master lent his horse to the servant, who rode away, to Samarra.
Later the merchant went to the market, and saw Death in the crowd. “Why did you threaten my servant?” He asked.
Death replied,”I did not threaten your servant. It was merely that I was surprised to see him here in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
–W. Somerset Maugham
(retelling an even older story – 1933)