Posted by Emile Tubiana on July 2, 2010
Excerpt from the Author French book “L’enfance Gagnée”
Many problems seem insurmountable to us, unless we are confronted with an even bigger problem. It is only then that we feel content with what we already have.
There was once a humble woman whose name was Josephine. She was an extremely kind person. Mrs. Nino was a good and simple woman. She had practically never left her home. Since she limped, she would spend most of her time seated on her wooden chair, by the window, watching the passers‑by. We, as children, became fond of her and she knew us all well. She had a fat and tall husband who was the coachman of the city. On the day of my communion, he took us to the river in his carriage as was the custom. He had two carriages: one for weddings and the other for funerals. On those occasions he adorned his horses either with white or black ribbons.
The horses were beautifully trained so that they could, according to the need of the occasion, assume a different pace, either proudly hold their heads high, with a joyful aspect or adopt a very slow and ponderous gait with their heads down. Mr. Nino loved those two horses since they were his source of income; he spent his days washing them, brushing them so that they were always ready to respond to any call.
For a whole winter, there was no wedding, no burial, which meant no income for Mr. Nino, who had to use his savings in order to live and to feed his horses.
One day, Mr. Fratello, one of his friends, asked him to rent his horses to work in the fields. At first, he was opposed to the idea but eventually he grudgingly accepted the suggestion since he was exhausting his savings. He accepted under two conditions:
1) To bring back his horses as soon as he would be called for a wedding or a funeral, and
2) Not to overwork them.
Mr. Nino was sad at the thought of giving them up. After all, they were his best friends. He felt he was a coward and he was unable to face them.
On the first day, he walked them to their new job, in the same manner as one takes kids to school. He felt sad to see them off to work and from time to time he would interfere in their work so that they could rest. But this situation could not last much longer; Nino felt that his daily interventions could undermine his relationship with Mr. Fratello. Therefore he decided not to visit them anymore.
A few days later, one of the horses suddenly died. Mr. Fratello was devastated. How was he to break the sad news to Nino?
Mr. Manjoul was considered a wise man among the old Arabs in the city; he was respected, listened to and had the trust of the entire community. He never missed an opportunity to help others. Mr. Fratello went therefore to consult with him.
“What you are telling me, Mr. Fratello,” said Mr. Manjoul, “is very serious. I wonder whether Nino will be able to stand the shock. But don’t consider offering him money, which he might resent. Let me have some time to think over this problem.”
The following day, Mr. Manjoul asked the police‑court magistrate to pay him a visit in order to inform him, and he asked him for a solution to this awful story. The magistrate was not comfortable in dealing with this situation and thought it might have been a practical joke. Mr. Manjoul convinced him to the contrary and told him:
“What you will have to do is very simple. Early tomorrow morning you will wake up Nino and you will ask him to come and see you at 8 a.m. When he arrives, you will tell him very tactfully that you dreamed that his eldest son, Antoine, was dead.”
“And then?” asked the magistrate.
“The rest will be my responsibility” answered Mr. Manjoul.
The following day, this scenario took place. To Mr. Nino’s great astonishment, he received an early call from the magistrate. For sure an important man must have died and the magistrate wanted to talk to him about the details of the funeral. The horses were not there but, never mind, he would deal with that later in the morning. At that moment he was visualizing the procession going through the town with himself perched on his carriage, impeccably dressed in his top hat to the admiration of passers‑by. As she had been forewarned, Mrs. Nino got up and started to clean and press her husband’s beautiful black uniform which was hanging in the closet for such an opportunity.
Nino arrived at eight o’clock sharp and was greeted by the magistrate with a serious expression on his face. Nino, assuming the cause of his seriousness, said: “Don’t worry; I am always ready at any time to fulfill my duties.”
“That’s beside the point, my dear Nino. I am distressed; I don’t quite know how to tell it to you but I dreamed of Antoine’s death.”
“Who? Antoine, my son?”
“Yes, my dear Nino, your son.”
Overwhelmed and half crazed, Nino collapsed in an armchair. At that moment, someone knocked on the door. Mr. Manjoul, out of breath, appeared and said,
“Well, Nino, you are here, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” What on earth did Manjoul want? Probably to confirm Antoine’s death.
“My poor Nino, I have bad news for you,’ Manjoul added.
“Oh my God! Don’t tell me about Antoine my son.”
“But who’s talking about him. It’s about one of your horses which has just died.”
As if ejected from the armchair, Nino jumped up with joy.
“One of my horses? What do I care! Thank God it’s not my son.”
The magistrate, still playing his role, added,
“Well! There’s still some truth to my dream, it was about your horse and not Antoine.”
But Nino was already outside, on his way home singing and dancing. He had never been so happy in his whole life. Once more, Mr. Manjoul had succeeded in finding a happy solution to a serious problem.
Copyright 2007 Emile Tubiana