Emile Tubiana

  • Emile Tubiana

The Blind Beggar

Posted by Emile Tubiana on August 11, 2010

The Blind Beggar

An old, blind beggar used to sit at the same place every day, not far from the road leading to the king’s palace. This way he hoped to be seen by the rich people who went to the palace quite often. Next to him was a little clay dish containing the coins that the charitable passers-by used to give him. He was unique in his way. He never accepted alms without first being slapped in the face. Nobody dared asking him about the reason for these slaps. Some took him for a fool; others considered him a poor, miserable person. He became the object of discussions and of mockeries. This was the way he earned his livelihood.
One day the king wanted to visit his town with his minister, in order to feel the atmosphere and evaluate the pulse of his citizens. Towards the end of his visit, he passed by the blind beggar and generously threw a gold coin into his dish. The blind beggar refused the charity that the king just gave him. The astonished king asked for the reason of his refusal. However, the beggar insisted:
“I cannot take this coin before you slap me in the face.”  Without hesitating, the king slapped him and went on his way. During his visit, he had seen some of his subjects who had attracted his attention, but when he returned to his palace, he was tormented by the thought of this beggar. He could not understand why this poor beggar, who was already blind, needed to earn his keep in such a humiliating way.
The next day, the king called his minister and ordered him to bring this poor beggar to his palace. He gave instructions that the beggar be presented to him in a pleasant and dignified way. He insisted that he take a bath, that the king’s barber fix his hair and that the court tailor find respectable clothes for him. He wanted to have a one-on-one conversation with this beggar.
When the beggar arrived at the palace, the servants did what the king had ordered. After the bath and the barber, they clothed him sumptuously and presented him to the king. Seeing the well dressed beggar, the king realized that this miserable man must have been an honest and respectable man.  He must have had a very strange destiny, he told himself. The beggar did not know what was happening to him when the king’s soldiers came to pick him up with the barouche, but when he arrived at the palace, he realized that according to the number of steps he had climbed that it must have been the king’s palace.
The king received him warmly and made him sit in a comfortable armchair. Then, without losing any time, the king started with these questions:
“Do you remember the gold coin that I gave you yesterday” The poor beggar responded:
“Yes, my king, I recognized by the sound it made, that it was a gold coin.” The king was stunned to hear this from the beggar, since he could not have known that he was the king, and answered:
“How did you know that I am the king, since you are blind?” The beggar made a big smile and continued:
“My king, who else in this town could afford to give a beggar like me such a coin?” The king smiled too, than he said:
“Since you guessed that I am the king, please tell me know why you have asked me to slap you. The beggar nodded and said:
“My king, this is a long and sad story.”
“Go ahead, continue!” said the king, who was curious to hear the story. The poor beggar first made a deep sigh, and then began with a sad voice:
“My king, I once was a very happy man, and I made a good living in my goldsmith shop. I made the best jewelry in the entire region. I was not rich, but I was not poor either. I was comfortably off with my own house. We had a beautiful garden that my wife loved to cultivate, as she adored flowers. Then, one day, a man whom I did not know and who seemed serious, came to visit me. I received him well, as it is the tradition in our country. The guy got used to visit me almost every day and he kept telling me about the riches to which he had access. One day he promised to share with me all the riches of the world.  His only condition was, as he said, that I had to listen well to him and follow him. Honestly, I did not want to believe him, since judging by his wrinkled and old-fashioned clothes, he did not seem to possess treasures”. The beggar took a deep sigh before continuing.
“One day this man brought with him a box all studded with diamonds, but so small one could hide it in one hand, and told me:
‘You see this box? Well, it opens the treasures of the world for me’. As I did not know what to think of this statement, I answered him:
‘What do you want from me? Why won’t you go and get the treasures for yourself?’  The man almost got upset in his reply and exclaimed:
‘But I do not have any camels to carry the treasures!’ I must confess, my king, that I almost pitied him and in order to calm him, I said:
‘I will buy you a camel, if this can help you’. The man with the box shouted:
‘One camel for all these treasures! We need at least ten camels and I will also need your help. Have you been in the desert? Do you know what it means to be in vast areas of sand? Believe me, it is not pleasant.’ Then he continued:
‘After all, I do it for the both of us, you five camels and I five camels, with this we will have enough to live comfortably ten times our lives.’
My king” picked-up the beggar: “According to his words, he seemed to know well what he was talking about and I was quite tempted by these treasures, which seemed to be within reach. You know, my king, gold does tempt even the most honest people a lot, and I told myself:
‘Maybe he is right after all, going to the desert and back is not the end of the world and then, we will both be rich in one day, while I have been working all my life and I have not gotten rich’.  Thus I gave in to my desire to become rich and I addressed him with these words:
‘Do you know a lot about camels, since I do not know a thing about them.’ My king, in fact I do know camels very well and I know how to control them.  I just wanted to find out what he knew about camels and I went on:
‘You see, I am an artisan and I know my trade well’.  The man with the box responded:
‘Oh, don’t worry! I grew up with the camels in the desert’. I felt somewhat reassured by his words and I spontaneously decided to trust him. I told him:
‘Here are ten gold coins from my savings’. A few hours later we both went to the animal market to buy the ten camels.  The next day at the appointed hour we set off, each one with five camels tied one next to the other to a destination which was unknown to me and which according to the man was supposed to lead us to the treasures. It was way before sunrise. The camels walked for hours in the desert and each one of us was perched on the back of a camel. We were tired and thirsty when we reached a narrow path which did not seem to be much frequented, as it was far from the main roads of the desert. We took this path and found ourselves in a place which seemed to be hidden from the view of passers by. Then another small path, even narrower than the other one, lead to a mountain which was not very high. The guide to the treasure stopped:
‘Here we are, we arrived’ he said, and then he added:
‘Rest a little while, since in a moment we will start charging the camels with diamond and gold.’. I was very amazed and curious at the same time, since I could not see anything around us which would seem to hide a treasure. Then I said:
‘But where are those treasures?’ The man turned towards the mountain and told me:
‘You see, within the mountain’. I wanted to believe him, although I still could not see the treasures. It was hard for me to believe that such a mountain could open up, but I preferred to let him surprise me in a pleasant way, as I was already delighting in the scent of wealth. I who had worked hard all my life just to make a living was now starting to dream. I was imagining how my wife would react when she would see jewelry she had never seen before.  While I was dreaming, suddenly the man took the box in his hand such as a compass to find the direction of the treasure.  I had never seen such a box before; I turned towards the mountain when, to my amazement I suddenly saw the mountain opening up slowly, slowly. I did not believe my eyes, as I was filled with marvel seeing such a big mountain opening at the command of such a tiny box. The man with the box told me:
‘Bring your camels and let’s start the work, you see these treasures!’ I did not know what to say in front of such marvels. In fact, the open mountain gave access to a cave full of treasures.  There was some of everything: gold chains, gold necklaces, pearls, and diamonds of a size I had never seen before.  I did not know anymore if I was seeing a mirage or if I was hallucinating. I assure you, my king that my body started to shiver and I told myself:
‘Such a box in the hands of an ignorant? You hear me, my king?”
“Go on, continue” replied the king.
The beggar continued:
“My God, I had not believed him, believing that he was a fool, but luckily I agreed to follow him”
The king listened silently to this poor beggar without interrupting one single time. He was himself amazed and full of marvel about what he was hearing, he did not know if he should take this story seriously.  Then the beggar continued:
“We loaded the camels one after the other, and after the last one was loaded we left this mysterious place.  Once we were out, the man closed the cover of the box and the mountain closed itself slowly as it had opened itself. It is fascinating, my king, to see a mountain opening and closing. The man with the box did not seem satisfied with his treasure and told me:
‘Choose your five camels and leave me my five camels, since I am going in a different direction from yours.” Each one of us went on his way, following the slow steps of the camels, heavy with the weight of the precious merchandise. Honestly I became very envious of wealth after having seen these treasures. I thought that the man with the box did not deserve that many camels with such a big treasure. Then, as I did not want him to go farther, I called him and cried:
‘Hey, man! I was worried for you.  What are you going to do with all these camels loaded with treasures. In the middle of the desert bandits can attack you and I will be too far away to come to your rescue.” The man with the box answered:
‘You are right, what should I do?’ At that time, my king, I realized that my reasoning had worked on this man and I added:
‘I have precisely thought of that. I brought with me my little bag of gold coins which can last you for an entire lifetime. This way you won’t have to fear anyone and you will be relieved of the burden of this merchandise and those dumb animals which you would have to care for. You won’t be an easy target for the thieves of the desert.’
The man with the miraculous box answered:
‘What do you want in exchange for these gold coins?’ Overjoyed in myself, seeing that my plan was working, I told him:
‘Well, give me a few camels. You will have more freedom.’ The poor man with the box told me:
‘Will three camels be enough for you, for your gold coins?’ I said:
‘Of course I will accept this trade, even at a loss – three camels for my bag of gold coins’. I added the three camels to my five and again we continued going in different directions, but after a short while, I turned back again, because I felt that this man did not deserve two camels loaded with gold and diamonds, and furthermore, that he was not a merchant to be able to manage these goods, besides the fact that he was ignorant in matters of trade, and especially when it comes to gold and diamonds. I thought that I was better placed than he for this kind of business, and again, I called him:
‘My dear friend, what do you want to do with these two camels full of treasures, you don’t even know the value of this jewelry. Merchants are vultures and they are going to cheat you, maybe even kill you!’  The man answered me innocently:
‘What do you want me to do?’ I was smiling in my heart since I saw that he was not intelligent, just as I had thought, and I answered him:
‘I pity you! Here is another bag of gold coins and I will take it upon myself to negotiate with the merchants, and who knows whether I will succeed to sell everything’. The poor man gave me his last two camels, in exchange for the bag of gold coins and again we went on our way.  I was happy with myself; I attached all ten camels one after the other, then after a moment of walking, I turned around again and shouted:
‘My dear friend, you know the desert so well, why would you need this box, you don’t even have any camels to transport treasures’. The man stopped and said to me:
‘What do you want me to do?’ I took advantage of this last chance and answered:
‘Give me this box, and I will give you another small bag of gold coins, you will not have any worries any more.  You will have enough money to live like a king’ The man seemed convinced by my arguments, but before handing me the box, he said:
‘You see, this box has two sides, the top sides and the bottom side. When you want to open the mountain, always open the upper part, never the lower part.’  I was finally satisfied and content, having succeeded in removing from him the ten camels charged with treasures, and even more so for having acquired the ability to access all the treasures, at my leisure, using this box.” The beggar lifted his head a little, as if he were able to see the king and said:
“My king, imagine, ten camels, enough to make a thousand families rich. Well, I wanted even more. I made the trip back and forth with these camels over a hundred times and I had filled at least ten warehouses. One day, I asked myself:
‘Why didn’t the man want me to open the bottom of the box, there probably was a reason for that. Certainly he must know of other treasures which open up only with the help of the lower part of the box’ I said to myself and I was so curious to maybe discover even better treasures, that ignoring this kind man’s advice, I opened the lower side of the box and suddenly a dazzling, incredible light came out of the box and blinded me instantly. Since that day I have not been able to see anything, or to manage my goods.  My wife left me and took hold of all my fortune. This is how I became the blind beggar I am.  This is the reason why I asked you to slap me. I deserve this slap because I was never satisfied”. The king had listened to the story until the end and said to the beggar:
“Now I understand why you are in this misery and in this state, because you exchanged your happiness with fake treasures”. He handed him another coin, slapped him again and said:
“You have chosen your destiny, now go and live with it. At a certain moment I thought rescuing you, but I see that you have forged your destiny”.

Copyright Emile M. Tubiana 2009 all rights reserved

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