Many years ago, when a person who owned money could be thrown into jail, a merchant in Venice had the misfortune to owe a huge sum to a mean moneylender. The moneylender who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant's beautiful young daughter. He proposed a bargain. He said that he would cancel the merchant's debt if he would have the girl instead.Moral (of course drawn by me!): Never give too much work to Divine Providence... use your head and skill too!
Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified at the suggestion. So the cunning moneylender schemed and told them that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. Then the girl would have to pick out one of the pebbles. If she chose the black pebble, she would become his wife, and her father's debt would be canceled. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail, and she would starve with no one to look after her. A white pebble would mean she would be free and her father's debt canceled too!
Reluctantly the merchant agreed. They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the country with many people watching the scene. The moneylender stooped down to pick up, what seem their fate. As he picked two pebbles, the girl, sharp-eyed with fright, noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. The moneylender asked the girl to pick out the pebble that was to decide her fate and that of her father.
The girl put her hand into the bag and drew out a pebble. But without, looking at it, she fumbled and let the pebble fall into the path where it got lost among the hundreds lying on the path. "Oh, how clumsy of me!" she said. "Never mind, however, if you look into the bag, you will be able to tell which pebble I dropped by the colour of the one that is remaining." Since the pebble remaining was black, it had to be assumed that she picked the while pebble. Of course, the moneylender dared not admit his own dishonesty. Both the father and his daughter went home happy that they were safe and free!
Friday, 12 June 2009
Providence and shrewdness
Rummaging through my collection this evening I came across this legal sheet of paper with neatly drawn margins and the text handwritten by me while I was a novice (1996). Wanted to discard it but found the story I had heard (and hence written) quite impressive: