THE MILLER, HIS SON, AND THEIR ASS
A Miller, accompanied by his young Son, was driving his Ass to market
in hopes of finding a purchaser for him. On the road they met a troop
of girls, laughing and talking, who exclaimed, "Did you ever see such
a pair of fools? To be trudging along the dusty road when they might
be riding!" The Miller thought there was sense in what they said;
so he made his Son mount the Ass, and himself walked at the side.
Presently they met some of his old cronies, who greeted them and said,
"You'll spoil that Son of yours, letting him ride while you toil along
on foot! Make him walk, young lazybones! It'll do him all the good in
the world." The Miller followed their advice, and took his Son's place
on the back of the Ass while the boy trudged along behind. They had
not gone far when they overtook a party of women and children, and the
Miller heard them say, "What a selfish old man! He himself rides in
comfort, but lets his poor little boy follow as best he can on his own
legs!" So he made his Son get up behind him. Further along the road
they met some travellers, who asked the Miller whether the Ass he was
riding was his own property, or a beast hired for the occasion. He
replied that it was his own, and that he was taking it to market to
sell. "Good heavens!" said they, "with a load like that the poor beast
will be so exhausted by the time he gets there that no one will look
at him. Why, you'd do better to carry him!" "Anything to please you,"
said the old man, "we can but try." So they got off, tied the Ass's
legs together with a rope and slung him on a pole, and at last reached
the town, carrying him between them. This was so absurd a sight that
the people ran out in crowds to laugh at it, and chaffed the Father
and Son unmercifully, some even calling them lunatics. They had then
got to a bridge over the river, where the Ass, frightened by the noise
and his unusual situation, kicked and struggled till he broke the
ropes that bound him, and fell into the water and was drowned.
Whereupon the unfortunate Miller, vexed and ashamed, made the best
of his way home again, convinced that in trying to please all he had
pleased none, and had lost his Ass into the bargain.