The Old Man Loses His Mare

Prickly has another story to tell.

The Old Man Loses His Mare

(When events occur, who can rightly predict the outcome? Who can tell whether it happened for good or for bad, for fortune or for misfortune?)

Once upon a time an old frontiersman lived in a ramshackle hut.  He lived modestly with his wife and son tending their small plot of land from sunrise to sunset.  With never a cross word to anyone, always ready to land a helping hand, he was well liked by all his neighbours.

One spring day his untethered mare inexplicably ran off into the territory of a hostile tribe. On learning this, all his neighbours hastened to console him but the old man was not perturbed in the least.  He simply shrugged and quietly said, “Who’s to say this is not a blessing?”

Some months later, the mare returned accompanied by a fine stallion. His neighbours this time rushed to congratulate him on his good fortune.

“Who’s to say this is not a misfortune?”  His puzzling response sends the callers back home, shaking their heads.

Now it so happened that his spirited teenage son was fond of riding. At dusk after his chores were completed he yielded to temptation and, without a word to anyone, he simply mounted the stallion and galloped into the distance.  They flew over the rough terrain jumping hedges, boulders and streams to test his as well as the horse’s mettle.  At one ill-fated juncture, unable to clear a deep gully, the horse reared, throwing the boy to the ground and breaking his leg.

Again the worried neighbours rushed to offer their deep sympathy.

The old man once more shrugged it off. “Who’s to say this is not a blessing in disguise?”

That autumn the hostile border tribe having gathered up momentum, unleashed a wave of murderous raids to rape and plunder. All able bodied men were naturally called upon to mount a defence but by the time the reinforcements eventually arrived countless volunteers in this ragtag militia had lost their lives.

The son of the old man, being crippled, was spared from the fighting and so survived.

The old man said to his son, “Look how a misfortune may turn out to be a blessing and a blessing may be actually be a misfortune.  It is impossible to predict what capricious fate has in store.”

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