all true histories contain instruction - unless, jumping through hoops, the underlying reality melts into the reality underlying it, and then the reality underlying it, and so on forever...
the tale i am about to unfold is the simplest and most trivial i could imagine. does it contain instruction? let the reader, if any, decide...
the young comte de gobineau, having reached the mature age of seven years, was walking along a country road in threshing season with his governess and his groom.
the late summer sun beat down on their heads. the governess, mademoiselle cecilie, protected her head with a light blue parasol, and slugg, the british groom, held a sturdier black one over the young lord's head.
the young count was an inquisitive though not particularly intelligent child and did not regard silence as either a temptation or a virtue. he pointed into the fields where the peasants were busily gathering the harvest.
"look there," he exclaimed. "that fellow is not working as hard as the others. what is his problem? and there! neither is that one. should all not carry their share of the load?"
mademoiselle squinted into the fields. "you are a little harsh, my lord. the first
worker has grown old - i am sure he has served the estate faithfully for many decades before your lordship came into the world. as for the second, he - or perhaps she - is a mere child, not yet endowed by heaven with the strength to carry a full load."
the young lord considered this. "that sounds sophistical. look here - even if they are, as you say, lacking strength, could they not at least work as fast as the others? see how slow they are!"
"but speed and strength are intertwined in nature." slugg replied. "as i have frequently pointed out in our various lessons."
"i don't care a fig for nature," the count answered. " slugg, call them over, i wish to speak to them."
slugg bowed his head and trudged into the field, returning shortly with the two peasants, old and young.
the young count glared at them. "you there," he addressed the old one. "what is your name?'"
"st barnabas the apostle, your lordship."
"oh?", the count seemed slightly taken aback. "and what is your name,eh," he asked the young girl.
"st bibiana,virgin and martyr, your lordship"
"i see." the young count turned to slugg. "are all these peasants saints?"
"indeed they are, young master. we formerly had demons, dragons and fallen angels, but your late grandfather, in a frenzy of piety before his untimely death, appealed to the court of heaven to fill his fields with saints - as you see."
"i see only too well. ah, is this monsieur l'abbe on the high road?"
the hunchbacked little abbe was indeed approaching from the direction of the old rectory. the sun glinted sleepily on his broad black hat, as , seeing the young count and his attendants questioning the two saintly peasants, he hastened his clumping steps toward them.
the count wasted no time pleasantries.
"here now, monsieur abbe, what is this i hear of your befuddling my poor grandfather with your rascally clericalist conspiracies - taking crops out of my barn by putting these wretches in my fields, eh?"
the abbe pulled out a huge white handkerchief and dabbed his brow. "ah, my dear young sir, it was heaven, not my poor self who led the late count to this step. if you had been at his bedside instead of - if you had been at his bedside when he commended his soul to the saints, you would have heard all from his own lips."
the count stamped his little foot on the road. "at his bedside instead of what? what insolence! slugg, can we give this wretch thirty or forty of the very best, eh?"
"i am afraid, sir, we would have go back to the days of pepin the frank, if not of moses and the pharoahs, to find a churchman flogged in this fair land. it just won't do, sir."
"bah! you two, back in the fields! try to put a little food on my table, at least."
the two saints departed.
"i will consult with my uncle monsieur the cardinal on this matter. you may go on your way, monsieur 'abbe."
slugg, mademoiselle cecilie and the abbe exchanged glances.
later that evening, after the young count had said his prayers and been put to bed, the groom, the governess and the abbe met in pere pierre's wineshop behind the high road to paris.