Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Foresight and Care
OF FORESIGHT AND CARE.
A king had an only son, whom he tenderly loved. He caused a golden apple to be made at an immense expense; and shortly after its fabrication he sickened. Finding his end approach, he called to him his son, and spoke after the following manner. "My dear son, if it please God that I should not recover from the sickness under which I suffer, on my blessing I charge you, travel through town and country, and take with you the golden apple which I caused to be made; find out the greatest fool, and deliver to him that apple from me." The son faithfully promised to execute his parent's wish; and the king, turning himself toward the wall, resigned his spirit. A splendid funeral was prepared, and after the interment, the son set out upon his travels, with the apple in his possession.
He traversed many countries and kingdoms, and found abundance of fools, but none whom he thought quite worthy of the apple. At last he entered a certain province, and approached its principal city. Observing the king, very magnificently attended, riding though the streets, he asked various questions respecting the person he saw; and especially of the institutions of the country. He was answered, that according to their custom the throne was annually vacated; and that the late possessor, deprived of every honour, was driven into banishment, where he died in obscurity and poverty. The traveller, hearing this account, exclaimed, "This is the man; I have found him whom I sought;" and immediately hastening to the palace, he bent his knee, and cried, "Hail, Oh king! my deceased father bequeathed to you this golden apple in his last will." The king received the gift, and said, "My friend, how can this be? Your royal parent knew nothing of me, nor have I ever performed any service to him. Why then hath he left me so valuable a present?" "The king, my lord," replied he, "bequeathed it not more to you than to another; but on his blessing, he charged me to bestow it upon the greatest fool that I could find. And I have now travelled through various kingdoms and countries, but no where have I discovered so exquisite a fool and madman. Therefore, according to my sire's command, I resign the apple to your most gracious majesty." "But," said the king, "on what account do you take me for a fool?" "I will tell you, my lord," returned the other. "You are king for one year; and then, doomed to poverty and exile, you perish most miserably. I declare to you, I do not believe that there is in the whole world, such an instance of egregious folly. For would any but a fool choose so short a time of splendour for an end so calamitous?" "Why," replied the king, "you are doubtless right; and therefore, while I yet reign, I will prepare for my future existence. I will send the greater portion of my wealth into a remote land, upon which I may live in comfort, when I am driven into exile." He did so; and for a number of years enjoyed great prosperity, and ended his life in peace.
My beloved, the king, who bequeathed a golden apple to fools, is God. That apple is the world. The king who reigned for a year, is any man who lives in this world (considered with respect to futurity), but as a single hour. Let us then make provision for the future.