Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Parson and the Sexton

Once upon a time there was a parson who was so hot-headed that he screamed from afar when he saw anyone driving towards him on the open road:

“Out of the road, out of the road! Here comes the parson himself!”

Once he was travelling and behaving himself in this manner, he met the king.

“Out of the road, out of the road!” he screamed from afar. But the king drove as he drove, he did—straight ahead; so this time the parson had to turn his horse aside; and when the king came alongside him, he said:

“Tomorrow you shall attend the king’s farm, and if you cannot answer three questions that I ask you, you shall lose your gown and collar, for the sake of your pride.”

This was treatment other than that the parson was used to. He knew how to call and scream and carry on worse than any; but questions and answers were not his field. So he went to the sexton, who had a reputation for being better in the cloth than the parson was. To him he admitted that he had no desire to go, “for a fool may ask more than ten wise men can answer,” he said; and then he got the sexton to go in his place.

Yes, the sexton—wearing the parson’s gown and collar—went, and arrived at the king’s farm. There the king met him, with both crown and sceptre, and was so grand that he shone.

“So here you are,” said the king.

Yes, here he was, sure enough.

“Tell me first of all,” said the king, “how far is it from east to west?”

“It’s a day’s journey,” said the sexton.

“How so?” said the king.

“Well, the sun rises in the east and goes down in the west, and this she does kindly in a day,” said the sexton.

“Yes, yes,” said the king. “But tell me now,” he said, “what do you think I am worth, such as you see me here?”

“Oh, Christ was valued at thirty pieces of silver, so I dare not value you at more than… nine and twenty,” said the sexton.

“Well, well,” said the king, “since you are wise in every way, then tell me: what am I thinking, now?”

“Oh, you are thinking that it is the parson standing before you, but shame on me if you are not wrong, for it is the sexton,” he said.

“Well, so go—home with you; and you be the parson, and let him be the sexton,” said the king. And so it was.

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