The Lost Soul
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Travelling through a foreign country with his beasts of burdens and fine goods, a merchant was attacked and waylaid by a gang of thieves. Greedy, they took what they could, including his fine horse. They kicked to the side of the road, leaving him bloodied in his tattered clothes and stripped him of his purse, jacket and his silk shirt. They took his rings and slipped their hands through his pockets for loose coins. Satisfied with the plunder they gained, they left him for dead.
He lay unconscious by the roadside a long time, unable help himself. People passed him by, avoiding him as a drunken bum. His clothes were muddied and tattered. Abandoned unshod with his fine merchandise stolen, he had nothing to offer them. So much hassle to bother with a worthless bum, too much with the metropolitan constables and state officials, they left him beside the road.
After a while, he was able to feebly move and remember what had happened. Shakily he rose to his feet when he heard a traveller coming. Stumbling into the center of the road, he stopped in front of the carriage. This annoyed the Master of the Horses, who perceived him to be a desperate thief. Desperately, the merchant clung to the horseís reins, imploring assistance, hoping for a Good Samaritan to succor him. The Master only lifted his whip and smote him and cursed him.
"Where is your passport?" he bellowed, anxious to move into town.
The desolate merchant reached for his pocket, only to find that his purse was gone. Numbly, he described the attack and loss, not enriching the value of his cargo, but underestimating it instead.
The Master of the Horses accused him of telling stories. Striking his face with the whip, he urged his horses on, knocking him back onto the ground.
Not much later, a Learned Doctor chanced upon the road, travelling to a wealthy client. A professional, he felt an obligation to get paid, demanding ransom for his attendance. Dismounting, he inspected the beggar by the street. His life allowed no time for fools. Promptly served at three, his diiner was served, he would have to hurry. So he prodded the beggar, apparently quite asleep, kicking him with his shoe to awaken him. The man was filthy. Not sufficing to awaken him, he roughly shook him.
"Get up, you oaf!" he roared. " Don't you know that sleeping on the side of the road is a violation of the City Sanitation Code, Chapter 341, Paragraph 24, Article 21b.1. chapter ii. Take up your bed and walk."
Addled, the misfortunate merchant didnít understand the beginning of it. Suffering from post-concussional syndrome along with only a few broken ribs and contused internal organs, he didn't get the gist of the communication. Dazed, he gave a sigh; he gave a groan. He wheezed like an unhinged concertina.
Out of temper and hungry, the good doctor perceived a bruise normal for a pub brawler. Disgusted, he spat on the man and turned away.
Before he departed, he turned once more, delivering a scathing, moralistic tongue-lashing regarding Demon Rum.
"Learn to stand upon your own two feet, " he spat, hastily climbing in his coach, leaving the merchant to his unwonted misery.
Having no prop, the merchant collapsed only a few feet further down the road whence he had suffered his disastrous attack. The story continues, I guarantee. I shall not bore you with all the loathsome details here. Sufficient to say, the merchant was abandoned in his greatest hour of need.
In the days, weeks and months following, the merchant was sore oppressed by all who passed his place. His friends did not recognize his once comely face or perceive his rags were ragged silk. At once glance, they knew his ilk: a worthless bum, begging a ride. Rejected, he stayed upon the road, ever hoping that one day, some traveller would recognize him and have compassion in his heart. Fine carriages drove by, but had no room for sordid men. A dirty man is a great deterrent.
Stripped his posssessions, identity and dignity, he was abandoned to wander along the wayside where itinerant preachers often stopped to sermonize on his sins. They demanded confessions for his dissolute life, cajoling him whenever he recalled the terrible misfortune that befell him. Accusing him of lying, they cursed him for arrogance.
In truth, they were blind, unable to see that the sinner was not he; but those who cursed such hapless misery, stripping him of his dignity.
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