The horses drew up in a cloud of dust, and the lead horseman dismounted with surprising agility considering that he was dressed from neck to toe in a suit of gleaming armour. He kissed the hand of the Empress, and it soon became obvious, from the deference with which he was treated by his retinue, that he was no less a person than the Emperor himself. After seating himself on a small throne beside the Empress, and exchanging a few words with her, he beckoned the Fool to him.
"Fear not," cried the Emperor, in a sonorous tone. "Although I command the four elements, an honest person has no cause to hide himself from me, for I make sure the play is fair. State your business."
This command naturally made the Fool so nervous that he was unable to make up a good story and blurted out, "I don't know."
The Emperor roared with what turned out to be amusement. "You must be a Fool," he laughed, "since none but a Fool is honest."
"Take it from me," he continued in avuncular tone, "that you are quite right to be afraid. The origin of your fear has something to do with the business of getting eaten. And, in the history of life, things started eating other things almost as soon as there was anything worth eating. You are without doubt a small fish, and I put the fear of Cod in you? But you can be assured that you are for too small a bait for me to snap at. So speak your mind, what there is of it!"
"I seek your assistance," gulped the poor Fool, "for I am sure that fair play has not occurred in my case. I believe I have been miscast in life, or at the very least I believe my character should be better costumed and financially secure."
"To the hungry man do not give your fish," intoned the Emperor, pompously. "Give a fishing rod!"
There was a long silence, which the Fool finally broke. "In return for your help," he stammered, trying to make his case more attractive, "I would gladly enter your employment."
The Emperor rose from his throne of scarlet to inspect the supplicant, who became acutely aware that his ragged clothes and torn stockings were speaking volumes about his history and status.
"What is that?" asked the Emperor, pointing to the Fool's shoulder. For the first time in his life, the Fool felt ashamed of the pigskin bladder which had served him well both as a bag and as an object of amusement.
"That is a mere nothing, which I found upon the road this morning. I did not realise I was still carrying it!" The Fool laughed nervously, and hurled the bag as far as he could so that it bounced away down the hill and soon disappeared from view.
The Emperor looked surprised. "You must indeed be a Fool to throw away such a fine bladder! Do you know in which way I am like a Fool?"
"That's an easy one", replied the Fool (who enjoyed riddles and found them much easier to answer than ordinary questions), "Fools and Emperors alike create their own employment."
"Yet, unlike a Fool," said the Emperor, warming to his favourite theme, "an Emperor must create wealth. This must be twice made,-"
"First in the mind and second in the mint," interrupted the Fool (who had read that in a Christmas cracker).
"Know you what that means?" rejoined the Emperor.
The Fool, wisely, shut his mouth and opened his ears, for he thought that a lecture from the Emperor might be worth two from a lesser card.
"All human wealth," intoned the great man, "is created by the human mind. That is THE LAW OF EARNING. You may believe that to become wealthy you must find or make something to sell and convince another person that it has value. It is all too easy to fall into the common trap of accepting another person's evaluation of your worth, and of selling something of which you have a limited supply. If you sell your time, for example, you will wake up one day to find you have very little left.
If you truly understand the principle of the law of earning, you will see that before you can make money you must first learn to make the appropriate attitude of mind. Wealth is merely the reflection of this attitude. It is a useful measure of how you are doing.
So many people go about their business without the least idea of whether they are getting nearer to their aims, or whether their efforts are taking them further away. Achievement is the currency of Life. So you must be quite clear what it is you wish to achieve, and you must also be clear as to how you shall know when you have achieved it."
The Emperor put one finger to the side of his nose, and recited, solemnly:
"A man of thoughts and not of deeds
Is like a garden, full of weeds!"
There was another long pause, but since these silences did not seem to embarrass the Emperor, the Fool decided it was far safer not to attempt to fill them. Instead he nodded appreciatively, until the Emperor continued.
"You must find a CAUSE, in whose service you can realise your own greatness. Then you can take up the reins of your life. Many people boast of their impending fame or fortune, but neglect to tell themselves or others exactly what they propose to do to move along their paths. If you do not describe your ambition in a way which depends upon you, you are being unrealistic, for you are depending on fate or other people to grant you success."
He paused and again eyed the Fool carefully.
"Are you sure you are not a Fool?" he asked.
The Fool shook his head. "I am, sir, though temporarily impoverished, an adventurer, capable of mighty deeds and great thoughts, which I would gladly perform in your service."
"Too bad!" replied the Emperor. Adventurers are two a penny, but I could have used a good Fool around here."
The Emperor paused, and smiled sympathetically. "However," he said, "I am not a man to turn someone away empty handed. Therefore, I shall give you something which will not only bring your heart's desire to you, but which you will value above all."
The Fool's heart jumped nearly to his mouth. He had dared and won! So excited was he, that he hardly hardly believe his ears as the Emperor proclaimed his prize.
"I hereby grant you full permission to achieve your dreams, together with the pride of accomplishment that shall accompany your efforts!"
The stern look returned.
"Begone now, young man, for you have wasted enough of my time!"
Before he could utter a reply, the Emperor had left the throne, remounted his horse, and galloped away, with his retinue dashing behind. The Fool turned to the castle just in time to see the Empress disappearing within it as the great drawbridge was pulled up behind her. He was left outside with no idea what to do next.