“H’m! I think Zambri the Parsee is the man for that kindly office, my dear.”
This final fable teaches that he is.
FOOL.—I have a question for you.
PHILOSOPHER.—I have a number of them for myself. Do you happen to have heard that a fool can ask more questions in a breath than a philosopher can answer in a life?
F.—I happen to have heard that in such a case the one is as great a fool as the other.
PH.—Then there is no distinction between folly and philosophy?
F.—Don’t lay the flattering unction to your soul. The province of folly is to ask unanswerable questions. It is the function of philosophy to answer them.
F.—Am I? Pray tell me the meaning of “a fool.”
PH.—Commonly he has none.
PH.—Then in this case he has one.
F.—I lick thy boots! But what does
Solomon indicate by the word fool?
That is what I mean.
PH.—Let us then congratulate Solomon upon the agreement between the views of you two. However, I twig your intent: he means a wicked sinner; and of all forms of folly there is none so great as wicked sinning. For goodness is, in the end, more conducive to personal happiness—which is the sole aim of man.
F.—Hath virtue no better excuse than this?
PH.—Possibly; philosophy is not omniscience.
F.—Instructed I sit at thy feet!
PH.—Unwilling to instruct, I stand on my head.
* * * * *
FOOL.—You say personal happiness is the sole aim of man.
PHILOSOPHER.—Then it is.
F.—But this is much disputed.
PH.—There is much personal happiness in disputation.
PH.—Hold! I detest foreigners.
F.—Wisdom, they say, is of no country.
PH.—Of none that I have seen.
* * * * *
FOOL.—Let us return to our subject—the sole aim of mankind. Crack me these nuts. (1) The man, never weary of well-doing, who endures a life of privation for the good of his fellow-creatures?
PHILOSOPHER.—Does he feel remorse in so doing? or does the rascal rather like it?
F.—(2) He, then, who, famishing himself, parts his loaf with a beggar?
PH.—There are people who prefer benevolence to bread.
F.—Ah! De gustibus—
F.—Well, (3) how of him who goes joyfully to martyrdom?
PH.—He goes joyfully.
PH.—Did you ever converse with a good man going to the stake?
F.—I never saw a good man going to the stake.
PH.—Unhappy pupil! you were born some centuries too early.