Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.
Julius Caesar, Act 2, Sc.2

THE THREE COMPANIONS

Every year Cholera made a visit to the Holy City of Mecca. Her companions were always Death and Fear. One year Fear came before Death and Cholera. The old gatekeeper, who did not know Fear, let her go into the city.

The gatekeeper called angrily at the other two when they arrived at the gate.

"So, Cholera, you've come again to bring Death and misery to people. How many victims will you take this time?"

"No more than 500 I'm sure," Cholera said.

"And you, Death, how many will you take?" the gatekeeper cried.

"Oh, I will take only what Cholera gives me."

The gatekeeper let them by, warning then not to take more than they promised.

Weeks later Death and Cholera returned and called to the gatekeeper to open the gate.

"Well, Cholera, how many did you take?" the gatekeeper asked.

"Oh, I took only 499," Cholera said.

"Any you Death, how many did you take?" the gatekeeper asked.

"Oh, I took more than a thousand."

"But you promised that you'd only take what Cholera gave you!" the gatekeeper cried.

"Yes," Death answered, "But most of those who died were taken by Fear, who came unnoticed through your gate. One day you will know, old man, that our sister Fear does more harm and causes more deaths than Cholera!"


Retold from Indonesian Legends and Folk Tales

Told by Adele de Leeuw, 1961

 

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