The Slave and his Master

Posted by rjagilbert on January 13, 2013 at 12:40 AM

The man was an Anglo, with the fairest of golden hair and the bluest of eyes. To Rome, he was only a barbarian, captured and taken far from his homeland to be sold as a lowly slave within the ancient Roman Empire.


There came to the marketplace that day a wealthy nobleman of Rome, who saw the pitiful wretch upon the auction block and felt the spirit of goodness stir within his heart. Right then and there he purchased the prisoner, though the price was quite high. Even as the bill of sale was being signed, the auctioneer spoke cruelly into the poor man’s ear, “You are a slave, and all of Rome knows it. There is no other life for you but to do as your master tells you.”


Hearing the merchant’s sneering words, the master turned to his purchase and spoke gently. “Climb into my wagon.” When the slave obeyed, the master clambered up beside him and drove them both home.


The first thing the noble Roman did upon arriving at his estate was to call for a great platter of food. Seating the newly purchased slave at his table in front of the meal, the master told him, “Eat, and grow strong.” The Anglo sighed with despair at his plight, but followed his new master’s command.


Then the master led the man to the bath house. “I want you to be clean,” he said kindly to the slave. “See my son here? I want you to look as handsome as he.” The slave followed his master’s orders, and soon looked as civilized as the rest of the household.


Seeing progress made, the master took his new slave into the library. He brought in his most learned of servants and instructed the slave, “I want you to learn. Listen to my friend, so that you may know as much of his teachings as you can.” Still hanging his head, the slave did as his master said.


As time passed, the slave grew strong, healthy, handsome, and educated. His master instructed him in all manners of administrating the vast estate around them. But the slave remained sad, with his head downcast in all that he did.


“What is it that saddens you, my friend?” the master asked.


“I am a slave,” the man said with despair. “There is no life for me but to do as my master tells me.”


Hearing the auctioneer’s words that for so long had caused the poor man’s sorrow, the master spoke. “Go,” he ordered. “Walk in the sun. Be happy and free. Find love and marry. I have taught you how to live well, and all I ask is that you keep to those teachings. Do not return to the life that brought you to me: the life of the slave.” As an afterthought, he added, “If any question the freedom by which you live, you must tell them that you are following your master’s orders, for they will not understand the freedom I have given you.”


Confused—yet emancipated—the Anglo set out to explore the world beyond his former master’s estate. But as soon as he ventured beyond the nobleman’s protection, the world set itself upon him with their harsh and cruel laws. The people of Rome saw only the man’s golden hair and bright, blue eyes, and they knew him only as a slave.


“You are only a slave!” They told him. “You cannot be free.”


“I am only following my master’s orders,” he insisted. Knowing who his master was, they at first let him go on his way. But soon more Romans found him, and again they tried to take him captive. “I am only following my master’s orders,” the freeman pleaded. But they did not know his master, nor his master’s wishes. They seized the man and carried him back to the marketplace to be sold again into slavery.


As the poor prisoner was set again upon the auction block, who should appear but his master? “Do you know me?” the nobleman asked the auctioneer. The answer was no. “Do you know this?” the master suddenly produced the old bill of sale with which he had first bought the captive so many years ago.


“I do,” the auctioneer bowed low. “It is the law of property, and it deeds this man to you. Take him away.”


With that, the master led the slave again from the marketplace. When they at last returned to the estate, the Anglo was again cleaned, dressed, and fed. Then the master spoke again to him. “I want you to be free as much as you do,” he said. “But the world does not know my freedom. I think of you as my child, but the world only knows you as my slave. My laws are not the world’s laws, and the world’s understanding is not my own.”


Then the master took the bill of sale out again, and set it in a prominent place upon his mantle for all to see. “When the world looks upon this, it sees proof that you are my slave. But when you look upon it, I want you to see that you are free. For as long as you belong to me, you are truly free. Someday I pray that the world will see you as I see you, but for now they will only know your freedom by the price I paid for you.”


Categories: Fables and Tales, Politics, Religion, and Physics