The Ferryman [continue….]
‘You have chosen a splendid life,’ said Siddhartha. ‘It must be fine to live near this river and sail on it every day.’
The rower smiled, swaying gently.
‘It is fine, sir, as you say, but is not every life, every work fine?‘
‘May be, but I envy you yours.’
‘Oh, you would soon lose your taste for it. It is not for people in fine clothes.’
Siddhartha laughed. ‘I have already been judged by my clothes today and regarded with suspicion. Will you accept these clothes from me, which I find a nuisance? For I must tell you that I have no money to pay you for taking me across the river.’
‘The gentleman is joking,’ laughed the ferryman.
‘I am not joking, my friend. You once previously took me across this river without payment, so please do it today also and take my clothes instead.’
‘And will the gentleman continue without clothes?’
‘I should prefer not to go farther. I should prefer it if you would give me some old clothes and keep me here as your assistant, or rather your apprentice, for I must learn how to handle the boat.’
The ferryman looked keenly at the stranger for a long time.
‘I recognize you,’ he said finally. ‘You once slept in my hut. It is a long time ago, may be more than twenty years ago. I took you across the river and we parted as good friends. Were you not a Samana? I cannot remember your name.’
‘My name is Siddhartha and I was a Samana when you last saw me.’
‘You are welcome, Siddhartha. My name is Vasudeva. I hope you will be my guest today and also sleep in my hut, and tell me where you have come from and why you are so tired of your fine clothes.’
[ Translated from the German by Hilda Rosner ]