Rendering Life For Life
Once upon a time, there was a traveller who was on his way to the capital. As it happened, he was about to pass through a small village, when on its outskirts, he witnessed a most gruesome sight: A man had been hanged in an old oak tree. The corpse had obviously been left there to hang for some time, and the crows and the buzzards had made a good feast out of it.
Shaken, but also morbidly curious, the traveller continued into the village and soon came past an old man sitting outside his house, smoking his pipe and enjoying the good weather.
“Good day to you, sir,” the traveller greeted him. “Tell me, who is that man hanging in the tree back there?”
“Oh, that’s our former baker, Jamesson,” the old man replied. “Aye, ‘tis a sad story, it is. He was condemned at the Magistrate’s only last week.” He shook his head.
“Must have been a serious crime,” the traveller said. “A murder, perhaps?”
“Exactly, “ the old man said. “You know the story: A bit too much to drink in the pub, a brief argument, and then POW!, a blow to the head an’ there’s another man won’t see the next sunrise. Very sad. And the baker was such a pleasant man, too.”
“Well, he can’t have been all that pleasant if he killed someone,” the traveller objected.
“Oh, no, you misunderstand. It wasn’t the baker what killed him,” the old man said. “That was our smith, Hendricks.”
“What!?” the traveller exclaimed, appalled. “Why did you hang the baker, then, if the smith committed the murder?!”
“Well,” the old man sighed, “you see, here’s the problem: We had to punish somebody for it, of course, but we only had the one smith in the village, and we couldn’t do without him… but fortunately, we had two bakers!”