Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/The Life of Æsop/Chapter III
The Sale of Æsop to Xanthus.
UPON the Merchants Arrival at Ephesus, he made a quick Riddance of All his Slaves but Three. That is to say, a Musician, an Orator, and Æsop. He dress'd up the Two Former in Habits answerable to their Profession, and Carry'd them to Samos, as the Likelyest Place for a Chapman. He shew'd them there in the open Market, with Æsop for a Fool betwixt them; which some People took much offence at. While they were attending upon the Place, there came among other Samians, one Xanthus an Eminent Philosopher of that City, with a Train of his Disciples at his Heels. The Philosopher was mightily pleased with the Two Youths, and ask’d them one after another about their Profession, and what they could do. The one told him he could do any thing, the other that he could do ev’ry thing; and this set Æsop a laughing at ’em. The Philosophers Pupils would Needs know what it was that made Æsop so merry. Why says he, if the Question had been put by your Master, I should have told him the reason of it.
Xanthus in the mean time was beating the Price of the Two other Slaves, but the Terms were so high, that he was just upon turning about to go his way, Only his Pupils would needs have him put the same Questions first to the Ill favour’d Fellow, that he had done to the other Two; and so Xanthus, for the Humour sake, Interrogated Æsop what He could do. Nothing at all, says he. How comes That says the Philosopher? My Companions, says the Other, Undertakes every thing, and there’s Nothing left for me to do. This gave them to Understand, that the Man knew well Enough what he say’d, and what he Laugh’d at. Well! says Xanthus, but if I should give Money for you Now, would you be Good and Honest? I’le be That, says Æsop whether you Buy me or No. Ay but tell me again says the Philosopher, Wo'nt you run away? Pray says Æsop, did you ever hear of a Bird in a Cage that told his Master he Intended to make his Escape? Xanthus was well enough pleased with the Turn and Quickness of his Wit; but says he, That Unlucky Shape of yours will set People a Hooting and Gaping at you whereever you go. A Philosopher says Æsop should Value a man for his Mind, Not for his body. This presence of Thought gave Xanthus a High Opinion of the Wisdom of the Man; and so he bad the Merchant set him his Lowest Price of That Miserable Creature. Why says he, you had as good Cheapen a Dunghill; but if you'l bid me like a Chapman for either of the Other Two, you shall have this Phantome into the Bargaine. Very good says the Philosopher; and without any more ado what's your selling Price? The Merchant speaks the Word, The Philosopher pays the Money, and takes Æsop away with him.