The Wager

The gallows had been set up that morning in the middle of town and they were still causing fear and provoking question about who might fill the noose’s swinging vacancy. The setting sun seemed to be warning the ruler against going back on his word. The accusation was still alternating between the rider and the groom, hardly setting on one before it was back to the other.

When our delegation came back from the race that was held with neighboring states, the result they brought home was basically a disgrace. We had come last, even though our entrant was fastest runner of all of our mules – the ruler’s very own – mule. This made the ruler even more angr , and he swore a scared oath, “The one who has caused this will most certainly pay the price before the sun set.”

And so the predictions continued to vacillate between the ruler’s trusted groom and his relation with the jockey of the favorite mule. Until that is, just before sun set, when a third possibility emerged. Little by little the accusations began to focus on this new suspect, and our ruler became increasingly convinced of where the responsibility for the great shame that had befallen us lay. And so our town went to bed that night quite convinced that it would be the mule who would pay the price of defeat.

Dawn had hardly broken when the people of the town gathered in a big circle with the gallows at the its center.

The noose was not empty as it had been: hanging in it was a horseshoe, swinging in the breeze of morning which was already getting hot. Our eyes, which we were trying to keep fixed on the center of the circle, stole furtive glances over where the groom and the jockey stood on their side of the ruler – who was mounted on his favorite mule.