"The storyteller is here," announced the doorman, peering from the doorway. "Shall I show him in?"
The merchant sighed and set down his ledgers. The heat of the day was easing, but he noticed beads of sweat still decorating the brow of the doorman. "Certainly," he replied. "And bring drinks, if you will."
After a moment the door opened again and the doorman came in with two cups, a pitcher, and a thin, bright-eyed old man. The man bowed low to the merchant.
"Please," said the merchant, "seat yourself and enjoy refreshment."
"Your eminence is too kind," replied the storyteller as he settled himself across the table from the merchant.
The merchant chuckled. "I am no eminence, but merely a man of commerce who has worked hard and been luckier than most."
The storyteller smiled. "Then your diligence and luck must indeed be prodigious, for your success in trade and manufacture is widely admired." He paused a moment, then continued in a more serious vein. "But what use could a man such as you have for a storyteller such as myself?"
"Indeed," replied the merchant, "I myself no longer have a great need for stories. But when I was young they were important to me. They inspired me to undertake ventures that seemed impossible at the time. Now that I have children, I hope the old stories will do the same for them."
"Stories good enough for the father should serve the children as well," said the storyteller reassuringly. "Is it then your wish that I spend time with your children, telling them such stories?"
The merchant smiled. "No, I can do that myself. It is indeed one of the few times each day when I see my children. Instead, I need you to create new stories that teach new lessons." The merchant leaned forward to make his point. "You see, my children have been born into a world different from that of my own youth. I was powerless and poor. They are wealthy. I worry that they will take their wealth for granted, or become obsessed with it, or forget their responsibility to use it wisely. The stories of my childhood were about princes or princesses, or about poor children, but were not about children like mine."
"Are not your children like princes and princesses?"
"No," replied the merchant. "A prince is surrounded by advisors and teachers who prepare him for his duties and later prevent him from making serious mistakes. Besides, a king who makes mistakes is still a king. A merchant who makes mistakes is soon a pauper."
"So you wish me to write stories meant especially for the children of merchants?"
The merchant nodded.
"I will do it," affirmed the storyteller, who then got up, bowed, and turned to leave. As he reached the door he stopped and turned to the merchant for a moment before going through. "Perhaps ...," he mused hesitatingly, "...perhaps someday in the far future all men will be wealthy, and the stories I write for your children will be read to all the children."