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The Three Loaves

One day two men were passing through a secluded valley and talked so much that they did not notice for fast the hours went by. At noontime they came to a scattered hamlet. The smell of fresh-baked loaves reached them from a cottage at the bottom of the valley, and one of men wanted to go there and see if they would give him some of it, for he was so hungry.

The way down to the cottage was so steep and rough that he had many falls, but at last a comely peasant wife opened a window at his knock and asked him to come in and rest a while. She wiped a chair for him and returned to her work at the fire. The moment had just come when she should take her loaves from the oven.

"Good woman, I come from far with a companion and have eaten nothing the whole morning," he said.

"Tasted nothing all this morning!" exclaimed the peasant wife- "Here, take one of these loaves for yourself and one for your companion - and take one more for in case you get hungry before the journey is over."

The man thanked her heartily and hasted back to his his fellow traveller. But as the loaves were hot, just out of the oven, he found it fit to wrap them in the folds of his coarse grey mantle so that he could hold them without burning his hands.

As he toiled up the steep, the thought came to him, "It will most likely be long before we have a chance of getting good food again. I might very well keep the third loaf under my cloak and ease my hunger with it when night comes."

With that he reached the place where he had left the other, and said:

"The kind woman in the cottage was taking the loaves out of the oven. When I told her that I had a travelling companion, she gave me one for you too."

But he said nothing about the third loaf that he had tucked away a fold of his mantle under his arm.

Then came a friendly bird and hopped round the other traveller, feeding on the crumbs that had fallen. Another bird was attracted at the sight – another and another and another, till there was a whole flock gathered round. The other traveller fed them all with crumbs from his loaf and looked happy..

When all the crumbs were eaten, the birds chirped and flew away; and two men rose from the rock they had been sitting on a while.

The other said: "Before we go further, let us say thanks for the loaves with outstretched hands!"

He flung his arms wide open.

The man with the remaining loaf did likewise, as he forgot for a little while he had hid something in his mantle. The loaf fell heavily to the ground as he moved like the other.

The man felt a glow of shame; and told how he had got the loaf and wanted to keep it for the night.

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There are those who understand, those who do not understand and those who do not want to understand. (Proverb from Trentino)



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