The Tempting Idea Of Shrewd Monk
Many years ago I traveled from London to Helsinki by plane. Two rows in front of me were two young girls, lively talking about how they would manage to get the liquor they had bought, through the customs watching eyes.
As their discussion reached decibels above the normal speaking tone, a monk
sitting just behind the girls, made an offer they couldn’t refuse. He told them that he
would gladly carry their ‘overweight of spirits’ through the customs since he had none
of his own. The girls accepted with acclamation.
I had followed the discussions from a distance and I was very curious to know how the monk would solve this problem.
As they arrived at the customs and the customs officer asked the monk, whom he
already knew, if he had something to dec1are, the monk answered:
– As you know, my soul belongs to God, my robe belongs to the Monastery and what I have under my robe belong to the girls.
The officer of the customs laughed out loud and said:
– You are always so witty, have a good day Monsignor.
I who overheard this conversation thought that it was a most ingenious idea of the monk who managed not to tell a lie and at the same time was able to help the girls.
The Flute Player
“Hello, Doctor Niven!” A voice reached her ear as she walked across a place called Karlaplan. The voice was too familiar. It belonged to Robert Random, a very talkative man. She did not wish to speak to him at that moment.
However, this man wouldn’t give up easily and she decided to sit down for a minute on a bench along the side of Karlaplan. Robert placed himself beside her and started to talk.
“I have come to Stockholm again for some language courses at the University. They teach languages so much better than where I live in Aland.”
There was no demand for answers and Gena listened with only one ear. From a distance, she heard somebody playing a very melodic tune on a flute. Trying to locate the sound, she saw a man in shabby clothing sitting on a bench. He seemed to be in the wrong place but Gena could not tell why. Robert was explaining something about the water system in his country house, when suddenly the flute-man appeared in front of Gena and said, “Please, help me, I don’t know who I am. I can do every kind of work. Doctor Niven, please help me! ”
The man was somewhere between thirty-five and forty years old, unshaven, but with beautiful eyes. Gena found it astonishing that this strange man knew who she was. Perhaps he had heard Robert calling her name.
Robert seemed troubled when the man appeared.
“Don’t worry Robert, it’s okay.”
Gena looked at the flute-man, feeling somewhat distrustful. What he just said puzzled her. At that moment, she decided to call him “Nobody”. At the same time she thought it might be better not to take any notice of the man. She decided to leave before this stranger could make another attempt to persuade her to do something for him.
“Excuse me, Robert, I really have to go.”
She was in a hurry to get to her country house. Robert looked a bit annoyed. “Oh, you have better things to do than chatting with me.”
“No, but the summer vacations have begun and I must attend to my summer house on
Varmdo,” she said calmly. “It was nice seeing you again. Good luck with your studies.”
Having had enough of Robert’s boring monologue, she waved goodbye and left.
When she started the journey to her country house, she realized that it was far too late for a drive without encountering a traffic jam. This would be a long and tiresome journey. Somehow Gena couldn’t stop thinking about the strange man with the beautiful blue eyes.
Arriving at her summer house, Gena sensed that something was wrong but couldn’t say what it was. She began to prepare a meal. She took a deep breath and thought how nice it would be to spend a couple of days alone in the country house.
Suddenly someone banged at the door. She hadn’t been expecting visitors and felt a bit frustrated. She was looking forward to a nice evening with no company, just a glass of sherry, a good book and some soft music. She went to see who was rude enough to disturb her peace.
She recognized a figure she least of all expected to see again. On the doorstep was the flute playing fellow.
“How on earth did you find me?” Gena asked, a little startled. “Have you been following me all the way from Stockholm?”
He shook his head. “I overheard your conversation with the gentleman on the bench at Karlaplan and then I found out where your country house was.
“What are you doing here?”
“Do you have some work for me? I don’t need any salary, just a little food and a place to sleep. ”
“Oh, my dear man, I don’t really know if that would be suitable. I am a lonely woman and how would it look with a strange man running around the premises?” she said, a little amused.
Nobody said:”Please, Doctor, you must help me. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I come from and least of all I don’t know what I am doing in this country! ”
She hesitated a couple of seconds and then she said: “Oh, well, I will see what I can do, but I must ask you to come back later this afternoon. Then I will tell you if you can stay.” The door closed before Nobody had a chance to answer.
Gena waited a moment and nearly let him in again. But then she decided to let him be. The first thing was to determine what to do with this man. She found him quite attractive, good looking in a primitive way. His hair was black as ebony and very short, almost like a stubble-field. Nobody’s eyes were very intense with a blue color as from the deep blue sea. But she knew nothing about him, where he came from or what intentions he had; and most of all, whether he was a potential criminal.
After three cups of strong coffee and several telephone calls to her closest friends, Gena finally found the heart to face Nobody. After all she was a grown woman with lot of experience of impudent students. Besides, Nobody could be a man in need of help.
She looked everywhere but couldn’t find him. Perhaps he had left? Then she heard a noise at the corner of the stable. She turned around with her heart in her throat and a cold shiver ran down her neck. Then she saw Nobody near the stable door.
“I thought you had left already, as I didn’t see you,” Gena said in a very low voice. “Let us go into the house. We have to talk about this.”
“The house was built in 1897 and it was in a poor condition when I bought it,” she said. “It has been very faithfully restored and it took me five years of hard work to get this far. I have done a great deal of the restoration myself. Of course I have hired craftsmen for the most difficult tasks. Take for instance the friezes in the living room and the dining room. They have all been made by a stucco worker. A new roof has been laid by a tinsmith and it has been done the same way as the original. The roof trusses have been changed because the old ones were quite rotten.”
The door hardly moved as Gena tried to open it. Nobody pushed it open and she stepped inside. Her heart was pounding when she listened to the footsteps behind her. What was she thinking, letting a complete stranger invade her precious home? She saw how Nobody looked around. Was he thrilled at what he saw? Gena saw his face and smiled. She understood that this man was obviously in need of help. But she didn’t know how she would be able to give him the help he wanted.
During the time Nobody was waiting for Gena’s answer he had prepared a long story.
“Please, Doctor, listen to what I have to say before you throw me out. I understand that you are angry, but I don’t know where else to turn. My situation is very complicated and I think that you are a person capable of giving me the support I need.
“I really don’t know about that,” Gena said doubtfully. All right, I will take what you have on your mind into consideration, but make it short,” she said, a little less unfriendly. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
Nobody nodded again.
They sat down at a round table in the south west corner of the living room. On each side of the table was a window. From the window on the south side you could see the lake about a hundred yards from the main building. On the same side of the building there was a big porch with two sitting groups. The groups contained two big cane chairs painted in white and a sofa in the same material. Her favorite was a rocking chair, also in cane. She used to sit there in the evening watching the sun set, until she saw the sun dip into the
“Let me see, then, what you want,” Gena encouraged her visitor.
Nobody looked at her like a little schoolboy getting a question about a subject he hadn’t prepared. He swallowed and then tried to look straight into her eyes.
He said: “I have a story to tell. ”