The Hermit's Barley-Field
In the year 1757, during the Seven Years' War between Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, and other European Powers, it happened that a cavalry officer was commissioned to go forth on a foraging expedition in one of the provinces occupied by the troops.
When he reached a certain valley where he had expected to find abundance of corn, he discovered that the whole country as far as his eyes could reach was barren and uncultivated. He was about to return to the camp, when his eyes happened to fall on a hut almost hidden in the dense foliage of a thicket not far from the rough path on which he rode.
Going up to the door, he knocked, and it was opened by a hermit, whose hair and beard, white as the driven snow, showed that he had reached the evening of life.
"My father," said the officer, "could you point out to me any place in the neighborhood where I might be able to procure provisions for our horses?"
The old man informed him that at some distance there was a field of barley, and offered his services to accompany him and his men, and point it out to them.
When they had proceeded about the distance of a mile through the valley, they came to a field on which was growing a magnificent crop of the cereal they wanted.
"Ah," cried out the officer, on seeing it, "this must be the place. What a splendid crop!"
"No, sir," replied the hermit, "the field to which I am leading you is still at a little distance, but we shall soon now reach it."
About half a mile further on they came to another field, covered also with ripe corn, but not so luxuriant as the one they had passed. Here the hermit stopped, and pointing to it, said: "This is th field of which I spoke to you."
The men dismounted and cut down the ripe crop; them binding it in large bundles, placed them upon their horses, and returned by the path they had come. When they were passing near the other field, the officer thus accosted the hermit: "My Father, you have made us take a useless journey in bringing us so far, when here, much nearer to your abode, is a field of barley even more abundant than the one you brought us to."
"Yes, sir," replied the old man, "the barley in this field is certainly better than that which you have taken; but then, this field belongs to someone else, whereas the field you have harvested belongs to me."
The officer, struck with astonishment at these words, and filled with admiration at the conduct of the pious old man, uncovered his head, and bowed it towards him in token of his profound respect. He had observed with scrupulous exactness during his whole lifetime every point of honor exacted by his position, but he had never before seen an example of such admirable disinterestedness displayed by those among whom his rank caused him to be associated. "This is indeed the sublime fruit which the love of God and of His law produces," he said, "in the hearts of those who love God and serve Him perfectly."
The Catechism in Examples Vol. III
By: Rev. D. Chisholm 1908
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