Haifa 1988. One of my fondest memories from my first trip to Israel was walking into a pub in Haifa, sitting down with a friend, and listening to an elderly man tell us a couple of tales. My friend and I had just ordered our first beer and this complete stranger asked if we wanted to hear a story - he ended up telling us two. It was early, the bar was pretty empty and we figured why not humor the old guy.
He sat at a table next to us, so we turned our chairs to face him and sipped our beers as the old man spun the following yarn.
One morning, a long, long time ago, the Baron Rothschild’s son awoke and went out for a ride with a group of his friends. The Baron's son and his friends started early in the morning and set out on their horses. They were enjoying themselves so much that they kept riding throughout the day and lost track of time.
Before they knew it, the sun started to set. They didn’t know where they were. But as they were in the woods, it got dark rather quickly. They were at least a day's ride from home and needed to find a place to spend the night where they would be safe from the forest bandits and the howling wolves. Fortunately, one of the members of the riding party spotted an inn located in the middle of a small clearing in the woods. The Baron’s son approached, knocked on the old oak door. He was greeted by an old innkeeper.
The innkeeper welcomed the Baron’s son and his party. The Baron’s son went on to explain their circumstances. The innkeeper who recognized the Baron's son was only too happy to be of service.
The innkeeper offered the Baron's son and his friends the best suite of rooms. The innkeeper described the rooms' silken linens, and down filled comforters. Being accustomed to the finer things in life, the Baron's son was actually quite relieved.
Sensing that the Baron's son and his friends must be hungry, the innkeeper rattled off a menu with delicacies the riding party thought they had left far behind. The Baron's son started to feel quite at home, and asked what there was to drink. The innkeeper was at the ready with his best champagne. And so it was that the Baron’s son and his friends had a feast not to be believed, and slept late into the next day before riding home.
A few weeks time had passed when the Baron himself went out alone on his horse to attend to some very important business. On the way home, the Baron got caught by the setting sun and realized that he would need to find a place to spend the night safe from the forest bandits and the howling wolves.
The Baron spotted an inn set in a clearing in the forest, the very same inn where his son had stopped with his friends. The Baron approached and knocked on the door, and the same old innkeeper nudged the door ajar and upon recognizing the Baron himself warmly welcomed him in. The innkeeper offered the Baron the same suite of rooms with the same silken linens and down comforter that he had offered to his son.
Rejecting the offer, the Baron said that he only desired a small room with a cot. A bit confused the innkeeper offered the Baron all of the same delicacies that he had offered to his son. Again, the Baron declined and asked for a slice of bread. Not one to give up easily, the innkeeper offered the Baron the best of his champagne. Once more refusing, the Baron requested only a glass of water.
Completely at a loss, the innkeeper asked the Baron if he would not mind answering a question. The innkeeper explained that the Baron's son and his friends had stopped at the inn not too long ago and stayed in the best suite of rooms, ate the finest cuts of meat and imbibed on the choicest of champagne. Yet, the innkeeper remarked that the he - the Baron - took a small room with a cot, and asked only for a slice of bread and some water.
The Baron explained, “You see, I am the son of a shoemaker – and my son – he is the son of a Rothschild.”
I've told this story to my two girls on countless Friday nights as I tucked them into bed. They are now teenagers and too old to tuck into bed.