A Tall Ship Tale #71: Aye, Robe Bought

More from Paul DeAnguera.

High in a Tibetan mountain pass, snug inside her snowbound log cabin, Mrs. Jong was leafing through “The Book of Taoist Virtue,” which Lao-tzu had written for her as a parting gift.

“‘The more there are laws, the more there will be thieves,'”* she read by the flickering firelight. A sudden pounding on the door interrupted Ma Jong’s musing over this puzzle. As a warden, she was obliged to admit any travelers who needed shelter. Opening the iron-bound door, she found a robed figure shivering in the snow.

“Isaac Newton at your service,” he announced with gravity, sweeping off his hood.

“Please come in,” she invited. She hung his snowy cloak on a wooden peg and led him to the fire. “I was just reading the oddest book. What do you think of this? ‘A man of Tao views every victory celebration as a funeral rite.'”

“Why, I think…” But before he could say what he thought, there was a renewed pounding on the door. A second robed figure stepped into the cabin. “Isaac Asimov at your service!” he shouted, grinning vacuously. Shortly there were two cloaks on the pegs dripping snow.

Back at the fire once more, she continued to read. “‘Luxury breeds envy and envy brings strife.’ But without some small luxury now and then, don’t you think life would be…” This time she was not a bit surprised to hear a renewed pounding on the door.

“Isaac Hayes, at your service!” the third arrival sang out. “Ah, my friends have preceded me, I see!” he noted happily as he added a third snowy cloak to the row of pegs on the wall.

“So they have,” she agreed doubtfully, leading him to the fire. She was feeling rather Tolkien aback by this procession of mysterious robed visitors. “I see that you wear similar cloaks and robes, and Shire enough you are all named Isaac. So I suppose you are in the hobbit of traveling together?”

“Oh, yes, indeed! We are of the Brotherhood,” Isaac Newton explained.

“All of our brothers are named Isaac!” Isaac Asimov added.

“But we do not mean to be a bother to you,” Isaac Hayes chimed in. “In fact, it may be that by means of relieving your isolation we might be of service to you!”

“Humph,” she muttered to herself as she returned to her chair with one finger closed in her book of Tao. “‘Serve us’ always seems to come first with these folk!” But, aloud, she merely said “I am not alone here, you know. Not, so to speak, without companionship before my fire!”

“But I do not see anyone else here,” Isaac Newton observed.

“I was referring to my book,” she explained…

“Tao is company, three-Isaac crowd!”
* “The Ageless Chinese: A History,” by Dun J. Li

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