In days of long ago, the people of Gotham, a village near Nottingham, were famous for their folly. No matter what they tried to do, they would set about it in the most stupid manner. All the world laughed at their mistakes and, in fun, called them the ‘ wise men of Gotham but that did not worry these simple folk.
Here is one story about them.
A man of Gotham was going to Nottingham Market to buy sheep. On Nottingham Bridge he met another man of Gotham, who was coming from the market.
‘ Well met! ‘ said they to each other.
Where are you going, neighbor? ‘ asked the one who was returning from the market.
‘ To Nottingham Market, to buy sheep,’ replied the other.
‘ To buy sheep! ‘ exclaimed the first. Pray tell me, which way will you bring them home? ‘
‘ Why, across this, bridge,’ answered he who was going to market.
Now the other man of Gotham, who loved to find fault with everything, was not pleased a that. ‘ By Robin Hood,’ he cried, ‘ you shall not bring your sheep back by this bridge !’
‘By Little John,’ shouted the other, ‘ I shall bring them back this way if I please!’
You shall not! ‘ cried the first.
‘But I shall! ‘ declared the other.
Then the two men of Gotham began to stamp about the bridge, hitting the ground with their sticks, as if the whole flock of sheep were already there.
‘Hold back your sheep there! ‘ cried the one ‘ Let them pass! ‘ exclaimed the other. ‘ And be more careful with your stick, lest you make my flock leap the bridge into the river.’
So they went at it, running this way and the until a third man of Gotham appeared. He had come from Nottingham Market, and on hi horse’s back was a sack of meal which he ha bought there.
For a few minutes he looked on in silence his neighbors fought, then he held up ft hands and said, ‘ Peace, peace, good fellows.
When will you learn wisdom? Pray, help me to lift this sack of meal on my shoulders, and I shall teach you a lesson worth the knowing.’
When they had helped him with the sack, the third man of Gotham went to the edge of the bridge, opened the mouth of the sack, and emptied the meal into the river which flowed beneath. As he shook out the sack, he said, ‘ Tell me, good neighbors, how much meal is in the sack now? ‘
‘Why, none,’ the others answered together. ‘ Well said,’ replied he. ‘ Then there is as much sense in your foolish heads, for a moment ago you were fighting about sheep which are not here at all.’
Now I leave you to judge, if you can, which was the wisest of these three men of Gotham.
Retold From ‘ the Merry Tales of the Men of Gotham’
1. Why were the people of Gotham called ‘ wise’?
2. About what did the two men of Gotham quarrel?
3. Was the third man of Gotham’s lesson a good one or a bad one? Why?