A miller and his son were driving their ass to a neighboring fair to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of girls returning from the town, talking and laughing. “Look there!” cried one of them, “did you ever see such fools, to be trudging along the road on foot, when they might be riding!”
The old man, hearing this, quietly bade his son get on the ass, and walked along merrily by the side of him. Presently they came up to a group of old men in earnest debate. “There!” said one of them, “it proves what I was saying. What respect is shown to old age in these days? Do you see that idle young rogue riding, while his old father has to walk? Get down, you scapegrace! And let the old man rest his weary limbs.”
Upon this the father made his son dismount and got up himself. In this manner they had not proceeded far when they met a company of women and children. “Why, you lazy old fellow!” cried several tongues at once, “how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad there can hardly keep pace by the side of you?”
The good natured miller stood corrected and immediately took up his son behind him. They had now almost reached the town. “Pray, honest friend,” said a townsman, “is that ass your own?” “Yes,” said the old Man. “Oh! One would not have thought so,” said the other, “by the way you load him. Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than he you!” “Anything to please you,” said the old man; “we can but try.”
So, alighting with his son, they tied the ass’ legs together and by the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on their shoulders over a bridge that led to the town. This was so entertaining a sight that the people ran out in crowds to laugh at it, till the ass, not liking the noise or his situation, kicked asunder the cords that bound him and, tumbling off the pole, fell into the river.
Upon this the old man, vexed and ashamed, made his way home, convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased nobody and lost his ass in the bargain.