Relax, close your eyes and imagine a duke's son, Egbert, who thought he was the most important person in the world. Egbert believed he could be as rude as he liked and order everyone about - until a kindly fisherman taught him an important lesson. Listen carefully to his story.
One morning Egbert was being carried around the palace in a sedan chair by his servants, Benson and Merriweather. It wasn’t that Egbert couldn't walk - he was very lazy and didn't like to do anything for himself.
“I want to go boating,” Egbert said to Benson.
“But Master Egbert, there’s a storm coming!” stuttered Benson. He was scared - he knew Egbert didn’t like it when people said no to him.
“I don’t care, I’m the duke’s son and I want to go boating right NOW!” shouted Egbert.
Benson and Merriweather, puffing and panting, carried Egbert and his sedan chair down the one hundred and eight steps of the palace, out of the gate and toward the sea.
“Watch it, you’re bumping me,” complained Egbert.
The two exhausted servants hauled Egbert along the rocky road to the harbour. Egbert moaned and groaned, then demanded to be carried faster. Merriweather finally lost his temper. He gave the sedan chair an almighty push and Benson dropped it, too. “I’ve had enough of you and your wicked tongue!” Merriweather cried.
Egbert and the chair rolled down the hill, out of control. Sorry that he'd lost his temper, Merriweather ran with Benson after Egbert, but they couldn’t stop him plopping into the sea with a great splash. Clinging to the chair, Egbert bobbed up and down in the water.
Just then the storm arrived. Lightning flashed across the sky and the waves were whipped high by the wind. Egbert had never been so frightened.
“Help!” he cried. “Please somebody, help me!”
Ayo was a fisherman who’d also been caught by the storm. But he was very experienced and very calm. He’d hauled in his sail and was patiently waiting for the storm to pass. He spun his ship hard in the direction of Egbert’s cries.
Another flash of lightning lit up Egbert clinging to his sedan chair in the sea. Ayo thought quickly. “I’ll haul him in with my fishing net,” he said to the pet parrot who kept him company. Ayo threw out his net, caught Egbert first time and pulled him aboard.
Egbert lay on the deck, feeling very sorry for himself.
“You're a strange-looking fish!’’ chuckled Ayo.
“How disrespectful. I’m a duke’s son! How dare he laugh,” thought Egbert furiously. But he said nothing. He was frightened of this man with his tattoos and eye-patch.
“Come on,” said Ayo, ruffling Egbert’s hair “We’ll get you dried off and get some warm soup in you.”
Egbert was red-hot with anger. “How dare he touch me with his great peasant hands,” he thought.
The storm passed and Ayo sailed safely into port. Egbert pretended to be grateful. He tried to smile, but it hurt his face as he wasn't used to smiling. He said “thank you,” but felt sick speaking that unfamiliar word out loud.
To Ayo’s face he said: “When I’m made duke I will reward you most generously.” But under his breath Egbert added “As if...!”
When Egbert returned to the palace he bragged that he had saved himself using his brainpower and his excellent swimming. But everyone knew that Egbert never bothered to use his brain, and what’s more never did any exercise. “He doesn’t even walk anywhere, let alone swim,” they said.
The following year Ayo was sailing near the duke’s harbour. “Perhaps I’ll pay a visit to my young friend,” Ayo said to his parrot. “Let’s see how he’s getting along.”
Egbert’s father had died and Egbert was now the duke. The morning that Ayo decided to visit, Egbert was lying under a big red canopy on the palace terrace having his toes massaged. He spied the great hulk of Ayo coming up the hill.
“Aha, that disrespectful oaf is back, looking for handouts,” he thought. “I must get rid of him before he tells anyone he rescued me.” Egbert shouted to his guards: “Arrest that man! Hes a thief and a thug. Throw him in the dungeon.”
Egbert's bodyguards didn’t dare challenge him. They arrested Ayo, bound his hands and took him to the dungeon.
It was market day in the city square. Traders were selling fruit and vegetables, spices and fresh fish. Paolo the grocer spied his friend Ayo being led away in chains and demanded to know where the guards were taking him.
“He is being sent to the dungeons. He’s a thug and a thief” replied the chief guard.
“Nonsense,” exclaimed Paolo. “I know this man and he’s a decent and honest fellow.”
A crowd gathered and several others recognized Ayo.
Mario the spice trader said: “He’s the kindest man I know.”
Nino the goldsmith said: “Ayo helps everyone he can.”
And Claude the fishmonger said: “I’d trust Ayo with my life. What's more, I know that Ayo saved Duke Egbert's life.” Then Claude told the gathering crowd the whole story.
“Egbert is ungrateful and a liar” the people cried. The angry crowd ran to the palace demanding justice.
“Down with Egbert! Ayo for chief minister!” they cried.
Ashamed and frightened, Egbert didn't know what to do.
“Let Ayo decide on Egbert's punishment,” said Paolo.
Ayo thought for a while. Then he said, “Egbert should be a fisherman for one year and one day. I can't think of a better way of teaching him patience and humility.”
After a year and a day as a poor fisherman, Egbert had learned the value of helping people and was grateful when people helped him in turn. He became kind and generous and relied on Ayo as his wise counsellor. The people of the dukedom agreed they had the best ruler in the land. However important we are, we all need the help of other people. Using kind and generous words is the best way of making sure we receive support and friendship from others.