THE MAN, THE HORSE, THE OX AND THE DOG
A horse, an ox, and a dog were suffering from the cold and came to the house
of a man. The man opened his door to the animals and led them inside. He warmed
them by the hearth which was blazing with fire and placed before them whatever
there was to eat. To the horse he gave barley, to the labouring ox he gave peas,
while the dog took his place beside the man at the table as his dinner companion.
In exchange for this hospitality, the animals surrendered to the man some of
the years of life that had been allotted to them. The horse went first, which
is why each of us is inclined to exult in our youth; the ox went next, which
is why man toils away during his middle years, devoted to his work and accumulating
wealth. It was the dog who bestowed on man his final years, at least according
to the story. This is why, Branchus, everyone becomes cranky in his old age,
only wagging his tail for the person who feeds him while barking incessantly
and snarling at strangers.