There is a town in England called Gotham, and many merry stories are told of the queer people who used to live there.
One day two men of Gotham met on a bridge. Hodge was coming from the market, and Peter was going to the market.
“Where are you going?” said Hodge.
“I am going to the market to buy sheep,” said Peter.
“Buy sheep?” said Hodge. “And which way will you bring them home?”
“I shall bring them over this bridge,” said Peter.
“No, you shall not,” said Hodge.
“Yes, but I will,” said Peter.
“You shall not,” said Hodge.
“I will,” said Peter.
Then they beat with their sticks on the ground as though there had been a hundred sheep between them.
“Take care!” cried Peter. “Look out that my sheep don’t jump on the bridge.”
“I care not where they jump,” said Hodge; “but they shall not go over it.”
“But they shall,” said Peter.
“Have a care,” said Hodge; “for if you say too much, I will put my fingers in your mouth.”
“Will you?” said Peter.
Just then another man of Gotham came from the market with a sack of meal on his horse. He heard his neighbors quarreling about sheep; but he could see no sheep between them, and so he stopped and spoke to them.
“Ah, you foolish fellows!” he cried. “It is strange that you will never learn wisdom.—Come here, Peter, and help me lay my sack on my shoulder.”
Peter did so, and the man carried his meal to the side of the bridge.
“Now look at me,” he said, “and learn a lesson.” And he opened the mouth of the sack, and poured all the meal into the river.
“Now, neighbors,” he said, “can you tell how much meal is in my sack?”
“There is none at all!” cried Hodge and Peter together.
“You are right,” said the man; “and you that stand here and quarrel about nothing, have no more sense in your heads than I have meal in my sack!”