THERE were once three friends who agreed to make a pilgrimage together. It happened that their provisions fell short, and having but one loaf between them, they were nearly famished.
"Should this loaf," they said to each other, "be divided amongst us, there will not be enough for any one. Let us then take counsel together, and consider how the bread is to be disposed of."
"Suppose we sleep upon the way," replied one of them; "and whosoever hath the most wonderful dream shall possess the loaf."
The other two acquiesced, and settled themselves to sleep.
But he who gave the advice, arose while they were sleeping, and ate up the bread, not leaving a single crumb for his companions. When he had finished he awoke them.
"Get up quickly," said he, "and tell us your dreams."
"My friends," answered the first, "I have had a very marvellous vision. A golden ladder reached up to heaven, by which angels ascended and descended. They took my soul from my body, and conveyed it to that blessed place where I beheld the Holy Trinity; and where I felt such an overflow of joy, as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. This is my dream."
"And I," said the second, "beheld the devils with iron instruments, by which they dragged my soul from the body, and plunging it into hell flames, most grievously tormented me, saying, 'As long as God reigns in heaven this will be your portion.'"
"Now then," said the third, who had eaten the bread, "hear my dream. It appeared as if an angel came and addressed me in the following manner: 'My friend, would you see what is become of your companions?' I answered, 'Yes, Lord. We have but one loaf among us, and I fear that they have run off with it.' 'You are mistaken,' he rejoined, 'it lies beside us; follow me.' He immediately led me to the gate of heaven, and by his command I put in my head and saw you; and I thought that you were snatched up into heaven and sat upon a throne of gold, while rich wines and delicate meats stood around you. Then said the angel, 'Your companion, you see, has an abundance of good things, and dwells in all pleasures. There he will remain for ever; for he has entered a celestial kingdom, and cannot return. Come now where your other associate is placed.' I followed, and he led me to hell-gates, where I beheld you in torment, as you just now said. Yet they furnished you, even there, with bread and wine in abundance. I expressed my sorrow at seeing you in misery, and you replied, 'As long as God reigns in heaven here I must remain, for I have merited it. Do you then rise up quickly, and eat all the bread, since you will see neither me nor my companion again.' I complied with your wishes; arose, and ate the bread."