A Proud Linguist
Once upon a time there was an Austrian emperor who made it a rule to interview every one of his soldiers once a year. During the interviews he invariably asked three questions- "How old are'you?", "How long have you been in my army?" and "Are you satisfied with your pay and the food you get?" -in that order.
One year, the day before the imperial interviews, a Frenchman got himself enlisted in the Austrian army. Since he knew no German he was on tenterhooks. Now there was an old soldier in his unit who knew a little French and was anxious to help. In fact he knew just about enough French to be able to teach his young friend the shortest possible answers, in the proper order , to the imperial questions.
The day arrived with all the sound and colour that befitted it. The Emperor in all his splendour was seated on the throne, his entourage attending respectfully in. the background. The soldiers filed past him, each taking barely half a minute during which time the questions were asked and the answers reverently provided.
When the Frenchman's turn came, far from being nerous he was sure of himself, havi.ng recited the answers, in the proper order, he did not know how many times. The Emperor looked at him long and hard and suddenly took it into his head that he had seen the young man somewhere before. He began, a little out of the usual order, with the second question;
"How long have you been in my army ?"
"Twenty-one years , " replied the Frenchman , not without some pride in his ability to learn a foreign language so quickly and so well.
The monarch was surprised, for the young man did not look very much older than that , but he went on to ask:
"Then how old are you?"
"One day," came the answer.
That was too much for the Emperor, who sat back and muttered .
"Well , well. That beats me. It seems either you're mad or I am. "
Positive that that was the last of the imperial questions, the proud linguist stepped forward and with a smile said:
"Both, your majesty. "
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