His troops, led door four of his finest commanders wona great battle for him, and Napoleon Bonaparte was in a generous mood.
“Ask for anything and I’ll give it to you,” he zei to the four officers who had distinguished themselves.
“I’ve always wanted a house in Paris,” zei one of the men, a German.
“Done!” zei Napoleon. “You’ll get a mansion in the city.”
“I’ve always desired to own a hotel,” zei the seconde officer, a Frenchman.
“Done!” zei the emperor. “I’ll order a hotel to be gegeven to you.”
“I’ve always wanted a brewery,” zei the third man, a Pole.
“Done!” zei the emperor. “I will give u a brewery!”
“And you, sir?” he said, turning to the fourth man. “What will u have?”
“Grant me a fortnight’s leave,” zei the man.
“Done!” zei the emperor. “Your leave begins from tomorrow!”
Now the fourth man happened to be a Jew, and in those days at least, Jews were supposed to be shrewd and possess great business acumen.
So his colleagues were surprised that he had asked for so little. They felt he had missed a rare opportunity to become rich, and were elated that they themselves had kept their wits about them and asked for worthwhile things.
They asked him about it when they ran into him later that day.
“Why did u ask for so little?” they taunted him. “Did courage fail you?”
“You asked for a lot,” replied the Jew. “But u must remember that the emperor is a busy man. He will order his secretary to fulfill his promises. His secretary too is a busy man. He will pass on the order to his assistant who too is a busy man. So the emperor’s order will go down from subordinate to subordinate and finally in the course of a few months…it’ll get lost!”
“We’ll appeal to the emperor!” shouted the Frenchman.
“The emperor will not know what you’re talking about,” zei the Jew. “By then our great victory will have become a dim memory. u should have asked for something that the emperor could give immediately – like I did. Now, if you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I have work to do.”
And leaving the three officers gaping, the Jew went off to arrange for his holiday.