The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
The Emperor and the Aged Man.
The Emperor Adrian, passing through the streets of Tiberias, noticed a very old man planting a fig tree, and pausing, said to him:
"Wherefore plant that tree? If thou didst labour in thy youth, thou shouldst now have a store for thy old age, and surely of the fruit of this tree thou canst not hope to eat."
The old man answered:
"In my youth I worked, and I still work. With God's good pleasure I may e’en partake of the fruit of this tree I plant. I am in His hands."
"Tell me thy age," said the emperor.
"I have lived for a hundred years."
"A hundred years old, and still expect to eat from the fruit of this tree?"
"If such be God's pleasure," replied the old man; "if not, I will leave it for my son, as my father left the fruit of his labour for me."
"Well," said the emperor, "if thou dost live until the figs from this tree are ripe, I pray thee let me know of it."
The aged man lived to partake of that very fruit, and
remembering the emperor's words, he resolved to visit him So, taking a small basket, he filled it with the choicest figs from the tree, and proceeded on his errand. Telling the palace guard his purpose, he was admitted to the sovereign's presence.
"Well," asked the emperor, "what is thy wish?" The old man replied:
"Lo, I am the old man to whom thou didst say, on the day thou sawest him planting a fig tree, 'If thou livest to eat of its fruit, I pray thee let me know;' and behold I have come and brought thee of the fruit, that thou mayest partake of it likewise."
The emperor was very much pleased, and emptying the man's basket of its figs, he ordered it to be filled with gold coins.
When the old man had departed, the courtiers said to the emperor:
"Why didst thou so honour this old Jew?"
"The Lord hath honoured him, and why not I?" replied the emperor.
Now next door to this old man there lived a woman, who, when she heard of her neighbour's good fortune, desired her husband to try his luck in the same quarter. She filled for him an immense basket with figs, and bidding him put it on his shoulder, said, "Now carry it to the emperor; he loves figs and will fill thy basket with golden coin."
When her husband approached the gates of the palace, he told his errand to the guards, saying, "I brought these figs to the emperor; empty my basket I pray, and fill it up again with gold."
When this was told to the emperor, he ordered the old man to stand in the hallway of the palace, and all who
passed pelted him with his figs. He returned home wounded and crestfallen to his disappointed wife.
"Never mind, thou hast one consolation," said she; "had they been cocoanuts instead of figs thou mightest have suffered harder raps."