This story is not original as I remember reading something similar to it as a boy. I do not recall where I read it, but it has remained on my mind, on and off over the years. Today I have penned down my recollection of the basic story line for your perusal. I have put it into a modern context, but the theme remains the same:
There was a merchant banker near London who sent his chauffeur off to town to buy necessities. After a while, the chauffeur returned pale, fearful and trembling.
“Sir”, he said, “While I was in the town square I was jostled by a person in the crowd. It was a woman, and I recognised her as Death!”
“She looked at me, and pointed toward me. I became so afraid, I came back to the house as fast as I could”, he cried.
“Please sir; may I use one of the cars, so that I may drive away from here as fast as possible. I will go to Liverpool, where I have a sister, and there surely Death will not find me!”
The banker lent him a car, and the chauffeur drove off towards Liverpool as quickly as he could.
Curious, the banker went down to the town square, were he found Death still amongst the crowd.
He said “Death, did you make a threatening gesture toward my man this morning?”
Death replied, “No sir, I did not. I merely reached out to touch him as I was so startled to see him here in London.”
“Why is that?” the banker inquired.
“I have an appointment with him this evening on the M6 near Liverpool!” she replied.
I have done a little research on the origin of this story, and I find that it has appeared in many different formats throughout the years. It can be traced back to the ninth century in Persia, but it seems that the original author cannot be identified, so the piece remains anonymous. The story was retold by W. Somerset Maugham in 1933 as an epigraph for the novel “The Appointment in Samarra” by John O’Hara.
Although the details or locations of the story may vary from telling to telling, the theme has always remained the same, in that man cannot escape his destiny and Death will not be thwarted however hard we may try to avoid her!“