“There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions. In a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, ‘Master, just now when I was in the marketplace, I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra, and there Death will not find me.’
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, dug his spurs in its flanks, and, as fast as the horse could gallop, he went.
The merchant went down to the marketplace and saw Death standing in the crowd. He came to her and said, ‘Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’
‘That was not a threatening gesture,’ Death said. ‘It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.'”
–an old Arab fable as retold by W. Somerset Maugham