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´╗┐Title: The Cat and the Mouse - A Book of Persian Fairy Tales
Author: Neill, John R. (John Rea), 1877-1943 [Illustrator], James, Hartwell [Editor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cat and the Mouse - A Book of Persian Fairy Tales" ***

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Persian Fairy Tales

Altemus' Fairy Tales Series

THE CAT AND THE MOUSE

A Book of Persian Fairy Tales

Edited with an Introduction by

HARTWELL JAMES

With Forty Illustrations by John R. Neill



Philadelphia
Henry Altemus Company

      *      *      *      *      *

Altemus'
Illustrated
Fairy Tales Series


The Magic Bed
     A Book of East Indian Tales
The Cat and the Mouse
     A Book of Persian Tales
The Jeweled Sea
     A Book of Chinese Tales
The Magic Jaw Bone
     A Book of South Sea Islands Tales
The Man Elephant
     A Book of African Tales
The Enchanted Castle
     A Book of Tales from Flower Land

Fifty Cents Each

      *      *      *      *      *

Copyright, 1906
by Henry Altemus



INTRODUCTION

Persia is rich in folk lore. For hundreds and hundreds of years the
stories in this book, and many others as well, have been told to the
wondering boys and girls of that country, who, as they hear them,
picture their native land as one of roses and tulips, where beautiful
fairies build their castles in the rosy morn, and black gnomes fly
around in the darkness of midnight.

A land, too, where the sun gleams like a fire above the blue mountains,
and the water lilies are mirrored in the deep lakes. A land where the
eyes of the tigers gleam through the reeds by the riverside, and
dark-eyed, sunburned people are quick to love and quick to hate.

The belief in the "Ghool," or "Old Man of the Desert," is still
prevalent in Persia, which probably accounts for the popularity of the
story of "The Son of the Soap Seller." The other stories selected for
this volume are great favorites, but the story of "The Cat and the
Mouse" is perhaps the most popular of all.

The frontispiece to this volume is a reduced facsimile of a whole page
in a Persian book, showing both the pictures and the reading as they
were published in Persia. The other illustrations for "The Cat and the
Mouse" are copies of drawings by a Persian artist.

"Two friends on one carpet may with contentment sleep;
  Two monarchs in one kingdom the peace can never keep.
  While earth revolves, and little children play,
  Cats over mice will always hold the sway."

                                         H. J.



CONTENTS

   The Cat and The Mouse
   The Son of the Soap Seller
   The King's Treasure
   The King and The Fisherman


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

   Frontispiece
   "Nobody was happier than this cat"
   "'Now will you take off my head?'"
   "The cat had a rosary of beads"
   "The mice began to make merry"
   "Discreetly they bore their gifts"
   "And they went forward trembling"
   "Five mice he caught"
   "The King was sitting on his throne"
   "The armies fell upon each other"
   "So he mounted his elephant"
   "The lion sprang upon the Princess"
   "'O brothers, buy my pure soap'"
   "Things became blacker and blacker"
   "Leading a fine lion by a chain"
   "They set forth on their journey"
   "The rain fell in torrents"
   "'Give me a drink of water'"
   "They ran here and there"
   "'Sleep, my son, while I keep watch'"
   "A beautiful young woman appeared"
   "Every morning Ahmed looked in the cup"
   "Ahmed sprang upon the figure"
   "'Ask for anything in reason'"
   "A brass vessel full of round white stones"
   "Lived in a sheltered valley"
   "Abdul Karim was lost in wonder"
   "Priests were calling the people to prayer"
   "The noise and bustle of the crowded streets"
   "'Two hundred krans!' repeated Abdul Karim"
   "'Get out of my shop!'"
   "'Here are eight krans'"
   "Came in sight of his cottage"
   "He hid most of the treasure"
   "'Is this fish male or female?'"
   "Begged that he would accept the fish"
   "'The matter is closed'"
   "'Are you a human being or a beast?'"
   "The fisherman fell on his knees"
   "His bag laden with money"



THE CAT AND THE MOUSE



PERSIAN FAIRY TALES


The Cat and the Mouse


Showing how one may be lost in wonder at the story of the cat and the
mouse, when related with a clear and rolling voice, as if from a
pulpit.


ACCORDING to the decree of Heaven, there once lived in the Persian city
of Kerman a cat like unto a dragon--a longsighted cat who hunted like a
lion; a cat with fascinating eyes and long whiskers and sharp teeth.
Its body was like a drum, its beautiful fur like ermine skin.

Nobody was happier than this cat, neither the newly-wedded bride, nor
the hospitable master of the house when he looks round on the smiling
faces of his guests.

This cat moved in the midst of friends, boon companions of the
saucepan, the cup, and the milk jug of the court, and of the dinner
table when the cloth is spread.

Perceiving the wine cellar open, one day, the cat ran gleefully into it
to see if he could catch a mouse, and hid himself behind a wine jar. At
that moment a mouse ran out of a hole in the wall, quickly climbed the
jar, and putting his head into it, drank so long and so deeply that he
became drunk, talked very stupidly, and fancied he was as bold as a
lion.

"Where is the cat?" shouted he, "that I may off with his head. I would
cut off his head as if on the battlefield. A cat in front of me would
fare worse than any dog who might happen to cross my path."

The cat ground his teeth with rage while hearing this. Quicker than the
eye could follow, he made a spring, seized the mouse in his claws, and
said, "Oh, little mouse, now will you take off my head?"

"I am thy servant," replied the mouse; "forgive my sin. I was drunk. I
am thy slave; a slave whose ear is pierced and on whose shoulder the
yoke is."

"Tell fewer lies," replied the cat. "Was there ever such a liar? I
heard all you said and you shall pay for your sin with your life. I
will make your life less than that of a dead dog."

So the cat killed and ate the mouse; but afterwards, being sorry for
what he had done, he ran to the Mosque, and passed his hands over his
face, poured water on his hands, and anointed himself as he had seen
the faithful do at the appointed hours of prayer.

Then he began to recite the beautiful chapter to Allah in the Holy Book
of the Persians, and to make his confession in this wise:

"I have repented, and will not again tear the body of a mouse with my
teeth. I will give bread to the deserving poor. Forgive my sin, O great
Forgiver, for have I not come to Thee bowed down with sorrow?"

He repeated this so many times and with so much feeling that he really
thought he meant it, and finally wept for grief.

A little mouse happened to be behind the pulpit, and overhearing the
cat's vows, speedily carried the glad but surprising news to the other
mice. Breathlessly he related how that the cat had become a true
Mussulman; how that he had seen him in the Mosque weeping and
lamenting, and saying:

"Oh, Creator of the world, put away my sin, for I have offended like a
big fool." Then the mouse went on to describe how that the cat had a
rosary of beads, and made pious reflections in the spirit of a true
penitent.

The mice began to make merry when they heard this startling news, for
they were exceedingly glad. Seven chosen mice, each the headman of the
village, arose and gave thanks that the cat should at last have entered
the fold of the true believers.

All danced and shouted, "Ah! Ah! Hu! Hu!" and drank red wine and white
wine until they were very merry. Two rang bells, two played castanets,
and two sang. One carried a tray behind his back laden with good
things, so that all could help themselves; some smoked water-pipes;
another acted like a clown; others played various tunes on different
instruments of music.

A few days after the feast, the King of the mice said to them, "Oh,
friends, all of you bring costly presents worthy of the cat!" Then the
mice scattered in search of gifts, but soon returned, each bearing
something worthy of presentation, even to a nobleman.

One brought a bottle of wine; another a dish full of raisins; others
came with salted nuts and melon seeds, lumps of cheese, basins of
sugar-candy, pistachio nuts, little cakes iced with sugar, bottles of
lemon juice, Indian shawls, hats, cloaks and many other things.

Discreetly they bore their gifts before the King of the Cats. When in
the royal presence, they made humble obeisances, touching their
foreheads on the ground, and saluting him, said:

"Oh, master, liberator of the lives of all, we have brought gifts
worthy of thy service. We beseech thee to deign to accept of them."

Then the cat thought to himself, "I am rewarded for becoming a pious
Mussulman. Though I have endured much hunger, yet this day finds me
freely and amply provided for. Not for many days have I broken my fast.
It is clear that Allah is appeased."

Then he turned to the mice, and bade them come nearer, calling them his
friends. And they went forward trembling. So frightened were they that
they were hardly aware of what they were doing. When they were close
the cat made a sudden spring upon them.

Five mice he caught, each one the chief of a village; two with his
front paws, two with his hind ones, and one in his mouth. The remaining
mice barely escaped with their lives.

Picking up one of their murdered brothers, they quickly carried the sad
news to the mice, saying: "Why do ye sit still, oh mice? Throw dust on
your heads, oh young men, for the cruel cat has seized five of our
unsuspecting companions with teeth and claws and has killed them."

Then for the space of five days they rent their clothes as do the
mourners, and cast dust on their heads. Then they said: "We must go and
tell our King all that has befallen the mice. We must not fail to tell
him this calamity."

Whereupon they all rose up and went their way in deep sorrow; one
beating the muffled drum, one tolling the bell; all had shawls around
their necks; their tears the while running in little streams down their
whiskers.

Arrived where the King was sitting on his throne, the mice paid homage
to him, saying: "Master, we are subjects and thou art King. Behold the
cat has treated us cruelly since he became a pious follower of Mahomet.
Whereas, before his conversion he was wont to catch only one of us in a
year, now that he is a sincere Mussulman his appetite has so increased
that only five at a time will satisfy him."

Whereupon the King fell into such a violent rage that he resembled a
saucepan boiling over. But to the deputation of mice he spoke very
kindly, calling them his newly-arrived and welcome guests, and to
comfort them vowed that he would give the cat such a chastisement that
the news of it should circulate through the world.

Then, observing their grief, he commanded that the dead mouse should be
buried with all pomp and ceremony. Accordingly they made lamentation
for a whole week, as though it had been for one of royal degree; and
having prepared delicious sweetmeats, they placed them in baskets and
carried them with streaming eyes to the grave.

After the burial service, the King ordered the army to assemble on a
given day on the great sandy plain that stretches as far as the eye can
see around the city. Then he addressed them, saying:

"Oh, men and soldiers, inasmuch as the cat has so cruelly ill-treated
our countrymen, he being a heretic and an evil doer, and brutal in
nature, we must now go to the city of Kerman and fight him."

So three hundred and thirty thousand mice went forth, armed with
swords, guns, and spears; and with flags and pennons bravely flying. A
passing Arab from the desert, skilfully balancing himself on the back
of a swift-traveling camel by means of a long pole, spied the great
army in motion, and was so overcome with astonishment that he lost his
balance and fell off. Several regiments of mice were put out of action
by his fall; but nothing daunted, the army pressed on.

When the army was ready for battle, the King again addressed them
saying: "O young men, an ambassador must be sent to the cat, one who is
able, discreet, and eloquent." Then they all shouted: "The King's
orders shall be carried out! Upon our heads be it."

Now, there was present a learned and eloquent mouse, the ruler of a
province, and he it was that the King commanded to go as an ambassador
to the cat in the city of Kerman. Almost before his name was out of the
King's mouth, he had jumped out of his place in the ranks, and,
traveling swiftly as the winds of the desert, he went in boldly before
the cat and said:

"As an ambassador from the King of the Mice am I come, bowed down with
grief and fatigue. Know this, my master has determined to wage war, and
is even now come with his army to take off your head."

The cat roared out in reply, "Go tell your King to eat dust! I come not
out of this city except at my good pleasure!" Then he sent messengers
to bring up quickly some fighting and hunting cats from Khorassan--the
land of the sun--to Kerman.

As soon as the cat's army was ready, the King of the Cats gave them
marching orders, promising to come himself to the battle on the next
day. The cats came out on horseback, each one like a hungry tiger. The
mice also mounted their steeds, armed to the teeth, and boiling with
rage. Shouting "Allah! Allah!" the armies fell upon each other with
unsheathed swords.

So many cats and mice were killed that there was no room for the
horses' feet. The cats fought valiantly, their fierce attacks carrying
them through the first line of the mice, then through the second, and
many Ameers and chiefs were killed. The mice, thinking the battle lost,
turned to flee, crying out:

"Throw dust upon your heads, young men!"

But afterwards, rallying again, they faced their pursuers and attacked
the right wing of the cat's army, shouting their battle cry of "Allah!
Allah!"

In the thickest of the fray a mounted mouse speared the King of the
Cats, so that he fell fainting to the ground. Before he could rise, the
mouse leaped upon him and brought him captive to the King. So the cats
were defeated on that day and sullenly retreated to the city of Kerman.

Having bound the cat, the mice beat him until he became unconscious.
Then the plain echoed with the beating of tom-toms and shouts of joy.
Then the King of the Mice seated himself on his throne and ordered the
cat to be brought before him.

"Scoundrel!" he said to him, "Why hast thou eaten up my army? Hear now
the King of the Mice." The cat hung his head in fear, and remained
silent. After a few minutes, he said: "I am thy servant, even to
death." Then the King replied:

"Carry this black-faced dog to the execution ground. I will come in
person without delay to kill him in revenge for the blood of my
slaughtered subjects."

So he mounted his elephant, and his guard marched proudly before him.
The cat, with his hands tied together, stood weeping. Upon arriving at
the execution grounds and discerning that the cat was not yet executed,
the King said angrily to the hangman: "Why is it this prisoner is still
alive? Hang him immediately!"

At that very moment a horseman came galloping furiously from the city
and besought the King, saying: "Forgive this miserable cat; in future
he will do us no harm." However, the King turned a deaf ear to his
entreaties, ordering that the cat be killed at once. The mice
hesitated, being unwilling, through fear, to carry out the order.

Of course, this made the King very angry. "O foolish mice!" he cried,
"Ye will all take pity on the cat, in order that he may again make a
sacrifice of you."

Directly the cat saw the horseman, his courage revived. With one bound
he sprang from his place as does the tiger on his prey, burst his bonds
asunder, and seized five unfortunate mice. The other mice, filled with
dismay and terror, ran hither and thither, crying wildly:

"Allah! Allah! Shoot him! Cut off his head, as did Rastam his enemies
on the day of battle!"

When the King of the Mice saw what, had happened, he fainted; whereupon
the cat leaped on him, pulled off his crown, and placing the rope over
his head, hanged him, so that he died immediately.

Then he darted here and there, seizing and slaying, and dashing mice to
the earth, till the whole army of mice was routed, and there was none
left to oppose him.



THE SON OF THE SOAP SELLER


PERSIAN FAIRY TALES


The Son of the Soap Seller


Cleverly proving that a princess with a necklace can frustrate the
intentions of a Ghool, and that every king should have near his person
the owner of a crystal cup.


THERE once dwelt a poor but worthy man named Abdullah in Meshed, the
Holy City, the place of pilgrimage, whose beautiful mosque with the
golden dome is the glory of the kingdom of Persia. He barely managed to
get a living by the sale of soap.

All day long, from sunrise to sunset, he tramped the city, crying out:
"O brothers, buy my pure soap. There is none better in the city, as
every one knows. Even the little babes would say so if they could but
speak."

Still, if you looked closely at it, you would never guess it to be
soap; it was black and coarse, and more like wood than anything else.
If any unlucky pilgrim used it on his face or hands, it would make his
skin burn like fire. But this did not often happen, for the people in
Persia do not use much soap on themselves, or their clothes, and sand
does very well for cleaning cooking pots and pans. So it was that there
were many days when poor Abdullah did not sell enough to buy sufficient
bread for himself and his little boy Ahmed.

At such times, the father would creep sadly into his wretched mud-built
hovel, and bury his face in his hands, so that he might not see his son
trying to keep back the tears caused by hunger. The little fellow,
however, now ten years of age, would comfort his father by saying:

"Inshallah"--if God wills--"to-morrow you will sell more soap than you
have done for weeks past." And the father, looking into the bright,
open face of his boy, would take courage, and pray that this might be
so.

But the days went on and things became blacker and blacker, when one
day an adventure befell little Ahmed. He was on his way to school, and
as the sun was very hot, he sought the shelter of the big plane-trees
that lined the banks of the stream flowing down the center of the
principal street.

Women were filling their water jugs, or washing clothes; a string of
camels were drinking; several donkeys were rolling playfully over and
over in the water, and some dyers were wringing out newly-dyed
garments, causing waves of many colors to flow past.

Just as Ahmed had stopped to look, a dervish, leading a fine lion by a
chain, and some runners with curious hats and coats rushed past,
shouting:

"Make way for the King! Turn your faces to the wall!" And there was the
great King, seated on a beautiful Arabian horse, surrounded by
soldiers. Then there passed a palanquin borne on the backs of four
mules.

The party stopped just opposite to Ahmed, and from the palanquin there
alighted a lady closely veiled, evidently wishing to inspect some
beautiful Meshed silver work. Before she could reach the shop, a great
tumult arose among the people. The lion had broken his chain and was
madly leaping here and there, tearing and rending and dashing people to
the ground. Women fainted, men fled, little children stood still and
cried pitifully, some jumped into the stream; the frightened horses
dashed madly through the crowd. All was terror and confusion.

Then with a roar the lion sprang upon the princess, and bore her to the
ground; but ere he could tear her to pieces, Ahmed had sprang forward,
seized a piece of iron, one end of which was red hot, from the shop of
a blacksmith, and thrust it furiously into the face of the lion. With a
cry of pain and rage the lion left the princess and bounded off to the
bazaars, where he did great damage.

As soon as the princess had recovered from her fright, she beckoned to
Ahmed to come near, and removing her veil, told him he was a brave
little fellow, and ordered one of her servants to give him a purse of
gold. Ahmed had never seen anyone so beautiful, and was so lost in
wonder, that before he could find words of thanks, the party had passed
on.

But when the money was spent, Ahmed and his father began to be in want
again. A Jewish pedlar having told him how much better trade was in the
capital, they determined to set forth to that city, though the way was
long and full of danger. "Better to die in the desert, than in the
heart of a great city," said Ahmed.

So they set forth on their journey, sometimes climbing up winding paths
among the mountains, at other times traversing the desert, footsore,
and weary almost to death, often hungry and thirsty, tormented by the
thought that they would fall into the hands of the man-stealing robbers
who haunted this great pilgrim road.

On account of the intense heat and the cruel robbers, they traveled by
night. In every shadow cast by the moon upon the ground, they thought
they saw a robber on his big horse. During the day they slept at
wayside inns, and in return for little services rendered by Ahmed to
the muleteers, they would give him a handful of rice or bread, or a few
dried fruits which kept them from starvation.

So it went on until one night, when searching for the bridge that
crosses the Salt River, the sky became suddenly overcast, the rain fell
in torrents, and soon the river was in flood. There was nothing to be
done but to sit down and wait until the moon should rise. The fierce
wind buffeted them, the rain drenched them; they had lost their way,
and were at the mercy of wild beasts.

Once, when the wind dropped for a little, out of the darkness came a
groan. "Keep still as death, my son," said the father to Ahmed, "for it
is the Old Man of the Desert."

Now Ahmed had never before heard of the Old Man of the Desert, and
therefore knew no fear, so despite his father's warning, he got up and
went in the direction from whence came the groans. As he reached the
spot, the moon came out from behind a bank of clouds, and Ahmed saw a
poor dervish lying on the sand. He had a leopard skin thrown over his
shoulders; by his side lay a big stick studded with sharp nails, and a
basin made of the outer skin of a pumpkin in which he collected alms.

"For the sake of the Prophet," he moaned when he saw Ahmed, "give me a
drink of water." And Ahmed, filling his pitcher from the river gave him
to drink, though the water was somewhat salty.

The water revived the dervish, and he said: "I am Ali, the dervish, and
am known throughout Persia. Two months ago I left Mazandaran to go to
Meshed. But yesterday the fever seized me. This is the third attack,
and, as you know, it is always fatal.

"Stay with me, my son, in this dark hour when I shall pass through the
valley of the shadow of death. And when my soul shall have crossed the
Bridge of Death, take this little leather bag hanging round my neck,
and therein you shall find a tiny cup, cut from a crystal, which if
used rightly, shall lift thee to great power and wealth.

"Each morning when you rise, place a drop of pure water in the cup, and
look intently therein, and should any danger threaten you or those near
and dear to you, it will be made manifest. And if--" but here his
strength failed him, his head fell back, and he passed away. Ahmed
found the bag and the beautifully cut crystal, just as the dervish had
said, and returning to his father, told him all that had happened.

Ahmed did as the dervish had directed him for several mornings, but
seeing nothing in the crystal, he dropped the practice. There came a
day, however, when they were overtaken by a dreadful dust storm. From
across the wide stretch of sand, the wind raged, the sky and sun were
blotted out, the air was laden with dust, and the small pebbles and
stones carried in the wind cut them until they cried with pain. Shelter
there was none.

In fear and pain they ran here and there, and when after several hours
of misery, the storm had passed, they could not see each other. They
were lost in the cruel desert, with no food, and worse still, no water.
Sobbing in despair, Ahmed straggled on. He went like one in a dream.
Time after time he fell tripping over rocks and bushes, but he pressed
onward. Then came a time when he could go no further, and he lay down
to die.

For a long time he slept, and then he was awakened by being shaken.
Looking up, he saw an old man smiling and saying: "Why, it's little
Ahmed, the son of Abdullah, the Soap Seller. Don't you know me, Ahmed?
I am your uncle. Don't cry because you have lost your way. Come, take
my hand and we will soon find your father."

Now Ahmed wondered why he had never seen or even heard his father speak
of this particular uncle, but he took the old man's hand, and together
they set forth. Mile after mile they went, but no trace of his father
could be found. Then he sat down crying, and said: "I am so tired, I
can go no further." And the old man replied: "Sleep, my son, while I
keep watch."

But just as Ahmed was closing his eyes, the old man turned, and Ahmed
saw that he had thin legs like those of a sheep. "The Ghool! the
Ghool!" he shrieked, and fainted. Then this wicked ogre of the desert
began to open Ahmed's coat in order to suck his blood.

But another cry answered that of the boy, and then appeared on the
scene a beautiful young woman, carrying in her harid a necklace of gold
and silver beads. Casting but one glance at the beads, the old man flew
swifter than the wild sheep of the mountains, for the sight of metal
rendered him powerless to do harm.

Of course, it was the princess whose life Ahmed had saved in Meshed.
The King, her father, happened to be returning from a pilgrimage, and
to give a fright to her servants, she had scampered off the track, and
thus had found Ahmed. At her request, Ahmed became one of the King's
followers, and together with his father, whom they found the next day,
they journeyed to the capital.

Some three days' march from the capital, in the mountains near Kazveen,
there lived the Old Man of the Mountains, or as he is generally known,
the King of the Assassins, with his followers. So great was his power
that he had but to say the word and any of his men would throw
themselves from the topmost crags to the valleys beneath and be dashed
to pieces, or at his bidding, they would travel forth to the most
distant parts of the world in order to kill any persons, however great
they might be.

When he heard that the King of Persia was collecting an army to destroy
both him and his tribe, he became very angry, and said to one of his
followers: "Go, rid me of the King of Persia;" and the mart-took bread
and water and a sharp dagger, and went.

Now after his narrow escape from the Old Man of the Desert, Ahmed took
pains every morning to place a drop of water in the crystal cup and
look therein. Nothing appeared until one morning he saw in the bead of
water a vision of the King asleep, and standing by him a robber with an
uplifted dagger, about to strike. Hurrying to the King's presence, he
warned him of the danger, but the King only laughed, for he trusted his
guards.

Nevertheless, Ahmed determined to keep watch. Darkness came, and the
guards slept. The palace was silent. The hours slipped by, and Ahmed,
weary with much waiting was about to retire, when he perceived a dark
shadow creeping into that part of the palace where the King slept.

The figure noiselessly made its way to the very threshold of the King's
room, when Ahmed sprang upon it, at the same time giving the alarm. The
whole palace was aroused and the murdered secured.

When the messenger did not return, the Old Man of the Mountains sent a
second, and then a third, and finally the most daring and skilful of
all his followers; but thanks to Ahmed's crystal cup, all attempts upon
the life of the King failed.

Then the King sent for Ahmed, and said: "Ask for anything in reason,
and it shall be given thee." And though he was trembling in every limb,
Ahmed replied: "Neither wealth nor power does thy slave desire, save
the hand of thy daughter."

"If she loves you, it shall be so," replied the King, and she did love
him; they were married, and Ahmed became the King's Prime Minister.



THE KING'S TREASURE

PERSIAN FAIRY TALES


The King's Treasure


Accurately relating how a marked advance in material and political
prosperity accrued to Abdul Karim, and the part played by a monarch
whose philosophy included the immediate advancement of a worthy
subject.


A LABORING man named Abdul Karim, with his wife, Zeeba--"the beautiful
one"--lived in a sheltered valley, surrounded by hills, the sides of
which were covered with fine gardens, in which the peach, the grape,
the mulberry, and other delicious fruits grew in great profusion.

Although his wife's name was Zeeba, as a matter of fact, she was very
plain in appearance. But from having been named Zeeba, she really
thought she was beautiful, and thus it came about that, moved by
vanity, her two children were named, the boy, Yusuf, or Joseph, who as
you know, was sold by his brethren into Egypt and became next to the
King; and the girl, Fatima, after Fatima, the favorite daughter of
Mahomet, and the wife of the famous Ali.

Now Abdul Karim was only a laborer on the land, receiving no wages,
merely being paid in grain and cloth sufficient for the wants of
himself and family. Of money he knew nothing except by name.

One day his master was so pleased with his work that he actually gave
him ten "krans," equivalent to about a dollar of our money. To Abdul
Karim this seemed great wealth, and directly his day's work was done,
he ran home to his wife and said: "Look, Zeeba, there's riches for
you!" and spread out the money before her. His good wife was delighted,
and so were the children.

Then Abdul Karim said: "How shall we spend this great sum? The master
has also given me a day's holiday, so if you don't mind, I will go to
the famous city of Meshed, which is only twenty miles from here, and
after placing two krans on the shrine of the holy Imam, I will then
visit the bazaars and buy everything you and the children desire."

"You would better buy me a piece of silk for a new dress," said Zeeba.

"I want a fine horse and a sword," said little Yusuf.

"I would like an Indian handkerchief and a pair of gold slippers," said
Fatima.

"They shall be here by to-morrow night," said the father, and taking a
big stick, he set off on his journey.

When he had come down from the mountains to the plain below, Abdul
Karim saw stretched before him the glorious city, and was lost in
wonder at the sight of the splendid domes, where roofs glittered with
gold, and the minarets, from the tops of which the priests were calling
the people to prayer.

Then coming to the gate of the shrine, he asked an old priest if he
might enter. "Yes, my son," was the reply. "Go in and give what thou
canst spare to the mosque, and Allah will reward thee."

So Abdul Karim walked through the great court, amidst worshipers from
every city in Asia. With open-mouthed astonishment he gazed on the
riches of the temple, the jewels, the lovely carpets, the silks, the
golden ornaments, and with humility he placed his two pieces of money
on the sacred tomb. Then through the noise and bustle of the crowded
streets, he went until he found the bazaars.

He found the sellers of fruits in one place, in another those who sold
pots and pans, then he came to the jewelers, the bakers, the butchers,
each trade having its own part of the bazaar, and so on, until he
reached that part where there were only those who sold silks.

He entered one of the shops and asked to see some silks, and after much
picking and choosing, fixed upon a superb piece of purple silk with an
embroidered border of exquisite design. "I will take this," he said.
"What is the price?"

"I shall only ask you two hundred krans, as you are a new customer,"
said the shopkeeper. "Anybody else but you would have to pay three or
four hundred."

"Two hundred krans," repeated Abdul Karim, in astonishment. "Surely you
have made a mistake. Do you mean krans like these?" taking one out of
his pocket.

"Certainly I do," replied the shopkeeper, "and let me tell you it is
very cheap at that price."

Abdul Karim pictured the disappointment of his wife. "Poor Zeeba," he
sighed.

"Poor who?" said the silk merchant.

"My wife," said Abdul Karim.

"What have I to do with your wife?" asked the merchant, getting angry
because he saw that all his trouble was in vain.

"I will tell you about it," said Abdul Karim. "Because I did my work
well, my master gave me ten krans, the first time I ever have had any
money. After giving two krans to the shrine, I intended to buy a piece
of silk for my wife, a horse and sword for my little boy Yusuf, and an
Indian handkerchief and a pair of gold slippers for my little girl
Fatima. And here you ask me two hundred krans for one piece of silk.
How can I pay you and buy the other things?"

"Here I have been wasting my time and rumpling my beautiful silks for a
fool like you," cried the angry merchant. "Get out of my shop! Go home
to your stupid Zeeba and your stupid children. Buy them some stale
cakes and some black sugar, and don't put your head in my shop again,
or it will be worse for you."

Then he took off his slipper, and with many blows drove poor Abdul
Karim out into the street. Then Abdul Karim went to the horse market,
only to find that the lowest-priced horse would cost two hundred and
fifty krans.

The horse dealer mocked him when they found he had only eight krans,
and suggested that he buy the sixteenth part of a donkey for his little
son. As for a sword, he found that it would cost at least thirty krans;
while a pair of golden slippers would run into many hundreds of krans;
and for an Indian handkerchief, the price was twelve krans.

As poor Abdul Karim bent his weary way home, he met a beggar crying:
"Dear friend, give me something, for to-morrow is Friday"--the
Mahommedan Sunday. "He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord,
and of a certainty the Lord will pay him back a hundredfold."

"Of all the men I have met to-day, you are the only one with whom I can
deal," said simple Abdul Karim. "Here are eight krans. Use them in the
service of God, and don't forget to pay me back a hundredfold."

Wrapping up the eight krans very carefully, the cunning beggar promised
some day to return them a hundredfold.

At last Abdul Karim came in sight of his cottage, and little Yusuf, who
had been all day on the look-out for him, ran breathlessly to meet him.
"Where's my horse and sword, father?" he cried. And Fatima, who had
just come up, called out, "And my handkerchief and golden slippers?"
And Zeeba asked for her bit of silk.

Poor Abdul Karim looked so confused, that his wife said: "Be quiet, my
dears. Your father could not bring them all with him, so he has packed
them on Yusuf's horse and left him in charge of a servant, who will be
here presently." But when she heard his story, and above all that he
had given eight krans to a beggar, she got very angry, and marched off
and told the master.

But the master was still more angry, and said: "What! the blockhead
gave his eight krans to a beggar? Send him to me." And when Abdul Karim
came before him, he said scornfully: "You must fancy yourself a big
man, Abdul. I never give more than a copper coin to a beggar, but your
Excellency gives them silver. The beggar promised that you should be
repaid a hundredfold, did he? And it shall be so, even now." Then as
Abdul's face brightened, he laughed and said: "Not in money, but in
stripes." And his servants threw Abdul on the ground and gave him one
hundred blows on his bare feet.

The next day, Abdul's master sent for him again, and after calling him
a fool, said: "I have a nice little job for you, that will bring you to
your proper senses. Go into the field and dig for water, day after day
until you find it."

So for many days Abdul labored under the scorching sun, until he had
dug down to a depth of about thirty feet, and then he came upon a brass
vessel, finely chased, full of round white stones, which fairly dazzled
his eyes in the fierce sunlight. He put one in his mouth and tried to
break it with his teeth, but could not.

Then he said to himself, "The master has planted some rice and it has
turned into stones. Perhaps there are some more." And going down a few
feet lower, he found another pot filled with sparkling stones of
various colors.

Then he remembered that he had seen pretty pieces of glass like these
for sale in Meshed, and made up his mind that on the first opportunity
he would again visit the city and take the stones with him. Meanwhile,
he would hide them, and say nothing.

Abdul did not have to wait long for a holiday, for on finding water a
little lower down, his master was so pleased that he gave him a
well-deserved rest, and then Abdul set off for Meshed. But before
entering the city, he hid most of the treasure at the foot of a tree
under a big stone. Then with still a pocket full, he went straight to
the shop where he had seen such stones, and spoke to the shopkeeper who
was seated at the entrance to his shop, calmly smoking his water-pipe.

"Do you want to buy any more stones like those?" he asked, pointing to
some in a brass tray. "Yes, have you got one?" replied the merchant,
for Abdul did not look like a man who was likely to have more than one,
if any.

"I have a pocket full of them," said Abdul.

"You have a pocket full of pebbles, more likely," said the jeweler. But
when Abdul took out a handful and showed him, he was so astonished that
he could hardly speak. Trembling in every limb, he bade Abdul wait a
minute, and leaving his apprentice in charge, he hastily left the shop.
When he returned, the chief of the police was with him.

"I am innocent," cried the jeweler. "There is the man. His pockets are
filled with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls of great price.
Without doubt he has found the long-lost treasure of Cyrus."

Then Abdul was searched; the precious stones were found upon him; and
when they had brought Zeeba and the children, the whole family were
sent under a guard of five hundred soldiers to the capital.

While all these things were taking place, the King saw in his dreams,
for three nights, one after the other, the Holy Prophet, who, looking
steadfastly at him, exclaimed: "Abbas, protect and favor my friend."
And on the third night, the King took courage and said to the Prophet:
"And who is thy friend?" And the answer came:

"He is a poor laboring man, Abdul Karim by name, who of his poverty
gave one-fifth to the shrine at Meshed, and now, because he has found
the King's treasure, they have bound him, and are bringing him to this
city to oppress him."

So the King went forth two days' journey to meet Abdul. First came one
hundred horsemen. Next, poor Abdul, seated on a camel, with his arms
bound tightly. Walking behind the camel were the weeping children and
their mother. Then came the foot soldiers guarding the treasure. The
King made the camel kneel down, and with his own hands undid the cruel
bonds.

Then with tears running down his face, Abdul knelt before the King and
pleaded for his dear ones, saying: "If thou slay me, at least let these
innocent ones go free!"

Lifting Abdul from the ground, the King then said: "I am come to honor,
not to slay thee. When thou hast rested, thou shalt return to thine own
province, not as a prisoner, but as the Governor thereof." And smiling,
he added:

"Already is the silk dress prepared for Zeeba; the horse and sword for
Yusuf; and the Indian handkerchief and the golden slippers for Fatima
have not been forgotten." For the King had read in the report of the
chief of police all the details of Abdul's case.

And so it was that Abdul's piety and gift to the shrine had come back,
not a hundredfold, but beyond his wildest dreams, and the shrine and
the poor benefited greatly thereby.



THE KING AND THE FISHERMAN


PERSIAN FAIRY TALES


The King and the Fisherman


Illustrating the advantage of being able to formulate a judicious reply
to an embarrassing question, especially when material plenitude may
ensue.

THE countries washed by the great rivers Tigris and Euphrates were once
ruled by a certain King who was passionately fond of fish.

He was seated one day with Sherem, his wife, in the royal gardens that
stretch down to the banks of the Tigris, at the point where it is
spanned by the wonderful bridge of boats; and looking up spied a boat
gliding by, in which was seated a fisherman having a large fish.

Noticing that the King was looking closely at him, and knowing how much
the King liked this particular kind of fish, the fisherman made his
obeisance, and skilfully bringing his boat to the shore, came before
the King and begged that he would accept the fish as a present. The
King was greatly pleased at this, and ordered that a large sum of money
be given to the fisherman.

But before the fisherman had left the royal presence, the Queen turned
towards the King and said: "You have done a foolish thing." The King
was astonished to hear her speak in this way, and asked how that could
be. The Queen replied:

"The news of your having given so large a reward for so small a gift
will spread through the city and it will be known as the fisherman's
gift. Every fisherman who catches a big fish will bring it to the
palace, and should he not be paid in like manner, he will go away
discontented, and secretly speak evil of you among his fellows."

"Thou speakest the truth, light of my eyes," said the King, "but can
not you see how mean it would be for a King, if for that reason he were
to take back his gift?" Then perceiving that the Queen was ready to
argue the matter, he turned away angrily, saying: "The matter is
closed."

However, later in the day, when he was in a more amiable frame of mind,
the Queen again approached him, and said that if that was his only
reason for not taking back his gift, she would arrange it. "You must
summon the fisherman," she said, "and then ask him, 'Is this fish male
or female?' If he says male, then you will tell him that you wanted a
female fish; but if he should say female, your reply will be that you
wanted a male fish. In this way the matter will be properly adjusted."

The King thought this an easy way out of the difficulty, and commanded
the fisherman to be brought before him. When the fisherman, who by the
way, was a most intelligent man, stood before the King, the King said
to him: "O fisherman, tell me, is this fish male or female?"

The fisherman replied, "The fish is neither male nor female." Whereupon
the King smiled at the clever answer, and to add to the Queen's
annoyance, directed the keeper of the royal purse to give the fisherman
a further sum of money.

Then the fisherman placed the money in his leather bag, thanked the
King, and swinging the bag over his shoulder, hurried away, but not so
quickly that he did not notice that he had dropped one small coin.
Placing the bag on the ground, he stooped and picked up the coin, and
again went on his way, with the King and Queen carefully watching his
every action.

"Look! what a miser he is!" said Sherem, triumphantly. "He actually put
down his bag to pick up one small coin because it grieved him to think
that it might reach the hands of one of the King's servants, or some
poor person, who, needing it, would buy bread and pray for the long
life of the King."

"Again thou speakest the truth," replied the King, feeling the justice
of this remark; and once more was the fisherman brought into the royal
presence. "Are you a human being or a beast?" the King asked him.
"Although I made it possible for you to become rich without toil, yet
the miser within you could not allow you to leave even one small piece
of money for others." Then the King bade him to go forth and show his
face no more within the city.

At this the fisherman fell on his knees and cried: "Hear me, O King,
protector of the poor! May God grant the King a long life. Not for its
value did thy servant pick up the coin, but because on one side it bore
the name of God, and on the other the likeness of the King. Thy servant
feared that someone, not seeing the coin, would tread it into the dirt,
and thus defile both the name of God and the face of the King. Let the
King judge if by so doing I have merited reproach."

This answer pleased the King beyond all measure, and he gave the
fisherman another large sum of money. And the Queen's wrath was turned
away, and she looked kindly upon the fisherman as he departed with his
bag laden with money.





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