"Well! I never did see such a perfect fool, both in word and in deed, said the old man to himself.
However, he liked the fellow; and thinking that he would amuse his wife and daughter, he invited him to come and stay at his house as long as he had occasion to remain in the village.
"Thank you very much," the young man replied; "but let me first inquire, if you please, whether the beam of your house is strong. "
The old farmer left him in despair, and entered his house laughing.
"There is a man in yonder field," he said, after returning their greetings. "He 'has come the greater part of the way with me, and I wanted him to put up here as long as he had to stay in this village.
But the fellow is such a fool that I cannot make anything out of him.
He wants to know if the beam of this house is all right. The man must be mad!" and saying this he burst into a fit of laughter.
"Father," said the farmer's daughter, who was a very sharp and wise girl, "this man, whosoever he is, is no fool, as you deem him. He only wishes to know if you can afford to entertain him."
"Oh! of course," replied the farmer. "I see. Well perhaps you can help me to solve some of his other mysteries. While we were walking together he asked whether he should carry me or I should carry him, as he thought that would be a pleasanter mode of proceeding."
"Most assuredly," said the girl. "He meant that one of you should tell a story to beguile the time."
"Oh, yes. Well, we were passing through a cornfield, when he asked me whether it was eaten or not."
"And didn't you know the meaning of this, father? He simply wished to know if the man was in debt or not; because if the owner of the field was in debt, then the produce of the field was as good as eaten to him; that is, it would have to go to his creditors."
"Yes, yes, yes; of course! Then, on entering a certain village, he bade me take his clasp knife and get two horses with it, and bring back the knife again to him."
"Are not two stout sticks as good as two horses for helping one along on the road? He only asked you to cut a couple of sticks and be careful not to lose his knife."
"I see," said time farmer. "While we were walking over the city we did not see anybody that we knew, and not a soul gave us a scrap of anything to eat, till we were passing the cemetery; but there some people called to us and put into our hands some chupatties and kulchas; so my companion called the city a cemetery, and the cemetery a city."
"This also is to be understood, father, if one thinks of the city as the place where everything is to be obtained, and of inhospitable people as worse than the dead. The city, though crowded with people, was as if dead, as far as you were concerned; while, in the cemetery, which is crowded with time dead, you were saluted by kind friends and provided with bread."
"True, true!" said the astonished farmer. "Then, just now, when we were crossing the stream, he waded through it without taking off his shoes and pajamas.''
"I admire his wisdom," replied time girl. "I have often thought how stupid people were to venture into that swiftly flowing stream and over those sharp stones with bare feet. The slightest stumble and they would fall, and be wetted from head to foot. This friend of yours is a most wise man. I should like to see him and speak to him."
"Very well," said time farmer; "I will go and find him, and bring him in."
"Tell him, father, that our beams are strong enough, and then he will come in. I'll send on ahead a present to the man, to show him that we can afford to have him for our guest."
Accordingly she called a servant and sent him to the young man with a present of a basin of ghee, twelve chupatties, and a jar of milk, and the following message: "O friend, time moon is full; twelve months make a year, and the sea is overflowing with water."
Half-way the bearer of this present and message met his little son, who, seeing what was in the basket, begged his father to give him some of the food. His father foolishly complied. Presently he saw the young man, and gave him the rest of the present and the message.
"Give your mistress my salaam," he replied, "and tell her that the moon is new, and that I can only find eleven mouths in the year, and the sea is by no means full."
Not understanding the meaning of these words, the servant repeated them word for word, as he had heard them, to his mistress; and thus his theft was discovered, and he was severely punished. After a little while the young man appeared with the old farmer. Great attention was shown to him, and he was treated in every way as it he were the son of a great man, although his humble host knew nothing of his origin. At length be told them everything-about the laughing of the fish, his father's threatened execution, and his own banishment-and asked their advice as to what he should do.
"The laughing of the fish,'' said the girl "which seems to have been the cause of all this trouble, indicates that there is a man in the palace who is plotting against the king's life."
"Joy, joy!" exclaimed the vizier's son. "There is yet time for me to return and save my father from an ignominious and unjust death, and the king from danger."
The following day he hastened back to his own country, taking with him the farmer's daughter. Immediately on arrival he ran to the palace and informed his father of what he had heard. The poor vizier, now almost dead from the expectation of death, was at once carried to the king, to whom he repeated the news that his son had just brought.
"Never!" said the king.
"But it must be so, Your Majesty," replied the vizier; "and in order to prove the truth of what I have heard, I pray you call together all the maids in your palace, and order them to jump over a pit, which must be dug. We'll soon find out whether there is any man there."
The king had time pit dug, and commanded all the maids belonging to the palace to try to jump it. All of them tried, but only one succeeded.
That one was found to be a man!
Thus was the queen satisfied, and the faithful old vizier saved.
Afterward, as soon as could be, the vizier's son married the old farmer's daughter; and a most happy marriage it was.
THE FARMER AND THE MONEY LENDER
By Joseph Jacobs
THERE was ounce a farmer who suffered much at time hands of the money lender. Good harvests, or bad, the farmer was always poor, the money lender rich. At the last, when he hadn't a farthing left, the farmer went to the money lender's house, and said, "You can't squeeze water from a stone, and as you have nothing to get by me now, you might tell me the secret of becoming rich."
"My friend," returned the money lender, piously, "riches come from Ram- ask him."
"Thank you, I will!" replied the simple farmer; so he prepared three griddle cakes to last him on the journey, and set out to find Ram.
First he met a Brahman, and to him he gave a cake asking him to point out the road to Ram; but the Brahman only took the cake and went on his way without a word. Next the farmer met a Jogi or devotee, and to him he gave a cake, without receiving any help in return. At last, he came upon a poor man sitting under a tree, and finding out he was hungry, the kindly farmer gave him his last cake, and sitting clown to rest beside him, entered into conversation.
"And where are you going?" asked the poor man, at length.
"Oh, I have a long journey before me, for I am going to find Ram!"
replied the farmer. "I don't suppose you could tell me which way to go?"
"Perhaps I can," said the poor man, smiling, "for I am Ram! What do you want of me?"
Then the farmer told the whole story, and Rain, taking pity on him, gave him a conch shell, and showed him how to blow it in a particular way, saying, "Remember! whatever you wish for, you have only to blow the conch that way, and your wish will be fulfilled. Only have a care of that money lender, for even magic is not proof against their wiles!"
The farmer went back to his village rejoicing. In fact the money lender noticed his high spirits at once, and said to himself, "Some good fortune must have befallen the stupid fellow, to make him hold his head so jauntily." Therefore he went over to the simple farmer's house, and congratulated him on his good fortune, in such cunning words, pretending to have heard all about it, that before long the farmer found himself telling the whole story-all except the secret of blowing the conch, for, with all his simplicity, the farmer was not quite such a fool as to tell that.
Nevertheless, the money lender determined to have the conch by hook or by crook, and as he was villain enough not to stick at trifles, he waited for a favorable opportunity and stole the conch.
But, after nearly bursting himself with blowing the conch in every conceivable way, he was obliged to give up the secret as a bad job.
However, being determined to succeed he went back to the farmer and said, coolly, "Look here; I've got your conch, but I can't use it; you haven't got it, So it's clear you can't use it either. Business is at a standstill unless we make a bargain. Now, I promise to give you back your conch, and never to interfere with your using it, on one condition, which is this-Whatever you get from it, I am to get double."
"Never!" cried the farmer; "that would be the old business all over again!"
"Not at all!" replied time wily money lender; "you will have your share! Now, don't be a dog in the manger, for if you get all you want, what can it matter to you if I am rich or poor?"
At last, though it went sorely against the grain to be of any benefit to a money lender, the farmer was forced to yield, and from that time, no matter what he gained by the power of the couch, time money lender gained double. And the knowledge that this was so preyed upon the farmer's mind day and night, so that he had no satisfaction out of anything.
At last, there came a very dry season-so dry that the farmer's crops withered for want of rain. Then he blew his conch, and wished for a well to water them, and lo! there was the well, but the money lender had two!-two beautiful new wells! This was too much for any farmer to stand: and our friend brooded over it, and brooded over it, till at last a bright idea came into his head. He seized the conch, blew it loudly, and cried out, "Oh Ram! I wish to be blind of one eye!" And so he was in a twinkling, but the money lender of course was blind of both, and in trying to steer his way between the two new wells, he fell into one and was drowned.
Now this true story shows that a farmer once got time better of a money lender-but only by losing one of his eyes.