THE DEVOUT ISRAELITE

There was once a devout man of the children of Israel, (59) whose family span cotton; and he used every day to sell the yarn they span and buy fresh cotton, and with the profit he bought the day's victual for his household. One day, he went out and sold the day's yarn as usual, when there met him one of his brethren, who complained to him of want; so he gave him the price of the yarn and returned, empty- handed, to his family, who said to him, 'Where is the cotton and the food?' Quoth he, 'Such an one met me and complained to me of want; so I gave him the price of the yarn.' And they said, 'How shall we do? We have nothing to sell.' Now they had a broken platter and a jar; so he took them to the market; but none would buy them of him.

Presently, as he stood in the market, there came up a man with a stinking, swollen fish, which no one would buy of him, and he said to the Jew, 'Wilt thou sell me thine unsaleable ware for mine?' 'Yes,' answered the Jew and giving him the jar and platter, took the fish and carried it home to his family, who said, 'What shall we do with this fish?' Quoth he, 'We will broil it and eat of it, till it please God to provide for us.' So they took it and ripping open its belly, found therein a great pearl and told the Jew, who said, 'See if it be pierced. If so, it belongs to some one of the folk; if not, it is a provision of God for us.' So they examined it and found it unpierced.

On the morrow, the Jew carried it to one of his brethren, who was skilled in jewels, and he said, 'Whence hadst thou this pearl?' 'It was a gift of God the Most High to us,' replied the Jew, and the other said, 'It is worth a thousand dirhems, and I will give thee that sum; but take it to such an one, for he hath more money and skill than I.' So the Jew took it to the jeweller, who said, 'It is worth threescore and ten thousand dirhems and no more. Then he paid him that sum and the Jew hired two porters to carry the money to his house. As he came to his door, a beggar accosted him, saying, 'Give me of that which God the Most High hath given thee.' Quoth the Jew, 'But yesterday, we were even as thou; take half the money.' So he made two parts of it, and each took his half. Then said the beggar, 'Take back thy money and God prosper thee in it; I am a messenger, whom thy Lord hath sent to try thee.' Quoth the Jew, 'To God be the praise and the thanks!' and abode with his family in all delight of life, till death.




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