THE DEVOUT ISRAELITE.



There was once a devout man of the Children of Israel, [FN#414] whose family span cotton-thread; and he used every day to sell the yarn and buy fresh cotton, and with the profit he laid in daily bread for his household. One morning he went out and sold the day's yarn as wont, when there met him one of his brethren, who complained to him of need; so he gave him the price of the thread 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; whereupon I gave him the price of the yarn." And they said, "How shall we do? We have nothing to sell." Now they had a cracked trencher [FN#415] and a jar; so he took them to the bazar but none would buy them of him. However presently, as he stood in the market, there passed by a man with a fish,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Forty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the man took the trencher and jar to the bazar, but none would buy them of him. However there presently passed by a man with a fish which was so stinking and so swollen that no one would buy it 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 wooden trencher and jar, 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 it, till it please Allah to provide bread for us." So they took it and ripping open its belly, found therein a great pearl and told the head of the household who said, "See ye if it be pierced: if so, it belongeth to some one of the folk; if not, 'tis a provision of Allah for us." So they examined it and found it unpierced. Now when it was the morrow, the Jew carried it to one of his brethren which was an expert in jewels, and the man asked, "O such an one! whence haddest thou this pearl?"; whereto the Jew answered, "It was a gift of Almighty Allah to us," and the other said, "It is worth a thousand dirhams and I will give thee that; 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 seventy thousand dirhams 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 Allah hath given thee." Quoth the Jew to the asker, "But yesterday we were even as thou; take thee half this money:" so he made two parts of it, and each took his half. Then said the beggar, "Take back thy money and Allah bless and prosper thee in it; I am a Messenger, [FN#416] whom thy Lord hath sent to try thee." Quoth the Jew, "To Allah be the praise and the thanks!" and abode in all delight of life he and his household till death. And men recount this story of