Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.
Fatima was a little girl who had both her father and mother still alive, and she used to go for lessons to a learned woman, a mulla. This teacher had a little girl of her own who was also called Fatima, but the child's father was dead.
One day the mulla gave Little Fatima a vessel and said: "Go back to your home and say to your mother: 'Please give me a little vinegar.' When she goes to get it for you, you must go with her, and whatever jar she goes to take it from you must say: 'No, I don't want that,' till you come to the seventh. When she stoops over the seventh to draw the vinegar, catch her feet and throw her into the jar, and fasten down the top of it and come back to me."
Fatima did just as she was told, and thus became motherless. Some days passed after this, and one day the mulla said to her: "Go and sprinkle some coriander seed over your head. In the evening when your father comes home blow out the lamp, and then shake your head and make all the little seeds fall crackling into the fire. Your father will say: 'Child, what are these things?' Then you must say: 'Why, Daddy, that's the result of having no mother to comb my hair and keep it nice. These horrid things have got into it.'
"Then your father will say: 'Well, what can I do?' You must answer: 'You should take a wife to be a mother to me and look after me.' Then he will say: 'Whom shall I take to wife?' Then say: 'Go and bring a liver and hang it over the door, and whoever happens to come along first and knock her head against it will be the right wife for you.'"
Little Fatima did just as she was told, and her father got a liver and hung it up over the door. As soon as it was ready, the mulla rose up and came to their house, and her head was the first to hit against the liver. "Hullo, what's that which has hit my head?" cried she. Then the father told her the whole story, and took her and married her and brought her home.
Meantime, after forty days, Little Fatima's own mother turned into a yellow cow and came out of the vinegar jar. Her father's new wife gave the yellow cow to her stepdaughter to mind, and said: "Take it out every day to graze." So Little Fatima used to take the cow out every day, and the stepmother used to give her a great pile of cotton to spin. But she was only a child and could not spin such a lot in one day, and then the stepmother used to beat her.
One day she sat down in despair and began to cry. The cow came up and ate up all the cotton, and brought out of its mouth a spindle of nicely spun cotton in exchange. And henceforward the cow did this day after day.
One day as she was sitting with her cotton the wind caught a wisp of it and threw it down a well. Poor Little Fatima was frightened and began to cry, saying: "What shall I do, oh, what shall I do? My stepmother will beat me." On hearing this the cow suddenly found its voice and said: "Don't cry. Go down into the well. There is a Div there, and you must say to her: 'Peace be upon you!' and salam to her nicely, and whatever she tells you to do, do the exact opposite, and find your wisp of cotton and come back."
Little Fatima did as she was told, and saw a Div sitting at the bottom of the well. She salamed and said: "Peace be upon you!" and the Div answered: "And on you be peace! It was well for you that you salamed politely, otherwise I should have made just one mouthful of you. Come along now and break my head." Then Little Fatima remembered to do the exact opposite, so she washed and cleaned the Div's hair and combed it nicely.
Next the Div said: "Take these water-jars away and break them." Fatima took the jars away and filled them with fresh water. "Come now and knock down my house," but Little Fatima still remembered the cow's advice and took a broom and swept all the floors carefully.
Then the Div asked: "What are you doing here?" "I came looking for my lost wisp of cotton," said Little Fatima. "Well, come along then, go into my Treasury and you will find it lying on the top of all my jewels. Take your cotton and carry off as many of the precious stones as your heart desires." The little girl went in and found her cotton, but did not even touch any of the treasures or precious stones.
Then she proceeded to climb up out of the well. When she got about half-way up the Div called out:
"White Wind, come and shake her!"
And the wind came and shook her and blew her about, but she held tight on to her cotton, and nothing fell out of her pockets or her clothes. She climbed on up and up, and just as she got to the top the Div called out:
"Black Wind, come and shake her!"
And the wind came and shook her, but nothing fell. Then the Div saw that she had taken nothing, and called out: "Go away in safety, little girl, and may God make a moon grow on your forehead and a star on your chin!" And so it happened.
Carefully Little Fatima drew her muslin kerchief over her face and tied it down with her handkerchief, so that her stepmother should see nothing, and she went home out of the desert. When evening came the stepmother said: "Go out, child, and fetch the copper spoon." She went out into the dark, but it was so very dark that she could not see to find the spoon, so she pulled aside a tiny corner of her kerchief to get a little light from the moon and the star.
Now the other Fatima, the mulla's own daughter, knew her sister was afraid of the dark and had followed her quietly out to see what she would do, and when she saw the light she ran back to her mother crying: "Mummy, Little Fatima has got a lamp of her own." The stepmother peeped out and saw: yes, it was quite light in the other room. She went up close and discovered that Little Fatima had a beautiful moon on her forehead and a bright star on her chin, and she exclaimed: "Why, child, how did you get like this?" Then the girl told her truthfully the whole story, but said: "And whatever the Div told me to do I did it exactly."