Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.
There was a woman who had seven daughters, and their trade was spinning; on their wheels they used to spin fine wool. Among their customers there was a Shawl-weaver who used to come regularly to their house, buy the spindles from them, and give them the money in exchange. The mother let her eyes fall on this man, and her heart went out to him and she longed to give him one of her daughters in marriage.
One day she said to the girls: "Put all your seven spinning-wheels in a row and sit down and begin to spin very quickly. When the Shawl-weaver comes I'll go out and talk business with him, and every moment or so you must call out: 'Mother, we've taken off a spindle,' and I'll say: 'Put it on the shelf.'"
The man came as usual and the girls did as their mother had said. All seven of them sat in a row and worked their wheels very fast, and kept calling out: "Mother, we've taken off a spindle." Now the poor man was in a hurry and was trying to put through his business and get off, and at last he grew impatient and said: "Why do they keep shouting to you every moment?" The mother said: Oh, it's nothing, friend; when their spindles are full they say: 'We've taken off a spindle,' and I say: 'Put it on the shelf.' "
The Shawl-weaver was delighted to hear of the girls' industry, and said: "I wonder whether you would give one of your daughters to me?" "Yes, I would," said she, and he came and was married to the eldest girl in due course, and the mother gave her to him to wife and he brought her to his home.
One day the husband said to his bride: "I have got guests coming at noon to-day. Make all your preparations nicely and cook us a good pulau" and she said: "With pleasure," but she hadn't the remotest idea how to do it. So as soon as he had gone out, she went up and along to the edge of the neighbours' roof and called out: "Neighbours, how do people cook a pulau?" And the neighbours good-naturedly told her how you first steep the rice and boil it and strain it, and put clarified butter over it, and make it very hot. Then, feeling ashamed of her ignorance, she exclaimed: "Dear me, is that all you do? Why, I knew all that myself."
They were annoyed at her rudeness, and to pay her out they cried: "There's just one thing more you ought to do when you want to heat up the rice at the end: put a mud-brick on top of it to keep it down, and it will heat better." "Bah!" answered the bride, "I knew that too!" And she came down and did as they had told her.
At noon her husband brought his guests home with him, and called out: "Now we are ready for lunch." But when he lifted the lid of the pot in which the pulau had been cooked he saw the rice was all full of dirt and mud, and had been utterly spoiled. He was a good deal ashamed in front of his guests, and he divorced his wife and sent her back to her own home.
His mother-in-law came along and said: "Well, well, you'd better let me give you one of my other daughters," and he said: "All right, do." And he married the second sister and took her to his home.
One day he bought some rice and sugar and clarified butter, and brought them home, and said to his wife: "Cook some nice halwd" and she also said: "With pleasure." When her husband had gone out she found she could not remember whether you put salt into halwa or not, so she went up and along to the edge of the roof and saw a man coming down the lane, and she called out: "Hullo, may you fall a prey to the corpse-washer! You're like halwa which has no salt!" And the man shouted back, laughing: "Why, my good woman, who ever heard of salt in halwa?" Then the wife said to herself: "Now of course the fellow's lying, and only wants to take me in," and she came down and cooked her halwa with plenty of salt.
At noon when her husband came home and she fetched the halwa for him, he found it wasn't fit to eat, and he divorced her likewise.
Then his mother-in-law came and said: "Well, well, you'd better take my third daughter, she's better and cleverer than either of the others." And he said: "All right," so he married the third daughter and took her to his house.
One day he said: "Wife, I have guests coming to-day. Cook us ash enough for three or four." "With pleasure," said she, but she didn't know in the least how to do it, and as soon as her husband had gone out she went up and along to the edge of the neighbours' roof and asked: "Neighbours, how do you cook ash?" They told her all about it, how you get the good soup ready first, and then take flour and sift it and make dough, and beat it out very thin and cut it into fine strips, and then you put the broth over the fire, and as soon as it is boiling you add in the cooked vegetables and lastly the thin strips of dough. Then the wife, wanting to conceal her ignorance, said: "Oh, I knew all that myself, but I thought perhaps you knew some better way!"
One of the neighbours called her back and said: "Wait a moment till I finish telling you. You should fill a large pot with water and put it on the fire, then go and choose all the heaviest shawls your husband has and tear them into thin little strips, and boil them up till they're well cooked and put them also into the ash." And the wife came down and did as she was told.
When the husband came back he went into the kitchen and said: "Have you cooked the ash?" "Yes," said she. Then he went up to the fire and took a spoon and began stirring the ash, and saw that the whole of it was strips of his best shawls which kept coming out on the spoon. And he said: "What sort of an ash is this that you've cooked?" "That's how the neighbours taught me," said she. And the husband was very angry, and divorced her also and put her out of his house.
Soon after this his mother-in-law came to see him and said: "Come, you'd better take my fourth daughter, she's highly skilled in every art." So he married the fourth sister.
One day the month of Ramazan was drawing near.