Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.

There was a man who got married and took his wife to his house, where he also had a goat. One day the husband was out and the bride was alone in the house with her mother-in-law. The young wife was busy sweeping when she caught her foot in something and fell among the water-jars and broke one. She was very much ashamed, and gathered up the pieces and hid them.

Then she went up to the goat and said: "O goat, say nothing to my husband about my having broken the jar, will you? And I'll give you whatever you wish." The goat gave a bleat. Thereupon the bride went off to the chest containing her dowry and took out a dress of her own and threw it on the goat, and cried: "That's for you!"

The goat bleated a second time, and she fancied it must mean that this wasn't enough, so she went and took out a second garment and threw it over the first. In short, this went on until she had thrown on to the goat's back all her trousseau and all her plenishing, and still the goat went on bleating.

Hearing some disturbance, the mother-in-law called out: "What's the matter? What are you doing that for?" "Such and such an accident happened," said the wife, "and I'm afraid of the goat's-telling my husband."

Just at this moment, while the women were still talking to the goat, the bridegroom returned. He heard the sound of voices and stopped to listen and see what they were saying. When he heard what it was all about and saw what a pair of fools they were, he turned away saying: "They have brought disgrace on the graves of their fathers. I must go away, I really can't stay here. They are the most appalling fools!"

With that he left the town and went on and on till he came to a tribe of nomads. He was thirsty, and went up to the door of one of their black tents and said: "Have you nothing you could give me to drink?" They filled a wooden bowl with buttermilk and brought two scones for him, and he ate and drank.

Then he saw that the bowl was so caked with dirt that there was hardly any space left inside it, so he put a stone in it to sink it and dropped it into a stream of water. After it had steeped a while he took it out and scraped it, and when the dirt came out it was much larger. The owners of the bowl came presently to get it back and they noticed that he had enlarged it. "Hullo, what's your business?" asked they. "I am a bowl-scraper," said he.

So they went back to their fellow-tribesmen and made it known that a bowl-scraper was come, and all the nomads of the tribe assembled, and one by one they brought their bowls for him to scrape. And he steeped them all in the stream and made them bigger, and took money for the work. He saved quite a little there and went away.

Then he travelled on till he reached a village where there were cotton plantations, and he saw that crowds had collected and that some great dispute was going on. He went forward and asked: "What's the matter?" "We planted cotton," answered they, "and now cotton-thorn has sprung up in our fields and we don't know what to do." "Let me look," said he.

They showed him from a distance, and he saw that it was only a water-melon. A melon seed must have fallen in the middle of the cotton and had shot up, and brought forth a very large water-melon. "What will you give me if I destroy it for you?" said he. - "Whatever you like to ask." So he took a lot of money from them, and said: "Give me a bow and arrows."

He took the bow, placed the arrow on the string, and aimed at the very middle of the water-melon. The arrow made crimson juice spurt out. All the villagers fled, shouting: "The green of the cotton-thorn is all stained with blood, and now he is coming to kill us all!"

The traveller went forward and thrust his hand into the arrow hole and tore open the melon and drank some of the juice. The villagers were horrified, and cried: "What a horrible blood-drinker he is! If he stays here he will slay us!" And they came and offered him more money to go away.

While they were collecting this money for him a pedlar said he was going to another village. He had got his donkey at hand, and had loaded his merchandise on it ready to start. "Where are you thinking of going to?" asked the melon-slayer. "I want to go to such and such a village," answered he.

"A mountain pass lies in front of you." - "Yes, I know,"

XXV The Story Of The Country Of Fools 28

"Have you nothing you could give me to drink?" said the pedlar. - "When you reach the foot of that pass your donkey will show his teeth at you, when you have got half-way up he will bray, and when you have reached the top he will roll in the dust. As soon as he does this you will die."

The pedlar set out as he had intended, and when he had reached the top of the pass he observed that everything had happened just as the man had prophesied, and there was the donkey rolling in the dust. He therefore lay down as if to sleep and said: "Now I'm dead."

He had turned the donkey loose, and after he had lain down a wolf came and tore it to pieces under his very eyes. "Oh, you son of a burnt father!" cried he. "If I hadn't been dead I should never have let you eat up my donkey!"

Now the man was coming along behind him, and when he came to the top of the pass he saw the pedlar asleep, and noticed that wolves had eaten the donkey. "Hullo," exclaimed he, "are you dead?" "Yes, certainly," answered the pedlar. "What will you give me to bring you to life again?" - "I will make you a present of whatever is left," and with that he presented him with his saddle-bags and all his merchandise.

"Thanks. You're alive now. Get up!" Whereupon the pedlar rose up and went his way. Then the traveller took all the goods and descended the pass into another village, where they happened to be having a wedding.

When evening came they brought the bride to lead her to the bridal chamber. Now the doorway was low and the bride was tall, and the villagers were greatly at a loss and said: "What shall we do?" Some said they ought to cut off her feet and take her in; others wanted to cut off her head, and some thought it would be best to pull down the doorway. Then our traveller came up and asked: "What will you give me if I do none of all these things and yet bring the bride into her chamber?" They gave him a great sum of money, and he stepped up to the bride and made her bend her head, and so led her in.

And now he had become the owner of much wealth, and he gathered his moneys together and came to his own country to see what the news might be. When he arrived at his own house he found the two women were still quarrelling about the goat, and a heavy rain had come and all the water remained standing in the house, and a basket was floating on the top of the water. The bride, in grief for her husband, had seated herself in the basket, which was spinning round and round, while she continued weeping and saying:

"I made me a boat to ride on the foam,

I made me an anchor lest far I should roam,

But my husband, my husband, he has not come home!"

When the husband saw and heard all this he turned away, saying: "The truth of it is, I shall not stay in this country!" and he went again out of the city and started off into the desert and went on his own way.

And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.