Once upon a time there was a man called Malik Ahmad who had seven wives, but he had no children by any of them. "Here I have all this wealth," said he, "but I have no children, so what is the good of it to me?"
He was thinking thus one day when a derwish turned up. Malik Ahmad offered him all sorts of gifts and alms, but the derwish declined to accept them. "I'm not a grabbing, take-things sort of man," said he. "I'm not a cadger. On the contrary, if any man wants a thing which I am able to bring to pass for him, I do it without reward." "Good," said Malik Ahmad, "there is a thing I want very much, and it's this: I have great wealth and I have married seven wives, but I have no children. I want a son."
"This wish of yours," replied the Derwish, "is easily satisfied, but there's a condition attaching to it." - "And what is the condition?" "It is this, Malik Ahmad," answered the Derwish, "I will give you a drug, but then any children who may come will belong half of them to me and half of them to you." Malik Ahmad agreed to this condition, for said he to himself: "Supposing children do come, I'll be able to satisfy this fellow with money or horses or mares." So they reduced the terms of their agreement to writing, and the Derwish put his hand in his pocket and drew out a pomegranate, and gave it to Malik Ahmad, saying: "Give this to your youngest wife to eat."
The Derwish went off, and Malik Ahmad gave the pomegranate to his wife, and they ate it together. After some days she conceived, and after nine months and nine hours she gave birth to a pair of twin boys. The boys grew up till they reached the age of eighteen years. They learned to read and write, and were very strong, and there was nothing in which they were not perfect.
Now among themselves the family all said: "The Derwish went away, he'll never come back." One day, however, they were sitting at their ease when he suddenly made his appearance. He salamed, and brought out the written document, and said: "I have come for my share." "Whatever wealth or property you want is yours," said Malik Ahmad, "you are welcome." "I want my share, and nothing but my share," replied the Derwish, and, argue as he might, Malik Ahmad could make no impression on him and had to give in.
Then the elder son said: "I will go with him," and the younger son said: "I will go." In the end the elder went, and when he was leaving he took a ring from his finger and gave it to his brother, saying: "Brother, whenever this ring gets loose on your finger and slips off and falls to the ground, you may know that I am in difficulties." So he left, and they all raised a great lamentation at his departure.
Now the Derwish and he went on their way till they arrived near a spring. The boy was going along behind when he saw an old greybeard standing in the road. "Oh young man," cried the greybeard, "why ever have you started out to travel with this fellow? Are you tired of life?" "He made an agreement with my father," said the boy, "so what can I do? Show me a way out of it all!" "Pay attention to all I say then," said the old man. - "On my eyes be it!" "Very well," continued the greybeard, "you will go to the spring and he will say to you: 'My child, put your mouth down to the water and drink,' then when you have stooped down he will cut off your head with his sword. After that he will mount your horse and plunge into the water, and the horse and saddle and he himself will turn into gold. Now, when you arrive at the water's edge and he has made his polite speech to you, do you say: 'Oh no! you are my father and I am your child, I will not drink before you.' Then when he puts his mouth down to the water, smite off his head. If you don't kill him, he will kill you."
When he had finished speaking the greybeard vanished, and the lad followed on after the Derwish. "My child," said the Derwish, "why have you been so long in coming?" - "I had dismounted, and was tightening my horse's girths." They went up to the spring, and the Derwish said: "My child, now drink some water." - "Oh no, I could not show such disrespect before my elder and better. You are my father, drink first." And, despite all the Derwish's endeavours, he absolutely declined to drink first. "Well," thought the Derwish, "what does this boy know about it! I'll drink first, then he'll drink afterwards."
So he went and put his mouth down to the water. While he was thus stooping the lad struck him on the back of the neck with his sword and his head flew off and fell far away in the desert. Then the boy mounted the horse and struck into the blood-stained water and crossed to the other side, and he and his horse turned all into gold.
He went on till he came to a mountain on which there was a great deal of snow, and there he was caught in a snow-storm. Now near the foot of the mountain there was a big village. The people looked out and saw a horseman caught in the show, and they saw that he would perish if they were long in reaching him with help. So they raised a relief party, and some sturdy young men went out and succeeded in getting to him. They found that he was speechless, and they took him up on their shoulders and led his horse along, and carried him to the house of the Kadkhuda or Headman of the village. First, they took him to the baths and he recovered his warmth, and then they brought him back, and they saw that he was a marvellously fine young man, every bit of him of gold.
"Good Heavens!" said they, "is this a man or a peri?" and they asked who he was. "I am a stranger," said he, "and I lost my way." After he had stayed there some days the Headman said to him: "Young man, I have a very fine daughter. If you ask for her, I will give her to you to wife, and all this wealth and property will also become yours. Do stay here, for I have only this one daughter and no son." "Very good," said the youth, and some days later they gave him the maiden, and they two were married.