Once upon a time in the old old days when the camel was only a spy, when toads rose in the air on wings, and I myself rode in the air while I walked on the ground, and went up hill and down dale at the same time, in those days, I say, there were two brothers who dwelt together.
All that they had inherited from their father were some oxen and other beasts, and a sick mother. One day the spirit of division seized upon the younger brother (he was half-witted besides, Allah help him!), and he went to his brother and said: "Look now, brother! at these two stables! One of them is as new as new can be, while the other is old and rotten. Let us drive our cattle hither, and whatever goes into the new stable shall be mine, and all the rest shall be thine."
" Not so, Mehmed," said the elder brother; "let whatever goes into the old stable be thine!" To this also the half-crazy Mehmed agreed. That same day they went and drove up their cattle, and all the cattle went into the new stable except a helpless old ox that was so blind that it mistook its way and went into the old stable instead. Mehmed said never a word, but took the blind old ox into the fields to graze; every morning early he drove it thither, and late every evening he drove it back again. One day when he was on the road, the wind began to shake a big wayside tree so violently that its vast branches whined and whimpered again. "Hi! whimpering old dad!" said the fool to the tree, "hast thou seen my elder brother?" But the tree, as if it didn't hear, only went on whining. The fool flew into such a rage at this that he caught up his chopper and struck at the tree, when out of it gushed a whole stream of golden sequins. At this the fool rallied what little wits he had, hastened home, and asked his brother to lend him another ox, as he wanted to plough with a pair. He found a cart also, and some empty sacks. These he filled with earth, and set out forthwith for his tree. There he emptied his sacks of their earth, filled them with sequins instead, and when he returned home in the evening, his brother well-nigh dropped down for amazement at the sight of the monstrous treasure.
They could think of nothing now but dividing it, so the younger brother went to their neighbour for a three-peck measure to measure it with. Now the neighbour was curious to know what such clodpoles could have to measure. So he took and smeared the bottom of the measure with tar, and, sure enough, when the fool brought the measure back a short time afterwards, a sequin was sticking to the bottom of it. The neighbour immediately went and told it to another, who went and told it to a third, and so it was not long before everybody knew all about it.
Now the wiser brother knew not what might happen to them now that they had all this money, and he began to feel frightened. So he snatched up his pick and shovel, dug a trench, buried the treasure, and made off as fast as his heels could carry him. On the way it occurred to the wise brother that he had done foolishly in not shutting the door of the hut behind him, so he sent off his younger brother to do it for him. So the fool went back to the house, and he thought to himself: "Well, since I am here, I ought not to forget my old mother either." So he filled a huge cauldron with water, boiled it, and soused his old mother in it so thoroughly that her poor old head was never likely to speak again. After that he propped the old woman against the wall with the broom, tore the door off its hinges, threw it over his shoulders, and went and rejoined his brother in the wood.
The elder brother looked at the door, and listened to the sad case of his poor old mother, but scold and chide his younger brother as he might the latter grew more cock-a-hoop than ever - he fancied he had done such a clever thing. He had brought the door away with him, he said, in order that no one might get into the house. The wise brother would have given anything to have got rid of the fool, and began turning over in his mind how he might best manage it. He looked before him and behind him, he looked down the highroad, and there were three horsemen galloping along. The thought instantly occurred to the pair of them that these horsemen were on their track, so they scrambled up a tree forthwith, door and all. They were scarcely comfortably settled when the three horsemen drove up beneath the tree and encamped there. The dusk of evening had come on at the very nick of time, so that they could not see the two brothers.
Now the two brothers would have done very well indeed up in the tree had not one of them been a fool. Mehmed the fool began to practise pleasantries which disturbed the repose of the horsemen beneath the tree. Presently, however, came a crash - bang! - and down on the heads of the three sleepers fell the great heavy door from the top of the tree. "The end of the world has come, the end of the world has come!" cried they, and they rushed off in such a fright that no doubt they haven't ceased running to this very day. This finished the business so far as the elder brother was concerned. In the morning he arose and went on his way, and left the foolish younger brother by himself.
Thus poor silly Mehmed had to go forth into the wide world alone. He went on and on till he came to a village, by which time he was very hungry. There he stood in the gate of a mosque, and got one or two paras1 from those who went in and out till he had enough to buy himself something to eat. At that moment a fat little man came out of the mosque, and casting his eyes on Mehmed, asked him if he would like to enter his service.
"I don't mind if I do," replied Mehmed, "but only on condition that neither of us is to get angry with the other for any cause whatever. If thou art wroth with me I'll kill thee, and if I get wroth with thee thou mayest kill me also." The fat man agreed to these terms, for there was a great lack of servants in that village.