There was once a Thorn - gatherer who went out every day to the mountain and brought back thorn-bushes and sold them for a qran a load. One day he said: "O God, what evil have I done that Thou hast given me a draft on thorn-gathering for my daily bread?1 Now, as things are so, I will quit this country of Thine in anger, and go somewhere where I shall not be in God's country."

And he went out from that place of habitation and fell to journeying. Now it chanced that he saw a man on the road, and the man said to him: "Uncle, where are you going?" "I have taken flight," said he, "in order to get away from the country of God." "Very good," said the stranger, "I have two hundred tumans to share between us, and we'll go and trade."

So they started out together, and they went and trafficked as traders and bought and sold. They made three hundred tumans profit, and the Thorn-gatherer said: "Come along and let's divide it," but the other said: "No, let's go back to the spot where we first entered into partnership and there divide it." On the way there they came to a village and bought a piece of bread and an earthen jug of water, and then they went on till they came to the place where they had first met.

1 He thought that God had given him an order by which he could get his daily bread from thorn-gathering, just as if thorn-gathering were a bank, and he didn't like this arrangement, because he could get very little out of it.

There the man put the three hundred tumans as one lot and the bread and water as another lot, and said: "Take whichever you like." "Not so," said the Thorn-gatherer, "we will eat the bread and drink the water together and divide the money between us," but his partner wouldn't agree, so the Thorn-gatherer took the money, and the other took the bread and water and went off another road by himself.

Now the Thorn-gatherer went on and came to a place where it was very hot, and he began to be hungry and very thirsty and felt that he would presently die. Some little distance farther on he saw a man with a piece of bread, and he asked: "What is the price of your bread?" "A hundred tumans," answered the man. "It's very dear," said the Thorn-gatherer. "If you want it, take it; if you don't want it, don't take it," replied the man. He had no choice, so he paid the hundred tumans and took the bread.

When he had gone on some distance farther he saw another man with a jar of water, and he asked him too: "What is the price of it?" "A hundred tumans," said the man. He was so thirsty by this time that he bought the water without more words and drank it. Then he was attacked by a sudden pain in the stomach and felt that he was just going to die; he saw another man, however, and said to him: "I have a pain in my stomach," and the man replied: "I have a pill here which I can give you, and if you take it you'll get better, but it costs a hundred tumans."

The Thorn-gatherer paid him the money and bought the pill, and he got well again, and after that he went on to a village. Some days later a man said to him: "Why haven't you quitted the country of God?" And he said: "I'm going to quit it." The stranger said: "You must pay three hundred tumans a day, which is due to God." - "But God hasn't given me more than a qran a day, why must I pay Him three hundred tumans?" - "A few days ago didn't you give two hundred tumans for bread and water?" "Yes, I did," said the Thorn-gatherer. - "And you paid another hundred tumans for medicine before you got well, didn't you?" - "Yes."

"Then know that if God wished to afflict you every day He could do so, and if He wished not to give you bread He could likewise withhold it from you. Know, then, that God exists."1 Now the man who thus instructed the Thorn-gatherer in the way he should go was an angel, and when he had spoken thus he vanished.

Then the Thorn-gatherer repented his former actions and his impious speech, and he remained in the country of God, and in course of time he became possessed of much wealth.

1 It isn't very clear exactly what the angel meant. However, the Thorn-gatherer apparently understood. Perhaps it was that he ought to have considered himself very lucky to have had enough money, even if it was very little, to buy bread with. When he managed to get more money he was really worse off, because he fell into the hands of profiteers. God might have given him no money, and have forced him to deal with profiteers all the same, and then he would have starved. The angel was probably the person who first said: "The wind is tempered to the shorn lamb." It isn't always true.

The Thorn-gatherer paid him the money and bought the pill.

LIV The Story Of The Impious Thorn Gatherer 57