Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.
There were a man and a woman, both of whom were Der-wlshes. One day they went to Erbab Abdullah's house and got half a mann of barley, and brought it home and ground it into flour and made bread of it. It made five loaves, and of these the woman took two and a half and the man took two and a half. The man started off towards the Caravanserai of Kahnu and the woman went in some other direction.
As the Derwlsh was travelling along he saw another man taking a short-cut across country and coming down off the higher ground on to the road. "Father, what is your name?" asked the Derwish. "My name is Father Shortcuts," answered the stranger. "And what might yours be?" "My name," said he, "is Derwish Roads."
So Roads and Shortcuts shook hands and walked on together. Shortcuts said presently: "Father Roads, what have you got for us to eat?" "Nay, rather," answered he, "what have you got for us to eat?" "Not so," said Shortcuts, "we will first eat what you've got and then we'll eat what I've got." "Very well," replied Roads," "I've only two and a half barley loaves." "Then bring them out and let's begin." On this they ate up all the bread belonging to Roads.
Presently it was Shortcuts' turn to produce something to eat, but he said: "Why, didn't I tell you my name was Shortcuts? I am often called 'Sharer' too; who ever thought I had bread with me?" So, having eaten all he could hope for from the Derwish, he went off to look after his own affairs, and once more took a short-cut across country.
The unfortunate Derwish travelled on his way, and at last reached the Caravanserai of Kahnu, but only to find that all the wild beasts of the desert were in the habit of coming each evening to sleep there. And he was alone. "Alas!" said he to himself, "I only hope they won't tear me to pieces to-night," and he went about searching for a place to hide.
At last he noticed a chimney and climbed up inside it. When he got up he found that it was very difficult to breathe and that he could see nothing, so with a small knife he had with him he cut two little holes in the wall for his eyes and another opposite his mouth to breathe through. Soon after nightfall he saw that, true enough, the Lion, King of Beasts, came and sat, as it were on a throne, in the middle of the Caravanserai.
Then came the Leopard, the Bear, the Boar, the Wolf, the Fox - in short, all the animals of the desert came.
The Lion turned to the Fox and said: "Honoured Lord Fox, the smell of a human being seems to come to me; look round and see where the man is. We shall kill him for our feast to-night." The Fox searched, and returned saying: "May I be the sacrifice for the life of the Centre of the Universe! Your Majesty, I have searched; there is nought."
"Good," said King Lion, "then each of you must tell a story to pass the night away." Thereupon the Fox began: "May I be the sacrifice for the life of the Centre of the Universe! Just outside this Caravanserai there is a hill, and on the hill there is a black stone, and under the black stone there is a treasure, and well it is that no human being sees it, for if one of them knew of it he would go and carry it off."
Good," said King Lion. "Honoured Lord Leopard, pray you speak!" "In such and such a mountain," began the Leopard, "there is a valley, and in the valley there is a spring of water, and if you go there you will come to a fig tree. Under the tree there is a treasure: jars and jars of Chosroes full of jewels of seven colours. And well it is that no human being knows of it, for if one of them heard he would go and carry it off."
"Good," said King Lion. "Honoured Wolf, speak you!" "Sire," began the Wolf, "such and such a sheep-owner has one flock of which all the sheep are black, and among the black sheep there is one who has a white star in the middle of his forehead. With that flock there is a piebald dog. Now there is also a King whose daughter is mad. And if a human being knew of all this he would go and kill the piebald dog, and he would take the dog's brains and put them into the nose of the King's Daughter to cure her, and the King would give the man his daughter in marriage, and after the King's death the kingdom would be his."
"Good," said King Lion. "Honoured Jackal, speak you!" "There is a mouse here," said the Jackal, "who has one thousand pieces of gold. Every morning, as soon "as we have left the Caravanserai and gone away, he brings his gold pieces to the door of his hole and piles them up and rolls over and over in them, and then carries them back again into his hole. Now if a human being were to come up just at that moment he would kill the mouse and carry off the thousand pieces of gold."
To make a long story short, morning came and the animals went away. The Derwish said to himself: "Very well, I shall not stir just yet from this spot. If it's all true about the mouse, then the rest of it will be true too." He waited in the chimney till it was near daybreak. Then, sure enough, he saw the mouse come out carrying one gold piece. "I'll have patience," thought he, "till he has brought the lot." One by one the mouse brought out his treasures, and the Derwish kept the tally from his spy-hole in the chimney.
As soon as the thousand was complete, he flung himself out of his hiding-place. Bang! he hurled a stone at the mouse's head, killed it, and carried off the gold pieces. Then he left the Caravanserai and followed the Fox's directions. He went up the hill and found the black stone just as the Fox had described it. He lifted the stone and dug up the ground underneath until he came to a little baby-door. He opened the wee door and saw, sure enough, seven jars of Chosroes safely shut in there, all full of gold, and on top of each a golden tray, and on each tray a golden cock.
From each jar he took one piece of gold and went out, carefully putting the stone back in its place, and directed his steps towards the mountain according to the directions which the Leopard had given. He found the valley and the spring of water and the fig tree, and, sure enough, when he dug the ground under the fig tree there were - seven jars of Chosroes, each one full of precious stones of seven colours. He took one stone from each jar, and carefully covering the treasure up again, he travelled on.