There was once a poor man who made his living by cutting and bringing in thorn-bushes for firewood. Every day he went out and cut a load of thorns, and, putting it on his back, brought it home and sold it; and so he earned his livelihood.
Now he had a very beautiful wife and two sons, one of whom was called Ahmad and the other Mahmad. One particular day he had gone out as usual to the mountain and cut his thorns, but when he sat down with his back to the bundle to take it on his shoulders he found that it was very heavy. Try as he might, he was quite unable to stand up with it. At last he took the sling off his neck and got on to his feet, and then he found that an egg had been placed on the top of his bundle; but it was different from an ordinary hen's egg. He took it up and put it in his hat, saying: "It may be that God has given me a means of livelihood."
Then he went home and gave the egg to his wife, saying: "Take this away and sell it." The wife carried off the egg to the bazar, and went to a shop and took it out and said: "I have an egg here I want to sell." The Shopkeeper took it and looked at it, and said: "This is a very superior egg. What will you sell it for?" "I'll take whatever you like to give me," replied the woman. - "Is a hundred tumans a fair price?' "Don't make a fool of me," said the woman. - "All right, is two hundred tumans a fair price?" The woman thought for a minute: "If I say: 'Give me two hundred tumans,' I'll see whether he is only fooling me or whether he is really in earnest," so aloud she said: "All right, I'm in a hurry, give me two hundred tumans." The man at once brought out the money, counted it, and gave it to her, and she took it up and went home. When she arrived home she said to her husband: "I have sold the egg for two hundred tumans." "Well, my dear," said he, "see you don't tell any one. This is a special provision that God has made for us."
Next day he again went out to the mountain and he saw a very beautiful bird come and lay an egg and go away. Again he took the egg home with him, and his wife as before took it to the shop and sold it for two hundred tumans and went her way.
Now the Shopkeeper came to know that whoever should possess the head of the bird, whatever kind of a bird it might be that laid these eggs, would become ruler of a country, and whoever should possess its liver would find a hundred tumans under his pillow every night. So the Shopkeeper went and found an old woman, and said to her: "Old woman, I have fallen in love with the wife of old Father Thorn-gatherer. If you will make her friendly to me, I'll give you whatever you want." "All I want," said the old woman, "is as much flour and grape-syrup as I can eat every day." "Come along here, then," said he, and he gave her flour and syrup, and she ate her fill.
Then she got up and went to the house of old Father Thorn-gatherer and sat down beside his wife and said:
"O my daughter, wouldn't it be a pity that you should waste your life living with a white-bearded old man like that?" "It's just my bad luck," replied the wife. "Ah, my dear," said the old woman, "but I'll show you a way out of it if you'll only listen to me." "Well, tell me," said the wife, and she swore that she would do whatever she was told.
Then the old woman said: "I know a young man who is so much in love with you that he is quite ill. I'll introduce him to you and make him your friend." "Very well, do so," said the wife.
Then the old woman came joyfully back to the shop and said: "Now give me as much flour and syrup as I can eat, and I'll tell you something." So the Shopkeeper gave her flour and syrup, and she ate till she could eat no more. Then she said: "I have made her quite excited about you, and she has given you an appointment to visit her there to-morrow."
Next morning they set out together, and no sooner had the Shopkeeper arrived at the Thorn-gatherer's house than the wife fell so violently in love with him that she almost died, and lost all control of her heart. They sat down together, and amused themselves kissing and talking and playing with each other. Soon, when the Shopkeeper saw that the woman was worse in love with him than ever, he said: "If we are to be friends, there's a condition that must be satisfied." - "What is it?" "Well," said he, "it's this: you must persuade old Father Thorn-gatherer to catch that bird and bring it home. When he has done so, you must let me know, and I'll come and tell you what to do." He sat on for two or three hours longer, then he got up and went back to his shop, and the wife that evening coaxed her husband to promise to try and catch the bird.
Next morning old Father Thorn-gatherer came in and said: "Well, I'm going off now to gather thorns." "That's an excellent idea," said his wife. So he picked up his knife and sling and went off to the mountain. When he got there he cut the thorn bushes and made up his bundle, and sat down to get the bundle on his back. Just as he was getting up, the bird came and lighted on the bundle and was evidently going to lay an egg. Very slowly and quietly the old man put out his hand and caught its two legs. It struggled a great deal, but he held on tight and did not let it go. Then he put the bird under his arm and went off home with it.
Now the old Thorn-gatherer sent his two sons every day to an akhund to learn to read. When her husband brought in the bird the wife was greatly delighted, for she said to herself: "Now the Shopkeeper and I will become great friends," and she went quickly and told him. "Do you know what you must do?" said he. - "No." - "Well, you must go and kill the bird, and you must cook an ash and put the bird's head and liver in it, and let it stand till I come. Then I will do whatever you wish."
The woman then returned home, and at once cut off the bird's head, and cleaned it and put it and the liver in the ash. Then she kept watching for the Shopkeeper, saying: "When will he come, so that I may get my desire?" She saw that he was late, and she could not control her impatience, so she went out to an open space where she could see the road and watch for his coming. While she was still out the children came back from the akhund's for dinner, and they saw the pot of ash standing on the fireplace. They took off the lid and saw that there was a fowl in the pot. They ate some of the ash, and Ahmad took the head to keep as a talisman and Mahmad took the liver, then they put back what remained on the fireplace. Having had their dinner, they went off again to the akhund, and each fastened his talisman in an amulet round his neck.