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The Book of Noodles by W. A. Clouston

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to heaven, saying, "Of a truth there is no power but from Allah! But,
pray, forgive me for having used thee as I have done." The sharper
readily granted his forgiveness, and went off to rejoin his companion
and dispose of the ass; while the simpleton returned home, and showing
his wife the bridle, told her of the marvellous transformation which had
occurred. His wife, in hopes of propitiating Heaven, gave alms and
offered up many prayers to avert evil from them, on account of their
having used a human being as an ass. At length the simpleton, having
remained idle at home for some time, went one day to the market to
purchase another ass, and on entering the place where all the animals
were fastened, he saw with astonishment his old ass offered for sale.
Putting his mouth to its ear, he whispered, "Woe to thee, unlucky!
Doubtless thou hast again been intoxicated; but, by Allah, I will never
buy thee!"

Another noodle-story, of a different class, in the _Arabian
Nights_, may be here cited in full from Sir R.F. Burton's
translation of that delightful work, privately printed for the
subscribers, and it will serve, moreover, as a fair specimen of the
admirable manner in which that ripe scholar has represented in English
the quaint style of his original:

[Quoth one of the learned,] I passed once by a school wherein a
schoolmaster was teaching children; so I entered, finding him a
good-looking man, and a well-dressed, when he rose to me and made me sit
with him. Then I examined him in the Koran, and in syntax and prosody,
and lexicography; and behold, he was perfect in all required of him; and
I said to him, "Allah strengthen thy purpose! Thou art indeed versed in
all that is requisite." Thereafter I frequented him a while, discovering
daily some new excellence in him, and quoth I to myself, "This is indeed
a wonder in any dominie; for the wise are agreed upon a lack of wit in
children's teachers."[1] Then I separated myself from him, and sought
him and visited him only every few days, till coming to see him one day,
as of wont, I found the school shut, and made inquiry of his neighbours,
who replied, "Some one is dead in his house." So I said in my mind, "It
behoveth me to pay him a visit of condolence," and going to his house,
knocked at the door, when a slave-girl came out to me and asked, "What
dost thou want?" and I answered, "I want thy master." She replied, "He
is sitting alone mourning;" and I rejoined, "Tell him that his friend
So-and-so seeketh to console him." She went in and told him; and he
said, "Admit him." So she brought me in to him, and I found him seated
alone, and his head bound with mourning fillets. So I said to him,
"Allah requite thee amply! This is a path all must perforce tread, and
it behoveth thee to take patience," adding, "but who is dead unto thee?"
He answered, "One who was dearest of the folk to me, and best beloved."
"Perhaps thy father?" "No." "Thy brother?" "No." "One of thy kindred?"
"No." Then asked I, "What relation was the dead to thee?" and he
answered, "My lover." Quoth I to myself, "This is the first proof to
swear by of his lack of wit." So I said to him, "Assuredly there be
others than she, and fairer;" and he made answer, "I never saw her that
I might judge whether or no there be others fairer than she." Quoth I to
myself, "This is another proof positive." Then I said to him, "And how
couldst thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen?" He replied,
"Know that I was sitting one day at the window, when, lo! there passed
by a man, singing the following distich:

"'Umm Amr', thy boons Allah repay!
Give back my heart, be't where it may!'"

The schoolmaster continued, "When I heard the man humming these words as
he passed along the street, I said to myself, 'Except this Umm Amru were
without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in ode and
canzon.' So I fell in love with her; but two days after, the same man
passed, singing the following couplet:

"'Ass and Umm Amr' went their way,
Nor she nor ass returned for aye.'

Thereupon I knew that she was dead, and mourned for her. This was three
days ago, and I have been mourning ever since." So I left him and fared
forth, having assured myself of the weakness of the gerund-grinder's

Here, surely, was the very Father of Folly, but what shall we say of
judges and magistrates being sometimes (represented as) equally witless?
Thus we are told, among the cases decided by a Turkish Kazi, that two
men came before him one of whom complained that the other had almost bit
his ear off. The accused denied this, and declared that the fellow had
bit his own ear. After pondering the matter for some time, the judge
told them to come again two hours later. Then he went into his private
room, and attempted to bring his ear and his mouth together; but all he
did was to fall backwards and break his head. Wrapping a cloth round his
head, he returned to court, and the two men coming in again presently,
he thus decided the question: "No man can bite his own ear, but in
trying to do so he may fall down and break his head."

A Sinhalese story, which is also well known in various forms in India,
furnishes a still more remarkable example of forensic sagacity. It is
thus related by the able editor of _The Orientalist_, vol. i., p.

One night some thieves broke into the house of a rich man, and carried
away all his valuables. The man complained to the justice of the peace,
who had the robbers captured, and when brought before him, inquired of
them whether they had anything to say in their defence. "Sir," said
they, "we are not to blame in this matter; the robbery was entirely due
to the mason who built the house; for the walls were so badly made, and
gave way so easily, that we were quite unable to resist the temptation
of breaking in." Orders were then given to bring the mason to the
court-house. On his arrival he was informed of the charge brought
against him. "Ah," said he, "the fault is not mine, but that of the
coolie, who made mortar badly." When the coolie was brought, he laid the
blame on the potter, who, he said, had sold him a cracked chattie, in
which he could not carry sufficient water to mix the mortar properly.
Then the potter was brought before the judge, and he explained that the
blame should not be laid upon him, but upon a very pretty woman, who, in
a beautiful dress, was passing at the time he was making the chattie,
and had so riveted his attention, that he forgot all about the work.
When the woman appeared, she protested that the fault was not hers, for
she would not have been in that neighbourhood at all had the goldsmith
sent home her earrings at the proper time; the charge, she argued,
should properly be brought against him. The goldsmith was brought, and
as he was unable to offer any reasonable excuse, he was condemned to be
hanged. Those in the court, however, begged the judge to spare the
goldsmith's life; "for," said they, "he is very sick and ill-favoured,
and would not make at all a pretty spectacle." "But," said the judge,
"somebody must be hanged." Then they drew the attention of the court to
the fact that there was a fat Moorman in a shop opposite, who was a much
fitter subject for an execution, and asked that he might be hanged in
the goldsmith's stead. The learned judge, considering that this
arrangement would be very satisfactory, gave judgment accordingly.

If some of the last-cited stories are not precisely Gothamite
drolleries, though all are droll enough in their way, there can be no
doubt whatever that we have a Sinhalese brother to the men of Gotham in
the following: A villager in Ceylon, whose calf had got its head into a
pot and could not get it out again, sent for a friend, celebrated for
his wisdom, to release the poor animal. The sagacious friend, taking in
the situation at a glance, cut off the calf's head, broke the pot, and
then delivered the head to the owner of the calf, saying, "What will you
do when I am dead and gone?"--And we have another Gothamite in the
Kashmiri who bought as much rice as he thought would suffice for a
year's food, and finding he had only enough for eleven months, concluded
it was better to fast the other month right off, which he did
accordingly; but he died just before the month was completed, leaving
eleven months' rice in his house.

* * * * *

The typical noodle of the Turks, the Khoja Nasru-'d-Din, is said to have
been a subject of the independent prince of Karaman, at whose capital,
Konya, he resided, and he is represented as a contemporary of Timur
(Tamerlane), in the middle of the fourteenth century. The pleasantries
which are ascribed to him are for the most part common to all countries,
but some are probably of genuine Turkish origin. To cite a few
specimens: The Khoja's wife said to him one day, "Make me a present of a
kerchief of red Yemen silk, to put on my head." The Khoja stretched out
his arms and said, "Like that? Is that large enough?" On her replying in
the affirmative he ran off to the bazaar, with his arms still stretched
out, and meeting a man on the road, he bawled to him, "Look where you
are going, O man, or you will cause me to lose my measure!"

Another day the Khoja's wife washed his caftan and spread it upon a tree
in the garden of the house. That night the Khoja goes out, and thinks he
sees in the moonlight a man motionless upon a tree in the garden. "Give
me my bow and arrows," said he to his wife, and having received them, he
shot the caftan, piercing it through and through, and then returned into
the house. Next morning, when he discovered that it was his own caftan
he had shot at, he exclaimed, "By Allah, had I happened to be in it, I
should have killed myself!"

The Ettrick Shepherd's well-known story of the two Highlanders and the
wild boar has its exact parallel in the Turkish jest-book, as follows:
One day the Khoja went with his friend Sheragh Ahmed to the den of a
wolf, in order to take the cubs. Said the Khoja to Ahmed, "Do you go in,
and I will watch without;" and Ahmed went in, to take the cubs in the
absence of the old wolf. But she came back presently, and had got
half-way into her den when the Khoja seized hold of her tail. The wolf
in her struggles cast up a great dust into the eyes of Ahmed, who called
out to the Khoja, "Hallo! what does all this dust mean?" The Khoja
replied, "If the wolf's tail breaks, you will soon know what the dust

Several of the jests closely resemble "Joe Millers" told of Irishmen,
such as this: It happened one night, after the Khoja and a guest had
lain down to sleep, that the taper went out. "O Khoja Effendi," said the
guest, "the taper is gone out. But there is a taper at your right side.
Pray bring it and let us light it." Quoth the Khoja, "You must surely be
a fool to think that I should know my right hand in the dark." And this:
A thief having stolen a piece of salted cheese from the Khoja, he ran
immediately and seated himself on the border of a fountain. Said the
people to him, "O Khoja, what have you come here to look for in such a
hurry?" The Khoja replied, "The thief will certainly come here to drink
as soon as he has eaten my salted cheese; I always do so myself."

And here is one of the Gothamite class: One evening the Khoja went to
the well to draw water, and seeing the moon reflected in the water, he
exclaimed, "The moon has fallen into the well; I must pull it out." So
he let down the rope and hook, and the hook became fastened to a stone,
whereupon he exerted all his strength, and the rope broke, and he fell
upon his back. Looking into the sky, he saw the moon, and cried out
joyfully, "Praise be to Allah! I am sorely bruised, but the moon has got
into its place again."

There is a well-worn jest of an Irishman who, being observed by a friend
to look exceedingly blank and perplexed, was asked what ailed him. He
replied that he had had a dream. "Was it a good or a bad dream?"
"Faith," said he, "it was a little of both; but I'll tell ye. I dreamt
that I was with the Pope, who was the finest gentleman in the whole
district; and after we had conversed a while, his Holiness axed me,
Would I drink? Thinks I to myself, 'Would a duck swim?' So, seeing the
whisky and the lemons and the sugar on the side-board, I said, I didn't
mind if I took a drop of punch. 'Cold or hot?' says his Holiness. 'Hot,
your Holiness,' says I. So on that he steps down to the kitchen for the
boiling water, but, bedad, before he came back, I woke straight up; and
now it's distressing me that I didn't take it cold!"

We have somewhat of a parallel to this in a Turkish jest: The Khoja
dreamt that some one gave him nine pieces of money, but he was not
content, and said, "Make it ten." Then he awoke and found his hands
empty. Instantly closing his eyes again, and holding out his hand, he
said, "I repent; give me the nine pieces[3]."

But the Chinese relate the very counterpart of our Irishman's story. A
confirmed drunkard dreamt that he had been presented with a cup of
excellent wine, and set it by the fire to warm[4], that he should better
enjoy the flavour of it; but just as he was about to drink off the
delicious draught he awoke. "Fool that I am," he cried, "why was I not
content to drink it cold?"[5]

* * * * *

The Chinese seem to have as keen a sense of humour as any other people.
They tell a story, for instance, of a lady who had been recently
married, and on the third day saw her husband returning home, so she
slipped quietly behind him and gave him a hearty kiss. The husband was
annoyed, and said she offended all propriety. "Pardon! pardon!" said
she. "I did not know it was you." Thus the excuse may sometimes be worse
than the offence. There is exquisite humour in the following
noodle-story: Two brothers were tilling the ground together. The elder,
having prepared dinner, called his brother, who replied in a loud voice,
"Wait till I have hidden my spade, and I shall at once be with you."
When he joined his elder brother, the latter mildly reproached him,
saying, "When one hides anything, one should keep silence, or at least
should not cry aloud about it, for it lays one open to be robbed."
Dinner over, the younger went back to the field, and looked for his
spade, but could not find it; so he ran to his brother and
_whispered_ mysteriously in his ear, "My spade is stolen!"--The
passion for collecting antique relics is thus ridiculed: A man who was
fond of old curiosities, though he knew not the true from the false,
expended all his wealth in purchasing mere imitations of the
lightning-stick of Tchew-Koung, a glazed cup of the time of the Emperor
Cheun, and the mat of Confucius; and being reduced to beggary, he
carried these spurious relics about with him, and said to the people in
the streets, "Sirs, I pray you, give me some coins struck by Tai-Koung."

* * * * *

Indian fiction abounds in stories of simpletons, and probably the oldest
extant drolleries of the Gothamite type are found in the _Jatakas_,
or Buddhist Birth-stories. Assuredly they were own brothers to our mad
men of Gotham, the Indian villagers who, being pestered by mosquitoes
when at work in the forest, bravely resolved, according to _Jataka_
44, to take their bows and arrows and other weapons and make war upon
the troublesome insects until they had shot dead or cut in pieces every
one; but in trying to shoot the mosquitoes they only shot, struck, and
injured one another. And nothing more foolish is recorded of the
Schildburgers than Somadeva relates, in his _Katha Sarit Sagara_,
of the simpletons who cut down the palm-trees: Being required to furnish
the king with a certain quantity of dates, and perceiving that it was
very easy to gather the dates of a palm which had fallen down of itself,
they set to work and cut down all the date-palms in their village, and
having gathered from them their whole crop of dates, they raised them up
and planted them again, thinking they would grow.

In illustration of the apothegm that "fools who attend only to the words
of an order, and do not understand the meaning, cause much detriment,"
is the story of the servants who kept the rain off the trunks: The camel
of a merchant gave way under its load on a journey. He said to his
servants, "I will go and buy another camel to carry the half of this
camel's load. And you must remain here, and take particular care that if
it clouds over the rain does not wet the leather of these trunks, which
are full of clothes." With these words the merchant left the servants by
the side of the camel and went off, and suddenly a cloud came up and
began to discharge rain. Then the fools said, "Our master told us to
take care that the rain did not touch the leather of the trunks;" and
after they had made this sage reflection they dragged the clothes out of
the trunks and wrapped them round the leather. The consequence was that
the rain spoiled the clothes. Then the merchant returned, and in a rage
said to his servants, "You rascals! Talk of water! Why, the whole stock
of clothes is spoiled by the rain!" And they answered him, "You told us
to keep the rain off the leather of the trunks. What fault have we
committed?" He answered, "I told you that if the leather got wet the
clothes would be spoiled. I told you so in order to save the clothes,
not the leather."

The story of the servant who looked after the door is a farther
illustration of the same maxim. A merchant said to his foolish servant,
"Take care of the door of my shop; I am going home for a short time."
After his master was gone, the fool took the shop-door on his shoulder
and went off to see an actor perform. As he was returning his master met
him, and gave him a scolding, and he answered, "I have taken care of
this door, as you told me."

This jest had found its way into Europe three centuries ago. It is
related of Giufa, the typical Sicilian booby, and probably came to
England from Italy. This is how it is told in the _Sacke Full of
Newes_, a jest-book originally printed in the sixteenth century: "In
the countrey dwelt a Gentlewoman who had a French man dwelling with her,
and he did ever use to go to Church with her; and upon a time he and his
mistresse were going to church, and she bad him pull the doore after him
and follow her to the church; and so he took the doore betweene his
armes, and lifted it from the hooks, and followed his mistresse with it.
But when she looked behinde her and saw him bring the doore upon his
back, 'Why, thou foolish knave,' qd she, 'what wilt thou do with the
door?' 'Marry, mistresse,' qd he, 'you bad me pull the doore after me.'
'Why, fool,' qd she, 'I did command thee that thou shouldest make fast
the doore after thee, and not bring it upon thy back after me.' But
after this there was much good sport and laughing at his simplicity and
foolishnesse therein."

In the capacity of a merchant the simpleton does very wonderful things,
and plumes himself on his sagacity, as we have already seen in the case
of the Arab and his cow. And here are a brace of similar stories: A
foolish man once went to the island of Kataha to trade, and among his
wares was a quantity of fragrant aloes-wood. After he had sold his other
goods, he could not find any one to take the aloes-wood off his hands,
for the people who live there are not acquainted with that article of
commerce. Then seeing people buying charcoal from the woodmen, he burnt
his stock of aloes-wood and reduced it to charcoal. He sold it for the
price which charcoal usually fetched, and returning home, boasted of his
cleverness, and became the laughing-stock of everybody.--Another
blockhead went to the market to sell cotton, but no one would buy it
from him, because it was not properly cleaned. In the meanwhile he saw
in the bazaar a goldsmith selling gold which he had purified by heating
it, and he saw it taken by a customer. Seeing that, he threw his cotton
into the fire in order to purify it, and it was all burned to ashes.

There must be few who have not heard of the Irishman who was hired by a
Yarmouth maltster to help in loading a ship. As the vessel was about to
sail, the Irishman cried out from the quay, "Captain, I lost your shovel
overboard, but I cut a big notch on the rail-fence, round the stern,
just where it went down, so you will find it when you come back."--A
similar story is told of an Indian simpleton. He was sailing in a ship
when he let a silver cup fall from his hand into the water. Having taken
notes of the spot by observing the eddies and other signs in the water,
he said to himself, "I will bring it up from the bottom when I return."
As he was recrossing the sea, he saw the eddies and other signs, and
thinking he recognised the spot, he plunged into the water again and
again, to recover his cup, but he only got well laughed at for his

We have an amusing commentary on the maxim that "distress is sure to
come from being in the company of fools" in the following, from the
Canarese story-book entitled _Kathe Manjari_: A foolish fellow
travelled with a shopkeeper. When it became dark, the fool lay down in
the road to sleep, but the shopkeeper took shelter in a hollow tree.
Presently some thieves came along the road, and one struck his feet
against the fool's legs, upon which he exclaimed to his companions,
"What is this? Is it a piece of wood?" The fool was angry, and said, "Go
away! go away! Is there a knot, well tied, containing five annas, in the
loins of a plank in your house?" The thieves then seized him, and took
away his annas. As they were moving off, they asked if the money was
good or bad, to which the noodle replied, "Ha! ha! is it of my money you
speak in that way, and want to know whether it is good or bad? Look--
there is a shopkeeper in that tree," pointing with his finger--"show it
to him." Then the thieves went up to the shopkeeper and robbed him of
two hundred pagodas.

In our next story, of the villagers who ate the buffalo, is exemplified
the fact that "fools, in the conceit of their folly, while they deny
what need not be denied, reveal what it is their interest to suppress,
in order to get themselves believed." Some villagers took a buffalo
belonging to a certain man, and killed it in an enclosure outside the
village, under a banyan tree, and dividing the flesh, ate it up. The
owner of the buffalo went and complained to the king, and he had the
villagers who had eaten the animal brought before him. The proprietor of
the buffalo said before the king, in their presence, "These men took my
buffalo under a banyan tree near the tank, and killed and ate it before
my eyes," whereupon an old fool among the villagers said, "There is no
tank or banyan tree in our village. He says what is not true; where did
we kill his buffalo or eat it?" When the man heard this, he replied,
"What! are there not a banyan tree and a tank on the east side of the
village? Moreover, you ate my buffalo on the eighth day of the lunar
month." The old fool then said, "There is no east side or eighth day in
our village." On hearing this, the king laughed, and said, to encourage
the fool, "You are a truthful person; you never say anything false; so
tell me the truth: did you eat that buffalo, or did you not?" The old
fool answered, "I was born three years after my father died, and he
taught me skill in speaking. So I never say what is untrue, my king. It
is true that we ate his buffalo, but all the rest that he alleges is
false." When the king heard this, he and his courtiers could not
restrain their laughter; but he restored the price of the buffalo to the
man, and fined the villagers.

But sometimes even kings have been arrant noodles, and their credulity
quite as amusing--or amazing--as that of their subjects. Once on a time
there was a king who had a handsome daughter, and he summoned his
physicians, and said to them, "Make some preparation of salutary drugs,
which will cause my daughter to grow up quickly, so that she may be
married to a good husband." The physicians, wishing to get a living out
of this royal fool, replied, "There is a medicine which will do this,
but it can only be procured in a distant country; and while we are
sending for it, we must shut up your daughter in concealment, for this
is the treatment laid down in such cases." The king having consented,
they placed his daughter in concealment for several years, pretending
that they were engaged in procuring the medicine; and when she was grown
up, they presented her to the king, saying that she had been made to
grow by the preparation; so the king was highly pleased, and gave them
much wealth.

Between an Indian raja and an Indian dhobie, or washerman, there is the
greatest possible difference socially, but individually--when both are
noodles--there may be sometimes very little to choose; indeed, of the
two, all things considered, the difference, if any, is perhaps in favour
of the humble cleanser of body-clothes. A favourite story in various
parts of India, near akin to that last cited, is of a poor washerman and
his young ass. This simpleton one day, passing a school kept by a
mullah, or Muhammedan doctor of laws, heard him scolding his pupils,
exclaiming that they were still asses, although he had done so much to
make them men. The washerman thought that here was a rare chance, for he
happened to have the foal of the ass that carried his bundles of
clothes, which, since he had no child, he should get the learned mullah
to change into a boy. Thus thinking, he goes next day to the mullah, and
asks him to admit his foal into his school, in order that it should be
changed into the human form and nature. The preceptor, seeing the poor
fellow's simplicity, answered that the task was very laborious, and he
must have a fee of a hundred rupis. So the washerman went home, and soon
returned leading his foal, which, with the money, he handed over to the
teacher, who told him to come again on such a day and hour, when he
should find that the change he desired had been effected. But the
washerman was so impatient that he went to the teacher several times
before the day appointed, and was informed that the foal was beginning
to learn manners, that its ears were already become very much shorter,
and, in short, that it was making satisfactory progress.

It happened, when the day came on which he was to receive his young ass
transformed into a fine, well-educated boy, the simpleton was kept busy
with his customers' clothes, but on the day following he found time to
go to the teacher, who told him it was most unfortunate he had not come
at the appointed hour, since the youth had quitted the school yesterday,
refusing to submit any longer to authority; but the teacher had just
learned that he had been made kazi (or judge) in Cawnpore. At first the
washerman was disposed to be angry, but reflecting that, after all, the
business was better even than he anticipated, he thanked the preceptor
for all his care and trouble, and returned home. Having informed his
wife of his good luck, they resolved to visit their quondam young foal,
and get him to make them some allowance out of his now ample means. So,
shutting up their house, they travelled to Cawnpore, which they reached
in safety. Being directed to the kazi's court, the washerman, leaving
his wife outside, entered, and discovered the kazi seated in great
dignity, and before him were the pleaders, litigants, and officers of
the court. He had brought a bridle in one hand and a wisp of hay in the
other; but being unable, on account of the crowd, to approach the kazi,
he got tired of waiting, so, holding up the bridle and the hay, he cried
out, "Khoor! khoor! khoor!" as he used to do in calling his donkeys,
thinking this would induce the kazi to come to him. But, instead of
this, he was seized by the kazi's order and locked up for creating a

When the business of the court was over, the kazi, pitying the supposed
madman, sent for him to learn the reason of his strange behaviour, and
in answer to his inquiries the simpleton said, "You don't seem to know
me, sir, nor recognise this bridle, which has been in your mouth so
often. You appear to forget that you are the foal of one of my asses,
that I got changed into a man, for the fee of a hundred rupis, by a
learned mullah who transforms asses into educated men. You forget what
you were, and, I suppose, will be as little submissive to me as you were
to the mullah when you ran away from him." All present were convulsed
with laughter: such a "case" was never heard of before. But the kazi,
seeing how the mullah had taken advantage of the poor fellow's
simplicity, gave him a present of a hundred rupis, besides sufficient
for the expenses of his journey home, and so dismissed him.

A party of rogues once found as great a blockhead in a rich Indian
herdsman, to whom they said, "We have asked the daughter of a wealthy
inhabitant of the town in marriage for you, and her father has promised
to give her." He was much pleased to hear this, and gave them an ample
reward for their trouble. After a few days they came again and told him
that his marriage had taken place. Again he gave them rich presents for
their good news. Some more days having passed, they said to him, "A son
has been born to you," at which he was in ecstacies and gave them all
his remaining wealth; but the next day, when he began to lament, saying,
"I am longing to see my son," the people laughed at him on account of
his having been cheated by the rogues, as if he had acquired the
stupidity of cattle from having so much to do with them.

It is not generally known that the incident which forms the subject of
the droll Scotch song "The Barring of the Door," which also occurs in
the _Nights_ of Straparola, is of Eastern origin. In an Arabian
tale, a blockhead, having married his pretty cousin, gave the customary
feast to their relations and friends. When the festivities were over, he
conducted his guests to the door, and from absence of mind neglected to
shut it before returning to his wife. "Dear cousin," said his wife to
him when they were alone, "go and shut the street door." "It would be
strange indeed," he replied, "if I did such a thing. Am I just made a
bridegroom, clothed in silk, wearing a shawl and a dagger set with
diamonds, and am I to go and shut the door? Why, my dear, you are crazy.
Go and shut it yourself." "Oh, indeed!" exclaimed the wife. "Am I,
young, robed in a dress, with lace and precious stones--am I to go and
shut the street door? No, indeed! It is you who are become crazy, and
not I. Come, let us make a bargain," she continued; "and let the first
who speaks go and fasten the door." "Agreed," said the husband, and
immediately he became mute, and the wife too was silent, while they both
sat down, dressed as they were in their nuptial attire, looking at each
other and seated on opposite sofas. Thus they remained for two hours.
Some thieves happened to pass by, and seeing the door open, entered and
laid hold of whatever came to their hands. The silent couple heard
footsteps in the house, but opened not their mouths. The thieves came
into the room and saw them seated motionless and apparently indifferent
to all that might take place. They continued their pillage, therefore,
collecting together everything valuable, and even dragging away the
carpets from beneath them; they laid hands on the noodle and his wife,
taking from their persons every article of jewellery, while they, in
fear of losing the wager, said not a word. Having thus cleared the
house, the thieves departed quietly, but the pair continued to sit,
uttering not a syllable. Towards morning a police officer came past on
his tour of inspection, and seeing the door open, walked in. After
searching all the rooms and finding no person, he entered their
apartment, and inquired the meaning of what he saw. Neither of them
would condescend to reply. The officer became angry, and ordered their
heads to be cut off. The executioner's sword was about to perform its
office, when the wife cried out, "Sir, he is my husband. Do not kill
him!" "Oh, oh," exclaimed the husband, overjoyed and clapping his hands,
"you have lost the wager; go and shut the door." He then explained the
whole affair to the police officer, who shrugged his shoulders and went

A party of noodles are substituted for the husband and wife in a Turkish
version of the tale, in the _History of the Forty Vazirs. _ Some
bang-eaters,[7] while out walking, found a sequin. They said, "Let us go
to a cook, and buy food and eat." So they went and entered a cook's shop
and said, "Master, give us a sequin's worth of food." The cook prepared
all kinds of food, and loaded a porter with it; and the bang-eaters took
him without the city, where there was a ruined tomb, which they entered
and sat down in, and the porter deposited the food and went away. The
bang-eaters began to partake of the food, when suddenly one of them
said, "The door is open; do one of you shut it, else some other
bang-eaters will come in and annoy us: even though they be friends, they
will do the deeds of foes." One of them replied, "Go thou and shut the
door," and they fell a-quarrelling. At length one said, "Come, let us
agree that whichever of us speaks or laughs shall rise and fasten the
door." They all agreed to this proposal, and left the food and sat quite
still. Suddenly a great number of dogs came in; not one of the
bang-eaters stirred or spoke, for if one spoke he would have to rise and
shut the door, so they spoke not. The dogs made an end of the food, and
ate it all up. Just then another dog leapt in from without, but no food
remained. Now one of the bang-eaters had partaken of everything, and
some of the food remained about his mouth and on his beard. That newly
come dog licked up the particles of food that were on the bang-eater's
breast, and while he was licking up those about his mouth, he took his
lip for a piece of meat and bit it. The bang-eater did not stir, for he
said within himself, "They will tell me to shut the door." But to ease
his soul he cried, "Ough!" inwardly cursing the dog. When the other
bang-eaters heard him make that noise, they said, "Rise, fasten the
door." He replied, "After loss, attention! Now that the food is gone,
and my lip is wounded, what is the use of shutting that door?" and
crying, "Woe! alas!" they each went in a different direction.[8]

A similar story is known in Kashmir: Five friends chanced to meet, and
all having leisure, they decided to go to the bazaar and purchase a
sheep's head, and have a great feast in the house of one of the party,
each of whom subscribed four annas. The head was bought, but while they
were returning to the house it was remembered that there was not any
butter. On this one of the five proposed that the first of them that
should break silence by speaking should go for the butter. Now it was no
light matter to have to retrace one's steps back to the butter-shop, as
the way was long and the day was very hot. So they all five kept strict
silence. Pots were cleaned, the fire was prepared, and the head laid
thereon. Now and then one would cough, and another would groan, but
never a tongue uttered a word, though the fire was fast going out, and
the head was getting burnt, owing to there being no fat or butter
wherewith to grease the pot. Thus matters were when a policeman passed
by, and, attracted by the smell of cooking, looked in at the window, and
saw these five men perfectly silent and sitting around a burnt sheep's
head. Not knowing the arrangement, he supposed that these men were
either mad or were thieves, and so he inquired how they came there, and
how they obtained the head. Not a word was uttered in reply. "Why are
you squatting there in that stupid fashion?" shouted the policeman.
Still no reply. Then the policeman, full of rage that these wretched men
should thus mock at his authority, took them all off straight to the
police inspectors office. On arrival the inspector asked them the reason
of their strange behaviour, but he also got no reply. This rather tried
the patience and temper of the man of authority, who was generally
feared, and flattered, and bribed. So he ordered one of the five to be
immediately flogged. The poor fool bore it bravely, and uttered never a
sound; but when the blows repeatedly fell on the same wounded parts, he
could endure no longer, and cried out, "Oh! oh! Why do you beat me?
Enough, enough! Is it not enough that the sheep's head has been

His four associates now cried out, "Go to the bazaar and fetch the

There is quite as droll a version current among the people of Ceylon, to
the following effect: A gentleman once had in his employment twenty-five
idiots. In the old times it was customary with Sinhalese high families
not to allow their servants to eat from plates, but every day they were
supplied with plantain leaves, from which they took their food. After
eating, they were accustomed to shape the leaf into the form of a cup
and drink out of it. Now in this gentleman's house the duty of providing
the leaves devolved upon the twenty-five idiots, who were scarcely fit
for any other work. One day, when they had gone into the garden to cut
the leaves, they spoke among themselves and said, "Why should we, every
one of us, trouble ourselves to fetch plantain leaves, when one only
could very easily do it? Let us therefore lie down on the ground and
sleep like dead men, and let him who first utters a sound or opens his
eyes undertake the work." It was no sooner said than done. The men lay
in a heap like so many logs. At breakfast-time that day the hungry
servants went to the kitchen for their rice, only to be disappointed. No
leaves were forthcoming on which to distribute the food, and a complaint
was made to the master that the twenty-five idiots had not returned to
the house since they went out in the morning. Search was at once made,
and they were found fast asleep in the garden. After vainly endeavouring
to rouse them, the master concluded that they were dead, and ordered his
servants to dig a deep hole and bury them. A grave was then dug, and the
idiots were, one by one, thrown into it, but still there was no noise or
motion on their part. At length, when they were all put into the grave,
and were being covered up, a tool employed by one of the servants hit
sharply by accident against the leg of one of the idiots, who then
involuntarily moaned. Thereupon all the others exclaimed, "You were the
first to utter a sound; therefore from henceforth you must take upon
yourself the duty of providing the plantain leaves."[10]

It has already been remarked that a literary Italian version of the
Silent Couple is found in the _Nights_ of Straparola, but there are
other variants orally current among the common people in different parts
of Italy. This is one from Venice: There were once a husband and a wife.
The former said one day to the latter, "Let us have some fritters." She
replied, "What shall we do for a frying-pan?" "Go and borrow one from my
godmother." "You go and get it; it is only a little way off." "Go
yourself, and I will take it back when we are done with it." So she went
and borrowed the pan, and when she returned said to her husband, "Here
is the pan, but you must carry it back." So they cooked the fritters,
and after they had eaten, the husband said, "Now let us go to work, both
of us, and the one who speaks first shall carry back the pan." Then she
began to spin, and he to draw his thread--for he was a shoemaker--and
all the time keeping silence, except that when he drew his thread he
said, "Leulero! leulero!" and she, spinning, answered, "Picici! picici!
picicio!" And they said not another word. Now there happened to pass
that way a soldier with a horse, and he asked a woman if there was any
shoemaker in that street. She said there was one near by, and took him
to the house. The, soldier asked the shoemaker to come and cut his horse
a girth, and he would pay him. The latter made no answer but "Leulero!
leulero!" and his wife "Picici! picici! picicio!" Then the soldier said,
"Come and cut my horse a girth, or I will cut your head off." The
shoemaker only answered, "Leulero! leulero!" and his wife "Picici!
picici! picicio!" Then the soldier began to grow angry, and seized his
sword, and said to the shoemaker, "Either come and cut my horse a girth,
or I will cut your head off." But to no purpose. The shoemaker did not
wish to be the first one to speak, and only replied, "Leulero! leulero!"
and his wife "Picici! picici! picicio!" Then the soldier got mad in good
earnest, seized the shoemaker's head, and was going to cut it off. When
his wile saw that, she cried out, "Ah, don't, for mercy's sake!" "Good!"
exclaimed her husband, "good! Now you go and carry the pan back to my
godmother, and I will go and cut the horse's girth."

In a Sicilian version the man and wife fry some fish, and then set about
their respective work--shoemaking and spinning--and the one who finishes
first the piece of work begun is to eat the fish. While they are singing
and whistling at their work, a friend comes along, who knocks at the
door, but receives no answer. Then he enters and speaks to them, but
still no reply. Finally, in anger, he sits down at the table, and eats
up all the fish himself.[11]

Thus, it will be observed, the droll incident which forms the subject of
the old Scotch song of "The Barring of the Door" is of world-wide

* * * * *

Gothamite stories appear to have been familiar throughout Europe during
the later Middle Ages, if we may judge from a chapter of the _Gesta
Romanorum_ in which the monkish compiler has curiously "moralised"
the actions of three noodles:

We read in the "Lives of the Fathers" that an angel showed to a certain
holy man three men labouring under a triple fatuity. The first made a
faggot of wood, and because it was too heavy for him to carry, he added
to it more wood, hoping by such means to make it light. The second drew
water with great labour from a very deep well with a sieve, which he
incessantly filled. The third carried a beam in his chariot, and,
wishing to enter his house, whereof the gate was so narrow and low that
it would not admit him, he violently whipped his horse until they both
fell together into a deep well. Having shown this to the holy man, the
angel said, "What think you of these three men?" "That they are fools,"
answered he. "Understand, however," returned the angel, "that they
represent the sinners of this world. The first describes that kind of
men who from day to day do add new sins to the old, because they cannot
bear the weight of those which they already have. The second man
represents those who do good, but do it sinfully, and therefore it is of
no benefit. And the third person is he who would enter the kingdom of
heaven with all his world of vanities, but is cast down into hell."

* * * * *

And now a few more Indian and other stories of the Gothamite class to
conclude the present section. In Malava there were two Brahman brothers,
and the wealth inherited from their father was left jointly between
them. And while they were dividing that wealth they quarrelled about one
having too little and one having too much, and they made a teacher
learned in the Vedas arbitrator, and he said to them, "You must divide
everything your father left into two halves, so that you may not quarrel
about the inequality of the division." When the two fools heard this,
they divided every single thing into two equal parts--house, beds, in
fact, all their property, including their cattle. Henry Stephens (Henri
Estienne), in the Introduction to his Apology for Herodotus,[12] relates
some very amusing noodle-stories, such as of him who, burning his shins
before the fire, and not having wit enough to go back from it, sent for
masons to remove the chimney; of the fool who ate the doctor's
prescription, because he was told to "take it;" of another wittol who,
having seen one spit upon iron to try whether it was hot, did likewise
with his porridge; and, best of all, he tells of a fellow who was hit on
the back with a stone as he rode upon his mule, and cursed the animal
for kicking him. This last exquisite jest has its analogue in that of
the Irishman who was riding on an ass one fine day, when the beast, by
kicking at the flies that annoyed him, got one of its hind feet
entangled in the stirrup, whereupon the rider dismounted, saying,
"Faith, if you're going to get up, it's time I was getting down."

The poet Ovid alludes to the story of Ino persuading the women of the
country to roast the wheat before it was sown, which may have come to
India through the Greeks, since we are told in the _Katha Sarit
Sagara_ of a foolish villager who one day roasted some sesame seeds,
and finding them nice to eat, he sowed a large quantity of roasted
seeds, hoping that similar ones would come up. The story also occurs in
Coelho's _Contes Portuguezes_, and is probably of Buddhistic
origin. And an analogous story is told of an Irishman who gave his hens
hot water, in order that they should lay boiled eggs!


[1] This notion, that schoolmasters "lack wit," however absurd, seems to
have been entertained from ancient times, and to be still prevalent in
the East; the so-called jests of Hierokles are all at the expense of
pedants; and the Turkish typical noodle is Khoja _(i.e.,_ Teacher)
Nasru-'d-Din, some of whose "witless devices" shall be cited presently.

[2] _Elf Laylawa Layla_, or, The Book of a Thousand Nights and a
Night. Translated, with Introduction, Notes on the Manners and Customs
of Moslem Men, and a Terminal Essay on the History of _The Nights_,
by R.F. Burton. Vol. v.

[3] The Khoja, however, was not such a fool as we might conclude from
the foregoing examples of his sayings and doings; for, being asked one
day what musical instrument he liked best, he answered, "I am very fond
of the music of plates and saucepans."

[4] In China wine is almost invariably taken hot, according to Davis, in
his work on the Chinese.

[5] This and the following specimens of Chinese stories of simpletons
are from "Contes et Bon Mots extraits d'un livre chinois intitule
_Siao li Siao_, traduit par M. Stanislas Julien," (_Journal
Asiatique_, tom. iv., 1824).

[6] In another Arabian version, the man desires his wife to moisten some
stale bread she has set before him for supper, and she refuses. After an
altercation it is agreed that the one who speaks first shall get up and
moisten the bread. A neighbour comes in, and, to his surprise, finds
the couple dumb; he kisses the wife, but the man says nothing; he gives
the man a blow, but still he says nothing; he has the man taken before
the kazi, but even yet he says nothing; the kazi orders him to be
hanged, and he is led off to execution, when the wife rushes up and
cries out, "Oh, save my poor husband!" "You wretch," says the man, "go
home and moisten the bread!"

[7] Bang is a preparation of hemp and coarse opium.

[8] From Mr. E.J.W. Gibb's translation of the _Forty Vazirs_
(London: 1886).

[9] Knowles' _Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings_, pp.
197-8. The article bought by the five men is called a _hir_, which
Mr. Knowles says "is the head of any animal used for food," and a
_sheep's_ head were surely fitting food for such noodles. Mr.
Knowles makes it appear that the whole affair of keeping silence was a
mere jest, but we have before seen that it is decidedly meant for a

[10] _The Orientalist_, 1884, p. 136.

[11] Crane's _Italian Popular Tales_, pp. 284-5.

[12] A separate work from the _Apologie pour Herodote_ Such was the
exasperation of the French clerics at the bitter truths set forth in it,
that the author had to flee the country. An English translation,
entitled "_A World of Wonders;_ or, an introduction to a Treatise
tovching the Conformitie of Ancient and Modern Wonders; or, a
Preparative Treatise to the 'Apologie for Herodotus,'" etc., was
published at London in 1607, folio, and at Edinburgh 1608, also folio.
The _Apologie pour Herodote_ was printed at the Hague.



Among the favourite jests of all peoples, from Iceland to Japan, from
India to England, are the droll adventures and mishaps of the silly son,
who contrives to muddle everything he is set to do. In vain does his
poor mother try to direct him in "the way he should go": she gets him a
wife, as a last resource; but a fool he is still, and a fool he will
always be. His blunders and disasters are chronicled in penny chap-books
and in nursery rhymes, of infinite variety. Who has not heard how

Simple Simon went a-fishing
For to catch a whale,
But all the water he had got
Was in his mother's pail?

an adventure which recalls another nursery rhyme regarding Simon's still
more celebrated prototypes:

Three men of Gotham
Went to sea in a bowl;
If the bowl had been stronger,
My tale had been longer.

Then there is the prose history of _Simple Simon's Misfortunes; or,
his Wife Marjory's Outrageous Cruelty_, which tells (1) of Simon's
wedding, and how his wife Marjory scolded him for putting on his
roast-meat clothes (_i.e.,_ Sunday clothes) the very next morning
after he was married; (2) how she dragged him up the chimney in a
basket, a-smoke-drying, wherein they used to dry bacon, which made him
look like a red herring; (3) how Simon lost a sack of corn as he was
going to the mill to have it ground; (4) how Simon went to market with a
basket of eggs, but broke them by the way: also how he was put into the
stocks; (5) how Simon's wife cudgelled him for not bringing her money
for the eggs; (6) how Simon lost his wife's pail and burnt the bottom of
her kettle; (7) how Simon's wife sent him to buy two pounds of soap, but
going over the bridge, he let his money fall in the river: also how a
ragman ran away with his clothes. No wonder if, after this crowning
misfortune, poor Simon "drank a bottle of sack, to poison himself, as
being weary of his life"!

Again, we have _The Unfortunate Son; or, a Kind Wife is worth Gold,
being full of Mirth and Pastime_, which commences thus:

There was a man but one son had,
And he was all his joy;
But still his fortune was but bad,
Though he was a pretty boy.

His father sent him forth one day
To feed a flock of sheep,
And half of them were stole away
While he lay down asleep!

Next day he went with one Tom Goff
To reap as he was seen,
When he did cut his fingers off,
The sickle was so keen!

Another of the chap-book histories of noodles is that of _Simple John
and his Twelve Misfortunes_, an imitation of _Simple Simon_; it
was still popular amongst the rustics of Scotland fifty years ago.

* * * * *

The adventures of Silly Matt, the Norwegian counterpart of our typical
English booby, as related in Asbjornson's collection of Norse
folk-tales, furnish some curious examples of the transmission of popular

The mother of Silly Matt tells him one day that he should build a bridge
across the river and take toll of every one who wished to go over it; so
he sets to work with a will, and when the bridge is finished, stands at
one end--"at the receipt of custom." Three men come up with loads of
hay, and Matt demands toll of them, so they each give him a wisp of hay.
Next comes a pedlar, with all sorts of small wares in his pack, and Matt
gets from him two needles. On his return home his mother asks him what
he has got that day. "Hay and needles," says Matt. Well! and what had he
done with the hay? "I put some of it in my mouth," quoth he, "and as it
tasted like grass, I threw it into the river." She says he ought to have
spread it on the byre-floor. "Very good," replies the dutiful Matt;
"I'll remember that next time." And what had he done with the needles?
He stuck them into the hay. "Ah," says the mother, "you should rather
have stuck them in and out of your cap, and brought them home to me."
Well! well! Matt will not forget to do so next time. The following day a
man comes to the bridge with a sack of meal and gives Matt a pound of
it; then comes a smith, who gives him a gimlet: the meal he spread on
the byre-floor, and the gimlet he stuck in and out of his cap. His
mother tells him he should have come home for a bucket to hold the meal,
and the gimlet he should have put up his sleeve. Very good! Matt will
not forget next time. Another day some men come to the bridge with kegs
of brandy, of which Matt gets a pint, and pours it into his sleeve; next
comes a man driving some goats and their young ones, and gives Matt a
kid, which he treads down into a bucket. His mother says he should have
led the goat home with a cord round its neck, and put the brandy in a
pail. Next day he gets a pat of butter and drags it home with a string.
After this his mother despairs of his improvement, till it occurs to her
that he might not be such a noodle if he had a wife. So she bids him go
and see whether he cannot find some lass who will take him for a
husband. Should he meet any folk on his way, he ought to say to them,
"God's peace!" Matt accordingly sets off in quest of a wife, and meets a
she-wolf and her seven cubs. "God's peace!" says Matt, and then returns
home. When his mother learns of this, she tells him he should have
cried, "Huf! huf! you jade wolf!" Next day he goes off again, and
meeting a bridal party, he cries, "Huf! huf! you jade wolf!" and goes
back to his mother and acquaints her of this fresh adventure. "O you
great silly!" says she; "you should have said, 'Ride happily, bride and
bridegroom!'" Once more Matt sets out to seek a wife, and seeing on the
road a bear taking a ride on a horse, he exclaims joyfully, "Ride
happily, bride and bridegroom!" and then returns home. His mother, on
hearing of this new piece of folly, tells him he should have cried, "To
the devil with you!" Again he sets out, and meeting a funeral
procession, he roars, "To the devil with you!" His mother says he should
have cried, "May your poor soul have mercy!" and sends him off for the
fifth time to look for a lass. On the road he sees some gipsies busy
skinning a dead dog, upon which he piously exclaims, "May your poor soul
have mercy!" His mother now goes herself to get him a wife, finds a lass
that is willing to marry him, and invites her to dinner. She privately
tells Matt how he should comport himself in the presence of his
sweetheart; he should cast an eye at her now and then. Matt understands
her instruction most literally: stealing into the sheepfold, he plucks
out the eyes of all the sheep and goats, and puts them in his pocket.
When he is seated beside his sweetheart, he casts a "sheep's eye" at
her, which hits her on the nose.[1]

This last incident, as we have seen, occurs in the _Tales of the Men
of Gotham ("ante_, p. 41" in original. This section is to be found
immediately after the reference to Chapter II, Footnote 9 in this
e-text), and it is also found in a Venetian story (Bernoni,
_Fiabe_, No. 11) entitled "The Fool," of which the following is the
first part:

Once upon a time there was a mother who had a son with little brains.
One morning she said, "We must get up early, for we have to make bread."
So they both rose early, and began to make bread. The mother made the
loaves, but took no pains to make them the same size. Her son said to
her finally, "How small you have made this loaf, mother." "Oh," said
she, "it does not matter whether they are big or little, for the proverb
says, 'Large and small, all must go to mass.'" "Good! good!" said her
son. When the bread was made, instead of taking it to the baker's, the
son took it to the church, for it was the hour for mass, saying, "My
mother said that, 'large and small, all must go to mass.'" So he threw
the loaves down in the middle of the church. Then he went home to his
mother, and said, "I have done what you told me to do," "Good! Did you
take the bread to the baker's?" "O mother, if you had seen how they all
looked at me!" "You might also have cast an eye on them in return," said
his mother. "Wait; wait. I will cast an eye at them too," he exclaimed,
and went to the stable and cut out the eyes of all the animals, and
putting them in a handkerchief, went to the church, and when any man or
woman looked at him, he threw an eye at them.[2]

Silly Matt has a brother in Russia, according to M. Leger's _Contes
Populaires Slaves_, published at Paris in 1882: An old man and his
wife had a son, who was about as great a noodle as could be. One day his
mother said to him, "My son, thou shouldst go about among people, to get
thyself sharpened and rubbed down a little." "Yes, mother," says he;
"I'm off this moment." So he went to the village, and saw two men
threshing pease. He ran up to them, and rubbed himself now on one and
then on the other. "No nonsense!" cried the men. "Get away." But he
continued to rub himself on them, till at last they would stand it no
longer, and beat him with their flails so lustily that he could hardly
crawl home. "What art thou crying about, child?" asked his mother. He
related his misfortune. "Ah, my child," said she, "how silly thou art!
Thou shouldst have said to them, 'God aid you, good men! Do you wish me
to help you to thresh?' and then they would have given thee some pease
for thy trouble, and we should have had them to cook and eat." On
another occasion the noodle again went through the village, and met some
people carrying a dead man. "May God aid you, good men!" he exclaimed.
"Do you wish me to help you to thresh?" But he got himself well thrashed
once more for this ill-timed speech. When he reached home, he howled,
"They've felled me to the ground, beaten me, and plucked my beard and
hair!" and told of his new mishap. "Ah, noodle!" said his mother, "thou
shouldst have said, 'God give peace to his soul!' Thou shouldst have
taken off thy bonnet, wept, and fallen upon thy knees. They would then
have given thee meat and drink." Again he went to the village, and met a
marriage procession. So he took off his bonnet, and cried with all his
might, "God grant peace to his soul!" and then burst into tears. "What
brute is this?" said the wedding company. "We laugh and amuse ourselves,
and he laments as if he were at a funeral." So they leaped out of the
carriages, and beat him soundly on the ribs. Home he returned, crying,
"They've beaten me, thrashed me, and torn my beard and hair!" and
related what had happened. "My son," said his mother, "thou shouldst
have leaped and danced with them." The next time he went to the village
he took his bagpipe under his arm. At the end of the street a cart-shed
was on fire. The noodle ran to the spot, and began to play on his
bagpipe and to dance and caper about, for which he was abused as before.
Going back to his mother in tears, he told her how he had fared. "My
son," said she, "thou shouldst have carried water and thrown it on the
fire, like the other folks." Three days later, when his ribs were well
again, the noodle went through the village once more, and seeing a man
roasting a little pig, he seized a vessel of water, ran up with it, and
threw the water on the fire. This time also he was beaten, and when he
got home, and told his mother of his ill-luck, she resolved never again
to allow him to go abroad; so he remains by the fireside, as great a
fool as ever.

This species of noodle is also known in Japan. He is the hero of a
farce entitled _Hone Kaha_, or Ribs and Skin, which has been done
into English by Mr. Basil Hall Chamberlain, in his _Classical Poetry
of the Japanese_. The rector of a Buddhist temple tells his curate
that he feels he is now getting too old for the duties of his office,
and means to resign the benefice in his favour. Before retiring to his
private chamber, he desires the curate to let him know if any persons
visit the temple, and bids him, should he be in want of information
regarding any matter, to come to him. A parishioner calls to borrow an
umbrella. The curate lends him a new one, and then goes to the rector
and informs him of this visitor. "You have done wrong," says the rector.
"You ought to have said that you should have been happy to comply with
such a small request, but, unfortunately, the rector was walking out
with it the other day, when, at a place where four roads meet, a sudden
gust of wind blew the skin to one side and the ribs to another; we have
tied the ribs and skin together in the middle, and hung it from the
ceiling. Something like that," adds the rector, "something with an air
of truth about it, is what you should have said." Next comes another
parishioner, who wishes to borrow a horse. The curate replies with great
politeness, "The request with which you honour me is a mere trifle, but
the rector took it out with him a few days since, and coming to the
junction of four cross roads, a gust of wind blew the ribs to one side
and the skin to another, and we have tied them together, and hung them
from the ceiling; so I fear it would not suit your purpose." "It is a
horse I want," said the man. "Precisely--a horse: I am aware of it,"
quoth the curate, and the man went off, not a little perplexed, after
which the curate reports this new affair to the rector, who says it was
to an umbrella, not to a horse, that such a story was applicable. Should
any one come again to borrow a horse, he ought to say, "I much regret
that I cannot comply with your request. The fact is, we lately turned
him out to grass, and becoming frolicsome, he dislocated his thigh, and
is now lying, covered with straw, in a corner of the stable." "Something
like that," adds the rector, "something with an air of truth about it,
is what you should say." A third parishioner comes to invite the rector
and the curate to a feast at his house. "For myself," says the curate,
"I promise to come; but I fear it will not be convenient for the rector
to accompany me." "I presume then," says the man, "that he has some
particular business on hand?" "No, not any particular business," answers
the curate; "but the truth is, we lately turned him out to grass, and
becoming frisky, he dislocated his thigh, and now lies in a corner of
the stable, covered with straw." "I spoke of the rector," says the
parishioner. "Yes, of the rector. I quite understand," responds the
curate, very complaisantly, upon which the man goes away, not knowing
what to make of such a strange account of the rector's condition. This
last affair puts the rector into a fury, and he cuffs his intended
successor, exclaiming, "When was I ever frisky, I should like to know?"

As great a jolterhead as any of the foregoing was the hero of a story
in Cazotte's "Continuation" of the _Arabian Nights_, entitled
"L'Imbecille; ou, L'Histoire de Xailoun,"[3] This noodle's wife said to
him one day, "Go and buy some pease, and don't forget that it is pease
you are to buy; continually repeat 'Pease!' till you reach the
market-place." So he went off, with "Pease! pease!" always in his mouth.
He passed the corner of a street where a merchant who had pearls for
sale was proclaiming his wares in a loud voice, saying, "In the name of
the Prophet, pearls!" Xailoun's attention was at once attracted by the
display of pearls, and at the same time he was occupied in retaining the
lesson his wife had taught him, and putting his hand in the box of
pearls, he cried out, "Pease! pease!" The merchant, supposing Xailoun
played upon him and depreciated his pearls by wishing to make them pass
for false ones, struck him a severe blow. "Why do you strike me?" said
Xailoun. "Because you insult me," answered the merchant. "Do you suppose
I am trying to deceive people?" "No," said the noodle. "But what must I
say, then?" "If you will cry properly, say as I do, 'Pearls, in the name
of the Prophet!'" He next passed by the shop of a merchant from whom
some pearls had been stolen, and his manner of crying, "Pearls!" etc.,
which was not nearly so loud as usual, appeared to the merchant very
suspicious. "The man who has stolen my pearls," thought he, "has
probably recognised me, and when he passes my shop lowers his voice in
crying the goods." Upon this suspicion he ran after Xailoun, and
stopping him, said, "Show me your pearls." The poor fool was in great
confusion, and the merchant thought he had got the thief. The supposed
seller of pearls was soon surrounded by a great crowd, and the merchant
at last discovered that he was a perfect simpleton. "Why," said he, "do
you cry that you sell pearls?" "What should I say, then?" asked Xailoun.
"It is not true," said the merchant, not listening to him. "It is not
true," exclaimed the noodle. "Let me repeat, 'It is not true,' that I
may not forget it;" and as he went on he kept crying, "It is not true."
His way led him towards a place where a man was proclaiming, "In the
name of the Prophet, lentils!" Xailoun, induced by curiosity, went up to
the man, his mouth full of the last words he remembered, and putting his
hand into the sack, cried, "It is not true." The sturdy villager gave
him a blow that caused him to stagger, saying, "What d'ye mean by giving
me the lie about my goods, which I both sowed and reaped myself?" Quoth
the noodle, "I have only tried to say what I ought to say." "Well,
then," rejoined the dealer, "you ought to say, as I do, 'Lentils, in the
name of the Prophet!'" So our noodle at once took up this new cry, and
proceeded on his way till he came to the bank of the river, where a
fisherman had been casting his net for hours, and had frequently changed
his place, without getting any fish. Xailoun, who was amused with every
new thing he saw, began to follow the fisherman, and, that he should not
forget his lesson, continued to repeat, "Lentils, in the name of the
Prophet!" Suddenly the fisherman made a pretence of spreading his net,
in order to wring and dry it, and having folded in his hand the rope to
which it was fastened, he took hold of the simpleton and struck him some
furious blows with it, saying, "Vile sorcerer! cease to curse my
fishing." Xailoun struggled, and at length disengaged himself. "I am no
sorcerer," said he. "Well, if you are not," answered the fisherman, "why
do you cause me bad luck by your words every time I throw my net?" "I
didn't mean to bring you bad luck," said the noodle. "I only repeat what
I was told to repeat." The fisherman then concluded that some of his
enemies, who wished to do him an ill turn without exposing themselves,
had prevailed upon this poor fellow to come and curse his fishing, so he
said, "I am sorry, brother, for having beaten you, but you were wrong to
pronounce the words you did, thereby bringing bad luck to me, who never
did you any harm." Quoth the simpleton, "I only tried to say the words
my wife told me not to forget." "Do you know them?" "Yes." "Well, place
yourself beside me, and each time I cast my net you must say, 'In the
name of the Prophet, instead of one, seven of the greatest and best!'"
But Xailoun thought what his wife had said was not so long as that.
"Oh, yes, it was," said the fisherman; "and take care you don't miss a
single word, and I shall give you some of the fish to take home with
you." That he might not forget, Xailoun repeated it very loud, but as
'he was afraid of the cord whenever he saw the fisherman drawing in his
net, he ran away as fast as he could, but still repeating, "In the name
of the Prophet, instead of one, seven of the greatest and best!" These
words he pronounced in the midst of a crowd of people, through which the
corpse of the kazi (magistrate, or judge) was being carried to the
burying ground, and the mullahs who surrounded the bier, scandalised by
what they thought a horrible imprecation, exclaimed, "How darest thou,
wicked wretch, thus blaspheme? Is it not enough that Death has taken one
of the greatest men of Baghdad?" The poor simpleton was skulking off in
fear and trembling, when his sleeve was pulled by an aged slave, who
told him that he ought to say, "May Allah preserve his body and save his
soul!" So our noodle went on, repeating this new cry till he came to a
street where a dead ass was being carted away. "May Allah preserve his
body and save his soul!"' he exclaimed. "How he blasphemes!" said the
folk, and they set upon him with their fists and sticks, and gave him a
sound drubbing. At length he got clear of them, and by chance came to
the house of his wife's mother, but he only ventured to stand at the
door and peep within. He was recognised, however, and asked what he
would have to eat--goat's flesh? rice? _pease?_ Yes, it was pease
he wanted, and having got some, he hastened home, and after relating all
his mishaps, informed his wife, that her sister was very sick. His wife,
having prepared herself to go to her mother's house, tells the simpleton
to rock the baby should it awake and cry; feed the hen that was sitting;
if the ass was thirsty, give her to drink; shut the door, and take care
not to go to sleep, lest robbers should come and plunder the house. The
baby awakes, and Xailoun rocks it to sleep again; so far, well. The hen
seems uneasy; he concludes she is troubled with insects, like himself.
So he takes up the hen, and thinking the best way to kill the insects
was to stick a pin into them, he unluckily kills the hen. This was a
serious matter, and while he considers what he should do in the
circumstances, the ass begins to bray. "Ah," says he, "I've no time to
attend to you just now; but when I am on your back, you can carry me to
the river." Then he opened the door and let out the ass and her colt.
After this he sat down on the eggs, and took the baby in his arms. His
wife returning, knocks at the door. "Let me in, you fool," she cries. "I
can't, for I am nursing the baby and hatching the eggs." At length she
contrived to force open the door, and running up to her idiot of a
husband, fetched him a blow that caused him to crush all the
half-hatched eggs. Luckily she had met the ass and her foal on the road,
so the amount of mischief done by her stupid spouse in her absence was
not so great, all things considered.[4]

The misadventures of the Arabian idiot in his expedition to purchase
pease present a close analogy to those of the typical English booby,
only the latter end tragically:

A woman sent her son one day to buy a sheep's head and pluck, and, lest
he should forget his message, he kept bawling loudly as he went along,
"Sheep's head and pluck! sheep's head and pluck!" In getting over a
stile he fell and hurt himself, and forgot what he was sent for, so he
stood a little to consider; and at last he thought he recollected it,
and began to shout, "Liver and lights and gall and all!" which he was
repeating when he came up to a man who was very sick. The man, thinking
the booby was mocking him, laid hold of him, and after cuffing him, bade
the booby cry, "Pray God, send no more up!" So he ran along uttering
these words till he came to a field where a man was sowing wheat, who,
on hearing what he took for a curse upon his labour, seized and thrashed
him, and told him to repeat, "Pray God, send plenty more!" So the young
jolterhead at once "changed his tune," and was loudly singing out these
words when he met a funeral. The chief mourner punished him for what he
thought his fiendish wish, and bade him say, "Pray God, send the soul to
heaven!" which he was bawling when he met a he and a she-dog going to be
hanged. The good people who heard him were greatly shocked at his
seeming profanity, and striking him, strictly charged him to cry, "A he
and a she-dog going to be hanged!" On he went, accordingly, repeating
this new cry, till he met a man and a woman going to be married. When
the bridegroom heard what the booby said, he gave him many a good thump,
and bade him say, "I wish you much joy!" This he was crying at the top
of his voice when he came to a pit into which two labourers had fallen,
and one of them, enraged at what he thought his mockery of their
misfortune, exerted all his strength and scrambled out, then beat the
poor simpleton, and told him to say, "The one is out; I wish the other
was!" Glad to be set free, the booby went on shouting these words till
he met with a one-eyed man, who, like the others, taking what he was
crying for a personal insult, gave him another drubbing, and then bade
him cry, "The one side gives good light, and I wish the other did!" So
he adopted this new cry, and continued his adventurous journey till he
came to a house, one side of which was on fire. The people, hearing him
bawling, "The one side gives good light, and I wish the other did!" at
once concluded that he had set the house a-blazing; so they put him in
prison, and the end was, the judge put on the black cap and condemned
him to be hanged![5]

* * * * *

When the noodle is persuaded, as in the following case of a Sinhalese
wittol, by a gang of thieves to join them in a plundering expedition,
they have little reason to be pleased with him, for he does not make a
good "cat's-paw." The Sinhalese noodle joined some thieves, took readily
to their ways, and was always eager to accompany them on their marauding
excursions. One night they took him with them, and boring a large hole
in the wall of a house,[6] they sent him in, telling him to hand out the
heaviest article he could lay hands upon. He readily went in, and seeing
a large kurakkan-grinder,[7] thought that was the heaviest thing in the
room, and attempted to remove it. But it proved too much for him alone,
so he gently awoke a man who was sleeping in the room, and said to him,
"My friend, pray help me to remove this kurakkan-grinder." The man
immediately guessed that thieves had entered the house, and gave the
alarm. The thieves, who were waiting outside quite expectant, rushed
away, and the noodle somehow or other managed to escape with them.

Next night they again took him along with them, and after boring a hole
in the wall of another house, sent him in with strict injunctions not to
make a noise or wake anybody. He crept in noiselessly and entered a
large room, in which was an old woman, fast asleep by the fire, with
wide-open mouth. An earthen chattie, a wooden spoon, and a small bag of
pease were also placed by the fire. The noodle first proceeded to roast
some pease in the chattie. When they were roasted to a nice brownish
colour, and emitted a very tempting smell, he thought that the old woman
might also enjoy a mouthful. He considered for a while how he might best
offer some to her. He did not wish to wake her, as he was ordered not to
wake anybody. Suddenly a bright idea struck him. Why should he not feed
her? There she was sleeping with her mouth wide open. Surely it would be
no difficult task to put some pease into her mouth. Taking some of the
hot, smoking pease into the wooden spoon, he put the contents into her
mouth. The woman awoke, screaming with all her might. The noise roused
the other inmates of the house, who came rushing to the spot to see what
was the matter. This time also the noodle managed to escape with the
thieves; but in a subsequent adventure he, as well as the thieves, came
to grief.[8]

The silly son of Italian popular tales is represented as being sent by
his mother to sell a piece of linen which she had woven, saying to him,
"Now listen attentively to what I say: Walk straight along the road.
Don't take less than such a price for this linen. Don't have any
dealings with women who chatter. Whether you sell it to any one you meet
on the way, or carry it into the market, offer it only to some quiet
sort of body whom you may see standing apart and not gossiping or
prating, for such as they will persuade you to take some sort of price
that won't suit me at all." The booby answers, "Yes, mamma," and goes
off on his errand, keeping straight on, instead of taking the turnings
leading to villages. It happened, as he went along, that the wife of the
syndic of the next town was driving out with her maids, and had got out
of the carriage, to walk a short distance, as the day was fine. Her maid
tells her that there goes the simple son of the poor widow by the brook.
"What are you going to do, my good lad?" kindly asks the lady. "I'm not
going to tell you," says the booby, "because you were chattering." "I
see your mother has sent you to sell this linen," continues the lady; "I
will buy it of you," and she offers to pay twice as much as his mother
had said she wanted. "Can't sell it to you," replies he, "for you were
chattering," and he continues his journey. Farther along he comes to a
plaster statue by the roadside, so he says to himself, "Here's one who
stands apart and doesn't chatter; this is the one to sell the linen to,"
then aloud, "Will you buy my linen, good friend?" The statue maintained
its usual taciturnity, and the booby concluded, as it did not speak, it
was all right, so he said, "The price is so-and-so; have the money ready
by the time I come back, as I have to go on and buy some yarn for
mother." On he went accordingly, and bought the yarn, and then came back
to the statue. Some one passing by had in the meantime taken the linen.
Finding it gone, "It's all right," says he to himself; "she's taken it,"
then aloud, "Where's the money I told you to have ready?" The statue
remained silent. "If you don't give me the money, I'll hit you on the
head," he exclaimed, and raising his stick, he knocked the head off, and
found it filled with gold coin. "That's where you keep your money, is
it? All right; I can pay myself." So saying, he filled his pockets with
the coin and went home. When he handed his mother the money, and told
her of his adventure with the quiet body by the roadside, she was afraid
lest the neighbours should learn of her windfall if the booby knew its
value, so she said to him, "You've only brought me a lot of rusty nails;
but never mind: you'll know better what to do next time," and put the
money in an earthen jar. In her absence, a ragman comes to the house,
and the booby asks him, "Will you buy some rusty nails?" The man desires
to see them. "Well," quoth he on beholding the treasure, "they're not
much worth, but I'll give you twelve pauls for the lot," and having
handed over the sum, went off with his prize. When his mother comes
home, the booby tells her what a bargain he had made for the rusty
nails. "Nails!" she echoes, in consternation. "Why, you foolish thing,
they were gold coins!" "Can't help that now, mamma," he answers
philosophically; "you told me they were old rusty nails." By another
lucky adventure, however, the booby is enabled to make up his mother's
loss, finding a treasure which a party of robbers had left behind them
at the foot of a tree.

The incident of a simpleton selling something to an inanimate object and
discovering a hidden treasure occurs, in different forms, in the
folk-tales of Asiatic as well as European countries. In a manuscript
text of the _Arabian Nights_, brought from Constantinople by
Wortley Montague, and now preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, a
more elaborate version of the Italian booby's adventure with the statue
is found, in the "Story of the Bang-eater and his Wife:"

In former times there lived not far from Baghdad a half-witted fellow,
who was much addicted to the use of bang. Being reduced to poverty, he
was obliged to sell his cow, which he took to the market one day, but
the animal being in such a poor condition, no one would buy it, and
after waiting till he was weary he returned homeward. On the way he
stopped to repose himself under a tree, and tied the cow to one of the
branches, while he ate some bread, and drank an infusion of his bang,
which he always carried with him. In a short time it began to operate,
so as to bereave him of the little sense he had, and his head was filled
with ridiculous reveries. While he was musing, a bird beginning to
chatter from her nest in the tree, he fancied it was a human voice, and
that some woman had offered to purchase his cow, upon which he said,
"Reverend mother of Solomon,[9] dost thou wish to buy my cow?" The bird
again chattered. "Well," replied he, "what wilt thou give? I will sell
her a bargain." The bird repeated her noise. "Never mind," said the
fool, "for though thou hast forgotten to bring thy purse, yet, as I
daresay thou art an honest woman, and hast bidden me ten dinars, I will
trust thee with the cow, and call on Friday for the money." The bird
renewed her chattering; so, leaving the cow tied to a branch of the
tree, he returned home, exulting in the good bargain he had made for the
animal. When he entered the house, his wife inquired what he had got for
the cow, and he replied that he had sold her to an honest woman, who had
promised to pay him ten pieces of gold next Friday. The wife was
contented; and when Friday arrived, her noodle of a husband having, as
usual, taken a dose of bang, repaired to the tree, and hearing the bird
chattering as before, said, "Well, good mother, hast thou brought the
gold?" The bird croaked. The blockhead, supposing the imaginary woman
refused to pay him, became angry, and threw up a stone, which
frightening the bird, it flew from its nest in the tree and alighted on
a heap of ruins at some little distance. He now concluded that the woman
had desired him to take his money from the heap, into which he
accordingly dug, and found a copper vessel full of coin. This discovery
convinced him he was right, and being withal an honest fellow, he only
took ten pieces; then replacing the soil, "May Allah requite thee for
thy punctuality, good mother!" he exclaimed, and returned to his wife,
to whom he gave the money, informing her at the same time of the great
treasure his friend the imaginary old woman possessed, and where it was

The wife waited till night, when she brought away the pot of gold, which
her foolish husband observing, he said, "It is dishonest to rob one who
has paid us so punctually; and if thou dost not return it to its place,
I will inform the wali" (governor of the city). She laughed at his
simplicity, but fearing that he would execute his threat, she planned a
stratagem to render it of no avail. Going to market, she purchased some
meat and fish ready cooked, which she brought privately home, and
concealed in the house. At night, while her husband was sleeping off the
effects of his favourite narcotic, she strewed the provisions she had
brought outside the door, and then awakening him, cried out, "Dear
husband, a most wonderful thing has occurred: there has been a violent
storm while you slept, and, strange to tell, it has rained pieces of
broiled meat and fish, which now lie at the door!" The blockhead got up,
and seeing the food, was persuaded of the truth of his wife's story. The
flesh and fish were gathered up, and he partook with much glee of the
miraculous treat, but still said he would tell the wali of her having
stolen the treasure of the honest old woman.

In the morning he actually repaired to the wali, and informed him that
his wife had stolen a pot of gold, which she had still in her
possession. Upon this the wali had the woman apprehended. She denied the
accusation, and was then threatened with death. "My lord," said she,
"the power is in your hands; but I am an injured woman, as you will find
by questioning my husband, who is deranged in his intellect. Ask him
when I committed the theft." The wali did so, and the simpleton
answered, "It was the evening of that night when it rained broiled fish
and ready-cooked flesh." On hearing this, "Wretch!" exclaimed the wali
in a fury, "dost thou dare to utter falsehoods before me? Who ever saw
it rain anything but water?" "As I hope for life," replied the fool, "I
speak the truth; for my wife and myself ate of the fish and flesh which
fell from the clouds." The woman, being appealed to, denied the
assertion of her husband. The wali, now convinced that the man was
crazy, released the woman, and sent her husband to the madhouse, where
he remained for some days, till his wife, pitying his condition,
contrived to get him set at liberty. She visited her husband, and
counselled him, should any one ask him if he had seen it rain fish and
flesh, to answer, "No; who ever saw it rain anything but water?" Then
she informed the keeper that he was come to his senses, and suggested he
should question him; and on the poor fellow answering properly he was

* * * * *

In a Russian variant, an old man had three sons, one of whom was a
noodle. When the old man died, his property was shared between the
brothers, but all that the simpleton received was one ox, which he took
to the market to sell. On his way he chanced to pass an old birch-tree,
which creaked and groaned in the wind. He thinks the tree is offering to
buy his ox, and so he says, "Well, you shall have it for twenty
roubles." But the tree only creaked and creaked, and he fancied it was
asking the ox on credit. "Very good," says he. "You'll pay me tomorrow?
I'll wait till then." So he ties the ox to the tree and goes home. His
brothers question him about his ox, and he tells them he has sold it for
twenty roubles and is to get the money to-morrow, at which they laugh;
he is, they think; a greater fool than ever. Next morning he went to the
birch-tree, and found the ox was gone, for, in truth, the wolves had
eaten it. He demanded his money, but the tree only creaked and groaned,
as usual. "You'll pay me to-morrow?" he exclaimed. "That's what you said
yesterday. I'll have no more of your promises." So saying, he struck the
old birch-tree with his hatchet and sent the chips flying about. Now the
tree was hollow, and it soon split asunder from his blows; and in the
hollow trunk he found a pot full of gold, which some robbers had hidden
there. Taking some of the gold, he returns home, and shows it to his
brothers, who ask him how he got so much money. "A neighbour," he
replies, "gave it to me for my ox. But this is nothing like the whole of
it. Come along, brothers, and let us get the rest." They go, and fetch
the rest of the treasure, and on their way home they meet a diachok (one
of the inferior members of the Russian clerical body, though not one of
the clergy), who asks them what they are carrying. "Mushrooms," say the
two clever brothers; but the noodle cries, "That's not true; we're
carrying money: here, look at it." The diachok, with an exclamation,
flung himself upon the gold and began stuffing it into his pockets. At
this the noodle grew angry, dealt him a blow with his hatchet, and
killed him on the spot. The brothers dragged the body to an empty
cellar, and flung it in. Later in the evening the eldest said to the
other, "This business is sure to turn out badly. When they look for the
diachok, Simpleton will be sure to tell them all about it. So we had
better hide the body in some other place, and kill a goat and bury it in
the cellar." This they did accordingly. And after several days had
passed the people asked the noodle if he had seen the diachok. "Yes," he
answered. "I killed him some time ago with my hatchet, and my brothers
carried him to the cellar." They seize upon him and compel him to go
down into the cellar and bring out the body. He gets hold of the goat's
head, and asks, "Was your diachok dark-haired?" "He was." "Had he a
beard?" "Yes." "And horns?" "What horns are you talking of?" "Well, see
for yourselves," said he, tossing up the head to them. They saw it was a
goat's head, and went away home.

* * * * *

The reader cannot fail to remark the close resemblance there is between
the first parts of the Arabian and Russian stories; and the second parts
of both reappear in many tales of the Silly Son. The goat's carcase
substituted for the dead man occurs, for instance, in the Norse story of
Silly Matt; in the Sicilian story of Giufa; in M. Riviere's _Contes
Populaires de la Kabylie du Djurdjura_; and "Foolish Sachuli," in
Miss Stokes' _Indian Fairy Tales_. The incident of the pretended
shower of broiled fish and flesh is found in Campbell's _Tales of the
West Highlands_ (porridge and pancakes); in Riviere's Tales of the
Kabail (fritters); "Foolish Sachuli" (sweetmeats); Giufa, the Sicilian
Booby (figs and raisins); and in M. Leger's _Contes Populaires
Slaves_, where, curiously enough, the trick is played by a husband
upon his wife. It is perhaps worth while reproducing the Russian story
from Leger, in a somewhat abridged form, as follows:

In tilling the ground a labourer found a treasure, and carrying it home,
said to his wife, "See! Heaven has sent us a fortune. But where can we
conceal it?" She suggested he should bury it under the floor, which he
did accordingly. Soon after this the wife went out to fetch water, and
the labourer reflected that his wife was a dreadful gossip, and by
to-morrow night all the village would know their secret. So he removed
the treasure from its hiding-place and buried it in his barn, beneath a
heap of corn. When the wife came back from the well, he said to her
quite gravely, "To-morrow we shall go to the forest to seek fish; they
say there's plenty there at present." "What! fish in the forest?" she
exclaimed. "Of course," he rejoined; "and you'll see them there." Very
early next morning he got up, and took some fish, which he had concealed
in a basket. He went to the grocer's and bought a quantity of sweet
cakes. He also caught a hare and killed it. The fish and cakes he
disposed of in different parts of the wood, and the hare he hooked on a
fishing-line, and then threw it in the river. After breakfast he took
his wife with him into the wood, which they had scarcely entered when
she found a pike, then a perch, and then a roach, on the ground. With
many exclamations of surprise, she gathered up the fish and put them in
her basket. Presently they came to a pear-tree, from the branches of
which hung sweet cakes. "See!" she cried. "Cakes on a pear-tree!" "Quite
natural," replied he; "it has rained cakes, and some have remained on
this tree; travellers have picked up the rest." Continuing their way to
the village, they passed near a stream. "Wait a little," said the
husband; "I set my line early this morning, and I'll look if anything is
caught on it." He then pulled in the line, and behold, there was a hare
hooked on to it! "How extraordinary!" cries the good wife--"a hare in
the water!" "Why," says he, "don't you know there are hares in the water
as well as rats?" "No, indeed, I knew it not." They now returned home,
and the wife set about preparing all the nice eatables for supper. In a
day or two the labourer found from the talk of his acquaintances that
his finding the treasure was no secret in the village, and in less than
a week he was summoned to the castle. "Is it true," said the lord, "that
you have found a treasure?" "It is not true," was his reply. "But your
wife has told me all." "My wife does not know what she says--she is mad,
my lord." Hereupon the woman cries, "It is the truth, my lord; he has
found a treasure and buried it beneath the floor of our cottage."
"When?" "On the eve before the day we went into the forest to look for
fish." "What do you say?" "Yes; it was on the day that it rained cakes;
we gathered a basketful of them, and coming home, my husband fished a
fine hare out of the river." My lord declared the woman to be an idiot;
nevertheless he caused his servants to search under the labourer's
cottage floor, but nothing was found there, and so the shrewd fellow
secured his treasure.

The silly son figures frequently in Indian story-books; sometimes a
number of fools' exploits are strung together and ascribed to one
individual, as in the tale of "Foolish Sachuli;" but generally they are
told as separate stories. The following adventure of Sachuli is also
found, in varied form, in Beschi's _Gooroo Paramartan_: One day
Sachuli climbed up a tree, and sat on a long branch, and began cutting
off the branch between the tree and himself. A man passing by called to
him, saying, "What are you doing up there? You will be killed if you cut
that branch off." "What do you say?" asked the booby, coming down. "When
shall I die?" "How can I tell?" said the man. "Let me go." "I will not
let you go until you tell me when I shall die." At last the man, in
order to get rid of him, said, "When you find a scarlet thread on your
jacket, then you will die." After this Sachuli went to the
_bazaar_, and sat down by some tailors, and in throwing away
shreds, a scarlet thread fell on his clothes. "Now I shall die!"
exclaimed the fool. "How do you know that?" the tailors inquired, when
he told them what the man had said about a scarlet thread, at which they
all laughed. Nevertheless, Sachuli went and dug a grave in the jungle
and lay down in it.

Presently a sepoy comes along, bearing a pot of _ghi_, or clarified
butter, which he engages Sachuli to carry for him, and the noodle, of
course, lets it fall in the midst of his calculations of the uses to
which he should put the money he is promised by the sepoy.

The incident of a blockhead cutting off the branch on which he is seated
seems to be almost universal. It occurs in the jests of the typical
Turkish noodle, the Khoja Nasr-ed-Din, and there exist German, Saxon,
and Lithuanian variants of the same story. It is also known in Ceylon,
and the following is a version from a Hindu work entitled _Bharataka
Dwatrinsati_, Thirty-two Tales of Mendicant Monks:

In Elakapura there lived several mendicant monks. One of them, named
Dandaka, once went, in the rainy season, into a wood in order to procure
a post for his hut. There he saw on a tree a fine branch bent down, and
he climbed the tree, sat on the branch, and began to cut it. Then there
came that way some travellers, who, seeing what he was doing, said, "O
monk, greatest of all idiots, you should not cut a branch on which you
yourself are sitting, for if you do so, when the branch breaks you will
fall down and die." After saying this the travellers went their way. The
monk, however, paid no attention to their speech, but continued to cut
the branch, remaining in the same posture, until at length the branch
broke, and he tumbled down. He then thought within himself, "Those
travellers are indeed wise and truthful, for everything has happened
just as they predicted; consequently I must be dead." So he remained on
the ground as if dead; he did not speak, nor did he stand up, nor did he
even breathe. People who came there from the neighbourhood raised him
up, but he did not stand; they endeavoured to make him speak, but could
not succeed. They then sent word to the other monks, saying, "Your
associate Dandaka fell down from a tree and died." Then came the monks
in large numbers, and when they saw that he was "dead," they lifted him
up in order to carry him to the place of cremation. Now when they had
gone a short distance they came upon a spot where the road divided
itself before them. Then said some, "We must go to the left," but others
said, "It is to the right that we must go." Thus a dispute arose among
them, and they were unable to come to any conclusion. The "dead" monk,
who was borne on a bier, said, "Friends, quarrel not among yourselves;
when I was alive, I always went by the left road." Then said some, "He
always spoke the truth; all that he ever said was nothing but the simple
fact. Let us therefore take the left road." This was agreed upon, and as
they were about to proceed towards the left some people who happened to
be present said, "O ye monks, ye are the greatest of all blockheads that
ye should proceed to burn this man while he is yet alive." They
answered, "Nay, but he is dead." Then the bystanders said, "He cannot be
dead, seeing that he yet speaks." They then set down the bier on the
ground, and Dandaka persistently declared that he was actually dead, and
related to them with the most solemn protestations the prediction of the
travellers, and how it was fulfilled. Hereupon the other monks remained
quite bewildered, unable to arrive at any decision as to whether Dandaka
was dead or alive, until at length, after a great deal of trouble, the
bystanders succeeded in convincing them that the man was not dead and in
inducing them to return to their dwelling. Dandaka also now stood up and
went his way, after having been heartily laughed at by the people.[11]

A diverting story in the _Facetiae_ of Poggius, entitled "Mortuus
Loqueus," from which it was reproduced in the Italian novels of Grazzini
and in our old collection _Tales and Quicke Answeres_, has a near
affinity with jests of this class, and also with the wide cycle of
stories in which a number of rogues combine to cheat a simpleton out of
his property. In the early English jest-book,[12] it is, in effect, as

There once dwelt in Florence a noodle called Nigniaca, upon whom a party
of young men resolved to play a practical joke. Having arranged their
plans, one of them met him early one morning, and asked him if he was
not ill. "No," says the wittol. "I am well enough." "By my faith," quoth
the joker, "but you have a pale, sickly colour," and went his way.
Presently a second of the complotters came up to him, and asked him if
he was not suffering from an ague, for he certainly looked very ill. The
poor fellow now began to think that he was really sick, and was
convinced of this when a third man in passing told him that he should be
in his bed--he had evidently not an hour to live. Hearing this, Nigniaca
stood stock-still, saying to himself, "Verily, I have some sharp ague,"
when a fourth man came and bade him go home at once, for he was a dying
man. So the simpleton begged this fourth man to help him home, which he
did very willingly, and after laying him in his bed, the other jokers
came to see him, and one of them, pretending to be a physician, felt his
pulse and declared the patient would die within an hour.[13] Then,
standing all about his bed, they said to each other, "Now he is sinking
fast; his speech and sight have failed him; he will soon give up the
ghost. Let us therefore close his eyes, cross his hands on his breast,
and carry him forth to be buried." The simpleton lay as still as though
he was really dead, so they laid him on a bier and carried him through
the city. A great crowd soon gathered, when it was known that they were
carrying the corpse of Nigniaca to his grave. And among the crowd was a
taverner's boy, who cried out, "What a rascal and thief is dead! By the
mass, he should have been hanged long ago." When the wittol heard
himself thus vilified, he lifted up his head and exclaimed, "I wish, you
scoundrel, I were alive now, as I am dead, and I would prove thee a
false liar to thy face;" upon which the jokers burst into laughter, set
down the "body" and ran away--leaving Nigniaca to explain the whole
affair to the marvelling multitude.[14]

We read of another silly son, in the _Katha Manjari_, whose father
said to him one day, "My boy, you are now grown big, yet you don't seem
to have much sense. You must, however, do something for your living. Go,
therefore, to the tank, and catch fish and bring them home." The lad
accordingly went to the tank, and having caused all the water--which was
required for the irrigation of his father's fields--to run to waste, he
picked up from the mud all the fishes he could find, and took them to
his father, not a little proud of his exploit.--In the _Katha Sarit
Sagara_ it is related that a Brahman told his foolish son one evening
that he must send him to the village early on the morrow, and thither
the lad went, without asking what he was to do. Returning home at night
very tired, he said to his father, "I have been to the village." "Yes,"
said the Brahman, "you went thither without an object, and have done no
good by it."--And in the Buddhist _Jatakas_ we find what is
probably the original of a world-wide story: A man was chopping a felled
tree, when a mosquito settled on his bald head and stung him severely.
Calling to his son, who was sitting near him, he said, "My boy, there is
a mosquito stinging my head, like the thrust of a spear--drive it off."
"Wait a bit, father," said the boy, "and I will kill him with one blow."
Then he took up an axe and stood behind his father's back; and thinking
to kill the mosquito with the axe, he only killed his father.

Among numerous variants is the story of the Sicilian booby, Giufa, who
was annoyed by the flies, and complained of them to the judge, who told
him that he was at liberty to kill a fly wherever he saw it: just then a
fly happened to alight on the judge's nose, which Giufa observing, he
immediately aimed at it so furious a blow with his fist, that he smashed
his worship's nose!

The hopelessness of attempting to impart instruction to the silly son is
farther illustrated by the story in a Sinhalese collection: A guru was
engaged in teaching one of his disciples, but whilst he was teaching the
youth was watching the movements of a rat which was entering its hole.
As soon as the guru had finished his teaching, he said, "Well, my son,
has all entered in?" to which the youth replied, "Yes, all has entered
in except the tail." And from the same work is the following choice
example of "a happy family": A priest went one day to the house of one
of his followers, and amongst other things he said, "Tell me now, which
of your four children is the best-behaved?" The father replied, "Look,
sir, at that boy who has climbed to the top of that thatched building,
and is waving aloft a firebrand. Among them all, he is the divinely
excellent one." Whereupon the priest placed his finger on his nose, drew
a deep, deep sigh, and said, "Is it indeed so? What, then, must the
other three be?"

The Turkish romance of the Forty Vazirs--the plan of which is similar to
that of the Book of Sindibad and its derivatives--furnishes us with two
stories of the same class, one of which is as follows, according to my
friend Mr. Gibb's complete translation (the first that has been made in
English), recently published:[15]

They have told that in bygone times there was a king, and he had a
skilful minstrel. One day a certain person gave to the latter a little
boy, that he might teach him the science of music. The boy abode a long
time by him, and though the master instructed him, he succeeded not in
learning, and the master could make nothing of him. He arranged a scale,
and said, "Whatsoever thou sayest to me, say in this scale." So
whatsoever the boy said he used to say in that scale. Now one day a
spark of fire fell on the master's turban. The boy saw it and chanted,
"O master, I see something; shall I say it or no?" and he went over the
whole scale. Then the master chanted, "O boy, what dost thou see?
Speak!" and he too went over all that the boy had gone over. Then the
turn came to the boy, and he chanted, "O master, a spark has fallen on
thy turban, and it is burning." The master straightway tore off his
turban and cast it on the ground, and saw that it was burning. He blew
out the fire on this side and on that, and took it in his hand, and said
to the boy, "What time for chanting is this? Everything is good in its
own place," and he admonished him.[16]

The other story tells how a king had a stupid son, and placed him in
charge of a cunning master, learned in the sciences, who declared it
would be easy for him to teach the boy discretion, and, before
dismissing him, the king gave the sage many rich gifts. After the boy
has been long under the tuition of his learned master, the latter,
conceiving him to be well versed in all the sciences, takes him to the
king, his father, who says to him, "O my son, were I to hold a certain
thing hidden in my hand, couldst thou tell me what it is?" "Yes,"
answers the youth. Upon this the king secretly slips the ring off his
finger, and hides it in his hand, and then asks the boy, "What have I in
my hand?" Quoth the clever youth, "O father, it first came from the
hills." (The king thinks to himself, "He knows that mines are in the
hills.") "And it is a round thing," continues he--"it must be a
millstone." "Blockhead!" exclaims the irate king, "could a millstone be
hidden in a man's hand?" Then addressing the learned man, "Take him
away," he says, "and _teach_ him."

Lastly, we have a somewhat different specimen of the silly son in the
doctor's apprentice, whose attempt to imitate his master was so
ludicrously unsuccessful. He used to accompany his master on his visits
to patients, and one day the doctor said to a sick man, to whom he had
been called, "I know what is the matter with you, and it is useless to
deny it;--you have been eating beans." On their way home, the
apprentice, admiring his master's sagacity, begged to be informed how he
knew that the patient had been eating beans. "Boy," said the doctor,
loftily, "I drew an inference." "An inference!" echoed this youth of
inquiring mind; "and what is an inference?" Quoth the doctor, "Listen:
when we came to the door, I observed the shells of beans lying about,
and I drew the inference that the family had had beans for dinner."
Another day it chanced that the doctor did not take his apprentice with
him when he went his rounds, and in his absence a message came for him
to visit a person who had been taken suddenly ill. "Here," thought the
apprentice, "is a chance for my putting master's last lesson into
practice;" so off he went to the sick man, and assuming as "knowing" an
air as he could, he felt his pulse, and then said to him severely,
"Don't deny it; I see by your pulse that you have been eating a horse. I
shall send you some medicine." When the doctor returned home he inquired
of his hopeful pupil, whether any person had called for him, upon which
the wittol proudly told him of his own exploit. "Eaten a horse!"
exclaimed the man of physic. "In the name of all that's wonderful, what
induced you to say such a thing?" Quoth the youth, simpering, "Why, sir,
I did as you did the other day, when we visited the old farmer--I drew
an inference." "You drew an inference, did you? And how did you draw the
inference that the man had eaten a horse?" "Why, very readily, sir; for
as I entered the house I saw a saddle hanging on the wall."[17]


[1] Abridged from the story of "Silly Matt" in Sir George W. Dasent's
_Tales from the Fjeld_.

[2] Professor Crane's _Italian Popular Tales_, p. 302. This actual
throwing of eyes occurs in the folk-tales of Europe generally.

[3] In _Le Cabinet des Fees, 1788_ (tome xxxviii., p. 337 ff.).--
There can be no such name as Xailoun in Arabic; that of the noodle's
wife, Oitba, may be intended for "Utba." Cazotte has so Frenchified the
names of the characters in his tales as to render their identification
with the Arabic originals (where he had any such) often impossible.
Although this story is not found in any known Arabian text of the
_Book of the Thousand and One Nights_, yet the incidents for the
most part occur in several Eastern story-books.

[4] On a similar occasion Giufa, the Sicilian brother to the Arabian
fool, did somewhat more mischief. Once his mother went to church and
told him to make some porridge for his baby-sister. Giufa made a great
pot of porridge and fed the baby with it, and burned her mouth so that
she died. Another time his mother on leaving home told him to feed the
hen that was sitting and put her back in the nest, so that the eggs
should not get cold. Giufa stuffed the hen with food so that he killed
her, and then sat on the eggs himself until his mother returned.--See
Crane's _Italian Popular Tales_, pp. 296-7.

[5] Abridged and modified from a version in the _Folk-Lore Record_,
vol. iii., pp. 153-5.

[6] The usual mode by which in the East thieves break into houses, which
are for the most part constructed of clay. See Job xxiv. 16.

[7] Kurakkan is a species of grain.

[8] _The Orientalist_, June, 1884, pp. 137-8.

[9] Ummu Sulayman. In Arabia the mother is generally addressed in this
way as a mark of respect for having borne children, and the eldest gives
the title. Our bang-eater supposed he was addressing an old woman who
had (or might have had) a son named Solomon.

[10] See Ralston's _Russian Folk-Tales._ [Transcriber's note:
Footnote reference missing from original, p. 153]

[11] From a paper on "Comparative Folk-lore," by W. Goonetilleke, in
_The Orientalist_, i., p. 122.

[12] _Mery Tales, Wittie Questions, and Quicke Answeres, very pleasant
to be Readde._ Imprinted at London by H. Wykes, 1567.

[13] Thus, too, Scogin and his "chamber-fellow" successively declared to
a rustic that the sheep he was driving were pigs. In Fortini's novels,
in like manner, a simpleton is persuaded that the kid he offered for
sale was a capon; and in the Spanish _El Conde Lucanor_, and the
German _Tyl Eulenspiegel_, a countryman is cheated out of a piece
of cloth. The original form of the incident is found in the
_Hitopadesa_, where three sharpers persuade a Brahman that the goat
he is carrying for a sacrifice is a dog. This story of the Florentine
noodle--or rather Poggio's version--may have been suggested by a tale in
the _Gesta Romanorum_, in which the emperor's physician is made to
believe that he had leprosy. See my _Popular Tales and Fictions_,
where these and similar stories are compared in a paper entitled "The
Sharpers and the Simpleton."

[14] In Powell and Magnusson's _Legends of Iceland_ (Second Series,
p. 627), a woman makes her husband believe that he is dressed in fine
clothes when he is naked; another persuades her husband that he is dead,
and as he is being carried to the burying-ground, he perceives the naked
man, who asserts that he is dressed, upon which he exclaims, "How I
should laugh if I were not dead!" And in a _fabliau_ by Jean de
Boves, "Le Villain de Bailleul; _alias_, Le Femme qui fit croire a
son Mari qu'il etait mort," the husband exclaims, "Rascal of a priest,
you may well thank Heaven that I am dead, else I would belabour you
soundly with my stick."--See M. Le Grand's _Fabliaux_, ed. 1781,
tome v., pp. 192, 193.

[5] _History of the Forty Viziers; or, The Forty Morns and Forty
Eves._ Translated from the Turkish, by E.J.W. Gibb, M.R.A.S. London:
G. Redway, 1886.

[16] A variant of this is found in John Bromyard's _Summa
Praedicantium_, A 26, 34, as follows:

Quidam sedebat juxta igneum, cujus vestem ignis intrabat. Dixit socius
suus, "Vis audire rumores?" "Ita," inquit, "bonos et non alios." Cui
alius, "Nescio nisi malos." "Ergo," inquit, "nolo audire." Et quum bis
aut ter ei hoc diceret, semper idem respondit. In fine, quum sentiret
vestem combustam, iratus ait socio, "Quare non dixisti mihi?" "Quia
(inquit) dixista quod noluisti audire rumores nisi placentes et illi non
erant tales."

[17] Under the title of "The Phisitian that bare his Paciente in honde
that he had eaten an Asse" this jest occurs in _Merry Tales and Quicke
Answeres_, and Professor Crane gives a Sicilian version in his
_Italian Popular Tales_.



[As a sort of supplement to the sayings and doings of the silly son, the
following highly diverting Indian tale is here inserted, from the Abbe
Dubois' French rendering of the Tamil original, appended, with others,
to his selections from the _Panchatantra_. The story is known in
the north as well as in the south of India: in the Panjabi version there
are, however, but three noodle-heroes. It will be seen that the third
Brahman's tale is another of the numerous silent couple class, and it
may possibly be the original form.]


In a certain district, proclamation had been made of a Samaradanam being
about to be held.[1] Four Brahmans, from different villages, going
thither, fell in upon the road, and, finding that they were all upon the
same errand, they agreed to proceed in company. A soldier, happening to
meet them, saluted them in the usual way, by touching hands and
pronouncing the words always applied on such occasions to Brahmans,
"_Dandamarya_!" or "Health to my lord!" The four travellers made
the customary return, "_Asirvadam!_" and going on, they came to a
well, where they quenched their thirst and reposed themselves in the
shade of some trees. Sitting there, and finding no better subject of
conversation, one of them asked the others, whether they did not remark
how particularly the soldier had distinguished him by his polite
salutation. "You!" said another; "it was not you that he saluted, but
me." "You are both mistaken," says a third; "for you may remember that
when the soldier said, '_Dandamarya!_' he cast his eyes upon me."
"Not at all," replied the fourth; "it was I only he saluted; otherwise,
should I have answered him as I did, by saying, '_Asirvadam_'?"

Each maintained his argument obstinately; and as none of them would
yield, the dispute had nearly come to blows, when the least stupid of
the four, seeing what was likely to happen, put an end to the brawl by
the following advice: "How foolish it is in us," said he, "thus to put
ourselves in a passion! After we have said all the ill of one another
that we can invent--nay, after going stoutly to fisticuffs, like Sudra
rabble, should we be at all nearer to the decision of our difference?
The fittest person to determine the controversy, I think, would be the
man who occasioned it. The soldier, who chose to salute one of us,
cannot yet be far off: let us therefore run after him as quickly as we
can, and we shall soon know for which of us he intended his salutation."

This advice appeared wise to them all, and was immediately adopted. The
whole of them set off in pursuit of the soldier, and at last overtook
him, after running a league, and all out of breath. As soon as they came
in sight of him, they cried out to him to stop; and before they had well
approached him, they had put him in full possession of the nature of
their dispute, and prayed him to terminate it, by saying to which of
them he had directed his salutation. The soldier instantly perceiving
the character of the people he had to do with, and being willing to
amuse himself a little at their expense, coolly replied, that he
intended his salutation for the greatest fool of all four, and then,
turning on his heel, he continued his journey.

The Brahmans, confounded at this answer, turned back in silence. But all
of them had deeply at heart the distinction of the salutation of the
soldier, and the dispute was gradually renewed. Even the awkward
decision of the warrior could not prevent each of them from arrogating
to himself the pre-eminence of being noticed by him, to the exclusion of
the others. The contention, therefore, now became, which of the four was
the stupidest; and strange to say, it grew as warm as ever, and must
have come to blows, had not the person who gave the former advice, to
follow the soldier, interposed again with his wisdom, and spoken as
follows: "I think myself the greatest fool of us all. Each of you thinks
the same thing of himself. And after a fight, shall we be a bit nearer
the decision of the question? Let us, therefore, have a little patience.
We are within a short distance of Dharmapuri, where there is a choultry,
at which all little causes are tried by the heads of the village; and
let ours be judged among the rest."

The others agreed in the soundness of this advice; and having arrived at
the village, they eagerly entered the choultry, to have their business
settled by the arbitrator. They could not have come at a better season.
The chiefs of the district, Brahmans and others, had already met in the
choultry; and no other cause being brought forward, they proceeded
immediately to that of the four Brahmans, who advanced into the middle
of the court, and stated that a sharp contest having arisen among them,
they were come to have it decided with fairness and impartiality. The
court desired them to proceed and explain the ground of their
controversy. Upon this, one of them stood forward and related to the
assembly all that had happened, from their meeting with the soldier to
the present state of the quarrel, which rested on the superior degree of
stupidity of one of their number. The detail created a general shout of
laughter. The president, who was of a gay disposition, was delighted
beyond measure to have fallen in with so diverting an incident. But he
put on a grave face, and laid it down, as the peculiarity of the cause,
that it could not be determined on the testimony of witnesses, and that,
in fact, there was no other way of satisfying the minds of the judges
than by each, in his turn, relating some particular occurrence of his
life, on which he could best establish his claim to superior folly. He
clearly showed that there could be no other means of determining to
which of them the salutation of the soldier could with justice be
awarded. The Brahmans assented, and upon a sign being made to one of
them to begin, and the rest to keep silence, the first thus spoke:

_Story of the First Brahman_.

I am poorly provided with clothing, as you see; and it is not to-day
only that I have been covered with rags. A rich and very charitable
Brahman merchant once made a present of two pieces of cloth to attire
me--the finest that had ever been seen in our village. I showed them to
the other Brahmans of the village, who all congratulated me on so
fortunate an acquisition. They told me it must be the fruit of some good
deeds that I had done in a preceding generation. Before I should put
them on, I washed them, according to the custom, in order to purify them
from the soil of the weaver's touch, and hung them up to dry, with the
ends fastened to two branches of a tree. A dog, then happening to come
that way, ran under them, and I could not discover whether he was high
enough to touch the clothes or not. I asked my children, who were
present, but they said they were not quite certain. How, then, was I to
discover the fact? I put myself upon all-fours, so as to be of the
height of the dog, and in that posture I crawled under the clothing.
"Did I touch it?" said I to the children, who were observing me. They
answered, "No," and I was filled with joy at the news. But after
reflecting a while, I recollected that the dog had a turned-up tail, and
that by elevating it above the rest of his body, it might well have
reached my cloth. To ascertain that, I fixed a leaf in my loin-cloth,
turning upwards, and then, creeping again on all-fours, I passed a
second time under the clothing. The children immediately cried out that
the point of the leaf on my back had touched the cloth. This proved to
me that the point of the dog's tail must have done so too, and that my
garments were therefore polluted. In my rage I pulled down the beautiful
raiment, and tore it in a thousand pieces, loading with curses both the
dog and his master.

When this foolish act was known, I became the laughing-stock of all the
world, and I was universally treated as a madman. "Even if the dog had
touched the cloth," said they, "and so brought defilement upon it, might
not you have washed it a second time, and so have removed the stain? Or
might you not have given it to some poor Sudra, rather than tear it in
pieces? After such egregious folly, who will give you clothes another
time?" This was all true; for ever since, when I have begged clothing of
any one, the constant answer has been, that, no doubt, I wanted a piece
of cloth to pull to pieces.

He was going on, when a bystander interrupted him by remarking that he
seemed to understand going on all-fours. "Exceedingly well," said he,
"as you shall see;" and off he shuffled, in that posture, amidst the
unbounded laughter of the spectators. "Enough! enough!" said the
president. "What we have both heard and seen goes a great way in his
favour. But let us now hear what the next has to say for himself in
proof of his stupidity." The second accordingly began by expressing his
confidence that if what they had just heard appeared to them to be
deserving of the salutation of the soldier, what he had to say would
change their opinion.

_Story of the Second Brahman_.

Having got my hair and beard shaven one day, in order to appear decent
at a public festival of the Brahmans, which had been proclaimed
throughout the district, I desired my wife to give the barber a penny
for his trouble. She heedlessly gave him a couple. I asked him to give
me one of them back, but he refused. Upon that we quarrelled, and began
to abuse each other; but the barber at length pacified me, by offering,
in consideration of the double fee, to shave my wife also. I thought
this a fair way of settling the difference between us. But my wife,
hearing the proposal, and seeing the barber in earnest, tried to make
her escape by flight. I took hold of her, and forced her to sit down,
while he shaved her poll in the same manner as they serve widows.[2]
During the operation she cried out bitterly; but I was inexorable,
thinking it less hard that my wife should be close-shaven than that my
penny should be given away for nothing. When the barber had finished, I
let her go, and she retired immediately to a place of concealment,
pouring down curses on me and the barber. He took his departure, and
meeting my mother in his way, told her what he had done, which made her
hasten to the house, to inquire into the outrage; and when she saw that
it was all true she also loaded me with incivilities.

The barber published everywhere what had happened at our house; and the
villain added to the story that I had caught her with another man, which
was the cause of my having her shaved; and people were no doubt
expecting, according to our custom in such a case, to see her mounted on
an ass, with her face turned towards the tail. They came running to my
dwelling from all quarters, and actually brought an ass to make the
usual exhibition in the streets. The report soon reached my
father-in-law, who lived at a distance of ten or twelve leagues, and
he, with his wife, came also to inquire into the affair. Seeing their
poor daughter in that degraded state, and being apprised of the only
reason, they reproached me most bitterly; which I patiently endured,
being conscious that I was in the wrong. They persisted, however, in
taking her with them, and keeping her carefully concealed from every eye
for four whole years; when at length they restored her to me.

This little accident made me lose the Samaradanam, for which I had been
preparing by a fast of three days; and it was a great mortification to
me to be excluded from it, as I understood it was a most splendid
entertainment. Another Samaradanam was announced to be held ten days
afterwards, at which I expected to make up for my loss. But I was
received with the hisses of six hundred Brahmans, who seized my person,
and insisted on my giving up the accomplice of my wife, that he might be
prosecuted and punished, according to the severe rules of the caste.

I solemnly attested her innocence, and told the real cause of the
shaving of her hair; when a universal burst of surprise took place,
every one exclaiming, how monstrous it was that a married woman should
be so degraded, without having committed the crime of infidelity.
"Either this man," said they, "must be a liar, or he is the greatest
fool on the face of the earth!" Such, I daresay, gentlemen, you will
think me, and I am sure you will consider my folly [looking with great
disdain on the first speaker] as being far superior to that of the
render of body-clothing.

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